The War of Griffin’s Pig: A Bibliography of the Anglo-American Northwest Boundary Dispute

by John A. Drobnicki
The following article was originally published in the Bulletin of Bibliography, Vol. 56, No. 2 (June 1999), 65-68. Copyright © 1999 by Greenwood Publishing Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Although the United States and Great Britain had signed the Oregon Treaty in 1846, which established America’s northwest boundary as the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains west to the channel separating Vancouver’s Island from the mainland, in reality it did not settle their ongoing dispute.  Specifically, there were differences in interpretation of the treaty regarding  ownership of the San Juan Islands, which lay in the middle of the aforementioned channel.

The Hudson’s Bay Company had a fishing station and a sheep ranch on the largest of the islands, which itself was called San Juan (although the HBC referred to it as Bellevue Island).  The United States, however, considered the islands to be part of the newly created Washington Territory, and an early provocation occurred in 1855 when an American sheriff from Washington seized 35 Hudson’s Bay Company sheep as payment for “back taxes.”  A Joint Boundary Commission met during 1857, but the boundary was not settled.  The gold rush in the northwest had brought more settlers to the area, along with an increased military presence to protect them from Indian uprisings.  The British, needless to say, considered the Americans on San Juan to be squatters.

Into this already tense situation stepped one American settler, Lyman A. Cutler (sometimes also spelled “Cutlar”), who was originally from Ohio.  On June 15, 1859, a frustrated and annoyed Cutler shot and killed a black pig that had repeatedly “trespassed” and eaten from his potato patch.  He then went to the house of the pig’s owner, Charles Griffin, the Hudson company agent on San Juan, and offered to pay $10 for the pig.  Griffin informed Cutler that the pig was a prize breeder, rejected his offer, and demanded $100, which Cutler thought outrageous and refused to pay.  The British wanted Cutler to be arrested and brought to Victoria for trial, but he refused to surrender.  Thus began the so-called “Pig War.”*

Acting on his own authority and responding to pleas from American settlers, Brigadier General William S. Harney, the commanding officer of the Pacific Coast forces, sent Captain George E. Pickett from the mainland along with a company of 50 men to establish a post on San Juan, while Vancouver’s governor, Sir James Douglas, sent the frigate Tribune to Griffin Bay, where the American soldiers had made camp.  (Pickett would later become a General in the Confederate army and lead the famous charge at Gettysburg.)  By mid-August, the U.S. had 9 companies there (over 400 men), along with 8 cannon and over 100 civilians, while the British had eventually increased their forces to over 1,000 men, including 5 warships.

On the brink of a shooting war, however, cooler heads prevailed.  Captain Hornby, commander of the Tribune, resisted Douglas’ pressure to land troops and attack Pickett, and was backed-up by Rear Admiral Baynes, commander of the British fleet in the Pacific.  President James Buchanan, who had been surprised to learn of Harney’s actions, sent Lt. General Winfield Scott, the Army Chief of Staff, to defuse the situation.  After arriving in mid-October, Scott (who had clashed with Harney during the Mexican War) met with both sides and negotiated a reduction in forces, leaving only one U.S. company there.  Harney attempted to interfere with the agreed-upon joint occupation of 100 men for each side and was relieved of his command and reprimanded.  The Civil War, of course, occupied America’s attention for the next half-decade, and when the U.S. and Britain negotiated the Treaty of Washington in 1871 to settle outstanding claims between the two countries, they agreed to refer the San Juan issue to Kaiser Wilhelm I for arbitration.  On Oct. 21, 1872, the German Emperor’s decision placed the US boundary to the west of the archipelago, giving the San Juan Islands to America, and the British withdrew their troops a month later.  Although the Pig War had lasted for over a decade, the total casualties consisted of ... one pig.

The following bibliography is limited to published materials about the Pig War itself, including both primary materials and secondary sources, as well as some Internet sources and unpublished dissertations -- it does not contain materials on the earlier boundary disputes over the Oregon Territory per se, although relevant material can be found in several of the large collections of documents.  The manuscript and archival materials, which are principally located in the Pacific Northwest, can be accessed via the bibliographies and notes in the published works.

* Historians have also used the phrase "Pig War" to refer to several other confrontations, including a dispute in 1841 between the Republic of Texas and France's charge d'affaires there, as well as an economic dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia in 1906.









I.  Memoirs/Documents

Miller, David Hunter, ed.  Northwest Water Boundary: Report of the Experts Summoned by the German Emperor as Arbitrator Under Articles 34-42 of the Treaty of Washington of May 8, 1871, Preliminary to His Award Dated October 21, 1872.  Seattle: University of Washington, 1942.

