The Eagle and The Phoenix: A Less than Splendid Little War Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at a timeline, after years of wanting to start one and as such, it is an outline for a more refined forthcoming version, so bear with me as I edit this thing. IN short, this one's about the Spanish American war. I won't be putting up any graphics initially as this is a preliminary version but I will try to outline the course of the events as they unfold. I'm releasing the first update as two pieces all at once because I drew them up before starting. By the way, please give me some feedback as I write it. It is very valuable to me! The basic premise is that the Spanish American war goes relatively poorly for the United States leading to a very different legacy of the "splendid little war". Spanish manage to make some modest preparations, fight from a better initial position in Cuba and have a bit of luck here and there. The Americans, in turn, charge in unprepared at a bad time of year and eventually end up winning at relatively high cost. There are kind of multiple PODs here. One is that Antonio del Castillo is not assassinated, thus Valeriano ("The Butcher" to Americans) Weyler remains and the Americans become increasingly enraged at his actions. Another is that the Maine happens to not explode in Havana and the whole crisis over the de Lome letter is sort of butterflied away too, so that tempers things enough that the war breaks out after a bizarre series of events involving two warships. I've taken some liberties but am trying to keep things relatively plausible so don't expect to see an inversion of the war where Spain brings a whole company of maxim guns to San Juan hill or something along those lines. Introduction. (You can skip this if you want to get to the war) Spoiler The Spanish-American war of 1898-1899 is one of the most studied and influential conflicts in American history, as it came at a time when both nations faced a great degree of uncertainty over their own futures. Its tales of tragedy and triumph persist even today, well over a century after the war ended. The war represented the United States' first major conflict since its own civil war ended over 30 years ago, the skirmishes with Indians in the West and the plains notwithstanding. As such, it represented a test to the notion of a strictly defensive-minded military, of the ability of the American to rise up and defend liberty against the European colonial powers, and to enforce the spirit of the Monroe doctrine with real force by sweeping away those old world vestiges when the time came. Not since the revolution had a war been so steeped in the sense of a national mission and destiny. There were those at the time feared that the American man, now accustomed to peace and settled life, might somehow grow soft and lacking in the vigor of his forebears. The men of the era sang loudly in favor of modernity and progress while still holding on to the romanticism of the past. In reality, the rather short but intense conflict proved to be far deadlier than anyone had anticipated and the considerable loss of life brought a sense of cynicism. For Spain, the war was a test of the nation's vitality and many believe that as a wake up call, it came at just the right time. The country's long decline had continued through 19th century and had left doubts as to Spain's viability as a world power. There were those who believed, even lied to themselves as to the glory of the nation as if the 16th century golden age were still a reality. Spain's ultimate loss was, in retrospect, largely inevitable but its conduct in the war would vindicate those who called to resist the American demands and ultimately, help Spain to at last emerge from its relative isolation and national malaise with the affirmation of the young, centralized state that had emerged from the Carlist wars. It is ironic that the nation that ostensibly lost the war would come out of it with arguably more optimism than the victory. Modern Catalans may be surprised to hear this but the generation of 98 would not only produce many of Spain's most prominent generals in the next century, but it would also produce a new generation of men utterly convinced that with enough, modernization, the Spanish people as a whole were capable of greatness. The Lead Up to the WarNote: I plan to expand this to cover the Cuban revolution in more detail and edit it as needed. The war itself is often regarded to have begun with the attack on the USS Massachusetts, though in reality, the lead up to the war had been far longer. By this time, the Spanish empire was reduced to a shadow of its former self and was limited to: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, some small African territories and island chains in the Western Pacific. With this waning realm overshadowed by the waxing empires of Western Europe, including even newcomers like Germany and Italy, what Spain held was of considerable value and prestige. The wealthy island of Cuba in particular representing something of a jewel in this imperial crown. At the same time, Cuba was an ulcer on the nation with its constant rebellions virtually negating its very wealth. It took everythinig the Spanish had to retain control there and in the equally restless Philippines. As Spain's control slowly slipped away from Cuba after 400 years, the United States of America had more commercial interest in the island than ever and in terms of exports, considerably more than Spain itself. Any Americans were increasingly convinced that Spanish rule was simply unsustainable and that it had to end in ordef to restore order there, both for the sake of the Cuban nation and for the sake of the USA's own security in the Caribbean. A truce had prevailed in Cuba after the 10 years war, yet the conflict had already flared up once again by 1895. The Spanish realized that they needed to end the rebellion once and for all if they were to keep Cuba within the Spanish nation and their strategy took on a new character as a result. A large army of Peninsular soldiers under the command of general Valeriano Weyler slowly succeeded