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Pig War (wikipedia.org)
84 points by sjcsjc on Oct 3, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments



The interesting thing about the Pig War was that it helped galvanize Canada as a country by bringing Vancouver Island and British Columbia together and then becoming part of Canada.

The division between the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands is still pretty strong to this day thanks to the division. I used to live in White Rock, BC and could see Orcas Island from my house, and yet have never been there, despite having been to most of the Gulf Islands. Had the decision gone the other way the archipelago's economy would most likely have been much more entwined with that of Vancouver and Victoria.


Full disclosure, I am completely biased. I live near Seattle and am a boating enthusiast. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the San Juan Islands, do it. I know I am biased but some of the best most wonderful memories for me are boating in the SJI's from young age to present. Incredible views, biking, hiking, music, everything. Very under rated part of the US. The pig war a big excuse to drink :) Sorry for the unabashed plug but just it's just such a special place. I almost hit escape because I don't want it ruined but HN people I think can dig this place in the right way :)


One of the interesting differences between the southern gulf islands and the san juans is the wealth. Most obviously seen by the fact that there's at least 4 to 5 noteworthy airports and airstrips in the san juans, popular with private plane owners who live in Seattle and also have vacation homes in the San Juans.

There's none on Saturna, Mayne, Pender, Galiano or Saltspring.


There's no land-based airstrips, but all those islands are serviced by floatplanes and most have one or more luxury resorts. Aside from Salt Spring, they're more middle-class retiree islands (Salt Spring legit has int'l rich people building summer homes--my wife and I had breakfast at a B&B with a New York couple complaining about the cost of shipping Italian marble in via BC Ferries).


Aaaaaaand now I'm homesick!


For those who missed the Wikipedia link, the US troops were commanded by one George Pickett, the Confederate officer of the ill-fated Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Small world!


Canada has an ongoing territorial dispute with Denmark, concerning Hans Island way up north.

There is military action. Canadian and Danish forces repeatedly take possession of the island, taking down the enemy flag and planting their own. They are also said to leave a bottle of Canadian whisky or Danish schnaps for the other side.

Prospects of lethal escalation are presumably limited.


The border is left undefined in the region of the island, but if you were to draw a straight line between the two points defined on either side of the island, it would pretty much bisect the island. I think that is the solution. Then, Canada could have a land border with Denmark!


What marvellous fun we could have. We could even build a wall.



I assumed it would be a war on pigs, like the Emu War in Western Australia was a "war" on emus.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emu_War


> this dispute was a bloodless conflict.

Err... a pig died... :-)


and he was delicious.


> Cutlar saying to Griffin, "It was eating my potatoes"; and Griffin replying, "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig."

Requirement fulfilled. Now does it make more sense to fence in the potatoes or fence in the pig?


The pig. If your pig comes on my land, it's now likely my pig.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possession_is_nine-tenths_of_t...

Which, coincidentally, has a case about the Hatfield/McCoy feud over a pig, whose ownership was granted to those who possessed the pig.



Interesting, I hadn't heard of this. Mentioned at the bottom of the article about Canadian resentment:

>Canada sought greater autonomy in international affairs.

One I did know about though was mot much latter the Alaska border dispute a little latter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_boundary_dispute



It takes so little provocation to get humans at each-other's throats. Long term, i imagine that will be the undoing of our species.


I'm quite relieved that the higher ups were able to successfully de-escalate the situation. It is so easy to read about situations where some pompous military officer trys to escalate and kick start a conflict. But fortunately a situation that has gotten out of hand is de-escalated smoothly.


I grew up in the San Juan Islands. Funny to see this here -- my recollection of this war is primarily from visiting the different beaches where the camps were. And some re-enactments every year by people in the community. The world is a strange place!


I feel I have to link to a song I grew up listening to that tells the story of this "war" https://youtu.be/4_Ap1rGgVLg


Best line from the song: "They called it a war, but it wasn't very big. The only one got killed was a little British pig."


This was the highlight of the mandatory washington state history I had to take in 9th grade.

That and something about socialist electoral victories in the early 1900s. I don’t think I remember anything else. 5 months of state history for a state that was barely 100 years old might have been a bit much for a bunch of 14 year olds


You squandered half a percent of the history reading about it :)


"For several days, the British and U.S. soldiers exchanged insults, each side attempting to goad the other into firing the first shot, but discipline held on both sides, and thus no shots were fired."

So basically they all wanted to shoot each other, but not so much that they would defy orders.

We absolutely suck.


it gets nicer at the end:

"As a result of the negotiations, both sides agreed to retain joint military occupation of the island until a final settlement could be reached, reducing their presence to a token force of no more than 100 men.... During the years of joint military occupation, the small British and American units on San Juan Island had an amicable mutual social life, visiting one another's camps to celebrate their respective national holidays and holding various athletic competitions. Park rangers tell visitors the biggest threat to peace on the island during these years was 'the large amounts of alcohol available'."


At least there were some smart people on both sides:

> 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 Harney. (Harney's forces had occupied the island since July 27, 1859.)

> Baynes refused, deciding that "two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig" was foolish.[6][10]




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