Classic History Books


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

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. The

atmosphere of the country was one of a great national picnic where each one was expected to carry his

own lunch. There was apparent none of the concentration of effort and of the calm foresight so necessary

for efficiency in modern warfare. For youth the Spanish American War was a great adventure; for the

nation it was a diversion sanctioned by a high purpose.

This abandon was doubtless in part due to a comfortable consciousness of the vast disparity in resources
between Spain and the United States, which, it was supposed, meant automatically a corresponding

difference in fighting strength. The United States did, indeed, have vast superiorities which rendered

unnecessary any worry over many of the essentials which gripped the popular mind during the Great

War. People believed that the country could supply the munitions needed, and that of facilities for

transport it had enough. If the United States did not have at hand exactly the munitions needed, if the

transportation system had not been built to launch an army into Cuba, it was popularly supposed that the

wealth of the country rendered such trifles negligible, and that, if insufficient attention had been given to

the study of such matters in the past, American ingenuity would quickly offset the lack of skilled military

experience. The fact that American soldiers traveled in sleeping cars while European armies were

transported in freight cars blinded Americans for a while to the significant fact that there was but a single

track leading to Tampa, the principal point of embarkation for Cuba; and no one thought of building

another.

Nothing so strongly marks the amateur character of the conduct of the Spanish War as the activity of the
American press. The navy was dogged by press dispatch boats which revealed its every move. When

Admiral Sampson started upon his cruise to San Juan, he requested the press boats to observe secrecy,

and Admiral Chadwick comments with satisfaction upon the fact that this request was observed "fully

and honorably...by every person except one." When Lieutenant Whitney risked his life as a spy in order

to investigate conditions in Porto Rico; his plans and purpose were blazoned in the press. Incredible as it

may now seem, the newspaper men appear to have felt themselves part of the army. They offered their

services as equals, and William Randolph Hearst even ordered one of his staff to sink a vessel in the Suez

Canal to delay Camara on his expedition against Dewey. This order, fortunately for the international

reputation of the United States, was not executed. With all their blare and childish enthusiasm, the

reporters do not seem to have been so successful in revealing to Americans the plans of Spain as they

were in furnishing her with itemized accounts of all the doings of the American forces.

While the press not only revealed but formulated courses of action in the case of the army, the navy, at
least, was able to follow its own plans. For this difference there were several causes, chief of which was

the fact that the navy was a fully professional arm, ready for action both in equipment and in plans, and

able to take a prompt initiative in carrying out an aggressive campaign. The War Department had a more

difficult task in adjusting itself to the new conditions brought about by the Spanish American War. The

army was made up on the principle traditionally held in the United States that the available army force in

time of peace should be just sufficient for the purposes of peace, and that it should be enlarged in time of

war. To allow a fair amount of expansion without too much disturbance to the organization in increasing

to war strength, the regular army was over-officered in peace times. The chief reliance in war was placed

upon the militia. The organization and training of this force was left, however, under a few very general

directions, to the various States. As a result, its quality varied and it was nowhere highly efficient in the

 

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