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The USS Maine Explodes

The USS Maine Explodes


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A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.

One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

READ MORE: Did Yellow Journalism Fuel the Outbreak of the Spanish-American War?


The USS Maine Explodes - HISTORY

At 9:40pm on February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing 268 men and shocking the American populace. Of the two-thirds of the crew who perished, only 200 bodies were recovered and 76 identified.

The sinking of the Maine, which had been in Havana since February 15, 1898, on an official observation visit, was a climax in pre-war tension between the United States and Spain. In the American press, headlines proclaimed "Spanish Treachery!" and "Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!" William Randolph Hearst and his New York Journal offered a $50,000 award for the "detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage." Many Americans assumed the Spanish were responsible for the Maine's destruction.

On March 28, 1898, the United States Naval Court of Inquiry found that the Maine was destroyed by a submerged mine. Although blame was never formally placed on the Spanish, implication was clear. Recent research suggests that the explosion may have been an accident, involving a spontaneous combustion fire in the coal bunker. Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested that sensational journalist William Randolph Hearst may have set the explosion in order to precipitate a war. While historians will never know exactly what happened the night the Maine went down, it is clear that the incident was a significant force that propelled the United States into the Spanish-American War.


Background

The delivery of the Brazilian battleship Riachuelo in 1883 and the acquisition of other modern armored warships from Europe by Brazil, Argentina and Chile shortly afterwards, alarmed the United States government, as the Brazilian Navywas now the most powerful in the Americas. [5] The chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, Hilary A. Herbert, stated to congress: “if all this old navy of ours were drawn up in battle array in mid-ocean and confronted by Riachueloit is doubtful whether a single vessel bearing the American flag would get into port.” [6] These developments helped bring to a head a series of discussions that had been taking place at the Naval Advisory Board since 1881. The board knew at that time that the U.S. Navy could not challenge any major European fleet at best, it could wear down an opponent’s merchant fleet and hope to make some progress through general attrition there. Moreover, projecting naval force abroad through the use of battleships ran counter to the government policy of isolationism. While some on the board supported a strict policy of commerce raiding, others argued it would be ineffective against the potential threat of enemy battleships stationed near the American coast. The two sides remained essentially deadlocked until Riachuelo manifested. [7]

The board, now confronted with the concrete possibility of hostile warships operating off the American coast, began planning for ships to protect it in 1884. The ships had to fit within existing docks and had to have a shallow draft to enable them to use all the major American ports and bases. Its maximum beam was similarly fixed and the board concluded that at a length of about 300 feet (91 m), the maximum displacement was thus about 7,000 tons. A year later the Bureau of Construction and Repair (C & R) presented two designs to Secretary of the Navy William Collins Whitney, one for a 7,500-ton battleship and one for a 5,000-ton armored cruiser. Whitney decided instead to ask congress for two 6,000-ton warships and they were authorized in August 1886. A design contest was held, asking naval architects to submit designs for the two ships: armored cruiser Maine and battleship Texas. It was specified that Maine had to have a speed of 17 knots(31 km/h 20 mph), a ram bow, double bottom, and be able to carry two torpedo boats. Her armament was specified as: four 10-inch (254 mm) guns, six 6-inch (152 mm) guns, various light weapons, and four torpedo tubes. It was specifically stated that the main guns “must afford heavy bow and stern fire.” [8] Armor thickness and many details were also defined. Specifications for Texaswere similar, but demanded a main battery of two 12-inch (305 mm) guns and slightly thicker armor. [9]

The winning design for Maine was from Theodore D. Wilson, who served as chief constructor for C & R and was a member on the Naval Advisory Board in 1881. He had designed a number of other warships for the navy. [10] The winning design for Texas was from a British designer, William John, who was working for the Barrow Shipbuilding Company at that time. Both designs resembled the Brazilian battleship Riachuelo, having the main gun turrets sponsoned out over the sides of the ship and echeloned. [11] The winning design for Maine, though conservative and inferior to other contenders, may have received special consideration due to a requirement that one of the two new ships be American–designed. [12]


44c. "Remember the Maine!"

