The Ramblings of Historian

The Spanish American War Centennial Website Blog

By Patrick McSherry

Click here to read the "About Us" page


I generally will not have a lot to say, but, from time to time I will add something to this blog as the mood or conditions warrant!

The Blog:

May 23, 2020:

In the past month, we have updated almost every page of the website (about 1231 pages,...whew!), looking for broken links, and updating titles and descriptions. We found that that when Yahoo migrated all of its websites to a third party, that migration wiped out the page titles and description. This is one of the reasons why the website dropped a bit in visibility. We also updated meta words to help the search engines locate articles. During the updates we added some google analytics coding so we can see what pages get more hits, which will help us to plan a bit. Lastly, we added the coding to allow ads to show. Since ad placement is handled through artificial intelliegnce through Google, We cannot control the size or the number too well. We did set a control that only allows the ads to be at 50% of the volume the ad company would prefer. We may cut that back.

As far as ads go, we are not allowing political ads. Also, we are not allowing any risque ads either, nor alcohol-related ads.  Again, I am sorry for the ads, but the website needs to be self-supporting. We have supported it for nearly a quarter of a needs to stand on its own. Yes...we do go waaaay back as a website.

We are looking down the road to adding some more research articles. We added a basic article on the causes of the war, and a new article on theories on the sinking of the MAINE. We realized that we do not have a basic article giving a general summary the war, which we are now presently working on. That will be followed by an article on the financing of the war (no...not a big bake sale. It took more than that). That will be followed by an article on the Admiral Camara's Relief Expedition, which we have not yet covered. After that we may add some lesson plans for teachers. In the mean time, we have continued to add veterans' graves to the National Spanish American War Gravesite Recording Project at a rate of about 100 a month. We usually get a large influ around Memorial Day, but with many people on Covid-19 lockdown, people may not be out honoring their ancestors and stumbling across more Spanish American War vets as much as usual.

April 24, 2020:

Just to let you know, ads are on the way. I am not thrilled about that, but it has to be. Ad placement will be determined using smart technology from Google. I will not be choosing the hopefully they will be OK. I did block vignette ads, which are the full page ads.

On an unrelated note, I recently did and article on the mass burial of Spanish American War vets in 1899. Interetingly I have been comparing the list with Arlington National Cemetery records, and not all show in the records. In fact many do not. Of those that do, the gravestone are in bad shape. Darn marble and acid rain combnation! Those that do appear I have been adding the to Virginia Graves Page of the National Spanish American War Veterans Gravesite Recording Project.

April 20, 2020:

I made a command decision. This website costs money to operate between URl registration, hosting fees, software, etc. Also it takes a lot of time. Sooo...if I am going to continue to do this, I have to break down and add some ads. I alwys resisted ads, but, after 24 years, it is time. I will will to make them no too annoying. The ads will be from Google Adsense, and the ads shown will be based on your searh history elsewhere. That means that the ads will be for something you had some sort of interest in. Sorry about this!

April 16, 2020:

The news has had a bit of Spanish American War irony to it about which I felt the need to commemorate!

The coronavirus, covid-19, has been raging around the world. It is not at all surprising to read that the virus has struck the military. The most notable case is that of the crew of the aircraft carrier, THEODORE ROOSEVELT. The ship’s crew members began to show symptoms of the virus. In the crowded decks of this five thousand man floating city, there is no real way to stem the spread. Widespread quarantine and isolation is not practical, and the crew is still needed to allow the ship to function to fulfill its defensive role.

Apparently, the rapid pace of the situation outpaced the ability of the command structure to respond to the ship’s needs. The commanding officer, Brett E. Crozier sent a letter via email to other naval personnel in the Pacific fleet, as well as the entities such as the acting secretary of the navy, trying to enlist their aid in combatting the situation. Reportedly Crozier knew that the unclassified letter, passing outside of the naval command structure, could end his career. The letter, and the growing plight of the crew was shared beyond the original addressees, eventually made it into the San Francisco Chronicle. The navy brass and the administration were embarrassed by the situation and how it was exposed.

