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Key People 
Of The
Spanish-American War

 

Politicians 

The Media 

US Navy 

US Marines 

US Army 

Spanish 

Others 

 

The Politicians

President William McKinley - (1843 - 1901)
Our Nation's 25th President was a veteran of combat action during the Civil War, and was reluctant to commit the United States to the brewing war with Spain, despite popular opinion in the media and the American populace.  He spent the first 2 years of his first term as president attempting to avoid war, and the last 2 years trying to deal with our Nation's newly acquired territories in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines; the spoils of that war.  When he ran for a second term in 1900 he selected Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate.  In September 1901 President McKinley was assassinated while standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition, and Theodore Roosevelt became our Nation's 26th President.


Russell Alexander Alger - (1836 - 1907)
Appointed Secretary of War by President McKinley in 1897, Russell Alger was a Civil War veteran who had risen during the period of that war from private to major general.  Orphaned at an early age, he grew up in poverty, supporting two younger siblings.  He worked to become a wealthy businessman in the lumber industry after the war, Alger had political ambitions that led to a term as the Governor of Michigan.  As Secretary of War during the Spanish-American War, Alger was widely castigated for incompetence and indifference.  Following the war President McKinley appointed a special commission to investigate these charges.  During the investigation, General Nelson Miles charged that Alger and other War Department officials, in collusion with meat-packers, had deliberately sent the American troops in the Caribbean, meat that had been injected with dangerous chemicals.  Though unproven, these and other charges forced Alger to resign in 1899.  Alger did return to Washington, DC to serve as a Senator from Michigan from 1902 until his death in 1907.

Supposedly a distant relative of Horatio Alger, the charges of venality and incompetence following the war led to the creation of the synonym "Algerism" to refer to such practices.


John Milton Hay - (1838 - 1905)
One of President Abraham Lincoln's private secretaries during the Civil War, Hay divided his time between  minor diplomatic posts and journalism.  With John G. Nicolay, in 1890 the two men published the monumental 10-volume Abraham Lincoln: A History.

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Hay was serving as ambassador to Great Britain.  In 1898 Hay became Secretary of State under President McKinley, a post he held under the Roosevelt Administration, serving in that role from 1898 to 1905.  Years after the war it was Hay who gave it a name in a letter to President Roosevelt, referring to it as "A Splendid Little War". 


Fitzhugh Lee - (1835 - 1905)
A graduate of the US Military Academy (1856), Fitzhugh Lee was the nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and was himself a general in the Confederate Army.  (He is often mistaken for Robert E. Lee's son, Fitzhugh Henry Lee.)  He served as governor of Virginia from 1885-1889 before an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.  In 1896 President Grover Cleveland appointed Lee consul general in Havana, Cuba.  

Continuing in that post under McKinley, Lee advised the President against sending the USS Maine to Havana.  Two weeks later Lee had changed his mind, and requested another Naval vessel be dispatched to replace the Maine when its tenure in Cuba expired.  Following the February 15th explosion that destroyed the American ship, Lee returned to Washington, DC.

Upon his return, on May 5, 1898 Lee was named a major general and placed in command of the Seventh Army Corps which trained in Jacksonville, Florida but did not see combat.  Following the Treaty of Paris Lee and his troops went to Havana to establish order.  During the period he published Cuba's Struggle, before returning home once again to retire from the Army in 1901.

 

The Media

Joseph Pulitzer - (1847 - 1911)
Joseph Pulitzer wanted to be a soldier.  Born in Budapest, Hungary he ran away from home and tried repeatedly to enlist.  He was rejected by 3 different armies because of weak eyesight.  Arriving in the United States in 1864, he finally realized his dream, serving during the last year of the Civil War in the Union Army.  After the war he became a reporter for the St. Louis Westliche Post, and became known as a force in the liberal wing of the Republican Party, using his columns to battle political corruption.  He supported Horace Greeley's 1872 bid for the Presidency, then changed to the Democratic Party after Greeley's loss.

In 1872 Pulitzer purchased the bankrupt St. Louis Dispatch, merged it with the Evening Post, and made the Post-Dispatch the city's leading daily.  Five years later he expanded his journalistic empire by purchasing the New York World from Jay Gould.  With a mixture of good reporting, dramatic headlines, dramatic headlines, lively illustrations, and the introduction of the first COMIC STRIPS, within a year Pulitzer increased the World's circulation from 20,000 to 100,000 daily subscribers.