There was more than one way to acquire more land. If the globe had already been claimed by imperial powers, the United States could always seize lands held by others. Americans were feeling proud of their growing industrial and military prowess. The long-dormant Monroe Doctrine could finally be enforced. Good sense suggested that when treading on the toes of empires, America should start small. In 1898, Spain was weak and Americans knew it. Soon the opportunity to strike arose.

Involvement in Cuba

Cuba became the nexus of Spanish-American tensions. Since 1895, Cubans had been in open revolt against Spanish rule. The following year, Spain sent General Valeriano Weyler to Cuba to sedate the rebels. Anyone suspected of supporting independence was removed from the general population and sent to concentration camps. Although few were summarily executed, conditions at the camps led over 200,000 to die of disease and malnutrition. The news reached the American mainland through the newspapers of the yellow journalists. William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were the two most prominent publishers who were willing to use sensational headlines to sell papers. Hearst even sent the renowned painter Frederick Remington to Cuba to depict Spanish misdeeds. The American public was appalled.

The Maine Sinks

In February 1898, relations between the United States and Spain deteriorated further. Dupuy de Lôme , the Spanish minister to the United States had written a stinging letter about President McKinley to a personal friend. The letter was stolen and soon found itself on the desk of Hearst, who promptly published it on February 9. After public outcry, de Lôme was recalled to Spain and the Spanish government apologized. The peace was short-lived, however. On the evening of February 15, a sudden and shocking explosion tore a hole in the hull of the American battleship Maine , which had been on patrol in Havana harbor . The immediate assumption was that the sinking of the Maine and the concomitant deaths of 260 sailors was the result of Spanish treachery. Although no conclusive results have ever been proven, many Americans had already made up their minds, demanding an immediate declaration of war.

McKinley proceeded with prudence at first. When the Spanish government agreed to an armistice in Cuba and an end to concentration camps, it seemed as though a compromise was in reach. But the American public, agitated by the yellow press and American imperialists, demanded firm action. " Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain !" was the cry. On April 11, 1898, McKinley asked the Congress for permission to use force in Cuba. To send a message to the rest of the world that the United States was interested in Cuban independence instead of American colonization, Congress passed the Teller Amendment , which promised that America would not annex the precious islands. After that conscience-clearing measure, American leaders threw caution to the wind and declared open warfare on the Spanish throne.


USS MAINE Explosion in Havana in 1898: The Other Theory

USS Maine entering Havana Harbor on 25 January 1898, where the ship would explode three weeks later. On the right is the old Morro Castle fortress.

There are a few theories about why the USS MAINE exploded in the Havana Harbor in the late 19th century. Including one that no one talks about.

Napoleon’s invasion of Spain 1807-1808 provided the spark the rebels needed to try to get their independence from the colony all over Latin America and the Caribbean. The Iberian empire got distracted, and everything took its place.

Latin Americans went for their freedom

Spain formally recognized Mexico’s independence on August 24, 1821, an effort that was started by Father Miguel Hidalgo, a priest living in the town of Dolores, Mexico.

Hidalgo himself was captured and executed in July of 1811 by the Spaniards.

In the north part of South America, Bolívar fought the Spanish in Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia for several years, decisively beating them several times. By 1822, those countries were free, then came Peru and Bolivia, the last and mightiest Spanish holdout on the continent.

In the south the fight against the Spanish forces for Argentine Independence was led by José de San Martín, an Argentinean who had been trained in Spain. In 1817, San Martin crossed the Andes into Chile, where Bernardo O’Higgins and his army had been fighting the Spaniards since 1810. There, they fought together and defeated the Colony at the Battle of Maipú on April 5, 1818, effectively ending Spanish control over the southern part of South America. It took Simon Bolivar a few more years to do his part.

The Caribbean

Hispaniola, due to slave uprisings in Haiti, was free and independent on January 1, 1804, and Spain only had Cuba and Puerto Rico left. Here, nationalist forces staged occasional uprisings, including a notable one in 1868 known as Grito de Lares.

