War was formally declared on 26th of April, 1898; that was the day, Portsmouth’s own Company H of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry; answered the call and left for Camp Bushnell. Orders were to leave on Tuesday. The city woke up early, to give a robust sendoff. Everywhere flags were displayed. The line of advance formed at Market Square and marched up to 2nd Street to Chillicothe, then north to the N&W Depot. The transport train chugged away from the station with all the brave sons of Portsmouth aboard. They were off to do their country’s bidding – to go and fight and die if necessary for the cause. Folks were shouting and screaming “Remember the Maine!” (Company H eventually ended up in Puerto Rico as part of the 4th O.V.I.)
In looking at reasons for the war with Spain – a story written by Ray Setterfield and the original source article being found at the go to link (https://www.onthisday.com/articles/spain-declares-war-against-united-states) – OnThisDay.com – “Explorer Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba’s northeastern coast in 1492 and claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain, which had sponsored his journey of discovery. For the Cuban people, there followed 400 years of slavery, degradation and rebellion. Here’s what Columbus wrote about them in his diary: “They brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for glass beads and hawks’ bells. “They willingly traded everything they owned. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.”
“They have no iron, they would make fine servants. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” This became the policy of the Spanish who took over Cuba following Columbus’s discovery. Resentment simmered among the islanders but it was not until 1868 that a major rebellion erupted resulting in what became known as the Ten Years War, with 200,000 Spanish casualties. In 1892 the Cuban Revolutionary Party was formed with the aim of achieving independence from Spain. The Spanish reacted with suppression, creating “reconcentrados” – fortified towns that are seen as forerunners of the Second World War concentration camps. Up to 400,000 Cubans died from starvation and disease in the “reconcentrados”. From original article – OnThisDay.com (https://www.onthisday.com/articles/spain-declares-war-against-united states)
Setterfield goes on to explain. “As rioting took hold in Havana, the United States sent in a battleship – the USS Maine – “to protect American interests”. But within days of anchoring in Havana harbor the Maine was ripped apart by an explosion, killing three quarters of the crew – about 250 men. The cause of the explosion was never established but some American newspapers – particularly William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal – had no doubt, it must have been a Spanish mine (causing the explosion.)” Source Article: OnThisDay.com (https://www.onthisday.com/articles/spain-declares-war-against-united states)
The Setterfield article tells of the reaction from Americans, as to the fate of USS Maine. “… hysterical headlines poured off the presses, public opinion veered towards war amid chants of “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” Congress demanded independence for Cuba and authorized the use of force to achieve such an end. Spain at first severed diplomatic relations but then on April 24, 1898 declared war against the United States. Then Congress in turn declared war on Spain. The war lasted for ten weeks, America’s far superior forces inevitably gaining victory over the Spanish. Probably the most famous encounter came on July 1 when Colonel Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt – who was to become US President in 1901 – led the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, known as the “Rough Riders,” in the Battle of San Juan Hill. He did so carrying a pistol recovered from the Maine. Task & Purpose, a military and veteran-focused website, reports: “[It was] a bloody struggle to gain the high ground above enemy naval concentrations in the harbor of nearby Santiago de Cuba. The action cost [the US] over 1,000 soldiers – nearly five times as many as the Spanish – but despite the grave loss of life, Roosevelt overtook the enemy position and carried the day.” Two days later the Spanish fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, leading to surrender of the city. After the war Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris under which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the US for $20 million and Cuba became a protectorate of the United States.” From Article found at – (OnThisDay.com (https://www.onthisday.com/articles/spain-declares-war-against-united states)
The men of Company H, posed for a photo at Tracy Park – with inscription “Co. H – O.V.I. – After their return from Puerto Rico.” The photo was taken in 1899 in the dead of winter, a far cry from the stifling heat they endured while in Puerto Rico. They came home and had served their country with honor. But not without consequences – five of the soldiers that left on that April day in 1898 – had paid the ultimate price with their lives. May their memories live on forever and leave a mark for all to cherish.
From the Original article: OnThisDay.com – the do follow link (https://www.onthisday.com/articles/spain-declares-war-against-united states)
This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper.
Reach Bob Boldman at [email protected]