splendid litttle war

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Frank Freidel, a noted biographer of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Charles Warren Professor of American History from 1972 to 1981 at Harvard University, and, at various times, the president of the Organization of American Historians set out to tell the unwritten story hidden in the Spanish-American War. In The Splendid Little War, his principal research interests on nineteenth and twentieth-century American political history, notably centered on President Franklin D. Roosevelt, had not led him to explore the sources of American imperialism emerging in the 1890s, but the hardships endured by military personnel in times of war. Along with years of rigorous study, Freidel had emerged as an authority on the transition of the United States military from amateurism to professionalism from 1898 to 1945, and the bloody wars it took to create this change in addition to the F.D.R. administration.
In early June of 1898, General William R. Shafter labored frantically at Tampa, Florida to get his anticipated expedition of twenty-five thousand men on board ships designed to hold only eighteen to twenty thousand. The logistics found in Florida were in shambles; Colonel Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Worst Confusion yet. R.R. system is utterly mismanaged. No military at head. Not allotment of transports. No plans (p.64).” After grueling hours of boredom and confusion, most of the expeditionary forces found themselves afloat by within a few days. Just as they had been trapped on land, the officers and soldiers, now aboard cramped boats, found themselves contained for several days with no escape in sight. Roosevelt furiously wrote, “…jammed together under the tropical sun of these crowded troop ships. We are in a sewer; a canal which is festerin...

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...ved in the war, in addition to scholars from those regions. These sources would have given this manuscript greater credibility in relation to the accuracy of his information. While his sources are varied in terms of the fields they come from, without additional foreign sources his book lacks a complete depiction of the soldiers’ struggles in the Spanish-American War.
Freidel never wavers from the goal of his publication. He consistently uses his materials in intelligent ways that lead to a culmination of a narrative that is both interesting and highly informative. While he gives very brief information as to the causes of the war, Freidel makes no attempt to search out the motives for the war nor to assess its results. Rather he dedicates the book to those Americans who carried with them the innocence of war, finding their popular crusade to be anything but splendid.

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