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Wikimedia Commons

8 Battles Fought After the War Ended

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Before the technological revolution and the modern ease of instant communication, news of an armistice didn’t always travel as quickly as needed. In other cases, generals may have reached a resolution while soldiers on the outskirts of their territory disagreed. Here are a few examples of battles fought after the war ended. 

1. Battle of New Orleans

The Battle of New Orleans is often remembered as one of the most decisive American victories in the War of 1812. It’s also often remembered as an infamous battle-fought-after-the-war-ended, though the moniker is only half true. It’s true that the battle, which was fought on January 8, 1815, took place after the Treaty of Ghent was signed in Belgium on December 24, 1814, and even after the treaty had been ratified by the Prince Regent (the future King George IV). But President James Madison and the American Senate did not ratify the treaty until February 16, allowing the battle to assume an arguable level of tactical importance.

2. Battle of Prague

The Battle of Prague actually began before the end of the Thirty Years’ War. Most of Europe was enmeshed in a long, muddled conflict over major religious and political differences. While a delegation of representatives from various nations met in Münster and Osnabrück, a Swedish army laid siege to Prague.

Both the peace talks and the battle dragged on for months. The diplomatic proceedings led to a series of treaties, known as the Peace of Westphalia, which changed European political boundaries and solidified a continental acknowledgment of certain religious freedoms. Though the Swedish delegates signed the Treaty of Osnabrück on October 24, 1648, ending hostilities with the Holy Roman Empire and its allies, Swedish forces fought for another eight days before word reached Prague on November 1.

3. Pontiac’s Rebellion

Pontiac’s Rebellion was not a single battle. Rather, it was a continuation of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763). The conflict raged worldwide, but in the North American theater, French colonists found themselves outnumbered against the British. They recruited heavily for reinforcements from Native American groups who held grievances against British colonists. When the war ended and France ceded much of its former territory to Britain, the policies of colonial governors troubled local Native American tribes. Warriors from across the Great Lakes and neighboring regions joined together to force the British out of their territory, led by Ottawa leader Chief Pontiac.

The hostilities escalated over a period of sixteen months and led to a series of negotiations from 1764 to 1766. In one of the conflict’s more disturbing moments, British soldiers are reported to have given the Native Americans blankets contaminated with smallpox in an attempt to infect them with the disease. Tragically, many of them did die of smallpox, though whether or not the outbreak can be traced to the infected blankets is inconclusive. 

4. Fort Bowyer

The attack on Fort Bowyer is lesser known and less celebrated than its predecessor at New Orleans, perhaps in part because it was an American defeat. After being routed by Andrew Jackson’s troops at Chalmette Plantation outside New Orleans, a British contingent of at least 3000 troops sailed east and settled on a stockade fortification on the lip of Mobile Bay. They besieged the fort until its commander surrendered on February 11, 1815, but the victory was short lived. A few days after the British assumed control, word of the Treaty of Ghent finally trickled south, and Fort Bowyer was returned to American forces.

5. Battle of Palmito Ranch

Although Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, and newly appointed President Johnson declared an official end to hostilities on May 10, the American Civil War lingered in Texas. Near the Gulf port of Los Brazos de Santiago, along the Rio Grande, Union and Confederate forces clashed for roughly 24 hours during May 12 and 13, 1865. Strangely, the battle interrupted a standing peace in Texas. Earlier in the year, the opposing sides had acknowledged the futility of continued fighting and assumed an informal peace.

Even stranger, this late skirmish may have included international forces. Though historical records remain inconclusive, shots from the Mexican side were reported during the battle, potentially from Mexican forces with a vested interest in Confederate trade or even from members of the French Foreign Legion stationed along the border. 

6. CSS Shenandoah

This Confederate ship captured or sank 38 Union merchant vessels during its active deployment, which lasted six months after Lee’s surrender. Because reliable news was hard to come by on the open sea, the captain and crew of the Shenandoah were not confident that the Confederacy had collapsed and continued to chase Union ships across the Pacific. During the summer months, the ship sunk or captured 21 vessels, including 11 Union whalers in sub-Arctic waters in a span of seven hours, thereby situating the last shots of the American Civil War somewhere among the Aleutian Islands. 

