Weird History: America’s Forgotten Wars

While no piece of history is truly forgotten, these wars in America’s history are not nearly as well know as most.


America has had it’s fair share of wars, and while it’s never had anything as weird as the Emu War in Australia, we have had plenty of forgettable wars. You won’t see these in any middle school textbooks (okay, maybe the opium war), so it’s my job to tell the stories… I guess.

  • Second Barbary War

Although it didn’t actually involve any real barbarians, the Second Barbary War was still a bit strange. I have no idea how it counts as a war, because it only lasted three days in 1815. Somehow, however, the Regency of Algiers (the USA’s foe in this particular combat) ended up with their Dey (a high leader) dead by assassination and a prominent commander killed as well. The US ended up winning and getting what they wanted, but another Dey at some point refused to ratify the terms of the agreement, threatening to kill all the Christians  in his country. I think nobody got senselessly murdered, and it all worked out OK after a few more agreements were made.

  • Philippine-American War: 1899

Although america actually fought three wars in the Philippines in the 19th century, this one was specifically the Philippine Republic. For historical context, in 1898 the Spanish-American War began and ended. The US, along with Philippine and Cuban revolutionaries, fought the then-large Spanish Empire (Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and of course Spain). In that year, the entire Spanish empire collapsed, and many new governments were created. For the purpose of this war, we focus on the Philippine Republic. The US had just previously fought to free the Philippines from Spain to grab it for themselves. However, the Philippines objected to the Treaty of Paris 1989 (why does everybody go to Paris for treaty’s?) and began another revolution, this time without foreign aid (besides limited help from Japan). As you would expect, they got crushed, but surprisingly, they held their own for 3 years where the entire Spanish empire did for 1. In fact, the fighting didn’t really end until 1906, with even more revolutionary acts.

  • Bluff War

There have been nothing short of dozens of American wars with Native Americans. I tried to leave them out just because there are so many, but this one had such an odd name I couldn’t pass it up. The Bluff War was one of the last wars with Native Americans. It began the same way that most of these wars did. Natives attacked and killed several settlers and other tribes before running back and being pursued. Oddly enough, they repulsed one attack by policemen, then negotiated with unarmed federal negotiators by choice, where they surrendered. They were put in prison, but not for long. They were soon free and back in their home. Their Chief’s son, however, was not freed over the suspicion he had killed an ethnically Mexican shepherd while the unsuspecting man camped with the tribe. He did, however, get to stay in nice hotels and go to the best restaurants in town. Little compensation for the Chief: he just wanted his son back.

  • Second Opium War

Although America’s involvement in the Second Opium War was a bit forgettable, the Second Opium war is one very regrettable war in history. Basically, the story of the Second Opium War is as follows: Britain, France, and minimally America sold Opium to China even thought it was technically illegal, addicting millions of Chinese. The Emperor, understandably upset, seized all shipments of the drug and stopped its trade. What followed was carnage. The Chinese soldiers (many of whom were on Opium and therefore useless fighters) were slain in large numbers by British, American, and French ship cannons. The British, and soon the French, secured the ability to trade anywhere in China AND become totally above the law in China as well. How. Why. What. How bad does someone have to beat you for them to get that? It’s like infinite power.

While the Second Opium War isn’t unheard of, America’s involvement seems to be forgotten. American involvement was very… strange. Although American ships were present and fought the Chinese, they ignored the UK’s offer for alliance. When the Chinese attacked a few American ships, the Americans retaliated in a bit of a larger battle. When they won, they signed a treaty with the Chinese that basically said, “We won’t fight in the Second Opium War.” However, even though there was technically no alliance, one American frigate assisted the French in one battle after that.


America has seen much less fighting than most other countries because of our newness as a nation.  However, we have had some weird ones. This list is by no means the only forgotten wars in America’s history: there are many more. And, if the subject interests you, forgotten wars across the nations are one of the most interesting topics you could spend a weekend looking at.