Numerous Pets Hold Place in Mackinac History

Numerous Pets Hold Place in Mackinac History

Animals below Fort Mackinac

Grand: Several men and their dogs gather on the government pasture below Fort Mackinac. These soldiers are likely from the 23rd Infantry or belong to the Michigan state troops, who gathered on Mackinac Island for summer encampments in the late 1880s.

Many visitors to the Straits of Mackinac today bring their four-legged friends with them. It’s not unusual to see any number of pets out with their owners in Marquette Park on Mackinac Island or strolling along the shoreline in Michilimackinac State Park. (more…)

A History of Veterans Day

At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, soldiers across Europe stopped fighting. Earlier that morning, German representatives signed an armistice with the Allies. The armistice, which went into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, effectively ended the First World War.

A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919 as a holiday honoring American soldiers who died in the war. In 1938 Congress declared Armistice Day a national holiday dedicated to world peace. After World War II, veterans proposed changing the holiday to honor not just those soldiers killed in the First World War, but all American veterans. In response to these proposals, President Dwight Eisenhower officially changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day in 1954.

Today, Veterans Day continues annually on November 11, honoring the service of all American veterans. Similar holidays of honor take place on November 11 in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and other countries involved in World War I.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Celebrates 120th Anniversary

Today marks the 120th anniversary of the first lighting of Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City.

Workers pose outside the nearly completed Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Keeper George Marshall first lit the light on October 25, 1892 and workers completed the construction two days later.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse remained an active lighthouse until navigation beacons on the newly completed Mackinac Bridge replaced it.

The lighthouse is still open from May through October with guided tower tours, period exhibits and historic costumed interpreters. Click here for more information on visiting Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Wawashkamo Red Oak Witnessed Island Battle

A enormous red oak at the Wawashkamo golf course on Mackinac Island fell after strong winds in July and has proven to have a history that far pre-dates that of the golf course.

A cross-section of the 200 year old oak tree. A Michigan driver’s license is inserted to give scale to the image.

In one of the first actions of the War of 1812, British troops surprised and captured Fort Mackinac on July 17, 1812. Two years later, 750 American troops attempted to recapture Mackinac Island. To counter the American attack, British, Canadian, and Native American troops took up positions on the fields of Michael Dousman’s farm. Here, on the afternoon of August 4, 1814, the two forces met and fought the Battle of Mackinac Island. An American defeat, the battle left Mackinac in British hands until the end of the war.  

In the center of the battlefield/golf course is a steep hill and stand of trees. In that grove sits the remaining stump of the red oak that Mackinac Associates Vice President Peter Pellerito, among others, believed could have been a “witness” to that American defeat. Pellerito arranged for a large cross-section of the tree to be examined by Dean Reid, a forester. Meticulously counting each ring and allowing for the height at which the section was cut, Reid determined the age of the tree to be 207 years old. Though very small at the time, there’s no doubt that this red oak was present during the battle.

King’s 8th Still Present at Michilimackinac

In 1774, between 65 and 70 enlisted men and three to four officers of the 8th, or King’s, Regiment of Foot arrived at Fort Michilimackinac. This detachment comprised two companies of the 8th Regiment: the elite grenadier company as well as the “General’s” company.

Under the command of Captain Arent S. DePeyster, these men protected the combined military garrison and civilian fur trading community at Michilimackinac. Most of the men spent their time on fatigue duty, maintaining the fort’s walls and other government buildings, chopping firewood, hauling supplies, and performing other tedious but necessary chores. All soldiers regularly took part in drills and stood guard. Lieutenant-Governor Patrick Sinclair took command of the garrison and community of Michilimackinac in October 1779.

Interpreters dressed as members of the King’s 8th at Colonial Michilimackinac discuss the duties of the day.

Under Sinclair’s direction, the men of the 8th dismantled the post of Michilimackinac for the move to Mackinac Island. There, with assistance from soldiers from the 84th Regiment of Foot, they began to construct Fort Mackinac. Unhappy with their treatment at Sinclair’s hands as well as their own officers, the men of the 8th publically complained to DePeyster, their beloved former commander. To prevent more trouble, the grenadier company was transferred from Michilimackinac in September 1780, while the “General’s” company was relieved in August 1781. The 8th remained in North America until 1785, having served there since 1768.

Excavated from Colonial Michilimackinac this past summer, the 8 is still visible after more than 200 years on this button.

Bits and pieces of the 8th still remain from the 1700s, including the unique buttons on the regiment’s dress uniform.

This coming weekend, September 22 and 23 2012, the King’s 8th will be back at Fort Michilimackinac demonstrating drill and the other duties of the soldiers. For more information on the encampment, click here or go to Kings8th.com

“Our Flag Was Still There” The Origin of the Star-Spangled Banner

The bombardment of Fort McHenry took place on September 13th and 14th, 1814. Francis Scott Key, held captive aboard a Royal Navy warship, watched as the British attacked the fort and other defenses of Baltimore.

This flag at Fort Mackinac, though smaller than the one seen by Francis Scott Key the morning of September 14, bears the 15 stars and stripes.

