In October, 1868, the rebellion was announced in a manifesto first proclaimed at the plantation of Yaro, where the Indian hero, Hatuey, had been executed by the Spanish conquistadores 350 years earlier. This document echoed the grievances of the American colonies voiced in the Declaration of Independence. Thus began the Ten Years War. Manuel de Cespédes, one of the foremost leaders of The Ten Years War, blamed the revolution on Spanish tyranny, excessive taxation and tribute, and denial of political, civil, and religious liberties.
Also, like the American revolution, not all Cubans agreed with the manifesto. Some, like José Antonio Saco, an eminent Cuban writer, argued for better administration, not social liberty. De Cespédes on the other hand, manumitted his slaves and enlisted them as guerrilla warriors. He was joined by a Cuban general, Máximo Gomez, who abhorred class society and the slave system.
Another feature of the Ten Years War that mirrored the American Revolution was the existence of the “Volunteers”, creoles who remained loyal to Spain and Spanish rule on the island. Indeed, just as some of the fiercest fighting occurred between Revolutionaries and Tories in the American Revolution, Cuban Rebels and the Volunteers fought with insane blood lust.
In an interesting parallel between the Ten Years War and Castro's Revolution, fighting centered in the eastern end of the island where the mountainous terrain favored guerrilla operations employed by the rebels. Indeed, the Sierra Maestras Mountains were the home of every Cuban revolution, including Hatuey's fight against the conquistadores. The war was a brutal, vicious affair with rapine and pillage commonly committed on all sides. The insurgents, who had originally promised to respect the lives and property of noncombatants, began burning plantations to ruin the sugar economy of the island and extend the pain of revolution into the royal treasuries in Madrid.
The Ten Years War devolved into a bloody stalemate. Neither side could win and neither side would accept peace on any terms other than their own. The rebels wanted political autonomy before laying down their arms, and the Peninsulares wanted the rebels to lay down their arms in exchange for promises of autonomy. The Volunteers had no position other than to kill rebels.
Watching from the sidelines, President Grant became convinced that only the United States had any chance of ending the Cuban bloodbath.