President McKinley appealed to the Spanish government to restore peace in Cuba and reviewed his military options. He invited Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt on a carriage ride through Washington.
McKinley had been very reluctant to appoint Roosevelt because he knew that Roosevelt was a hawk, and was possibly likely to get us involved in a war. But Roosevelt took the opportunity to convey the fact that the U.S. Navy was very well-prepared if they had to fight Spain over Cuba.
I urged getting our main fleet on the Cuban coast after war is declared and at the same time throwing an expeditionary force into Cuba. I doubted if the war would last six weeks. Meanwhile, our Asiatic Squadron should blockade, and if possible, take Manila. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.
Two weeks later, the Spanish responded to President McKinley’s demand for peace with what he considered significant concessions.
They do offer that if the Cubans will end the war they will get the same political status of associated free state within the empire that Puerto Rico had. That is, they would have their own government.
But limited autonomy was unacceptable to Cuban insurgents. General Calixto García, Gómez’s second-in-command, rallied his troops to keep up the fight.
I regard autonomy only as a sign of Spain’s weakening power and an indication that the end is not far off.
The Cubans were, indeed, within striking distance of defeating Spain. The Cubans almost controlled the entire countryside, certainly in the eastern end of the island and significant pockets of western Cuba. Spanish have now retreated from the small towns to the larger provincial cities and the coastal points. One more rainy season, one more summer campaign, would be enough to expel the Spanish from the island.
My own view is that the Spanish were not gonna get out and they were not on the run. The Cuban revolution had been going on since 1868. This is 30 years later, and they don’t appear to have been any closer to achieving the goal of getting the Spanish to march out of Havana and get on ships and go on home and say, “You guys figure out how you want to run your lives. We’re outta here.” Spain was not even close to that.