by Phil Porter
The book devotes a page each to approximately 150 enlisted men and officers who served at or commanded the fort during its military existence. There is a portrait, sketch, or photograph of each soldier followed by a paragraph that covers his military career and the years when he was stationed on Mackinac Island. In a few instances, a photograph or painting of the soldier's family or home is also included in this abundantly illustrated book. A twenty-plus page introductory essay gives a concise but thorough history of the fort.
Among other officers that caught my attention was the uncle of the famous painter James Whistler, Lt. Smith whose brutal punishment of enlisted men, that went well beyond the military code and was inflicted without trials, sparked the famous "Christmas Day Mutiny" of 1829. Several officers who served tours on the island resigned their commisions to join the Confederate army during the Civil War, including Lt. Pemberton who rose to the rank of General in the Confederacy and punctuated the end of his military career by surrendering Vicksburg to General Grant in 1863. Then there's Ordinance Sgt. David Marshall the oldest and longest serving soldier at Fort Mackinac. He spent 61 years in the army of which nearly thirty were at Fort Mackinac where he died in 1884 at the age of 84.
The author is the Director of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. His agency working with the Michigan State University Press have together produced a beautiful and historically important book.
The Soldiers of Fort Mackinac: An Illustrated History by Phil Porter. Mackinac State Historic Parks and Michigan State University Press, 2018, $39.95