4 Lesser-Known Historical Events Americans Must Know About

4 Lesser-Known Historical Events Americans Must Know About

4 Lesser-Known Historical Events Americans Must Know About

The history of America is grand and colorful, with events like the Civil War, the moon landing, and the 9/11 attacks standing out as the most memorable ones. For good reasons or bad, these historical events get attention in history books, memoirs, documentaries, and political conversations. People narrate the stories to their children, and the education system covers them in textbooks, making them common knowledge.

But there is much more beneath the surface once you dig deep into the political background of the US. You may not know much about many more events that changed the country’s history with subtle impacts. While these incidents may not be mentioned in books and films, they fascinate people with a deep interest in history.

Here are a few obscure ones worth learning more about.

Free State of Van Zandt

Did you know that Van Zandt County was once known as the “Free State of Van Zandt”? And this county in east Texas was an independent state in conflict with the US? 

Federal troops were stationed across towns in Texas following the Civil War. The citizens of Van Zandt were disgruntled with martial law and voted to secede from Texas and the US in the summer of 1867.

When word reached General Philip Sheridan, he decided to deal with the rebellion by sending a cavalry unit to Van Zandt. The citizens of the county resolved to retaliate by declaring war on America. Armed rebels set up at the national border and even opened fire when the troops arrived. 

When the troops retreated, the rebels decided to celebrate with drinks but ended up going overboard with the party. The troops returned to shackle them when they were inebriated, leading to the shortest war in American history until date. 

The Ostend Manifesto

The Ostend Manifesto dates back to 1853, with the beginning of the term of President Pierce. The circular recommended that the US acquire Cuba, a small island nation that was the world’s leading sugar producer and supplier. Cuba was a Spanish possession, but American policymakers coveted it to gain control over its rich resources.

Here’s how the story unfolded: In 1848 President James K. Polk offered Spain $100 million for Cuba, but Spain rejected the offer. President Franklin Pierce, an avid slavery supporter, renewed the effort after his election in 1852. He asked three diplomats James Buchanan (UK), James Mason (France), and Pierre Soule (Spain) to create a joint action proposal. They came together in Ostend, Belgium, and shared their recommendation with Pierce in 1850.

Unexpectedly, the Ostend Manifesto embarrassed President Pierce as it stated that Cuba was a danger to the US. It even highlighted the consideration of declaring war against Spain to acquire Cuba. While Pierce tried to keep the document under wraps, the New York Herald published its content calling the plan an attempt to steal land for slavery.

According to Road To The Civil War, the Manifesto increased the rift between the Southern and Northern states. Further, it also became the root of problems within the Democratic Party, leading to Franklin Pierce losing the opportunity for a second term as the President. 

Franklin: The Almost 14th State

When the American Revolution ended, the US Congress was buried in debt. The province of North Carolina decided to help Congress to ease its financial troubles by giving up millions of acres of land between the Mississippi River and the Allegheny Mountains. The government had two years to accept the area’s responsibility.

During this time, western settlements feared that Congress would sell off the land to a foreign entity. Eventually, North Carolina took back the offer and reclaimed authority over the land. But frontiersmen from the region were unhappy with North Carolina’s governance. They wanted to establish an independent state called Frankland here.

In 1785, county delegates even collaborated to elect leaders for the new state. They also drafted a constitution for it. They went on to file a petition for statehood, but the attempt failed as only seven out of the existing thirteen provinces voted in its favor. Frankland leaders even switched the state’s name to Franklin to get support from Benjamin Franklin, but North Carolina resumed complete control in 1789.

The First (Unofficial) Female US President

Despite being one of the most progressive nations, the US is yet to have an official first female President. A lesser-known fact is that the country was functionally run by a woman for more than a year. Surprisingly, it happened a century ago during the term of President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. The President lost his wife and fell for a widow Edith Galtm whom he went on to marry in 1915.

After his marriage, Wilson went on to win another term as the American President. This time, his wife was his constant companion, attending meetings, accessing classified material, and filtering his mail. Edith even accompanied her husband to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference toward the end of World War I.

Things suddenly turned when President Wilson was paralyzed and bedridden due to a stroke. The First Lady took over most of the President’s duties and hid his incapacity from the public instead of encouraging him to resign. She effectively took over from the President’s stroke to the end of his term in 1921.

Edith Wilson was the bridge between the President and other government officials during this period. She monitored all matters and determined which were critical enough to be taken to the President. That’s how the country was led by a woman who wasn’t officially elected.


Although these lesser-known events aren’t mentioned anywhere in the history textbooks and conversations, Americans deserve to know about them. To some extent, they show the power of the people but also demonstrate the state’s supremacy. Being run by a woman President unofficially is another event that gets extra attention. The American political landscape has always witnessed power struggles, and history has many such events.