Despite a lapse in the World's journalistic integrity in the years preceding and throughout the Spanish-American War, Pulitzer directed his publication back to journalistic integrity in the early 1900s.  After his death in 1911 his will established both the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the vaunted PULITZER PRIZE.


William Randolph Hearst - (1863 - 1951)
William Randolph Hearst was born in San Francisco in the latter years of the Civil War, the son of millionaire industrialist George Hearst, who also served as a California Senator.  After graduating from Harvard, Hearst took over his father's San Francisco Examiner in 1887.  Hearst built his West Coast journalistic empire through sensational journalism, a practice he quickly employed to compete with Pulitzer's New York World when he purchased the New York Morning Journal in 1895.  

The battle for readers between the World and the Journal was a war for sensational headlines followed by stories that were exaggerated at best, outright fabrication at worst.  The struggle for freedom in Cuba provided ample fodder.  Other stories bolstered anti-Spain sentiment in America by utilizing such graphic but fabricated illustrations as women aboard American steamers being STRIP SEARCHED by Spaniards.  The process became known as "Yellow Journalism", and prevailed through the end of the century, fueling a nationalistic sense of determination by the American populace during the War.

In later years, Hearst turned his attention to politics, running for mayor of New York and then for governor.  His only success came when he served two terms as a New York Congressman from 1903-1907.


Frederick Remington - (1861 - 1909)
A tall man from Canton, NY, Frederick Remington attended both Yale and the New York Art Students League.  Having visited the west at age 19, he determined to use his artistic skills to capture the look of the frontier, sketching cowboys, cavalrymen and Indians in meticulous detail and dramatic situations.

Prior to the Spanish-American War Remington's artistic talents were employed by Randolph Hearst to illustrate sensational stories in the New York Journal.  When Hearst ran the story about American women being strip searched, Remington dutifully sketched a provocative picture of a naked women being systematically searched by thee male Spaniards.  Neither the story nor the illustration were based on fact, but went far to incite American outrage against Spain.

During the war itself, Remington continued to provide regular features to the readers of the Journal, depicting the struggle in Cuba.  Perhaps his most famous work was a sculpture called "Bronco Buster", first exhibited in 1895.  The Remington original was presented by the men of the Rough Riders to Colonel Theodore Roosevelt shortly before the unit mustered out.


Stephen Crane - (1871 - 1900)
The 14th son and youngest child of Reverend J. T. Crane, Stephen grew up frail and often sickly.  Encouraged by his parents to become a minister, Crane attended the Pennigton Seminary, then transferred to Claverack College, a military academy where he did well and achieved the rank of 1st Lieutenant.  It may have been the influence of his father, who had written several books, along with his experiences at the military academy that inspired him to write a military book himself.  After minor works including his first book privately published under the pseudonym Johnston Smith, in 1895 Crane was catapulted into American literary history with his Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage.

In 1898 Crane was one of a bevy of reporters in Cuba, covering the Spanish-American War for the New York World.  His success as the author of The Red Badge of Courage gave his reports wide readership and credibility in the daily news back home.  His time in the Caribbean took a toll on his health, probably contributing substantially to his death from tuberculosis in 1900, at the age of 29.


Richard Harding Davis - (1864 - 1916)
Often call "The First Modern War Correspondent", Richard Harding Davis could have been almost anything he wanted.  Born into money, his father was a newspaper man and his mother a well known novelist.  By 1890, at the age of 25, Davis was the managing editor of Harper's Weekly, though he continued to act primarily as a writer/reporter for the popular publication.

Paid the previously unheard of sum of $3,000 by Randolph Hearst to cover the war in Cuba for one month, Davis became the epitome of a new breed of war correspondent.  Daring, intuitive, and often unorthodox in getting to the scene of action, his tales of the war have provided history with some unique glimpses of the Splendid Little War.  He defied orders to be where the action was during the famous charge up San Juan Hill, and his reports of the battle were largely responsible for the legend of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.  For his own part, Roosevelt later said that no officer in the regiment had shown more courage than the correspondent, Richard Harding Davis.

Davis continued to cover wars around the globe, in all reporting on six wars from 1898 to World War I.  During World War I, his nearly reckless abandon in reporting almost resulted in his execution by the Germans as a spy.  His reporting was carefully crafted, his writing well done, and his reputation as a journalist the envy of all.  After his death Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "He was as good an American as ever lived."

