Born in Santo Domingo, Major General Máximo Gómez Baez commanded Spanish reserve troops there when he traveled to Cuba in 1865. At first, he was a supporter of and fighter in the Ten Years' War, Cuba's first struggle for independence, but he soon retired from the fight and returned to his plantations back home. He traveled to the United States and met with José Martí, but the two had different approaches to the problem of Cuban liberation with Gómez favoring the military side.
In 1895, however, Martí asked Gómez to lead the new struggle, beginning in the eastern provinces. His tactics of hit and run and burning plantations used the kind of rapid mobility for which small well-trained guerrilla forces are especially suited. Spanish General Valeriano Weyler responded with the trocha or fortified ditch to stop the lunging forces in their tracks.
Unlike the Ten Years War, the revolution of 1895 installed a civil revolutionary civil authority headed by Salvador Cisneros Betancourt. When he ordered Gómez to replace José Maceo and break away from Antonio Maceo, Gómez refused and was dismissed. He responded by calling on Maceo for aid, a request that resulted in Maceo's death on December 7, 1896.
Gómez fought on despite the considerable obstacles presented by Weyler's 160,000 men, and Prime Minister Cánovas' offer of autonomy won him esteem in the United States. When the U.S., entered the war in 1898, it supplied Gómez' forces, who in turn ordered General Calixto García to work with the U.S. troops to defeat the Spaniards. However, the collaboration never materialized since the Spaniards put up such meager resistance that the new troops could accomplish their mission alone. At war's end, Gómez was 75 years old, having spent more than half of his life dedicated to the liberation of Cuba. He died in Havana in 1905.