I’m building a database of American Small Wars. I’m interesting in disproving widespread myths. For instance, the myth that United States was an isolationist nation.
There are also many myths about America’s Counterinsurgency history and capabilities. Namely, that Americans are inexperienced in guerilla warfare and that the guerrillas always win. These are the same people who bitterly note that Americans destroyed the native Indians. How? By winning guerrilla wars.

This is a common myth about Vietnam: ‘The US never fought a guerrilla war in a jungle before’ True, if you don’t count the half-dozen jungle wars fought before Vietnam where the US won.

I put together a list of 101 “Small Wars” of various types that required military intervention. Some of these insurgencies were stopped before they could do much harm. I excluded humanitarian and peacekeeping interventions.

The US waged war against a variety of enemies – criminals, privateers and pirates, insurgents, popular uprisings, tribes, and slave revolts.

As you can see, I’m not judging the morality of any of these actions. The fact that the US was better at putting down slave revolts than the French in Haiti or the Portuguese in Brazil does not mean much beyond merely judging military actions.


This is not comphrensive (yet) but at least it is a sample.
US-led Insurgencies:  War of Independence (1775–1783); Texan War of Independence (1835-1836); Californian Bear Flag Revolt (1846); Hawaii coup (1893); Panama War of Independence (1903-1904).

Domestic:
Indian Wars: Pequot War (1637); Iroquois War (1642-1653); King Philip’s War (1675-1676); First French and Indian War (1689-1697); Second French and Indian War (1702); Tuscarora Indian War (1711-1713); War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1742); Third French and Indian War (1744-1748); Fourth French and Indian War (1754-1763); Creek Indian War (1813-1814); First Seminole War (1816-18); Cherokee Removal (1830); Black Hawk’s War (1832); Second Seminole War (1835-1842);Indian Stream War (1835); Cayuse Indian War (1848-55)
Rogue River Wars (1855-1856); Third Seminole War (1855-58); The Yakima War (1855-1858); Apache and Navaho War (1860-1865); First Sioux War (1862-64); Cheyenne & Arapaho War (1864-68); Sioux War (1865-68); Second Apache War (1871-73); Modoc War (1872-3); Kiowa War (1874); Red River Indian War (1874-1875); Third Apache War (1876-1883); Second Sioux War (1876-77); Nez Perce War (1877); Bannock War (1878); Cheyenne War (1878); Fourth Apache War (1885-1886); Third Sioux War (1890-1891)

Slave Revolts: Gabriel’s Revolt in Virginia (1800); Spanish Florida (1816); Vesey’s Revolt (1822); Turner’s Revolt (1831); Murrel’s Rebellion (1835)

Domestic US Insurgencies & Uprisings: Whiskey Insurrection (1794); Missouri Mormon War (1838); Dorr’s Rebellion in Rhode Island (1842); Illinois Mormon War (1844); Wakarusa War in Kansas (1855-1856); Missouri (1854-1861); Utah Mormon War (1857-1858); Ku Klux Klan Insurgency (1865-1868); Fenian Brotherhood (1866-1870); Black Patch War in Kentucky (1904-1909); Puerto Rican National Uprising (1950)

Foreign:
Naval Small Wars: Undeclared Naval War against France (1798-1800); First Barbary War (1800-1805); Undeclared Naval War against Spain and France (1806-10); 2nd Barbary War (1815); Anti-Slave Trade Campaign (Africa) (1820-23); Anti-Piracy War (Cuba) (1822-1825); Anti-Piracy War (Greece) (1827); Anti-Piracy War (Ivory Coast) (1843); Anti-Piracy War (China) (1855); Undeclared Naval War against Germany (1941); Undeclared Naval War between China and Taiwan (1950-1955)

Foreign Insurgencies and Small Wars:Sumatra (1832); Sumatra (1838-39); Fiji Islands (1840); Drummond Island (1841); Samoa (1841); China (1843); Mexico Anti-Bandit expedition (1859); Formosa (1867); Nicaragua (1867); Korea (1871); Mexico Anti-Bandit Expeditions (1873); Panama (1885); Samoan Civil War (1898-99); Philippines Insurgency (1899-1902); Moro Wars (1899-1913); China Boxer Rebellion (1901); Panama (1903-1914); Cuba (1906-1909); Nicaragua (1907); Mexico, Veracruz (1913); Dominican Republic (1916-24); Cuban Revolt (1917); Haitian Occupation Revolt (1918); Nicaraguan Insurgency (1926-1933); Dominican Civil War (1965); Vietnam VietCong Insurgency (1962-1969); Medellín Cartel (Colombia) (1985-1993); Grenada (1983); Panama (1989); Iraq Air War (1993-2003); Haiti (1994); Yugoslavia (1995-1996); Kosovo (1999); Afghanistan (Ongoing); Iraq War (Ongoing)

The US won the military component of the vast majority of these small wars, and typically won in the political battle as well.

In foreign countries, victory was measured by the ability to establish a client government and a trained security force, while denying the insurgents an opportunity to take over the country and establish their own government.

I think this is the problem. The general public believes the guerrilla propaganda. According to the “Myth of the Insurgent” so long as the guerrilla survives, he is not defeated, and therefore he “wins.” Wrong. In reality, the purpose of the guerrilla is to overthrow the ruling government and replace it with their own. Their inability to do so signals their defeat.

Sometimes the mere deployment of US forces can quell the insurgency with little bloodshed. Some of the wars, especially against the Indians, were much bloodier affairs. Even in Vietnam, the US destroyed the VietCong by 1969 and won the guerrilla war – South Vietnam fell in 1975 when the North Vietnamese launched a conventional invasion with a professional army.

I drew up this list, in part, to show the sheer numbers of minor conflicts and small wars the US participated in. It is possible for us to analyze them in a more qualitative manner

There is a second group of Small Wars where the United States indirectly helped an allied state at war. The US played little to no direct role so I excluded these wars. This list would include wars like the Greek Communist Insurgency (1946-1949) and the South Korean Communist Insurgency (1948-1949) or the where the US provided advisors and equipment but did not engage the enemy. There is a third list of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian operations like Somalia or Lebanon.

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