Pickett Pickett's Unperspicacious Pig War

NH Civil War Gal

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The American settlers sought protection from the commander of the Department of Oregon, Brigadier General William S. Harney. The hotheaded Tennessean dispatched 34-year-old Captain George E. Pickett with Co. D, Ninth Infantry from Fort Bellingham to set up camp on the island. On July 27, 1859, Pickett arrived at Griffin Bay with 64 men. While it’s unlikely, some have claimed that Harney and Pickett were collaborating to start a war against Great Britain. Regardless if there was a greater motive intended, Pickett became embroiled in a dispute that could have changed the course of history, just like his charge at Gettysburg in the summer of 1863.

Sir James Douglas countered Harney’s impetuous move with an equally heedless act. He sent the 31-gun steam frigate, HMS Tribune, under the command of 33-year-old Captain Geoffrey P. Hornby, to oppose any attempt the Americans made to land more troops or to construct fortifications. The governor general’s superior, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Station, Rear Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes, was away, leaving Douglas to do as he wished with the British forces in the Pacific Northwest.

Harney.jpg

General William S. Harney. (Library of Congress) A number of the American officers involved in the Pig War—Winfield Scott, William S. Harney, Silas Casey, George E. Pickett, Lewis C. Hunt, Alfred Pleasonton, and James W. Forsyth—would serve as generals during the American Civil War.

Hornby arrived two days after Pickett established his camp. The Royal Navy captain was surprised to find that Pickett ill-advisedly failed to fortify or entrench his camp. The Tribune’s guns could have easily decimated the vulnerable Americans. Pickett’s poor judgment reinforced the common assertion shared by some historians that he was never much of a soldier....
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I don't know. I only very vaguely knew about this "pig war" and was real interested to see it come up today on Emerging Civil War. I hadn't realized what major CW players were involved in it. It certainly makes for some interesting "What If" questions!
 

Waterloo50

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I don't know. I only very vaguely knew about this "pig war" and was real interested to see it come up today on Emerging Civil War. I hadn't realized what major CW players were involved in it. It certainly makes for some interesting "What If" questions!
Odd isn’t it, two great nations on the brink of war over a pig and a few potatoes, having said that wars have been fought over the simplest of things eg ‘tensions finally boiled over in October 1925, when a Greek soldier was shot after allegedly crossing the border into Bulgaria while chasing after his runaway dog’, this little episode resulted in the Greeks invading Bulgaria, it took negotiations from the League of Nations to put an end to that war.
A situation that involves three warships, 84 guns and over 2,600 men could have had serious consequence, trust Pickett to be involved, poor old Pickett, history hasn’t really been kind to him, he’s associated with the rather ridiculous Pig War and his name will be forever associated with that infamous charge.
 

Carronade

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….Pickett ill-advisedly failed to fortify or entrench his camp. The Tribune’s guns could have easily decimated the vulnerable Americans. Pickett’s poor judgment reinforced the common assertion shared by some historians that he was never much of a soldier....

The logical conclusion is that Pickett was not preparing for, intending to start, or under orders to provoke hostilities. His assignment was simply to provide a presence to prevent British police? soldiers? from arresting or harassing Americans. Building fortifications was unnecessary, possible provocative, and unlikely to be of much value against the firepower of the Royal Navy if hostilities did develop.
 

Waterloo50

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The logical conclusion is that Pickett was not preparing for, intending to start, or under orders to provoke hostilities. His assignment was simply to provide a presence to prevent British police? soldiers? from arresting or harassing Americans. Building fortifications was unnecessary, possible provocative, and unlikely to be of much value against the firepower of the Royal Navy if hostilities did develop.
As it was, the only casualty was a pig. 🐷
 

John Hartwell

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It didn't take much to start a war in the 19th century. In 1838, French pastry chef Remontel's bakery was sacked during a riot in Mexico City. When the Mexican government refused to compensate him its 1000 peso value, he complained to Paris. The result was the "Pastry War" of 1838-9 (aka the First Franco-Mexican War). Ports blockaded, Veracruz bombarded ... finally cost Mexico 600,000 pesos for reparations (of which Chef Remontel got a super-inflated 60,000!).

Don't mess with French pastry!

PS: this is the war in which Santa Anna lost his leg (grape shot from the French navy).
 
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