The Spanish-American War of 1898 was one of the shortest wars in which the United States has ever been involved. From declaration of war to termination of hostilities, the war lasted a little less than four months, although the chief fighting only occupied about ten weeks. Cuba’s independence was the war’s major catalyst, but the U.S.’s impetus for entering the fray was the mysterious sinking of the armored cruiser U.S.S. Maine in February 1898 and the subsequent deaths of 250 sailors on board. The Treaty of Paris that formally ended the war called for Spain to relinquish sovereignty over Cuba and to cede Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands to the United States for $20 million. The defeat led to the loss of the last remnants of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and heightened the debate over expansionism in the United States.

A little over 280,000 U.S. sailors, marines and soldiers served in the Spanish-American War with approximately 2,061 casualties, many of whom died from yellow fever. On record 6,065 Kentuckians participated in various campaigns in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, suffering 89 casualties. Material related to veterans of this war can be found below, including letters, military records, books, photographs, and pamphlets. These materials are housed in the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU and have been made available in conjunction with the WKU International Year of Cuba and in observation of the 120th anniversary of the Spanish-American War.

Primary Sources for Spanish-American War.

U.S. soldiers drilling at a military encampment in Cuba (1961.16.5.4)

U.S. soldiers drilling at a military encampment in Cuba (1961.16.5.4)

Unidentified street scene in Cuba during the Spanish-American War (1961.16.5.3)

Unidentified street scene in Cuba during the Spanish-American War (1961.16.5.3)

Unidentified soldiers ouside their tent in Cuba (1961.16.5.2)

Unidentified soldiers ouside their tent in Cuba (1961.16.5.2)

Three soldiers outside their tent labeled "Our Kentucky Home" (SC2014.83.1)

Three soldiers outside their tent labeled "Our Kentucky Home" (SC2014.83.1)

Unidentified soldier sitting inside his tent in Cuba (1961.15.5.1)

Unidentified soldier sitting inside his tent in Cuba (1961.15.5.1)

Unidentified soldier reclined on a ship's ropes (1961.16.5.8)

Unidentified soldier reclined on a ship's ropes (1961.16.5.8)

Man standing at the pulpit on a highly decorated altar (1961.16.5.9)

Man standing at the pulpit on a highly decorated altar (1961.16.5.9)

Poster advertising a new book about the Spanish-American War (Broadside 3806)

Poster advertising a new book about the Spanish-American War (Broadside 3806)

Photo of Samuel Clark in his Spanish-American War uniform (SC 526 #11)

Photo of Samuel Clark in his Spanish-American War uniform (SC 526 #11)

A group of uniformed soldiers, many with arms, standing in front of a military encampment (1961.16.5.19)

A group of uniformed soldiers, many with arms, standing in front of a military encampment (1961.16.5.19)

A large group of soldiers inside and partially outside a temporary commissary (1961.16.5.18)

A large group of soldiers inside and partially outside a temporary commissary (1961.16.5.18)

Two soldiers, with sabers, at attention in front of their tent (1961.16.5.17)

Two soldiers, with sabers, at attention in front of their tent (1961.16.5.17)

Soldiers at attention, Third Kentucky Infantry U.S.V. (1961.16.5.15)

Soldiers at attention, Third Kentucky Infantry U.S.V. (1961.16.5.15)

Black soldier during the Spanish-American War (1961.16.5.12)

Black soldier during the Spanish-American War (1961.16.5.12)

A group of unidentified Cuban soldiers during the Spanish-American War era  (MSS 31 B3 F8 #2)

A group of unidentified Cuban soldiers during the Spanish-American War era (MSS 31 B3 F8 #2)