When the US Went to War With Guam — and No One Told Them

It was maybe the politest “battle” in human historical past. 

Upon getting into Guam’s harbor on June 20, 1898, as an alternative of experiencing the anticipated whizz of bullets and the booms of a cannonade, U.S. Navy Capt. Henry Glass and his crew aboard the re-commissioned cruiser  USS Charleston have been greeted on the seashores by curious residents who mistook Charleston’s warning shoots as a salute.  

Nobody had bothered to inform the residents on the island that they have been at warfare.  

The small, uncared for island underneath Spanish rule hadn’t obtained a message from Spain since April 14, 1898 — a full month earlier than hostilities broke out between their protectorate and the USA.  

That didn’t cease the Individuals from trying to grab the far-flung Spanish holding. 


Earlier that month, upon receiving orders from Secretary of the Navy John D. Lengthy “to cease on the Spanish Island of Guam … [and] use such pressure as could also be essential to seize the port,” the Charleston, with Glass on the helm, steamed towards the Spanish-held island. 

One sailor recalled, “When the information of our vacation spot and object was discovered aboard the Australia there was appreciable pleasure, after all, and the reason for many pow-wows as ‘What about Guam and the place is it anyway, and what do we would like of it?’” 


As soon as they arrived in Guam, the Individuals have been hankering for a struggle and had Manifest Future on their minds. So the Individuals started bombarding the fort at  Santa Cruz.  

Satirically, nonetheless, their act of violence was mistaken for a salute of respect, and the Spanish authorities on the island raced to acquire artillery to return the perceived salutations. As Guamanian officers approached the Charleston by the use of rowboat, they have been shocked to study {that a} state of warfare existed between the USA and Spain and that they have been now technically prisoners of warfare. 

Captain Henry Glass (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

Glass then dispatched Lt. William Braunersreuther to fulfill with governor, Juan Marina Vega, and accumulate the give up of the small Spanish garrison. In line with Naval Historical past and Heritage Command, Marina Vega was bowled over that he needed to go on board the American vessel, as such an motion was forbidden by Spanish legislation.  

“I remorse to have to say no this honor and to ask that you’ll kindly come on shore, the place I await you to accede to your needs so far as attainable, and to comply with our mutual conditions,” Gov. Vega responded. 

Vega, nonetheless, finally acquiesced, together with surrendering his small Spanish garrison to the Individuals. 


Glass, wanting to sail on to Manila posthaste to hitch Commodore George Dewey’s fleet positioned the island within the palms of Francisco Portusach, a 30-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen.  

The previous janitor was in the best place on the proper time. Portusach’s solely qualifying attribute was that he was an American, however that was sufficient for Glass, and he positioned the island — and U.S. pursuits — in Portusach’s lower than succesful palms.  

Unsurprisingly, after Glass’ departure, Portusach was unable to solidify his place as governor and was overthrown by Spaniard Jose Sisto, a former public administrator. Sisto, too, had a brief reign and was shortly overthrown by the native Chamorro inhabitants. 

The 1898 Treaty of Paris formalized the handover of Guam as a U.S. territory, which it stays right this moment.