By the dawn’s early light of September 14, he saw that the American flag remained flying above the fort. The large garrison flag that Key saw flying that morning 198 years ago measured 30 by 42 feet and bore 15 stars and 15 stripes (one for each state). Inspired by the sight of the flag, that morning Key wrote a poem about the battle called “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” Later set to music, the poem became “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which officially became the National Anthem of the United States in 1931.

Changing Leaves, Put Mackinac in a New Light

Almost as if the leaves recognize the steady decline of visitors to the Straits of Mackinac after Labor Day, they change their color from rich, healthy greens tobrilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. It’s a last hurrah for this iteration of the natural beauty of Mackinac before the straits succumb to the inevitable winter.

Though the warmer weather has made some wary if the foliage would ever turn, those of us who see the day-to-day can assure you of the natural transition.

This photo from last fall shows the gradual transition from summer to autumn colors.

Color tours will still bring leaf peepers in droves to the Straits of Mackinac, especially Mackinac Island, where Mackinac Island State Park’s 70 miles of trails and roadways make it easy to appreciate this seasonal spectacle.

Fort Mackinac as a Civil War Prison

Fort Mackinac as a Civil War Prison

This year marks the Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the American Civil War. While the fighting didn’t reach northern Michigan, Mackinac Island and Fort Mackinac played a role as a prison for Confederate sympathizers.

Though recognized today as a vacation destination for travelers to northern

Barrow

Michigan, 150 years ago in the summer of 1862, Fort Mackinac became a prison. Although the fort itself played only a small role in the Civil War, for a few months the post on Mackinac Island housed three Confederate Army prisoners guarded by nearly 100 men.

After Capt. Henry Pratt’s company of the 2nd Artillery left in early 1861, Fort Mackinac was virtually abandoned. Only Ordnance Sergeant William Marshall remained behind as the fort’s sole caretaker. A year later, things began to change at the post. In early 1862, victorious Federal forces recaptured much of Tennessee from the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson (later Lincoln’s Vice President, and ultimately the 17th President) was installed as the military governor of the state, a position he used to quickly arrest several prominent Confederate sympathizers.  On Johnson’s orders, Josephus (or Joseph) Conn Guild, George Washington Barrow, and William Giles Harding were placed under arrest and shipped north. Aware of Johnson’s actions, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton made preparations to exile the three men to Fort Mackinac, where their influence and wealth could not help the Confederate cause. Unfortunately, no Federal troops were immediately available to garrison Mackinac as guards; as a result, the three prisoners were sent temporarily to Detroit, where they were well-received by an inquisitive and sympathetic public.

Guild

Throughout April 1862, Federal officers in Detroit, Washington, and elsewhere scrambled to find a suitable garrison for Fort Mackinac. Eventually, Capt. Grover S. Wormer received orders to raise an independent company in Detroit specifically to guard the Tennesseans on Mackinac. Mustered into service in early May, Wormer’s unit, named the Stanton Guard after the Secretary of War, counted just fewer than 100 men in its ranks. Boarding the steamer Illinois around May 10, the new Stanton Guard and their three prisoners arrived on Mackinac Island shortly after.

Unfortunately for the new garrison of Fort Mackinac, a quick inspection of the nearly abandoned post revealed that it was not ready to accommodate the prisoners. As a result, the three men were lodged at the Mission House Hotel while the Stanton Guard repaired the quarters at the fort. The improvements complete, on May 25 the Tennesseans moved into the fort’s Wood Quarters to begin their incarceration at the post. Despite the repairs carried out by the Stanton Guard, the War Department quickly discarded any thought of housing more prisoners at Fort Mackinac, as the fort would require considerably more work to make it secure.

Harding

Despite their status as prisoners, the three men apparently enjoyed a pleasantly boring summer on Mackinac. They were allowed to explore the island with a small guard detachments, and wrote of Mackinac’s interesting geological formations and rich history. They frequently wrote letters home to Tennessee, and Guild and Barrow both complimented Capt. Wormer for his kindness and dignity. Indeed, the prisoners received such liberal treatment that in early August, Col. William Hoffman, the Commissary-General of Prisoners, reprimanded Wormer for failing to impose harsher restrictions upon the men.

As the summer drew to a close, the War Department reassessed the value of Fort Mackinac as a prison. Col. Hoffman recommended that the Stanton Guard be disbanded, as its men could be better used in the field. On September 10, the troops and prisoners departed Fort Mackinac, bound again for Detroit. The Stanton Guard formally mustered out and disbanded on September 25. Guild and Harding swore allegiance to the U.S. and were released on September 30, 1862, leaving only Barrow in custody. He was transferred to the more established military prison on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio. He remained in prison until March 1863 when he was released as part of a prisoner exchange.

With the departure of the Stanton Guard, Fort Mackinac was again virtually abandoned, save for Ordnance Sergeant Marshall. He served alone for the next five years, until the Army garrisoned the post in 1867.

Welcome

Welcome to the Mackinac State Historic Parks blog, new communication channel allowing us to share information, both old and new, about our sites and the historical and natural treasures of the region.

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