Today in Spoiler Alerts: July 3, 1776

MEG_0653

Untitled, photo by Marvin Graves

I hope everyone has a great Independence Day weekend … though I suspect the Redcoats won’t.

View Marvin’s photo bigger and see more in his really great Fort Michilimackinac 2009 slideshow.

PS: If you ever get a chance to visit Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City, I heartily recommend it. Definitely one of Michigan’s coolest museums!

PPS: Love the Bridge peeking up just to the right of the flagpole.

 

Michilimackinac and Pontiac’s Rebellion

The Fort and the Bridge

The Fort and the Bridge, photo by Joel Dinda

Mackinac State Historic Parks page on Colonial Michilimackinac says that:

French soldiers constructed the fortified community of Michilimackinac on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac in 1715. The community grew and prospered over the coming years as Michilimackinac became an important center of the Great Lakes fur trade. Every summer, thousands of Native Americans and French-Canadian voyageurs gathered at the post, which served as transfer station for furs trapped in the western Great Lakes and trade goods shipped in from eastern cities such as Montreal and Quebec. Michilimackinac came under British control in 1761, but the fur trade and community life remained relatively unchanged.

Fearful that the post was vulnerable to attack by American rebels, the British disassembled the fort and community and moved it to Mackinac Island in 1779-81.

One factor in the move may also have been an event that happened 252 years ago on June 2, 1763. The fort was captured by Ojibwa & Sauk warriors who gathered to play a huge game of baggatiway. Elizabeth Edwards of Traverse Magazine wrote a great article about the massacre that begins:

Under an unusually hot sun on a late spring day on the Straits of Mackinac, British Major George Etherington, commandant of Fort Michilimackinac, was suffering from an acute case of cultural blindness. And there was no excuse for it. Relaxed at the sidelines of a rousing game of baggatiway (similar to lacrosse) outside the fort, the major should have seen the danger signs in this Ojibwe versus Sauk contest of sweaty, half-naked bodies painted with white clay and charcoal.

The 30-year-old officer was born in the colonies, and most likely grew up on stories of Indian uprisings. He’d even served in the just-ending French and Indian War, in which the English had wrested control of North America from the French—a victory that had put this previously French fort in Etherington’s care. Though the major had been raised on American soil and had fought on it, he was still English. And in that country, a battle was a battle, and a sporting event was a sporting event.

Perhaps that explains why the major missed the clues…

Read on for much more at Traverse, and you can also watch a video on Pontiac’s Rebellion from the History Channel or jump right to the story.

Joel adds that almost every building at Colonial Michilimackinac is a reconstruction, with only two or three minor exceptions. View his photo background bigtacular and see more from the fort and surrounding area in his Straits of Mackinac slideshow.

Fort Michilimackinac and Pontiac’s Rebellion

Fort Michilimackinac

Fort Michilamackinac, photo by Mark Swanson

The State of Michigan’s page on Fort Michilimackinac says:

Fort Michilimackinac was built by the French on the south shore of the Straits of Mackinac in approximately 1715. Previously, French presence in the Straits area was focused in what is now St. Ignace where Father Marquette established a Jesuit mission in 1671 and Fort de Baude was established around 1683. In 1701, Cadillac moved the French garrison from St. Ignace to Detroit, which led to the closing of the mission and considerably reduced French occupation in the area. Several years later, as the French sought to expand the fur trade, they built Fort Michilimackinac to re-establish a French presence in the Straits area.

Fort Michilimackinac was a strategically located fortified trading post. The fort was not built primarily as a military facility but as a link in the French trade system, which extended from Montreal through the Great Lakes region and northwest to Lake Winnipeg and beyond. Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the fort served as a supply post for French traders operating in the western Great Lakes region and as a primary stopping-off point between Montreal and the western country. Fort Michilimackinac was an island of French presence on the frontier from which the French carried out the fur trade, sought alliances with native peoples, and protected their interests against the colonial ambitions of other European nations.

In 1761 the French relinquished Fort Michilimackinac to the British who had assumed control of Canada as a result of their victory in the French and Indian War. Under the British, the fort continued to serve as a major fur trade facility. The Ottawa and Chippewa in the Straits area, however, found British policies harsh compared to those of the French and they resented the British takeover. In 1763 as part of Pontiac’s Rebellion, a group of Chippewa staged a ball game outside the stockade to create a diversion and gain entrance to the post and then attacked and killed most of the British occupants. The use of Fort Michilimackinac came to an end in 1781 when the British abandoned the post and moved to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island.

You can get more including visitor information at Colonial Michilimackinac and also check out this History Channel program on Pontiac’s Rebellion (the Michilimackinac story is about 20 minutes in).

View Mark’s photo background big and see more in his Mackinac, Michigan slideshow.

More from Mackinac on Michigan in Pictures!

The Deadliest Game: Fort Michilimackinac Massacre of 1763

British Troops at Fort Michilimackinac

British Troops at Fort Michilimackinac, photo by Robert Fred

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the most dramatic event at Fort Michilimackinac. On June 2, 1763 the fort was captured by Ojibwa & Sauk warriors, who gathered under the guise of playing a huge game of baggatiway. Elizabeth Edwards of Traverse Magazine has an in-depth article about the massacre that begins:

Under an unusually hot sun on a late spring day on the Straits of Mackinac, British Major George Etherington, commandant of Fort Michilimackinac, was suffering from an acute case of cultural blindness. And there was no excuse for it. Relaxed at the sidelines of a rousing game of baggatiway (similar to lacrosse) outside the fort, the major should have seen the danger signs in this Ojibwe versus Sauk contest of sweaty, half-naked bodies painted with white clay and charcoal.

The 30-year-old officer was born in the colonies, and most likely grew up on stories of Indian uprisings. He’d even served in the just-ending French and Indian War, in which the English had wrested control of North America from the French—a victory that had put this previously French fort in Etherington’s care. Though the major had been raised on American soil and had fought on it, he was still English. And in that country, a battle was a battle, and a sporting event was a sporting event.

Perhaps that explains why the major missed the clues…

Definitely read on for much more at Traverse! Every Memorial Weekend on Saturday, Sunday & Monday, they re-enact this event and much more of the fort’s history in the  annual Fort Michilimackinac Pageant. Next Sunday (June 2) they will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the attack at Michilimackinac at the fort as they open the new South Southwest Rowhouse.

Robert has some more good information about the events at the fort including a link to the painting The Conspiracy – Fort Michilimackinac by Robert Griffing that imagines the planning of the massacre. See his photo background bigtacular and see more in his My Neighborhood slideshow.

More from the Straits of Mackinac & Mackinac Island on Michigan in Pictures.