5 Lesser Known (Completely Ridiculous) American Civil Wars
The world probably thinks there's a lot of infighting in America these days, what with Tea Partiers talking about watering the tree of liberty with blood, and the governor of Texas talking about secession.
But the truth is, we're always fighting. Long before and after the Civil War, American states have been pointing guns at each other and screaming ridiculous threats. Just consider...
The Honey War (Iowa v. Missouri)
It's ludicrous to imagine modern-day Iowa pulling a gun because a neighboring state disagreed about where the border should be. But the 1800s were a different time. For instance, when Missouri decided to resurvey the border with what would soon be Iowa (in a way that would, of course, make Missouri bigger) shit hit the fan.
Missouri sent in a sheriff and tax agents to collect from the settlers in "Iowa," and were met by a pitchfork-wielding mob that chased them back to Missouri. In retaliation, Missouri Governor and professional dumbass Lilburn Boggs, a trigger-happy guy who would later make it legal to kill Mormons, sent the militia to occupy the border. They were met by the, um, eclectic Iowa militia. According to one observer, they were, "...men armed with blunderbusses , flintlocks, and quaint old ancestral swords that had probably adorned the walls for many generations. One private carried a plough coulter over his shoulder by means of a log chain, another had an old-fashioned sausage stuffer for a weapon, while a third shouldered a sheet iron sword about six feet long."
Their sacrifice would inspire this stunning monument.
The Iowans managed to take the Missouri sheriff hostage. Meanwhile, after being beaten by what was the worst-armed cosplay convention ever, the Missouri tax agents figured they'd need to find another way to collect. So, they cut down a bunch of honey bee hives as partial payment to have something to show their bosses.
"I know you were expecting a check, but I figured this would be just as good."
The states appealed to Congress to settle the matter. Congress drew an arbitrary line and told both sides not to cross it, by God, or else Congress would turn the territories around so fast it would make their heads spin.
Don't Make Congress Come Back There!
The Utah War (The United States v. Utah)
In the 1850s, the Mormons had found themselves run out of every other state in the union. They finally decided to head out West and found their own place, hopefully at least semi-free from angry mobs.
That situation worked out well for the federal government; the LDS church at the time was practicing polygamy, which was the gay marriage debate of the mid 19th century. Letting the Mormons move to Utah made it an issue they could avoid dealing with for years down the road. They even appointed Mormon Leader Brigham Young as Governor of Utah Territory.
Who, by the way, could take a hell of a photograph.
But then, President Buchanan took office and became convinced that the Mormons were planning to rebel. First, he decided to appoint a new governor to replace Brigham Young, then sent 2,500 troops to back him up. He didn't bother to inform Governor Young of the change. This would be like having Obama declare that Miley Cyrus was the mandatory new lead singer for Radiohead, and have the rest of the band not figure it out until she took the stage.
Unfortunately Buchanan didn't factor in the Nauvoo Legion, the Mormons' experienced militia who had detailed knowledge of the terrain. The Legion managed to avoid outright battles by engaging in sneak attacks and other guerrilla tactics.
The war with the Mormons ended up requiring one third of the U.S. Army and the high cost and many blunders by Buchanan quickly turned people against him. By the end of the war the Army sustained 38 casualties (along with an unknown number of Mormons). Buchanan was forced to end the war with a blanket pardon on all the Mormons and his party lost the House in the next Congressional elections.
Brigham Young was still replaced as governor, but 150 years later, you can see for yourself that Utah is still very much Mormon country.
Sometime later, their choir won a Grammy.
The Red River Bridge War (Texas v. Oklahoma)
As you've figured out by now, through most of U.S. history a lot of the states kind of hated each other. This sort of thing can come to a head when the two have to cooperate. Like, for example, if they're building a bridge to connect them.
So you have the Red River, which provides a natural border between Texas and Oklahoma. Because the two states could hardly work together long enough to build a bridge, several private companies had made a killing on opening their own toll bridges and charging people to cross.
Toll booth operators have always been dicks.
In the late 1920s, the states figured it was time to enter the modern era and start building public bridges people could cross for free. They started buying out the private bridge companies and building their own. In the bleak as hell year of 1931, Texas and Oklahoma, showing a little teamwork, completed the Red River Bridge and prepared to open it.
However, a private toll bridge owner claimed that Texas had failed to buy out his rights and got a legal injunction against the bridge. Texas Governor Ross Sterling took that guy's side and ordered the bridge closed on the Texas end.
Oklahoma Governor "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, figuring there's no such thing as an insane overreaction in those circumstances, declared martial law. He sent the Oklahoma National Guard in to keep the bridge open and, hilariously, showed up there himself, armed with a revolver.
He had the mustache of a demigod.
Meanwhile, Governor Sterling sent in the Texas Rangers to enforce the bridge closure order.
Oklahoma native/Texas Ranger Chuck Norris stayed neutral.
Back on the Oklahoma side, Governor Murray decided the situation wasn't anywhere near stupid enough yet, so he increased the dick move quotient in the skirmish by 75 percent and ordered the Oklahoma National Guard to block and demolish the road north of the private toll bridge, rendering the area impassable.
Then, he expanded his martial law order to both sides of the Red River bridge. And that was how Oklahoma National Guardsman wound up occupying land in Texas.
