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Fort Michilimackinac was an 18th century Frenchmarker, and later Britishmarker, fort and trading post in the Great Lakesmarker of North America. Built around 1715, it was located along the southern shore of the strategic Straits of Mackinacmarker connecting Lake Huronmarker and Lake Michiganmarker, at the northern tip of the lower peninsula of the present-day state of Michiganmarker in the United Statesmarker. The site of the fort in present-day Mackinaw Citymarker is a National Historic Landmark and is now preserved as an open-air historical museum.

History

The primary purpose of the fort was not military, but rather as a link in the French trading post system that stretched from the Mississippi River through the Illinois Country to the St. Lawrence Rivermarker. The fort served as a supply for traders in the western Great Lakes.

The French had first established a presence in the Straits of Mackinac in 1671 when Father Marquette established a Jesuit mission at present-day St. Ignacemarker. In 1683, they augmented the mission with Fort de Buade. In 1688 they established a mission at Sault Ste. Marie. In 1701, Sieur de Cadillac moved the French garrison to Fort Detroit and closed the mission. By 1715, however, the French built Fort Michilimackinac to re-establish a presence along the Straits of Mackinac, with several modifications and expansions to the palisade walls over the decades.

The French relinquished the fort, along with their territory in Canadamarker, to the British in 1761 following their loss in the French and Indian War. Although British continued to operate the fort as a major trading post, French civilians were allowed to live their normal lives with French traditions and worship their Roman Catholic beliefs at St. Anne's Church. The Ojibwe in the region resented British policies as harsh. On June 2, 1763, as part of the larger movement known as Pontiac's Rebellion, a group of Ojibwe staged a game of baaga'adowe (lacrosse) outside the fort as a ruse to gain entrance. After gaining entrance to the fort, they killed most of the British inhabitants and held the fort for a year before the British retook it with the provision to offer more and better gifts to the native inhabitants of the area.

The British eventually deemed the wooden fort on the mainland too vulnerable to attack, and in 1781 they built Fort Mackinacmarker, a limestone fort on nearby Mackinac Islandmarker. The buildings were dismantled and moved piece by piece over water in the summer and ice in winter to the island over the course of two years. Patrick Sinclair, the lieutenant governor of Michilimackinac, ordered the remains of Fort Michilimackinac destroyed after the move.

Today

The fort grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It is a popular tourist attraction as part of Colonial Michilimackinac State Parkmarker in Mackinaw Citymarker, a major section of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. Interpreters, both paid and volunteer, help bring the history to life, with music, live demonstrations and reenactments, including musket and cannon firing demonstrations. The site has numerous reconstructed historical wooden structures. It is considered one of the most extensively excavated early French archaeological sites in the United States.

The fort grounds also contain the foot of the Mackinac Bridgemarker, Old Mackinac Point Lightmarker, which is an 1892 lighthouse, and a day-use park with a great view of the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island.

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