Spanish American War: 19 Cool Facts

Many of you know that I reside on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States as a result of the Spanish American War. You do not need a passport to come here, but you would have had to if the United States did not take over.

While this colony is in dire straits financially at this point, I often tell Puerto Rico citizens that they would not have the infrastructure they now enjoy if Spain would have stayed in control.

That garners some debate, but it is what it is. And this post is not meant to be a political debate.

I just want to share 19 cool facts about the Spanish American War you may not know.

Fact #1: Beginning And Ending

The Spanish American War started on April 25th, 1898 and ended August 12th of the same year. It lasted three months, two weeks and four days.

Fact #2: It Was For Cuba

Cuban citizens wanted independence from Spain because of harsh treatment. This was the primary reason for the Spanish American War.

Fact #3: Remember The Maine

As the citizens of Cuba began to retaliate against Spanish rule, the tensions were high and the United States sent the USS Maine to protect U.S. interests along with citizens who were in the middle.

That was in January of 1898. In February, the USS Maine exploded and killed 266 sailors.

Reporters began writing that the Spanish had blown the ship up, so President McKinley signed a resolution supporting an independent Cuba and threatening military action against Spain.

Spain had stated they had nothing to do with the Maine exploding and declared War on the United States on April 24th. The U.S. countered by declaring War on Spain 1 day later.

Experts generally agree now that Spain did not blow the Maine up. They believe there was faulty equipment that caused the explosion.

Fact #4: U.S. Troop Involvement

The numbers show that there were over 306,000 United States’ troops engaged and 385 deaths from War actions.

Fact #5: Controlling Gitmo

You are probably familiar with the Guantanamo Bay detention area in Cuba where we have detained many possible terrorists.

It was during the Spanish American War that Cuban revolutionaries and U.S. forces took control of Gitmo.

So why didn’t it revert to the Cubans after the War?

The United States agreed to lease it from the Cuban Government for 2,000 gold coins yearly. That was $4,000 then.

The U.S. still sends Cuba a check every year, but the Castro administration never cashes the checks.

By the way, do you know what 2,000 gold coins is worth today?

2,000 1 ounce gold coins are worth approximately $2,544,000.

Will you sign those checks over to me Señor Castro?

Fact #6: What Were American Interests?

I mentioned earlier that the United States had interests in Cuba they had to protect.

The United States controlled 90% of the sugar industry in Cuba.

Fact #7: The Treaty Of Paris

At the finale, Americans met with other commissioners in Paris, France to come with a plan.

The treaty deemed that Cuba would now be an independent nation, the U.S. would pay $20,000,000 to Spain for the Philippines and would also get Puerto Rico, Guam and some other smaller islands.

Fact #8: The United States First Actions Were Not In Cuba But Near The Philippines

Knowing that Spain would send their battleships to Cuba, the first actions of the United States was to attack Spanish ships near the Philippines. In May of 1898, Commodore George Dewey led the U.S. Navy against the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay and devastated Spanish ships.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders: 25 Cool Facts
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  3. 25th Infantry Division – Campaigns & Decorations

Fact #9: United States Troops Land In Cuba

The first U.S. troops to land in Cuba did so on June 22nd, 1898.

Fact #10: Rough Riders Walked

The infamous Rough Riders led by Theodore Roosevelt who were known for their great horsemanship skills, walked into Cuba instead of riding.

Very few horses could be hauled and only Roosevelt and a few other officers could ride horses.

Fact #11: ¡Buenos Días! Amigos

As Americans entered the waters off Guam, a Spanish officer rowed out to meet them with a friendly nature.

He had no idea that his country was at War with the Americans who promptly took the officer prisoner.

None of the Spanish troops on the island even realized they were at War.

Fact #12: Interesting Quotes

Here are some interesting quotes from this time:

Once the United States is in Cuba who will drive it out?” José Martí, 1895


“There had been about [five hundred] Spaniards at Daiquiri that morning, but they had fled even before the ships began shelling. In their place we found hundreds of Cuban insurgents, a crew of as utter tatterdemalions as human eyes ever looked on, armed with every kind of rifle in all stages of dilapidation. It was evident, at a glance, that they would be no use in serious fighting.” Theodore Roosevelt, 1899

Fact #13: The San Juan Hill Myths

Many people have been taught that Roosevelt and his Rough Riders rushed up San Juan Hill and took it with ease.

That is false.

U.S. forces were being plummeted at San Juan Hill. The Rough Riders took the nearby Kettle Hill which made it easier for the troops from the U.S. to take San Juan Hill which the Rough Riders only played a small part in.

Fact #14: Disease Was The Biggest Killer

While around 385 U.S. troops were killed as a result of the fighting, around 3,000 died all together.

The other deaths came from yellow fever and typhoid.

Fact #15: How Much The War Cost

The United States cost of the Spanish American War was approximately $250,000,000.

Fact #16: Some Of The People Who Played Parts In The Spanish American War Happening

All of these people had their part in making it happen:

  • José Rizal (1861-1896) A Filipino reformer who wanted the Spanish out.
  • Orville H. Platt (1827-1905) An American Senator who made the leasing of Gitmo happen.
  • Josiah Strong (1847-1916) A preacher who pushed to inhabit and “save” the savages.
  • José Martí (1853-1895) The Cuban Revolutionary who pushed the citizens to stand against Spain.
  • Andrés Bonifacio (1863-1897) A key leader in the Filipino struggle for independence.

These were just a few.

Fact #17: Spanish Surrender

The Spanish forces surrendered after being devastated in Cuba. They did so on July 17th.

Fact #18: # Of Battles

According to statisticians, there were a total of 29 battles during the Spanish American War:

  • The U.S. won 11
  • Spain won 11
  • 7 were deemed inconclusive

Fact #19: Who Led Spain

While it is known that the leader of the U.S. was President McKinley, few know who led Spain… It was Queen regent Maria Christina who was actually from Austria.

Final Thoughts

So how many of these facts did you know before reading them here?

School textbooks do not teach many of these things and sometimes, like San Juan Hill, the material is not accurate.

So set your children straight too on their history.

I am glad you joined me here today.

Please share this post with others and add your feedback and questions below.

Thank you. And here is a great video too…


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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