On August 2, 1865, the Shenandoah encountered a British barque and learned that the war was over. In response, the ship sailed south around Cape Horn and north to Liverpool, where it finally made its formal surrender on November 7, 1865. However, officers and crewmembers were unable to return to the United States for years to avoid prosecution for piracy.

7. Onoda’s Perseverance

Hiroo Onoda’s orders were clear: to protect the Philippine island of Lubang from enemy attack and not to surrender under any circumstances. He followed these orders diligently, and was still doing so 29 years after World War II ended. Onoda and three other soldiers survived and refused to surrender to an Allied occupation of the island beginning in 1945, and they hid in the mountains for the next three decades, engaging in guerrilla activities with local officials. Immediately after the war’s conclusion and again in 1952, leaflets were airdropped over the mountains to let Onoda’s men know that the war was over, but they concluded that the news was an Allied trick and refused to capitulate. 

In 1974, after Onoda’s three comrades had either surrendered or been killed and Onoda himself presumed dead, a Japanese college student backpacked through the area and discovered Onoda. Still skeptical and loyal to his orders, Onoda refused to surrender until his former commanding officer issued the command. Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who was currently working as a bookseller, flew to the Philippines and formally relieved Onoda of duty. 

Though perhaps the most famous Japanese holdout, Onoda was not the only one or even the last to be found. Shoichi Yokoi was discovered in Guam in 1972, and Teruo Nakamura was discovered in Indonesia nine months after Onoda’s release.

8. Battle for Castle Itter

Five days after Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, anti-Nazi German soldiers joined American forces to defend an Austrian castle against the 17th Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier division. The castle, a satellite prison of the Dachau concentration camp, housed prominent French prisoners during the Nazi occupation.

In a review of Stephen Harding’s novelistic account of the conflict, The Daily Beast’s Andrew Roberts suggests that the strange battle is perfect fodder for Hollywood: the event is both the only known example of American forces defending a medieval castle, and of significant American and German forces fighting together during World War II. However, this untimely battle was not the last of the war; the Georgian uprising on Texel continued for another 15 days.

A war’s end often ushers in a complicated period. Unresolved tensions from one war will lead to another—as between both World Wars—or mines and other displaced weaponry may cause casualties years after the fact (as in the Balkans and Sri Lanka). In other cases, treaties fail to satisfy the involved parties, and guerrilla hostilities continue, as they have along the border between India and Pakistan. History is riddled with examples of battles that continue long after the war has ended. 

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The Plucky Teenage Stowaway Aboard the First American Expedition to Antarctica
The Ohio State University Archives
The Ohio State University Archives

Documentary filmmaker and journalist Laurie Gwen Shapiro came across the name "William Gawronski" in 2013 while researching a story about Manhattan's St. Stanislaus, the oldest Polish Catholic church in the U.S. In 1930, more than 500 kids from the church had held a parade in honor of Billy Gawronski, who had just returned from two years aboard the first American expedition to Antarctica, helmed by naval officer Richard E. Byrd.

The teenager had joined the expedition in a most unusual way: by stowing aboard Byrd's ships the City of New York and the Eleanor Bolling not once, not twice, but four times total. He swam across the Hudson River to sneak onto the City of New York and hitchhiked all the way to Virginia to hide on the Eleanor Bolling.

"I thought, 'Wait, what?" Shapiro tells Mental Floss.

Intrigued by Billy's persistence and pluck, Shapiro dove into the public records and newspaper archives to learn more about him. She created an Excel spreadsheet of Gawronskis all along the East Coast and began cold-calling them.

"Imagine saying, 'Did you have an ancestor that jumped in the Hudson and stowed away to the Antarctic in 1928?'" Shapiro says. She got "a lot of hang-ups."

On the 19th call, to a Gawronski in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, an elderly woman with a Polish accent answered the phone. "That boy was my husband," Gizela Gawronski told her. Billy had died in 1981, leaving behind a treasure trove of mementos, including scrapbooks, notebooks, yearbooks, and hundreds of photos.

