By Bailey Amaral
Crystal clear waters and pebble beaches surround Michigan’s tiny Mackinac Island nestled between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Although today the island features a lavish resort and peaceful oasis for a summer adventure, Mackinac Island was once a remote military outpost, and home to outspoken frontier patriots.
First reached by Catholic missionaries in the 1670’s, the island later became a key military post with its strategic location near the center of the Great Lakes. Controlled by the French, the British, and finally the Americans, Fort Mackinac saw many gallant officers, but one in particular embodied the American spirit of liberty and courage in the face of tyranny. Ambrose Davenport witnessed the birth of the new country and chose to join the army after graduating from school in Virginia. As young military enlistee, Davenport, embraced adventure and travelled with his family to serve in the rough outpost at Mackinac, on the outer edge of the American frontier. Part of the American takeover of Fort Mackinac in 1796, he later left the military but remained on the island and became a successful fur trader.
Peace in Mackinac remained elusive, however, because the British re-invaded Mackinac during the War of 1812 and captured the fort without a shot. Everyone on the island became a prisoner of war, including Davenport, his wife and his six children. When British Captain Charles Roberts demanded that all captives swear allegiance to the the royal crown, Ambrose Davenport simply refused and instead proudly declared:
“I was born in America and am determined at all hazards, to live and die an American citizen.”
Deported to Detroit, Davenport would spend the next 3 years until 1815 away from his family. Back on the island, Mrs. Davenport was constantly harassed and insulted by the British as they referred to her as “the wife of the Yankee Rebel”.
Although his proud declaration had severe consequences and threatened his life, Ambrose chose to stand on principle instead of bowing to tyranny. Young Americans today are called to live up to his legacy.