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I860—c. 1930 35 its military strategy on the concept that the country was 'a continental island', geographically shielded from any foreign attack. Accordingly, the navy, 'the aggressive arm of the nation', had received full attention, while the army barely subsisted. As late as 1897, General Schoefield asserted that the army should limit itself 'to act in support of naval operations'. American initial strategy was therefore based on the navy. By defeating the Spanish navy, blockading the island, and supplying the rebels, the USA would force the Spanish army in Cuba to surrender.

Commanded once more by General Martinez Campos, who had defeated the Cubans in the last conflict, Spanish troops built a series of fortified lines (trocbas) to protect each province and impede rebel movements. This tactic enabled the Cubans to take the offensive. On 22 October 1895, symbolically in Baragua, Maceo began his march to the west. Gomez awaited him with a small force in Las Villas. A general order had been given to the troops 'to burn and destroy everything that could provide income to the enemy'.

Two issues jeopardized the peace and sovereignty of the Republic in this period. One, the so-called 'Veterans question', was prompted by the permanence of Spanish or pro-Spanish elements in public positions which the veterans of the war for independence considered rightfully belonged to them. The agitation to expel these 'enemies' of Cuba became so threatening that American Secretary of State Philander Knox warned Gomez of the 'grave concern' of the United States. Opposition from many Cuban groups, fear of another American intervention, and some government concessions contributed to calm the veterans.

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