A History Lesson – and a Few Other Goodies 7/17/2012

We have a winner for the Mystery Spot.  It is Jeff Gushman from Garden City, MI!  Please see the end of this post for the answer!

SO MUCH has been going on this week on Mackinac Island!

The Port Huron to Mackinac Island Yacht Race came to a close this morning, and the downtown area has been teeming with people – sailors and families and friends of sailors . . . and that’s not to mention just regular folks, who booked their vacations during this busy week, probably not realizing they’d be competing for road, carriage, and restaurant space with thousands of boaters.  I’ll have some photos of  “race week” coming up on Friday, but tonight  I want to concentrate on this very special day in Michigan – and America – history.

Mackinac Island is celebrating today the opening battle of the War of 1812, which took place – well, right here!  You know I’m not the history buff in the family – that would be Ted.  But, for the background of this historic event, I’d going to relate the WKAR Radio interview with Phil Porter, Director of Mackinac Historic State Parks.   After you’ve read Phil’s interview, there will be photos of the re-enactment Phil talks about in the interview.  Ted and I are getting ready to ride our bikes over to the fort for that right now.  Back later . . . .

British soldiers stand around the British Landing cannon this morning. It was the 200th anniversary of the British landing in the dark of night July 16, 1812, for their surprise attack on the American fort the next day.  (Photo Credit:  Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau)

From WKAR-Public Media from Michigan State University.  Interview with Phil Porter.

Today marks the bicentennial of a key date in the War of 1812.

On this date, the British captured Fort Mackinac at the onset of war.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl spoke with Phil Porter, director of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. He’s also chairman of the Michigan Commission for the Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Porter says France and Great Britain had been engaged in the Napoleonic Wars for some time, and the British were impressing American seamen into the British Navy. They also had been encouraging Native American tribes to resist the westward expansion of U-S settlers into Michigan territory.

PHIL PORTER:  When the war was declared, there were a number of border posts. The British posts were in Canada, and the United States posts were in the United States territory, just across the waters from them. When war was declared in June of 1812, John Jacob Astor, who owned the American Fur Company, was near Washington, and he heard about the outbreak of the war and quickly sent a representative of his company to Fort St. Joseph, just inside Canadian waters, about 45 miles northeast of Fort Mackinac. He sent his representative there to protect his trade goods in case war broke out, but in doing so, he also alerted the British at that post to the outbreak of war.

They very quickly put together an alliance of regular troops, militia, and about 400 Native American allies, and they planned on and then successfully executed the capture of Fort Mackinac, which was the first engagement on U.S. territory during the War of 1812. It began the domino effect that eventually led to the capture of Fort Detroit and Fort Dearborn in Chicago, and so within a period of a month in the summer of 1812, the peninsulas of Michigan went from being under U.S. control to British control.

SCOTT POHL:  Was there a lengthy battle at Fort Mackinac? Was there a lot of bloodshed?

PORTER:  The battle of July 17, 1812 was a bloodless battle. The British landed on the north end of Mackinac Island under the cover of darkness on the night of July 16th and 17th, and brought with them two six-pound cannon, and again, a force numbering about 600. During the evening, they set up in the woods behind the fort on the elevated high ground, and the next morning when the sun rose, they fired a warning shot over the top of Fort Mackinac, and that was the first that the young American lieutenant in charge of the fort was even aware that war had been declared. He had only about 68 men inside the fort, and was looking out at a force ten times that size, and quickly decided to surrender without firing any shot in return.

Now when the Americans re-attacked two years later, there was a more substantial battle on the north end of Mackinac Island, and that one did result in bloodshed.

POHL:  I wanted to find out if are any special bicentennial events planned for the 17th of July.

PORTER:  Yes. On the evening of July 17th, we will be doing a major pageant and commemoration that will talk about the war and about the British capture of the fort at the outbreak of the war. That will be in the fort beginning at 7 p.m. on the night of July 17th. It’s free and open to the public. It will be quite a spectacular program of music and presentations and cannon firings, a dramatic re-enactment. It should be a lot of fun, and educational for people at the same time.

POHL:  Americans are better at commemorating victories and remembering victories, than defeats, aren’t we?

PORTER:  Yeah, and in this case, it’s kind of challenging to be celebrating the British capture of our fort in 1812! But it is an important chapter in Michigan history, and it shows the importance of Mackinac to the nation’s strategic borderlands at that time, and so it is important that we commemorate this, we remember it, because it is such an important chapter in Michigan’s history.

You know, the United States fought many wars, many times, in many different places, but U.S. soldiers only saw combat once in the Michigan territory, and that was during the War of 1812.

OK – we’re back at home!  There was a huge turnout at the fort tonight for the re-enactment of the taking of Fort Mackinac from the Americans by the British. People surrounded the parade ground, sat on the hill outside Sutler’s Store . . .

. . . as well as lining the Sutler Store porch.

Remarks were given by Phil Porter, Dennis Cawthorne (Chairman, Mackinac Island State Park Commission), Dennis Moore (Public Affairs Officer, Consulate General of Canada-Detroit), and Eric Hemenway (NAGPRA Specialist, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians). Nice view behind the speaker’s stand!

