National Park historian Mike Vouri is the author of a new book, “The Pig War,” published by Arcadia Publishing Co. as part of its Images of America series.
The book employs 190 photos — many of them never before published — to tell the story of the events and people of the joint military occupation of San Juan Island (1859-1872). It’s Vouri’s third book on the subject.
Vouri will discuss and sign copies of “The Pig War,” Friday, Aug. 22, 6:30 p.m., in the San Juan Historical Museum. The event is free and open to the public. To read about the event, click here.
The following is an interview with the author.
What was your inspiration for writing the book?
I’ve written two other books on the topic and thought I had exhausted the material. I found that there is always the stray document or photo that crops up after publication. The new book includes several never before published photos along with information from Coast Survey records.
How did you research the information for the book?
A lot of the research was done long before this project because I’ve been the historian at San Juan Island National Historical Park for more than 13 years. It has involved a few trips to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., in addition to poring over reels of microfilm from archives in Canada and Great Britain. I’ve also read about the Royal Navy’s transition from sail to steam in the 1850s. It was the advent of steam that permitted the Royal Navy to dominate island waterways such as the San Juan Islands and make things difficult for the Americans ashore.
What will readers find interesting about the book?
The number of Civil War connections. For example, Capt. George Pickett’s predecessor on San Juan, after the joint occupation agreement, was Capt. Lewis Cass Hunt. Hunt’s older brother, Henry, as head of artillery for the Army of the Potomac, laid down the artillery barrage that decimated Confederate General Pickett’s division at the Battle of Gettysburg.
What writing advice would you give to aspiring authors and historians?
It’s pretty simple: write what you know. We write well what we know well. If you have access to an archive, look for the stories in the images.
What lasting impact do you hope your book will leave?
World peace. I’m not kidding. The Pig War could’ve escalated into a tragic conflict. I do not believe the U.S. and Great Britain would have fought a war over the San Juans. Our economies were too closely knit by that time. No capital project in the U.S. could proceed without British financing and trade was booming.