This book represents the single most useful volume on the subject of the Spanish-American War available today. The author’s intention was to write a complete history covering all major aspects of the conflict. The obligatory chapters on the causes of the war, its diplomacy, and, finally, the treaty bringing it to a close are written well and the material logically presented. What is of particular interest, however, because of its newness, is the treatment of the military aspects of the conflict. Trask carefully analyzed the campaigns and the military preparations and strategies behind them, ultimately suggesting how this war influenced the structure of the American military organization following the war.

The author argues that President William McKinley was reluctant to go to war for fear it would upset his domestic program of economic reform meant to overcome the effects of the depression of 1893. Events, such as the destruction of the Maine, ultimately forced his hand. Trask shows that the president, once at war, sought a quick and inexpensive victory so that the nation could return to the course of economic recovery. He depended on the navy to provide such a victory in the belief that the destruction of Spanish naval forces would bring the Spaniards around to his point of view quickly. The strategy worked, despite problems encountered along the way. Thus, on the one hand, Trask concludes that the president was not strong enough to resist war, but, on the other, had good plans for its execution once it came.

Trask has done a commendable job in analyzing the range of printed sources available both in the Americas and Spain, injecting new documentary evidence drawn from United States files. He has documented his text thoroughly as well. The use of maps and a detailed index help make the story clearer. In general, this book will be a welcome addition to a growing bibliography on late nineteenth-century American diplomatic and military history.