"I have everything," Gizela told Shapiro. "I was hoping someone would find me one day."

Three days later, Shapiro was in Maine poring over Billy's papers with Gizela, tears in her eyes.

These materials became the basis of Shapiro's new book The Stowaway: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica. It's a rollicking good read full of fascinating history and bold characters that takes readers from New York to Tahiti, New Zealand to Antarctica, and back to New York again. It's brimming with the snappy energy and open-minded optimism of the Jazz Age.

Shapiro spent six weeks in Antarctica herself to get a feel for Billy's experiences. "I wanted to reach the Ross Ice barrier like Billy did," she says.

Read on for an excerpt from chapter four.

***

As night dropped on September 15, Billy jumped out of his second-floor window and onto the garden, a fall softened by potatoes and cabbage plants and proudly photographed sunflowers. You would think that the boy had learned from his previous stowaway attempt to bring more food or a change of dry clothes. Not the case.

An overnight subway crossing into Brooklyn took him to the Tebo Yacht Basin in Gowanus. He made for the location he'd written down in his notes: Third Avenue and Twenty-Third Street.

In 1928 William Todd's Tebo Yacht Basin was a resting spot— the spot—for the yachts of the Atlantic seaboard's most aristocratic and prosperous residents. The swanky yard berthed more than fifty staggering prizes of the filthy rich. Railroad executive Cornelius Vanderbilt kept his yacht O-We-Ra here; John Vanneck, his Amphitrite. Here was also where to find Warrior, the largest private yacht afloat, owned by the wealthiest man in America, public utilities baron Harrison Williams; yeast king (and former mayor of Cincinnati) Julian Fleischman's $625,000 twin-screw diesel yacht, the Carmago; General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan's Rene; shoe scion H. W. Hanan's Dauntless; and J. P. Morgan's Corsair III. The Tebo Yacht Basin's clubroom served fish chowder luncheons to millionaires in leather-backed mission chairs.

Todd, a great friend of Byrd's, lavished attention on his super-connected pal with more contacts than dollars. He had provided major funding for Byrd's 1926 flight over the North Pole, and helped the commander locate and refit two of the four Antarctic expedition ships for $285,900, done at cost. Todd loved puffy articles about him as much as the next man, and press would help extract cash from the millionaires he actively pursued as new clients; helping out a famous friend might prove cheaper than the advertisements he placed in upmarket magazines. Throughout that summer, Byrd mentioned Todd's generous support frequently.

Two weeks after the City of New York set sail, the Chelsea, the supply ship of the expedition, was still docked at the Tebo workyard and not scheduled to depart until the middle of September. Smith's Dock Company in England had built the refurbished 170-foot, 800-ton iron freighter for the British Royal Navy at the tail end of the Great War. First christened patrol gunboat HMS Kilmarnock, her name was changed to the Chelsea during her post–Royal Navy rumrunning days.

Not long before she was scheduled to depart, Byrd announced via a press release that he was renaming this auxiliary ship, too, after his mother, Eleanor Bolling. But the name painted on the transom was Eleanor Boling, with one l—the painter's mistake. As distressing as this was (the name was his mother's, after all), Byrd felt a redo would be too expensive and a silly use of precious funds. Reporters and PR staff were simply instructed to always spell the name with two ls.

As Billy eyed the ship in dock days after his humiliation on board the New York, he realized here was another way to get to Antarctica. The old, rusty-sided cargo ship would likely be less guarded than the flagship had been.

As September dragged on, Billy, back in Bayside, stiffened his resolve. No one would think he'd try again! On September 15, once more he swam out during the night to board a vessel bound for Antarctica.

Since his visit two weeks prior, Billy had studied his news clippings and knew that the Bolling was captained by thirty-six-year-old Gustav L. Brown, who'd been promoted weeks earlier from first mate of the New York when Byrd added the fourth ship to his fleet. Billy liked what he read. According to those who sailed under Brown's command, this tall and slender veteran of the Great War was above all genteel, and far less crotchety than the New York's Captain Melville. Captain Brown's education went only as far as high school, and while he wasn't against college, he admired honest, down-to-earth workers. Like his colleague Captain Melville, Brown had begun a seafaring life at fourteen. He seemed just the sort of man to take a liking to a teenage stowaway with big dreams.

