Armed with global ambitions and support from presidents both Democrat and Republican, U.S. naval reformers of the 1880s and ’90s transformed America’s moribund sea force.
The Spanish-American War of 1898 was decided by the U.S. Navy’s overwhelming victory over a Spanish armada. Taken together, the naval battles at Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba amounted to a mere ten hours of combat, but the resulting American maritime dominance isolated the Spanish garrisons on the Philippines and Cuba, ensuring their defeat. The U.S. Navy’s decisive superiority in 1898 gained the United States a set of overseas territories as well as membership in the club of major powers. It was in stark contrast to the situation 16 years earlier, when the U.S. Fleet’s combat strength had ranked behind such minor powers as Brazil and Chile.