Sunday, September 22, 2019

Invading Michigan

Commander K. with Michigan's favorite son Gerald Ford
Ford Library and Museum

Michigan is loaded with fascinating history, both military and otherwise.  Significant battles were fought on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.  George Armstrong Custer grew up in Monroe Michigan.  The Polar Bear expedition that invaded Russia in the later stages of World War I was made up primarily of Michiganders.  Grand Rapids was the home of Gerald Ford, our 38th President.  Today it is the home of the Ford Library and Museum...

Commander K. at Michigan Military Museum
Frankenmuth, Michigan

German settlers from Franconia came to Michigan early settling Frankenmuth in 1845.  Today this German-themed town with a population of 5,000 welcomes around 3 millions tourists per year.  Frankenmuth is a great town -- unless you are a chicken -- fried chicken dinners are a local specialty!  Frankenmuth is also home to the splendid Michigan Military and Space Heroes Museum...

Germans ""Invade" Michigan
We discussed fighting that took place within the state of Michigan in our recent book America Invaded...

"Even before Europeans reached what is now Michigan, their arrival farther east had had something of an impact on the Native American people of the area.

When Europeans first entered Michigan, they found a land inhabited by a range of Native American peoples, particularly the peoples that formed part of the Algonquian-language group, like the Ottawa, the Ojibwa, the Potawatomi, and the Miami, but also people from the Iroquoian-language group, like the Wyandot.

When Europeans did arrive in the area, it was the French who played the leading role.

In the early seventeenth century, Étienne Brulé explored some of the region; and soon, other French missionaries, explorers, and traders followed. In 1668, Father Jacques Marquette founded the first permanent European settlement in what is now Michigan at Sault Ste. Marie. And in 1671, Simon François, Sieur de St. Lusson arrived at the Sault and claimed a vast chunk of western America for France. A number of French forts were established; and in 1701, Detroit itself was founded.
But the French were beginning to encounter serious opposition from both local Native American peoples and another European power, Britain.

By the late seventeenth century, parts of Michigan had already been affected by the Iroquois Wars, as the Iroquois sought to establish control over the lucrative fur trade with the Europeans. And in the early eighteenth century, competition for land and trade led to clashes, as the Fox tribe fought the French and their Native American allies.  The result was great suffering for the Fox and the Sauk.
And indeed, French power in Michigan did not have long left.  The French and Indian War saw the collapse of French power throughout North America. In 1760, the British accepted the surrender of Detroit.

But almost as soon as the British had taken control of the area, they faced major opposition to their rule from Native Americans. Unhappy with the new British rule and the arrival of more settlers from the east, a variety of peoples combined to attack British targets. Prominent among those leading the effort was an Ottawa leader, Pontiac, and the conflict has consequently become known as Pontiac’s War. It didn’t start well for the British in Michigan. Not well at all.

Fort Detroit managed to avoid being captured by a surprise attack, but it then came under siege. Elsewhere in Michigan, the British faced near disaster. Fort St. Joseph and Fort Michilimackinac would both be captured, and British troops suffered defeat on the battle eld as well. In May 1763,  fifty-six out of ninety-six men from a British supply unit were killed at Point Pelee. And in July of that same year, an attempt by British forces from Detroit to attack Pontiac led to defeat and the deaths of twenty British soldiers at the Bloody Run. Settlers were attacked as well.

However, Detroit did not fall, and the Native American forces were defeated elsewhere too. Gradually, the Native American alliance fell apart as separate peace deals were negotiated with the British.  The British administration also attempted to deal with one of the main local grievances by restricting the arrival of settlers into the region. Pontiac himself finally made peace with the British in 1766.

But another war was coming. During the American Revolution, the British used Detroit as a base to launch raids against American targets farther south. Detroit also saw the arrival of Daniel Boone as a prisoner, and the construction of Fort Lemoult.