 

U.S. Naval Personnel

Captain Charles D. Sigsbee - (1845 - 1923)
A career naval officer, Captain Charles Sigsbee graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1863.  He served under Admiral David G. Farragut during the Civil War, including service aboard the USS Brooklyn during the Battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864, then transferred to the North Atlantic Fleet under Admiral David D. Porter.

Following the Civil War he served in both Asiatic and European squadrons, returned to the Academy as an instructor.  On September 17, 1895 the USS Maine was commissioned, the first steel warship to be totally constructed in the United States.  In March 1897 Sigsbee was promoted to Captain and given command of the impressive war ship.

Captain Sigsbee survived the sinking of his ship, and returned to the Caribbean as commander of the USS St. Paul that participated in the June 22nd probe of the San Juan blockade.  Following the war Sigsbee served as chief intelligence officer for the Navy for three years, before being promoted to Rear Admiral and given command of the League Island Navy Yard at Philadelphia.  After retiring he wrote The Maine, An Account of Her Destruction in Havana Harbor, 1899.


Commander Richard Wainwright - (1849 - 1926)
Appointed to the US Naval Academy by President Lincoln and graduating with the class of 1868, Richard Wainwright was well known and highly respected before the war with Spain broke out.  In 1897 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt commended the young officer, who was assigned as Executive Officer of the USS Maine.

After surviving the sinking of his ship, Wainwright returned to the Caribbean in command of the USS Glouchester, the former yacht of J. Pierpont Morgan that had been purchased for $225,000 at the outbreak of the war.  From Santiago to Puerto Rico, it seemed that Commander Wainwright was everywhere, serving his ship with valor and distinction.  Following the war he was advanced 10 numbers in rank "for conspicuous conduct in battle". 

One of the great Naval heroes of the Spanish-American War, Wainwright achieved the rank of Rear Admiral before his mandatory retirement from the Navy in 1911.  In 1914 his son, Lieutenant Richard Wainwright, Jr. received the Medal of Honor during the battle of Vera Cruz, Mexico.


Admiral George Dewey - (1837 - 1917)
Young George Dewey graduated fifth in his class at the US Naval Academy (1858) and served during the Civil War under the famous Admiral David Farragut.  Over the years that followed the war, Dewey served in various assignments including a return to the Naval Academy as an instructor, finally finding himself working in Washington, DC.  In 1897 he learned that a vacancy was about to become available for the post of Commander-In-Chief, Asiatic Squadron.  Dewey, with assistance from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt and Vermont Senator Redford Proctor received the appointment, and assumed command in Hong Kong on New Year's Day, 1898.

On May 11th, ten days after Commodore Dewey's smashing victory at Manila Bay, he was promoted to Rear Admiral.  Returning home one of the war's greatest heroes, the US Congress created a special NEW rank, promoting Dewey to ADMIRAL OF THE NAVY.

Dewey's popularity led him to consider a bid for the US Presidency, indicating he would accept a nomination since he felt the office was "not such a very difficult one to fill."  Failing to receive the nomination from either party, he contented himself with his role in the presidency of the General Board of the Navy Department, a position he held until his death.


Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson - (1840 - 1902)
William T. Sampson graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1861, at the head of his class.  An intelligent officer, he took great interest in developing chemistry and physics programs upon later service at the Academy
.  In the five years preceding the Spanish-American War Sampson served as chief of the Bureau of Ordinance, taking great efforts to modernize the US Navy.  He was responsible for the adoption of an advanced form of smokeless gunpowder, applying electrical energy in the operation of the turrets on new battleships, and promoted the use of telescopic sights on new American warships.  As many as 95% of the guns used during the battle for Santiago were crafted under his direction.

After the sinking of the USS Maine, Sampson was appointed to head up the US Naval board of inquiry into the disaster.  When the US went to war, Sampson was advanced over several other senior officers and appointed head of the Navy's North Atlantic Fleet.

At the time of the most famous Caribbean Naval Battle of the war, the Naval Battle at Santiago de Cuba, Sampson was steaming away from the harbor for a meeting with the ground commander, General Shafter.  The battle was commenced by Sampson's junior, Commodore Schley, and led to years of charges, counter-charges, and even a Naval court of inquiry.  


