The Odd Reason The War Of Jenkins' Ear Started

In perhaps one of the weirdest stories in military history, the War of Jenkins' Ear reportedly kicked off because an English captain lost his ear. Captain Robert Jenkins had his ear sliced off by Spanish coast guards in the West Indies after they boarded his ship in 1731 (via Britannica). According to New Georgia Encyclopedia, the attack of Jenkins was in retribution for the captain's habit of plundering Spanish ships. Whatever the case, the war itself didn't actually start until eight years after the incident.

With the ear pickled in a container, Jenkins traveled back to England to share his story of the alleged brutality of the Spanish (via Historic UK). He supposedly appeared in front of Parliament in 1738 and recalled the torture at the hands of the Spanish and showed them his severed appendage (via the History of Parliament). This incident fueled public outrage at the Spanish, a country that England had already tangled with several times before.

The War of Jenkins' Ear erupts over trade

Members of Parliament reportedly used the cruel treatment of Captain Jenkins to pressure Prime Minister Robert Walpole to go to war with Spain (via Britannica). Some of the English already had it out for the Spanish because of the trade troubles in the West Indies. The Peace of Utrecht had given the British South Sea Company trading rights with Spanish colonies in the Americas (via Oxford Reference), but the English merchants were upset by how the Spanish controlled the area. In 1739, Walpole's government tried to negotiate with Spain to avoid war, but neither side held up their side of the bargain (via the History of Parliament).

The British naval fleet, under the command of Admiral Edward Vernon, attacked the Spanish base at Porto Bello (in present-day Panama), according to History of Parliament. His six ships defeated the Spanish forces there in November 1739. The following January, General James Oglethorpe took over two Spanish forts in Florida, but he later had to retreat (via New Georgia Encyclopedia). The British forces also failed to overtake two crucial trading ports, Cartagena and Cuba, and the support for this conflict began to dwindle (via the History of Parliament). Before long, the War of Jenkins' Ear tapered off and became known as part of the larger conflict called the War of Austrian Succession.