Fort Mackinac takes it name from the island on which it stands. Located on a high bluff, it overlooks the Mackinac Straits connecting Lakes Huron and Michigan. The fort is no longer an active military installation, although it figured prominently in the early history of the area. The French first fortified the south shore of the straits early in the eighteenth century. In 1761 the British occupied that fort during the French and Indian War, but they abandoned it in 1763 after an Indian attack caught the garrison by surprise. The British returned to the site in 1764. In 1780, believing the fort vulnerable to attack by American forces during the Revolutionary War, the British garrison moved to Mackinac Island. Although they ceded that fort to the United States in 1795, British forces captured it in 1812. American forces experienced a serious defeat in a futile attempt to recapture the fort in 1814. With the end of the War of 1812, however, Fort Mackinac finally became permanent U.S. property in 1815.
At the time Eastman painted the fort, its reservation encompassed a little over two square miles, and it had a garrison of about forty enlisted men and four officers. In 1875 most of the reservation became a national park, leaving only about 100 acres for the post. The reduced Fort Mackinac remained an active post until 1895, when the state of Michigan acquired it for a public park.