Eventually, two court orders ended the standoff. The blockade of the north entrance to the private toll bridge was stopped by an Oklahoma court and a federal judge in Texas rescinded the injunction against the free bridge.
The story had made national and international headlines, reaching as far as Europe where it made Hitler believe that the United States was more divided and weaker than it actually was. Texas retained custody of the "Don't Mess With Texas" motto, and Oklahoma optioned its rights to become a terrible musical. Everybody won.
The Walton War (North Carolina v. Georgia)
Sometimes it's not about keeping land, but trying to get rid of land nobody wants. Thus, in 1787, South Carolina gladly ceded a 12-mile strip of land to the Federal government in order to have a treaty with the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee, having been in the land for a while, decided it wasn't worth much and ceded it back to the United States.
It was the re-gifted fruitcake of early America,
The thing was, the area was basically a lawless hellhole, where criminals hid out. So when Congress declared the land part of South Carolina again, South Carolina said, "Uh, no, really. You keep it. Really. REALLY. KEEP IT. HEY DO NOT TRY TO LEAVE THAT HERE!"
Congress said fine, and decided the smelly, unwanted land would fit in well with the other Carolina (that being North Carolina), who promptly went about pretending it wasn't there.
Then, after several Georgia governors got caught up in criminal land deals, Congress decided to punish them by forcing them to be responsible for the unwanted bit of land (called by some the "orphan strip"--presumably because "Turdville" was already taken).
Well, Georgia cleaned up the place a bit, and suddenly everybody wanted it. First South Carolina said they wanted it back, then North Carolina insisted the land was theirs. They screwed around for years trying to decide where the border was until finally, in 1810, North Carolina sent their militia take it by force. Suddenly they were willing to die for this piece of land nobody could give away two decades ago.
At the ridiculously named Battle of McGaha Branch, North Carolina killed several Georgians and captured 25 prisoners. The following Battle of Selica Hill saw the same result. Finally, a surveyor was brought in who established that, yes, the land belonged to North Carolina. Finally all of this foolishness could be put to rest. Really, what silly people we all were back in the 19th Century...
Oh, wait. Hold on. It turns out that the two states almost came to blows again in 1971 (that's not a typo--nineteen seventy-one) when the Georgia legislature considered a bill to resurvey freaking border and again try to reclaim some of the land.
Such was the madness of the disco era.
In response, North Carolina proposed a bill to send the state militia to the border to defend itself. Even though this was the 1970s, we're totally picturing guys on horses with muskets here.
Georgia let their bill die in committee, and the world was spared one more event that would have lowered their opinion of the American South.
The Toledo War (Michigan v. Ohio)
In the early 1830s, Michigan Territory felt it had grown enough to seek a promotion from territory to full statehood. Its 24-year-old governor, Stevens T. Mason (the 1800s equivalent of a retiree), delivered a pioneer-era PowerPoint presentation for Congress consisting of charts, graphs and talking points to make the case.
After finishing its presentation, Michigan stood expectantly, thinking the promotion was in the bag. But from the back of Congress came a contemptuous clearing of a throat.
The Floor recognizes the state of Ohio.
Ohio's 54-year-old governor, Robert Lucas (the 1800s equivalent of Methuselah), took exception with a map presented by Michigan, mainly because it included the port city of Toledo, which happened to sit in a tiny strip of land that both states wanted.
Instead of saying, "Sure, are you kidding? Take it!" Michigan would not back down.
The young Stevens and the seasoned Lucas would wage a turf war over the territory, which later became a slightly more actual war. In March of 1835, Ohio sent about 600 militia north to the disputed Toledo Strip. Michigan responded with about 1,000 men who occupied Toledo and prepared for invasion.
The federal government (under President Andrew Jackson), realizing the situation was about to get stupid, sent representatives to tell everybody to calm down until they could figure out where the border was. The peace lasted a few weeks, when Ohio's governor sent out a survey team to again paint a dotted line where they thought the border should be.
The Michigan militia would have none of that shit, so 50 or 60 of them attacked the survey team in what would be called the Battle of Phillips Corner. Shots were fired. Nobody was killed, but they took nine of the survey team prisoner.
Further details can be found on a slab of wood in the middle of nowhere.
Now that pissed everybody off. Both sides started rapidly building up their militias in preparation for all-out civil war. Ohio raised 10,000 men. A Michigan newspaper then welcomed them to enter the Toldeo Strip and find "hospitable graves" there.
President Jackson, again hoping to put an end to the bullshit, removed the governor of the Michigan territory (again, there were just no rules at all back then) and replaced him with a guy named John Horner. The people flew into a rage, burned Horner in effigy and pelted him with vegetables when he entered the capital. A few months later, voters held an election and brought the other guy back.
Finally, Jackson told Michigan they could become a state... if they would just give up that freaking little strip of land. Michigan said hell no. Then Jackson announced the government was giving away $400,000 to all of the states. And Michigan could get in on that... if they accepted the terms. Realizing they were now broke--due to paying for a huge militia to fend off freaking Ohio--they finally gave in.
The first "stimulus" was born, turning Michigan into the modern economic powerhouse it is today.
And oh by the way: Toledo War is the basis for the storied Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry.
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