Northern Michigan in Focus: New Exhibits on Mackinac Island

One of the best things about going to Mackinac Island is visiting the Mackinac State Historic Parks, and this year there’s a couple new exhibits at Fort Mackinac that will transport you back to the start of the War of 1812.

“We really do strive, not only here at Fort Mackinac but in all of our park sites, to always have something new,” said Craig Wilson with the Mackinac State Historic Parks.

And this year they do! Let’s start at the old post headquarters. It’s now called The Office.

“When they first enter the building, it’s going to be one gallery room that just talks about the officers. Who were those men?  What was their background and how did they get here? What was their education and what did they do? What was their day-to-day job?” explained Craig.

One of those officers was Porter Hanks. He was in charge of the fort at the start of the War of 1812 when he found himself in a bit of a situation.

The Mackinac State Historic Parks made a video to recreate that moment. 

“At the very, very beginning of the War of 1812, about a month after war was declared the British, over on St. Joseph’s Island which is now part of Canada, decided to capture Fort Mackinac and so they brought several hundred Native Americans warriors with them. They landed out on the north side of the island, marched over land during the night, popped up on the high ground behind the fort and basically said surrender or else,” said Craig.

Confused, Hanks didn’t know what to do.

“That’s what we are trying to talk more about is the mental state of Porter Hanks, the commanding officer here. He’s young, he’s in his early 20s and he has no idea that there is a war going on, and he’s faced with the situation. And so he has to make up his mind: is he going to try and fight back with only 60 soldiers against those 600, or is he going to give up without a fight,” explained Craig.

In the end, he surrendered with not one bullet fired.

“It really wasn’t even a battle, it was kind of just an exchange of notes. But again, very dramatic because the American garrison here had no idea that war had even been declared,” said Craig.

History is awesome.

“Even if you were here last year, definitely come back and see new things, but we also have new things at all of our sites here on Mackinac Island and over on the mainland,” encouraged Craig.

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus