Fort Michilimackinac

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Fort Michilimackinac was an 18th century French, and later British, fort and trading post in the Great Lakes of North America. Built around 1715, it was located along the southern shore of the strategic Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, at the northern tip of the lower peninsula of the present-day state of Michigan in the United States. The site of the fort in present-day Mackinaw City 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 River. 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. Ignace. In 1683, they augmented the mission with Fort de Baude. 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.

The French relinquished the fort, along with their territory in Canada, 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, the Ojibwe and Chippewa 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.

The British eventually deemed the wooden fort on the mainland too vulnerable to attack, and in 1781 they built Fort Mackinac, a limestone fort on nearby Mackinac Island. Fort Michilimackinac was abandoned after the move.

The fort grounds were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It is a popular tourist attraction as part of Fort Michilimackinac State Park in Mackinaw City. The site has numerous restored historical wooden structures and is considered the most extensively excavated early French archaeological site in the United States.

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