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Ten Years War

Ten Years War, 1868–78, struggle for Cuban independence from Spain. Discontent was caused in Cuba by excessive taxation, trade restrictions, and virtual exclusion of native Cubans from governmental posts. Disaffection grew until 1868, when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and other patriots raised the standard of revolt. On Apr. 20, 1869, the revolutionary republic of Cuba was established, with Bayamo as provisional capital. The capital was burned later in the year, and the republican government was forced to change its seat frequently. The warfare was purely guerrilla fighting without major battles, but it raged furiously in the eastern provinces. Chief field commanders were Máximo Gómez y Báez, Antonio Maceo, and Calixto García y Iñiguez; late in the war the government was headed by Tomás Estrada Palma. Under orders of the Spanish commandant, Gen. Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau carried out bloody and ruthless reprisals against the patriots. The Cubans retaliated by attacking all upholders of the Spanish cause. U.S. sympathy for the rebels was intensified by the destruction of U.S. property in Cuba, while the activities of American mercenaries and soldiers of fortune aroused the indignation of Spain. In 1873 the Virginius affair brought Spanish-American relations to a crisis. The war dragged on without decisive incident. When internal affairs in Spain settled somewhat, greater attention was given the war in Cuba. General Martínez de Campos managed to conclude the Treaty of Zanjón, which nominally granted reforms and gave the Cubans governmental representation; the promises were not kept, and conditions did not improve. The costly and bitter war was seemingly without result, but actually it foreshadowed the Cuban war of independence that broke out in 1895 and the subsequent Spanish-American War.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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