The War of the Golden Stool (1900
Just a tip: If you show up at somebody's house and they have a piece of golden furniture, don't sit on it unless they ask you to. It's probably important
How Did it Start
So there was this stool. It was an actual golden stool, belonging to the Ashanti Empire (an African state on the Gold Coast, not the estate of the R&B singer). The stool was sacred, believed to house not only the authority of the chief, but also the spirit of the Ashanti nation, as well as the souls of the living, dead and yet to be born
So in 1896, the Ashanti King had been exiled, leaving the Ashanti people without a chief. Fortunately, the British Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Hodgson, was there to help, in the way that the white man is always happy to do
In March 1900, Hodgson entered the Ashanti capital and said that since the Ashanti lands were under the rule of the Queen, they had better fetch him this sacred Golden Stool so he could sit his ass right on it. "And probably fart on it," he might as well have added
The locals sat there in stunned silence at this suggested ass-defiling of their heritage and custom, and when the speech finished, went home and rustled up as many weapons as they could find. Thus began the War of the Golden Stool
What Happened Next
The British sent some men out to look for the stool, and were surprised to find themselves under a vicious attack by a force led by Yaa Asantewaa (the mother of the exiled king)
The British column was nearly annihilated, and the survivors managed to scamper back to Kumasi and barricade themselves in their small fort on March 28th, 1900, spraying petrified fountains of poop with every step. Yaa Asantewaa laid siege to them for the next three and a half months with a force of up to 12,000 men
The British had to bring in several thousand men, under the command of Major James Willcocks, as well as some serious pieces of hardware, to break through the cordon. They finally did on July 14, 1900. The besieged British had been trapped for three months, and had run out of food and ammunition and were in desperate need of fresh underpants
In retaliation to the Ashanti's impertinence, Willcocks spent the remainder of the summer butchering local villages, razing towns and stealing land
Though the Ashanti lost on the battlefield, suffered over 2,000 military casualties (plus many more civilians), were annexed, were brutally repressed and had their heads of state exiled, they still claimed to have won the war
Why? Because through all of it, the British never got to sit on their fucking golden stool.
The Flagstaff War (1845-46
People tend to get worked up about their flags. For instance, try going to a military base with an ax and cut their flagpole down. See what they say
How Did It Start
In 1840, British troops were doing what they usually did, which was hang around a country that was not their own. Specifically New Zealand and, specifically, the town of Kororareka. It was a place of brothels, grog-holes and gambling dens, and was filled with people bereft of scruples and/or one or more limbs who spent their days having comical bar fights
The British went ahead and hoisted the Union Jack over the town, figuring nobody would mind. Who doesn't love the British flag
What Happened Next
What followed was a display of splendid idiocy. The garrison instantly erected a new flagpole, which Heke chopped down just as swiftly, and a third replaced it, only to be felled again. Then a fourth was erected, and was reinforced with iron and had an armed guard, all presumably smirking away. We like to imagine all of this taking place in the course of one lunch hour
Back in England, the House of Commons decided that Heke and his people had no right to chop down flagpoles and live unmolested in their own country, and declared that lessons needed to be taught. Helpful missionaries carried this information to Heke, who was less than impressed
On March 11, 1845, Heke and his tribe descended into the town with unprecedented savagery, butchering townsfolk indiscriminately. British troops tried to dig themselves in around their barracks, but probably ought to have been shooting as they were swiftly overwhelmed. As a final "fuck you," Heke chopped down that damned flagpole again
The war dragged on for 10 bloody months. The British managed to quash Heke's rebellion over time, but the war can only really be called a scoreless draw
The Pig War (1859
The Americans and British had a long, awkward relationship in the century after the American Revolution. In 1859, it almost came to all-out war... over a pig. Not a golden pig, either, a regular one.
Back then, there was a boundary between the American land in present-day Washington state and the British territory to the north. The problem was nobody knew where the boundary was. The San Juan islands sat there and both sides claimed to own them. This went on for years with no problems, until the damned pig came along
At some point, the British-owned Hudson Bay company (formerly a huge trading company throughout North America) set up operations on the islands and turned it into a sheep ranch, for who knows what nefarious purpose
Then, in 1859, around 25 American settlers arrived on what they assumed to be their land, no doubt surprised at there being a fairly large amount of sheep already there, each probably with tiny Union Jacks taped to them
What Happened Next
On June 15, 1859, one of the Americans, Lyman Cutlar, noticed a pig rooting through his garden and shot it. It turned out the pig was owned by Irishman Charles Griffin, a Hudson Bay employee who owned several pigs and was raising them free range-style, by letting them run around other people's yards
Cutlar offered Griffin $10 to replace his hog. Griffin demanded $100. Cutlar defended himself by claiming that the pig shouldn't have been on his land eating his potatoes. Griffin supposedly replied with "it's up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig.
British authorities tried to arrest Cutlar, who called on American military aid. 66 American soldiers were dispatched but the British, fearing they would lose control of the islands, sent along a couple of warships to counter the Americans. By the 10th of August, 461 Americans and 14 cannons were being faced down by five British warships carrying 2,140 men. No one suggested simply letting the British shoot one of the American pigs to even things up
The British were ordered to storm the islands and remove the occupying American forces, which could have triggered an all-out war
But both the British and American commanding officers gave up the orders and gave their respective soldiers strict orders to only fire if fired upon. Sanity had sort of prevailed
No one really, though the pig totally lost. By September, everyone seemed to get bored of the whole and agreed on a joint military occupation of the island. For the next 12 years, token military forces of about 100 men lived in harmony, regularly visiting each other and having some terrific bacon sandwiches.
The War of Jenkins's Ear (1739-42
A huge chunk of the history of the British empire rests on one man, and specifically the fact that this one man suffered a wound that would not let him wear sunglasses properly
How Did It Start
Barring bouts of drunken Austrian stupidity, the War of Jenkins's Ear is yet another strong case for Britain's stranglehold on the business of stupid wars
There was a British navy captain named Robert Jenkins. Jenkins's ship was boarded by nefarious Spaniards in 1731, and they, for reasons best known to them, felt it an appropriate time to slice off the good captain's ear
Relations between Britain and Spain weren't exactly great at the time, though war had thus far been diverted through the actions of Sir Thomas Walpole, the British Prime Minster, who had settled upon a policy of consummate dullness
By 1739, Britain had become bored of sitting around and not shooting the Spanish, so, to provide a reason to go to war, a Parliamentary hearing was called about Jenkins's de-earing eight years earlier, and he got to parade his severed and probably rather shriveled ear around parliament. Everyone there immediately declared this was a huge insult to the nation and war must begin forthwith
Sadly, history is unclear if when he returned home, Jenkins's wife asked how the hearing was, only for Jenkins to reply "Awful! I'VE GOT NO BLOODY EAR.
What Happened Next
The war continued a bit half-heartedly over the next couple of years, with the two nations bitchslapping one another in the Caribbean and on the South American coast. However, because Europe, at this time, was a mesh of alliances and political intrigue, the War of Jenkins's Ear erupted into the War of Austrian Succession, which became one of those all-continent explosions that Europe so loves to do every now and then
An estimated half a million people died in that war. That war then formed a major cause of the Seven Years War, the first truly global conflict in which approximately one and a quarter million people died, and Britain eventually emerged as the dominant world power
The Spanish claim a diplomatic victory for reasons known only to them, but in reality, it was the war equivalent of two elderly women bashing each other with moth-eaten handbags. When the war collapsed into the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War though, we hope that during the decades of death, misery, pounding guns and futile charges, there was an indignant, one-eared captain constantly being told to stop bitching about his ear.