The Spanish-American War began its opening phase in late July 1864. With cheering crowds lining the docks the US soldiers boarded their ships and sailed from New York, Boston and San Diego, singing songs and waving to their sweethearts and families, they watched their homeland disappear into the distant horizon, wondering which of them would never again see her shores.
The first action of the war was undertaken by the US Pacific Fleet. Setting sail with 15 Large Ships, 20 Small and 15,000 hardened soldiers on board, they set their course for the Philippines. They made several stops along route, taking on water and supplies from British controlled Hawaii before continuing their voyage.
Arriving in the Philippines, the Pacific Fleet quickly set ashore their forces and set about the task of hunting down the Spanish Navy. Leaving 5 Large and 10 Small ships behind to guard the beachhead, Admiral Macoughlin split the rest of his forces into to 2 equally sized groups and sent them out to hunt down the Spanish Navy. The Spanish Admiral on the other hand, had decided that his ships would be best used to convey him and his personal friends away from what he regarded as a doomed cause. The Spanish met one of the US groups about 10 miles from Manila. With the wind at their backs, the US ships pounced upon the slower moving Spaniards and wrought havoc amongst the ships. They closed fast with the Spaniards, pressing their attacks to within metres of the Spanish. Firing at point blank, their sharpshooters and gunners took a deadly toll, the Spanish Admiral himself falling to a well aimed shot. The day ended with the complete destruction of the Spanish fleet for no loss to the Americans. [-2 Large Ships from Spain, -4 Small Ships from Spain]
1. The Spanish Admiral falls on the deck of his ship, mortally wounded.
Meanwhile, the American land forces had secured almost the entirety of the Philippines, leaving only the capital of Manila and its immediate surroundings in the hands of the Spanish forces. With 5,000 of his original garrison dead or captured defending their forts in various places around the colony, the Spanish Governor ordered his remaining 10,000 men to dig in and prepare for a siege. Food was hoarded and barricades erected across the major routes into the city. The forts around the city were reinforced and the Governor ordered his residence fortified to serve as his Headquarters. Admiral Macoughlin was in no mood for a prolonged siege. Using his total control of the seas and massive reserve of naval firepower, he ordered that all targets of military value in Manila be bombarded to dust from both sea and land. Serving their guns furiously, the US forces pounded the Spanish positions into silence one by one, as brigades of shock troops readied themselves to assault and secure these positions. Within 3 days, the Spanish were reduced to an isolated pocket around the harbour, the Governors residence and the largest square in the city. With the US guns destroying the walls around him, the Spanish Governor sent out a white flag. Admiral Macoughlin accepted the Spanish surrender, and the Spanish Governor, along with 6,000 of his men, marched into American prison camps. In a short and bloody siege, the Americans had secured the Philippines and therefore the Pacific theatre of the war, but at the cost of 4,500 American lives. [-15,000 Regulars from Spain, -4,500 Regulars from the United States]
2. Spanish troops retreating back to Manila.
Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, the island of Cuba became the focus of the war. With the news of the success in the Pacific, many American soldiers were dreaming of achieving similar glory, and it was with high spirits that they set sail in 2 Fleets towards Cuba. The first, made up of 15 Large and 50 Small ships cruised towards Havana loaded with 20,000 US troops. The second, with the same number of ships and men, headed towards Santiago.
The Spanish Armada, ordered to leave at the onset of the war, was still taking on supplies for the long voyage as the US ships neared Cuba. Setting sail as fast as they could, the Spanish hurried to escape the American juggernaut bearing down on them. Most of the Armada made it away, either back to Spain or southwards, meeting up with the Argentinian fleet in Buenos Ares. 4 Spanish ships however, damaged from battle and bad weather, were slow to leave port. Caught by the vanguard of the first American group, they were attacked by 3 American Frigates. The modern US Frigates, crewed by experienced sailors and officers were more than a match for the outdated Spanish ships. Running rings around them, the American Frigates sank 3 of the Spanish ships, leaving another badly damaged. The Spanish Captain, unable to turn back to Cuba, decided to carry on his voyage to Spain. Unfortunately, his ship was caught in a storm, and crippled as it was by the battle, sank with the loss of all hands. [-1 Large Ship from Spain, -3 Small Ships from Spain]
3. Spanish Marines waiting to embark upon the Armada and return home.
The second assault, landing East of Santiago, began to prepare for a lengthy siege. They were pleasantly surprised however, when a detachment of Marines, sent ahead to scout the Spanish defences, reported that they had found no resistance. Further scouting parties returned the same message, and soon the US soldiers abandoned their siege preparations and simply marched into the town. Raising the Stars and Stripes over the town hall, the US troops then spread out and secured the surrounding countryside. Within a week, they had secured the entire Eastern half of Cuba, and began to establish several outposts in the abandoned Spanish forts around the island.
The first assault force however, met with less success. Landing outside Havana, the US forces encountered only light opposition outside the city, quickly breaking through the thin ring of defenders and surrounding the city. They began to prepare for an assault, readying ladders, grapnels and digging in their artillery pieces. Their preparations however, were cut short by a Spanish envoy, who had come offering terms of surrender for the Spanish forces opposing the Americans. The American General, overjoyed at his apparently easy victory and under orders from President Lincoln to avoid any unneeded bloodshed, readily accepted the terms, placed guards over the 1,500 Spanish troops and ordered his forces to enter the city. [-1,500 Regulars from Spain]
With their bands playing and their flags raised high, the US troops paraded into the city. Their General at their head, they marched straight for the main square, where they expected to be met by the Spanish Governor, offering the surrender of the entire colony. Instead, they were greeted by a barrage of lead fired from the buildings surrounding them. The US General fell in the first volley of shot, riding as he was at the head of the column. All around the US troops, windows flashed and smoked filled the air, hundreds of Americans falling in the chaos. Beating a hasty retreat, they found their way bared by the Spanish troops. Many Cubans joined the Spanish forces, grabbing what weapons they could and aiding in the slaughter of the American invader. Hundreds more died trying to break through the cordon of death the Spanish had thrown around them, with the sheer weight of American numbers eventually overwhelming the Spanish forces, who gave way under the pressure. The Americans left behind them several thousand dead, for which the Spanish had paid the price of a few hundred. [-7,500 Regulars from the United States, -500 Regulars from Spain]
4. Cuban citizens train to fight the Americans. This photograph was taken by a Frenchman trapped inside the American siege lines.
The US response was simple. Their huge fleet, stationed off Havana, opened fire with the full weight of its weaponry. Over 3,000 guns blazed for several hours until the ceasefire was given, and as the dust cleared it was evident that Havana had been reduced to a shell of a city. Many buildings were on fire and several thousand citizens and soldiers had been killed. Under this bombardment, the Cuban population became a lot more receptive to Spanish attempts to win them over, and many took up arms in favour of the Spaniards, seeking to avenge those who had been lost to the terror of the American bombardment. The City of Havana was still under siege however, and Spanish resistance existed only there, and in an isolated pocket at the Western tip of the island. [+32,500 Conscripts to Spain, -500 Regulars from Spain]