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Monday, September 11, 2006

Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon 


I may use some of this in a story I want to write.

The Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846 resolved the Oregon boundary dispute by dividing the Oregon Country between the United States and Britain "along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Juan de Fuca's Straits, to the Pacific Ocean."...However, there are actually two straits which could be called the middle of the channel: Haro Strait, along the west side of the San Juan Islands; and Rosario Strait, along the east side. Because of this ambiguity, both the United States and Britain claimed sovereignty over the San Juan Islands.

The “Pig War”, as the confrontation on San Juan Island came to be called, had its origin in the Anglo-American dispute over possession of the Oregon Country, that vast expanse of land consisting of the present states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, parts of Montana and Wyoming, and the Province of British Columbia.

In 1854, a U.S. customs collector and his deputy landed on San Juan Island to collect duties from the Hudson’s Bay Company sheep farm. The farm manager swore out a warrant for the deputy’s arrest for trespassing on British soil. Nothing came out of this incident, but people were very unhappy about it.

The pig of the Pig War was owned by the "British Empire" and was shot and killed by an "American" farmer for rooting potatoes in 1859 on San Juan island.

By 1859 there were about 18 Americans on San Juan Island. They were settled on redemption claims which they expected the U.S. Government to recognize as valid, but which the British considered illegal. Neither side recognized the authority of the other. Tempers were short and it would take little to produce a crisis.

Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer who had moved onto the island believing that he was entitled to live there under the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, shot and killed a pig rooting in his garden. He had found the giant black boar eating his tubers while a man stood next to the fence laughing. Cutlar was so upset that he took aim and shot the pig. The mysterious man then ran away into the woods.

Lyman A. Cutlar shot a pig that was rooting in his garden. Shortly afterwards he realized the pig belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company and offered to pay for it. When informed the pig was a champion breeder and was valued at $100, he refused to pay. He was told he was trespassing and would be arrested if he did not pay.

The only historical foot to stand on comes by throwing our hands in the air and admitting that we can say nothing at all about the pig, except that it was a pig, and it that it was shot dead.

It turns out that the pig was owned by an Irishman, Charles Griffin, who was employed by the Hudson's Bay Company to run the sheep ranch. He also owned several pigs which he allowed to roam freely. The two lived in peace until this incident. Cutlar offered $10 to Griffin to compensate for the pig, but Griffin was unsatisfied with this offer and demanded $100. Following this reply, Cutlar believed he shouldn't have to pay for the pig because the pig had been trespassing on his land.

When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, American citizens drew up a petition requesting U.S. military protection. Brigadier General William S. Harney, the anti-British commander of the Department of Oregon, responded by sending a company of the 9th U.S. Infantry under Captain George E. Pickett (of later Civil War fame) to San Juan. Pickett's 66-man unit landed on July 27 and occupied a commanding spot near the Hudson's Bay Company wharf, just north of Belle Vue Farm.

The Pig War was a peacefully resolved would-be border conflict. The contested dead pig drew the United States and Great Britian to realize that both nations claimed the island. The troops were sent in only after a farmer had shot the pig. The Americans established a camp on the south end of San Juan island. The British established a camp on the north end.

Brigadier General William Selby Harney, commander of the U.S. Military Department of Oregon, arrived. He was known for his foul temper, vulgar tongue, and frequent insubordination. He met some of the U.S. residents of the island and learned about the residents' fear and dislike of the British....On July 11, 1859, he ordered Captain Pickett and Company D of the Ninth Infantry to establish a post. When Douglas heard of this he ordered Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby of the British Man-of-War Tribune to land a contingent of Royal Marines on the island. British naval officers advised him against it since it was contrary to navy policy. Instead Hornby met with Pickett at his tent, accompanied by two British boundary commissioners. Hornby asked him on what terms Pickett occupied the island. Pickett declared that he was following the orders of the general commanding the territory. He also added that Harney was acting under orders of the government in Washington D.C. Hornby argued that since the U.S. had put a military force on a disputed island that the British could only do the same. Pickett claimed he could not allow joint occupation until he heard from General Harney....General Harney was pleased with Pickett’s report of the meeting. He was concerned, though, about Pickett’s assessment that his forces were too weak to fight a large British force. So he sent reinforcements. Douglas continued to protest but it did no good. By the end of August, the British stationed five warships with 167 mounted guns and over 2,000 men.

The governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, James Douglas, ordered British Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes to land marines on San Juan Island and engage the American soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General William Selby Harney. (Harney's forces had occupied the island since 27 July 1859.) Baynes refused, deciding that "two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig" was foolish. Local commanding officers on both sides had been given essentially the same orders: defend yourselves, but absolutely do not fire the first shot. For several days, the British and U.S. soldiers exchanged insults, each side attempting to goad the others into firing the first shot, but discipline held on both sides, and thus no shots were fired.

When word of the crisis reached Washington, officials there were shocked that the simple action of an irate farmer had grown into an explosive international incident. Alarmed by the prospects, President James Buchanan sent General Winfield Scott, commanding general of the U.S. Army, to investigate and try to contain the affair....Through correspondence with Governor Douglas, Scott arranged for each nation to withdraw its reinforcements, leaving the island with a single company of U.S. soldiers and a British warship anchored in Griffin Bay. Scott proposed a joint military occupation until a final settlement could be reached, which both nations approved in November.

On April 10, 1860, Harney, furious that he had not been told about the joint occupation and that Pickett had been replaced, committed his final act of insubordination. In violation of Scott’s direct orders he sent Company D under Pickett back to the island. When this news and the British protest reached Washington D.C., secretaries of war and state jointly agreed that Harney should be removed as soon as possible and that his command turned over to the next officer in rank. He was given command of the Department of the West in St Louis. But he was also recalled from that post in May 1861 after difficulties with his officers. He held no other command and retired in 1863.

After the firing on Fort Sumter, Virginia seceded from the Union and Pickett began a journey home from Oregon to serve his state, despite his personal detestment of the institution of slavery. Arriving after the First Battle of Bull Run, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army on June 25, 1861; he had been holding a commission as a major in the Confederate States Army Artillery since March 16....Pickett's division arrived at the Battle of Gettysburg on the evening of the second day, July 2, 1863. They had been delayed performing guard duty on the Confederate lines of communication through Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. After two days of heavy fighting, General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had driven the Union Army of the Potomac to the high ground south of Gettysburg and had been unable to dislodge them. General Lee's plan for July 3 called for a massive assault on the center of the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge. He directed General Longstreet to assemble a force of three divisions for the attack—two exhausted divisions from the corps of A.P. Hill (under Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble) and Pickett's fresh division from Longstreet's corps. Lee referred to Pickett as leading the charge (although Longstreet was actually in command), which is one of the reasons that it is generally not known to popular history by the more accurate name "Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Assault"....Pickett's Charge was a bloodbath. While the Union lost about 1,500 killed and wounded, the Confederate casualty rate was over 50%. Pickett's three brigade commanders and all thirteen of his regimental commanders were casualties. Kemper was wounded and Garnett and Armistead did not survive. Trimble and Pettigrew were the most senior casualties, the former losing a leg and the latter wounded in the hand and dying on the retreat to Virginia. Pickett himself has received some historical criticism for surviving the battle personally unscathed, but his position well to the rear of his troops (probably at the Codori farm on the Emmitsburg Road) was command doctrine at the time for division commanders.

George Pickett fled to Canada after the Civil War to avoid prosecution for the mistreatment of Union prisoners while he was commanding in North Carolina.

As if to ensure the complete absurdity of this drama, in the eleventh hour, Kaiser Wilhelm I, ruler of the German Empire, was asked to arbitrate the matter of the Pig War. What is absurd isn't necessarily the fact that the Kaiser was asked to resolve a conflict on a tiny island he never visited halfway around the world. What's absurd is that he was a German. After the last couple world wars the irony blooms like V2s falling from the sky. Get the Germans to resolve a conflict peacefully? Get the Germans for an objective and neutral point of view? Now there's a good idea! There's an impartial group of warmongers.

Garden time already? Blame it on El Niño, the Japanese Current, the California rains, or what you will - there were crocuses popping up around the island today, and it's been downright pleasant outside. My second-grade boy Shay told me it was because the Pig saw his shadow - that's the Ground Hog, which he still thinks is a porker.

And yes, the post title is taken from the White Album, naturally.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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