None of them were successful, but Puerto Rico became independent from Spain in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War. The island became a protectorate of the United States. Now it is known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or Associated Free State of Puerto Rico.

Cuba’s 30 Years War

In Cuba things were different. Spanish forces put down several major rebellions, including one which lasted 10 years, from 1868 to 1878 and was known as the 10 year war or La Guerra Grande.

This war was started by Carlos Manuel De Céspedes, a wealthy man from the city of Bayamo in Oriente province. De Céspedes burned Bayamo, freed the slaves on his own sugar plantation La Demajagua and invited them to help overthrow Spanish colonial rule.

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes was also called El Padre de la Patria or The father of the Country. This title he earned when the Colony forces captured his son Oscar. In a letter to him, Spaniards ask him to drop all weapons and surrender and they would give him his son back, otherwise they would kill him. Céspedes read the letter and answered them: “You can go ahead and do what you say you are going to do. But I can not surrender my weapons, my people and my country. Oscar is not my only son, every Cuban who had died for the revolution I started, were also my sons”.

Oscar Céspedes was executed in a firing squad that morning.

José Julian Martí y Pérez

Jose Marti was also one that fought the Spaniards for decades, he was and is a Cuban national hero, and an important figure in Latin American literature. He also came to the United States of America to help Cuba’s cause against Spain.

On January 5, 1892, Martí participated in a reunion of the emigration representatives, in Cayo Hueso, Key West, where the Bases del Partido Revolucionario Cubano -Basis of the Cuban Revolutionary Party – was passed. He began the process of organizing the newly formed party. To raise support and collect funding for the independence movement, he visited tobacco factories, where he gave speeches to the workers and united them in the cause.

Jose Marti never saw his country free from Spain, and was killed in the battle of Dos Rios in 1895.

All these efforts that had been underway in Cuba to end Spanish colonial rule had generated widespread support for the Cuban cause in the United States.

The Butcher

To combat this, the Spanish government dispatched General Valeriano Weyler to finish the rebels, or Mambises, like they were called in Cuba.

Arriving in the Island, Weyler began a brutal campaign against the Cuban people which involved the use of concentration camps. This led to the death of over 100,000 Cubans and Weyler was nicknamed the Butcher by the American media.

The USS Maine

After discussing with the Spanish people and receiving their blessing, President McKinley passed his request to the US Navy. To fulfill the president’s orders, the second-class battleship USS Maine was detached from the North Atlantic Squadron at Key West on January 24, 1898. One day later, commanded by Captain Charles Sigsbee, USS Maine entered Havana harbor.

At 9:40 on the evening of February 15, 1898, the harbor was lit by a massive explosion that ripped through the forward section of USS Maine as five tons of powder for the ship’s guns detonated. The US determined that the Spanish were not involved in the sinking of their ship. The Navy formed a board of inquiry and on March 28, 1898, the board determined that the ship had been sunk by a naval mine.

The accident with the Maine served to accelerate the approaching diplomatic impasse over Cuba.

On April 11, President McKinley asked Congress for permission to intervene in Cuba and ten days later ordered a naval blockade of the island. This final step led to Spain declaring war on April 23, with the United States following suit on the 25th. The rest is history.

After the war, Cuba became a US protectorate and was granted independence in 1902, of course, with the Platt Amendment that lasted until 1934.

The case of USS Maine was reopened in 1976 by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover who believed that modern science might be able to provide an answer to the ship’s explosion. After consulting with experts and looking at the documents from the first two investigations, Rickover and his team concluded that the damage was inconsistent with that caused by a mine.

The Other Theory

Then there is another theory. Could it have been that Cuban rebels planted explosives in the USS Maine to create a conflict between the US and Spain?


