The Ramblings of Historian
The Spanish American War Centennial Website
By Patrick McSherry
Please Visit our Home Page
to learn more about the Spanish American War
This Website Helpful? Use the Button to Put a Tip in our Virtual Tip
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!
What’s new on the website?
We have been adding new pages! In fact, we added a while new section on “feeding the troop” providing
accounts, recipes and data related to providing for the soldiers and
sailors of 1898. We hope to add more data to this section as we move
Spanish American War Gravesite Recording Project has been going
well, and we are approaching nearly 19,000 listings! Contributions of
listings to this portion of the website have slowed recently, which allows
us to work on other topics. If you would attempt to print out the grave
listings, you better have a lot of paper and printer ink! The document
would be about 900 parges long!
One major item which our probably have not seen is our efforts to
modernize the site for mobile phones. This website started back in 1996.
The same year when CSS programming first came out. Of course, CSS just
came out…that doesn’t mean that anyone was using it yet, including this
site. I wish we had, as it would make updating the site much easier. As it
is, to update the site, we have to enter and modify every page of the 1290
page website individually. That takes time. In the past year we have
actually done that twice, and are now starting on the third round, making
images and text responsive and adding a language declaration at the same
time. The hope is that folks can make better use of the site on mobile
devices. It has been an interesting challenge since all sources seem t
expect that you have CSS programming as a basis of the site. Since we
don’t we have had to delve into some trial and error work, and finally
came up with solutions. Implementing those solutions will take three to
six months of tedious work. In addition, to install the code, we have had
to switch our web editing software, for which there is also a learning
curve. All of this means that there is a lot more going on than what it
may seem. These updates are not included in our “What’s New on the
Website” Page since now one really wants to know this work is being done.
We still intend to add an “Educator’s Corner” to provide some
materials that educators may find useful when teaching about the war. We
have seen some of the items being used and they have been a bit lacking.
Maybe we can help improve on the resources available.
June 17, 2020: Iconoclasm
There have been waves of iconoclasm
throughout history. Each time, later generations mourn the history that
was lost. We are experiencing one of those waves now, in 2020.
In the 16th Century, the Reformation hit
and reformers attacked religious imagery as being idolatrous, though the
purpose of the imagery was actually for religious instruction of the
illiterate masses. The iconoclasts of that period shattered statues,
destroyed paintings and took a particular dislike to the stained glass
windows. Only a few examples of early stained glass survived, and a great
cultural heritage was destroyed by a people believing that they were doing
the right thing. Society has mourned the loss ever since.
During the French Revolution, there was
another round of attacks by iconoclasts – those who considered themselves
rationalists - who again attacked religious items, as well as anything
related to the deposed autocratic regime. There was a tremendous loss of
religious art again with statues being torn down and defaced. Many
irreplaceable religious relics were also lost and destroyed. Again there
was a great loss in cultural heritage decried to the present day, even by
those who recognize the failures of the religions involved and who
certainly would not support the autocratic regime.
we have seen the Taliban and Isis destroying icons such as the tomb of
Noah, and the Buddha statues of Bamiyan dating from the 4th to 5th
century. The world deplored these actions.
What about today? It is occurring again.
The cause is noble and important – equality. However the action is to
remove statues and monuments. At times, the decision is warranted. Other
times it does not seem warranted. Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest was a
slave trader and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, which is a bonified
terrorist group that exists to the current time. Honoring him never seemed
logical, and always has been odd. It would always make me cringe. But the
removal of monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore
Roosevelt are far more problematic.
Historical figures have to be viewed in
context of their times. No one in history – except Jesus – was without
sin. Everyone has baggage and actions in their history that could not be
held up as an example of what we would consider a hero today. Washington
was a slave owner. No doubt about that. He was also one of the reasons why
the United States exists and, quite frankly, why people have the right to
protest and speak their minds today. Today we can condemn him for owning
slaves, but also realize it was not a situation he created, but one that
he could have acted to end with the founding of the new country. However,
had he tried to do so, the country probably would not exist. He must be
viewed in the context of his time. If we condemn him for not acting
radically against what we know today was injustice, we have to also
condemn everyone in his time period for the same thing. We must look at
people who took the incremental steps toward freedom that were unusual in
their day and recognize them as being courageous steps. Washington can
still be seen as an example as his actions did allow us to get to the
point of being able to have the current discussion on race through gaining
freedom of speech. Instead of tearing down his statues, perhaps community
leaders on all sides should decide to place educational plaques at his
statues to explain his good points and bad points. We need to recognize
that he was an imperfect person, as are all of us to this day.
Abraham Lincoln’s statues have been
targeted, which is rather interesting. He was the author of the
Emancipation Proclamation, and had a career built on opposition to
slavery. Did he believe in equality for people of color? At the very end
of his life, he advocated for suffrage for men of color, riling John
Wilkes Booth and basically making himself a martyr to this cause (see
“Lincoln’s Evolving Racial Views” by Edna Medford, Ph.D, Rutherford B.
Hayes Presidential Library, February 14, 2010). He guided the nation
through its worst period in history. It is true that the Emancipation
Proclamation was, in part, a political instrument in that it would deter
nations like England from openly allying with the Confederacy and did not
free slaves in the Union itself. Issuing the Proclamation was also a risk
as it would change the thrust of the war from a war against secession and
over states’ rights to a war also against slavery (yes...the war began as
a war over states rights, primarily the right to secede from the
Union...not as a war over slavery. Those who argue that the war started
over slavery have to explain that, if that was the case, why did we not
have the Emancipation Proclamation of April of 1861). Lincoln knew that
there were many in the North - yes, there were many racists in the north
too - who would fight against secession, but would not fight to end
slavery. He knew issuing the Proclamation would impact recruiting for the
northern armies and spur on recruitment for the Southern armies, although
most of those in the wouth who were of age to enlist and able to do so had
already done so.
Was Lincoln perfect? Certainly not. He was human and a man to be viewed in
the context of his time. His views on race evolved, and he was very
progressive on race for his time. In view of Lincoln’s views, his efforts
to end slavery, and his very progressive actions, it is very hard to
understand why statues of Lincoln are being subject to attack at the
Lincoln and Roosevelt in 1906
That brings us to Theodore Roosevelt, a
dynamic and complex figure if there ever was one. He was an unhealthy
child who became the most robust of men through his own efforts. He was an
early conservationist who traveled to kill large game in the name of
conservation. He was a kind-hearted and peace-loving man who eagerly
wanted to go to war and see action, ordering men to their deaths. People
know that he helped lead the charge up San Juan Hill ridge line. Most
people don’t realize that it was only one of three charges he led that
day. Most people also do not realize that the main charge was actually
against orders, and was led by Roosevelt and several others along the
battle line in an effort to save their pinned-down men. He was no stranger
to taking action when he saw it necessary. He had fought against police
corruption successfully in New York as Police Commissioner. He helped to
prepare the U.S. Navy for the Spanish American War as Assistant Secretary
of the Navy. During his presidency, the U.S. truly became a world power
for the first time. He is the only U.S. president to be awarded both the
Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize, and he actually deserved them.
He was a bonified explorer, helping to map an uncharted river in the
Amazon basin, an action which he nearly did not survive. He was the first
president to go up in an airplane, and to dive in a submarine. He was the
first president to go abroad during his time in office, traveling to
Panama to view the canal he championed. He was no shrinking violet.
So, how was Roosevelt on the subject of
race relations, which is the issue today? He was a man of the 19th
century, and even of southern heritage (James Dunwoody Bulloch, his uncle,
was the primary naval agent of the Confederacy in Europe), but he was
actually quite progressive on race relations. Roosevelt was the first
president to invite a man of color – Booker T. Washington, a friend – to
the White House for dinner. This had never been done before. Both
Roosevelt and Washington knew the move was dramatic and would draw ire –
and did it ever! The backlash, especially in the south was horrific.
However, he still had the courage to do it (as did Booker T. Washington).
Roosevelt reached out for advice to men of color, such as George
Washington Carver. He publicly warned that “the debasement of the blacks
will, in the end, carry with it debasement of whites.” He favored slow
changes in government policy to bring about gradual changes in attitudes
on the subject of race, knowing that more rapid efforts were likely to
fail. He was very progressive on race in the context of his day. Was he
“fully there” yet? Most certainly not! In some of his writings he makes
statements that reflect stereotypes of his day. He made many public
statements on race that we would consider wrong – with a hundred years of
hindsight and hard-fought racial gains. Again, he was not perfect, but he
carried the banner forward, not backward as did Woodrow Wilson. He must be
judged based on the context of his time, not ours, and on the actions he
We must realize that no historic figure –
other than Jesus – was perfect. None of us are perfect today. Our
most progressive leaders of today will, in the future, be decried for
their failings. For instance, someone may have made great strides in race
relations but failed to act to end abortion. In the future, should we tear
down their statues?
Let us consider for a moment Oskar
Schindler. We honor him today as a great humanitarian who gave up his
fortune to save over a thousand Jewish men, women and children from
certain death. This is truly something to be honored. If a statue is
erected to honor and remember him, should we then tear it down because, in
fact, he was also a member of the Nazi party, a member of the Abwehr (a
Nazi secret intelligence group), a spy against the Czechs, the man who
supplied the fake Polish uniforms and documents used to in the fake attack
used a pretext to attack Poland and begin World War Two? No, he was far
from perfect, but had taken some actions at a critical moment saving
humans from death at the possible loss of his own life, and that IS worthy
of honor. His previous actions actually made him able to perform the
actions for which he is remembered.
There is a lot to be discussed about these
figures. It is an educational moment for all sides. Perhaps if we would
talk to one another rather than yell and scream, maybe we would actually
get somewhere. Tearing down all of the past will not solve anything,
really. Taking the time to understand each other’s view, true grievances,
etc., will allow us to chart a path forward for the common good of all
people, and allow us to live together, in peace, as equals.
June 17, 2020:
Work is still ongoing on a article on how the U.S. funded the Spanish
American War. I had next planned to write on the military intelligence and
diplomatic negotiation aspect of the war, specifically on how the U.S.
worked to keep the Spanish government from threatening Dewey's
toehold in the Philippines. This portion of the war centered on Egypt and
the Suez Canal. That said, in view of the state of affairs in the country,
I think I may put that on hold briefly to write on the men of color who
received the Medal of Honor for their actions during the war. If memory
serves, six men of color received the Medal of Honor for service during
the war, four of them in one action.
Another topic that will follow on the heels of the above articles will be
an article on the efforts of the Pope to negotiate a peaceful resolution
to the rising tension between U.S. and Spain. Needless to say, history
shows that this effort was not successful.
I am also glad to report that we were able to add General
Weyler's first Reconcentration order. In the future we have a number
of Spanish eye witness accounts of the immediate aftermath of the sinking
of the MAINE which we hope to add.
In the meantime, with the help of John Sims of the Sons of Spanish
American War Veterans, the National Spanish
American War Veterans Gravesite Recording Project has been moving
ahead at an even faster pace, and will continue to do so. This month
we have passed the 15,500 mark in number of grave recorded.
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
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 century...it 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
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
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 locations...so 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 “naďve” 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 naďve
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
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.
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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click here. To visit the website video
bibliography, click here
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