Telegram to The Darlingtonian and letter from Coleman Blease to William Ellerby regarding the Spanish-American War, April-May 1898

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On February 15, 1898, the U.S. Battleship Maine exploded in the Havana harbor, which was then under Spanish control.  The Spanish inquiry into the event ruled the sinking accidental, but an American report speculated that a mine likely sunk the ship.  Although U.S. interest in Cuba had been growing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, this incident was just the spark the nation needed to spur it towards war.  The fervor of the American people was fed by “yellow-journalism” practices that sensationalized headlines in order to sell papers.  In a climate heated with the cries of the American people for war, pleas from Cuba for assistance against Spain, and the encouragement of country’s economic interest, President McKinley responded by calling for a military build up and sending troops to fight.  The conflict, though short in length, represents an important moment in American history.  The Spanish-American War allowed America to assert its imperial interests; the country had broken free from it isolationist past and made its first step towards becoming a world power. 

Within the country the conflict had effects as well.  As soldiers from the North and South fought alongside one another, residual regional tensions were alleviated.  The segregation of African-American soldiers into separate units reinforced the division of the races, which would continue in the armed forces well into the twentieth century.  The documents included here illuminate how the Spanish-American War affected South Carolinians.  The first is a letter to William Ellerby by Coleman Blease, later governor of South Carolina, that makes mention of recruiting fifty African-American soldiers to fight in the war.  It is significant for demonstrating the segregated recruitment of African-American troops.  The second item is a telegraph from George Koester to The Darlingtonian, writing to update the paper on the most recent events of the war.   It is interesting both to see how news traveled and the type of information available about troop movement in comparison with current events.


Blease, Coleman Livingston to William Ellerby.  2 April 1898.  Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina. 

Koester, George Rudolph to The Darlingtonian, 7 May 1898.  Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


Received at Darlington, SC                                                                           May 7, 1898

Dated Columbia, SC

To Darlingtonian

Darlington, SC

Spanish fleet seen near Martinique five hundred miles from Parto Rico

Sampson expected arrive Parto Rico today = Second dispatch from Dewey announces has taken fortifications and landed marines = Manila at his mercy


The Western Union Telegraph Company

Newberry, South Carolina April 2nd, 1898

To His Excellency

Wm. H. Ellerbe

Gov of SC

Honorable Sir:

I am requested by Capt. B Palmer Henley (Col) to write and say to you that he has ready and organized fifty (50) colored men prepared to go at your command into the war with Spain in defense of the U.S. and requests that you furnish him proper arms.

Address him at this place.

Very respectfully,

Cole L. Blease

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.

Indicator 8-5.5 Summarize the human, agricultural, and economic costs of natural disasters and wars that occurred in South Carolina or involved South Carolinians in the late nineteenth century, including the Charleston earthquake of 1886, the hurricane of 1893, and the Spanish American War.

Standard USHC-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of foreign developments that contributed to the United States’ emergence as a world power in the twentieth century.

Indicator USHC-6.2 Explain the influence of the Spanish-American War on the emergence of the United States as a world power, including reasons for America’s declaring war on Spain, United States interests and expansion in the South Pacific, debates between pro- and anti-imperialists over annexation of the Philippines, and changing worldwide perceptions of the United States.

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Cole L. Blease Correspondence



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