“My Sweetheart Went Down with the Maine”


"Once I had a sweetheart, noble, brave, and true... Out on the high seas he sailed... Anchored at Havana... Down went the Maine.... Rouse ye, my countrymen, rouse... Strike down the cowardly fiends Who slaughtered the crew of the Maine."


When the Cubans rose in revolt against inept Spanish rule, the U.S. government -- spurred on by William Randolph Hearst's newspapers -- decided it should be involved. The U.S.S. _Maine_ was dispatched to pressure to the Spanish. (The _Maine_, it should be noted, was not a battleship; originally designed as an armored cruiser, it lacked the coal capacity for that role and wound up as an unsatisfactory battleship/cruiser hybrid.)

When the _Maine_ blew up with a large loss of life, Hearst and his minions pounced quickly. Never mind that the Spanish had nothing to gain from destroying the ship. Never mind that the most likely cause of the disaster was an internal explosion. Spain had to be punished!

The Spanish did all they could to avoid war; after brief delays to save face, they gave in to every American demand. The Americans would have none of it. On April 11, President McKinley asked for a declaration of war; on April 25, he received it. Americans set out to "free" Cuba and the Philippines. (The Philippines, in particular, were so thoroughly "freed" that they soon rose in revolt and did not achieve independence until 1947.) "Remember the Maine," went the battle cry.

The U.S. army was pitifully bad; the vast majority of its losses in the war were caused by disease and supply problems -- but so dreadful were the Spanish forces that by the end of the summer both the Philippines and Cuba were under U.S. control. In December the Spanish were forced to accept the humiliating Treaty of Paris, and the war ended. The U.S. was now an imperialist power -- and all because of songs like this one and Hearst's headlines. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1895 - Cubans rebel against Spain
  • Feb 15, 1898 - Explosion of the battleship "Maine" in Havana harbor
  • April 25, 1898 - Congress declares war on Spain

Cross references


  1. Randolph 689, "My Sweetheart Went Down with the Maine" (1 text)
  2. BrownII 236, "The Battleship Maine" (2 texts)
  4. Roud #6621
  5. BI, R689


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924 (Randolph)
Found in: US(SE,So)