War broke out between the United States and Great Britain in the summer of 1812. Under the cover of darkness, a 300-man force of British soldiers and Native American allies embarked from Fort St. Joseph and landed on the north shore of Mackinac Island. They dragged their cannon to the high ground behind the fort, took positions in the woods and prepared to attack. American soldiers, about 30, were completely surprised and outnumbered by the British invasion. This was the first land engagement of the War of 1812 in the United States.
British troops took the fort and built a new one, named Fort George which was later renamed Fort Holmes at the highest point on the island to act as a defense on the weak north side. Two years later American soldiers tried to recapture Fort Mackinac. Invading from the north, they were met by British soldiers at the center of the island. The Americans were badly defeated in the only battle ever fought on Mackinac Island. Following the battle, British soldiers also captured two American vessels that were blockading the harbor.