Thursday, October 29, 2015

War Fever, 1898

The tide of Manifest Destiny crested  as the Grand American Experiment passed its century mark. The country had quintupled its territory in less than one hundred years with more opportunity than resistance.

Gloucester Daily Times, May 13, 1898
News reached Cape Ann that Admiral Dewey had vanquished the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. The annexation of Hawaii by the United States provided the naval link for the Pacific expansion.
Probing the remains of the Spanish empire in 1898, American forces triumphed in Cuba and Puerto Rico, stirred by jingoistic journalism, speeches and sermons. But coastal citizens weren't entirely sure there wouldn't be a counterattack by Spain's Atlantic fleet. Troops quartered in an old sail loft on Bearskin Neck "have established a cordon of sentinels along the Neck, and as a result every passer is subjected to being stopped and examined in true military style" reported the Times on May 11.
Within a week sentiment turned from concern to celebration as war news confirmed American naval victories. Headlines proclaimed "Town Manifests Patriotism in Unbounded Enthusiasm" after a parade, music and fireworks in Rockport on the night of May 18.
Representative Leander M. Haskins, principal speaker of the evening, reminded folks that "his ancestor John Pool settled there, when there was no other white man at Rockport, and his grandfather marched to the battle of Bunker Hill, and served eight months under Gen. Washington....It was a pleasure for him to be present and take part in the celebration and in throwing the flag to the breeze.

      "He contrasted the intelligence of America with the ignorance of Spain, and showed how the latter country, once the richest and most powerful on earth had lost her possessions and her power, while the United States had under the guidance of God won the esteem of the earth....
      "He then called for the unfurling of the flag, and as the banner appeared cheer upon cheer rent the air, it being several minutes before the applause ceased, while the band played the Star Spangled Banner and America, followed by other patriotic melodies.

      "A novel feature of the flag raising was witnessed just as the flag burst from its fastenings, when hundreds of miniature flags fell from its folds and were eagerly caught by the throng beneath.

      "A company of school boys in pretty uniforms with miniature guns and flags took part in the procession, presenting a most pleasing sight. They were greeted with cheers all along the line of march, which was made brilliant with bunting and colored fire by enthusiastic residents."
Advertisement for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Gloucester Daily Times, June 6, 1898
Spirits stayed high as Buffalo Bill encamped in Riverdale with his Wild West Show. Cowboys and Indians joined Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in taking San Juan Hill, Puerto Rico on July 1st.

Local residents' elation peaked in September when the gunboat Gloucester visited her namesake port after playing a decisive role in the conquest of Hispaniola.

Front page of the Gloucester Daily Times, September 16, 1898
      "The reception accorded the auxiliary cruiser Gloucester showed more than words could tell the honor which Gloucester feels has been done her by the gallant little craft which bears her name. No more enthusiastic or cordial welcome could have been desired, for on the water and shore alike she and her valiant officers and crew were greeted with immense crowds, who gave vent to their appreciation of the visit to this port by a hearty welcome , in which the booming of guns and shrieks of steam whistles and the clanging of bells vied with the buzz of the multitude in proclaiming the pleasure of the citizens."

Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright
      "All the time Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright stood upon the bridge and raised his cap with each repeated salute. Some big yachts sailed past, and, as each one touched off its saluting piece, the crew and passengers would join in a hearty cheer to the gallant little fighter...

      "As the Gloucester came into the outer harbor, the first gun of the Stage Fort Battery spoke out and was the signal for the church bells about town to be rung. With the ringing of the bells came toots from the tugs in the harbor and factories and booms from the canons stationed at intervals along the shore."

What confluence of private and public achievements brought the Gloucester its glory? "She, as is well known, was J. Pierpont Morgan's yacht Corsair prior to the war, and was accounted one of the finest and fastest pleasure crafts ever constructed. She is 241 feet over all and 27 feet beam....The sloping funnel is indicative of speed, while on deck, the formidable array of guns bespeaks her real vocation." Times, Sep. 17, 1898.

While the United States consolidated order in the Western Hemisphere European powers were busy bringing Asia and Africa into modern equations. Their progress, competition, and collisions were avidly followed in the press. Under the headline HER LARGE FOOT DOWN on October 20 the Times quoted England's Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Our work in Egypt is not completed. Africa is big enough for us both--for France in the west and ourselves in the east. Surely we ought to be able to agree to respect one another's rights and claims. I hope, trust, and believe the question is capable of friendly solution, but this country has put her foot down. If, unhappily, another view should be taken by France, the queen's ministers know what their duty demands." 

The contest focused on recalcitrant Islam (Mahdism) in the Sudan: 

Savages' Attack Repulsed by Anglo-Egyptian Army
Fired Shots For Mahdism Even In Their Death Agonies 

      "Omdurman, On the Nile, Sept. 6--General Kitchener, with the Khalifis' black standard, captured during a battle, entered Omdurman, the capital, Friday afternoon, at the head of the Anglo-Egyptian column, after completely routing the dervishes and dealing a death blow to Mahdism...
      "The flower of the Khalifa's army was caught in a depression and within a zone of withering cross-fire from three brigades, with the attendant artillery. The devoted Mahdists strove heroically to make headway, but every rush was stopped, while their main body was literally mown down by a sustained cross-fire. Defiantly the dervishes planted their standards and died beside them. Their dense masses gradually melted to companies, and companies to driblets beneath the leaden hail. Finally they broke and fled, leaving the field while with jibbah-clad corpses, like a snowdrift dotted meadow....
      "The bravery of the dervishes evoked universal admiration. Time after time their dispersed and broken forces reformed and hurled themselves upon the Anglo-Egyptians, their emirs conspicuously leading and spurning death. Even when wounded and in death agonies they raised themselves to fire a last shot."

With these images in mind Americans arrived on the world stage feeling ennobled and invincible. Cape Ann voters helped anoint Teddy Roosevelt as the next President of the United States. Within twenty years of 1898 Doughboys from Rockport and Gloucester shipped East for the 'War to End All Wars.' To the west  they encountered expansionist Japan. 

The global map writhed and re-wrote itself as vigorous energies coalesced in empire. Myths and martial music mobilized  people everywhere. Journalists kept the drum roll in the 'news.' 

Born in the War for Independence, emerging from childhood in the Civil War, the United States pulsed with adolescent ardor in the Spanish-American War. The mantle of civic maturity awaited fulfillment.

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