On topic war story.......
- From: chuckgould.chuck@xxxxxxxxx
- Date: 8 Jan 2006 23:59:57 -0800
In the Pacific NW there is an odd "jog" in the border between the US
and Canada. The international border cuts right through some of he
finest cruising grounds in the world, with the Canadian "Gulf Islands"
to the north and west, and the US "San Juan Islands" actually part of
the same achipelago to the south and east.
There is an interesting story about how this border came to be
established, and why boaters today have to hassle with crossing from
one country to another when enjoying the area.
The story actually begins long before there were any European settlers,
to speak of, here in the Pacific Northwest. The Treaty of Ghent
supposedly settled the war of 1812, and in that treaty there were a
number of "housekeeping" provisions inserted to prevent future
conflicts between Britain and the US in North America. Something that
probably sounded just fine to a group of diplomats and politicians in
London and in Washington DC was a phrase the described the border
between the US controlled Oregon Territory and British contolled
territories to the north. The international border was to follow the
49th parallel to the western shore of the mainland, then follow the
middle of the "main channel separating Vancouver Island from the
Mainland", and finally proceed down the middle of the Strait of Juan De
Fuca into the Pacific Ocean. The geography of the Pacific NW was
unknown to all but a few mapmakers and explorers, and most likely
nobody thought there would ever be a serious dispute over territories
to incredibly remote and removed from civilization, so the
fact-checking that would have determined there were actually *two*
bodies of water that could be considered the "main channel" (Haro
Strait and Rosario Strait) between the mainland and Vancouver Island
American settlers began occupying land on San Juan Island, (west of
Rosario Strait but east of Haro Strait). The Hudson Bay Company decided
to make an issue out of the possession of San Juan Island and try to
establish, by practice, that the international border would run down
Rosario Strait. An uneasy period ensued, with American farmers and the
Hudson Bay Company both trying to claim San Juan Island. The Americans
were primarily interested in
farming vegetables, while the British wanted to use the same cleared
areas for grazing sheep.
An American settler name Lyman Cutlar was constantly plagued by the
same destructive pig.
The animal would escape from the Hudson Bay Company compound and tear
up Cutlar's root crops. After herding the pig back to the HBC several
times, Cutlar finally decided to shoot the pig. Once the pig was
dispatched, Cutlar went to the HBC post and offered to pay for the
animal. HBC saw an opportunity to get rid of Cutlar, and demanded about
10 times the customary value of a pig- a sum that Cutlar would be
unable to pay and that would force him to abandon his claim. When
Cutlar refused to pay but also refused to leave the island, HBC asked
for troops to be sent to San Juan Island to arrest him. The American
settlers convinced an American commander to send troops to protect
Cutlar and the other American settlers from HBC tyrrany on disputed San
Juan Island. Both armed forces arrived and set up camps on San Juan
Island. An armed standoff ensued that lasted for many years, and is
today referred to as "the pig war" in honor of the war's only loss to
hostile fire, the HBC pig.
Follows is an account of a visit we made to English Camp, the site
where the British Occupation forces were headquartered. The story of
how the dispute was settled, (and how Britain almost lost all of Canada
to the US following the civil war in a related situation), is one that
residents and visitors to the Pacific NW find interesting.
British Columbia Governor James Douglas was not amused when US Army
Captain George Pickett landed an infantry company on San Juan Island.
Pickett had declared the disputed island "US territory" and threatened
to rally American settlers against the interests of the Hudson Bay
Company. Douglas ordered the Royal Magistrate of San Juan Island, John
DeCourcy, to demand that Pickett and his forces leave the island.
DeCourcy's demands were summarily rebuffed by Pickett.
Governor Douglas decided to raise the ante. He called on a Royal Navy
Captain, Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, to expel the Americans using whatever
force was necessary.
Douglas additionally ordered Hornby to land a company of Royal Marines
on the island, equal in number to the American forces.
Hornby was reluctant to force a landing on San Juan. He set up a
meeting with Pickett on August 3, 1859, and as a military courtesy
informed Pickett that Douglas had ordered the marines sent ashore.
Pickett replied that his men would open fire on any British troops
landing on San Juan.
Hornby's commanding officer, Rear Admiral R. Lambert Baynes, was
enroute to Victoria from Chile, and an imminent arrival was expected.
Despite Douglas' impatient demands for immediate military action,
Hornby stalled for time until August 5, (when Baynes landed in
Victoria). Baynes and Hornby ultimately persuaded Douglas that armed
confrontation with the Americans would be less than prudent, and might
have widespread repercussions. Douglas agreed to consider diplomatic
solutions, but ordered Hornby's flotilla to remain on station in
Griffin Bay to prevent reinforcement of Pickett's company. (This plan
was frustrated on August 10 when, under cover of a thick fog, 180 US
soldiers commanded by Silas Casey landed on South Beach.)
