In 1898 national attention focused on Florida as the Spanish-American War began. The port city of Tampa served as the primary staging area for U.S. troops bound for the war in Cuba. The arrival of over 30,000 troops, including Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders cavalry unit, changed Tampa from a small town into a city.

Florida, the closest state to the Caribbean and home to a large Cuban immigrant population, became the setting for much of the action in Cuba's fight for independence from Spain.

Army signal corps soldiers during the Spanish-American war (1898)

Army signal corps soldiers during the Spanish-American war (1898)

Image Number: RC02351

Signal Corps telegraph and telephone office: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

Signal Corps telegraph and telephone office: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

Image Number: RC06498

Cooking for the 9th U.S. Cavalry (1898)

Cooking for the 9th U.S. Cavalry (1898)

Image Number: N041307

Camp barber at work during the Spanish-American war (1898)

Camp barber at work during the Spanish-American war (1898)

Image Number: RC13589

Trooper at work cutting hair between drill calls: Tampa, Florida (1898)

Trooper at work cutting hair between drill calls: Tampa, Florida (1898)

Image Number: N041308

Alligator shot by the captain of 4th Illinois Volunteers: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

Alligator shot by the captain of 4th Illinois Volunteers: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

Image Number: N041288

2nd Virginia Volunteers playing with a rattlesnake: Pablo Beach, Florida (1898)

2nd Virginia Volunteers playing with a rattlesnake: Pablo Beach, Florida (1898)

Image Number: N041287

The rattlesnake appears to be a large diamondback, with 11 buttons on its tail.

Street of Company E at the Rough Riders' camp: Tampa, Florida (1898)

Street of Company E at the Rough Riders' camp: Tampa, Florida (1898)

Image Number: N041291

Chaplain of the New Jersey Volunteers handing a testament to an applicant (1898)

Chaplain of the New Jersey Volunteers handing a testament to an applicant (1898)

Image Number: N041309

Troops en route to Cuba (1898)

Image Number: N041302

Roosevelt's Rough Riders leaving Tampa aboard the transport "Concho" headed for Santiago de Cuba (1898)

Roosevelt's Rough Riders leaving Tampa aboard the transport "Concho" headed for Santiago de Cuba (1898)

Image Number: RC01965

Cuban volunteers in the barracks (1898)

Cuban volunteers in the barracks (1898)

Image Number: N041306

Note from caption: "Cuban volunteers in their barracks. Many of these were cigar makers at Tampa."

The "Army of the Cuban Republic" was made up from 40 Cubans from Jacksonville, 200 from New York, and 150 from Key West. They set sail on the Florida to join the rebels on May 21st.