* OFFICIAL *
Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
- Feb 5, 2017
It was a stifling day as Asha and I walked the trail leading to American Camp. Despite the warm weather, we had a wonderful view from the southern point of San Juan Island. It’s hard to believe tha…
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.
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....