Historians ask which American war has been the longest

Historians in the News

Host Bob Schieffer noted that milestone during the March 22, 2010, edition of CBS' Face the Nation. "March 19th was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war," he said.

We wondered if it really has been America's longest war....

It's worth noting that answering this question is more art than science. James Bradford, a Texas A&M historian, points out that the American Revolution may have begun with the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) -- or earlier, with the breakout of hostilities at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Meanwhile, the end of the war could have been the the British surrender at Yorktown (Oct. 17, 1781), the signing of the Treaty of Paris (September 1783), the ratification of the treaty by the Continental Congress (Jan. 14, 1784), the ratification by King George III of England (April 9, 1784) or the exchange of the ratification documents (May 12, 1784).

Another problem: "It depends on how one conceptualizes a war," said Richard H. Kohn, a historian at the University of North Carolina. "Afghanistan could be considered simply a campaign of the 'war on terror' if one accepts that as a war, just as Korea and Vietnam could be considered campaigns of the Cold War rather than separate wars."

Finally, no one knows when the Iraq War (or Afghanistan) will end. "Maybe [Schieffer] figures Iraq will be the longest by the time we eventually leave, which of course is still possible," said Lance Janda, a historian at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla....

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

John D. Beatty - 3/24/2010

That's the answer, the one that several conflicts were fought over in the middle ages.

The question? How many angels can dance of the head of a pin?

Which is about as relevant as "what was America's longest war?" The answer is, of course, "the one that began during the administration of the party we blame for all our current problems."