"Remember the Maine! (and everyone else)" Top 5 Page for this destination Key West Travelogue by 850prc

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The Spanish-American War flashpoint

As I punned earlier on my Key West page, there's nothing like a cemetary to literally make history come alive. When we visited the Key West town cemetary, we found a special collection of gravesites for victims of the U.S.S. Maine disaster of February 1, 1898 in Havana harbor. Much in the same fashion as the August 1914 assasination of Archduke Ferndinand in Sarajevo ignited the first world war, the explosion of the Maine ignited hostilities between the United States and Spain on a global basis. By the time the war ended some two years later, the courses of history and the face of the map had changed, with Cuba gaining independence while Puerto Rico and the Phillippines became US possessions. The Phillippines later became independent after World War II, and Puerto Rico is today a "commonwealth territory of the USA".

As for the explosion and destruction of the Maine, it's never been fully established what ACTUALLY happened. War hawks in America immediately blamed Spanish forces for the "unprovoked" attack, thereby paving the way for a Congressional declaration of war. It may have well been that the ship simply had a catastrophic boiler failure coupled with its ammunition magazine. Or on a more sinister note, it could have been destroyed by American agents bent on initiating war with Spain, with the express goal of gaining Caribbean and Pacific territories. As it's been well over 100 years since the tragic event, I suppose we'll never really know for sure.

But as for the living history lesson, the men lying in this patch of the Key West town cemetary were the first casualties in one of the last 19th century wars.

Both immediate victims and comrades

The cemetary plot is not wholly comprised of men who died in Havana harbor on Feb 1, 1898. There are also veterans who served with them on board the Maine, but survived the "Remember the Maine" explosion. As they later perished, some had wished to be interred with their comrades in Key West.

Remembered, but not known

As the saying goes, "known only to God". This is the final resting place of a sailor killed in the Maine Explosion in Havana Harbor. His identity is unknown.

Veterans of another war are resting here as well

There are other historical graves in the Key West cemetary. By this man's tombstone, I see that he was a member of the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, serving as a surgeon. He apparently survived the war and was laid to rest in a CSA memorial area after his death years after the war's end.

Another "known only to God" grave

This simple marker denotes the final resting place of an "unknown CSA soldier". (CSA denotes the Confederate States of America, ie the states in rebellion during the American Civil War)

It's really a shame that God has to keep up with so many unknown victims throughout history, isn't it?

  • Page Updated Aug 8, 2006
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850prc

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