U.S.S. Maine Memorial Plaque
This plaque in Steubenville, Ohio is cast from the metal of the USS Maine, an American battleship that was sunk under mysterious circumstances in Cuba's Havana harbor. Although modern research reveals that the ship was likely destroyed by an internal explosion, contemporary newspaper reports suggested that the Spanish deliberately attacked the American vessel which led to the United States Congress declaration of war against Spain in 1898 that marked the start of the Spanish-American War. Believing the empire of Spain was responsible for the death of 266 Americans, and recognizing the Cuban people's desire for independence from Spain, the United States declared war on Spain shortly after the explosion that sank the USS Maine. This plaque is one of many plaques that were created from the remnants of the USS Maine and are located throughout the U.S.
Backstory and Context
The USS Maine was one of the first steel battleships created by the United States Navy. The ship was completed in 1895 during the time of rising tensions between the United States and Spain owing to the treatment of Cubans and the desire of many American companies and investors to acquire the island or at least remove the Spanish from the region. The USS Maine was an armored cruiser and was the first of its kind put in commission within the United States Navy along with the USS Texas.
Reports of the heroic efforts of Caban rebels who sought independence, along with credible reports of inhumane treatment by the Spanish, led many Americans to view Spain as a corrupt empire. American journalists such as William Randolph Hearst deliberately sought to influence the public to support American military intervention. President William McKinley, however, was hesitant to commit to American military intervention until the explosion of the USS Maine.
The USS Maine had been sent into the Havana harbor in Cuba to demonstrate American resolve and interest, with the appearance of the American ship in the Cuban harbor demonstrated that the United States was increasingly backing the Cuban rebels. On February 15, 1898, there was a massive blast that ignited the ammunition within the USS Maine and destroyed it within the Havana harbor. Once journalists like William Randolph Hearst blamed the explosion on a Spanish mine, public outcry led to rallying cries for war such as “Remember the Maine, and the hell with Spain.” As a result, the explosion became the spark that began the Spanish-American War.
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