Sunday, July 22, 2012

History Traveller: Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the opening action of the War of 1812: the British capture of the Fort on Mackinac Island.  The Michigan Historic Parks held a commemoration ceremony and reenactment right on the parade ground of the Fort itself, which today stands as a park and museum.  This event held a special significance for me, not only as a rememberance of events that took place in our own regional backyard, but also as the birthplace of my own lifelong pusuit of all things historical.  My Grandfather was an archeologist and cultural anthropologist who specialized in Michigan history, Native American culture and local geography and geology.  Many summers of my youth were spent wandering Mackinac Island, Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes.  However, it was the frequent access with my Grandfather to Fort Mackinac and nearby Fort Michilimackinac, a location with an even older history dating to the French and Indian War, that truly captured my imagination.  The journey to this event was as much a personal pilgrimage to revisit the origin of my own personal history as it was to commemorate the formation of our own regional story.

Your blogger at Ft. Michilimackinac - a long time ago

The event began with remarks from officials from Michigan, Canada and a representative from the local Odawa Indian organization, each giving their views on the significance of the proceedings.  Then a reenactment of the history of the Fort was presented, starting with the original building of the Fort by the British in 1780.  As a result of the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution, the Fort was handed over to the United States government.  When the Madison administration declared war on the British in 1812, the local British commander took the initiative and sent a force to take the Fort.  The British, with their Native allies, landed on the opposite side of island and pulled cannon to a position which overlooked the fort.  With one shot the British took the Fort unaware as the American garrison commander, fearing for the safety of his men and the local community, surrendered.  The British also commandeered local shipping represented in the reenactment by the reconstructed sloop Friends Good Will, which was anchored in the harbor. 

This did not end the involvement of Fort Mackinac in the War of 1812.  In 1814, an American invasion force landed on the island and fought an unsuccessful field battle with the British to retake the fort.  There is another event planned to remember the Bicentennial of that day in July 2014.  There are also a number of 1812 related ceremonies and reenactments planned around the Great Lakes region over the next few years that I also plan to attend. 

British hand over Fort 1796
Mackinac Island Harbor

British Invasion 1812
American Defenders
Lt. Hanks surrenders the Fort to Cap. Roberts

British and Allies Celebrate Victory

Friends Good Will

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