Photograph of parade on Main Street in Columbia during the Spanish-American War, ("Parade on Main"), ca. 1899

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On February 15, 1898 a blast rocked the Havana harbor.  An American battleship, the USS Maine, exploded into thousands of pieces, killing 266 men on board.  Americans were confused and upset and many blamed the event on Spain for not controlling the harbor of one of its territories.  At this time Cuba was still a Spanish territory, and although the loss of life on the Maine was a tragedy, Americans were also upset with Spanish policies and wanted to go to war.  Though initially resistant to the idea, President McKinley eventually declared war, and in April of the same year United States troops entered Spanish-held Guantánamo Bay and demanded a free and independent Cuba.  Almost a year later, peace was declared, and many of Spain’s remaining colonies, such as Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam were given to the United States.  Cuba was declared an independent nation, though the US put strict restrictions on its government.  This event in American history is notable because for one of the first times in its existence the United States set out to be a world power.

The Spanish-American War has special connections to South Carolina.  After the declaration of war, men in South Carolina rallied to participate and fight for their country, forming several camps around the city of Columbia.  Unfortunately, by the time the troops were organized and ready, the conflict in Cuba was nearing an end.  However, at this time, federal officials in Washington were looking for a warmer area to move northern troops, and Columbia’s mayor volunteered the camps already in existence.  The result was an influx of young men, a spirit of patriotism, and increased revenue to the city.  In succeeding years, Columbia encouraged the growth of military activity around its perimeters, and not long after, Camp Jackson, later Fort Jackson, became both a major military base and a consistent source of income for the city.            


"Parade on Main." Photograph. 11622.14. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States’ becoming a world power.

Indicator 5-3.6 Summarize actions by the United States that contributed to the rise of this nation as a world power, including the annexation of new territory following the Spanish-American War and the role played by the United States in the building of the Panama Canal and in World War I.

Standard 7-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of imperialism throughout the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Indicator 7-4.3 Explain the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War and its reflection of the United States’ interest in imperial expansion, including this nation’s acquisition of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam; its temporary occupation of Cuba; and its rise as a world power.

Standard 8-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Note: Although this document was originally posted as part of a lesson specifically designed to teach the above standard(s), other Social Studies Standards may apply.


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