Attack: Fort Michilimackinac

It’s about time I stopped here after passing by it dozens of times.

WhiIe traveling The Great Loop by boat, I sought out the history of the places we visited. While traveling by car last week from my primary home (near Washington D.C.) to my 2nd home and Many Moons’ homeport (in far-north Michigan), I filled in some history closer to home.

It’s funny how we are often more interested in historical perspective…or adventure, or beauty, or “life lessons”… far from home rather than nearby. Or is that just me?

Fort Michilimackinac is on the south end of the Mackinac Bridge, where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. Any time you drive over that bridge, you pass by this fort.

In summary: In the 1700s, while Europe’s great powers were expanding their empires, France and Spain and Great Britain all vied for territory in North America. Great Britain won, at least for the part of North American which became the U.S. The local Indian tribes — that is, the people who already lived there — did not win.

Maybe it’s not very surprising that the tribes attacked this fort. They held it for a year before returning it to the British. It was the only action the fort ever saw. So it’s known today more for a “local rebellion” than for combat between competing foreign powers.


Photos and captions of my recent visit to the fort below.

Each day at 1500 (3 p.m.), fort employees in British period costume fire a cannon salute on the shore overlooking Mackinac Bridge. No cannonball is involved. (When used, a cannonball can travel a mile!)
Jim is from Mackinaw City and has worked at this fort for 50 years. He was a most gracious and informed host. (FYI, it’s always pronounced “MackinAW,” even if spelled “MackinAC.” The named originated with the Ojibwa Indian tribe, the same tribe that attacked the fort. The British spelled it the way it sounds–thus, we have both “Mackinaw” and “Mackinac.”)
The fort was a key link in France’s fur trading route before it became a British military outpost.
Inside the barracks, where British soldiers slept and ate, featuring lifelike figures.
French Jesuit missionaries played a big role on the then-frontier, working to convert “savages” to the Christian faith. This is why so many place names in Michigan have French origins.
The fort featured connected row houses for officers, which made me chuckle because they are so often considered a “city phenomenon” today.
You couldn’t be shy in those days, since latrine users sat side-by-side. I’ve been using a compost toilet most of the past year and consider myself pretty rugged–but I couldn’t take that!
This wash bucket made me chuckle, too. I use a similar method to wash my clothes on the boat or at camp.
This map in the museum shows how France and Great Britain and Spain all held parts of North America. France and England fought four wars in North America (all part of larger conflicts).
The British flag flies over this fort today, so you know who won here.
The archeological digs continue at the fort, uncovering new artifacts on a regular basis.
Mackinac Bridge is five miles long and connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. I always enjoy driving across it (and enjoyed walking across it once, during the annual Labor Day Walk.) I often stop on the northern end to admire the views. But until this trip, I never stopped at the southern end to admire the history. One more history gap filled in! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Attack: Fort Michilimackinac

  1. Greetings, I am old enough to remember crossing the straights with our car on the ferry.
    I am young enough to not remember British soldiers checking our credentials on the other shore. Thankyou for the visit. Another interesting Fort is Wilkins in Copper Harbor.


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