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The Other American Wars


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It may be fun to list or write about wars or skirmishes that flaired up in the United States that are relatively unknown.

Michigan and Ohio boundary war: Yea, the two states were arguing over Toledo (would they now after the riot of last week over neo-nazi's) it was about 1835. Militia's were sent out, chickens and melons stolen a few shots fired but no casualities. Some historians believe the nick name Wolverines was given to Michiganers by Ohioans for being viscious and bloodthirsty.

The Pig War: In 1859 the U.S. and Britain both laid claim to San Juan island in Washington state. British war ships and marines against a American fort on the island. Actually it was a stand off more that a war. Cooler heads prevailed and shooting was pretty much avoided. The matter was settled by Kaiser Wilhelm in 1873 or so, giving the island to the U.S.

Any others?

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As one of those "hinge of destiny" battles whose consequences are literally the "either/or of history" but which is now utterly forgotten even locally--

December 19, 1675: the "Great Swamp Fight" in what is now South Kingston, Rhode Island.

When Metacomet (better known to history as "King Philip") led the natives against the increasingly belligerent and aggressive encroachments and abuses of Puritan Boston and Pilgrim Plymouth, much of what is now New England rose up. Towns were burned and abandoned from one end of third generation English settlement to another. Farmers were killed in their fields, travellers disappeared, and panicked militias armed with ineffective matchlock weapons proved inferior to Indian bows and arrows-- the "machine guns" of that time and place. People who presume the Europeans held the technological advantage over the native peoples for the first century of colonization are 180? WRONG. Between the French in Canada and the veneer of English rule over the Dutch Hudson River valley population at the port of New York, Puritan settlement was teetering on the brink of evacuation and abandonment like Elizabethan Virginia. Boston was clogged with massacre survivors desperate for non-existent ships to get them out, to anywhere.

Nonconformist Rhode Island's powerful Narragansett tribe played no role in this war: relations with the oddball English who ruled from Providence were mutually satisfactory. Hartford and New Haven colonies in what would become Connecticut also had no problems between their few settlers and native allies glad of mutual protection from the hereditary tribal enemies from Canada. The royal dictator Governor Edmund Andros in New York had also landed troops along the Connecticut coast in July 1675 in an effort to extend New York's sway, so it seemed an ENGLISH civil war in America was about to explode as well, on New England's southwestern border. (Those issues would boil for over 15 years, centered on Restoration challenges to all existing private property rights in the dissenter-settled colonies: plus ?a change....)

Massachusetts' increasingly aggressive "God's anointed" political elite (something not unknown to this day, BTW :o ) had abandoned the initial generation's attitude of cooperation and mutual agreement and had embarked on outright colonial seizure of the interior, treating the natives as if they were slaves and not neighbors.

In Rhode Island, the Narragansetts observed, and drew up DEFENSIVE plans. With the help of an Englishman with technical training, they withdrew to the center of a huge swamp and began construction of a massive, European style bastioned stockade fortress. Supplies and the tribe's members were gathered in, as winter fell, hoping only to avoid and survive the mad English aggressors next door and the pitiless local tribes' "for us or against us" response.

Tipped off to what seemed to be an Indian super base in the making, Massachusetts planned a "preemptive" strike, and conned the Connecticut colonies into participating lest the four colonies be split by a native power that might yet be overcome "before it was too late."

In an exact reversal of the stereotypical image of Indians attacking frontier forts, when a sudden freeze solidified a path through the trackless swamp, 1,000 English from the four non-Rhode Island colonies and 300 Mohegan allies poured in, and in pre-dawn darkness, entered the swamp fortress over log bridges, in an uncoordinated attack that led to massive "circular firing squad" friendly fire casualties. Narragansett resistance was epic, the stakes life or death.

As the first English militiamen fired the huts inside, smoke obscured what was going on, leading to more chaotic confusion. As day dawned through the smoke, the attackers realized with horror the extent of their casualties:

Between 300 and 700 Narragansetts had been killed, warriors fighting through the disorganized English blockade to get their people out. They had then turned on the attackers from behind, and now the ENGLISH were surrounded and backlit inside the burning fortress. 25% of the attacking force had been killed inside, with as many wounded-- HALF the force!!! At that moment, there was the very real possibilty that MOST of the adult English population of New England was about to be exterminated!

