U.S. Naval Blockade of Cuba

by Mitch on August 5, 2012 0 Comments

Start Date: April 22, 1898

End Date: August 14, 1898

On April 25, 1898, the United States officially declared war on Spain. On April 21, in anticipation of certain war, President William McKinley ordered a naval blockade of key Cuban ports on Cuba’s northern coast to prevent Spanish reinforcements from reaching the island and to eliminate commercial trade with Cuba.


As early as March 23, 1898, Secretary of the Navy John D. Long produced a plan to close the ports along the western half of Cuba’s northern coast. On April 18, Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, commander of the North Atlantic Squadron, issued a memorandum concerning ship dispositions for such a blockade. In early 1898, the U.S. Navy possessed 96 ships of varying qualities and capabilities. However, the navy’s ability to enforce a blockade of Cuba was augmented substantially by a $50 million emergency congressional appropriations ...

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China Market

by Mitch on July 29, 2012 0 Comments

View of Fuzhou (Foochow), China, one of the first ports in China opened to outside trade following the First Opium War of 1839–1842.

The concept of the China Market first developed in the mid-19th century with the British, who sought to maintain open trade relations with China in the aftermath of the First Opium War (1839– 1842). For the remainder of the 19th century, the allure of the China Market ostensibly promised a huge and ready-made market for Western-made goods in China. This drove imperial interests in the area, in particular those of the British, Japanese, Russians, Germans, French, and Portuguese. Even before the Spanish-American War, the United States had been involved in that market. With the war, however, it became a significant power in Asia with its annexation of Guam and the Philippines. One of the reasons advanced for securing the Philippine Islands was their proximity to China ...

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Naval Strategy, U.S.

by Mitch on July 6, 2012 0 Comments

The U.S. Navy armored cruiser New York, flasghip of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson’s North Atlantic Squadron. (Photographic History of the Spanish- American War, 1898)

Beginning in the mid-1880s, the U.S. Navy had undergone a dramatic transformation. Although still small by European standards, the navy began receiving modern steam-driven steel ships armed with modern breech-loading rifled ordnance. The intellectual underpinnings of U.S. naval strategic thought came principally from the writings of naval historian and strategist Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. In his landmark work The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890), he postulated that world power rested on sea power. He eschewed the traditional U.S. Navy strategy of a guerre de course (war against commerce) in favor of a battle fleet capable of winning control of the sea. Such a task could only be accomplished by battleships operating in squadrons. To support the ...

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American Amphibious Warfare – Late 19th Century

by Mitch on June 23, 2012 0 Comments

American map of Korean forts on Ganghwa Island during the United States expedition to Korea, 1871. The maps depict forts, named by the U.S. navy warships which took part in their destruction in the Battle of Ganghwa.


The Army’s extensive amphibious and riverine experience in the Civil War was not codified into formal doctrine, although some institutional memory of these operations is likely to have survived. During the last decades of the 19th century, the few amphibious operations carried out by US forces were generally conducted by Navy landing teams of sailors and marines, exemplified by the seizure of forts along the Han River in Korea in June 1871 by a naval landing force. In the words of historian Brian McAllister Linn, these “punitive strikes, naval landings, amphibious raids, and other landing operations . . . were ad hoc incidents of military forces assisting the commerce-protecting gunboat diplomacy of the era ...

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American Amphibious Warfare – 20th Century

by Mitch on June 23, 2012 0 Comments

American ships at Veracruz.

The senior officers of the 1st Marine Brigade photographed at Veracruz in 1914. Front row, left to right: Lt. Col. Wendell C. Neville; Col. John A. Lejeune; Col. Littleton W. T. Waller, Commanding; and Maj. Smedley Butler.

The Spanish–American War provided rich lessons for joint operations in general and landing operations in particular. It also set the stage for a continuing US military and naval presence in the Western Pacific. After the Japanese military and naval success in the 1904–05 Russo–Japanese War, this presence provided the focus for Pacific strategy over the next four decades. The problems of conducting joint operations during the war led to reforms by both Services that included establishment of an Army General Staff, the Navy General Board, the Army War College as both an educational institution and as an extension of the Army Staff for planning and strategic ...