And in one dramatic venture, Spain invaded Michigan briefly.  In 1780, American forces had attacked Fort St. Joseph, located in what is now Niles. In 1781, it was the turn of the Spanish.  The Spanish commandant of St. Louis sent an expedition that launched a surprise attack on the fort on February 12, 1781, crossing ice to take the target.  The Spanish briefly raised the Spanish flag, looted the fort, and then returned to safety in St. Louis.

Ultimately, the result of the War of Independence would be determined by actions farther to the east; and in the 1783 peace deal that ended the war, Michigan became American. Except that it didn’t exactly. Britain, for instance, remained in control of Detroit, and elections were even held there in 1792 for representatives to the provincial assembly of Upper Canada.

The situation was a headache for the United States government. Not only did it see Britain, via Detroit and other locations, assisting Native American resistance to the United States’ attempts to impose its rule on the region, but it also had to deal with competing claims to the Michigan territory from existing states. In the end, it was determined that existing states would not have control of the territory; and in 1795, after the defeat of Native Americans at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, the British finally agreed to withdraw from all Northwest Territory lands. In 1796, they left Detroit.
But not for the last time. Another war was coming, and soon British forces would return to Detroit.
In 1805, most of what is now Michigan was de ned by the United States as Michigan Territory. In 1807, the United States signed a deal in Detroit with the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi, under which these peoples ceded lands. It would be the first of a number of deals in which Native Americans gave away their land rights in Michigan.

Commander K. at River Raisin

The War of 1812 didn’t start well for America in Michigan. In July 1812, Mackinac Island fell without a shot to the British, because the British in the area had been told they were at war and the Americans in the area hadn’t. And the situation wasn’t going to get any better for the Michigan authorities anytime soon. In August, Detroit surrendered to the British. And January 1813 saw a major American defeat by British and Native American forces at the Battle of Frenchtown, also known as the Battle of the River Raisin. However, events in the region were about to take a major turn in America’s favor. Victory for Olive Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie was followed by a significant British defeat at the Battle of the Thames. In September, the British withdrew from Detroit, this time for the final time. In the summer of 1814, Americans attempted but failed to retake Mackinac Island, but the war came to an end in February 1815. In July, British forces withdrew from Mackinac Island. Small changes to the border between the United States and Canada would still be made decades after the war.

The end of the War of 1812 was not the last fighting in Michigan. Another war was coming. Well, sort of.

In 1835–1836, a sort of war broke out between Michigan and Ohio, or as it is also known, the Toledo War. Confused surveying had left control of a strip of land stretching west from Toledo in dispute. When applying for statehood in 1835, Michigan claimed it. Ohio wasn’t very happy about that. In fact, it wasn’t happy at all. Both Michigan and Ohio sent militias to the area. Tensions ran high, and some shots were  red at the so-called Battle of Phillips Corner, as Ohio’s surveyors ran into Michigan militiamen. In the end, though, the only actual casualty was a Michigan sheriff  who got stabbed, but not killed, while attempting to arrest an Ohioan. In the end, a compromise was found. Ohio got the Toledo strip, and the new state of Michigan, recognized in 1837, ended up with most of the Upper Peninsula. Michigan wasn’t very happy about the deal at the time, but became a lot happier when it realized how much valuable natural resources its new territory contained.

And that’s almost the end of combat in Michigan. The state sent people and supplies to the fighting in the Civil War, but the battles took place elsewhere. In the early twentieth century, the United States still had a war plan for the invasion of Canada, which would have involved thrusts from Michigan across the border. It was never needed. Similarly, Canada had at one stage, between the world wars, its Defence Scheme No. 1, which envisaged, in the event of an America invasion, Canadian troops  seizing Detroit, among other targets. But that was never needed either.

Over 600,000 Michiganders served in the armed forces in World War II.

Over 600,000 Jeeps were built during WW2

The state’s automotive industry became an arsenal of Democracy, producing thousands of tanks, jeeps, and other vehicles. Almost 5,000 German and Italian POWs were held in camps in Michigan, such as Fort Custer. But one last foreign attack on Michigan was still to come. During the Japanese balloon- bomb campaign of the Second World War, some Fu-Go balloon bombs did make it as far as Michigan, with one landing near Grand Rapids."

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

No comments: