Battle of Guantanamo Bay 1898

What was happening in 1898?

In April 1898, the Spanish-American War began. At the time, Spain was the colonial ruler of Cuba and the Cuban people had revolted against the Spanish rule. USA supported the Cubans which led to a war between USA and Spain. The war was fought in three main theaters, including Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

It included many land battles as well as naval engagements. The objective of USA was to take control of Cuba from Spain while the Spanish fought to resist this. The Battle of Guantanamo Bay was one of the most important land battles fought between the two sides in Cuba.

Background of the Battle of Guantanamo Bay

The Guantanamo Bay was one of the most important strategic positions in Cuba. It was a Spanish stronghold and a very significant commercial center. Another important aspect of the Guantanamo Bay was that it was only 40 miles from Santiago Bay which was where most of the Spanish fleet in Cuba was present by June. So the American forces planned an attack on the Guantanamo Bay with the help of the Cuban insurgents. In the attack that followed, the American forces were also supported by many naval vessels.

When and where did the battle take place?

The Battle of Guantanamo Bay took place from June 6, 1898 to June 10, 1898. It was fought in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Commanders on both sides

The most important commander on the American side was Bowman H. McCalla. American land forces comprised of around 600 U.S. Marines and 300 Cuban militia fighters. American naval forces included 1 battleship, 1 light cruiser, 2 auxiliary cruisers, 1 gunboat and 1 steamer.

The Spanish forces were commanded by General Felix Pareja. He commanded a force of 5000 infantry soldiers. Spanish defenses also included 7 artillery pieces, 1 blockhouse, 1 shore battery and 1 fort.

The Fighting

On June 6, American naval forces entered the Guantanamo Bay. The light cruiser in the American fleet successfully attacked the Spanish blockhouse and destroyed many of the artillery pieces on the Spanish side. A few Spanish vessels tried to engage the American cruiser but were beaten off.

By June 7, the American forces had cut all the cables in the Bay so that the Spanish force in Guantanamo Bay no longer had any communications with the outside world. Over the next few days, U.S. Marines started landing on the shore. They then proceeded to take control of the land adjoining the shore.

In doing so, a number of minor battles took place and the American forces, supported by Cuban insurgents, were able to defeat the Spanish forces. By June 10, the area of Guantanamo Bay was effectively in American control.

Result and Aftermath

The Battle of Guantanamo Bay was a decisive American victory. The American succeeded in taking effective control of the Bay which was a serious blow to Spanish strength. During the battle, the Spanish side suffered around 200 casualties with 58 dead. 18 Spanish soldiers were taken prisoners and 2 Spanish gunboats and a Spanish fort were destroyed in the fighting. The American side suffered 29 casualties and 1 American gunboat was damaged.

A Sermon Preached on Board U. S. Battle-Ship “Iowa,” in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, July 10, 1898, the Sunday Following the Naval Battle of Santiago. [1898]

Guantánamo, USA: The Untold History of America’s Cuban Outpost Hardcover

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