117 Years Later, The Sinking Of The USS Maine Remains A Mystery

It’s February 1898, and you’re a recently recruited U.S. Navy sailor. Your ship, the USS Maine, left Key West, Florida, three weeks ago and is now in Cuba — Havana Harbor, to be specific. It’s 9 p.m. and the sun has gone down. You’ve been trying to read a tattered copy of “The Adventures of Captain Horn” by Frank Stockton, but the other young men in your berthing area have been making too much noise throwing wet rags at each other for you to pay much attention. It’s enough to break the relentless monotony, though. Topside, the dry winter breezes of the Caribbean blow lazily across the deck as the rocking boat gently swings your hammock back and forth. Today is just another boring Tuesday while you and the rest of the crew wait for something to happen.

On your ship, you’re somewhat cut off from the media, but before you left the Keys, you were remotely cognizant of things heating up with the Spanish over Cuba. As a 19-year-old serviceman, war is a concern, but in the last 50 years, the Navy hasn’t really done a lot of fighting. The Civil War some 30-ish years before was made up largely of land engagements. The subsequent Indian wars in the American West were fought by cavalry — hardly maritime in nature.

Then, out of the silence, a sudden brutal shock wave and massive explosion launches you off your mattress and into a metal cross beam. Blunt, withering pain fills your consciousness, and just before you pass out, you’re aware of intense screams. They’re coming from your friends. Other sailors call for their mothers as your world goes black.

Sailors aboard the USS Maine pose for a photo with their instruments.

This could have been the scene on board the USS Maine as it floated in Havana Harbor at 9:40 p.m on Feb. 15, 1898. At the height of American tensions with Spain over Cuba, war was looming. Local Cubans had begun rioting in the city, destroying property, and threatening order. The Maine was sent as a show of force to look out for American interests.

Since the end of the Civil War, American investors had accumulated a great deal of wealth from the sugar industry in Cuba, which was a colony of Spain at the time. Despite that, most of Cuba’s exports went to the United States, and nearly 40% of its imports were American — far greater volumes than it traded with its “mother” country. With the U.S. government eyeing locations in Central America to build a large canal to the Pacific Ocean, the unrest in Cuba seemed like a good opportunity for the United States to gain a foothold and maintain a presence.

Since 1865, Cuba had attempted to achieve independence from Spain multiple times. From 1895–1898, the infighting had grown particularly bad as revolutionaries were waging a guerrilla war against their European rulers. Spain was viciously suppressing Cubans in a campaign of “reconcentration,” sending thousands of people to camps. The result was open rebellion. President William McKinley’s administration wasn’t interested in a war, but it was hard to quell the rumors of Spanish brutality, which appalled many Americans. It was also hard to deny temptation — Cuban independence could mean solidifying a valuable strategic position in the hemisphere, not to mention allowing for a much less complicated sugar trade, capable of lining the pockets of Boston and New York businessmen. Even Theodore Roosevelt, who served as assistant secretary of the Navy in the late 1890s, openly advocated for war with Spain.

As guerrilla fighting and tensions in Cuba rocketed skyward, newspapers in New York owned by pioneers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer saw it as an opportunity to sell papers. Headlines and stories were embellished, and news stories were even fabricated, resulting in a new term “yellow journalism.”

The USS Maine mysteriously exploded on the night of Feb. 15, killing 260 crewmembers. Most died immediately, but others slowly burned to death. Lt. George Blow, who was abroad the Maine, wrote to his wife, “…the scene is still too terrible to recall, even had I the time.” The explosion had ignited the coal bunkers, quickly setting off the ship’s powder magazines, which nearly tore off the entire bow. The newspapers went wild, blaming the incident on Spanish sabotage and provocatively called for revenge, galvanizing much of the public in favor of a war. Unclear of the cause of the blast, the government urged calm and commissioned an investigation. The next month, a report conducted by the U.S. Navy determined the explosion was caused by a mine, with the Spanish the most likely culprits. American advocates for war chanted, “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” Congress authorized the president to use force and demanded Spain grant independence to Cuba. In response, Spain severed diplomatic relations and the Navy blockaded the island. The situation escalated further when Spain declared war on Apr. 24. Congress responded the next day with a declaration of its own, and McKinley reluctantly went along with it.

Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill they captured at Battle of San Juan.

