Yet no Cleveland military units saw action in the four-month Spanish-American War, which had ended with a swift American victory. The Ohio National Guard's 5th Regiment had left Cleveland expecting to fight, but its transport ship sank in Tampa Bay, and the invasion force sailed for Santiago de Cuba without them. The 5th returned to Cleveland on Sept. 12, a month after the war's end, telling tales of malaria and typhoid creeping through their mosquito-infested Florida camp.
Clevelanders had cheered the military effort, led by President William McKinley of Canton. So they threw three parades in a week, greeting each returning unit like battle-tested heroes. Across the ocean, former Clevelander John Hay, ambassador to
Britain, captured the celebratory mood in his letter to Theodore Roosevelt, calling the conflict a "splendid little war."