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USS Maine wreckage in Havana Harbor, Cuba, photograph, 1898

During Cuba’s revolt against Spain, the battleship Maine was stationed in Havana Harbor. On February 15, 1898, the ship exploded, killing 266 naval officers and crew. Though the cause of the explosion could not be immediately determined, lawmakers and the public blamed Spain. The incident fueled public demands for war with Spain, which Congress declared on April 25.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

USS Maine wreckage in Havana Harbor, Cuba, photograph, 1898

The Spanish-American War

The explosion of the USS Maine in February 1898 became a catalyst for war. In April Congress declared war against Spain, demanding that Spain relinquish control of Cuba. To disavow any colonial intentions, Congress first approved an amendment proposed by Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado supporting Cuba’s independence. The ensuing war extended to the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, which Spain finally ceded to the United States in December 1898. The Spanish-American War ultimately expanded U.S.-controlled territory and enhanced America’s status as a world power