So, you’ve probably heard about the American Civil War or the American Revolutionary War. But have you ever heard about the Pig War? Most Ridiculous War Ever, Also known as the San Juan war, it involves the newly formed United States of America and the United Kingdom’s Colony of Vancouver Island. The war was initially fueled by a border dispute over three small islands near the west coast of what we know now as Canada. However, other matters fueled this nonviolent war.
So, the United States just won their revolutionary war against the British. After the grueling 8 years war, it is time for the newly independent nation to expand its territory towards the western continent. It is essential to know that Canada was under British occupation. So, it is even more important to settle the border between the US and the British Americans.
In the Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846, it was agreed that the US/ British American border should be drawn at the 49th parallel. The border forms a straight line from Lake of Woods to the Pacific Ocean. However, things got difficult due to the three islands located in the Strait of Georgia. Three of them are San Juan, Orca, and Lopez.
The US proposed the Haro Strait line, which will make the three islands under their control. However, Britain prefers the Rosario Strait, making the islands under British rule. The British took action first by establishing a salmon-curing station in San Juan Island. The US followed soon and established a settlement on the island.
Things become peaceful after a while until an accident happens. A British colonist named Charles Griffin just bought a pig from England. On June 15, 1859, the animal wandered into an American farm that belongs to Lyman Cutlar. Enraged after the animal ate his potatoes, Cutler shot and killed the pig.
The US settlers called for protection due to the frequent threat of the British authority to arrest Cutlar due to the incident. As a result, on July 27, 1859, a US military commander by the name of General William S. Harney sent a 66-man company to San Juan Island.
Threatened by the presence of the US military, British Columbia governor, James Douglas, tried to intimidate the Yanks by sending three British warships. However, despite being outnumbered, the US military refused to leave the island. Both sides stood their ground until Admiral Robert L. Baynes, the Commander of the British Navy in the Pacific, arrived 3 months later.
However, Baynes refuses Douglas’ request to engage the US military due to the simple matter of the dead pig. At around the same time, the news about the stand-off had reached Washington and London. Fearing that the situation would escalate further, both sides began to negotiate.
Eventually, both nations’ military decided to stay on the island with equal force, around 100 men each. The Americans camped on the south of San Juan Island, while the British in the north. Finally, the border dispute was settled in 1872 by the international commission led by Kaiser Wilhelm from Germany. It was decided that the three islands fell under US control, an agreeable decision that remains today, Most Ridiculous War Ever.