________.  Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.  8 vols.  Washington, DC: GPO, 1948.  There are many relevant documents in Vol. VIII (1858-1863), 281-448.

Moore, John Bassett, ed.  History and Digest of the International Arbitrations to Which the United States Has Been a Party: Together With Appendices Containing the Treaties Relating to Such Arbitrations, and Historical and Legal Notes on Other International Arbitrations Ancient and Modern, and on the Domestic Commissions of the United States for the Adjustment of International Claims.  6 vols.  Washington: GPO, 1898. Contains a section on “The San Juan Water Boundary” in Vol. I, 223-235, which includes the background of the dispute, the text of Kaiser Wilhelm’s decision, and several related documents.

Peck, William A.  The Pig War and Other Experiences of William Peck: Soldier 1858-1862, U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers.  San Juan Islands, Washington Territory.  The Journal of  William A. Peck, Jr.  Medford, OR: Webb Research Group, 1993.

Richardson, James D.  A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Prepared Under the Direction of the Joint Committee on Printing, of the House and Senate, Pursuant to an Act of the Fifty-Second Congress of the United States.  20 vols.  New York:  Bureau of National Literature, Inc., 1897.

United States. Department of State. The Northwest Boundary: Discussion of the Water Boundary  Question; Geographical Memoir of the Islands in Dispute; and History of the Military  Occupation of San Juan Island; Accompanied by Map and Cross-Sections of Channels...   Washington, DC: GPO, 1868.

________.  Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States.  Over 350 vols. to date.  Washington, DC: GPO, 1861- .  Published annually since 1861, with slightly varying titles, this series presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activities.

United States.  North-West American Water Boundary.  Maps Annexed to the Memorial and Reply of the United States’ Government, Submitted to the Arbitration and Award of His Majesty the Emperor of Germany, Under the Provisions of the Treaty of Washington, June 12, 1872.  London: Harrison, 1873.  14 maps.

United States.  President.  Message of the President of the United States Communicating ... Information in Relation to the Occupation of the Island of San Juan, in Puget Sound.  40th Congress, 2nd session, Sen. Exec. Doc. No. 29, 1868.

Wilson, Charles William.  Mapping the Frontier: Charles Wilson’s Diary of the Survey of the 49th Parallel, 1858-1862, While Secretary of the British Boundary Commission.  Ed. George F. G. Stanley.  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1970.

II.  Newspapers

For contemporary newspaper accounts, researchers are advised to consult (aside from the New York Times): the British Colonist (Victoria, V.I.: 1858-1860), which was continued by the Daily British Colonist (1860-1866), and the Daily British Colonist and Victoria Chronicle (1866-1872); and the Washington Pioneer (Olympia, WA: 1853-54), which was continued by the Pioneer and Democrat (1854-1861), The Overland Press (1861-64), The Pacific Tribune (1864-68), and The Weekly Pacific Tribune (1868-79).  See the article by Richard D. Fulton cited below for an excellent overview of the press war.

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While this section is (hopefully) comprehensive in listing the many sources specifically about the Pig War, it includes only a small fraction of the many books about the Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, etc.) and imperial rivalries.

Adams, George Rollie.  “General William Selby Harney: Frontier Soldier, 1800-1889.”  Ph.D.  diss., University of Arizona, 1983.

Archer, Jules.  Indian Foe, Indian Friend: The Story of William S. Harney.  New York: Crowell- Collier Press, 1970.

Bailey-Cummings, Jo, and Al Cummings.  San Juan: The Powder-Keg Island.  The Settler’s Own Stories.  Friday Harbor, WA: Beach Combers, 1987.  Has chapters on “The War of the Pig” (33-56), “The Peaceful War Years” (57-90), and “The End of an Era” (91-98), and intersperses excerpts from documents and reminiscences into the narrative.  Also contains a useful list of commanding officers of the American and British camps in an appendix, 181-182.

Ballaine, Wesley Charles.  “Personalities in the Military Occupation of San Juan Island.”  Reserve Officer 15 (Sept. 1938): 17-20.

Ballard, Dave.  “Pig War Threatened.”  Wild West 2 (Apr. 1990): 26-33.

Bave, Emelia L.  San Juan Saga: A Unique History of the San Juan Islands and the Pig War  Told in Words and Pictures From the Long-Running Historical Pageant.  Rev. and  enlarged 3rd ed.  Friday Harbor, WA: Bave, 1976.

Benson, C. C.  “Pickett, George E.”  In Dictionary of American Biography.  Vol. 7, Part 2.  Ed. Dumas Malone.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934, 570-571.

Dallas, A. G.  San Juan, Alaska, and the North-West Boundary.  London: H. S. King and Co., 1873.  Alexander Dallas was one of the directors of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Governor Douglas’ son-in-law.