Commodore Winfield Scott Schley - (1839 - 1911)
Named for the famous General Winfield Scott (War of 1812), Winfield Scott Schley graduated near the bottom of his class at the US Naval Academy in 1860, where he developed a friendship with upper-classman George Dewey.  What followed was a long and distinguished career that belied his poor showing at the Academy, and established Schley as an able and intelligent Naval commander.  In 1884 Schley volunteered for a daring rescue of Lieutenant Greeley in Antarctica.  Said to have been accused by some of his officers as taking serious risks with his ships in the successful effort, Schley replied, "Gentlemen, there are times when it is necessary to take risks.  This is one of those times. 

Commodore Schley was one of those officers, senior to then Commodore Sampson, who was passed over for command of the North Atlantic Fleet.  This may have led to some of his acts, in defiance of Sampson, during the war.

Appointed to command a Flying Squadron on the US east coast by Sampson, when the Spanish fleet was sighted in the Caribbean, Schley's squadron was dispatched to Cuba.  Sampson ordered Schley to verify the presence of the enemy flotilla in Santiago, orders initially ignored by Schley.  During the famous Naval Battle of Santiago de Cuba, Schley was second in command to Sampson.  By a twist of fate, Sampson was steaming away from the scene of action when the Spanish squadron emerged, leaving Schley to give the order to commence the historic battle.  What followed was years of disagreement as to which of the two commanders would be credited with the great victory.


Richmond P. Hobson - (1870 - 1937)
Richmond Hobson graduated first in his class at the US Naval Academy in 1889.  Something of a loner, he had a reputation for total honesty and absolute adherence to established guidelines.

During the Spanish-American War Lieutenant Hobson was serving on the staff of Admiral Sampson, when a plan was being devised to blockade the Spanish squadron inside the harbor at Santiago.  A Naval contractor, Hobson and seven intrepid volunteers used the cover of night to steam an aging collier under the enemy guns in an effort to sink it in the narrowest approach to the harbor.  Despite their lack of success, the valor of the eight men was hailed by friend a foe alike.  Hobson and his men spent several weeks as prisoners of the Spanish before being repatriated.

All seven of Hobson's men were awarded Medals of Honor in that action but Hobson, a Naval officer, was prohibited from receiving the award under the criteria of his day (the Medal of Honor was not available to Naval officers).  Even without the Medal, Hobson became a celebrity and a national hero.

Hobson served his home state of Alabama in the US Senate for eight years and, in 1933, was finally awarded the Medal of Honor by special Congressional action. 

 

U.S. Marines

First Lieutenant Albertus W. Catlin - (1868 - 1933)
A graduate of the US Naval Academy (1890), First Lieutenant Catlin commanded a 40-man Marine guard aboard the USS Maine.  Though Lieutenant Catlin survived the destruction of the Maine, 28 of his enlisted Marines died in the explosion.  In the war that followed, Catlin returned to command Marines aboard the USS St. Louis and returned to Cuba in 1906 to command the first Marines to land there.  He continued to serve in that command position until 1909.

As a Major in 1914, Catlin commanded the Marines in the fleet which landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico, where he earned the medal of Honor.  In command of Marines during World War I, Catlin was wounded in action at Belleau Wood, then went on to command the 1st Brigade of Marines in Haiti in 1918.  Before his retirement in 1919, he advanced through the grades to achieve the rank of Brigadier General. 


Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Huntington 
The man who built the 1st Marine  Battalion, led them victoriously to Guantanamo Bay, and changed the way the Department of the Navy viewed its Marines was a grizzled old veteran of the Civil War.  He had served as a young lieutenant in the Battle of Bull Run, risen through the ranks over the years, and established himself as a tough, "by-the-book" officer who demanded discipline and order.

In a historical context, one can almost envision the landing at Guantanamo as the Marine Corps' first Guadalcanal, and if that is so, Lieutenant Colonel Huntington would certainly be an early version of Alexander Vandegrift.  Huntington's strict training and demands for discipline not only insured a quick and easy victory, it preserved his Marines.  Huntington emphasized sanitation in accordance with the policies set forth by the Surgeon General.  As a result, the marines suffered only a 2.5% sick rate and no deaths to the tropical illnesses, compared to the Army's nearly 10% sick rate and nearly 5,000 deaths to the tropical diseases.


