What were the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy in the Spanish-American War?  

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The war was fought in 1898 and lasted ten weeks. The conflict was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. The main issue in the conflict was Cuban independence. The war was won by the United States and was followed by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on 10 December 1898. Spain relinquished all of the remaining Spanish Empire, particularly Cuba. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded to the United States.

The enemy in this regard, Spain, encountered both advantages and disadvantages during the conflict:


  • Spanish garrisons were spread across the areas involved in the conflict.
  • The Spanish had naval bases in the territories it occupied, which could benefit it during engagement or protect against sudden attacks.
  • In some battles, the Spanish scored victories using ambush tactics, such as in the Battle of Las Guasimas on June 24.
  • Spanish troops were equipped with smokeless powder weapons, which helped in hiding their positions while firing.
  • The Americans troops suffered many casualties from mosquito-borne disease and heat exhaustion.


  • The Americans had better equipped naval forces and soon destroyed the Spanish naval fleet.
  • Many Cubans were fighting for freedom and the Spanish had to contend with their rebellion. Many Cubans fought against them.
  • The American forces were assisted in Cuba by the pro-independence rebels led by General Calixto Garcia.
  • In some battles, the Americans used rapid fire Gatling guns that ensured victory, as at the Battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney.
  • The new Spanish Government was in disarray.
  • Guam was easily captured since they did not even know that their mother country was at war.
  • The Americans had many men who volunteered for service in Cuba since they had been encouraged by their own battles during the civil war and believed that Cubans needed their support to gain independence.
  • Many African American men volunteered since they believed that fighting for their country would give them credibility. These two actions boosted the number of troops.
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It should also be said that the Spanish Empire was at its end, and was quite weak compared to the empire of the Conquistadores and the Catholic Church of the 16th and 17th centuries.  They had lost Latin America, the American Southwest, and the riches both mineral and agricultural that accompanied them.  While well-equipped to fight against Cuban and Filipino rebels, and better equipped in the near term than a hastily assembled American army, they had no long term means with which to take on the United States at the end of the 19th century, on land or the oceans.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Spanish in Cuba had better weapons than most of the American soldiers.  They had rifles that shot cartridges made from smokeless powder.  The Americans used powder that made smoke, which made it completely obvious where they were once they fired a shot.  The Spanish didn't have to reveal themselves when they fired.

The Spanish navy had much older ships that had no chance against the Americans either in Cuba or the Philippines.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The biggest disadvantage Spain had was distance. The home field advantage helps. Shipping weapons and soldiers from the home country takes time and is difficult. The Americans also had the strength of willpower and passion, which was how they had won the revolution.