The Spanish-American War of 1873-1875 Part One As the Virginius Crisis was unfolding there was only one figure on either side of the Atlantic that was working calmly for a peaceful end to the crisis that the capture of the Virginius and executions of a number of the crew of that ship had caused. This was American Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Across the Atlantic through in Madrid it was a much different story and it would lead to the war in the first place. These two figured that led to the Spanish American War of 1873-75 were Spanish Regent Francisco Serrano and American Minister to Spain Daniel Sickles. Serrano had only taken over as the Regent of Spain in the aftermath of his coup of April 1873 with former King Amadeo I abdicating and returning to Italy. At the time Serrano was fighting the Third Carlist War along with rebels in Cuba. Spain was in no position for a long war with the United States. Serrano however was a proud man and Sickles for lack of better words was a bull in a china shop. It further made matters worse that Serrano and Sickles did not have a good relationship prior to the start of the Virginius Crisis. The two men repeatly clashed as the crisis unfolded. Sickles showing, he had learned nothing from Gettysburg moved the United States into an untenable position. Not only did he move the United States into an unsustainable position, he did the same for Spain with his meetings with Serrano. Serrano didn’t help matters and help create unsustainable positions by December of 1873. Things came to a head when on December 18 1873 Serrano formally declared war on the United States of America. For both the United States and Spain neither nation was ready for war. The vast armies and navies the United States had raised not even a decade prior to fight the Civil War had either slipped into nothingness or were slipping into nothingness. The United States would take a lot of time to mobilize itself to even be ready to fight this war as it had a frontier army and a navy that was more designed for coastal defense and punitive expeditions than taking control of the seas from a hostile power. Spain itself was in the middle of its own civil war along with a rebellion in one of it’s prized colonies; that of Cuba. Serrano understood both of these facts. He believed that he could win a quick war against the United States and forced them to the peace table to accept Spanish terms. This would lead to the greatest disgrace to American Arms since the Battle of Bladensburg in the War of 1812. At Havana the Spanish rallied the ironclads Numancia, TetuanI, and Vitoria to lead a small squadron of warships along with a single infantry regiment supported by artillery. This forced sailed from Havana on January 29 1874 for their target, New Orleans. New Orleans was selected as it was major port at the Delta of Mississippi River. A port the United States would have to use for any invasion against Spanish Cuba. On February 1 the Battle of the Gulf happens. The United States Navy had a small squadron patrolling the Gulf of Mexico to defend the Gulf Coast from possible raids as the army was mobilized for war against Spain. This squadron was commanded by Rear Admiral William E. Le Roy and was made up of five sloops of war and two gunboats. It was a massacre as the three Spanish Ironclads easily defeated the seven ships commanded by Le Roy. Four of the ships were sunk with two being forced to strike their colors and only the USS Hartford escaping. She would later latter founder from damage taken in this battle. With the way now cleared the Spanish kept on their way to New Orleans. They reached the city four days later. There had only ever been two forts defending New Orleans. These were Forts Pike and Macomb. Yet Macomb had been abandoned in 1871 by the Army following a fire at the fort. Fort Pike had been built in the aftermath of the War of 1812 and had been passed by advances in technology. On February 5th Fort Pike was forced to surrender as the Spanish were destroying the fort outside the range of the guns within the fort. For Pike was latter abandon by the army after the war having never fired a shot in anger. Following the surrender of Fort Pike the Spanish landed their infantry regiment where they were met by three time their number in local militia. These militia units were largely made up by members of the White League which at the time of the war had been the unofficial paramilitary wing of the Democratic Party in the open going debate of Reconstruction. Some of the militiamen were veterans of the Civil War but the vast majority of the militia on the 6th were made up of men too young to had fought in the civil war. The Spanish had brought professional soldiers who destroyed the militia forces along with the limited Federal Troops which had escaped from Fort Pike before it surrendered. Having swept the militia away the Spanish started to loot the city along with destroying the docks. This when on till the 8th when the 25th Infantry Regiment (Colored) reached the city. They had been one of the regiments tapped to lead the war into Cuba and had been sent to New Orleans as the rally point for the planned invasion of Cuba. Only instead of New Orleans being a rally point it was a city under Spanish control and being destroyed by the Spanish. The 25th Infantry then led an assault to retake the city. Even through on paper the numbers were close to even, the Spanish were spread out across the city as they were going about looting and destroying the city. This allowed them to bring all their forces against pockets of Spanish resistance as they fought to retake New Orleans from the Spanish. The Spanish commander known he couldn’t hold out forever gave the order to bring all of his forces back together by noon on the 8th as he started to make the withdraw of his forces still within the city. By noon on the 9th all New Orleans was back under American control. Yet for the first time since the War of 1812 the United States had been invaded with a major city being captured by a European power. The Battle of New Orleans (1874) was a watershed moment for the United States. The effects of this Battle of New Orleans and who retook the town and who lost it would be felt for decades if not centuries after the battle.