The Six Wars Fought for Irrational Reasons


The facts underlying history’s most absurd wars are as described below.

The Pig Wars

The pig war, as the name implies, is a conflict caused by a disagreement over slaughtered swine. It escalated into a full-scale war between the United States and the United Kingdom. The dispute originated in 1859 on San Juan Island, a small piece of territory sandwiched between the United States mainland and Vancouver Island.

At the time, the island was home to both American settlers and Hudson’s Bay Company personnel, and both parties claimed the island’s abundant farmland. On June 15, 1859, after discovering a British-owned black pig rummaging through his potato patch, an American farmer named Lyman Cutlar ignited the first and only shots of the Pig Wars. The resulting squabble over the dead hog heightened tensions between the two groups of settlers, and Cutlar was threatened with arrest.

After the incident was reported to the military, Captain George Pickett—later a Confederate general during the Civil War—was ordered to San Juan with a small contingent of troops. Pickett raised the stakes by declaring the entire island to be US property, prompting the British to dispatch a fleet of heavily armed naval vessels to the coast.

The situation stayed on a knife’s edge for several painful weeks, resulting in an absurd standoff. In October 1859, the two countries reached an agreement authorizing joint military possession of San Juan Island, effectively ending the Pig Wars as a bloodless stalemate—except for one sad hog.

The Nika Riot

Massive mobs stormed the streets of Constantinople in 532 A.D, setting fire to huge portions of the city and nearly toppling Emperor Justinian’s government—all for the sake of chariot racing.

During the sixth century, the races staged at Constantinople’s hippodrome had grown in popularity, and fans had organized themselves into tight factions. The most powerful organizations, known as the Blues and Greens, have become notorious for their cruelty.

Emperor Justinian refused to release two members of the Blues and Greens who had been sentenced to death, sparking a conflict in January 532. The two factions got together and began rioting in a rare display of cooperation. They had torched the city prefect’s headquarters, clashed with imperial troops, and even attempted to proclaim a new emperor in just a few days.

Faced with a full-fledged revolution, Justinian decided to use force to quell the uprising. The emperor launched a deadly assault on the remaining hooligans after bribing them to secure their cooperation. The disturbances were put down before the end of the onslaught, and 30,000 mob members lay dead around the hippodrome’s grounds.

The Wars of the Stray Dog

A dog unwittingly caused an international crisis in one of the strangest conflicts of the twentieth century. The incident marked the end of a long period of enmity between Greece and Bulgaria, which dates back to the Second Balkan War in the 1910s. Tensions reached a breaking point in October 1925, when a Greek soldier was shot while following his escaped dog across the Bulgarian border.

The shooting served as a rallying cry for the Greeks, who invaded Bulgaria shortly after and took control of several villages. When the League of Nations eventually intervened and denounced the attack, they were about to start shelling the city of Petrich. A ceasefire was eventually brokered between the two countries by an international committee, but not before 50 people were killed as a result of the misunderstanding.

The War of Jenkin’s Ear

In 1738, a British mariner named Robert Jenkins presented members of Parliament with a severed, decomposing ear. In an official testimony, he stated that a Spanish coastguard officer had cut off his ear seven years prior as punishment for smuggling. The British declared war on the kingdom of Spain shortly after hearing this rousing testimony. As a result, the bizarre “War of Jenkins’ Ear” began.

Jenkins’ lost ear was only a fortuitous spark in a conflict between the British and the Spanish that had been simmering since the early 1700s. The battle sprang from territorial issues between Spanish Florida and British Georgia, as well as accusations by the Spanish of boarding and harassing English vessels like Jenkins’.

Fighting in Florida and Georgia began in late 1739 and lasted for two years, with neither side emerging victorious. The war eventually amalgamated with the larger War of the Austrian Succession, which lasted until 1748.

The Toledo War

Although Michigan and Ohio are now recognized for their long-running football rivalry, the two states were once on the verge of war over a border issue. The dispute began in 1803 when the newly established state of Ohio acquired a sliver of territory that included the town of Toledo. In the 1830s, Michigan territory opposed Ohio’s claim to the “Toledo strip,” igniting a tense debate that teetered on the brink of violence for several weeks.

Both sides fought for political control of the territory in what became known as the Toledo War, and both raised militias to fight against an invasion by others. President Andrew Jackson ultimately interfered in 1835, desperate for Ohio’s crucial electoral votes, and by 1836, a settlement had been reached.

In exchange for statehood and a piece of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan territory gave up its claim to the Toledo strip. Many people saw the judgment as a grave injustice, while some residents of the contested zone were quick to embrace their newfound Ohio citizenship. “Thank the Lord, I never liked that Michigan weather anyway,” one woman was said to have said when she found out about the decision.

The Pastry War

During a military coup in 1828, enraged mobs demolished huge sections of Mexico City. An expatriate French pastry maker named Remontel, whose little café was plundered by looters was one of the victims of the unrest. Remontel petitioned the French government for compensation when Mexican officials dismissed his accusations. His plea went unnoticed for a decade until it was brought to King Louis-attention.

The monarch was already enraged that Mexico had defaulted on millions of dollars in loans, and now he ordered that they pay the pastry chef 600,000 pesos to compensate him for his losses. When the Mexicans refused to pay such a huge sum, Louis-Philippe did something unexpected: he started a war.

A French navy arrived in Mexico in October 1838 and blockaded the city of Veracruz. When the Mexicans continued to refuse to pay, the ships began pounding the stronghold of San Juan de Ulua. Following that, a few minor engagements occurred, with up to 250 soldiers slain by December.

Santa Anna, the legendary general, even came out of retirement to lead the Mexican army against the French, and he was wounded by grapeshot and lost his leg. When the British government helped mediate a peace settlement in March 1839, the fighting came to an end. The Mexicans were required to pay 600,000 pesos as part of the treaty, which was a substantial sum for a pastry store at the time.






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