9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You
9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You

9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You

Larry Holzwarth - November 9, 2017

9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You
US troops pose with Moro casualties in 1906, during the Moro Rebellion. Wikimedia

Moro Rebellion 1899-1913

The Moro are a Muslin people who reside in many of the islands which make up the archipelago of the Philippines, mostly in the southern part of the chain. After the forced withdrawal of the Spanish in 1899 American troops occupied many of the southern islands and began colonizing territory which had formerly been lands occupied by the Moro.

American diplomacy included enlisting the support of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to convince the Moro not to resist the new American occupation (by appealing to them as Muslims), which while forthcoming was ineffective. Once the Americans had largely pacified the Northern Philippines in the Philippine-American War it shifted its attention to the southern islands around Sulu and Mindanao, occupied by the Moro.

American military governors, including Major Leonard Wood and General John Pershing, used a variety of methods to suppress the Moro, including military actions against the tribes and edicts to suppress the Muslim religion, which Pershing referred to as “Mohammadism”. In the 21st centur, Pershing has been frequently accused of using anti-Muslim tactics against captured insurrectionists during this conflict.

In his autobiography, Pershing later wrote of the practice of burying the bodies of slain Moro tribesmen in mass graves accompanied with dead pigs. Another American officer, who would later rise to the rank of Rear Admiral, wrote than Americans buried dead Moro tribesmen wrapped in pig hides “…stuffing their mouths with pork.”

Because of American side-arms often failing to knock down charging Moro tribesmen – the standard US pistol was a .38 caliber – the US Army shifted to the Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber automatic, which would remain its standard side-arm well into the 1970s. The Moro Rebellion was costly to the United States in money and materials, although military casualties were light given the length and nature of the conflict. The Americans suffered about 400 killed or wounded in combat, and lost about another 500 to disease throughout the rebellion. Moro casualties were significantly higher and have never been accurately estimated. Another Moro insurgency has been ongoing on the island of Mindanao since 1969, more than 48 years, with more than 6,000 dead.

9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You
Fort Ocotal was used by United States Marines during the Occupation of Nicaragua. US Marine Corps

Occupation of Nicaragua 1912 – 1933

From 1898 through 1934 the United States intervened in numerous nations throughout Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, a series of actions known as the Banana Wars. Because of the strategic importance of trade across Central America, the United States used the century old Monroe Doctrine to occupy Nicaragua with a military force to prevent any European nation from completing a canal across the country.

American occupation began when a rebellion broke out in Nicaragua, and American troops and warships were dispatched to both ensure there were no actions taken against American citizens and businesses and to prevent intervention from Europeans. As several different attempts at establishing a stable Nicaraguan government were tried and failed, American troop levels within the country increased. By 1912, the Nicaraguan government in power had requested American military support containing rebellion within the country and American warships and troops were engaging Nicaraguan rebels.

The United States also assumed most of the control of the Nicaraguan economy, and after suppressing most of the rebellions within the country it retained troops in place to ensure fair elections. American troops were eventually withdrawn to a level of around 100 in 1916, although US warships maintained a watchful presence.

In 1927 American troops again occupied the country in response to another erupting civil war, and by the following spring over 2,000 US troops were deployed there. American troops participated yet again in military operations and in protecting financial assets such as gold mines while ensuring legitimate elections. Americans also trained government troops to assume a larger role in defending and protecting their country.

By the early 1930s, the cost of maintaining an American presence was deemed to be too high in the face of the great depression, the existence of the Panama Canal meant no nation would assume the cost of building another in Nicaragua, and other strategic concerns were arising from Japan and Germany. Other than a token force, by 1932 the United States had withdrawn from Nicaragua.

9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You
Juan Cortina was a Mexican rancher, military leader, and bandit who several times invaded the state of Texas. Wikipedia

First and Second Cortina Wars 1859-1861

During the late 1950s, the United States was primarily concerned over the rising threat of secession from Southern states over the issue of slavery. During this period the United States maintained a fairly large – for its time – military presence in the State of Texas, both to protect citizens and property from the attacks of the Cheyenne and other tribes, and to protect the southern border from incursions by Mexican bandits and the troops pursuing them, often indistinguishable from each other by those with the misfortune to encounter them.

Juan Cortina was a rancher and border bandit who raided towns on both sides of the nearly invisible border between Mexico and Texas. When he raided Brownsville in 1859 he set off a conflict with the militia of that town and the Texas Rangers, later supported by United States Cavalry.

This led to several pitched battles, culminating in the Battle of Rio Grande City. After the United States applied diplomatic pressure on Mexico to take action to prevent its citizens and troops from crossing the border, Cortina retreated to the Burgos, and the First Cortina War drew to an uneasy end. In 1861 Cortina returned to his raiding.

By that time Texas had seceded from the United States and the only military units along the border were those of the Confederate States Army, a situation which no doubt encouraged Cortina’s return. Cortina had an eye for opportunity and had agreed to a local alliance with the United States Army to harass the southern border, keeping any booty which he managed to pillage on his raids. After invading Zapata Cortina found himself confronted by Confederate troops and he was roundly defeated, withdrawing back to Mexico. It was his only military action of the Civil War.

The First and Second Cortina Wars are the only known instance of Confederate and Union troops engaging a common foreign enemy, despite it being at different times and circumstances. Cortina was eventually arrested and confined by Mexican authorities, dying imprisoned in Mexico City in 1894.