Lieutenant John A. LeJeune - (1867 - 1942)
Almost inconspicuous in the Spanish-American War, but for a brief action when he led a party of Marines ashore at the Fajardo Lighthouse at Puerto Rico, was young Lieutenant John A. LeJeune.  LeJeune graduated from the Naval Academy just ten years before the Spanish-American War.  The Fajardo Lighthouse evactuation was the first major action by the man who would eventually rise to the rank of Lieutenant General, become Commandant  of the Marine Corps from 1920-29,  and eventually be hailed by many as "the greatest of all the Leathernecks".

 

U.S. Army

Major General William Shafter - (1835 - 1906)
The man appointed to command the Fifth Army Corps in the invasion of Cuba, General Shafter was an aging Civil War hero who had risen through the ranks in that war to become a Brevet Brigadier General.  Three years before the Spanish-American War began, Shafter received a belated Medal of Honor for his heroism at Fair Oaks, Virginia in 1862, making his award one of the earliest Medals of Honor of the Civil War.

At age 63, weighing in excess of 300 pounds, and frequently ill, Shafter was perhaps not the best choice to command that Army, but was probably selected due to any lack of political ambitions on his part.  He was also considered a strict disciplinarian, a reputation he had gained through many years of military service, but a trait he exhibited little of during the invasion of Cuba.

Following the victory in Cuba, Shafter returned to his former position as Commander of the Department of California.  In this role he directed the logistical and supply operations for the sequel war in the Philippines until his retirement in 1901.   


General Joseph Fighting Joe Wheeler - (1836 - 1906)
Fighting Joe Wheeler was a legend in his own time, a former Civil War hero of the Confederate Cavalry, post-war Congressman, and leader in the effort to reconcile the North and South after the Civil War.  When appointed to service in the Spanish-American War, Wheeler stated, "a single battle for the Union flag was worth fifteen years of life."  Only one year younger that the Fifth Army Commander, Wheeler fought and lead with a youthful vigor that defied his age and earned the respect of all others.

Serving as the major general of volunteers, Wheeler led his soldiers at Las Guasimas and was involved (though ill at the time) in the battle of San Juan Hill and the attack on Santiago.  While serving in Cuba, Fighting Joe's daughter ANNIE WHEELER joined him to work as a nurse treating the sick and wounded.  Following the war, both father and daughter continued their service in the Philippine theater of action.   


General Henry W. Lawton - (1843 - 1899[Killed in Action])
A veteran of 22 major engagements during the Civil War, Henry Lawton earned the Medal of Honor for his heroic leadership at Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.  After the war, Lawton briefly attended Harvard Law School, before returning to military service in the campaigns in the American West.  In 1886 it was Lawton who led the successful expedition to Mexico to affect the surrender of Geronimo.  During his Indian Campaigns service, Lawton earned the nickname, "Man who gets Up In the Night to Fight".

In Cuba, Lawton commanded the Second Brigade of Shafter's Fifth Army, leading the first American Army troops ashore.  Leading his soldiers through the efforts to capture Santiago, following the war Lawton was appointed to the U.S. Commission negotiating the Spanish surrender.

In 1899 General Lawton departed for a command in the Philippines, second only to General Otis.  In the Philippines Lawton quickly trained his forces for guerilla and night-fighting techniques, earning the nickname "General of the Night".  An imposing figure, both in reputation and in stature (Lawton was 6'4" tall), he also was a large target.  The hero of multiple wars was killed in action by a sniper's bullet six days before Christmas in 1899 near San Mateo, Philippine Islands.

So respected was Lawton by the people of the Philippines, his image appeared on their currency.  At home, a statue was erected in his memory at Indianapolis, where it was dedicated by Theodore Roosevelt.


Colonel Leonard Wood - (1860 - 1927)
As an Assistant Surgeon during the Indian Campaigns, Harvard Medical School graduate Leonard Wood earned the Medal of Honor for carrying dispatches over 100 miles of hostile territory.  During frequent visits to Washington, DC prior to the Spanish-American War, Wood developed a close friendship with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.  When war began, Wood assumed the command of a volunteer mounted cavalry that would become known as The Rough Riders, with Theodore Roosevelt serving as XO.

Upon receiving a battlefield promotion in Cuba to Brigadier General, Wood turned command of the Rough Riders to Roosevelt to command the Second Brigade of the Fifth Army Corps.  Following the capitulation at Santiago, Wood served as military governor at Santiago and later as Military Governor for Cuba.  Eventually rising to the rank of major general, he commanded troops during the Philippine Insurrection, and was governor of the Moro Province (1903), governor of the Philippines (1906) and Governor of the department of East in United States (1908-09).  Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri is named in his honor.


