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 The Pig War
The Real Event
 An Alternate History
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 The Pig War - by Jeffrey A. Thomas
The Pig War
by Jeffrey A. Thomas


Victoria Threatened!

Governor James Douglas set the newspaper down, and picked up his cup of tea. On the other side of his desk sat a dour man in the uniform of a Rear Admiral.

"Admiral Baynes, we must act immediately to protect British interests in the San Juan Islands."

"Yes sir."

"You are hereby ordered to proceed to San Juan Island and land your marine force. It is my belief that these Yanks can be pushed off the island with a sufficient threat. They won't have the stomach for a fight.

"Yes sir. I shall proceed immediately. May I have a free hand to operate to prevent the Americans from reinforcing the island?"

"Certainly, I would not presume to tell you how to do your job."

"Thank you sir."

"I would like to see your plans before you set out."

"Yes sir."

Baynes sighed as he left the Governors office. He knew that he was going to have a landlubber telling him what to do, no matter the promise.

Douglas leaned back in his chair. It was time to do something about these Americans. A few years back a bunch of them had sailed over to San Juan Island in the middle of the night and rounded up a flock of sheep. They'd claimed that they were seizing them to settle a tax debt owed to Whatcom County.

Before they'd set off on this expedition they'd fortified themselves with a good dose of whiskey. As a result they had trouble getting the sheep into the boat and ended up chasing them all over the island and waking everybody up. It almost came to blows then, before the diplomats smoothed things over.[10]

But the diplomats had still not reached a long term decision. Well, he'd do it for them.


Harney's plans were now complete. The twenty-four gun steam frigates Susquehanna and Mississippi were on their way up from Astoria. The Massachusetts, having dropped off Pickett's troops was on its way down to help with the transport of more troops. All reports indicated that the British were preparing a counter move, to put troops of their own on the island. He was going to have to be ready.

Pleasonton knocked and entered the room.

"Have you arranged more transport, and what are we sending up there?"

"Yes sir, I have transport, the Constitution…"

"Good God! What is she doing here?" Harney interrupted.

"Not THAT Constitution, FOOTNOTE sir. It's a steamer. We have another steamer, the Northerner available. The Julia, Jefferson Davis and Massachusetts are on their way down here. We are sending up companies A, C and I of the 4th Infantry and the 3rd Artillery. About five hundred men when it all gets there."

"Very good, you shall accompany the men when they go up. I will need to stay here to co-ordinate command."


There was a pause in the conversation. Then Pleasonton spoke again.

"Sir, if I may be so bold to speak, shouldn't we wait for orders before rushing in all these troops?"

"Bah! It will take four weeks at least for my report to get to General Scott. That long for his reply to get back. We can't wait two months."

"Yes sir."

"See to the preparations. I want Pickett reinforced as soon as possible."

Pleasonton saluted and left.


Douglas looked over Baynes' plans. The marines would be landed on the Northwest side of the Island to establish a camp. The Americans were now established on the Southwest side of the Island. There was sufficient distance to insure that the troops would not be taken under fire as they landed. With luck they might not even be spotted until they had time to dig in.

Baynes planned to guard the Admiralty Inlet with the Plumper, to stop any ships coming up out of Puget Sound. The Tribune, Plyadies and Satellite would patrol the eastern end of the Straight of Juan de Fuca, to block the American ships that were undoubtedly coming up from Oregon or California.

"I don't see the Ganges on this plan."

Baynes sighed, here it comes.

"Governor Douglas she's unsuitable for work in confined waters. She's better off left here."

"Nonsense man, she's the biggest ship in your fleet. Put her off that American camp. They get a good look at all those cannon and perhaps they might think twice."

"Sir I…"

"That's an order."

"Yes sir."

Baynes turned to his aid, "See to it."

"Aye Aye, Sir."

The aid saluted and left.


The little steam sloop chugged through the glassy water, making its way toward Puget Sound. Although Washington Territory had a reputation for foul weather, in the summer it could be beautiful. This was one of those days. The sky was a clear blue, reflected on the water. Off the Port beam, the snowcapped peak of Mt. Baker rose into the air. Off the Starboard bow a pod of killer whales undulated gracefully through the sea.

A look out called down from the mast. "Ship approaching, Starboard."

Captain Jacobson looked over. It was not a large ship, a side wheel steamer. But he could see guns sticking out of a row of ports, and the Union Jack stood out sharply.

Signal flags fluttered up a line on her mast.

"Sir they are requesting that we heave to."

"I see that. Maintain course and speed."

"Aye Aye."

A few minutes later he heard a call across the water.

"Ahoy, Heave to."

Nearby crewmen looked at Jacobson, who did nothing.

"Ahoy, heave to. You are in British waters."

Jacobson called back, "I am in American waters, your order is illegal."

Jacobson watched as flame and smoke erupted from one of the guns. A scream tore the air and was followed by a large splash off the port bow. With a flash of their flukes the killer whales dove out of sight.

Forward, the crew of the pivot gun mounted in the bow had already manhandled it around to bear on the British ship. Jacobson walked forward, to stand near the gun captain.

"Shall I return fire sir?"

"Yes, put one across his bow."

A moment later the gun captain pulled the lanyard. A loud boom echoed across the water and a cloud of smoke enveloped the ship for a moment, before blowing away.

The crew watched as the shell splashed into the water immediately ahead of the Britisher. The British ship promptly fired again, this time nearly hitting the Massachusetts. The order to heave to was repeated.

"Are all the guns loaded?" Jacobson asked.

"Yes sir."

"Let's see what they do."

He made no reply to the British command, but again ordered steady course and speed. The Brits could be seen loading their guns.

A moment later they fired again, a single shot. This time the hull of the Massachusetts resounded with the heavy THUD of a solid hit. Breaking wood crackled.

"FIRE!" Jacobson yelled.

The ship shook as the full six gun broadside let go, joined by the big pivot gun. Jacobson watched as at least two hits crashed through the side of the British man of war.

"Well, " he said to no one in particular, "we seem to be at war."


Lt. Edmonds watched in horror as the American let go a full broadside. HMS Plumper was no bigger than the American and we was in no mood for an all out fight, no matter what Governor Douglas wanted.

A few days earlier he had stood in the Governor's office along with Admiral Baynes, Captain Hornby and several other officers while the Governor had given them their orders. Basically Douglas had wanted the Americans driven from the sea. He had been told to patrol near San Juan Island and run off any American that showed his face while the other ships were being gotten ready. Ganges, in particular, had needed her fouled hull cleaned.

But as they left, Baynes had put his hand on Edmonds' shoulder and whispered. "Stay out of trouble. I'd like to settle this in a better way, if we can."

Now, here he was trying to act under conflicting orders as best he could.

"Helm," he shouted, "bring us about. Make for Victoria. We'll make a report and see what's next"

"Aye Aye, sir." The helmsman responded.

"Sir, our orders didn't mention making reports." Said his second in command.

"My orders, number two, are to make sure the Americans leave British waters. That one seems to be on his way out, now."

He nodded toward the American who was pulling away to the South.

"See, there he goes now."

Aboard the Massachusetts Jacobson heaved a sigh of relief. He was vastly outnumbered by the British in the area was glad to be getting on his way.

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Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey A. Thomas
Please send comments to Jeffrey A. Thomas at: sneakythomas@hotmail.com