A great deal of scholarly and policy attention has been given in recent years to the relationship between illicit trade and armed conflict. Much of the focus has been on how violent non-state actors have increasingly exploited illicit commerce to fund rebellion. It is commonly asserted that there has been a growing convergence between war-making and illicit profiteering, and that this is a distinctly post-Cold War phenomenon – even a defining characteristic of so-called “new wars.” In this chapter, I stress that while the connection between illicit trade and conflict is critical and should not be overlooked, it is hardly new and not necessarily more important than in the past. The case of the United States offers a particularly striking historical reality check for contemporary debates about the illicit trade and conflict connection. I focus on three historical episodes: the American War of Independence; the War of 1812; and the American Civil War. In all three episodes, illicit trade profoundly shaped the nature, duration, and outcome of the conflict.