One thousand witness Mackinac Island’s ‘surrender,’ more War of 1812 bicentennial events planned

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Contact:  Phil Porter, 906-847-3328
Agency: Natural Resources
July 27, 2012

On July 17, 1812, Fort Mackinac’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Porter Hanks, surrendered the American fort on Mackinac Island – and the entire island – to the British. Two hundred years later to the day, this infamous scene was recreated and interpreted at Fort Mackinac for a crowd numbering nearly a thousand.

British and American soldiers, militia, voyageurs and Native American interpreters depicted dramatic highlights that unfolded at the outbreak of the War of 1812. From below the ramparts, in the harbor, the square topsail sloop Friends Good Will, owned by the Michigan Maritime Museum, fired its guns in salute of the occasion that caused her namesake to be captured at Mackinac Island within days of the island’s surrender.

“It was great to see such a large crowd visit Fort Mackinac and reflect on the importance of these events to our nation and to the State of Michigan,” said Phil Porter, chairperson of the Michigan Commission on the Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, which administers Fort Mackinac. “The capture of Fort Mackinac was just the first of many events which unfolded in the Straits throughout the War of 1812, which we’ll commemorate over the next two years.”

Two hundred years prior, Captain Charles Roberts led a force of British regulars, local militia and Native Americans from various tribes to the north side of Mackinac Island on a rise behind Fort Mackinac. Early that morning on July 17, 1812, after firing a cannon to demonstrate capabilities, the British delivered their demand. Wholly unaware that war had been declared and unprepared for hostilities, the American garrison accepted the terms of surrender without firing a shot.

The original Friends Good Will was captured by the British near Mackinac Island, beginning a 15-month service in the Royal Navy. Her replica will sail under British “colours” until September 10, 2013 to mark the anniversary of that period. She was recaptured by the United States Navy during the Battle of Lake Erie on that September day.

The event at Fort Mackinac is one of many planned throughout Michigan through 2014 to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. These events are supported by the Michigan Commission on the Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. For a complete list of events, please visit

The governor-appointed Michigan Commission on the Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 is charged with encouraging, planning, and developing activities, events, programs, observances and services appropriate to commemorate Michigan’s role in the War of 1812. More information can be found at

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

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