Although one incident may be the spark that sets off a war, usually a number of provocations have preceded it, some of them trivial.
Such was the case in 1739 when Britain went to war with Spain. One of these seems almost unbelievable today. A British sea captain was said to have cut off the nose of a Spanish pirate of noble birth and made him eat it. So, a Spanish sea-captain boarded a British ship, cut off one of Captain Jenkins‘ ears and threw it at him, with an insulting message to the king.
The story probably wasn’t true at all — it was reported later that Jenkins had both ears when he died. In any case, there was so much resentment in Britain that Prime Minister Walpole declared war on Spain, and France became involved five years later.
As soon as France became entangled, a message was rushed to her fortress at Louisburg, Cape Breton, Governor Du Quesnel acted quickly, sending a force to capture the nearest British settlement at Canso. The garrison, which had not been notified of the war, was taken by surprise, and surrendered on the understanding that the troops would be taken to Port Royal or Boston, after they had been held as prisoners at Louisburg for one year.
When they arrived at Louisburg, Governor Du Quesnel realized that he did not have enough food for the prisoners so he sent them to Boston as soon as possible. However, the British had spent enough time in Louisburg to acquire some important information, as strong as it was supposed to be. Food and ammunition were in short supply. Many of the soldiers were Swiss mercenaries who had not been paid for a long time. They were unhappy and there was bad feeling between them and the French.
When this information became known in Boston, an expedition was organized to attack Louisburg. It sailed on March 24, 1745.
There’s a free e-book available through Google, and I highly recommend reading it: Memoirs of the Kings of Spain for the House of Bourbon in January 1813, published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. It’s rather long, but a good read! The anecdote of today’s post starts on page 10.
There’s also another free e-book available that has this anecdote: Memoirs of the Life & Administration of Sir Robert Walpole, Earl of Oxford, With Original Correspondence and Authentic Papers, by William Cox in January 1798.