#OnThisDay: “Remember the Maine!” What you might not know.

If asked what the slogan, “Remember the Maine!” was about, I could have told you it referred to a ship that was sunk and caused the Spanish-American War. I minored in history in college, but some of the details are a little blurry now. Today is the 123rd anniversary of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in the Havana, Cuba harbor.

USS Maine three weeks before it sank in Havana harbor.
The USS Maine passing Morro Castle as she entered the harbor of Havana, Cuba 25 January 1898. Photo credit: US Naval History & Heritage Command photograph. Catalog#: NH 48619. 

Manned with a crew of 350 men, the Maine was a 393-foot-long battleship. It had been sent to Havana to protect Americans living there in the event that Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain spun into a full-scale war. At 9:40 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15, 1898, there was an explosion and the ship sank. Only 84 crew members survived. It was quickly concluded that the ship had been hit by a Spanish torpedo or that it had hit a Spanish mine.

“Remember the Maine!” became the battle cry in the United States, and the US Congress declared war on Spain ten weeks later on April 25, 1898.

U.S. Navy diving crew with wreckage of USS Maine in 1898, from aft looking forward. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photograph. Catalog#: NH 46774.

Fast forward to 1976

In 1976, U.S. Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover investigated the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine and concluded that the ship sank due to a probable coal bunker fire. That deflates the rallying cry, “Remember the Maine!” in a heartbeat.

Some historians have disputed Adm. Rickover’s conclusions, so we maybe haven’t heard the end of this story.

One has to wonder how differently the course of Cuban and American history would have gone if everyone had known at the time that the sinking of the U.S.S, Maine was a self-inflicted accident and not an act of war. The next time you read or hear, “Remember the Maine!” remember what can happen when a nation’s government jumps to the wrong conclusion.

How the US got Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines

The first battle of the Spanish-American War took place on May 1, 1898. The war lasted only several months, ending on August 12, 1898. Through the peace treaty, which was worked out in Paris the following December, Spain gave Cuba its independence and gave Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. Let that sink in for a minute. What a turn of events!

When I was in school, we never studied the details of the Spanish-American War. Every year we studied U.S. history from colonial times through the Civil War. It was just through living, watching TV, and having an early interest in history that I absorbed through osmosis the stories of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Teddy Roosevelt and “The Rough Riders.”

In other words, I couldn’t give you a definitive summary of the Spanish-American War. I couldn’t have told you that Puerto Rico, Guam, or the Philippines had anything to do with that war. If I ever knew they did, those facts were lost to me over time. It was only in researching “Remember the Maine!” for today’s blog post that I learned of those connections.

Through my interest in genealogy, I’ve just in recent years learned that one of my great-uncles fought in the Spanish-American War. This made me realize that it’s not ancient history. It makes me realize today that I should have known more about it. I’m not as far-removed from it as I thought.

In the big scheme of things, United States history covers but a tiny fraction of world history. So how is it that we do such a poor job of teaching our citizens U.S. history?

Since my last blog post

I was able to get my first Covid-19 vaccine shot on Saturday. I thought I’d have to wait until March, but some more appointments opened up in my county. It is encouraging to get that first shot. I got the Moderna shot. My arm is sore, but that’s the only side effect I’ve had.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson. Having it on CD from the public library was a blessing the 48 hours I had a sick headache last week and couldn’t stand any light. I highly recommend this nonfiction book. Mr. Larson has a talent for bringing history alive in his writing.

I hope you have time to enjoy a hobby or favorite pastime this week.

Note: Next Sunday, February 20, is World Storytelling Day. Are you a good storyteller?

Janet

Can a person work tirelessly?

We hear the word tirelessly a lot, especially during and after a natural disaster. It is often said of rescue workers, “They worked tirelessly.” We’ve heard it used in recent days about the people giving aid to the victims of Hurricane Florence.

Tirelessly is an interesting word. If broken down and taken literally, it seems to indicate an inability to get tired. That doesn’t seem humanly possible to me, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition and the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tireless) gave the most satisfying definition of all the sources I checked. Merriam-Webster defines tireless as follows:

Definition of tireless: seemingly incapable of tiring. Synonym:  indefatigable. Example: a tireless worker

The word “seemingly” makes all the difference. Take out “seemingly” and we have a completely different meaning.

Most of my blog readers probably rolled their eyes and stopped reading after the first paragraph. I can’t blame them. Life is hard. Life is busy. There are more important things than nitpicking the definition of words. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what “tirelessly” means; however, writers must think of such things and try to use the most accurate words in their writing.

Since my last blog post

I continued to follow the news about the flooding left in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Since heavy rain reached more than 400 miles inland to the mountains of North Carolina, most of it fell east of the Eastern Continental Divide and, therefore, is draining into the rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

reza-shayestehpour-14238-unsplash
Photo by reza shayestehpour on unsplash.com.

Ten days after the hurricane made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, rivers are still rising. Some are predicted to crest tomorrow. Some cities, such as Lumberton, North Carolina (where I lived for five years as a young adult) are expected to be flooded until October 5.

Think about that. Think about a flood that makes your home inaccessible for three weeks. Imagine what these people will have to go home to.

Think about the farmers who are unable to harvest this year’s cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, or peanuts this year. They depended on the money from those crops to make payments on the expensive equipment those crops require. Did you know that half the sweet potatoes grown in the United States are grown in North Carolina?

The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence has been in the forefront of my mind for more than a week, and the people affected by it will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Recovery won’t be measured in weeks or months. It will be measured in years – long after the storm is no longer making the news headlines.

The levee in Lumberton was constructed years before my arrival there. I never gave the possibility of flooding a thought while I lived there, but now – in the space of just two years – although the levee held, two hurricanes have dumped feet of rain on this flat area on I-95 halfway between Miami and New York. That’s two “500-year floods” in two years.

I’ve taken time to look through some of the photo albums I wrote about in last week’s blog post about Hurricane Florence:  My Heart is in Eastern North Carolina. We had no water damage at our house, and for that we are extremely fortunate. It is good to look at old pictures and remember special trips and memories. I’ll try not to wait until a natural disaster to revisit those photo albums.

Until my next blog post

Remember the people of eastern and central North Carolina and South Carolina who are still dealing with flood waters or the aftermath of flooding due to Hurricane Florence. Likewise, remember the people of Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria which struck a year ago.

Think about the thousands of people who continue to work tirelessly to help the people affected by Hurricane Florence put the pieces of their lives back together. People have come from as at least as far away as California to make swift water rescues.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve been reading parts of several books but can’t quite settle in on any of them. Three that I’m reading are A Double Life, by Flynn Berry; Women, Food, and God:  An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth; and The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Janet