5 Wars Where Nobody Fought Anyone

  • Does it count as a war when nobody shows up to do the fighting?

War is a terrible, brutal thing where many people die in vain. Except when they don’t.

Now, we can all name countless examples of absolutely atrocious wars. But there are also many lesser-known wars that saw no deaths, injuries, or even fighting.

Here are five bloodless wars from history where no one ever did any fighting — and one conflict that strictly speaking doesn’t count as a war.

Pictured: war, we suppose.

1. Honey War

There almost was a civil war in the U.S. before the Civil War. In 1839, Iowa and Missouri nearly began fighting each other over a 9.5-mile strip of land.

Both states claimed the area as their own and refused to back down. The dispute stemmed from poorly defined state lines, caused by misunderstandings about Native American treaties, mistaken land surveys, and other general incompetence.

Militias from Iowa and Missouri manned the border area and got ready to fight. A sheriff from Missouri was arrested for collecting taxes in Iowa, and somebody cut down three trees containing beehives — hence the name of the conflict.

But before full-blown violence broke out, the Supreme Court settled the issue. Iowa got the land and everybody went home, until the Civil War.

2. Lobster War

Between 1961 and 1963, Brazil and France were engaged in the Lobster War. There was no fighting, but plenty of argument — over lobsters.

The “conflict” started when the Brazilian government forbid French vessels from catching spiny lobsters within 100 miles of the Brazilian coast. They argued that the lobsters “crawl” on the sea floor, which is part of the continental shelf and therefore Brazilian territory.

Demonstrating that international politics can be as mature as two children arguing on the playground, France responded that lobsters “swim.” Therefore, they weren’t touching Brazilian territory and could be freely fished.

France went so far as to dispatch a destroyer ship to escort its fishing vessels. The Lobster War ended when Brazil expanded its territorial waters to 200 nautical miles from the coast, cutting the French off from the lobster grounds.

3. Anglo-Swedish War of 1810-1812

During the Napoleonic Wars, France and Sweden were buddies. As such, the French didn’t like that the Swedes were trading with their arch-nemesis, Great Britain.

Coerced by its ally, Sweden declared war on Great Britain in 1810, who responded in kind. And then they did nothing.

This war only ever existed on paper and no fighting took place. In fact, the Swedish even allowed the British to “occupy” an island so the two countries could use it to continue trading.

Technically, this conflict wasn’t completely bloodless, since Swedish troops killed a bunch of Swedish farmers who rioted while opposing conscription. But no Swede and Englishman ever met on the battlefield, so it counts.

4. The 335 Years’ War

In 1651, Dutch Lieutenant Admiral Maarten Tromp declared war on the Isles of Scilly, a small archipelago on the southwestern English coast. England was fighting its Civil War at the time and the Netherlands was allied with the Parliamentarians, who controlled most of the country.

But the opposing Royalists were in power on the Isles of Scilly. And since the Royalists refused to repay the damages they’d inflicted on the Dutch (due to them being, you know, their enemies) Tromp went to war.

There was just one problem — he didn’t really have the authority to declare the war. Also, the Royalists lost the English Civil War soon after, so there was never any fighting between England and the Netherlands.

That’s also probably why the Dutch completely forgot there was a war going on. They only ever made a peace treaty in 1986 after we assume some archivist went, “Hey, guys? Did you know we’re at war with Britain?”

5. The Huescar-Danish War

Like the Anglo-Swedish War, the Huescar-Danish War was part of the wider Napoleonic Wars. It was also a part of the very bloody Peninsular War in Spain.

This war, however, happened when the news of Denmark’s alliance with France reached the Spanish town of Huescar in 1809. Outraged, the town’s residents promptly declared war.

They didn’t have the authority to do so, nor were there any Danish soldiers to fight in Spain. But the people of Huescar didn’t let such trivialities stop them.

You have to respect their dedication to the cause.

Because this “war” was so obscure, it technically kept going even after Napoleon got his butt handed to him in Waterloo. The mayor of Huescar and a Danish ambassador didn’t sign a peace treaty until 1981.

Honorable Mention: Whisky War

The Whisky War technically doesn’t count as a war because there never was a declaration of war. Denmark and Canada were engaged in this pseudo-conflict for decades.

The dispute focused on a tiny, worthless hunk of rock called Hans Island. Both Denmark and Canada really wanted to own it — for some reason.

The Whisky War got its name from the bizarre manner in which it was “fought.” Ship crews from both arguing countries would routinely land on Hans Island, take down the opposing flag, and leave a bottle of alcohol for the “enemy” when they inevitably showed up to do the same.

Finally, the conflict came to an end this year, when Denmark and Canada agreed to split Hans Island 50/50 down the middle. At least some sailors got to enjoy some fine liquor, thanks to the Whisky War.

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