THE site of the River Raisin massacre in Monroe County has moved a step closer to becoming a part of America's national park system. The U.S. House of Representatives has given support for an analysis of adding the historic site where one of the most important early battles of the War of 1812 occurred.
The 200th anniversary of the beginning of what some have called the Second War for American Independence is less than six years away. Designating the battlefield as national park land would be one more reason to celebrate the strength America gained there almost two centuries ago.
The dean of the House, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, is the author of a bill proposing the study, the first step toward establishing it as a national park. A Senate measure was introduced by Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, also Democrats, joined by Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, who has his own ties to this area as a former major league pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Many of the soldiers killed in the battle were also from Kentucky, which named nine counties after slain soldiers.
The River Raisin battles were some of the most violent. In January, 1813, the British and their allies set fire to settlement homes, massacred about 60 unarmed American soldiers, and threw some of their bodies into the fires. That helped add to American determination and the cry to "Remember the Raisin" helped rally U.S. support.
The Monroe community wants to ensure that River Raisin Battlefield National Park becomes a reality. The city of Monroe and the Monroe County Historical Society have contributed to the preparation of a master plan; the state will invest $1 million to raze an old paper mill, and the River Raisin Battlefield National Foundation intends to provide long-term maintenance.
When the River Raisin massacre is mentioned, one must take note of Fort Meigs State Memorial Park in Perrysburg because it also had a role in the War of 1812. Following the defeat at the Battle of Frenchtown, as the River Raisin massacre was also known, Gen. William Henry Harrison built Fort Meigs in Wood County. His military accomplishments in that war led to his election as president in 1840.
These sites are an important part of our history, and must be preserved. Making the River Raisin battlefield a national park will benefit future generations, and should happen as quickly as possible.