Alas, the crew of the second ship headed to Antarctica now knew to look for stowaways. In a less dramatic repeat of what had happened in Hoboken, an Eleanor Bolling seaman ousted Billy in the earliest hours of the morning. The kid had (unimaginatively) hidden for a second time in a locker under the lower forecastle filled with mops and bolts and plumbing supplies. The sailor brought him to Captain Brown, who was well named, as he was a man with a mass of brown hair and warm brown eyes. The kind captain smiled at Billy and praised the cheeky boy's gumption—his Swedish accent still heavy even though he'd made Philadelphia his home since 1920—yet Billy was escorted off to the dock and told to scram.

A few hours later, still under the cover of night, Billy stole back on board and was routed out a third time, again from the “paint locker.”

A third time? The Bolling's third in command, Lieutenant Harry Adams, took notes on the gutsy kid who had to be good material for the lucrative book he secretly hoped to pen. Most of the major players would score book deals after the expedition; the public was eager for adventure, or at least so publishers thought. The catch was that any deal had to be approved by Byrd: to expose any discord was to risk powerful support. Adams's book, Beyond the Barrier with Byrd: An Authentic Story of the Byrd Antarctic Exploring Expedition, was among the best: more character study than thriller, his grand sense of humor evident in his selection of anecdotes that the others deemed too lightweight to include.

Billy was not the only stowaway that September day. Also aboard was a girl Adams called Sunshine, the "darling of the expedition," a flirt who offered to anyone who asked that she wanted to be the first lady in Antarctica. (In the restless era between world wars, when movies gave everyone big dreams, even girl stowaways were not uncommon.) Brown told a reporter that Sunshine had less noble aspirations, and soon she, too, was removed from the Bolling, but not before she gave each crew member a theatrical kiss.

As the early sun rose, Captain Brown called Billy over to him from the yacht yard's holding area where he had been asked to wait with the giggling Sunshine until his father arrived. The captain admired Billy's gumption, but it was time for the seventeen-year-old to go now and not waste any more of anyone's time.

As Lieutenant Adams recorded later, "Perhaps this matter of getting rid of Bill was entered up in the Eleanor Bolling log as the first scientific achievement of the Byrd Antarctic expedition."

*** 

From THE STOWAWAY: A Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Copyright © 2018 by Laurie Gwen Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Art Lovers in England, Rejoice: France's Famous Bayeux Tapestry is Coming to the UK
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of France’s most prized national treasures, the Bayeux Tapestry, is officially heading to England for exhibition. The loan will mark the first time the fragile 11th century work has left France in nearly 1000 years, according to The Washington Post.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced news of the loan in mid-January, viewed by some as a gesture to smooth post-Brexit relations with Britain, ABC reports. The tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a historically important event replete with guts and glory.

Stretching for 210 feet, the Bayeux Tapestry’s nine embroidered panels tell the tale of Harold, Earl of Wessex, who swore an oath to support the right of William, Duke of Normandy, to the English throne once King Edward (a.k.a. Edward the Confessor) died without an heir. But after Edward's funeral at Westminster Abbey, Harold breaks his oath to William so he could be crowned king instead. Believing he was the rightful ruler, William—today remembered as William the Conqueror—decides to wage war and ultimately defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The historical narrative has endured for centuries, but the tapestry's provenance has been lost to time. Experts think that the artwork may have been created in England, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, although it’s unclear who designed and embroidered the scenes. Its original owner, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, may have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. He became Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings, and this new title would have afforded him access to skilled artisans, The Guardian explains.

The Bayeux Tapestry is currently on display in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It likely won’t leave France until 2020, after conservators ensure that it’s safe to move the artwork. According to The Telegraph, the tapestry might be be displayed at the British Museum in 2022.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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