Rear Admiral Baynes attempted to explain his preference for diplomacy
rather than military engagement in a letter to the Admiralty. The
message read, in part, "Throughout this untoward affair we have been
perfectly passive, exercising a degree of forbearance which their
Lordships may not, perhaps, altogether approve, but called for, in my
opinion, by the almost certainty of a collision at this distant point
causing a rupture between the two nations; and I felt that as long as
the dignity and honor of the British flag was in no way compromised, I
should be best carrying out the views of Her Majesty's Government, and
the interests of these colonies, by avoiding the risk of it. Acts of
discourtesy on minor points were, on more than one occasion, shown by
the authorities of the United States, though the military behave with
perfect propriety. This was all an irritating matter."
US President James Buchanan also recognized the delicate nature of the
situation. The President dispatched retired General Winfield Scott,
veteran of the War of 1812 and hero of the Mexican War, to negotiate a
solution with Governor Douglas. Scott took a steamer to Panama, crossed
the isthmus, and took another steamer to the village of Port Townsend.
Scott arrived in Port Townsend on October 25, and began daily
correspondence with Governor Douglas in Victoria. Mail packets sailed
back and forth with diplomatic dispatches.
James Douglas demanded the removal of all American troops from San Juan
Island. Scott offered to remove Silas Casey's reinforcements and all
the American artillery, leaving only Pickett's company in place. Under
Scott's proposal, Captain Hornby's flotilla would be reduced to a
single ship. By early November, Scott and Douglas negotiated a plan for
an armed truce, agreeing to "joint military occupation" of San Juan
Island until their respective governments could agree on an
international border. The "war" was officially suspended, and the only
victim of hostile fire was a Hudson Bay Company pig.
Silas Casey and his reinforcements withdrew, leaving Pickett in charge
of the US forces on San Juan Island once again. The Americans continued
construction of their installation on the Cattle Point highlands. In
deference to the season, the British troops waited until March of 1860
to land on the north end of the Island and begin constructing the camp
at Garrison Bay. A few of the original buildings still remain at
British Camp, and a series of unobtrusive but informative placards
relate the history of the site for modern visitors.
We approached Garrison Bay from Roche Harbor, transiting Mosquito Pass.
The pass should not be attempted without an adequate chart. The safe
passage at the north end of Mosquito Pass is to the east of the low
islet off Henry Island, and close to the shoreline of Bazalgette Point.
Vessels southbound in the pass must take red nun buoy #6 to port, and
select a midchannel course between Delacombe and White Points. Just
past Horseshoe Bay, a turn to starboard raises Garrison Bay; as lovely
a body of water as one could ever wish to find. We anchored just NW of
Guss Island, in 15-feet of water over a sticky, mud and clay bottom. A
200-yard dinghy run brought us to the dinghy dock, built years ago by
yachtsmen from British Columbia. A sign at the head of the dock
identifies the site as "English Camp National Historic Park," but
the forces camped here beginning in 1973 represented individuals from a
number of countries in the British Empire. It does seem somewhat
incorrect to refer to the area as "English Camp," although many
The Royal Marines came ashore very nearby the current dock. Color
Sergeant W. Joy commented, "We landed in a bay completely landlocked,
our camping ground being on a shell bank- the accumulation of years,
evidently, as it averaged ten feet high, from thirty-five to forty feet
through, by 120-yards long. It was the work of Indians, as they live
very much on a shellfish called "clams" and of course deposit the
shells just outside their huts, hence the bank I mentioned. The brush
wood grew quite down to the water's edge, in the rear the forest was
growing in undisturbed tranquility."
Remains of the shell midden are still discernable on the shores of
Garrison Bay. Archeologists have analyzed the midden to establish a
record of human occupation dating to 25 BC. The earliest inhabitants
apparently lived in pit houses, and at some point in time that
civilization was dislodged by people living in houses built of planks
stacked against log frames.
Approaching the British Camp from the dinghy dock, we encountered a
stand of extremely mature, still productive pear trees. The pear trees
survive from an orchard planted by the Crook family. William Crook was
a British immigrant who claimed the English Camp site in 1876. His
descendants lived here until 1972. The Crook family used many of the
British buildings for housing and farming purposes, explaining why the
original structures have survived for over 125 years since they were
abandoned by the British military.
A tidy blockhouse fortifies the beach, with an upper story twisted 45
degrees from the plane of the lower story walls. The eight-faced result
was intended to more effectively repel attacks from all directions. The
blockhouse was established to provide some defense against marauding
Indians, not the Americans, but was never needed at British Camp.
