I’m currently working on a Historical Fiction / Cozy Mystery that takes place during the Pig War of 1859 on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest. This little known war was America’s second longest (1859 to 1871) and, by far, its most bizarre. The United States and Great Britain disputed ownership of the San Juan Islands after the June 1846 Treaty of Oregon was signed in London. It set the boundary on the 49th parallel, from the Rocky Mountains "to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island” then south through the channel to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and west to the Pacific Ocean. The "channel" described in the treaty was actually two channels: the Haro Strait, nearest Vancouver Island, and the Rosario Strait, nearer the mainland. The San Juan Islands lay between, and both sides claimed the entire island group.
The issue came to a head when a British pig came to root in an American farmer’s garden on San Juan Island and the farmer shot it. British authorities threatened to arrest the farmer and evict all his countrymen from the island as trespassers. The farmers sought military protection. Both sides sent troops and warships to the island with ever-increasing boisterousness. Eventually, both sides agreed to temporary joint occupation. With joint occupation, the British and Americans held Friday night dances and parties together. The only casualty of the war was the pig. They eventually resolved the dispute through binding arbitration when Kaisar Willhelm of Germany decided on the side of the Americans.
The protagonist is a US Army doctor, a captain, who investigates the murder of an American found near the Hudson’s Bay Company’s sheep station. As a result of a tragic marriage and a failed practice back east, the doctor has taken refuge in the army and alcohol.
There are powerful forces at work. Some want a shooting war to break out (to unite the badly fractured United States in 1860), some do not (the British military is engaged in Europe). Some blame the Native Americans who live among the islands (who have rightful grievances). And the murdered man has his own set of problems, a jilted lover, a jealous husband, smugglers, land squatters, and the riffraff who failed at the Fraser River gold rush and begin arriving as settlers.
The cast of historical characters is equally fascinating, including Captain George Pickett (later General Pickett of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg), Lieutenant Henry Robert (later Brigadier General Robert of Robert’s Rules of Order), British Major and Magistrate for the district of San Juan, John De Courcy (later Colonel De Courcy, a commander for General Sherman in the American Civil War), Lieutenant James Forsyth (later commanded the 7th Cavalry at the Wounded Knee Massacre), and General Winfield Scott.