The Spanish-American War lasted 10 weeks with much of the action taking place on the island of Cuba, the most famous battle happening on July 1. Col. Teddy Roosevelt, who resigned his post as assistant secretary to the Navy, led the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, aka the “Rough Riders,” to the Battle of San Juan Hill a bloody struggle to the gain high ground above enemy naval concentrations in the harbor of nearby Santiago de Cuba. The action cost the Fifth Army Corps over 1,000 soldiers — nearly five times as many as the Spanish, but despite the grave loss of life, Roosevelt, who carried a pistol into battle recovered from the Maine, overtook the enemy position and carried the day. Two days later, the Spanish fleet was destroyed, leading to surrender of the city on July 17.

Other smaller actions took place on Spanish lands in the Philippines and Guam. In the end, far superior U.S. forces were able to gain ultimate victory over the Spanish, whose military had been declining since the early 1800s as a result of frequent clashes with France. In the Caribbean, Spanish forces were further weakened by disease. Backed into a corner, they knew they were beaten and agreed to the Treaty of Paris on Dec. 10, which favored the United States. The U.S. emerged as a power player on the international stage and was portrayed as a defender of democracy. The treaty ensured the U.S. gained all of Spain’s territories outside Africa, including the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Interestingly, the war benefitted both the United States and Spain. In many ways, the U.S. was still reeling from the Civil War, but the brief conflict with Spain brought together old foes from North and South, not to mention African American “Buffalo Soldiers,” who played a significant role during the fight for San Juan Hill. After the treaty was signed, the U.S. also returned much of Spain’s capital, which was then re-invested into steel, chemicals and other industries.

In addition, two veterans’ organizations emerged as a result of the war: the American Veterans of Foreign Service and the National Society of the Army of the Philippines, the parent organizations of today’s Veterans of Foreign Wars.


The Sinking of the Maine

The United States battleship was blown up in an explosion during Cuba's uprising against Spain. What caused the explosion and who was responsible?

At 9.40pm on the night of 15 February 1898 the United States battleship Maine, riding quietly at anchor in Havana harbour, was suddenly blown up, apparently by a mine, in an explosion which tore her bottom out and sank her, killing 260 officers and men on board. In the morning only twisted parts of the huge warship’s superstructure could be seen protruding above the water, while small boats moved about examining the damage. The Maine had been showing the flag in Cuba, where the Spanish regime was resisting an armed uprising by nationalist guerrillas.

No one has ever established exactly what caused the explosion or who was responsible, but the consequence was the brief Spanish-American War of 1898. American sentiment was strongly behind Cuban independence and many Americans blamed the Spanish for the outrage. The yellow press, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, proprietors of the New York Journal and the New York World, took every opportunity to inflame the situation with the exhortation to ‘Remember the Maine’, publicise the alleged cruelties of Spanish repression and encourage a belligerent hunger for action. They were vigorously supported by hawkish senators and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who attacked President McKinley for trying to cool the situation down. In the end the government in Spain declared war on the United States on April 24th. The American Congress had already authorised the use of armed force and the United States formally declared war on April 25th.

It was a singularly unequal contest. An American fleet under Commodore Dewey annihilated a Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in the Philippines with casual ease on May 1st (the total American butcher’s bill was seven wounded). In June an American expeditionary force landed east of the Cuban city of Santiago, the troops sweating in the heavy woollen winter uniforms with which they had thoughtfully been issued, and eating what was called ‘embalmed’ beef out of cans, which may have caused more damage than enemy bullets.

On July 1st, Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer ‘Rough Riders’, whooping and hollering, helped Negro troopers of the 10th Cavalry to take the San Juan Heights above the city of Santiago, which surrendered on the 17th. The Spanish Cuban fleet, which had meanwhile fled Santiago harbour, was hunted down by American battleships ‘like hounds after rabbits’ and destroyed in four hours. American troops took Puerto Rico a few days afterwards and the Spanish government sued for peace.

