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Naval War College Review

Volume 59
Article 21
Number 4 Autumn


Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain:

America’s 1898 Adventure in Imperialism
Richard Norton

Robert B. Edgerton

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Recommended Citation
Norton, Richard and Edgerton, Robert B. (2006) "Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain: America’s 1898 Adventure in
Imperialism," Naval War College Review: Vol. 59 : No. 4 , Article 21.
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Norton and Edgerton: Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain: America’s 1898 Adventure B O O K R E V I E W S 147

leadership at its most inspiring and ef-

fective in the person of Lt. Gen. James
Mattis, the division commander, who is
Edgerton, Robert B. Remember the Maine, To Hell
seen visiting front-line positions in the with Spain: America’s 1898 Adventure in Imperial-
middle of a freezing night. ism. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 2005. 225pp.
After the campaign in Afghanistan, Fick
transfers to the 1st Reconnaissance Bat- Robert Edgerton, a noted anthropolo-
talion, an organization whose emphasis gist and member of the UCLA faculty
on finesse over force appeals to the for more than forty years, has written
thoughtful young officer. The war in extensively about the small wars of em-
Iraq finds this unit at the point of the pire that dot the historical landscape of
advance toward Baghdad. It is impossi- the nineteenth century. Among the
ble to summarize all that Fick and his better known of his works is Like Lions
platoon see and do in the space of few They Fought, an examination of the
lines; indeed, it may be impossible even Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, which no col-
for a Homer or a Tolstoy to render lection on the subject should be with-
them adequately into words at all. out. He would, therefore, seem to be
Fick decides to leave the Corps after his eminently qualified to explore the his-
unit is withdrawn from Iraq. A “reluc- torical and cultural aspects and ramifi-
tant warrior,” he has decided that he cations of the Spanish-American War.
will not be one of those who live and Like many conflicts of the era, the
define their lives by fighting on com- Spanish-American War has until re-
mand, without much questioning, as cently been under-examined and largely
professional soldiers are perhaps re- forgotten. Yet it remains one of Amer-
quired to do. Some of his comrades re- ica’s more important armed conflicts.
turn to Iraq after he has left the service, The war marked the emergence of the
and Fick learns of the death of his re- United States upon the world stage as a
placement, Capt. Brent Morel. The end- major, externally focused power. It was,
ing chapter of the book may seem in many ways, the physical manifesta-
rushed, as if Fick has not yet come to tion of the strategic thinking of Alfred
terms with his service by the time he Thayer Mahan. The war left the United
has finished writing his story. He fin- States with a physical as well as com-
ishes on a positive note, but the full mercial empire, forever altering the
meaning of what he has seen might be lives of millions of peoples, as well as
years in coming. Fick appears to be too the development of state power in the
decent and honest a man to be content Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.
with simple answers. Classicist Fick of- The war occurred when both the U.S.
ten intersperses his tale with classical al- Navy and Army were in the process of
lusions, none more meaningful or revolutionary change. The war would
moving than the quotation with which eventually involve U.S. forces across a
he opens his last chapter. wide variety of points on the spectrum
of conflict, from fleet-to-fleet actions to
Commander, U.S. Navy protracted nation-building efforts.
Some scholars have gone as far as to
suggest that the U.S. experience in the

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Naval War College Review, Vol. 59 [2006], No. 4, Art. 21

