In late 1872, the New York Herald named James J. O’Kelly its special correspondent to Cuba, to cover what would later be known as the Ten Years’ War. O’Kelly was tasked with crossing Spanish lines, locating the insurgent camps, and interviewing the president of the Cuban republic, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. O’Kelly became a political lightning rod when, after fulfilling his mission, he was arrested, court-martialed, and threatened with execution in Spanish Cuba. For the book that followed, The Mambi-Land, or Adventures of a Herald Correspondent in Cuba, O’Kelly assembled edited versions of the eighteen dispatches he sent to the Herald, some written in the remotest imaginable places in the Cuban interior.

The Mambi-Land constitutes the first book-length account of Cuba’s Ten Years’ War for independence from Spain (1868–1878) and provides a window on an understudied moment in U.S.-Cuba relations. More than recovering an important lost work, this critical edition draws attention to Cuba’s crucial place in American national consciousness in the post–Civil War period and represents a timely and significant contribution to our understanding of the complicated history of Cuba-U.S. relations.

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