ROYAL MARINES ASSOCIATION
Winfield Scotts proposal for a joint occupation of San Juan Island, the Royal
Navy started looking for a home for its Royal Marine Detachment(in those days
it was Royal Marine Light Infantry, RMLI).
Two years earlier Captain James Prevost RN, Commander of HMS Satellite, had
remembered a bay, Garrison Bay from the explorations as a part of the water
boundary commission survey of the island. Lt Richard Roche, one of his officers
at the time, had commented on how the ground was well sheltered with a good
supply of water and grass and is capable of affording maneuvering ground for
any number of men that might be required in the locality.
The Royal Marines landed on March 21st 1860. They brought along the necessary
materials to erect the first building, a commissionary (which still stands).
camp as it became known was commanded by Captain George Bazalgette RMLI, who
when they arrived placed an requisition for "84 tin pannikins, 36 tin plates,
3 'dishes', 10 camp kettles, 18 lanterns, 1 measures set and a small quantity
command consisted of:-
1 Assistant Surgeon
83 Other Ranks
the shore of its thick growth of trees, they erected the commissionary and planted
a small garden. Barracks, Cooking houses and other vital structures were all
erected, especially after the visit in June of Rear Admiral Robert Lambert-Baynes,
who declared extra pay for the men to prepare the camp for winter.
The Marines finally departed the island in November 1872, following the final
boundary decision of Kaiser Wilhelm 1 of Germany. The camp they built was so
solidly built that the Crook family who purchased it from the US Government
occupied several of the buildings for 30 years
bunch of Lad's S'gt Major
arrival of a new commander, Captain William Delacombe, in 1867, the camp received
a major facelift. New officers’ quarters were built to house the captain
and his family as well as the camp’s second in command. Delacombe also directed
that a formal garden be constructed at the base of the hill leading to the officers’
The following is a copy of the orders to Captain Bazalgette
RMLI from Rear Admiral Lambert-Baynes
Royal Marines, Commanding the Detachment
Landed on the Island of San Juan:
The object of placing you there is for the protection of British interests,
and to form a joint military occupation with the troops of the United States.
As the sovereignty of the island is still in dispute between the two Governments,
you will on no account whatever interfere with the citizens of the United States,
but should any offense be committed by such citizens which you may think it
advisable to notice you will send a report of it immediately to Captain Hunt,
or officer commanding the U.S. troops. American citizens have equal rights with
British subjects on the island. Should the officer commanding the U.S. troops
bring to your notice offenses committed by any of Her Majesty's subjects you
will use your best judgment in dealing with the case, and I authorize you, if
you deem it necessary, to send them off the island by the first opportunity.
If any doubts arise as to the nationality of an offender you will not [decide]
in the case before you have consulted with the U.S. commanding officer, and
not even then unless your opinions coincide. You will place yourself in frank
and free communication with the commanding officer of the U.S. troops, bearing
in mind how essential it is for the public service that the most perfect and
cordial understanding should exist between you, which I have every reason to
feel assured you will at all times find Captain Hunt ready and anxious to maintain.
On April 16 1863, Captain
Lyman Bissell of the 9th Infantry at Camp Pickett, sent a letter to Major R.C.
Drum Asst Adjutant-General in San Francisco,
Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief
It referenced to a meeting with residents of San Juan Island forming a committee
to regulate their land claims until sovereignty of the island could be established.
He recognised the name of some of them namely:-
Higgins - the postmaster, who made his living from selling liquor to soldiers
and indians and Offutt, secretary to the meeting, who also made a living selling
whiskey. Higgins claimed that he only sold it to his men and they in turn sold
it to the indians.
In the Autumn of 1862 Hibbard , another of the residents at the meeting, tried
to stir up trouble between the British and American forces on the island by writing
a dictorial letter to Captain Bazalgette RM, because Bazalgette had ordered two
of his men out of his camp that were there for the purpose of selling whiskey
to his men.
On August 15th 1862 Bazalgette made an official complaint against a man called
Andrews who had a claim about one mile from the English Camp. The Indians reported
to him that Andrews had disposed of a large amount of whiskey to them the evening
before and that one of their number had been murdered.
Captain Bissell and Lieutenant Cooper RM together with a NCO went to the Indian
camp and found this to be true. The chief had three men who could identify "Bill"
as Andrews was known to them and sent them with Bissell. They found him in a lime
kiln with Hibbard. The Indians recognised Andrews straight away as the man who
sold them the whiskey. Bissell knowing that to get a conviction against Andrews,
ordered him to leave the island, he also notified the criminal element that they
also had 24 hours to leave the island, on the expiration of the time they would
be placed in charge of the guard.
to Captain Bazalgette and his marines landing there was the incident that started
the whole thing off.
On June 15, 1859, an
American farmer named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a Hudson's Bay Company pig
rooting in his San Juan Island potato patch. By so doing he nearly started a
war between the United States and Great Britian.
However, much more than
a pig was involved. For more than 40 years, the two nations had been contending
over the Oregon Country, which today comprises Washington, Oregon, Idaho, as
well as portions of Montana and Wyoming and the province of British Columbia.
On June 15, 1846, the two nations agreed upon the 49th parallel as the boundary.
The final sticking point was possession of the San Juan Islands.
Cutlar's act drew the
ire of the Hudson's Bay Company, which then compelled U.S. Army Department of
Oregon commander Brigadier General William S. Harney to dispatch a company of
the 9th U.S. Infantry, under Captain
George E. Pickett, to San Juan on July 27. British Columbia Governor James
Douglas responded by sending a warship under Royal Navy Captain Geoffrey Phipps
Hornby to dislodge Pickett, but to avoid an armed clash if possible.
The two sides faced
off on the Cattle Point peninsula for more than two months with the opposing
forces growing to nearly 500 U.S. soldiers, plus artillery, and three British
warships. When the home governments learned of the crisis, leaders on both sides
took positive steps to maintain the peace. The United States dispatched U.S.
Army commander Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, who negotiated a reduction
of forces with Douglas. The two nations eventually agreed to a joint military
occupation of the island until the dispute could be resolved through diplomatic
channels. The Americans remained at Cattle Point, at what was to become known
as "American Camp," while British Royal Marines established a comfortable camp
-- "English Camp" -- on Garrison Bay, 15 miles north on the west side of the
The joint occupation
ended 12 years later when, on October 21, 1872, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany,
acting as arbitrator, settled the dispute by awarding the San Juan Islands
to the United States. So ended the so-called war in which the only casualty
was a pig.