Far more Americans were killed by tropical diseases – typhoid, yellow fever and malaria – in the course of the war than fell in battle (roughly 4,000 to 300). When a peace treaty was signed in Paris in December, Spain lost its last colonies in the New World. The United States took the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam, and achieved worldwide recognition as a great power. Cuba gained independence, Theodore Roosevelt earned a hero’s reputation and the tinned beef inspired the first Food and Drug Act.


The USS Maine Explodes - HISTORY

At 9:40pm on February 15, 1898, the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, killing 268 men and shocking the American populace. Of the two-thirds of the crew who perished, only 200 bodies were recovered and 76 identified.

The sinking of the Maine, which had been in Havana since February 15, 1898, on an official observation visit, was a climax in pre-war tension between the United States and Spain. In the American press, headlines proclaimed "Spanish Treachery!" and "Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!" William Randolph Hearst and his New York Journal offered a $50,000 award for the "detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage." Many Americans assumed the Spanish were responsible for the Maine's destruction.

On March 28, 1898, the United States Naval Court of Inquiry found that the Maine was destroyed by a submerged mine. Although blame was never formally placed on the Spanish, implication was clear. Recent research suggests that the explosion may have been an accident, involving a spontaneous combustion fire in the coal bunker. Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested that sensational journalist William Randolph Hearst may have set the explosion in order to precipitate a war. While historians will never know exactly what happened the night the Maine went down, it is clear that the incident was a significant force that propelled the United States into the Spanish-American War.


By NHHC

USS Maine was built in 1895 as a battleship, but an explosion while in Havana Harbor destroyed the ship and killed 250 crewmembers on Feb. 15, 1898. The explosion created the rallying cry “Remember the Maine!” as newspaper articles urged the United States to go to war against Spain.

By Mass Communication Specialist 1 st Class Tim Comerford,

Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

It was a call to arms not unlike “Remember the Alamo” 62 years earlier. While that Texas bravado has endured the decades, memory may falter on a similar outcry: “Remember the Maine!” Or at least why it should be remembered at all.

Unlike the Alamo, in Texas during its fight for independence in 1836, the Maine in this instance was not the state, but a battleship. USS Maine was in a foreign port, Havana, Cuba, in 1898 to protect American citizens when pro-Spanish forces caused riots to break out across the island.

There was good reason for such a show of strength. In the late 1800s Cuba was fighting a vicious battle to free itself from Spain. American sympathies were with the Cubans, a situation made worse when, during the first Cuban insurrection, the Spanish captured the ship Virginius. The Virginius, a freebooter supporting the Cuban revolutionaries, was hired to deliver men and arms to Cubans and was considered by the Spanish to be pirates. They executed 55 of the British and American crewmembers, some of them young boys.

When the second Cuban insurrection began in 1895, Spain sent in Gen. Valeriano “The Butcher” Weyler to serve as governor. Under his rule, thousands of Cubans perished in his reconcentration camps, mostly to disease and starvation, as he sought to separate the insurgents from civilians. As the situation worsened, the United States sent in Maine to protect its interests.

U.S. Navy diving crew at work on the ship’s wreck, in 1898, seen from aft looking forward. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

The battleship set out from Florida on Jan. 24, 1898, to Havana, where it stayed moored to the pier. The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Charles D. Sigsbee, mindful of the trouble on the island, did not allow enlisted Sailors to go ashore. For three weeks Maine was a peacekeeping influence. But Feb. 15, a quiet night in Havana Harbor, the peace was shattered as an explosion rocked Maine, sinking the ship and killing 266 Sailors.

A board of inquiry, after a month in Cuba, came back with their verdict – a mine detonated under the ship. Though no blame was fixed for the mine, it set loose a rallying call to “Remember the Maine!” by journalists seeking to influence America to get involved in a war with Spain.

On April 11, President William McKinley asked Congress to end the fighting between the Spanish and insurgents and establish a stable government. Congress passed a joint resolution April 20 acknowledging Cuba’s independence and began a blockade into Cuba’s harbors. Spain followed with a declaration of war on April 23. The Spanish-American War ended with a cease-fire on Aug. 12, 1898, giving Cuba its independence.

