Quick, what do you think is the dumbest reason anyone has gone to war? If you immediately talk about Iraq or Vietnam, well, history has a whole bunch of retarded examples for you.
As these examples prove, all of the reasons are really secondary. We just really like war.
#5. 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.
It's all here in this diagram.
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.
#4. 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?
Meet Hone Heke, a chief of some of the natives. He rode into town and chopped down the flagpole, apparently figuring they wouldn't actually be ruled by the British as long as the flag wasn't there. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
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.
And while the British remained in control of the territory, they didn't dare try to erect another flagpole in that spot.
#3. The Battle of Karansebes (1788)
Hey, what if a bunch of soldiers got really drunk, right in the middle of the war? And started shooting at each other, just for fun?
Let's just say things get out of hand really fast.
How Did It Start?
So, in 1788, Austria was at war with Turkey. The Austrian army was marching down to clash with an advancing Turkish army in what is now Romania. Shenanigans ensued.
What happened was the Austrians set up camp for the night, and some scouts on horseback went out to check the immediate countryside for any armed Turks. They came across a band of gypsies with a shitload of schnapps for sale, which they eagerly bought and began drinking with a gusto rarely seen outside of a frat party.
Now imagine they're shitfaced.
A load of Austrian infantry were also out and about, and came across the group of scouts. They wanted to join the drinking. The boozy scouts refused and set up makeshift fortification in what probably seemed a really funny idea at the time. Things got heated, an argument broke out and someone got too excited and fired a shot.
What Happened Next?
All Hell broke loose, infantry and scouts firing wildly at each other. The infantry, in a state of confusion, began shouting that the Turks were attacking them. The scouts, even though it was they who were attacking their infantry, suddenly believed that there actually was a huge, swarthy, mustachioed Turkish army just behind them.
Filling their snazzy cavalry pants with rapidly escaping dinners, the scouts broke ranks and piled through the ranks of infantry. The infantry took this as a sign that the Turks were definitely there. They began a panicky withdrawal, all animosity forgotten in the face of the imaginary Turkish army.
Just when the whole affair couldn't get any stupider, it did. The Austrian army was made up of soldiers from several countries and they spoke different languages. So when the German-speaking officers started shouting "Halt! Halt!" in their own language, the non-German-speakers mistook it for cries of, "Allah! Allah!"
The whole frantic group of soldiers finally arrived back at the main camp. An officer there, in a moment of slapstick brilliance, reasoned that the charging, shouting men must be a Turkish attack, and ordered an artillery strike.
The entire camp then awoke to the sound of an enormous battle and they all did what every disciplined soldier would do at a time like this: ran away in different directions, firing wildly. The situation escalated until the army was called into a general retreat from the imaginary enemy. Finally, not wanting to miss out on the fun, the leader of the whole operation, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, got knocked off his horse and landed in a stream.
The only real winner here was magnificent stupidity. For a more tangible result, we'll say that the points went to the Turks, who arrived at the scene two days later to find almost 10,000 dead and wounded Austrians and, after they had all had a good laugh, promptly captured the town and surrounding countryside.