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William McKinley, (1843–1901)

by Mitch on May 13, 2012 0 Comments

25th President of the United States

William McKinley’s administration encompassed the Spanish–American War and the colonization of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands. Although some Americans were critical of U.S. overseas expansion, McKinley’s image as a successful wartime leader helped him win election to a second term in 1900.


McKinley’s participation in the Civil War provided him with first-hand military experience. He enlisted as a volunteer for the Union Army at the age of 18. Having gained widespread recognition as a commissary sergeant when he brought food and water to his colleagues pinned down at the battle of Antietam, McKinley obtained a commission and fought in the heavily contested Shenandoah Valley. He left the Army with the brevet rank of major and used that military title throughout his life.


Although his political career certainly benefited from his service record in the Union Army, McKinley ...

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Samoan Crisis (1889)

by Mitch on April 3, 2012 0 Comments

One beached warship (US Nipsic) being attended to by men in smaller boats, one almost submerged warship (US Vandalia) and one severely damaged warship (US Trenton) further out.

In March 1889 seven warships from three different countries had gathered in Apia, Samoa to claim political control there. The American ships were the Nipsic, Trenton and Vandalia. The German ships were the SMS Adler, SMS Eber and SMS Olga. The British were represented by the man-of-war HMS Calliope. On the 15th March a hurricane struck, trapping the American and German ships in the harbour. Calliope managed to steam her way out to sea early on the 16th March. All three German ships sank, as did the Trenton and Vandalia. Nipsic, though severely damaged, managed to beach and survive the storm.


A three-cornered diplomatic confrontation, involving competing American, British, and German claims to the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific west of ...

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Gunboat Diplomacy

by Mitch on March 10, 2012 0 Comments

United States marines with the captured flag of Augusto César Sandino in 1932.


“Gunboat diplomacy” refers to a foreign policy that relies on force or the threat of force. To some extent, such an approach to foreign policy has always existed between empires and nations. But in the American political lexicon the term is most commonly applied to U.S. foreign policy in the Caribbean, Central America, and the northern tier of South America during the first three decades of the 20th century. Thereafter, this policy gave way to the “Good Neighbor Policy” formulated first by Herbert Hoover and then put into practice by Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereby the United States would commit to refraining from armed intervention in Latin America.


One of the first examples of American gunboat diplomacy was the mission of Comm. Matthew C. Perry, who steamed with eight ships, one-third of the U.S. Navy, to ...

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Central America and the Caribbean, Interventions in (1900–35)

by Mitch on March 10, 2012 0 Comments

Cpt. Smedley Butler, Sgt. Ross Iams and Pvt. Samuel Gross entering Fort Riviere during the battle in 1915. Capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti, 1915, by Donna J. Neary; illustrations of three Medal of Honor recipients: (left to right) Sergeant Ross Iams, Major Smedley Butler, and Private Samuel Gross (USMC art collection).


The United States has always been concerned about the wellbeing of its Central American and Caribbean neighbors, if only to safeguard its own interests. Although rarely concerning itself in the affairs of these countries prior to the 20th century, between 1900 and 1935 the United States dramatically increased its involvement in the region for three intertwined reasons: first, the strategic need to protect the Panama Canal from European hands, which meant keeping Europe out of the region altogether; second, the urge to spread Christianity and democratic values to nations that Americans perceived as backward and in need of political ...

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by Mitch on November 28, 2011 0 Comments

The 3rd Wisconsin awaits orders to charge the Spanish at Coamo

Puerto Rican and Spanish troops in Guayama

Puerto Rico was one of only two remaining Spanish possessions in the Western Hemisphere when it became the target of American efforts to rid the Caribbean of Spanish influence in the Spanish-American War. Though the main fighting of the war took place in Cuba, which was secured by 17 July 1898, Puerto Rico seemed a tempting target. The Spanish government here was more liberal than in Cuba, allowing the Puerto Ricans a modicum of self-rule, but the Americans were perceived as liberators who would give the island its independence rather than hold it as a colony.


General Nelson Miles commanded the 3,300 troops who landed on the island on 21 July 1898. Fearing a direct attack on the capital of San Juan would prove too costly, they first captured the port ...

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