The dumbest conflict in history?

Very few people have heard of this 19th century conflict – the “War of the Pigs” that occurred between Great Britain and the United States. This conflict, also known as the Pig and Potato War, the Northwest boundary dispute, the San Juan boundary dispute.

This was a conflict that occurred while attempting to establish an international border in the San Juan Islands between the US State of Washington and Vancouver Island in British Colombia in Canada. Somehow, however, this conflict lasted fifteen years from 1859 until it was resolved in 1874.

And for all that time, the victim of this conflict was just a pig. How did all this happen?

The Pig War: History's dumbest conflict?  - Photo 1.


The roots of this problem can be found in the Oregon boundary dispute from the early 19th century. It was an issue between the United Kingdom and the United States over the exact location of Oregon’s Northern boundary with its position. way is a state. In 1818, the Anglo-American treaty hoped to avoid these problems by allowing the use of the territory by citizens of both countries and allowing both nations to use important waterways.

However, this does not resolve the growing tensions between the two countries. In 1846, another treaty was signed. Called the “Oregon Treaty”, it stated that the boundary would extend past the 49th parallel of west latitude to “the middle of the channel separating the continent from Vancouver Island”. From here, the treaty said the border would go south to the Juan De Fuca Strait before emptying into the sea.

Despite these fairly descriptive terms, there are still quite a few problems that arise between the two countries. Because of the actual geographical boundary of two different straits that could be applied to the treaty, the Rosario Strait and the Haro Strait, but now, the San Juan Islands lie right between them.

The Pig War: The dumbest conflict in history?  - Photo 2.

Disputed Borders: The US border is blue, and the UK’s is red.

Not surprisingly, both countries chose the strait to their own advantage. The Americans supported the Haro Strait while the British chose the Rosario Strait. And that choice means each country thinks it owns the territory of the San Juan Islands.

Before the matter was resolved, the British took care of things on their own and the first step was to set up a salmon collection station through the Hudson’s Bay Company on the islands in 1851. But it wasn’t until 1853 that the Americans arrived. felt that they were losing their rights, so they tried to find a way to reclaim this land, but the British went one step further, establishing a sheep farm here.

However, Americans are not easily discouraged. After the actions of the British, Americans began to migrate to settle on the island and by 1859, there were about 14 to 30 Americans settled here. Both parties consider the other’s presence to be illegal. And this is where the conflict occurs.

Tensions “escalate”

On June 15, 1859, a British-owned pig happened to be walking into the vegetable field of an American farmer named Lyman Cutler. This is not the first time this has happened, and because of his anger, Lyman took the gun and shot the pig to death. Unfortunately for Cutler, the pig belonged to Charles Griffin, an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Lyman Cutler was then approached by Griffin to claim compensation and although Cutler offered a $10 fee for the pig, Griffin demanded more and reported it to British authorities. The British side now threatened to arrest Cutler if he did not give the right amount of compensation.

The Pig War: History's dumbest conflict?  - Photo 3.

However, the US side also did not want its people to suffer, so the government sent a convoy with 64 soldiers to protect the American settlers on the San Juan Islands. The British government considered this an act of aggression, they sent James Douglas, the governor of Vancouver Island, along with the military ship Frigate Tribune and many other warships to fight the American troops.

Seeing the British side act like this, the US decided to fight back and the US government requested support from the mainland and by mid-August, there was a force of more than 400 soldiers and 8 cannons on the ground. island. Meanwhile, the British had more than 1,000 men and at least 5 warships. Conflict began to seem inevitable as American forces built fortifications and the British began to conduct their artillery maneuvers as well.

When news of the conflict finally reached US President James Buchanan, he ordered his commander-in-chief, Winfield Scott, to negotiate with Governor Douglas to come up with a peaceful resolution. This was a wise move since Scott had been involved in border negotiations since the 1830s.

The Pig War: History's dumbest conflict?  - Photo 4.

In October 1859, Scott began negotiating with Douglas. Neither wanted to start an all-out armed conflict, but neither did they give up their land rights. They eventually agreed to reduce the number of troops, guns, and warships in the territory, although they would not eliminate them entirely.

Each side will have a force of 100 men and they will work together to share responsibility for the island until a solution is found. The British set up camp in the North while the Americans occupied the South.

Many reports suggest that during this time. The American and British camps got along well. They often visit each other’s camps to eat and drink and celebrate each other’s national holidays. Theoretically, however, this tension could last another 12 years.

Finally, in 1871, the Treaty of Washington was signed which not only resolved the issue of the San Juan Islands but also many other disagreements between the two nations. This process took a year but in 1872 the Islands were finally claimed as US territory.

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