What is called the Spanish-American War began with the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898 with a loss of 260 men. On April 19 Congress passed a joint resolution proclaiming Cuba "free and independent" which when signed by President William McKinley amounted to a declaration of war against Spain of which Cuba was then a colony.
The first battle was in the Philippines where on May 1st, U.S. Commodore George Dewey in six hours defeated the Spanish squadron, under Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón, in Manila Bay.
After successfully crossing the Atlantic, the Spanish fleet was trapped in Santiago Bay, and was decimated by the U.S. Navy a few days before U.S. ground troops captured Santiago. This is where Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt became a war hero when he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan as lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment. On July 17 the Spanish army surrendered.
On August 14, after 11,000 ground troops were sent to the Philippines, the Spanish surrendered. Guerrilla warfare continued for several years, with thousands of military and civilian casualties.
Spanish-American War is significant as it is considered the first war of U.S. imperialism where the United States justified war because it was good for business. In the words of Senator Thurston of Nebraska: "War with Spain would increase the business and earnings of every American railroad, it would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate every branch of industry and domestic commerce."
It was also where "yellow journalism" got its start. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst is reported to have responded to request by illustrator Frederick Remington's to return from a Havana that was quiet, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
- Centennial of the Spanish-American War 1898-1998 by Lincoln Cushing