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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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Image: London Stereoscopic Company, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss
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15 Intriguing Facts about George Eliot
Image: London Stereoscopic Company, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss
Image: London Stereoscopic Company, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss

Born in England in 1819, novelist and poet George Eliot is best remembered for writing classic books like Middlemarch and Silas Marner. Despite the time period she wrote in, the author—whose real name was Mary Anne (or Marian) Evans—was no stuffy Victorian. She had a famously scandalous love life and, among other linguistic accomplishments, is responsible for the term pop music. Here are 15 things you might not know about the beloved British writer.

1. SHE WAS BORN ON THE ESTATE WHERE HER FATHER WORKED.

Eliot was born on the grounds of Arbury Hall and Estate, a sprawling mansion in Warwickshire, England with hundreds of acres of surrounding gardens and farmland. Her father, Robert Evans, worked for the estate's owners, the Newdigate family, as a manager and agent. His job entailed collecting rents from tenant farmers and overseeing the property's coal mine.

2. HER RURAL UPBRINGING INSPIRED HER LATER NOVELS.

Arbury Hall
Arbury Hall
Elliott Brown, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Eliot was just an infant when her family moved from Arbury Hall to a home in a nearby town. But Arbury and the Warwickshire countryside left their mark on her. In Scenes of Clerical Life (1858), Eliot's collection of three short stories, she wrote about the area and drew inspiration from real places and people. And some of her stories mirrored reality pretty closely. For instance, she turned Arbury Hall into Cheverel Manor, and Sir Roger Newdigate, Arbury's owner, into Sir Christopher Cheverel.

3. SHE EDITED A JOURNAL FOR PROGRESSIVE THINKERS.

In the early 1850s, Eliot wrote for The Westminster Review, a London-based periodical founded by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, contributing essays and reviews using the name Marian Evans. She soon became the de facto editor of the progressive journal, though her role was anonymous. Years later, other writers reviewed Eliot's own pseudonymous works in the journal she once edited.

4. SHE WORKED AS A TRANSLATOR.

Throughout her life, Eliot put her language skills to work translating foreign works into English. She translated books like David Friedrich Strauss's Das Leben Jesu (The Life of Jesus), a highly controversial German treatise that argued that Jesus Christ was a real person, but not divine. (Upon reading her translation, one English nobleman called it "the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell.") Eliot also translated The Essence of Christianity by German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach and the Latin Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza, incorporating facets of these philosophical and religious ideas into her own writing.

5. SHE WASN'T A FAN OF MOST WOMEN WRITERS OF HER DAY.

Eliot was by no means a misogynist, but she did have some harsh words for fellow women writers. In an anonymous essay titled "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," Eliot lamented the frivolous characters and unrealistic plots that she argued were nearly ubiquitous features of novels written by women at the time. Published in The Westminster Review in 1856, Eliot's essay asserted that these books, full of cliches and improbable romantic endings, made educated women look foolish. She also criticized the writing style of other women of her time, saying they mistook "vagueness for depth, bombast for eloquence, and affectation for originality." However, she did allow that not every book written by a woman fell into this trap, praising writers like Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë) and Elizabeth Gaskell.

6. SHE WAS NOT CONSIDERED CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE …

George Eliot, circa 1868.
George Eliot, circa 1868.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Eliot's appearance was a source of avid discussion during her lifetime, and her looks continue to fascinate readers today. Eliot herself joked about her ugliness in letters to friends, and the novelist Henry James once described her in a letter to his father as "magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous." He went on to say that the "horse-faced" writer had a "vast pendulous nose," a low forehead, and bad teeth, among other physical flaws.

7. … BUT MEN LOVED HER.

Despite her plain appearance, men were drawn to Eliot. In the same letter where he called her "deliciously hideous," James explained his counterintuitive attraction towards her like this: "Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her."

