In 1859, not even 100 years after the Revolutionary War
came to an end, the United States and Britain nearly went to war again. Though the official reason for the conflict was the war's first casualty
, a British pig, the war was the product of mounting tension between the two nations over who owned San Juan Island
, in Washington State
. Though in 1846, The Oregon Treaty
had granted the United States ownership of all land below the 49th parallel
, its wording was unclear with regard to Puget Sound
. Thus, both nations claimed the island and the issue remained unsettled on June 15, 1859, when a pig belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company
was executed by an American homesteader
, Lyman Cutlar
of the Hudson's Bay Company's Belle Vue Farm
, where the pig had resided prior to shuffling off this mortal coil
, wanted Cutlar arrested. Besides the larger territory dispute
, the two parties involved in the shooting were at a disagreement over with whom fault should lie. Cutlar felt it was the Englishman's duty to keep his pig out of neighboring potato patches. Griffin responded, "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig.
Other Americans took up a petition to their government requesting protection for Cutlar, prompting the Commander of the Department of Oregon
to send the 66 men of the 9th Infantry
to San Juan Island to forstall the arrest. When Governor James Douglas
of British Columbia
got wind of the occupation, he sent three warships
to the island, instructed to remove the Americans, if it was possible to do so without bloodshed. The standoff continued into August, the British forces now had 2,140 men on boats in the Puget Sound
, including the Real Admiral of the British Navy. The Americans had 461 troops on the island itself, led by Lieutenant Colonel Silas Casey
(for whom Fort Casey
State Park in Washington is named).
President James Buchanan
finally heard of the situation on the opposite coast, and sent the Commanding General of the U.S. Army to sort it out. General Winfield Scott
and Governor Douglas agreed that the bulk of the troops from both sides would withdraw, leaving one company from each army to occupy the island. The camps that housed the two military units for the next 12 years were known as the English Camp
and the American Camp
In 1871, the two governments asked Kaiser Wilhelm I
of Germany to act as arbiter in determining to whom San Juan Island belonged. He took a year mulling it over, but on October 21, 1872, he declared that the island was United States territory. Within a month, the British had vacated their encampment, and in July 1874 the final U.S. troops left the island.
I used to know the name of the pig.. If anyone gets out to San Juan Island and takes the historic tour, please be a doll and find out what it was.