The Spanish-American war in 1898 was one of the first major conflicts since the Civil War in the United States. The warfare took place primarily in Cuba, as the colony was attempting to achieve independence from Spain. The United States decided to assist Cuba in liberation and establish an American presence in the region. As a result, the Spanish-American war was a highly profitable investment for the country, and John Milton Hay called it “A Splendid Little War.”
Even though the conflict was beneficial for America, calling a war splendid was an exaggeration as thousands of people died in the battles, and some of the causes were, at the very least, morally ambiguous. For instance, the shipwreck of the USS Maine in 1898 due to a massive explosion was the direct cause of the war.
Although the independent investigations could not prove the responsibility of the Spanish for the attack, the US government blamed it on Spain and declared war shortly after. Furthermore, countless newspapers and magazines have accused the Spanish of the destruction of the USS Maine to achieve higher sales. Ultimately, the primary causes of the war were the US objective to liberate Cuba from the Spanish reign, the expansion of the scope of influence, and the destruction of the USS Maine in combination with yellow journalism.
However, looking at the major battles in the war, America has undoubtedly led a successful campaign with very few casualties. The US lost only one officer in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, while the Spanish lost thousands of soldiers and its navy. During the Battle of San Juan Hill, America suffered significant casualties but secured a vital strategical point. Lastly, at Manila Bay, the US ensured a decisive victory with nearly zero losses, which is recognized as one of the most notable naval battles in American history.
As a result, the Spanish-American war was highly successful for the United States and could be considered “A Splendid Little War” by some experts.
The campaigns at the Pacific theater and the Philippines were especially significant to American history. During the Battle of Manila, the American forces secured the city despite the signed peace treaty between the US and Spain. At first, it led to increased tension in the relationship between Americans and Filipinos. However, when Spain signed the Treaty of Paris and renounced the Philippines, the crisis quickly escalated into a full-scale war.
The Philippine-American War was significantly costlier for both sides compared to the Spanish-American War. The United States lost approximately 6,000 people, while more than 200,000 Filipinos died from direct combat, various diseases, and famine. As a result, the pretext of the campaign, including the whole of the Spanish-American War, was much less devastating compared to this conflict. Nevertheless, the Philippine-American War, which lasted for more than three years, resulted in the victory of the United States and the ultimate occupation of the Philippines, resolving the conflict.