2012-06-09 / News

War of 1812 Bicentennial To Be Celebrated on Mackinac Island

Island To Host Reenactment July 17
By James Dau


The War of 1812 bicentennial flag flies before the battlements of Fort Mackinac. The fort was captured on July 17, 1812, by British forces. Two years later, from July 26 to August 4, 1814, the Battle of Mackinac Island was fought on ground that now occupied by Wawashkamo Golf Club, solidifying British control over the island for the duration of the war. Mackinac Island was returned to the United States when peace was declared in 1815. The War of 1812 bicentennial flag flies before the battlements of Fort Mackinac. The fort was captured on July 17, 1812, by British forces. Two years later, from July 26 to August 4, 1814, the Battle of Mackinac Island was fought on ground that now occupied by Wawashkamo Golf Club, solidifying British control over the island for the duration of the war. Mackinac Island was returned to the United States when peace was declared in 1815. Two hundred years ago, the second and final armed conflict between the United States of America and Great Britain began. Michigan, then a mere territory of the United States, saw a great deal of battle between British forces moving south from Canada and the American forces that occupied the future state. Today, across the state and across the country, celebrations are being staged to honor this event in American history and those who served in it. The Michigan Bicentennial Commission for the Commemoration of the War of 1812, chaired by the director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, Phil Porter, has coordinated with various organizations across the state to commemorate the conflict and highlight Michigan’s role in its development.


The view from British Landing looking across Lake Huron. During the night of July 16 and 17, 1812, British forces crossed this water and landed here before marching south along what is now British Landing Road and forcing the surrender of Fort Mackinac in one of the opening acts of the war. The view from British Landing looking across Lake Huron. During the night of July 16 and 17, 1812, British forces crossed this water and landed here before marching south along what is now British Landing Road and forcing the surrender of Fort Mackinac in one of the opening acts of the war. Seven land and four naval battles were fought in Michigan during the war between Great Britain and the United States, alongside their Native American allies. Several of the major events of the war took place here, including the capture of both Detroit and Mackinac Island. One of the most prominent American rallying cries of the war, “Remember the Raisin!” referred to the brutal combat they experienced on the banks of the Raisin River near Monroe.

Although the British held for the majority of the war, with its return to the United States, Michigan’s future was more firmly established than ever before.

Its border with Canada was formally delineated, which allowed for the expansion of American influence into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and further into Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as setting the stage for a new influx of immigrants to the territory. Despite the hardships Michigan and its people experienced during the War of 1812, the conflict all but assured its future statehood and was instrumental in creating the state we know today.

Commemorative events will be held throughout Michigan for the next three years. From June 16 to June 18, 15-star flags will be raised above historical societies, historical commissions, museums in Clare, Whitefish Point, Livonia, South Haven, Rochester, and Royal Oak, as well as above Michigan State University in East Lansing to honor the 15 states of the Union on the day President James Madison and Congress declared war. The Henry Ford in Dearborn and River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe will hold more elaborate ceremonies to commemorate the official opening of hostilities, with guest speakers patriotic readings and musket salutes performed by historic re-enactors.

Mackinac Island will play host to one of the most involved commemorative events of the summer, a re-enactment of the capture of Fort Mackinac by the British army. On July 17, re-enactors dressed as British soldiers and Indian warriors will gather to the north of Fort Mackinac and force the garrison to surrender, just as it did on a similar summer evening two centuries prior. In addition to the re-enactment, Mr. Porter will speak regarding the significance of this moment in American and Michigan history.

The War of 1812 raged from 1812 through 1815, and the bicentennial commemorations will similarly take place from 2012 through 2015.

“During [this time] Michigan will appropriately commemorate events ranging from the loss of Detroit and Mackinac Island, bitter defeats, to the restoration of Michigan’s territorial sovereignty, placing her on the road to statehood through the establishment of a lasting peace,” Mr. Porter said, regarding the role of the Bicentennial Commission. In addition to the larger ceremonies and re-enactments, many talks and ceremonies will be held throughout this year and those to come.

A full listing of commemorative events can be found at www.michigan.gov/war1812.

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