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…)

Historic Views of Winter on Mackinac

As the new year begins and winter locks the Straits of Mackinac in its icy grip, today we look to a few historic views of winter on Mackinac Island. Click the images for an expanded version.

These soldiers from Fort Mackinac are bundled in Army-issued cold weather gear as they shovel a path down Fort Street sometime around 1890. Each man received a heavy wool overcoat as well as rubber boots, a fur hat, and mittens. Many of these men are wearing their winter hats, made from muskrat fur.

These soldiers from Fort Mackinac are bundled in Army-issued cold weather gear as they shovel a path down Fort Street sometime around 1890. Each man received a heavy wool overcoat as well as rubber boots, a fur hat, and mittens. Many of these men are wearing their winter hats, made from muskrat fur.

Main Street in downtown Mackinac Island is filled with snow in this view taken around 1900. Just like today, fewer people visited the island in winter, so the McNally Cottage boarding house (seen at far left) and Palmer House Hotel likely had few visitors when these boys played on the snow banks out front. Despite the snow, island residents may still have enjoyed parties at the town dance hall, visible just to the right of the Palmer House. Originally built as a roller skating rink, the dance hall became a motion picture theater by 1907. Today the building remains downtown, transformed into the Haunted Theater.

Main Street in downtown Mackinac Island is filled with snow in this view taken around 1900. Just like today, fewer people visited the island in winter, so the McNally Cottage boarding house (seen at far left) and Palmer House Hotel likely had few visitors when these boys played on the snow banks out front. Despite the snow, island residents may still have enjoyed parties at the town dance hall, visible just to the right of the Palmer House. Originally built as a roller skating rink, the dance hall became a motion picture theater by 1907. Today the building remains downtown, transformed into the Haunted Theater.

Thanksgiving at Fort Mackinac

In the 1880s, both the civilian and military residents of Fort Mackinac celebrated
Thanksgiving day with rest and recreation.

On November 28th, 1883, Captain Edwin Sellers wrote an order commanding that regular duties be suspended the following day. “Tomorrow the 29th having been appointed by the President as a day of National Thanksgiving and prayer all duties will be suspended at this post during this day except the necessary guard and police.”

On November 28th, 1883, Captain Edwin Sellers wrote an order commanding that regular duties be suspended the following day. “Tomorrow the 29th having been appointed by the President as a day of National Thanksgiving and prayer all duties will be suspended at this post during this day except the necessary guard and police.”

Ten year old Harold Dunbar Corbusier kept a diary of his experiences while
living with his family at Fort Mackinac in 1883 and 1884. On November 29th, 1883
Harold noted the Thanksgiving holiday in his diary, writing “Today is Thanksgiving day.
We boys went skating on the pond. Mama and papa went to church.”

Thanksgiving was also a holiday for the soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac. The image to the right is a page from a collection of Fort Mackinac’s orders. The highlighted passage mentions the Thanksgiving holiday.

Halloween for Harold

Harold Dunbar Corbusier was the second son of William Henry Corbusier, post surgeon at Fort Mackinac, and Fanny Dunbar Corbusier.  He lived on Mackinac Island with his family from 1883 to 1884.  On his 10th birthday, January 14, 1883 he began his diary.

His entry for this day 129 years ago, with its original grammar and spelling, shows an excitement for the holiday festivities similar to that of a 10-year-old of the present day.

Harold (seated center) kept a diary of the daily occurrences around the Straits of Mackinac.

A Boy at Fort Mackinac, October 31, 1883: “It has been a very stormy rainy day.  It is All Hallowes eve we going to dive for apples but there wre none in town so we had to dive for potatoes we played games and mamma made candy I have a headache today.”

His brief  entries give us clues of what life was like on Mackinac Island in a period of great change.  This former fur trading outpost was beginning to receive many summer visitors, and the Mackinac National Park (established 1875) was a great attraction.  Harold recorded what he saw, and gives a detailed picture of what life was like for an army family.

For more information about Harold and purchase a book containing all of his transcribed diary entries, visit the Mackinac State Historic Parks website.

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.