In 1898, the United States declared war on Spain. Throughout the 1890s, many people in the United States objected to Spain's treatment of the people of Cuba, which then was a colony of Spain. For decades, Cuban revolutionaries had attempted to overthrow Spanish authority. The Spanish government in Cuba forced suspected revolutionaries into prison camps, among other tactics. Some reporters in the United States, known as “the yellow press,” printed sensationalist stories regarding Spanish atrocities in Cuba. Many in the U.S. firmly believed that the United States, which they considered the bastion of representative government, could not permit Spain's continued subjugation of the Cuban people.
Tensions between the United States and Cuba came to a boiling point in February 1898. President William McKinley, an Ohioan, had dispatched a United States battleship, the Maine, to Cuba, purportedly to protect U.S. citizens in Cuba in case a war erupted between the Spanish and the Cubans. In February 1898, the Maine exploded, killing 260 U.S. servicemen. The U.S. public was convinced that the Spanish were responsible, although there was no clear evidence to prove this accusation. Most historians now believe that an accident occurred onboard the ship. Most scholars contend that gunpowder somehow ignited in the gunpowder room, causing the explosion. McKinley sent a declaration of war to the United States Congress, which approved the declaration on April 25, 1898.
The Spanish-American War, as the conflict was called, lasted less than three months and ended in a complete victory for the United States. The United States military easily defeated Spanish forces in Cuba and in the Philippines. Asa Bushnell, the governor of Ohio, provided the federal government with three regiments of Ohioans, but these soldiers did not arrive in Cuba until after the fighting was over. Approximately 15,300 Ohioans participated in the military aspects of the Spanish-American War. Of these men, 230 died, principally from diseases.
The Treaty of Paris (1898) officially ended the Spanish-American War. The United States acquired Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines as territories. Cuba technically gained its independence, but United States soldiers remained in the country for years, commonly intervening in the new nation's politics. While some in the U.S. opposed expansion, the easy United States victory in the Spanish-American War and the acquisition of territory from Spain all but guaranteed President McKinley reelection in the election of 1900.