The Daily Record: 1898 Spanish War as told through the ‘Assembly Herald’

Chautauqua offered a rich and diversified program during the summer of 1898.

Richard G. Moulton of the University of Chicago gave five lectures on Shakespeare, with special emphasis on The Tempest. Jane Addams, of Hull House in Chicago, spoke three times.

An advance issue of the Chautauqua Assembly Herald reported that “Mr. William H. Sherwood of The Sherwood Piano School, Chicago, one of the great American pianists, an artist of great talent, a composer, a teacher, a virtuoso,” would be on the grounds between July 11 and Aug. 13. Through the summer, there were days dedicated to the Baptist Union, political equality, the Grange, children and the Grand Army.

Regardless of entertainment and edification, at the front of people’s minds — and the minds behind the Chautauqua newspaper — was war, the Spanish War, as it was referred to. The Herald’s advance number suggested the war might be good for business.

The Spanish War “will tend to increase the summer population.” The Herald reported that coastal resorts would be shunned, “whether wisely or not, by a large number of people, and already there are indications that Chautauqua will benefit from its inland location.”

Moreover, the war would be of interest to Chautauquans, and every effort would be made to have the war graphically reported if it continued through the summer, the advance issue said, “and, of course, if peace shall have been proclaimed the stirring events of the brief contest will be portrayed by those best qualified to describe and discuss them.”

Once the season started and the Assembly Herald began publication on July 19, 1898, an editorial titled “War News in the Herald” began: “The ASSEMBLY HERALD with this issue becomes a war newspaper.”

For its first 23 years, the Herald had conveyed the news of Chautauqua. For the summer of 1898, the newspaper promised to continue to do that but add to it condensed reports of the “latest and most reliable news of the war.”

Headlines from day to day defined the arc of battle. “To Porto [sic] Rico Next” declared the July 19 issue of the Herald. The war article covered the yellow fever situation: as of July 18 there were 300 or fewer cases in Santiago, Cuba. In Santiago, as well, “the American flag flies everywhere. The surrender of the Spaniards is complete,” though the food supply in Santiago and Havana was limited.

On July 21, the Herald reported that “General Miles cabled from Guantanamo today that the troops on board the transports destined for Porto Rico were becoming restless, owing to close confinement board ship and the delay in starting.” He urged the navy to get the necessary warships ready to move along the expedition.

The Americans were thought to be too gentle. It had been reported that the Cuban general, Calixto García, “is much disgusted at Gen. William Shafter’s gentle treatment of the Spanish, and also in not permitting Cubans to enter Santiago.” It had also been rumored that Garcia was dead. The reports, however, “make mystery of it, and say it should not be known in Cuba for the present, for reasons of state.”

The July 22 issue of the Assembly Herald reported that U.S. troops had arrived in the Philippines. In Cuba, “General Shafter is preparing to march his army into the mountains for the purpose of getting out of the fever scent.” Shafter had also cabled that his relations with General Garcia were strained.

The summer advanced, July marching toward August. The army and navy sailed toward Puerto Rico, and preparations were being made for an attack on Manila, in the Philippines. The Spaniards were beginning to waver, though they were slow to lay down arms. The Cubans were in a hurry to govern Cuba, the July 25 Herald reported.

On July 29, the war headline proclaimed: “THE PHILIPPINES OURS: Foreign Powers Say Keep Them. THE WORLD LOVES THE POWER THAT WINS.” There was debate among U.S. officials as to whether to retain control over the Philippines.

“Nearly all, if not all, European powers, as well as China and Japan, have signified to the United States their willingness to have this country assert its sovereignty over the Philippines,” the Herald reported. Germany was firmly against turning control over to Emilio Aguinaldo, a Philippine revolutionary, fighting with vigor against the Spanish and, later, against U.S. occupation.

The July 30 Herald reported that Manila had surrendered. The news had come from Madrid to the Paris edition of the New York Herald; but the article included a dispatch from Washington that indicated “the war department would not be surprised if Manila had surrendered to Dewey, but it has no such information.”

Before the battles were complete, before the revolutionaries had been doused, the U.S. and Spain had begun to discuss the question of peace. Cuba would be free. Puerto Rico would be ceded to the United States. One of the Ladrones would be ceded by Spain to the U.S. All Spanish troops would be withdrawn from the West Indies. The Philippine situation would be settled by a joint Spanish-American commission, while in the meantime the U.S. would retain possession of Manila, the city and the bay.

The Chautauqua Assembly Herald called it “the beginning of the end,” but there would be delay. The Aug. 2 issue reported that the Philippine problem had come to the front, especially due to “the threatening attitude of the insurgents under Gen. Aguinaldo, who has moved upon all sides of Manila, and appears to be threatening both the Spanish and American forces.”

On Aug. 5, the Chautauqua newspaper reported that President William McKinley thought peace was assured. The president thought Spain would acquiesce. The town of Arroyo, Puerto Rico, had surrendered and U.S. troops were welcomed, the article said, though “just before sunset the enemy, concealed, fired upon our outposts.”

The situation in the Philippines was determined to be not so serious as first thought.

Merritt was “taking a very firm attitude toward the rebels. Aguinaldo is dismounting from his high horse and adopting a conciliatory attitude.”

While authorities hammered out terms of peace, and the Rough Riders were headed home, battles continued. The U.S. army in Puerto Rico was preparing to attack Coamo, where the Spaniards were in force, and, the Aug. 9 Assembly Herald reported that “General Brooke is now 14 miles from Cayey, and is timed to arrive at Aibonito from the east at about the time Gen. Wilson will attack the Spaniards from the west. The enemy will thus be caught between the two armies. After Aibonito is reduced, the last known obstacle on the road to San Juan will be gone.”

The Aug. 10 Herald reported that peace would now be assured. Spain accepted U.S. terms, although the peace wasn’t settled in Manila. Admiral George Dewey would receive several warships to reinforce his efforts there. And there was a “hot fight near Guayama, Porto Pico.”

Finally peace was proclaimed. On Aug. 13 the Herald war headline said, “The War is Over, and Cuba is Free.”

All warlike acts were to immediately cease. The war vessels were to seek safe harbors. The Spanish soldiers were to go home.

On Monday, Aug. 15, the Herald editorial announced, “We are at peace.”

The newspaper had done its job. At the start of the Chautauqua season, “People were anxious, expectant and impatient for news,” the editorial said. “It, therefore, seemed proper that the Herald should obtain and print the war news every day.” This had been done. The results were gratifying. Peace was restored. Once again the paper returned to “its legitimate work of reporting the news of Chautauqua,” its brave new world and all the creatures in it.