A glass plate slide of the wreck of the Maine, raised 1912, from the estate of Lt. C.J. Dutreaux. NHHC photo

Years after the Spanish-American War, in 1912, the wreck of the ship was cleared to facilitate an additional investigation into the cause of her sinking. Her remains were subsequently scuttled in deep waters north of Havana, but parts of her can still be found across the country today. Dozens of artifacts from the ship proudly bear marks of their heritage.

A 6-inch, 30 caliber gun from the battleship USS Maine is on display in Willard Park at the Washington Navy Yard.

Navy / Military kept items

  • Ship’s Mainmast and Anchor at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.
  • 6-in. 30-caliber Deck Gun, Spare Propeller and Bronze Windlass at Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington D.C.
  • Foremast, a Life Preserver, two Port Hole Covers, Log Glass, Keys to the Magazines, an Electric Light Bulb and Shade, a Bugle, a 1888 Penny from Sigsbee’s desk, Sigsbee’s ink well, and Sigsbee’s Binoculars at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.
  • Union Jack at Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, Va.
  • Stern Scrollwork Nameplate at the Museum of American History, Washington D.C.
  • A Deck Plate Key, Two Capstan Gears, A Capstan, Part of the Starboard Quarter Boat Davits, A Piece of Worm Drive, and a Metal Fragment at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio
  • Sigsbee’s Bathtub from the Ship at the Hancock Historical Museum, Findlay, Ohio
  • A Bolt at the Museum of History, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Iron Hooks at the Miami Valley Military History Museum, Dayton, Ohio
  • Anchor Chain Hooks in Newton, Mass.
  • A Shell in Easton, Penn.
  • A Bow Anchor in Reading, Penn.
  • A Torpedo Tube in Pittsburgh, Penn.
  • Two Portholes and a 10-inch Shell in Scranton, Penn.
  • A Bowscroll in Bangor, Maine
  • The Conning Tower Base in Canton, Ohio
  • A Capstan in Charleston, S.C.
  • A Capstan in Butte, Mont.
  • A Gun Port in Oakland, Calif.
  • A Ventilator Cowl in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • A Worm Gear in Sacramento, Calif.
  • A 6-inch Gun in Alpena, Mich.
  • A 6-inch Gun (Barrel Only) in Portland, Maine
  • A Six-pounder Gun in Columbia, S.C.
  • A One-pounder Gun in Milford, Maine
  • A 10-inch Turret Sighting Hood in Key West, Fla.
  • A Ventilator Cowl in Woburn, Mass.
  • A Ventilator Cowl in Rock Island, Ill.
  • The Ship’s Silver Service in Augusta, Maine
  • A Steam Whistle in Larchmont, N.Y.
  • A 10-inch Shell in Port Chesters, N.Y.
  • An Engine Room Funnel in Pompton Lakes, N.J.

Also 28 bronze plaques made from the metal of the battleship are spread out throughout the country.


Site 5: U.S.S. Maine

This heavy bronze plaque is one of 1000 known reforged relics of the U.S.S. Maine. It was sculpted for the U.S. Government by Charles Keck in 1913 and casted by Jno. Williams, Inc., a prominent American foundry in New York, New York. The woman depicted on this plaque is Columbia, the female personification of the United States, also known as Lady Liberty, who is holding a shield that reads: "PATRIOTISM and DEVOTION". In the background of the casted image is the depiction of the visible remains of the sunken vessel. "In Memoriam / USS Maine / Destroyed in Havana Harbor / February 15, 1898/ This Tablet is Cast From Metal Recovered From the USS Maine" can be clearly read. Inscribed lower right corner are the names of the artist: "C.KECK SC 1913 - CAST BY Jno. WILLIAMS, INC., N.Y."

  • VINTAGE: Circa 1913
  • SIZE: Approximately 12.5" x 18" and weighs approximately 8lbs.
  • MATERIALS / CONSTRUCTION: Heavy bronze.
  • MARKINGS: "TABLET No. 244 CHARLES KECK SCULPTOR CAST BY Jno. WILLIAMS INC. BRONZE FOUNDRY NEW YORK 1913" on reverse.

