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This week long ago: Go Go Guano

There are many people who believe that modern politicians have some tenuous reasons for recent wars, some might even say they’re a bit full of ****, but as far as we’re aware David Cameron has yet to launch the navy to obtain any one else’s ****. Isabel II of Spain, however, was very interested in getting her hands (well not her hands obviously, Queens don’t do *that*) on the guano of the Chincha Islands.

Chincha Islands
The Peruvian granite isles were clearly incredibly popular with the local birds and seals as they were described as being rich with guano deposits (like a somewhat sunnier version of Whitby) which was much valued as both a fertiliser and source of nitrates for gunpowder. So valued that the Americans even had the 1856 Guano Islands Act…
Obviously bird poo wasn’t the only reason for the ensuing battles that took place between 1864 and 1866, but it was certainly a large component…the Peruvians and Chileans having some pesky ideas about being in charge of themselves also apparently were upsetting to the Spanish who were not really in the mood to relinquish control.

Juan Williams Rebolledo by
Manuel Antonio Caro Olavarría

On November 26 1865 the Chilean vessel Esmeralda, flying a British flag, was lurking about waiting for the Spaniards to float on past…and like those girls smoking at the back of school waiting they sidled up to the Virgen de Covadonga, and began calling her fat. But with guns. The Spanish attempted a retort, but the Chileans were better and after all but an hour the Spanish ship had to submit.
The loss of a second ship was too much for the commanding officer, a man who clearly took his work very seriously, and two days later shot himself in the head.

So readers have you enacted any Spanish-Peruvian, or Spanish-Chilean battles? Or can you suggest any more unusual reasons for wars? Let us know in the comments.