Spanish-American War 1873-75
The Spanish American War 1873-75

The Spanish American War of 1873-75 started in the aftermath of the Virginius Affair. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish was working to find a peaceful end to this affair with Minister Admiral Don Jose Polo de Bernabe soon after the affair started. As Fish was working to end it Bernabe push things to the breaking point by insulting Fish and the United States. It was spoken in haste, but once spoken it couldn’t be taken back. It was this meeting that led President Grant to ask congress to declare war against Spain on December 2 1873. After five days of debate Congress passes the declaration of war against the Spanish Empire on December 7 1873 by a vote of 209-74 in the house and 54-15 in the senate. For the first time since 1848, the United States found itself in war with a foreign nation.

For a war even with a second rate power like Spain which was in a state of civil war the United States was totally unprepared for a war. The once massive armies and navies raised turning the Civil War of not even ten years prior had fade away to next to nothing. It would take time to rebuild an army and navy to fight Spain. This total lack of readiness would lead to the worse defeat the American nation had ever suffered since Bladensburg in 1814 at the hands of the British. As the US ready itself for a war, the Spanish who had been fighting rebels in Cuba since 1868 and had bigger fish to fry with the Third Carlist War being fought back at home, decided to force the Americans to peace table and agree to a status quo ante bellum peace treaty.

Brigadier General Anton who had been winning battles against the rebels in Cuba decided instead of waiting for the Americans to attack him, he would attack the Americans after being reinforced briefly to make the US exit the war. He selected the port city of New Orleans as his target and with help from the Spanish Navy set sail for it in February 1874 three months after the start of the war. The raiding force cleared the Gulf of Mexico without running into the USN who is putting a lot of effort into building up a force to both defend the Eastern Seaboard and take the war into Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The Spanish ironclad Arapiles with its rifled muzzle loaders that had greater range than the smoothbores at Fort Pike when about destroying the fort and forcing it to surrender. With the fort designed to defend New Orleans destroyed and in his hands Anton landed his troops and when about marching up to the docks of the city to destroy the port area as he believes it would be used as one of the ports for an invasion of Cuba. They are met by locally recruited militia units, all white units made up men who had been too young to fight in the civil war with weapons that were old and outdated. They broke and ran within minutes of the battle starting. Anton then when about starting to destroy the port of New Orleans. Only a few hours later through he is counter attack by the 25th Infantry Regiment (Colored) which was being shifted from western duty to the defense of the coast. And had only reached New Orleans hours earlier. This counterattack by the 25th Infantry catches Anton out of position, but Anton is able to rally his men from the shock of the counterattack of the Americans to an retreat orderly to the waiting boats.

Following the raid at New Orleans Anton is a hero in Spain. He is promoted and recalled to Spain and join the ongoing fight in Spain. In America they use New Orleans as a rallying cry. There were also questions as to how the Spanish were even able to reach New Orleans and the neglected state of the coastal defenses of the nation. Yet even as these questions were being raised many Republicans and Democratics rally to the flag as New Orleans wouldn’t go unanswered. Men flock to recruiting stations as the nation which had only been half hearting supporting the war had been enraged and come to fully support the war.

Following the Raid of New Orleans, the USN meet the Spanish Navy in the Battle of the Florida Straits on May 1st 1874. The Battle of the Florida Straits to put nicely was a bloody mess on both sides as it was a force of American monitors meeting an Spanish Force who had the ironclad Numancia and a number of wooden warships escorting a raiding force meant to raid Gulfport under General Joaquin Jovellar y Soler. In the Battle of the Straits as it is commonly known the Americans managed to get the Numancia to strike her colors and sink two of the wooden escorts at the cost of the USS Lehigh when she was rammed by one of the wooden escorts with both ships sinking. The Spanish force which had set out to raid retreated back to Cuba.

With the victory in the Florida Straits, the US felt ready for an invasion of Cuba now. They set their sights on the capital of Havana itself. The invasion force left from ports in the US 10 days after the victory in the Florida Straits and set sail for Havana. Leading this force was Major General Philip Sheridan. Sheridan had just under 60,000 men from the regular army and US Volunteers under his command for this invasion. Sheridan landed his army near the town of Mariel, Cuba to the west of Havana in early June.

The first battle in Cuba was the Battle of Caimito on June 10th. The goal of Sheridan in his invasion of Cuba was to capture Havana to use that was a base of operations in Cuba and port of resupply. At Caimito Sheridan’s army met the vanguard of Soler’s Army. Both sides were equipped without dated muzzle loading artillery even through the Franco-Prussian War only three years prior had shown that muzzle loading artillery was outdated. However, Sheridan’s Army had a battery of Gatling Guns under his command. Even through these were the size of artillery pieces and were treated as such they made a major difference at Caimito and allow Sheridan to carry the day.

