On the night of February 15, 1898, one of our battle-ships, the Maine, was blown up in the harbor of Havana, and 266 of our sailors were killed. Many believed that this awful deed was the work of Spanish officials; and this conviction deepened when a careful investigation was made by a court of naval inquiry. In all parts of this country the excitement of the people increased until they were ready to go to war with Spain if she would not change her policy toward Cuba.
But Spain was so stubborn that President McKinley, after trying in every possible way to prevent hostilities, was obliged to say in a message that "the war in Cuba must stop"; and on April 25, 1898, Congress took the momentous step of declaring war.
Our Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Long, lost no time in sending a despatch to Commodore Dewey,—who was in command of an American fleet of six war-vessels at Hong-Kong,—directing him to proceed at once to the Philippine Islands and capture or destroy the Spanish fleet stationed there.
Two days later Commodore Dewey's fleet was steaming southward toward Manila Bay, in search of the Spanish squadron of ten war-vessels and two torpedo-boats. It was extremely important that these ships of war should be captured or destroyed before they could make their way to our Pacific coast and attack American cities
Before the middle of August an army of 15,000 troops, under General Merritt, was sent to Manila to unite with the fleet under Admiral Dewey in capturing the city. Manila surrendered on August 13th.