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The origin of the Philippine Insurrection began at 9:40 P.M. on the night of February 15, 1898 when a mysterious explosion rocked the American battleship Maine that was lying at anchor in Havana Harbor in Cuba. Newspapers throughout the United States reported nearly 300 American sailors had perished and placed the blame squarely on Spain. The New York Journal’s headline on February 17 bluntly shouted that “The Whole Country Thrills With War Fever.”
President McKinley initially resisted committing the U.S. to war. But eventually, bowing to the political and popular war fever, on April 11, 1898 he asked Congress to declare war on Spain. The Congressional declaration made no mention of the Philippines claiming that the United States was only interested in freeing Cuba from the corrupt, dictatorial rule of Spain in Cuba. Newspapers buttressed this sentiment printing headlines like “Remember the Maine: To Hell with Spain” and urged Americans to join the fight in what will later be called a “Splendid Little War.”
In this lesson students are challenged to analyze this pivotal conflict by acting as the determining whether to indict selected participants for the commission of war crimes. Students will assume the roles of the court judges, attorneys, witnesses and the defendant (s). Additional materials included will be post-activity discussion questions, extension activities, bibliography, time line and glossary.