Wreckage of the USS Maine.
Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.

"Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain."

At the end of the nineteenth century, Cubans were fighting for independence from Spain. In January 1898, the USS Maine arrived in Havana Harbor to protect U.S. interests. Three weeks later, the USS Maine unexpectedly exploded, killing 252 sailors. American newspapers and politicians began calling for war with Spain.


When President McKinley declared war, the Regular Army numbered just under 30,000 men. McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers, with New York required to raise twelve infantry and two cavalry regiments. Since the New York National Guard at that time could not go overseas, or serve for more than ninety days, the governor asked the regiments to volunteer for service in the U.S. Army.


Over 12,000 New Yorkers were mustered into federal service. Troops encountered countless organizational and supply problems that delayed their arrival in Cuba.

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