Near the Royal Marine barracks, (now used as an information center
during the summer months), a monstrous Bigleaf Maple tops a domed root
mound surrounded by a rail fence. The tree is well over 300 years old,
and until some large branches fell off in the 1970's it was considered
among the largest maple trees in the world. Contemporary sightseers
relax in the shade of the giant arbor, just as native Americans, Royal
Marines, and homesteaders have done for centuries before.
The original commander of the British occupation forces on San Juan
Island was Captain George Bazalgette. Bazalgette served until 1867,
when he was replaced by a Captain Delacombe. Delacombe was accompanied
by a wife and several children. Delacombe left his mark on British Camp
by converting a small vegetable garden into a formal, geometric,
ornamental flower garden. That garden was located on the far edge of
the beachfront, at the base of the trail leading to the officers'
quarters on the hillside above. The current garden, prolific with
flowers that would have been favorites in English gardens in the 19th
Century, was established on the same site and duplicates Bazalgette's
The original housing for British officers and a small barn were built
on the first ledge in the cliff above the shoreside camp. Today, the
area is a pleasant clearing offering an excellent vista of the formal
garden and Garrison Bay.
The British and American officers routinely visited the opposing camp
on San Juan. The Americans would host the British officers to celebrate
the Fourth of July, while the British would return the favor on the
Queen's Birthday. British and American officers frequently raced
horses on the meadows at Cattle Point. Captain Delacombe ordered a
larger and fancier commandant's house built, on the second ledge
above the Camp, and partially justified the expense with the
explanation that the larger quarters were needed to properly entertain
visiting officers from the American Camp.
The Confederate Navy Effects the Final Resolution:
The armed truce between US and British forces on San Juan Island
remained in effect throughout the War Between the States. During the
war, Britain repeatedly professed neutrality, but
less-than-clandestinely assisted the Confederates. The British textile
industry was concerned for the supply of cotton from southern states.
Confederate blockade runners exchanged cotton for armaments at British
ports in the Bahamas, but the most significant violation of the
official neutrality was the construction of the Confederate warships
"Alabama" and "Florida" in the shipyards of Liverpool. The
ships built in Britain sank or captured over 250 northern merchant
ships, and inspired another 700 to covert to foreign flags.
The assassination of Lincoln profoundly changed the post civil war
history of the United States. Lincoln had announced plans for a quick
reconciliation with immediate restoration of amicable relations between
the Union and the defeated Confederacy. After Lincoln's death,
political interests bent upon punishing the south, (and her British
ally), ascended to the most powerful roles in the US government. The
southern states were, (in many respects), economically oppressed by the
north following the war.
Most Americans believed the Confederate Navy, most particularly the
"Alabama," was the sole reason the Confederacy could continue to
finance the war after the defeat at Gettysburg. Senator Charles Sumner
was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he
vigorously condemned Britain for extending the war. He claimed the
British should be held accountable for all the losses to US merchant
shipping, as well as the total cost of prosecuting that portion of the
war following Lee's defeat in Pennsylvania. Sumner and his supporters
demanded a payment of two billion dollars, and additionally recommended
that the US seize all British territory in Canada! If the US had
invaded Canada as Sumner demanded, the Hudson Bay Company pig would
surely not have been the only victim of hostile fire on San Juan
Cooler heads prevailed, but saber rattling continued while the US
continued to press demands for compensation from Britain and the
British steadfastly refused to consider the claims. The US and Britain
finally agreed to arbitrate the "Warship Alabama Claims" and other
outstanding disputes and drafted the Treaty of Washington in 1871.
Under terms of the treaty, the President of the United States, the
Queen of England, the King of Italy, the President of Switzerland, and
the Emperor of Brazil each appointed a member to a Court of
The Court of Arbitration ultimately agreed that Britain was indeed
liable for damages, but reduced the level of compensation from two
billion dollars (and the surrender of Canada demanded by Sumner's
faction) to a cash payment of fifteen million dollars.
The Court of Arbitration appointed the Emperor of Germany to settle all
outstanding boundary disputes between US and British territories in
North America. Possibly influenced by the Court of Arbitration's
finding that Britain was culpable for damages to the United States, the
German Emperor decided in favor of the US interpretation of the "main
channel between Vancouver Island and the mainland." The border was
established in Haro Strait, where it has remained ever since.
- Re: On topic war story.......
- From: Don White
- Re: On topic war story.......
- Prev by Date: Re: Local Lake Flooded
- Next by Date: Re: main tank oil level sensor
- Previous by thread: Local Lake Flooded
- Next by thread: Re: On topic war story.......