With the victory at Caimito Sheridan kept moving his army to Havana. The battle of Havana started four days later as Sheridan started to clear out the fort systems around Havana. In this fight, they were supported by different monitors of the navy. It did lead to the sinking of the USS Ajax when she stuck one of the few mines that the Spanish placed in Havana Harbor on the 15th. Santa Clara Battery the last bastion of the Spanish in Havana fell to Sheridan’s Army on the 19th and the city was in Sheridan’s hands. Casualties on both sides had been heavy. However, Soler had to surrender his sword on the 19th as with the Third Carlist War being fought most of the troops in Cuba had been stripped away after it was seen the US wasn’t going to take a status quo ante peace from the colony and the Spanish were holed up in Havana and Santiago.

With Havana in his hands Sheridan rested his army as reinforcements of the mainland started to reach him before he started his overland campaign of Cuba. At the same time the navy launched a mission to seize the island of Guam in the Pacific. Some saw this as the navy trying to make political capital they lost because of New Orleans. Others believed Grant was eying trade with China and wanted an American own island which would allow American ships a stopping point on the journey to China.

In early August Sheridan launched his overland campaign of Cuba. By this point, Sheridan’s Army had reached a strength of 110,000 men. However, his overland campaign of Cuba was marked by logistical challenges and disease than fighting. However, Sheridan’s overland campaign saw the return of some well-known former confederate officers fighting in the USV. These included James Longstreet, Nathen Bedford Forrest, and John S Mosby. Other less well known officers also served in Sheridan’s army, but Longstreet, Forrest, and Mosby were all given command positions within Sheridan’s Army of Cuba. Sheridan’s Army reached the outskirts of Santiago by mid-September.

At this time the Caribbean Squadron of the Navy sailed to support the Army of Cuba take Santiago. As once Santiago fell Cuba would be in American hands. During this trip they ran into the Spanish Navy as they were trying to reach San Juan so they could escape Santiago and still be an effect force in the Caribbean. This led to the Battle of the Windward Passage on September 21st. At Windward Passage the US Squadron was made up of five monitors and one ironclad against the four-strong wooden ship force that was trying to reach San Juan. The battle was totally one sided with two of the Spanish ships being sunk and another two striking their colors and surrendering to the Americans. With their victory at Windward Passage the US had gained total control of the Caribbean over the Spanish.

Once the navy got into position to support operations around Santiago, Sheridan started his offensive to take the city in early October. By this point the Spanish Army in Santiago was hurt by moral issues and had been without resupply from Spain for some time now. They only put up token resistance against Sheridan and his Army of Cuba before surrendering on October 11th. Missed by the press at the time was Guam was captured by the navy days before the fall of Santiago. However, by the time news reach the west coast the surrender of the Spanish in Santiago was the talk of newspapers.

With Cuba in his hands, Sheridan started prepping his Army which now number 150,000 plus American troops plus a further 30,000 Patriot Cuban troops that had joined his army during his overland campaign, to invade the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was the last bastion of the Spanish in the New World and needed to be taken before the Americans would be willing to talk terms with the Spanish. Sheridan launched his invasion of Puerto Rico on November 1st reaching San Juan a week later. The Spanish at San Juan put up a good fight lasting six days before the Spanish flag over the Castillo San Cristobal came down and the stars and stripes when up.

Following the victory at San Juan, the US was willing to talk peace terms with the Spanish now. A team head by Hamilton Fish travelled to Berlin to work with the Spanish and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who offered mediate a peace treaty. Bismarck made this offer back in June, but the US wasn’t ready to take this offer till it had what it wanted. Over the next few weeks the Treaty of Berlin was worked out and signed. Under the terms of the treaty Spain ceded Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. The Spanish Government would pay 100,000 dollars to the families of the prisoners of the Virginius which had been executed by the Spanish. Spain also granted the United States most favored nation status in lieu of an indemnity as Spain didn’t have the money nor did the US really have a position to enforce it. This was Bismarck working to find a peace between the two waring powers. Finally, Spain formally apologize for the insult that started the war. The Treaty of Berlin was signed on January 14 1875 and was later ratified by the US Senate and Spanish Governments in the coming months.
Okay going to be fun times to be had in Cuba most likely, unless Grant and Congress act real fast (unlikely), there is going to be some form of revolt IMO
Bismark is going to get some prestige out of it as well. He just helped close a major conflict before it grew out of hand.
As to what happens in Cuba next, that's not going to be covered in the next update. I'm moving the time table forward by about five years then after that to the Island War of 1894-95 in the third update.
This is a alt-WWII TL, but with the POD being in 1873 I couldn't jump to the first update and not have a massive WTF on the board. Its really only in 1894 that the butterfly effect really start ripping to the point major world events which I'm covering before WWII need for all of them.
Looks good and I await the next update. The US may also want to sweep up the various island colonies that are still under Spanish control before some other country gets them. Though that may be what the Island Wars will be about.

Will Spain try to hold onto the Philippines or will they sell them to raise money to pay for the Carlist Wars?
Does Spain have anything left in the Americas? I think it is all gone now.
Spain only has the Philippines and that mess of Pacific Islands, minus Guam as Colonies at this point. There isn't anything left in the Americas at this point.

