September 20, 1835: The Ragamuffin War Begins (Really, No Joke)

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A Brief History

On September 20, 1835, Brazilian rebels captured Porto Alegre, starting a rebellion that lasted almost 10 years called The Ragamuffin War.  The longest war against the Imperial Brazilian government (and second bloodiest), the Ragamuffin war raged between southern, rural “Ragamuffins” or “Gauchos” (cowboys) that wanted a Republican form of government against the northern portion of the country.

Digging Deeper

Despite an offer of amnesty and peace in 1840, the rebels continued the fight even though no realistic chance of winning existed.  The famed Italian revolutionary and uniter, Giuseppe Garibaldi, came to assist the rebels in 1839 and there learned his military trade.  When peace finally came in March of 1845, the rebels had won amnesty, the right to pick their own provincial leaders, and a tariff on imported beef.  The Imperial government even paid off the war debts of the rebels.

It has often been said that all wars are stupid, and in cases such as this one, even the name is goofy!  About 20,000 Brazilians died in combat during this war, so it is no laughing matter, but come on, Ragamuffin?  (“Ragamuffin” is a scruffy person dressed in rags, especially with messed up hair. Gauchos wore fringed leather clothes, hence the name.)

We have seen many wars over trivial reasons and many with goofy names, such as The Football (soccer) War, The Whiskey Rebellion, King Phillip’s War (the “King” in fact was a Native American chief named Metacomet), The Boxer Rebellion, Social War (357 BC-355 BC, and another by that name 91 BC-88 BC), Third Sacred War, Red Eyebrows Rebellion, Star Wars (no joke, these were Mayan wars), War of the Three Henries, War of the Three Sanchos (this sounds vaguely racist), War of Hum (hmmm…), War of the Two Peters (no comment), War of the Eight Saints, Epiphany Rising, Percy Rebellion, Hunger War, Flower War (Aztecs), War of the Roses, War of the Priests, Mad War (aren’t they all), Poor Conrad Rebellion, Little War (Hungary), counts Feud, Cologne War, Cudgel War, Beaver War, Peach Tree War, War of Devolution (?), War of the Reunions, Darien Scheme, First Fox War (What does the fox say?), Pomeranian War (right after the Basset Hound Revolt?), Kettle War, Theater War, Quasi-War, War of Knives, War of the Oranges, Rum Rebellion, Caucasian War (apparently a segregated war), Liberal War, Black War (actually against Black Aborigines), Baptist War, Pastry War, Sheepeater War, Ghost Dance War, Acre War, War of the Golden Stool, Holy Man’s Rebellion, Green Corn Rebellion, War of the Insane, Women’s War, Sand War, The Troubles, Dirty War, Pool Department Insurgency, and of course, RENAMO Insurgency.  ( Note: All of these are real.)

It seems lately we give our wars much more mundane, uninspired names, but of course, by any name, all these battles, wars, and insurgencies are serious business.  Some just sound goofy.  Question for students (and subscribers): What other goofy sounding conflicts can you think of?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Pesavento, Sandra Jatahy.  A revolução farroupilha.  Brasiliense, 1990.

The featured image in this article, Charge of the Cavalry by Guilherme Litran (Júlio de Castilhos MuseumPorto Alegre), depicting the Riograndense army, is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.