Podcast | Why the Pig War took place in the San Juan Islands

A border conflict between the U.S. and Britain, combined with the ambitions of a future Confederate general, almost turned the Salish Sea into a war zone.

Painting of houses and people celebrating

American and British soldiers and families enjoy a holiday together at English Camp. (National Parks Service)

The so-called Pig War of 1859 may have been initiated by the killing of a boar, but other forces were at play that nearly elevated a neighborly conflict into an international conflagration.

The conflict took place on San Juan Island, a disputed territory that was home to both American and British colonists. And on the American side was a future Confederate general eager for conflict.


Subscribe to Mossback on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon, or Podbean.


Crosscut's resident historian Knute Berger told the tale of the conflict in a recent episode of his Mossback's Northwest video series, but there is more to the story.

For this episode of the Mossback Podcast, Berger and co-host Sara Bernard talk about the conflict’s roots, how close the countries came to all-out war and how cooler heads prevailed.

Before listening, we suggest you watch the Mossback's Northwest episode about the Pig War here.

About the Hosts

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.