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Documentary Histories
Spanish-American War

Introductory Essay


     On 12 August 1898, hostilities with Spain ended. In Washington, Secretary of State William R. Day and French Ambassador Jules Chambon, representing Spain, agreed to terms for negotiations.1 The Navy Department in Washington immediately dispatched telegrams to its commanders in the field ordering them to cease hostile actions against Spanish forces.2 American and Cuban forces withdrew from Spanish military lines and all offensive operations ceased.3 Naval vessels blockading Cuba and Puerto Rico were also ordered to withdraw and directed to assemble in American territorial waters. The bulk of the fleet was sent to Key West; the capitol ships were ordered to New York City, and the smaller Eastern Squadron remained at Guantanamo.4 Vessels of the Treasury Departments Revenue Cutter Service were released from service with the Navy and were ordered to return to their pre-war cruising stations.5

     In Cuba and Puerto Rico, cordial relations between former foes became the norm. United States naval officers holding positions off Cuban ports were invited to meet with and to work with Spanish military officials to insure a peaceful and efficient transfer of authority from Spain to the United States.6 At the time of the surrender, Spanish naval officers captured at the Battle of Santiago Bay, who were being held at the United States Naval Academy, were released on their own parole. Spanish enlisted prisoners of war were similarly released. RAdm. Frederick V. McNair arranged the return of all prisoners with Spanish Minister of Marine Ramón Auñón y Villalón, and they were soon on their way back to Spain.7

     Although the war was over, the Navy remained active in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Pacific. Both RAdm. William T. Sampson, in Cuba, and Commo. Winfield S. Schley, in Puerto Rico, were given the task of overseeing the evacuation of Spanish forces from their perspective islands and taking possession of Spanish governmental property useful to the United States Navy.8 Both served as representatives of the Navy and as diplomats when working with Spanish officials to plan the future of the former Spanish colonies.9 Commo. John C. Watson remained in command of the Eastern Squadron at Guantanamo until 19 September, when his fleet was finally disbanded.10

Naval Intelligence also played an important role in the peace negotiations. In Paris, the American Naval Attaché, William S. Sims, provided his agent in Madrid to the American Peace representatives. Sims’ spy continued to work for him until 14 October 1898, when the Peace Commission determined they no longer needed the agent’s assistance.11

     On the other side of the world, war’s end brought the official annexation of the Hawaiian Island by America. RAdm. Joseph N. Miller, the commander on the Pacific Station, oversaw the official ceremonies on 12 August 1898 in Honolulu, and celebrated the addition of the islands as a territory of the United States.12 Unfortunately peace with Spain did not bring harmony to the Philippines. America’s Filipino insurgent allies rejected the American assumption of authority over the islands. This opposition raised the possibility that other European powers might press their own claims to the valuable islands. The American commander, RAdm. George Dewey, pushed for more men and ships to hold the Philippines and the McKinley administration waffled over whether to keep the islands as an American possession. All the while a new conflict brewed.13 That conflict would take the form of a Filipino insurgency and would officially continue until 1901.

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