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Food History

The Battle Uruguay won with Cheese Cannonballs

Food history from around the world adds mystery to daily food consumption. Ever since it gained independence, Uruguay was ravaged by the internal struggles in the country. The two parties that contributed to the tussle were the ruling Blanco party and the Colorado party. The Colorado party had formed an alliance with the Empire of Brazil and waged a war on the Blanco government in August 1864.

In the war, it was the Colorados backed by the army and navy of Brazil against the Blancos. The Blancos would clearly be overrun. All that Colorados and their allies had to do was to capture the Blancos’ strongholds in the countryside and isolate them in the capital. There would be nothing left to do for the Blancos but to surrender. For a period of time, Brazil and Uruguay engaged their naval force to wage the war.

During one such skirmish between a Brazilian and an Uruguayan ship, the Uruguayan vessel ran out of cannonballs. The Uruguayan ship was just sitting ducks without any ammunition. All they had on board was the ration for the crew and the handguns they possessed. Thinking on his feet, Captain Coe, the commander of the ship, ordered the cannon to be loaded with stale Dutch cheese of which they had plenty, more so than ammunition. The captain reasoned, “The cheese was too old and hard to eat anyway”. The crew obeyed the orders and loaded the cannons with blocks of cheese. Moments later, the Uruguayan ship opened fire again, throwing hard stale blocks of cheeses at the Brazilian navy. The first few balls went sailing over the intended target ships, but soon enough one crashed into the main mast of a Brazilian ship. Funnily, the big block of cheese caused the mast to shatter into a thousand pieces. The Brazilian admiral was taken aback. Two of his crew members were wounded with cheese shrapnel. After taking a few more cheese balls crashing into the ship, the Brazilian admiral ordered his ship to retire from the battle and return to the port.

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