Dawson, Will.  The War That Was Never Fought.  Princeton: Auerbach Publishers, 1971.

Dunn, Jerry Camarillo, Jr.  “War Games.”  National Geographic Traveler 10 (May-June 1993):  108.

Ebstein, Frederick H.  “A Chapter of American History.”  Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 12 (July 1891): 773-781.  The author was a second lieutenant in the last American garrison on San Juan before the British officially evacuated.

Eisenhower, John S. D.  Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott.  New York: Free Press, 1997.

Fish, Andrew.  “The Last Phase of the Oregon Boundary Question: The Struggle For San Juan Island.”  A.M. Thesis, University of Oregon, 1921; published in Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 22 (Sept. 1921): 161-224.

Fowler, Albert G.  “The Other Gulf War.”  The Beaver 72 (Dec. 1992-Jan. 1993): 24-31.

Fulton, Richard D.  “‘Consistent With Honor’: The Anglo-American Press War Over San Juan Island, 1859.”  American Periodicals 3 (1993): 11-31.

Goodheart, Adam.  “For Want of a Pig ...”  Civilization 5 (Dec. 1998/Jan. 1999): 34-35.  Also available on the Internet at

Gough, Barry M.  “British Policy in the San Juan Boundary Dispute.” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 62 (1971): 59-68.

“The Great Pig War.”  Monkeyshines on America, Jan. 1986, 15.

Green, Lewis.  “Yankees Go Home.”  Saturday Evening Post 260 (Nov. 1988): 70-71.

Gregory, V. J.  “Divided Waters.”  Military Review 44 (Feb. 1964): 87-96.

________.  “The Last Shot.”  Military Review 55 (Dec. 1975): 49-55.

Guterson, David.  “Northwest Passage: The San Juans.”  New York Times Magazine, 15 May 1994, S34.

“Haller, Granville O.”  In The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography.  Vol. 11.  1901; repr. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1967, 493.

Haller, Granville Owen.  The Dismissal of Major Granville O. Haller, of the Regular Army, of the United States by Order of the Secretary of War, in Special Orders, No. 331, of July 25th, 1863; Also, a Brief Memoir of His Military Services, and a Few Observations.  Paterson, NJ: Daily Guardian, 1863.  Brevet Major (later Colonel) Granville Haller was commander of the 4th Infantry.

________.  “Reminiscences of the San Juan Island Imbroglio.” Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 25 (July 1899): 36-44.

________.  San Juan and Secession: Possible Relation to the War of the Rebellion.  Did General Harney Try to Make Trouble With English to Aid the Conspiracy?  A Careful Review of His Orders and the Circumstances Attending the Disputed Possessions During the Year 1859. [Tacoma?:] n.p., 1896; reprinted in Washington State Genealogical and Historical Review 1, no. 3 (1983).

Hawkins, R. S.  “A Boundary Affair in the Far West.”  Royal Engineers Journal 98 (June 1984):  98-110.

Haydock, Michael D.  “The San Juan Island’s ‘Pig War.’” American History 32 (Aug. 1997): 42-46, 54.

Howard, Joseph Kinsey.  “Manifest Destiny and the British Empire’s Pig.”  Montana: The Magazine of Western History 5 (Autumn 1955): 19-23.

Hunt, Herbert, and Floyd C. Kayler.  Washington West of the Cascades.  Seattle: S. J. Clarke, 1917.

Jordon, Mabel E.  “The British on San Juan Island.”  Canadian Geographical Journal 59 (July  1959): 14-19.

Kirzinger, George.  “Pig War Proves How Strange History Can Be.” Greensboro News & Record, 10 June 1998, R10.

Landes, Cheryl.  “The San Juan Island Pig War.”  Canadian West 10 (Summer 1994): 16-18.

Long, John W., Jr.  “The Origin and Development of the San Juan Island Boundary Controversy.”  Pacific Northwest Quarterly 43 (July 1952): 187-213.

________.  “The San Juan Island Boundary Controversy: A Phase of 19th Century Anglo-American Relations.”  Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1949.

McCabe, James O.  The San Juan Island Boundary Question.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964.

McElfresh, Douglas.  “Spirit of Independence Can Still Be Felt in San Juan Islands.”  San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Aug. 1989, C4.

MacEwan, Grant.  “Pig War on San Juan.”  In Coyote Music and Other Humorous Tales of the Early West, by Grant
MacEwan.  Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 1993.

McKay, Charles.  “History of San Juan Island.”  Washington Historical Quarterly 2 (July 1908):   290-293.  McKay was a settler and blacksmith on San Juan Island.

McKinney, John.  “In a Pig’s Footsteps.”  Los Angeles Times, 24 Oct. 1993, Sec. L, 21.

