The Riflemen at Fort Holmes

Riflemen Immediately following the War of 1812, the American army dispatched a detachment of the Regiment of Riflemen to Mackinac Island. These men were some of the most unique soldiers to ever serve at Mackinac.

IMG_5641Congress authorized the Regiment of Riflemen in 1808. Wearing distinctive green uniforms with yellow trim, and carrying short-barreled flintlock rifles, the riflemen were intended to act as skirmishers and scouts on the battlefield. Following the War of 1812, riflemen made up a large part of the garrison at Detroit, and in the summer of 1815 these troops took possession of Mackinac Island from the British, who had controlled the island since the first days of the war.

Upon arrival at Mackinac, Lieutenant Colonel Talbot Chambers of the Rifle Regiment took command of DSC_0244Fort Mackinac and the newly-renamed Fort Holmes, a small fort built by the British on the island’s highest point. Chambers ordered that almost his entire command, including an entire company of riflemen, should retreat to Fort Holmes in the event of an attack or other emergency. The riflemen were to protect the artillerymen serving the guns of Fort Holmes. Although their rifles were more accurate than the smoothbore muskets carried by regular infantry soldiers, the riflemen could not mount bayonets on their weapons, and as such pikes were stored at Fort Holmes for the riflemen to use during an attack. The riflemen made up a significant portion of Fort Holmes’ garrison during 1815 and 1816, guarding the small fort around the clock during the warmer summer months. They were replaced by regular soldiers from the 3rd Infantry beginning in 1816, and Fort Holmes was abandoned at the end of 1817.

GarrisonLifeAtFortHolmes_16This summer, the Rifle Regiment will return to Fort Holmes. Reenactors from the Regiment of U.S. Riflemen, as well as the 7th United States Infantry Living History Association, will join Mackinac State Historic Parks interpreters at Fort Holmes on July 30 and 31. They will perform musket firing demonstrations, rifle drills, post guards, lead walking tours, and be on hand to answer questions about Fort Holmes and Mackinac Island in the early years of peace after the War of 1812. We hope you’ll make the climb to Fort Holmes to learn more about these unique soldiers and their role on Mackinac Island.

One Response to “The Riflemen at Fort Holmes”

  1. Christina A. Reardon

    Wish I could be there to see them and the newly finished Fort.


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