Siege of Santiago 1898

What was going on in 1898?

The Spanish-American War began in April, 1898. This war was fought between Spain and USA in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The war started when Cuban people revolted against Spanish rule and after many delays, the U.S. government decided to support them.

Most of the battles of this war were fought in Cuba since it was the revolution in Cuba that had started the war in the first place. Santiago was one of the most important cities of Cuba. It was a Spanish stronghold when the war started and the main aim of the American forces fighting in Cuba was to gain control of the city.

Background of the Siege

Before June 1898, American naval forces had destroyed a Spanish fleet off the coast of Cuba. In June 1898, American land forces had arrived and started the main assault. The objective of this assault was to push back the Spanish forces and eventually take the control of major cities and towns away from them.

This led to the Battle of Las Guasimas and later, the battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney. Although the Spanish didn’t lose all the battles, they were forced to retreat towards the city of Santiago. By early July, a large portion of the Spanish army in Cuba had reached Santiago. The American army knew that if it could win the city, it would be a major blow to Spain.

When did the siege begin and end?

The Siege of Santiago began on July 3, 1898. It came to an end on July 17, 1898.

Commanders on both sides

The major commanders on the American side included Major General William Rufus Shafter, General Henry W. Lawton and Nelson A. Miles. The American army included around 13,000 soldiers. Another 4000 to 6000 Cuban rebels supported the American army.

The Spanish army was commanded by General Jose Toral y Velazquez. He commanded a force of around 13,500 infantry soldiers.

The Siege

The Siege of Santiago began on July 3, 1898. The American army knew that the Spanish soldiers inside the city had very good defensive positions, so directly attacking the city was a risky business. So the American army, together with the Cuban rebels, laid siege to the city, blocking the entry of food provisions or any other supplies to the city.

At the same time, the army started bombarding the city using many artillery pieces. The next day, on July 4 1898, both sides agreed to a cease fire so that around 20,000 citizens could evacuate the city and be out of harm’s way. On July 8, the Spanish commander General Toral began discussions for surrender. These discussions continued until July 16, 1898 when both sides came to an agreement.

Result and Aftermath

On July 17 1898, the Spanish army surrendered to the Americans and gave up the city of Santiago into the hands of the American army. So the siege was a decisive victory for USA. During the siege, the Spanish suffered around 2000 casualties while the American suffered around 1600 casualties.

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