5 Minor Screw-Ups That Created The Modern World

#2. John Paul Jones' Invasion of England is Stalled by Sweet, Sweet Booze

John Paul Jones' raid of Whitehaven on April 23, 1778, was a feat just as crazy as it was crazy-awesome. To begin with, this was what John Paul Jones looked like.

The father of the U.S. Navy.

Just to set the record straight, John Paul Jones was not a pirate. He simply came off as one because, you know, he tended to ride in captured vessels, sail with rugged crews and fly colors that no country on the planet could claim were theirs.

John Paul Jones' skull and crossbones.

During the American Revolution, this pissed-off Scotsman put his lifelong hatred for King and Country to the single best use on the planet by joining the U.S. Navy long before it was popular. He was given a sweet new ship, the USS Ranger and a boatload of U.S. Marines which he used to successfully invade England in one of the most daring acts in U.S. history.

This man's balls had balls.

What ruined it: A pub.

Despite boasting the single largest pair of cannonballs on either side of the Atlantic, Jones' midnight raid of Whitehaven nearly turned into a disaster for two reasons. The first was a traitor named David Freeman, who started the raid by going all Paul Revere through the city, warning everybody that "pirates" were there to burn it down. This half-truth can be forgiven, if only because Jones was not there to burn Whitehaven -- just the 200-plus ships in its port.

He sure wasn't there for the bangers and mash.

The second screwup, however, involved a subordinate named Lt. Wallingford of the U.S. Marine Corps, whom Jones had tasked with burning the ships. The man had instead used his Marines to invade "the nearest pub," where they dutifully "made very free with the liquor, etc." In short, they invaded England just to get drunk.

"Come on, you apes -- do you want to be sober forever?"

Out of the hundreds of boats Jones had hoped to sink that evening, his pirate/Marine raiding party managed to sink only one. Nevertheless, Jones later remarked, "what was done ... is sufficient to show that not all their boasted navy can protect their own coasts," we imagine while putting out a cigar on a stolen portrait of King George III.

The raid successfully scared the fuck out of the entire British Empire, and Jones got to join the ranks of William the Conqueror and Julius Caesar as one of the few leaders in human history to successfully invade the British Isles.

Thus securing America's supply of Damp for decades to come.

Had things been different:

Had Jones' U.S. Marines done their job instead of getting drunk with your great grandmother, it would have been an absolute nightmare for the British. Every single ship in Whitehaven may have been torched. The fire would have been seen from a horizon away, and it would have been impossible for the British to cover up the damage.

The British were already worked into a frenzy over Jones. Multiply that by 200, and you might have an idea how the Royal Navy would have been forced to respond.

This is JPJ's coffin. We don't have the faintest fucking clue what's going on there, either.

It is worth noting that this was just a dress rehearsal for Jones' bigger baby: the Armada of 1779. If Jones had had his way, a U.S./Spanish/French coalition would have ended the Revolution in 1779 by doing to the British Isles what he did to Whitehaven. He flat-out wanted to conquer England.

Which we are pretty sure is every single Scotsman's dream.

#1. The French are Thwarted by a Tomahawk

The Seven Years' War, which started in 1756 and lasted for the next -- hold on, we need to look this up here -- seven years, is probably the most important war in history that most people don't know or care about. Winston Churchill described it as "the first world war" in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, and for good reason. Just take a look at its participants ...

World War 0

The war kicked France off of America, catapulted England into superpower status and cost so much money that the Brits decided to pay for it by taxing the barley out of their underrepresented American colonies. In short, the war was the American Revolution's equivalent to the Star Wars prequels, and it all started in the Ohio Valley in two little-known battles that involved an even less-known 22-year-old militiaman named George Washington.

Who hadn't yet mastered the subtle art of not cutting his face while shaving.

What ruined it: A random nutcase with a tomahawk, and the fact that Washington didn't know French.

At the Battle of Jumonville Glen on May 28, 1754, the fate of the entire Western world resided within the brain of a Frenchman named Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. He was captured by the young Washington (who was fighting on behalf of the British at the time, this being well before the Revolution). The Frenchman told Washington that he was in fact there on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with him.

Thankfully, this was before the Willis style of combat negotiation.

But before Washington could respond or make a deal, an Iroquoian chief named Tanaghrisson decided to send a loud and clear message to tomorrow's textbooks that history is not boring. He split de Jumonville's head open with a tomahawk, "took out his Brains and washed his Hands with them and then scalped him."

Naturally, the French were pretty pissed over de Jumonville getting brained, and in response they eventually captured the young Washington at the Battle of Fort Necessity. It wasn't that big a deal until Washington formalized his surrender, at which point the French tricked him into signing a document declaring that he, George Washington, had "assassinated" de Jumonville -- we're guessing by tomahawk -- while under his care as a P.O.W.

Washington's signature immediately turned into a diplomatic nightmare for the British Empire that exploded into the first world war faster than Michael Bay could film it. It was the largest and most expansive conflict the world had yet seen, and it was all made possible thanks to young Washington signing a document he couldn't read, because he flunked French in middle school.

Once more, an inspiration for children everywhere.

Had things been different:

Had Tanaghrisson not gone all Patrick Bateman or had Washington not slept his way through French class, the Fates would have rewritten history so radically that we'd somehow have the dinosaurs back.

Would the British have passed the Stamp Act of 1765 without the Seven Years' War killing their credit? Would the American Revolution had been avoided, or even flat-out made unnecessary? Would there have even been a United States, a French Revolution, a Napoleon, or ... hell, a Hitler? Your guess is as good as ours. All we at Cracked know is that when de Jumonville's brains were still intact, the French-speaking world looked like this (the blue part):


Yeah, it's a little different today. That's why you don't try to pull the wool over George Washington's eyes, kids.

For more incredible war stories, check out The 5 Most Badass Prison Escapes in the History of War. Or learn how else the modern world was shaped, check out 6 Random Coincidences That Created The Modern World.

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