Letters Concerning Spanish Spies in Florida During the Spanish-American War, 1898

From: Governor Bloxham, Correspondence, 1897-1901, Series 578; and Governor, Territorial and State Governors' Letterbooks, 1836-1909, Series 32

Letters Concerning Spanish Spies in Florida During the Spanish-American War, 1898

About This Document

In the 1890s, United States support for Cuban revolutionaries fighting for independence from Spain led to a deteriorating relationship between the two powers. Cuban revolutionaries such as Jose Marti frequently visited Florida in search of economic and political support, and so-called Yellow Journalism fanned the flames of anti-Spanish feeling in the U.S. Early in 1898, President William McKinley sent the battleship Maine to Havana to protect American interests. On February 15 the ship exploded. Though it is now believed that the deadly blast that sank the ship was accidental, at the time most Americans blamed the Spanish. "Remember the Maine! To Hell With Spain!" was the cry of many, as war fever spread. In April, after some hesitancy, McKinley asked congress for a declaration of war.

Upon the outbreak of the war, Florida became the scene of intense military activity. Training camps were established in various locations, and Tampa was selected as the main port of embarkation for an American expeditionary force headed for Cuba. Despite mass confusion, U.S. forces would successfully land in Cuba and force the surrender of the Spanish garrison after a brief campaign. The war lasted only until August, when the two belligerents signed an armistice. A final treaty was signed in December 1898.

William D. Bloxham was Florida governor during the war. He dealt with issues such as the organization of a Florida regiment to serve in Federal service, the logistical nightmare of supplying so many troops in what was still essentially a frontier state, and the resulting social problems caused by such a large influx of military personnel. The close proximity of Florida to Cuba led some individuals to be concerned about possible attacks, or acts of sabotage or espionage. The following letter, in which a detective asked for a job hunting Spanish spies in Florida, along with Bloxham's brief, yet polite reply, is an example of the many issues with which the governor had to contend.

Transcript

Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 29th 1898

To His Excellency the Governor of Florida

Dr Sir

I beg to ask your excellency for position to
look up Spanish Spies in Florida. There are no
doubt many in this Country this is Spains means
of warfare barbarism destruction of life and
property - Enclosed please find my history
and references. I have filed a bond of $5000
here to act as a State Detective but there is
nothing much to do in this State I have been
Employed in the English Detective Service and