The last battle of the War of Jenkins’ Ear took place on this day in 1748. This oddly-named war broke out in 1739 among two great naval powers – Britain and Spain. The motive for the war was an incident where a Spanish officer captured a British ship and cut off the captain’s ear. The injured captain was called Robert Jenkins, and the war was named precisely after his severed ear.
The Spanish officer in question was called Julio León Fandiño. He stopped Jenkins’ ship because he suspected it was smuggling goods. He was rough and ordered Captain Jenkins to be tied to the mast. He personally took Jenkins by his left ear and cut it off using a sword. He then told Jenkins to tell the British king that he would do the same to the king if he caught him smuggling goods.
Jenkins kept the severed piece of his ear and took it to England. He showed it to all present at a session of the House of Commons of the British parliament (allegedly he had preserved the ear pickled in a jar). This piece of evidence could serve as a pretext for declaring war. War indeed broke out and lasted a full 9 years. 29,500 people lost their lives in the war, and around 593 ships were sunk.