Colonel Theodore Roosevelt - (1858 - 1919)
The son of a wealthy New York philanthropist, Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child who suffered severely from asthma and worked hard to build his strength and stamina.  A would-be politician, the Harvard educated young man served in the New York State Assembly, then ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York City.

In 1897 Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and worked hard to modernize the Navy and prepare it for war, long before war was imminent.  When at last war was declared, Roosevelt tried repeatedly to obtain command of a fighting force, resigning his position with the Navy to assist Colonel Leonard Wood in raising and training the Rough Riders.

Roosevelt was catapulted into American lore by tales of the Rough Riders in the assault on Kettle Hill, and owed much of his success to correspondent Richard Harding Davis who became a life-long friend.  Returning home as perhaps the most famous hero of the war, Roosevelt was easily elected Governor of New York in 1898, and two years later ran successfully as Vice President under William McKinley.  Upon McKinley's death in 1901, Roosevelt became president, and was elected to his first full term in 1904.

A true icon of American history, President Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (for mediation of the Russo-Japanese peace treaty in 1905), though the one honor that he desired most, the Medal of Honor, eluded him during his lifetime.  In 1944 Roosevelt's son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. received the Medal of Honor posthumously for service during the famous WWII D-Day Invasion.  Finally, after repeated efforts by surviving family and admirers, more than 100 years after the Spanish-American War battle that brought him fame, Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor on January 16, 2001.


Lieutenant John Joseph Pershing - (1860 - 1948)
Almost inconspicuous among a wide range of better known heroes of the Spanish-American War was a young lieutenant named John J. Pershing.  An instructor at West Point, where he had graduated in 1886, when war broke out Pershing defied regulations freezing all Academy instructors to seek an assignment to the combat troops.  His success resulted largely from his previous service with the all-Black 10th Cavalry, where he had earned the nickname "Black Jack" during the Apache Campaigns.

A quartermaster, Pershing went to great lengths to insure proper supply of the poorly equipped Fifth Army in Cuba, and demonstrated his heroism during the battle at San Juan Hill where his Buffalo Soldiers reportedly rescued Theodore Roosevelt and Pershing received the Silver Star.


General Nelson Appleton Miles - (1839 - 1925)
Wounded 4 times during the Civil War, Nelson Miles became a Major General of Volunteers and commander of the II Corps in 1865 at the age of 26.  For his heroism at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863, he was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.  From the Civil War to the Spanish-American War he became both hero and scoundrel, admired by many, loathed by others.  He spent 21 years on frontier posts fighting Indians.  It was Miles who drove Sitting Bull into Canada after the ill-fated Battle of the Little Big Horn, and it was also Miles who captured chief Joseph and put down the Ghost Dance disturbances that ended with the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.  But for the Spanish-American War, the controversy over the slaughter at Wounded Knee may have ended Miles career.

The top American Army commander at the time of the Spanish-American war, Miles led the forces that captured Puerto Rico, where he remained for a time to serve as both a military commander and civilian administrator.  Miles later testified vehemently against Secretary of War Henry Alger during the hearings into the latter's inept handling of the war.  Retiring in 1903 as a lieutenant general, Miles continued to be active in National affairs until his death.


General Theodore Schwan - (1841 - 1926)
Born in Hanover, Germany, Theodore Schwan came to the United States in 1857.  During the Civil War he enlisted as a private, working his way through the ranks to captain, and earning the Medal of Honor as a First Lieutenant when he rescued a wounded soldier at Peebles Farm, Virginia.

Prior to the Spanish-American War, Schwan was attached to the US Embassy in Berlin, Germany.  When General Miles took his First Army Corps to invade Puerto Rico, Brigadier General Schwan commanded an independent brigade assigned to capture the western coast of the island.  Following the war, Schwan was Chief of Staff in the Philippine Islands, and retired in 1901 after 40 years of distinguished military service.


General Guy Vernor Henry - (1839 - 1899)
Born in Indian Territory (now Arkansas), Guy Vernor served with distinction throughout the Civil War, earning the Medal of Honor as a Colonel at Cold Harbor, Virginia in 1864.  He received successive brevets for gallantry, rising to the rank of brigadier general for gallantry at Rose Bud, Montana where he was shot through the face while fighting Indians.

