The War of Independence (1895-1898)
The War of Independence (Guerra de Independencia) started on 24 February 1895, under the intellectual leadership of the writer and philosopher José Martí, who is considered by all Cubans as Father of the Country. Martí gave the order to start the Revolution on that date, which started simultaneously in four places - in Bayate, under Bartolomé Masó; in Ibarra, under Juan Gualberto Gómez and Antonio López Coloma; in Baire, with the brothers Saturnino and Mariano Lora; and in Guantánamo, with Periquito Pérez, Emilio Giró and others. The 24 February date is commemorated in Cuba as a national holiday under the name "Grito de Baire" ("Shout of Baire").
Unfortunately, Martí, who was eager to actively participate in the conflict, was killed on 19 May 1895 near the town of Dos Rios in Oriente, in a skirmish with a column of Spanish soldiers under the command of Colonel Jimenez de Sandoval.
On 13 September 1895 an Assembly formed of delegates from the five army corps which composed the Revolutionary Army, met in Jimaguayú and elected Salvador Cisneros Betancourt as President of the Republic, Bartolomé Masó as Vice-President, Máximo Gómez as Commander in Chief of the Army, Antonio Maceo as Lieutenant General and Tomás Estrada Palma as diplomatic representative in the United States.
Máximo Gómez, a brilliant military tactician, organized several very successful campaigns, including the circular campaign around Camagüey, and the Invasion from East to West of the entire island, all in the short period from 8 November 1895 to 22 January 1896. The most significant action was the victory over the Spanish General Martínez Cámpos in the town of Coliseo.
The reaction of the Spanish Government was the replacement of Martínez Cámpos by General Valeriano Weyler and the increase of troops in the island which eventually numbered 180,000. Weyler forced all inhabitants of rural areas into the cities, which had devastating effects on the economy of the island. At the same time, yellow fever was taking its toll of tens of thousands of Spanish soldiers in the island. During this time, the US Senate and Congress passed separate resolutions recognizing the Cuban Revolution.
On September 1897, a constitutional convention took place in La Yaya, where a new government was elected. General Bartolomé Masó was elected President and Domingo Méndez Capote Vice-President. During this year, international tensions between the United States and Spain markedly increased. Spain finally removed General Weyler and granted Cuba autonomy in domestic matters in 1897. These reforms arrived too late and were not accepted by the Cuban Government in Arms. Due to the unsettled situation, the United States Consul in Habana, Fitzhugh Lee, advised President McKinley to send naval ships to the ports of Cuba. Following this advice, the US battleship Maine was sent to Habana harbor. The evening of 15 February 1898, a tremendous explosion completely destroyed the ship, killing 2 officers and 264 sailors..
On April 1898, as a result of popular opinion pressures in the US following the explosion of the Maine, the US declared war on Spain. The US landed troops in Cuba on 20 June 1898. After sinking the Spanish Fleet off Santiago de Cuba and several land battles in Santiago de Cuba (assisted by Cuban troops under General Calíxto García), and also in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, Spain entered into peace negotiations. On 16 July 1898 Spain signed a peace agreement in Santiago de Cuba. This was followed by a formal treaty signed in Paris on 10 December 1898, putting and end to Spanish domination of Cuba. It should be noted that the total duration of the US Spanish American War was only 3 months.
On 1 Jan 1899 Spain formally turned over the government of Cuba to the US. A constitutional convention met on 5 November 1900 and was followed by elections on 31 December 1901. The US turned over the government of Cuba to the elected Cuban government on 20 May 1902. The date of May 20 is celebrated in Cuba as the Día de la República (Republic Day).
Ref: Carlos Marquez Sterling and Manuel Marquez Sterling - Historia de la Isla de Cuba, La Moderna Poesia, Inc., Miami, FL. ISBN: 0-88345-251-0