Fort Mackinac was moved by the British – piece by piece over the winter ice – from its original home in Mackinaw City (known there as Fort Michlimackinac) and rebuilt in 1780 in its present location. The British felt they could better defend the fort from an American takeover from the Island, but Americans never attempted to seize the fort.

In 1783, at the end of the American Revolution, the fort was given to America as part of the Treaty of Paris.

In a bloodless battle on July 17, 1812, some 300 British soldiers and their Native American allies landed on the north shore of the Island, marched south across the Island, positioned a cannon on a high spot overlooking the fort, and demanded the surrender of Fort Mackinac – firing a single warning shot from their artillery.

Taken by surprise, and outnumbered 10 to one, fort commander Lieutenant Porter Hanks surrendered the fort without a fight.

Following the re-enactment, fort interpreters and volunteers recreated the victory celebration of the British and Native Americans by firing cannons and rifles in salute.  In the harbor, the reconstructed sloop, Friends Good Will, re-enacted the firing of cannons when the fort surrendered by the original ship of that name .

In 1814, Americans attempted to retake the fort in the Battle of Mackinac. Lives were lost in that battle, and the attempt failed.  Fort Mackinac remained in British hands until the end of the war, then was given back to the U.S. in the Treaty of Ghent.

Mackinac Historic State Parks interpreters and volunteers did an excellent job tonight with the history and the re-enactment.  Wish all of you could have been here to see – and hear- it in person!

Reader Photographs

Janet Wilson. A wonderful, view of both lighthouses (and a moored sailboat) – framed by homes on the shore.

Melody James – Grand Rapids area.
“Monarch Butterfly” on a Lilac bush near Arch Rock over Memorial Day weekend. Melody told her husband, “Surely Heaven must smell like Lilacs.”

Lisa English – Orlando, FL
“St. Anne’s”. Lisa’s been visiting the Island annually since 2005.

White Pine Photo
“Bike Wheels” – If anything says “Mackinac” – this sure does!

Stefanie & Nick – Ogden, IL
“Wedding Day – October 10, 2010” – Stefanie visited Petosky and Mackinac Island as a child, and from that time on wanted her wedding to be on Mackinac. She and her bridesmaid stayed at the Harbor View B & B, and the wedding was at the Harbor View Inn. Her “aisle” started on the porch at the B & B, then down the sidewalk, up the sidewalk to the Inn, inside and up the stairs, where she came out on the 2nd floor veranda where the families were waiting – with the lake in the background.  The photo is of Stefanie & Nick right after they were pronounced “Mr. and Mrs.”

Mystery Spot Contest

The object of the Mystery Spot is to be the first to identify where the object is located. When you think you have the answer, email me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com. I’ll check my email several times a day, and as soon as we have a winner, I’ll post the winner’s name at the top of this blog so you can stop guessing (you may have to refresh your page for this to show up). Is there a prize for the winner?  Yes there is; but the prize is secret, and the only ones who will know what it is are the winners. To be fair, I’m asking residents of Mackinac Island to please NOT guess. This is just for readers who don’t live here . . . but would like to! And the Mystery Spot is   . . . .

Can you read that?  It says “Island Hardware”.  Did you know the Island has its very own hardware store?  Where is it?

Again, please email your answers to me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com.  PLEASE DO NOT ANSWER IN THE “COMMENTS” SECTION OF THE BLOG.  Remember, I’ll post the winner at the top of this blog as soon as someone gives the correct answer.

That’s it for tonight!  I’ll be back on Friday with lots of photos and news about our planned Canada trip.  See you then!

Mystery Spot Answer

The Island Hardware store is located on the Coal Dock downtown. If they don’t have it, they can order it for you and have it in usually in a couple of days.

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16 thoughts on “A History Lesson – and a Few Other Goodies 7/17/2012

  1. I could almost see myself there for the reenactment… interesting history as always.
    I agree Yvonne…love the readers picture section!.

  2. Great history lesson with beautiful pictures. Love the wheels picture. You can’t look at the wheels without seeing the island.

  3. Hey ya’ll. I enjoyed the history and the other pics. Whatshername, my little buttercup I’m referring to, informs me I’m to drive her to town today, who knows where that will lead. Maybe we’ll see you yet.

  4. Very nice photos of the reenactment! And the reader photo of the two lighthouses with the moored sailboat is even neater because there is also a “laker” in the background. Cool!

  5. The Friends Good Will ship is normally docked in South Haven, MI and we visit there almost every weekend since it’s only a 45 min. drive for us.. It’s our next favorite place to visit after the island. When they fire the canon it’s so loud it makes you want to jump out of your seat. They take tours but I’ve never been on it…yet.

    • I’ve been on the Friends Good Will and it’s a fun trip, especially when you get to help! I was also at the commemoration program last night. The best part was all the cannon and rifle firing at the end of the program–it would have been fun to see the reaction of people in town who had no idea what all the noise was about!

  6. Great history lesson and pictures. Love the one of the 2 lighthouses and moored sailboat between 2 houses. And the bicycle tires-awesome. Thanks again. Sue

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