How Uruguay Defeated Brazil In An Ocean Battle Using Cheese-Loaded Cannons

Although in modern day international relations, the South American countries of Uruguay and Brazil have a strong trade relationship (via Connect Americas) and no tension between them (aside from a brutal fútbol rivalry), things have gotten a bit hairy in the past. Uruguay is often seen as the underdog, with a population of just over 3.5 million (via Worldometer), and an area of about 68,000 square miles (via Nations Encyclopedia), making it the second-smallest South American country. It sits at Brazil's southernmost point. 

Brazil, on the other hand, is a goliath — geographically, the fifth-largest nation in the world, coming only after Russia, Canada, China, and the United States of America (via Britannica). Relatable to the 3 million square miles it takes up, Brazil has a population of over 216 million (also via Worldometer). So it's probably no surprise that Brazil once ruled over Uruguay as its own territory (via The Culture Trip), and helped fan the flames of Civil War back in the 1800s (via Arkadia Food Store).

The Civil War

Uruguay had struggled with its national identity for years, being the subject of a tug-of-war between several powerful nations (via Britannica). The nation technically became independent from Spain in 1811, only to be annexed by Brazil until 1825 (via the U.S. State Department's Office of the Historian). Then, after a three-year federation with Argentina, Uruguay truly gained its independence in 1828.

The years following its independence were filled with war and struggle. Right around the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s (via The United States Senate), the small country also began to battle from within, known as the Guerra Grande, aka Great War (also via Britannica). The two parties involved were the Blanco, or "white" party (supported by Argentina's armies), and the Colorado "red" party (supported by France and England, then Brazil). Appearing weak in their strife to surrounding hungry nations, the loss of their short-lived independence seemed imminent.

Who Shot the Cheese?

During a battle between a Uruguayan ship and a Brazilian ship, which was part of the greater Guerra Grande, the Uruguayans ran out of ammo (via We Are The Mighty). All they had aboard their ship were the handguns they were holding, and food rations for everyone on board (via Arkadia Food Store). Thinking quickly, the captain and his crew found old, stale Dutch cheese wheels that were hard enough to kill someone upon impact ... or more importantly, take down a ship. The crew then loaded the cheeses into the cannons, like cannon balls. 

The first two cheese projectiles disappointingly flew over the target, but the third hit the enemy's mast, destroying it and killing two sailors with its shrapnel (via Economic Times). This ended the battle, leaving the Uruguayans victorious and with an interesting story for their fellow sailors back home. (It also inspired a segment on "Mythbusters," posted on YouTube.)

So there you have it. In a historical rivalry of two countries, one of which towering over its competitor at over 40 times its size — the underdog won, with the help of cheese.