in restoring order to much of Cuba, clearing rebel forces away from strategically vital areas, even at considerable cost in human life and suffering. This suffering caught the attention of the American press, which lambasted general Weyler for his brutal methods, which included some of the earliest use of concentration camps to detain civilians. Though something of a hero in Spain at the time, he was widely referred as the "Butcher" to most Americans for such acts. That label was probably a bit simplistic but it was not without reason; though his true intentions were not necessarily to inflict mass casualties, they often did just that in an indirect way. They also displaced a shocking number of people in a relatively short time giving rise to the large Cuban exile population in the United States that had worked tirelessly to promote their cause there in the hopes of gaining the direct aid they needed to prevail at last in their struggle. By the fall of 1897, many in Spain were increasingly convinced that the Americans really might go to war over the army's actions and there was a sense of fear about the whole issue. The Spanish press and people both noticed that ever more prominent Americans began to speak out in favor of doing so and the tone grew more belligerent with time even as the Republican McKinley administration sought peace. Weyler remains controversial and probably always will. At the time, he had won himself considerable support among conservative nationalists in Spain and among loyalists in Cuba, where the immensely polarizing figure could be seen as anything from a noble savior of Cuba to a coldhearted devil bent on its subjugation. Perhaps more importantly, the policies were starting to show results. Weyler's supporters were quite convinced that after decades of fighting, a long term peace and order was worth the veritable humanitarian disaster. For their part, the rebels continued to fight all the way up until the USS Massachusetts sank but the outlook was starting to look grimmer by that time; the Americans, hoped to be the saviors of the revolution, had not come and it was beginning to look as though nothing be able to bring them in to the war. The insurgents again retreated to ever more remote areas as the Spanish cut them off from their supplies, slowly but steadily crippling the guerilla campaign. By March of 1898 the Spanish were certain that victory was within reach (though in reality, the Rebels still controlled large areas of countryside in the East of the island) and by June, the last of revolutionaries had been driven from Western Cuba, just as planned. Even as negotiations with rebel forces proceeded, Weyler was, amazingly, still under some pressure by liberals to resign. He chose to remain anyway, partly in the belief that his presence had a certain intimidating effect but also partly in order to obtain a legacy for himself as a man responsible for restoring order rather than merely inflicting devastation. It also meant that the American calls for war would continue. The Spanish authorities took notice of this alarming momentum in the American attitude and even as their own war dragged on, their concerns slowly shifted from fighting a protracted guerilla conflict to a defensive war against the United States. Preparations for this war went forward at a much greater pace, with varying results. The worries were well-founded. Even with the fear of war still running high, the McKinley administration was willing to disregard public opinion and oppose intervention in Cuba. His country, much less inclined to take a calm approach to the situation there, felt differently. The newspapers, embroiled in an era of notorious yellow journalism, continued to rail against Spain, dredging up the Black Legend from the depths of history and drumming up the need for war. They did their best to make sure that cooler heads would not prevail with little concern for the carnage that they would unleash. The short term result of course, was tremendous interest in stories relating to Cuba, some fanciful and virtually all unthinkable by later standards of journalism. Screeds telling tales of varying truth were printed alongside cartoons of Uncle Sam vanquishing King Alfonso, Weyler and the rest of the Spaniards in some way or another. As the press attacks became ever more frequent and insulting, the Spanish military and government began to take the American threat seriously. Pascual Cervera, the most famous Spanish admiral of the war, had made many attempts to ready the fleet for actual combat in the years leading up to the war. Now, at the proverbial 11th hour and with the ground war looking winnable, his own government, realizing that an army overseas was useless without a fleet behind it, was at last prepared to divert some of the resources spent on the army to the navy in order to implement these changes. The Spanish navy began a rapid overhaul of its cruisers, torpedo boats and its only battleship, Pelayo. Though work began in 1897, the work needed just to bring the fleet up to its purported strength was so great that even when the war broke out in August of 1898, many ships still had major unresolved problems, though far fewer than there had been at the beginning of the year. The armament problems for the armored cruisers had just barely been resolved and many ships, suffering from years of poor maintenance under a stingy budget, struggled with frequent engine trouble which thus limited their speed and operational capabilities. This was especially true of the torpedo boats, which some have speculated could have proven to be a decisive weapon had they been properly used. Despite the villainous reputation Hearst and Pulitzer have gained in the aftermath of the war, the tension they drummed up did not alone cause the Spanish-American war. Ultimately, it was always the destruction of not one but two ships that would precipitate the actual conflict and without these events, it is highly unlikely the war would have been fought. The US and Spain had already had a close call in the spring of 1898 over fears that Spain was making preparations for a war with the US.