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Michigan Soon to Have River Raisin National Historic Battlefield, Monroe

Local Civil War Round Table Hears of Takeover by National Park Service

December 10, 2009       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Re-enactors will observe the 197th anniversary of the Battle of River Raisin Jan. 23, 2010, in Monroe.

The River Raisin Battlefield is one step closer to becoming the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, according to Dave Ingall, of Temperance, who spoke recently to the 7th Michigan Cavalry Civil War Round Table.

"The battle fought near Monroe on Jan 22, 1813 was one of the largest engagements of the War of 1812. Of 934 Americans who fought there, only 33 escaped death or capture," said Mr. Ingall. "The massacre of wounded soldiers the following day shocked and enraged Americans throughout the Old Northwest Territory.

"This bloody event, arguably the largest land engagement of the war, gave birth to the emotional rallying cry 'Remember the Raisin,' which spurred the American forces on to victory at the Battle of the Thames nine months later," said the speaker.

Local historians noted Bay City's Capt. Joseph Marsac was among U.S. soldiers at the Battle of the Thames. He is buried in Old St. Patrick's Cemetery, Bay City.

In the almost two hundred years since the fighting ended, the battlefield was developed for commercial purposes, serving as home to a paper mill at the turn of the last century. During the 110th Congress, Congressman Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow helped bring more than $1.5 million in grant money, added to additional $1.5 million from state and local sources, to pay for the rehabilitation effort, returning the Battlefield to the way it looked 195 years ago. Demolition crews have since brought down the smokestacks and blighted paper mills and archaeologists and historians have been shedding new light on this pivotal moment in American history.

Mr. Ingall, assistant director of the Monroe County Historical Museum, said the National Park Service will be taking over the River Raisin Battlefield next October.

It will become the only National Park Service property to be located in Michigan.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 will be observed in two years, Mr. Ingall noted, indicating that many tours are available.

The U.S. Senate has passed S. 22, the "Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009", which includes language from the River Raisin National Battlefield Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Dingell, both Detroit Democrats.

The legislation designates the River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe County as a unit of the National Park System (NPS), confirming an order of President Barack Obama last March.

Senator Levin said: "The Battle of the River Raisin and the massacre that followed hold a distinct place in our history, and deserve to be recognized as such. With Congressman Dingell's continued leadership, I am hopeful our National Park System will soon include these battlefield sites so that all Americans will 'Remember the Raisin.'"

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) said: "The River Raisin Battlefield is one of our state's most valuable landmarks, honoring the brave troops who sacrificed their lives in defense of our country, almost 200 years ago.

"Ensuring that the River Raisin Battlefield becomes a site of our National Park System is critical to preserving this historical treasure for future generations to come."

Congressman Dingell, author of the House bill, said: "With the strong support from our two Michigan Senators, the citizens of Monroe are closer than ever to turning the historical site into a lasting tribute to the many soldiers who died there. We've said for years that the River Raisin Battlefield deserves to be preserved in perpetuity because of its significance to our nation's history. I'm pleased so many of my distinguished colleagues in the Senate agree."

S.22 will now move to the House where timing for consideration has not been determined. If the House passes S.22, the President signs the legislation, and the Battlefield land is donated as stipulated in the legislation, the River Raisin Battlefield will be included as a unit of the NPS.

The museum displays includes dioramas & full-size British, Native American & American soldiers, as well as a fiber-optic map presentation on the Battles of the River Raisin.

Group tours of the battlefield are arranged by reservation- call the main Museum for information 734-240-7782. Free parking on site for viewing the Battlefield historical markers throughout the grounds. Guide booklet is available.

Contact Mr. Ingall for information on other tours available in the Monroe area and a Civil War tour of southeastern Michigan. E-mail ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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