The Spanish-American War lasted less than four months. It began on April 25 and ended on August 12, 1898. During this time, the United States was involved in Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain.
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Left to Right: 1. Major George Dunn, 2. Major Alexander Brodie, 3. Major General Joseph Wheeler, 4. Chaplain Henry A. Brown, 5. Colonel Leonard Wood, 6. Colonel Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt (later 26th U.S. President).
Cuba had been fighting for independence from Spain for twenty years. The American public followed years of news reports about the brutal fighting and Spanish atrocities.
The USS Maine, an American battleship in the waters near Cuba, exploded on February 15, 1898. The cause was assumed to be a Spanish mine. The outcry from the American public and the United States government increased support for a war against Spain.
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Note from caption: "Cuban volunteers in their barracks. Many of these were cigar makers at Tampa."
The "Army of the Cuban Republic" was made up from 40 Cubans from Jacksonville, 200 from New York, and 150 from Key West. They set sail on the Florida to join the rebels on May 21st.
Many of the cigar workers in West Tampa, Ybor City, and Key West came from Cuba, or had parents or grandparents from Cuba. They still felt a close connection with their homeland.
Workers’ groups formed support organizations and workers conducted fundraising efforts. They supplied a continuous flow of money to support the revolution.
Cubans and Cuban-Americans in Florida also helped generate greater American support for United States intervention. José Martí and other revolutionary leaders came from Cuba to generate greater sympathy for the Cuban cause, visiting Key West and the Latin areas of Tampa. Marti returned to Cuba in 1895 to join the revolution.
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Most of the United States troops heading for the war in Cuba left from Tampa. Theodore Roosevelt was there with his Rough Riders cavalry unit. Over 30,000 troops came to Tampa. Staging for the Spanish-American War changed Tampa from a small town into a city.
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