A gilded bronze sculpture of Columbia Triumphant sits atop the monument in a seashell chariot, led by three hippocampi (half horse, half seahorse); it is said to be cast from the guns of the ill-fated ship. Sculptures at the base depict allegorical figures of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Courage, Fortitude, War, Justice, and Peace.
Shortly after the USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana Harbor in February 1898, the American public and press began blaming Spain for the attack. This triggered a diplomatic deadlock between the two countries; by April, the United States had declared a war on Spain that would last eight months.
Days after the tragedy, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst started a fund for a memorial to honor the fallen victims. The monument was dedicated in 1913.