In the mid-19th century, San Juan Island was jointly occupied by British and American military, during a dispute that is known as The Pig War (“where the only one killed was the pig”). In 1859, an American island farmer shot a pig owned by the British Hudson’s Bay Company, which kept trade posts on the island, because the pig kept rooting around in his vegetables — ostensibly launching a 15-year cold war. But really this was just an excuse: the boundary between the U.S. and Canada in these waters had been wrangled over for decades, and the San Juan Islands lie smack in between the two countries.
English Camp was (and is) at the north end of the island, and American Camp at the southwest. Here there is a wide view of the waters that connect the Puget Sound to the Pacific, across a prairie-like expanse that leads from a forested area down to the shore.
Some of those stationed here went on to greater fame: Capt. George Pickett, Lt. Col. Silas Casey, 2nd Lt. Henry Martyn Roberts (he of Roberts Rules of Order).
Although we don’t hear much about it these days, actually the Pig War made a lot of people nervous on both sides of the pond, with its potential for yet another British-American war. A resolution was reached in 1872, arbitrated by Kaiser Wilhelm I. (Really.) The islands went to the U.S., and by 1874 all military troops from both sides were withdrawn.
I tried to capture a feeling of grainy old history, half-remembered and fading as in these historic photos:
Both English and American Camps are now National Historic Parks, with several ongoing restoration projects. But more about that another time.
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Grainy Days at American camp 5, 2, 4, 3, 6, c. 2012
Fujifilm Neopan 1600
Historic images of American Camp courtesy of the U.S.National Park Service, Washington.