The Pig War: How America Killed a Pig and Won Some Islands

The Pig War, you forgotten piece of American History.

Competing claims in Oregon Country, 1846

How can you even go wrong designing a DBQ based off of the Pig War?  It was an armed conflict between the United Kingdom and the United States in which the only casualty was a British pig — no figurative language here: the only living thing that got shot was a pig who was eating some American’s root vegetables.  Nonetheless, the death of this Suidae would trigger a decade-long joint occupation of San Juan Island and would nearly lead to a shooting war between British and American forces.

The amazing thing about this conflict is that it was bloodless.  Cooler heads prevailed.  Despite having orders to engage the enemy, the British commander refused to go to war over a pig.  Neither side was willing to fire the first shot.

Another intriguing thing about the Pig War is the personalities involved.  George E. Pickett may be best remembered for his blunders in the Battle of Gettysburg, but he honed his military command skills as a leader of the American forces on San Juan Island.  Henry Martyn Robert had plenty of time to think up his “Rules of Order” while stationed at American Camp.  Geoffrey Honby may never have made Admiral of the Fleet if he’d obeyed his orders to rout the Americans.

As a DBQ, there should be be sufficient primary source documents on the Pig War to make for a rich and generative topic.

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