Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson
sbisson

My New Favourite War

We're currently staying in a friend's clifftop house on San Juan Island, in the narrow gap between Canada and the USA. I'm on US soil, but my phone signal is Canadian, and at night I can see the lights of Victoria on Vancouver Island over across the Haro Strait.

It's here that I've learnt about what must have been the longest running, and possibly least known, conflict between British and American forces. Starting in 1859, with the shooting of an interloping pig and a bill for compensation, the border dispute that became known as The Pig War lasted twelve years. Over that period the island was split in two, with American forces on the south tip, and British on the north. During that time very few shots were fired (and most of those were on joint hunting trips), both armies held weekly dances attended by both sides, and the only lives lost were drunken swimmers (after the dances).

The war was finally ended when a third party arbitration resolved the border dispute. The British packed up and went home, and the Americans got the islands with a border that ran up the middle of the strait I'm looking across.

As far as I can tell the only people left discomfited by the result were the Canadians who felt the British should have been a little more martial about things and a dead pig. The British and American forces seemed quite happy to both sit out rather nasty wars that were happening elsewhere in what is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

A most civilised conflict. If only more where held that way.
Tags: britain, canada, history, pig war, usa
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