occupation and pacification of the Phil- Indeed, it is highly likely that while U.S.
ippines still contains lessons that may intervention hastened the Spanish de-
be applicable to current operations in feat, the defeat was already inevitable.
Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war Yet again, this look is cursory and the
on terror. Thus by any reasonable mea- reader is left wondering about just how
sure Remember the Maine, To Hell with the insurrectos won the “hearts and
Spain would seem to be one of those minds” of the populace, and how the
books that cover the right subject at the movement was funded.
right time, by the right author. These shortcomings pale in compari-
Alas, Edgerton does not replicate his son, however, to those that occur when
success in dealing with the Anglo-Zulu the book looks at the U.S. invasion and
War when it comes to the United States occupation of the Philippines. To be
in 1898. This may be due in part to the sure, the Philippine campaign was infi-
greater physical scope of the Spanish- nitely more complex and lengthy than
American war, its longer duration, and that in Cuba. It is even misleading to
the involvement of a much larger cast speak of the war or the campaign. In ac-
of characters. Perhaps the war was sim- tuality, there were numerous insurrec-
ply too big and too complex to do the tions, and the revolt of the Moro came
subject justice in one volume of less from very different cultural wellsprings
than three hundred pages. than that found in the more northern
To his credit, Edgerton tries to cover all islands. Rather than provide a detailed
theaters of the war, as well as social and look at the insurgency and counter-
political currents that led to the fight- insurgency, Edgerton reviews only a few
ing. Unlike most historians who have of the better known events, such as the
examined the subject, he devotes an en- Balangiga massacre and the trial of Brig.
tire chapter each to the conquests of Gen. Jacob H. Smith for war crimes.
Puerto Rico and Guam. Little has been Not only does Edgerton fail to paint a
written about these theaters of opera- complete picture of the insurrection,
tions, predominately because neither but he is also equally sketchy when it
saw much fighting. comes to describing U.S. efforts to
Remember the Maine, To Hell with Spain achieve victory. These efforts were by
suffers from a lack of cohesion. It is an no means uniform and ranged from co-
untidy work that leaves intellectual operation to confrontation, from na-
threads to dangle almost immediately tion building to tactics of scorched
after it picks them up. For example, earth. A far better treatment of this sub-
Edgerton touches on the work of ject can be found in the works of Brian
Mahan but fails to examine similar tec- McAllister Linn, notably The U.S.
tonic shifts in Army thinking—shifts Army and Counterinsurgency in the
that changed the culture of the institu- Philippine War 1898–1902; another ex-
tion and have been well chronicled in ceptional treatment that focuses on one
Graham A. Cosmas’s An Army for Em- center of the resistance is The War
pire. Edgerton also attempts to correct a against the Americans: Resistance and
historical injustice paid to the Cuban Collaboration in Cebu, 1899–1906, by
insurrectos, who made crucial contribu- Resil B. Mojares.
tions to the defeat of the Spanish. 2

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Norton and Edgerton: Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain: America’s 1898 Adventure B O O K R E V I E W S 149

In a nutshell, this work is a disappoint- attack planning and execution for both
ment. It fails to serve as either a balanced at-sea and land assaults.
introduction to the Spanish-American Within the book’s well documented
War or a useful addition to our knowl- twenty-three chapters, Little provides fas-
edge of the imperial era or the impact cinating material on pirate personalities
of colonialism. Its shortcomings may be and their lives both ashore and at sea.
due more to structure than scholarship, Rovers, of course, all had different per-
but they are still severe enough to war- sonalities, some more savage than others.
rant bypassing it in favor of more com- It is easy to see how one would not
prehensive and balanced works. choose to be at the mercy of L’Ollonois,
RICHARD NORTON who cut out one man’s heart and ate it.
Naval War College
The ships are also described, along with
the weapons of choice. Line drawings
are numerous and include a wide vari-
ety of personal weapons, such as mus-
kets, pistols, swords, and pikes, as well
Little, Benerson. The Sea Rover’s Practice: Pirate
as cannons of various types.
Tactics and Techniques, 1630–1730. Washington,
D.C.: Potomac, 2005. 253pp. $27.50 Another value of this book lies in its
seven appendixes, which include a sea
There is a fascination about pirates of
rover’s lexicon, weapons and ranges,
old. Most of us as children first learned
and, for those with a desire to dine like
about them from Peter Pan in the fig-
a pirate, a description of what they ate
ure of Captain Hook or from Robert
and drank. These appendixes are excel-
Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
lent, with definitions provided for all
This work provides a detailed historical reasonably relevant (and generally un-
examination of sea rovers (an umbrella known) items, such as kilderkins and
term used to cover pirates, privateers, demiculverins. There are many foot-
and others with the same essential mo- notes, a complete bibliography, and a
tivation of greed), how they lived, what good index.
they did, and how they did it. It will be
This is a really good book. Be prepared—
of high interest to the maritime spec-
after reading only a few pages—to feel
trum, from armchair sailors to admirals.
the wind in your face and taste the salt air.
Little, a former naval officer and SEAL, The only downside for ever-optimistic
details where many pirates came from adventurers is that no treasure maps are
and their motivation, which was pri- provided for some sandy beach. The pi-
marily a desire for treasure. He notes rates never buried their treasure.
how the Hollywood image of a pirate
attack on the high seas was far different
Livingston, New Jersey
from the real thing, and he discusses

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