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River Raisin Battlefield to come alive with militia

Monroe park hosts re-enactors Saturday


Ralph Naveaux wears the uniform of Lacroix’s Company of Michigan Volunteers during a re-enactment at River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe on Thursday.

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MONROE — The militia will be out in force Saturday, but the mobilization at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park is all in the interests of fun and education.

The free event, called Volunteer Militia Drill Day, is to run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park, 1403 Elm Ave. Dan Downing, the park’s chief of interpretation, education, and operations, said similar events have been held at the park as part of larger occasions, but this is the first time the drill by the First Regiment of Volunteers re-enactors and related activities have been given a day of its own.

Tents will be pitched, and there will be lots of marching.

“This is done basically for anyone who is interested in re-enactment and wants to get into it,” Mr. Downing said. “It’s also for kids who want to pretend they’re soldiers and learn more about the life of a soldier in the early 1800s.”

Most of the men under arms in those days were militia from Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio, he noted, because “there was not a big standing army.”

The day will include a flintlock demonstration, using replicas that weigh about half as much as the flintlocks from the War of 1812-era. Mr. Downing said re-enactors probably will forgo the use of black powder because too many children might be around, and the National Park Service has strict rules about such demonstrations.

Still, even without the powder, spectators will see how the muzzleloaders of old worked, with their hammer, frizzen, and flash pan.

Re-enactors use their own uniforms and equipment.

Children will have a chance to join the “minimilitia” and wear uniforms. There also will be activities for them, such as making powder pouches.

The day also is to feature demonstrations of the domestic arts women of the period would have focused on, such as sewing and cooking.

This bicentennial year of the Battle of the River Raisin has made for a busy time at the park.

The battle, which included an Indian massacre of American soldiers, was commemorated on Jan. 19 with more than 100 re-enactors and a day full of activities.

Mr. Downing said the park’s volunteer re-enactors, like most historical re-enactors, are in great demand at events.

“If you do this as a hobby, you can pretty much be occupied every weekend,” Mr. Downing said.

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