The Spanish-American War (1898) began on April 25, 1898, when the United States declared war against Spain on behalf of Spain’s colony, Cuba. Cubans had been agitating for freedom from Spanish rule for several decades. When Spain’s repression of the independence movement was made known to Americans through the newspapers of Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, Americans were stirred to aid the Cubans. In addition, American businessmen had millions of dollars invested in sugar and other commodities in Cuba, and their assets were threatened by a lengthy guerrilla war. President William McKinley sent the U.S.S. Maine to Havana harbor to protect U.S. property in Cuba. When the Maine exploded on February 15, 1898, 266 servicemen died. The U.S. Navy claimed a Spanish mine destroyed the vessel.
The war was fought primarily in Spain’s colonies of Cuba and the Philippines. Guam’s Spanish governor surrendered to the U.S. without a battle. Assisted by Philippine independence fighter Emilio Aguinaldo, Admiral George Dewey directed naval operations against the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. In Cuba, U.S. Marines captured Guantanamo Bay in June. By July 1, ground forces were assaulting the San Juan heights in Cuba, where Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt led his Rough Riders up Kettle Hill.
On July 16, 1898, the Spanish forces in Cuba surrendered and the United States declared victory. The Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898, ended the Spanish-American War, guaranteed Cuba’s independence, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the U.S., and provided a mechanism for Spain to sell the Philippines to the U.S.