Spain had a colony only 90 miles from Florida. This colony was Cuba. The people in Cuba were not happy with Spanish rule. In 1895 they rebelled. The ruler of Spain sent soldiers to stop the rebellion. Cuban fighters were not strong enough to take the cities from the Spanish, but they burned down many towns and sugar plantations. The Spanish took many prisoners as well.
The Americans sided with the Cubans because:
some had money invested in sugar
they thought it was like the revolution against England in 1776
The two largest newspapers in the United States were the New York World and the New York Journal. These newspapers were rivals competing to get the most readers. The newspapers told untrue stories about the events taking place in Cuba to make reading the newspaper more exciting and interesting. This was called yellow journalism or yellow press. These newspaper stories caused the Americans to side with Cuba and greatly influenced America going to war with Spain.
Presidents Cleveland and McKinley tried to keep America out of war, but on February 15, 1898 the American battleship Maine which was anchored in Havana Harbor exploded. Two hundred and sixty of the American crewmen were killed. No one knew what caused the explosion, but many Americans blamed the Spanish.
On April 11, President McKinley went to Congress and asked for American troops to stop the war. Congress agreed. On April 25, 1898, the U. S. declared war on Spain. Twenty soldiers led by Theodore Roosevelt called the Rough Riders went to Cuba. They landed on the south coast and advanced on the city of Santiago. They attacked San Juan Hill and captured it. Then they took the city.
Americans left Cuba to take over another Spanish possession, Puerto Rico. Commodore Dewey sailed into the Spanish Philippine Islands. He destroyed the Spanish fleet guarding the islands. On April 13 the capital city of Manila fell to American troops, and the war was over by mid-July.
The Treaty of Paris was signed in December 1898. The U.S. gained three islands: Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. The Spanish agreed to leave Cuba. The United States paid $20 million to Spain for the Philippines and Guam. Now, because of the holdings in the Pacific Ocean, the United States could make use of Hawaii.
The Philippines remained a U. S. territory until 1946 although it elected its own legislature as early as 1907. American troops stayed in Cuba until 1902. Then they kept the right to have naval bases on the islands. In 1947 Puerto Rico became a commonwealth. They joined the U. S., but kept their own government. Hawaii became a state in 1959.