San Juan was sacked near the end of the sixteenth century by the famous seaman Drake; pirates of various nations visited the island from time to time; and it was also attacked by British men–of–war. In spite of all this, however, the Spanish settlers prospered, and as they were better governed or more submissive than the Cubans, they suffered less from war. Their island is very fertile, and contains large coffee, sugar, and tobacco plantations; and their herds supply great quantities of hides and beef.
Landing on the southern shore of Puerto Rico, General Miles’s troops met little or no resistance from the Spaniards, while the Puerto Ricans welcomed the Americans as friends. Our army now went by different roads to attack San Juan, on the opposite side of the island, where most of the Spanish forces had collected.
Meanwhile, Spain asked President McKinley, through the French, ambassador at Washington, on what terms he would make, peace. McKinley insisted that Spain should consent to withdraw from the West Indies forever, and to meet American commissioners in Paris, to discuss terms of peace. These men were to decide what should be done with the Philippine Islands.
After a little hesitation, Spain accepted these terms, and on August 12, 1898, a peace protocol was signed at Washington. This really ended the Spanish–American War, which had begun one hundred and fourteen days’ before. But before this news could reach Rear Admiral Dewey, our forces in the Philippines attacked and seized Manila, after a short battle, in which some of our men fell (August 13).
As soon as the protocol was signed, the Cuban blockade was raised and most of our ships were recalled to New York, where a great naval parade took place. But part of our army was kept in Cuba and Puerto Rico to maintain order and take possession of those islands when the Spaniards sailed home.
Although our navy won most of the glory in this brief war, it lost very few men; but our army, exposed to a climate which produces fevers, suffered far more from disease than in battle. This is, however, always the case in war; but while mourning for our dead, we must remember that it is just as heroic to die at one’s post “wherever that may be” as to fall in battle.
Besides the heroic deeds already mentioned, and those every one talks about, there were countless brave actions done on land and sea. But while the heroes whose names we know are praised and rewarded, the others deserve no less credit. They too can enjoy the approval of their conscience, and feel with satisfaction that they have done the best they could for their beloved country.
As agreed in Washington, the Peace Commission met in Paris on October 1, 1898, and on December 10 signed a new Treaty of Paris. By this treaty, Spain gave up all her rights in Cuba, and ceded Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States, which in turn was to pay Spain $20,000,000.
It is said that the Spanish–American War cost us about two hundred million dollars and three thousand lives, while it cost Spain nearly five times as much. Besides adding to our territory, the war put an end to all jealousy between the North and the South, for old Union and Confederate soldiers, and their sons, now fought side by side under the same flag.
Many of the inhabitants of the islands won from Spain are supposed to be in favor of annexation to the United States. But whether they will adapt themselves to our rule, and become good American citizens, time alone can tell.
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