warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/iovannet/public_html/historion/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Carl Russell Fish

War had begun, but the majority of the American people had hardly considered seriously how they were to fight. Fortunately their navy already existed, and it was upon it that they had to rely in the opening moments of hostility. Ton for ton, gun for gun, it stood on fairly even terms with that of Spain. Captain, later Admiral, Mahan, considered that the loss of the Maine shifted a slight paper advantage from the United States to Spain.

While the first victory of the war was in the Far East and the possibility of events of world-wide significance hung upon the level-headedness of Commodore Dewey at Manila, it was realized that the war must really be fought in the West. Both President McKinley and the Queen Regent of Spain had issued proclamations stating that they would adhere to the rules of the Declaration of Paris and not resort to the use of privateers. The naval contest, therefore, was confined to the regular navies.

When one compares the conditions under which the Spanish American War was fought with those of the Great War, he feels himself living in a different age. Twenty years ago hysteria and sudden panics swept the nation. Cheers and waving handkerchiefs and laughing girls sped the troops on their way. It cannot be denied that the most popular song of the war time was "There'll be a hot time in the old town to-night," though it may be believed that the energy and swing of the music rather than the words made it so.

In planning the campaign against Santiago, Admiral Sampson wished the army immediately to assault the defenses at the harbor mouth in order to open the way for the navy. General Shafter, however, after conferring with General Garcia, the commander of the insurgents, decided to march overland against the city. The army did not have sufficient small vessels to effect a landing; but the navy came to its assistance, and on the 22d of June the first American troops began to disembark at Daiquiri, though it was not until the 26th that the entire expedition was on shore.

While the American people were concentrating their attention upon the blockade of Santiago near their own shores, the situation in the distant islands of the Pacific was rapidly becoming acute. All through June, Dewey had been maintaining himself, with superb nerve, in Manila Harbor, in the midst of uncertain neutrals. A couple of unwieldy United States monitors were moving slowly to his assistance from the one side, while a superior Spanish fleet was approaching from the other. On the 26th of June, the Spanish Admiral Camara had reached Port Said, but he was not entirely happy.

In a large way, ever since the Spanish War, the United States has been adjusting its policy to the world conditions of which that struggle first made the people aware. The period between 1898 and 1917 will doubtless be regarded by the historian a hundred years from now as a time of transition similar to that between 1815 and 1829. In that earlier period John Marshall and John Quincy Adams did much by their wisdom and judgment to preserve what was of value in the old regime for use in the new.

The United States arrived in the Orient at a moment of high excitement. Russia was consolidating the advance of two centuries by the building of the trans-Siberian railroad, and was looking eagerly for a port in the sun, to supplement winter-bound Vladivostok. Great Britain still regarded Russia as the great enemy and, pursuing her policy of placing buffer states between her territories and her enemies, was keenly interested in preventing any encroachment southward which might bring the Russian bear nearer India.

While American troops were threading the mountain passes and the morasses of the Philippines, scaling the walls of Pekin, and sunning themselves in the delectable pleasances of the Forbidden City, and while American Secretaries of State were penning dispatches which determined the fate of countries on the opposite side of the globe, the old diplomatic problems nearer home still persisted.

Syndicate content