Commanding  a provisional division under General Nelson Miles in Puerto Rico, General Henry marched his troops directly north from Ponce, meeting little resistance.  When hostilities ceased, Henry served as Military Governor of Puerto Rico.


Major General Wesley Merritt - (1836 - 1910)
A West Point graduate, General Merritt served with distinction during the Civil War and was promoted to major for his valor at Gettysburg.  After the war he served for a time in the West, then became superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point.

General Merritt left his position at West Point in 1898 to build and lead the Eight Army to defeat the ground forces in the Philippines, and capture and occupy the city of Manila.  His skillful negotiations in settling the capitulation of Manila, and his tact and political skill in dealing with the Spanish army officers, led to his being sent to France to assist the American commissioners in the negotiations that resulted in the Treaty of Paris.


General Arthur MacArthur - (1845 - 1912)
During the Civil War Arthur MacArthur received the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Missionary Ridge, and quickly rose through the ranks of the 24th Wisconsin to become the youngest Colonel of the War (hence his subsequent nickname as The Boy Colonel).  After the war he studied law, then returned to a military career as a second lieutenant in the regular army, serving throughout the West and rising steadily in rank.  He was stationed in the Dakota Territory when the Spanish-American War broke out, and sought assignment to a combat unit, expecting to be sent to Cuba.

Assigned instead to General Merritt's Eighth Army, training near San Francisco, MacArthur was promoted to Brigadier General and placed in command of the Third Philippine Expeditionary Force which became the 1st Brigade of the Eighth Army at Camp Dewey, south of Manila.

After the fall of Manila, MacArthur was appointed the Military Governor of the Philippines until replaced a year later by William H. Taft.   Resulting personality clashes sent MacArthur home to assume various state-side-posts and in 1906 resumed his role as Commander of the Pacific Division.  The ranking officer in the US Army when the position of Army Chief of Staff became available, it is speculated that his previous clashes with Taft, who was now President, were the reason he never achieved his dream of commanding the entire US Army.

General MacArthur's son Douglas developed a life-long love for the Philippines, fought there during World War II, and earned the Medal of Honor.  Until the January 16, 2001 belated award of the Medal of Honor to Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur and Douglas MacArthur were the only father/son combination to ever receive our Nation's highest award for military valor.

 

Spanish Commanders

General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau - (1838 - 1930)
General Weyler was born into a military family and committed some 75 years of his life to military service, from his role as a Spanish Military Military Atache' in Washington, DC to commanding troops during Spain's Ten Years' War.  In January 1896 he replaced General Martinez Campos as Governor in Cuba.

Weyler aggressively pursued efforts to end the rebellion in Cuba, initiating a program that became known as "reconcentrado"...

"I order and command all the inhabitants of the country (Cuba) now outside of the line of fortification of the towns, shall, within the period of eight days, concentrate themselves in the town so occupied by the troops.  Any individual who after the expiration of this period is found in the uninhabited parts will be considered a rebel and tried as such."

General Weyler's policy resulted in the relocation of 1.6 million Cubans and, far worse, with lack of provisions, the death of hundreds of thousands.  The tragedy resulted in American outcries for Spain to remove Weyler, which it did  it 1897.  Returning to Spain, Weyler later served three separate times as his country's Minister of War.


General Ramon Blanco y Eranas - (1833 - 1906)
General Blanco was not stranger to Cuba, having held military authority there years before the War of Independence.  It was Blanco who was selected to replace General Weyler when the receocentrado policy generated outrage in the United States.  At the time of the explosion aboard the USS Maine, Blanco sensed the ultimate repercussions stating, "This is the saddest day Spain ever saw."

Blanco was the top Spanish military commander in Cuba throughout the war, and it was Blanco who finally ordered the Spanish squadron under Admiral Cervera to steam from its anchorage in Santiago Harbor to certain defeat.   Ultimately, Blanco resigned his position as the Governor General of Spain and was forced to surrender to the United States.


Rear Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasaron - (1839 - 1917)
After becoming a naval cadet in 1852 following study at the Naval School in Cadiz, Patricio Montojo accelerated through the ranks of the world's most powerful navy, to command the Spanish squadron at Manila Bay.  At the opening of hostilities during the Spanish-American War, the US Naval commander Commodore Dewey defied all odds to sail his small fleet past the enemy guns at the harbors entrance, and engage Admiral Montojo's squadron.  Within a matter of hours, Spain's Asiatic fleet was utterly destroyed.