After various dalliances and a marriage proposal that she turned down, she spent more than two decades with the philosopher and critic George Lewes. But Lewes was already married, and as a result, many in Eliot's social circle (including her brother) shunned her. Though Lewes couldn't obtain an official divorce from his estranged wife, he and Eliot lived together as partners until his death in 1878, and she referred to herself as Mrs. Marian Lewes.

8. HER PEN NAME PAID HOMAGE TO HER LOVER.

In 1856, both to avoid the sexism of the publishing industry and distance her literary work from her scandalous romantic situation, she adopted the pen name George Eliot, a male nom de plume that paid homage to Lewes. In addition to adopting his first name, some historians have also suggested that "Eliot" derives from "To L(ewes), I owe it."

9. SHE MARRIED A MAN TWO DECADES HER JUNIOR …

After Lewes's death, Eliot channeled her grief by editing his writing and spending time with her lawyer and accountant, John Cross. Although Eliot was 60 and Cross was just 40, the two friends fell in love and married at London's St. George's Church in the spring of 1880.

10. … BUT THEIR HONEYMOON TOOK A DARK TURN.

After their wedding, the pair traveled to Venice, Italy for their honeymoon. Although Cross wrote a letter to his sister indicating that he was having a delightful time, Eliot knew something was wrong. Her new husband was depressed, agitated, and losing weight. She called a doctor to their hotel room and was speaking with him when Cross jumped off the balcony into the Grand Canal.

Cross was rescued by a hotel worker and the personal gondolier the couple had hired to take them around the waterways. The newlyweds eventually continued on their trip, and they remained married until Eliot's death later that year. Historians continue to speculate about the reason for his jump, and whether it was a suicide attempt—Cross may have had a personal and family history of mental illness—or some kind of heat-induced delirium. The mysterious incident was recently turned into a novel.

11. SHE INVENTED THE TERM POP

You probably don't associate George Eliot with Lady Gaga, but the Oxford English Dictionary credits the Victorian novelist with coining the term pop to refer to popular music. In November 1862, Eliot wrote in a birthday letter to a friend, "We have been to a Monday Pop. this week to hear Beethoven's Septet, and an amazing thing of Bach's played by the amazing Joachim. But there is too much 'Pop.' for the thorough enjoyment of the chamber music they give."

12. … AND A NEW MEANING OF THE WORD BROWSER.

George Eliot statue in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, UK
George Eliot statue in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, UK

Diamond Geezer, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Eliot coined a number of other now-common terms in her writing. For instance, she was the first to use the word browser in the modern sense of someone who is casually looking around (like a browser in a bookstore). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 16th century, the word browser meant “a person who cuts the leaves and twigs of trees to use as food for animals in winter." Later, it came to mean an animal that searched for leaves and twigs to eat. Eliot's historical novel Romola marked the first recorded time the word was used to mean a person generally surveying something. In it, she describes several friends of Florentine politician Bartolomeo Scala as "amiable browsers in the Medicean park."

13. SHE WAS ALSO A POET.

Although Eliot was most famous for her novels, she also produced two volumes of poetry. Her first published piece of writing was a poem called "Knowing That Shortly I Must Put Off This Tabernacle." Published in The Christian Observer in 1840, the poem refers to the Bible and imagines a person who is about to die saying goodbye to Earth. In a later poem, "O May I Join the Choir Invisible," Eliot argues that improving the world during one's lifetime is the only way to achieve permanence.

14. VIRGINIA WOOLF ADMIRED HER WRITING.

Author Virginia Woolf praised Middlemarch's mature prose, referring to it as "the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." And modern readers seem to agree. In 2015, a BBC poll of 82 book critics from around the world named Middlemarch the greatest British novel of all time. Several authors, including Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, have also listed the book as one of the greatest English novels ever written.

15. HER FORMER HOME IS NOW A STEAKHOUSE.

Griff House, where Eliot lived as an infant until her early twenties, still exists, but it's now home to a steakhouse and hotel. Called the Griff House Beefeater & Nuneaton Premier Travel Inn, the spot also features a pond, gardens, and a play area for kids.

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Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.

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