The year was 1859 and in Europe, Moldavia and Wallachia were joined to form Romania.Â Further west the small Italian state of Piedmont, backed by the French Emperor Napoleon III, was engaged in war with Austria. The war ended with Piedmont gaining Lombardy, but not Venicia, which it had also sought.
Another war began in 1859, but not by statesmen hungry for land; this time it was a pig hungry for potatoes. Boundaries in the Pacific Northwest were still an issue, and possession of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington was claimed by both America and Great Britain. When a pig wandered into the potato patch of Lyman Cutlar, the American settler shot it. The British owner of the pig was none too happy with the incident and when the British threatened to arrest Cutlar, he was supported by the U.S. 9th infantry. Soon the British had three warships, and thusly the tensions and number of combatants on either side grew. The standoff went on for twelve years and was finally decided by an outside party. In October 1872 Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany made the decision that since it was south of the 49th parallel, the San Juan Islands should be American property.
In the southern hemisphere, Queensland was separated from New South Wales, becoming a self-governing colony.
In the U.S., with the Civil War on the horizon, the road to OregonÂ statehood was marked by the questions of the day. Oregonians approved a constitution in 1857 and voted against slavery, and also against allowing free African-Americans to reside in the state. When the time came for the territory of Oregon to become a state in February of 1859, it was decided that Oregon would be a free state, even though its senators were pro-slavery.
The slavery issue had reached a boiling point and on Sunday night, 16 October, abolitionist John Brown and a group of his followers raided the armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. They had hoped that slaves in the area would rise up and aid in their cause. That didn’t happen and when the raiders were discovered on Monday morning local militias arrived and Brown and his raiders were trapped in the armory. Colonel Robert E. Lee was called in to rout the raiders and all but five were captured or killed. Ten days after his raid, John Brown was hanged for treason, but his words before climbing to the scaffold would ring true: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”