Attack became rout. The English dead were abandoned (period accounts gloss over the wounded, but I have my suspicions....) and the invaders now fled headlong, "sauve qui peut" back through the swamp. Massachusetts troops, true to their motivations, managed to drag along 300 Narragansett captives to be sold for sanctimonious profit as doomed West Indies slaves.

IF the Narragansetts had pursued, the English would have been utterly destroyed... leaving France the undisputed master of northern America. But they turned and got their own people to safety, though the tribe had been broken forever as an potential military power.

SEVENTY-ONE out of THREE HUNDRED Connecticut troops had been KILLED-- among them my tenth great-grandfather 48 year old Wethersfield Dragoons Lieutenant John Stedman, and the oldest son of another doubly tenth great-grandfather who survived, 62 year old "retired" veteran Wallingford Dragoons Captain Nathaniel Merriman. Losses were proportional among the Massachusetts troops.

In the course of King Philip's War, 3,000 of the 50,000 English of New England were killed or died. 6,000 of the estimated 30,000 native inhabitants were killed or sold into Caribbean death-slavery. It is estimated that another 9,000 Indians died as fugitive refugees in the woods-- half the indigenous population. 1 in 17 colonists was dead, many thousands were homeless through the winter of 1675/6.

The unprovoked assault on the Narragansetts sealed the fate of New England's Indian tribes-- though war would flare inside the borders for another 40 years, from Canada. (My own town was abandoned for 17 years after "Philip-pean" survivors led a revenge massacre in 1696 from their Canadian exile.) And but for the tide of battle at that time, at that place, English settlement northeast of the Hudson would have ended.

With consequences a century later that cannot be exaggerated. There would have been NO United States if things had turned out differently on the bloody morning of December 19, 1675:

There would never have been Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775.

(In this day and age of BILLIONAIRE quote-unquote "Native American" gambling casinos mere minutes away, it amazes me that this has not been made into a politically correct/object lesson movie. It can't be beat for drama, bravery, duplicity, and ironic role reversals. Why, I could even play my own doomed ancestor, Hollywood! ;) And would this EVER make a Don Troiani painting!!!!! )

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That guy who did the Daniel Day Lewis "Last of the Mohicans." :cheers:

Any "film festival" director COULD do this-- cast of 2,000 extras,


a massive "Native American" hiring project (no, not Kevin Costner, please!!!!), a bunch of logs and a swamp.


For verisimilitude, the ground hereabouts is thick with actual real honest to God descendants of all sides available as Genetically Authenticate Extras...

unlike the phony-baloney billionaire "casino Indians" who apparently don't care if this MAJOR archaelogical site on their doorstep ends up as a car dealership or acre lot yuppy "mini mansion" sprawl. :speechless::shame:

Evil racist Boston politicians :rolleyes: us versus them r?le reversal :ninja: horrific violence, violence, betrayal, and redemption :speechless1: and yes, s-e-x (the English "engineer" later barbarously dealt with in the classic London traitor's death way had "gone native" for love)...

Of course, Hollywood can screw up ANYTHING, but the basic screenplay is all there in the period-published, shockingly modern psychological and moral toned memoirs of Massachusetts' chief soldier, the (ever so popular these days) "conflicted" Captain Benjamin Church (1640-1718).

Many of our "little wars" were squalid little nasty affairs nobody ever knew about beyond the local area. This one was an epic, with international and global consequences. And it still haunts our dreams, we of the Old Blood. Tales for long winter nights when the wind in the trees COULD be the screams and moans of the dying....

(wait until Halloween :rolleyes: )

PS 330th Anniversary THIS December 19th. Mark your calendars.

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That guy who did the Daniel Day Lewis "Last of the Mohicans." :cheers:

And can be filmed in North Carolina seeing N.C. looks so much like RI, MA, NY, or save money and shoot in Romania ala Cold Mountain.


Apparently, Korea (MASH), Vietnam (Tour of Duty, after the 1st season) and various planets around the galaxy (Star Trek), look amazingly like southern California.

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