On the morning of July 13, 1854, the American sloop-of-war USS Cyane fired nearly 200 cannonballs at the defenseless and unarmed town of San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua. When their supply of cannonballs neared exhaustion, Captain George N. Hollins dispatched a group of sailors to burn anything in the town that was still standing.
By nightfall, the town of San Juan del Norte, also known as Greytown, ceased to exist. The inhabitants, who had mostly fled before the bombardment, were homeless.
There was no declaration of war before, and no apology after. The official reason was given by President Pierce as such:
The president concluded that while it would have been more satisfactory if the Cyane’s mission could have been consummated without the use of force, “the arrogant contumacy of the offenders rendered it impossible to avoid the alternative either to break up their establishment or to leave them impressed with the idea that they might persevere with impunity in a career or insolence and plunder.”
The truth behind why this criminal act occurred had a lot more to do with greed and racism, than with “arrogant contumacy”.