Today we continue our visit to Mackinac Island and the historic Fort Mackinac. This is a storied spot that was occupied at various times by the French (prior to 1763), the British (through 1796) and then regained by the British in in the War of 1812, following defeat of the American forces. According to the film we saw on the island, the attack on the fort by the British was the first shot of the War of 1812.
It's easy to see why the fort would be at a critical spot on the island. To get to the entrance, you climb a hill. Then you climb up, up, up a long ramp (seen in white on the photo above) to get to the fort itself. (The bluffs are 150 feet -- almost straight up!) The picture below gives you a better idea of the hill that you go up before you even start your climb to the fort itself!
It also had a number of block houses on various sides -- but even so, the north side of the island wasn't visible, at least in those days. (And maybe now.) It was from the north that the British attacked. They were joined by their Native American allies, the relationship forged during earlier British occupation. The Americans surrendered without a fight.
The fort stayed in the control of the British through the War of 1812, then returning to the Americans, serving as a strategic troop reserve. Commanders and their families would be stationed there and there was a school and various lodgings. Those for the soldiers were more humble and rigorous.
Those of the families would be more typical of the time and in lovely homes, but within the fort walls.
And the beds looked much more comfy than the soldiers' barracks!
When the island became America's second national park, Army troops stationed at the fort served as rangers. I wish I'd taken photos of the bath house and canteen, with its pool table and bar. It was considered a desirable station. They also held drills and today you can see a small group of re-enactors perform some of the drills they learned, then answer questions and talk to visitors. The kids love this especially! Other costumed interpreters are in some of the shop areas or simply around the grounds to answer questions, costumed in 1880s outfits.
The island is now managed by the Mackinac Island State Park commission and is considered a state park. While the only cost to come to the island is the hefty ferry boat fee, admission to the fort helps cover expenses and also includes admission to several other historic properties on the island, as well as an art museum.
The Island is considered one of the largest parks in the country that generates a major part of its operating budget. This helps fund the various properties including the 14 historic buildings inside the fort as well as the other historic sites.
Oh, and I forgot to mention -- it has one of the best views on the Island!
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