In 1859, British authorities and American citizens got into a
dispute over the property lines between British North America and
the United States. This occurred in the San Juan Islands between
Vancouver Island and North America. The reason that this is
called the Pig War is because it was set off by the killing of a
pig. This conflict is also called the San Juan Boundary dispute,
the Northwestern Boundary Dispute and the Pig Episode. The only
thing that died during the pig war was the pig itself, making the
entire war more of a political argument rather than what most
would consider a war.
The two people who tipped the balance of what was essentially a
stalemate into direct conflict were Lyman Cutlar and Charles
Griffin. Lyman Cutlar moved to San Juan Island and claimed rights
to live there due to the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 of the
United States. On June 15, 1859 Lyman Cutler shot and killed a
boar that was eating the potatoes right out of his garden while a
man stood laughing on the other side of his fence. The man,
Charles Griffin, was an employee of the Hudson Bay Company and
ran a sheep ranch. He owned the pig and several more that he
allowed to roam freely.
These two had lived peaceable until then. Cutler offered ten
dollars for the pig that he shot but Griffin was not satisfied
and demanded one hundred dollars. Of course Cutlar replied that
because the pig had been trespassing on his property he shouldn't
have to pay a thing. At that point the British authorities
threatened to arrest Cutlar. The American settlers of San Juan
Island then called for military protection from the British.
General Winfield Scott was sent by President James Buchanan to
negotiate with Governor Douglas and to try to end the conflict
peaceably. Tensions between the North and South had been growing
in the United States and President Buchanan did not want to risk
a war with the British during these trying times. The conflict
was resolved with essential military personnel from both the
British and the United States occupying the island. The British
were relegated to residing in the North and the United States
citizens occupying the South of the island. It is still one of
the very few places in the world where one nation's flag is
raised alongside another.
After that there was peace between the two nations on the island
of San Juan. The citizens and military personnel often came
together to celebrate each others mutual holidays and hold
various competitions. The only threat, according to a Park
Ranger, was "the large amounts of alcohol available."
Twelve years later full control of the island was seceded to the
United States of America. The matter was referred to Kaiser
Wilhelm I of Germany and he set up a commission that decided in
favor of the United States' claim on the San Juan Islands. On
November 25, 1872 the British withdrew their forces, and the
Americans withdrew theirs in July of 1874.
Today the Pig War is still mentioned and commemorated in the San
Juan Island National Historical Park.
For more cool stuff about Pigs:
Keeping Pigs as Pets