Magnuson, Warren G.  “One-Shot War With England.”  American Heritage 11 (Apr. 1960): 62-64, 105-107.

Merk, Frederick.  “The Oregon Pioneers and the Boundary.” American Historical Review 29 (1924): 681-699.

Miller, David Hunter.  San Juan Archipelago: Study of the Joint Occupation of San Juan Island.   Bellows Falls, VT: Windham Press, 1943.

Milton, William Fitzwilliam.  A History of the San Juan Water Boundary Question, as Affecting the Division of Territory Between Great Britain and the United States.  London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1869.

Murray, Keith A.  The Pig War.  Tacoma: Washington State Historical Society, 1968.

________.  “Pig War Letters: A Romantic Account of the San Juan Crisis.”  Columbia 1 (Fall 1987): 11-20.  Contains excerpts from letters written by Captain Lewis C. Hunt to a Mrs. McBlair in New York.

Neal, Harry E.  “The Pig That Nearly Caused a War.”  Army 24 (Feb. 1974): 39-41.

Nogaki, Sylvia Wieland.  “U.S., Canada in Second Pig War.” Seattle Times, 26 Sept. 1989, F1, F6.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence.  “Harney, William Selby.”  In Dictionary of American Biography.  Vol. 4, Part 2.  Ed. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932, 280-281.

“Queen Recalls the British Pig That Almost Caused a War.”  UPI wire service article, 7 Mar. 1983.

Raymond, Steve.  “Charge Account: Exhibit Traces Pickett’s Exploits.” Seattle Times, 28 Feb. 1995, E7.

Reavis, L. U.  The Life and Military Services of Gen. William Selby Harney.  St. Louis: Bryan, Brand & Co., 1878.

Richardson, David.  Pig War Islands.  Eastsound, WA: Orcas Pub. Co., 1971.

Sage, W. N.  Sir James Douglas.  Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1930.

Smith, Albert Goldwin.  “Notes on the Problem of San Juan.” Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 31 (Apr. 1940): 181-186.

Tunem, Alfred.  “The Dispute Over the San Juan Island Water Boundary.” Washington Historical Quarterly 23 (Jan. 1932): 38-46; (Apr. 1932): 133-137; (July 1932): 196-204;  (Oct. 1932):  286-300.

Van Alstyne, Richard W. “International Rivalries in the Pacific Northwest.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 46 (1945): 185-218.

________.  “San Juan Island, Seizure of (July 1859).”  In Dictionary of American History.  Vol. 6.  Rev. ed.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976, 214.

Woodbury, Chuck.  “How One Pig Could Have Changed American History.” Out West, no. 15 (July 1991).  Available on the Internet at

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Fraley, Kevin.  “The Pig War”:

“Major General George E. Pickett”:

“The Pig War”:  Part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park’s web site.  Also contains a valuable bibliography, particularly of unpublished manuscripts.

“The Pig War of 1859”:

“The ‘Pig War,’ San Juan Island, 1859.”  A reference bibliography prepared by the United States Army Military History Institute.  Available on the Internet at

“San Juan Historical Museum”:

“San Juan Island History and Photos”:

“William Selby Harney.”  A reference bibliography prepared by the United States Army Military History Institute.  Available on the Internet at

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This section is by no means comprehensive, but rather a representative sample of the many books about the HBC.

Morton, Arthur Silver.  A History of the Canadian West to 1870-71: Being a History of Rupert’s  Land (the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope).  2nd ed.  Toronto: Published in cooperation with University of  Saskatchewan by University of Toronto Press, 1973.

Newman, Peter Charles.  Company of Adventurers.  3 vols.  New York: Viking, 1985-91.

________.  Empire of the Bay: An Illustrated History of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  New  York: Viking Studio, 1989.

Rich, E. E.  The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1870.  2 vols.  London: Hudson’s  Bay Record Society, 1958-59.

Tharp, Louise Hall.  Company of Adventurers: The Story of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Boston:  Little, Brown and Co., 1946.

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Thompson, Erwin N.  San Juan Island National Historical Park/Washington.  Historic Resource Study series.  Denver: Denver Service Center, National Park Service, 1972.

United States.  Congress.  Senate.  Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.  Establishing the San Juan Island National Historical Park in the State of Washington, and for Other Purposes.  Report no. 510.  Washington, DC: GPO, 1965.

United States.  Congress.  Senate.  Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.  Subcommittee on  Parks and Recreation. Pig War National Historical Park.  Hearing, Eighty-ninth Congress, first session, on S. 489, April 17, 1965.  Washington, DC: GPO, 1965.

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Baker, Betty.  The Pig War.  Illus. by Robert Lopshire.  New York: Harper & Row, 1969.  A children’s picture book based on the historical events.

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