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American Camp

Near Cattle Point at the southeast end of San Juan. It was the site of a U.S. military camp during the San Juan boundary dispute of 1859-1872. First under the command of Capt. George Pickett of Civil War fame it was occupied by units of the 9th U.S. Infantry. Other names given to this site are Ft. San Juan and Camp Pickett. The point location marks the visitor center

American Camp, where, during a boundary dispute humorously referred to as the “Pig War,” the Ninth United States Infantry, under command of Captain George Pickett, made camp in 1859, in opposition to the English camp. The British-American treaty of 1846 left the International Boundary through these islands so vague that both countries claimed them, and citizens of each settled here.

Complications arose in 1858, when Whatcom County levied taxes on English sheep grazing on the island. The following year an English pig rooted up an American potato patch and was shot. The situation immediately became tense. Troops made camp at opposite ends of the island, and there was much international bristling. During the succeeding period of arbitration, however, the opposing camps vied with each other in an exchange of complimentary banquets. The matter was ended in 1872 when Emperor William I of Germany, as arbiter, selected the present boundary line.

American Camp serves as the other portion of the San Juan Island National Historic Site and, like British Camp, is maintained and operated by the National Park Service. While only two historic structures remain, the officer’s quarters and the laundress house, defensive earthen works and a dramatic setting make American Camp a must-see. The Visitor Center at American Camp is open year-round and, like British Camp, a historic walking guide is available.