Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898

Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898

Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898

Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish-American War of 1898


The Spanish-American War has been called a "splendid" little war, but, as Rosenfeld contends, it was a dirty little war as well. This colorful account, presented in diary format from the days preceding the declaration of war to the signing of the peace treaty with Spain, reveals how every aspect of American life was ultimately touched by the war. From the beginning, a unique spirit of patriotism pervaded the nation as volunteers flooded local enlistment centers. But it soon was evident that the United States was ill prepared to deal with the demands of training new troops, transporting them to staging areas, and protecting them against disease. Rosenfeld provides readers with the local color of the home front, including the experiences of the Jewish and black communities in the war, and strikes a balance between scholarly and popular writing.


American diplomat John Hay, later Secretary of State, called the Spanish-American War "a splendid little war"; and why not? Its proceedings made it America's most popular war since nationhood.

Aside from the fratricidal Civil War, America had taken up arms in two wars. The issues in the War of 1812 were national pride, a hunger for new territory, Indian troubles, and the fur trade; the war divided America and the end satisfied few with no new territory added and none of the issues, such as impressment of American seamen or neutral rights at sea, resolved. The Mexican War, an expansionist war consistent with President James Polk's aim of acquiring territory from Texas to the Pacific Ocean, began with the annexation of Texas and achieved Manifest Destiny by the cessation of hostilities (two-fifths of Mexican land had been ceded to the United States), yet despite this "euphoria," it has long been regarded as an aggressive war on the part of America.

The same cannot be said for the Spanish-American War. From the start, as popular thinking went, America was acting from humane causes, seeking to end the oppression and brutality that Spain had wreaked upon the innocent Cubans. To support the war was the highest form of patriotism. Those who fought were stirred by the song "Stars and Stripes Forever." There were glorious heroes: Legends such as Commodore George Dewey and Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders; other colorful figures like Admiral William T. Sampson and the 300-pound Civil War hero General William R. Shafter; and Naval Constructor Richmond Pearson Hobson, who emerged from obscurity to dazzle and win--first, the admiration of Spain, and later that of his fellow countrymen.

Fewer than 40 years before, the Union had nearly been destroyed as North fought South. Now, they fought alongside each other, with Northern President William McKinley offering Major General of Volunteers posts to three Southerners: Generals . . .

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