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Santiago, Battle of

Santiago, Battle of (1898).Early in the Spanish‐American War, President William McKinley on 26 May 1898 dispatched an army force to help the U.S. Fleet under Rear Adm. William Sampson destroy Spain's Atlantic Battle Squadron, which had taken refuge in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, and which was thought capable of raiding the North American coast or endangering American invasion forces bound for Cuba. The 15,000‐man army expedition, commanded by Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, disembarked near Santiago between 22 and 24 June. Following a preliminary action at Las Guasimas on the 24th and a week's delay to bring supplies and equipment ashore, Shafter's army on 1 July assaulted and captured Santiago's outer defenses at El Caney and then fought the Battle of San Juan Hill, at the cost of more than 1,000 U.S. troops killed and wounded.

Adm. Pascual Cervera, his ships in range of U.S. artillery fire, now considered Santiago untenable and on 3 July attempted to escape the harbor. His four poorly maintained armored cruisers and two torpedo boat destroyers were no match for Sampson's five battleships and two armored cruisers. In less than three hours, Sampson's squadron, at a cost of one man killed, destroyed all of Cervera's vessels. More than 300 Spanish sailors died. On 17 July, the Spanish land force commander surrendered Santiago, 28,000 troops, and the entire eastern end of Cuba to General Shafter.

The destruction of its Atlantic Fleet and the capture of Cuba's second largest city induced Spain to sue for peace. The campaign was hailed as a triumph for the modern, steel‐built U.S. Navy, as well as for the U.S. Army and Theodore Roosevelt's famous volunteer cavalry regiment, the “Rough Riders,” although the army suffered supply problems and subsequent outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever.
[See also Cuba, U.S. Military Involvement in; Disease, Tropical.]


Graham A. Cosmas , An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish‐American War, 1971; 2nd ed., 1994.
David F. Trask , The War with Spain in 1898, 1981.

Graham A. Cosmas

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