In September 1898 Admiral Montojo was summoned to Madrid to account for his defeat, and by judicial decree of the Spanish Supreme Court-Martial, was subsequently imprisoned.  Later absolved, he none-the-less was discharged.  Ironically, the one person who defended Admiral Montojo before the Spanish court martial was his former enemy and conqueror, Admiral George Dewey. 


General Jose Toral 
Shortly after U.S. Forces under General Shafter took the heights (San Juan and Kettle Hills) overlooking Santiago, the Spanish commander General Arsenio Linares y Pombo was wounded in the shoulder.  Command of the city fell to General Jose Toral, who faced an un-winnable situation.   Above him were some 16,000 American soldiers, to his west were 3,000 Cuban insurgents, and beyond the harbor sat the American Naval fleet under Admiral Sampson.

Despite these conditions, General Toral held out as long as he could, refused permission by General Blanco in Havana, to surrender the city.  Eventually, however, it was General Toral to whom the unenviable task of capitulation finally fell.


Admiral Cervera y Topete - (1839 - 1909) 
For United States sailors in Admiral Sampson's squadron at Santiago de Cuba, facing Admiral Cervera was like fighting a legend.  The world well knew the might of the Spanish Navy, and Admiral Cervera was revered by friend and foe alike for his courage, his prowess, and his unmatched resume.

Recognizing the folly of the orders that sent his small squadron to Cuba at the outbreak of war, Admiral Cervera voiced his disapproval and then honorably fulfilled his orders.  When commanded to steam his doomed ships out of Santiago de Cuba and directly into the guns of the waiting American Naval force, again he voiced his disapproval and then obeyed his orders.

After the defeat of Admiral Cervera's squadron, he was pulled from the waters by Commander Richard Wainwright.  When transfered from the Glouchester to the USS Iowa he was greeted by the American commander Captain Evans with the words:  "Sir, you are a hero.  You have done the most sublime feat ever recorded in the history of the Navy."  Subsequently sent to the United States as a prisoner of war, he was  "held" for a brief period at the US Naval Academy.  During the period he was treated more like a celebrity V.I.P. than a prisoner.  American school children wrote letters concerning the battle, even requesting his autograph.  Returning home to Spain in September 1898, he said, "I have lost everything except my honor."

In 1901 Cervera was made a Vice Admiral, and in 1903 King Alfonso XIII named him life Senator of the Kingdom.   

 

Others Influential Persons

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy - (1869 - 1964)
A native of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo was a leader in the 1896 revolt against Spanish rule in the Philippines.  When the revolution faltered, he agreed to be exiled to Hong Kong in exchange for a 400,000 peso payment from the Spanish, intending to use that money to purchase arms and supplies for subsequent insurgent attempts at Philippine Independence.

When Commodore Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron at Manila Bay, Aguinaldo believed the United States would be his ally in the battle for Philippine independence, and returned to lead an insurgent army against the Spanish.  When, following the Treaty of Paris ending the war and ceding the Philippine Islands to United States possession, it appeared that the United States intended to occupy his country, Aguinaldo lead the resistance against the US forces there as well.  

In 1901 Aguinaldo was captured by General Frederick Funston and took an oath of allegiance to the United States.  Despite this, Aguinaldo has remained a hero to the Filipinos, and in 1935 waged a losing campaign against Manuel Quezon for the presidency of the newly established Commonwealth of the Philippines.  Aguinaldo lived until 1964, long enough to finally see his dream of a Philippine republic realized and to be honored as a symbol of the Filipinos' long fight for independence.


Walter Reed - (1851 - 1902)
During the Spanish-American war a relatively obscure professor and bacteriological researcher, Major Walter Reed became an international hero for tracing the deadly yellow fever to its insect vector.  In collaboration with engineer Major William C. Gorgas, he initially tested the prevailing theory of causation by exposing victims to unwashed bedding used by other fever victims.  When none of these contracted the disease, he noted that others were made ill by injections of infected serum.  Noting this, and following a theory first suggested by Cuban physician Carlos Finlay, Reed was able to trace the disease to mosquitoes, leading to efforts to eradicate their breeding grounds in Havana and ultimately saving thousands of lives.

 

 

 

A Splendid Little War

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