The 'Toledo War' was an armed standoff in 1835
between the militia
s of the state of Ohio
and the then territory of Michigan
. Shots were fired, and the incident remains the closest two individual states of the USA
have come to all out armed conflict.
While it strikes modern observers as odd at best, at the time both the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan thought it was important to have jurisdiction over the land around the mouth of the Maumee River, which runs through the present city of Toledo into Lake Erie. The northern boundary of Ohio had been somewhat ill-defined ever since it had entered the Union in 1803, for Ohio viewed it as their prerogative to settle on and annex land from the sparsely settled Michigan territory.
When Michigan petitioned for statehood in early 1835, it claimed its southern border as a straight line across from the southern tip of Lake Michigan in the west. This border would have placed the 'Toledo Strip,' as the narrow band of disputed land in question was now called, firmly within Michigan. Ohio objected and asked Congress to declare the border such that the 'Toledo Strip' would be in Ohio. At most the land in dispute would have been about 30 miles wide.
Before congress acted, the Ohio legislature annexed the Toledo Strip in February of 1835. The Michigan territorial governor Stevens T. Mason defiantly declared he would resist the action, by force if necessary, whereupon Ohio governor Robert Lucas sent a 300 man militia to secure the Strip. Mason responded with a militia of his own, and after a weeklong confused standoff, the Michigan men fired on the Ohio men. The volley was not returned and nobody was hit. There was a tense, unresolved peace for several months.
President Andrew Jackson was supportive of the Ohio claim and requested a survey be made. Governor Mason refused. In April, the standoff still continuing, Lucas sent in his own surveyors, who were promptly shot at and arrested by the Michigan militia. The Michigan militia then combed the Strip arresting all Ohioans. A son of one of the arrested Ohioans undertook a personal 'mission impossible' to free his imprisoned father, attacking and wounding a Michigan sheriff with a knife and drawing the only blood of the 'war.'
Congress finally proposed an acceptable compromise, whereby Michigan would be admitted as a state and would relinquish claim to the Toledo Strip, but would instead be given the vast western half of the Upper Peninsula. Although complete wilderness, it was about 100 times as large as the Toledo Strip. This compromise was acceptable to all parties (Wisconsin did not yet have sufficient pull to have a say in the matter), and Michigan became a state in 1836.
The Toledo War is a largely forgotten incident in American history. It reflects a frontier era when people identified with their state - a state in which they has settled very recently at that - and were willing to participate in armed conflict to defend its interests. It also reflects an era where a 30 mile wide strip of land on the Great Lakes was actually coveted real estate that was attracting settlers.
The incident is at least somewhat known throughout Michigan, where the general perception is that Michigan got a 'good deal,' relinquishing what would eventually become yet another mediocre rust belt industrial city in exchange for the mineral-rich western Upper Peninsula. However, yours truly was subjected to a year long Ohio history course in Junior High where it was not even mentioned.