Then again Spain could try to recolonize the Dominican Republic like it did in 1861. But that breaks the Monroe Doctrine and barring the US being in a major cluster fuck like 1861 it would lead to another war.
Someone else did that in another tl, one that was truly epic. Personally, I always liked the song, and ittl has a stronger version of reconstruction occurred?
Danish Virgin Island Sell, 1879
Sell of the Danish West Indies, 1879

Even before the Spanish-American War the United States had looked to buy the Danish West Indies. A treaty between the US and Demark had been drawn up in 1867 for such a sell. It was even ratified by the Rigsdag, however it wasn’t brought up in the US Senate for ratification. This was part from an ongoing feud between the Senate and then President Andrew Jackson about a range of issues and this treaty was caught up in this feud. It was also in part worried about how prone the islands were to natural disasters. With the US moving on to other issues the treaty was allowed to lapsed without being ratified by the US.

Following the annexation of Puerto Rico at the end of Spanish-American War the topic came up again as the islands were only 40 miles from a new US territory. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish even sent out feelers to Copenhagen in late 1875. However, events in Cuba and the Election of 1876[1] quickly overtook importance in the United States even through once again the Danish were open to the idea. With that the US dropped the idea again of buying the Danish West Indies for the time to be.

Following the election of Benjamin Bristow and William Wheeler to the White House the idea was floated a few different times. But it wasn’t till 1878 that President Bristow ordered his Secretary of State James G Blaine to start work with the Danish to get another treaty in place. It was at this point Bristow who had ran on a reform ticket decided he was safe enough to make this move. Blaine when about contacting the Danish again about the possibly of buying the Danish West Indies.

Again, the Danish were open to the idea of selling their West Indies colony. Since the abolishment of slavery in 1848 the colony had been unprofitable and there were no signs of this changing in the near future. They had even offered the islands up at the peace talks that ended the Second Schleswig War in order to keep Northern Schleswig. Only the Prussians and Austrians didn’t want colonies and they refused that offer demanding all of Northern Schleswig. Talks started to find a price that was agreeable and other terms that would have to be worked out to allow a transfer.

Using the 1867 Treaty as the bases for this treaty things came together fairly quickly between Blaine and Danish Minister in Washington DC. The two agreed to a price of 8,000,000 dollars for the Danish Colony. It was a slight increase from the 7.5 million in the 1867 treaty. Other than the price the treaty was almost a carbon copy of the 1867 treaty. Now came the test to get the treaty ratified which had cause the 1867 treaty to lapse. The treaty cleared both houses of the Danish Government to become ratified. The treaty was debated at some length in the US Senate with a number of southern Democratics questioning the wisdom of bring more non-whites into the United States. However, the final vote came to 58-13 which crossed the 2/3 mark needed for ratification on December 2 1878.

With Christmas at hand through the US Treasury Department didn’t cut the check to Denmark till the following month. Secretary Blaine then handed over the check to the Danish Minister to the US on January 14 1879. With the check being handed over it would be 30 days before took ownership and control of the islands. One February 13, with one of the newest steel cruisers in the USN, the USS Atlanta[2] in the Charlotte Amalie’s harbor the Danish flag was lowered for the last time and the stars and stripes when up.

[1] In all fairness the 1876 POTUS election and the aftermath of Cuba after it was annexed should get its own update each. However, I decided for my own sanity more than anything else to only cover foreign events and give a brief domestic history background in the nation updates before I get into my more standard updates that start in 1937.

[2] With the cluster that led to New Orleans the navy got money for new warships.
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The US has solidified its position in the Caribbean and has expanded its Navy. Will the US hold onto Cuba or Puerto Rico or will they be allowed their freedom?
Someone else did that in another tl, one that was truly epic. Personally, I always liked the song, and ittl has a stronger version of reconstruction occurred?

You got a link to this other TL?

Was it the Union Forever by @Mac Gregor . Of course, it went through a couple of evolutions by the end of the TL, thanks to the Union winning the Civil War and also the Spanish-American War and its ALternate WW1

Yes we'll rally round the flag, boys, we'll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom,
We will rally from the Southland, we'll gather from the North,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!


The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the tyrants, and up with the stars;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

We are springing to the call with a million freemen more,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we'll fill our vacant ranks of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And although he may be poor, not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
So we're springing to the call from the East and from the West,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And we'll hurl the evil crew from the land we love best,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

One February 13, with one of the newest protected cruisers in the USN, the USS Atlanta[2] in the Charlotte Amalie’s harbor the Danish flag was lowered for the last time and the stars and stripes when up.
The First protected cruiser was laid down in 1881, the British laid down a Corvette class with similar armor schemes in 1878, and the Italians a class of Battleship with such an armor scheme in 1876, but the protected cruiser as a ship type does not yet exist unless you have the US inventing it 5 or so years early