The History:

On February 15, 1898, the American battleship Maine exploded while sitting in the Havana harbor, killing two officers and 250 enlisted men. Fourteen of the injured later died, bringing the death toll to 266. A naval board of inquiry concluded that the blast was caused by a mine placed outside the ship. Release of the board’s report led many to accuse Spain of sabotage, helping to build public support for war. Subsequent studies, including one published in 1976 and later reissued in 1995, determined that the ship was destroyed from the inside, when burning coal in a bunker triggered an explosion in an adjacent space that contained ammunition. Nevertheless, the explosion was the eventual catalyst of the Spanish-American War, lasting three months before the Treaty of Paris was signed signaling the end of the conflict.

This Artifact was gift to the museum by VFW Post 3227.

This video explains about the historical accounts of the Spanish-American War and the significance of the USS Maine in its outcome.

This short video shows the dedication ceremony to the Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine (Spanish: Monumento a las víctimas del Maine) in 1925 that was built in honor of the American sailors who died in the explosion. Its location is on the Malecón boulevard at the end of Línea street, in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Cuba.

This video shows what the explosion would have looked like on the fateful night of February 15, 1898.


The Explosion of the USS Maine: The Controversial Event That Led to the Spanish-American War

The USS Maine is one of the most famous ships in American history, but for all the wrong reasons. A symbol of naval strength in the late 19th century, the Maine’s tra *Includes pictures
*Includes accounts of the explosion by the captain and surviving crew members
*Includes a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

"Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!"

The USS Maine is one of the most famous ships in American history, but for all the wrong reasons. A symbol of naval strength in the late 19th century, the Maine’s tragic fate is taught to students across the nation, not just because it was a disaster but because it is associated with the most notorious examples of yellow journalism in the country’s history and ultimately brought about a war, despite the fact it’s still unclear what caused the ship’s explosion.

In 1898, one of Spain's last possessions in the New World, Cuba, was waging a war for independence against Spain. Though Cuba was technically exempted from the United States' Monroe Doctrine since Cuba was already a possession of Spain when the Monroe Doctrine was issued, many Americans believed that the United States should side with Cuba against Spain. At the same time, however, President William McKinley wanted to avoid getting tangled in a war between outsiders, while Spain also wanted to avoid any conflict with United States and its powerful navy.

Despite leaders hoping to stay above the fray, American economic interests were being harmed by the ongoing conflict between Cuban nationalists and Spain, as merchants’ trading with Cuba was suffering now that the island was undergoing conflict. Furthermore, the American press capitalized on the ongoing Cuban struggle for independence, which had been flaring up time and again since 1868. In an effort to sell papers, the press frequently sensationalized stories, which came to be known as yellow journalism, and during the run-up to war, yellow journalism spread false stories about the Cuban conflict in order to sell newspapers in the competitive New York City market.

Despite President McKinley's wishes to avoid a war, he was forced to support a war with Spain after the USS Maine suffered an explosion in Havana’s harbor in February 1898. McKinley had sent the ship to help protect American citizens in Cuba from the violence that was taking place there, but the explosion devastated the USS Maine, which had to be towed to harbor and eventually scuttled, but only after 266 American sailors aboard the ship were killed.

Although the cause of the explosion was never determined, yellow journalists in the American press blamed Spain, claiming the USS Maine was sabotaged. President McKinley was unable to resist popular pressure after a U.S. Navy report also claimed that the ship had been subjected to an explosion outside of its hull, which subsequently ignited its powder magazines inside the ship. Later investigations proved inconclusive, but President McKinley was now forced to accept war with Spain, bringing about the Spanish-American War.

The Explosion of the USS Maine chronicles the controversial explosion, tracing the history of the ship from its glorious beginning to its ignominious end, as well as the critical aftermath. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the USS Maine like never before, in no time at all. . more


Watch the video: Sinking of the USS Maine (September 2022).


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