The letter had the desired impact. The shipped was docked, and the crew was partially removed and quarantined. By this time, hundreds of the crew had the virus. Though the crew is generally young and quite physically fit, some of the crewmen were hit hard, and so far, with the situation ongoing, one has died. Crozier himself now has the virus. As Crozier expected he was relieved of command, but cheered heavily by his devoted crewmen. The acting secretary of the navy travelled to the ship and in a speech castigated Crozier for being “stupid” and “na´ve” for not believing that the text of his letter would not get out. In an ironic twist, the acting secretary was apparently too stupid and na´ve to realize that his own comments would get out…and when it did, he was forced to resign!

The whole situation took me back to an important event during the Spanish American War. In Cuba, after the naval Battle of Santiago and the battle of the San Juan ridge (“San Juan Hill”…but it was actually a series of ridges), the fighting basically came to an end. The troops in Cuba now faced a new enemy – disease! Yellow fever had been a great fear, and it began to infect the troops. As time went on, many companies were reduced to a handful of men able to stand for duty, and the number of men impacted rose into the thousands. Major General Shafter’s efforts only brought suggestions from the administration in Washington that the troops be moved into the mountains in an effort to allay the illness, a pointless suggestion given the actual terrain and the positions that the troops needed to occupy. The administration was loathe to bring the men home for fear of spreading the disease in the U.S. and exposing the true condition of the troops themselves.

The officers of various regiments knew something had to be done, but they knew that trying anything different than making requests through the chain of command would bring repercussions. The officers requested a meeting with Shafter, but knew that the situation had to be addressed in writing and would likely have to move outside of the normal chain of command. The officers knew that whoever would write such a letter likely see their career ended.

With generals unwilling to risk their careers, a colonel of volunteers (not a career soldier) took up the task. He explained the situation, made suggestions about where the troops could be placed in the U.S. The colonel signed the letter. The other officers signed off on the letter, basically attesting to it, but not taking responsibility. The  letter became known as the "round robin" letter. When the colonel handed the letter to Major General Shafter, Shafter did not accept it, but instead directed it to a reporter, something that was rather expected, if not planned. The letter soon appeared in newspapers across the country, and the deplorable condition of the troops could not be denied. The administration was forced to bring the troops back to the U.S., and replace them with new troops, mistakenly thought to be immune to yellow fever. The troops came home to a camp on Long Island, New York, which was named “Camp Wickoff.”

The move possibly saved thousands of lives, but the colonel had embarrassed the administration in Washington, especially Secretary of War Alger. Since the colonel was not a career officer and was soon being mustered out, there was not much retribution that could be exacted – except one thing. The colonel had deservedly been nominated for the Medal of Honor. The secretary of war refused to authorize the medal.

That colonel, by the way, was Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, future president and the namesake of the aircraft carrier under Crozier’s command. The two men are joined not only by the ship’s name, but by their actions to save their men.

Incidentally, Roosevelt eventually received his Medal of Honor but not until 2001, about eighty-five years after the old colonel’s death.

February, 2020:

This website started back in 1996, two years before the centennial of the Spanish American War. That was twenty-four years ago. We're now actually looking toward the 125th anniverary of the war. It is still a generally overlooked and forgotten event in the United States, but we will continue to try to educate the public about the war's importance

Anyhow, from 1996 until about 2010 - 2011 I managed to keep up fairly well with all of the data submitted. People geneerally do not realize the amount of time it takes to add things to the website and maintain is organization. The National Spanish American War Veterans' Gravesite Recording Project is particularly time consuming, but of imporantance in that the data has not ben brought together anywhere else. Because of the amount of unique information that people pull out of their basements and attics and send in, the Library of Congress chose this site as one of the first to be backed up as part of its "Minerva Project."

Of course, in about 2008 the Great Recession started. By 2011, the Recession was wreaking havoc with my business, and also Yahoo made a series of changes internally, and I suddenly found myself with no time to work on the website, let alone overcome the obstacles presented by Yahoo's changes. I continued to collect the data that came in.

Recently I was forced to delve back into the website when a reader reported that a website that this website had linked to had been hacked and was quite foul. I had to overcome various technical issues and regain site access to correct that situation. With this accomplished I was able to begin making other various updates. Now, with the coronavirus shutdown, and a reduction in my work hours to a normal 40 hour week, I have had some additional time to begin adding data collected over the past few years.

Though I will not be able to do as much as I used to do, I will continue working to add and update the site.

Thanks for your patience!

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