Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

compel her to do so. Congress, however, was not content to leave the future of the island merely
indefinite, but added that the United States did not desire Cuba and that the "people of the island of Cuba

are, and of right ought to be, free and independent." This decision ruled out both autonomy and cession

as solutions of the problem. It put an end to the American century-long dream of annexing Cuba, unless

the people of the island themselves desired such a relation; and it practically determined the recognition

of the unstable Cuban Government then in existence. This decision on the part of Congress, however,

reflected the deep-seated conviction of the American people regarding freedom and plainly put the issue

where the popular majority wished it to be - upon a basis of unselfish sympathy with struggling

neighbors.

The resolution was signed by the President on the 20th of April. On the following day, Admiral
Sampson's fleet left Key West with orders to blockade the coast of Cuba, and, in the absence of a formal

declaration of war, this strategic move may be considered as its actual beginning. On the 25th of April,

Congress declared "that, war be, and the same is hereby, declared to exist, and that war has existed since

the twenty-first of April, Anno Domini, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, including the said day,

between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Spain."

 

CHAPTER VIII. Dewey And Manila Day

 

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. In personnel, however, the American Navy soon proved its overwhelming

superiority, which was due not solely to innate ability but also to sound professional training.

The Secretary of the Navy, John D. Long, had a thorough appreciation of values. Although Congress had
not provided for a general staff, he himself appointed a Naval War Board, which served many of the

same purposes. Upon this Board he appointed Rear Admiral Sicard, who but for ill health would have

commanded the main fleet; Captain A. S. Crowninshield; and, most important, Captain A. T. Mahan,

whose equal as master of the theory and history of naval warfare no navy of the world could show. The

spirit of the fighting force was speedily exhibited by such exploits as that of Lieutenant Victor Blue in

boldly plunging into the Cuban wilderness to obtain information regarding the position of Admiral

Cervera's fleet, though in this dangerous sort of work the individual palm must be given to Lieutenant A.

S. Rowan of the army, whose energy and initiative in overcoming obstacles are immortalized in Elbert

Hubbard's "Message to Garcia," the best American parable of efficient service since the days of Franklin.

Efficient, however, as was the navy, it was far from being a complete fighting force. Its fighting vessels
were totally unsupplied with that cloud of servers - colliers, mother ships, hospital ships, and scouts -

which we now know must accompany a fleet. The merchant marine, then at almost its lowest point, was

not in a position entirely to fill the need. The United States had no extensive store of munitions. Over all

operations there hung a cloud of uncertainty. Except for the short campaign of the Chino-Japanese War

of 1894, modern implements of sea war remained untested. Scientific experiment, valuable and necessary

as it was, did not carry absolute conviction regarding efficient service. Would the weapons of offense or

defense prove most effective? Accidents on shipboard and even the total destruction of vessels had been

 

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