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|This article covers a war or battle
The Cuban Revolutionary War (La Guerra de Cuba in Spanish) was a conflict that spanned five years and affected the island of Cuba. The war started because of the Cubans' mistreatment by the Spanish administration during the times of Isabel II and the first months of the Provisional Government. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes declared Cuba's independence from Spain on October 1869 and drew the island into a war that lasted for five years, and ended with the Spanish government's victory, although in the end many of the Cuban rebels' aims were met.
For most of the nineteenth century, after the loss of most of the Spanish Empire due to the wars of independence launched by all Hispano-American nations in the continent (from Mexico in the north to Argentina and Chile in the south), Spain had been concentrated on gaining as much profit as possible from their remaining colonies in the Americas, Cuba and Puerto Rico. This did not sit well with the people there, who, rather much like their northern neighbours (the United States), were angry at the fact that their government did not allow them to have a say in how things should be run in the place they lived in, while the money they were taxed was not spent in improving Cuba, but rather for military expenditures, the colonial government's expenses or being sent to Spain and the expanding colony of Fernando Poo.
The lack of political rights meant that many underground groups appeared, and they would eventually coalesce in the Revolutionary Committee of Bayamo, within which Carlos Manuel de Céspedes soon appeared as a leader.
The Spaniards discovered the plans for the uprising, so the rebels were forced to move up the start of it. On October 10th, Céspedes issued his independence cry, declaring Cuba's independence from Spain, and freed his slaves, asking them to join. The rebels' first move, an attempt to take the town of Yara (an event named the Grito de Yara) was a failure, but within a month several towns had joined the rebellion or had been taken, and the rebel army soon had around 12,000 volunteers. Céspedes would become the first President of Revolutionary Cuba. Máximo Gómez, who had been an officer for the Spanish Army during the short lived annexation of the Dominican Republic, would teach the Cuban forces their most lethal tactic: the machete charges.
During the first weeks, the rebels met with several victories and some defeats at the hands of the Spanish Army, which had had to use the draft to increase its presence in the island. Part of the eastern half of the island was soon in the hands of the rebels, who established their first capital in the city of Bayamo. The Spanish government, unable to reach an agreement with the rebels, started to make war against them.
Things changed with the start of the Hohenzollerns' War. Reinforcements stopped arriving to Cuba, and the troops there soon found themselves having to defend themselves from more and more rebel attacks, as the latter were convinced that the war might provide enough distraction for them to gain the upper hand and their independence.
However, it was not to be: Spanish-German victory allowed to establish a stabilizing presence in Spain, and now a great part of the army that had fought against the French was sent to Cuba. The addition to this of new, German-based weaponry like the RESA 1871 for the soldiers' use pushed back the Cuban advance, and many in Madrid hoped that this would eventually push the rebels to accept their defeat.
During 1873, however, with Máximo Gómez in charge, the tide changed once more and the rebels managed to gain ground again, especially thanks to the machete charges and the rebels' knowledge of the Cuban jungles. The Virginius affair made the Cubans think that the United States might join the war in their favour, especially after several citizens of the United States were executed, but Spanish diplomacy soon quashed that hope. In May 11th, aristocrat Ignacio Agramonte was killed in an assault against the city of Las Villas, and in October 28th, Céspedes was deposed.
The worst for the rebels was yet to come: on March 1874, fresh from their destruction of the Carlist rebels in northern Spain, the Tercios Especiales arrived to Cuba. Very soon, they got their first victory when they arrested former president Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who got only a light sentence due to his ill health. Máximo Gómez would also fall soon after, victim of a Tercio sharpshooter. Other actions taken by the Tercios, supporting the main army, mined the rebels' confidence, provoking several desertions and further losses to the Spanish army. In the end, the rebels asked for an armistice, realising they had lost.
On July 7th, after some negotiations, the Cuban rebels and the Spanish government (the latter represented by General Arsenio Martínez-Campos) signed the Compromise of Baraguá, putting an end to the Cuban rebellion. Although the Compromise did not give Cuba the independence desired by the rebels, it did concede many of the terms the Cubans wished:
- The Spanish Government concedes the amnesty to the rebels, frees those rebels who are imprisoned and lifts the exile sentence to those it was applied to.
- The rebels lay down their weapons, renounce to armed fight and accept the Spanish Government as Cuba's legitimate government.
- Anybody born in Cuba or who has Cuban parents is a legitimate citizen of the Kingdom of Spain and has the same rights as all other Spaniards.
- Slavery is abolished: those slaves who worked in the rebel armies will be declared free men, and all other slaves will be freed before two years have passed.
- Cubans may join the Spanish Army and be promoted like their Spanish counterparts, independently of their race.
- Cubans may meet freely, vote in the local and national elections and form their own political parties (as long as they do not call for war against the legitimate government
- Cuba will become a Foral Region.
The Compromise gave Cuba autonomy to deal with several important, local problems, helping finally with the economic problems that threatened to destroy Cuban society, as well as finally eliminating many of the social problems that had afflicted Cuba for so much time. It did, however, reinforce Cuba's allegiance to Spain.
Although it would take some time for all wounds to heal, by the year 1877, when the Cubans were able to finally vote in their first Deputies to the Spanish Congress, as well as their first Foral Government and Governor, those wounds were near to disappear, especially as the Spanish government helped reconstruct the island from the five years of war.
Another consequence was the reformation of the rest of the Kingdom of Spain: the Foral Region idea was expanded to most of the rest of Spain. The Philippines would also soon be benefitted from this, as reforms were soon made to ensure that the archipelago never had to go through what Cuba had.
This would, ironically, and unlike what several reactionary sectors expected, help to pull the Kingdom of Spain far more together than it had been before.