Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Garrison from Gainesville, GA. Garrison Wonders, “Who sunk the Maine in the Spanish American war?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Garrison!
In the 15th century, European explorers set out across the oceans in search of new trade routes. They sailed from countries like Portugal and England. Their ships landed in faraway lands where Indigenous people were already living. Often, these explorers conquered these people and claimed their land as colonies for the countries that paid for their trips.
You may know that the United States used to be a British colony. Americans fought the Revolutionary War against the British. The United States became an independent country when they won the war in 1783.
Did you know Spain had many colonies, too, including Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines? In 1895, people in Cuba were fighting against Spain. The Cubans wanted to rule their own country. One of their leaders was Jose Marti, a Cuban writer. The Spanish tried to stop the Cuban rebels. Many people died, including Marti. There were riots in Havana, Cuba’s capital city. Many Americans wanted to help the Cubans.
The United States sent a warship to protect American people in Cuba. On February 15, 1898, a mysterious explosion destroyed that ship—the U.S.S. Maine. More than 260 American sailors died. People blamed the Spanish. They thought America should join the war and fight with the Cubans against Spain. They used the slogan, “Remember the Maine!” to get people to support the war.
President McKinley asked Spain to leave and make Cuba a free country. Instead, Spain declared war on the United States on April 24, 1898. The United States Congress declared war on Spain on April 25. They fought battles in both Cuba and the Philippines, another Spanish colony.
One of the most famous battles was at San Juan Hill near Santiago, Cuba. Theodore Roosevelt, who later became president, led a group of volunteer fighters known as the Rough Riders. At the time, the United States military was segregated. That means that they had separate groups of Black and white soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were all-Black army units. They helped win the battle at San Juan Hill.
On July 1, 1898, the Spaniards surrendered to the Americans. The fighting lasted just ten weeks. The Spanish–American War was the shortest in U.S. history. However, it was important. Cuba became an independent country. The United States became more powerful. In a peace treaty, Spain gave America Guam and Puerto Rico. They are still U.S. territories today.
What other battles do you recall from history? Why were they important? How did they affect your life today?
Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, D2.His.1; CCRA.R.1; CCRA.R.10; CCRA.R5; CCRA.R1; CCRA.R.10; CCRA.R.1; CCRA.R.10; CCRA.W.2; D2.His.2; CCRA.SL.1; D2.His.3.; CCRA.SL.5