As the war began, Fort Mackinac, located at the northwestern end of Lake Huron, was a strategic strongpoint that dominated the Upper Great Lakes. Adjacent to the fort, a trading post for furs was a key supply point for Euro-American-Native American commerce and exchange.
While poor American military intelligence failed to communicate to Fort Mackinac the news that war had broken out, the British military command in Upper Canada was not idle. They promptly notified the commander of Fort St. Joseph, a British strongpoint located approximately 40 miles (65 km) northeast by canoe. Ft. St. Joseph's British commander, Charles Roberts, determined to recruit Native allies and assault Mackinac Island.
With a single sailing vessel and a flotilla of war canoes, the expeditionary force arrived on the north shore of Mackinac Island on the night of June 16-17, 1812. Full secrecy was maintained and the warriors landed without detection by the American army.
The sailing vessel had brought one or more light cannon, which were wrestled ashore at British Landing and hauled up through the interior of the Island to a location above Fort Mackinac. On the morning of June 17, the British and Natives displayed their troops and cannon surrounding the fort, and demanded its surrender. The operation was completely successful. Fort Mackinac fell to the British without a single casualty.
Two years later, on August 4, 1814, as the War of 1812 moved towards its conclusion, an American expeditionary force landed here at British Landing in an attempt to recapture Fort Mackinac from the British. Unlike the British landing of 1812, the American landing of 1814 was not a surprise and was not successful. The 1814 amphibious operation was a failure and the American detachment was forced to re-embark on the same day.
British Landing was for many years the home of noted Shakespearean and drama scholar John McCabe.
Part of British Landing is located within Mackinac Island State Park.