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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2008

Top corps won't pass up muster

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps of Williamsburg, Va., perform in Perrysburg in 2004. Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps of Williamsburg, Va., perform in Perrysburg in 2004.
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MONROE - The Fife and Drum Corps of Colonial Williamsburg, which is considered the premier fife and drum group in the country, will travel from Virginia to Monroe for the second annual River Raisin International Muster.

The fife and drum muster will be held June 21 at the River Raisin Battlefield at Elm Avenue and North Dixie Highway.

A special concert featuring the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps and the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps, which is the host of the two-day event, will be held the evening before at 7 p.m. in downtown Monroe at Loranger Square.

Scott Lonsdale, a staff member at the Monroe County Historical Museum, said fifes and drums were commonly used in the 18th and 19th centuries to relay commands on the field of battle.

"They were the radio for the armies of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. That was the way they fought wars. Fife and drum corps were popular through the Civil War. They were around for World War I, but they were not commonly used," said Mr. Lonsdale, who is a member the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps.

The Colonial Williamsburg group began 50 years ago. It comprises boys and girls ranging in ages from 10 years old to 18 from the local Williamsburg area.

In addition to performing at historic Williamsburg, the group travels throughout the world.

The River Raisin International Muster will begin June 21 with a parade of the fife and drum units through downtown Monroe at 10 a.m. and performances will continue at 1 p.m. at the battlefield site.

Mr. Lonsdale said 10 fife and drum corps have signed up to perform.

"Basically, it will be an afternoon of fifing and drumming. Each of the corps will get about 10 minutes at the staging area to perform. They will play and march off," Mr. Lonsdale said.

The fife and drum muster began last year as part of Monroe County's build-up for the bicentennial to commemorate the War of 1812.

Efforts are under way to determine the battlefield's national significance. A team of scholars from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, has been hired to prepare and submit formal paperwork aimed at making the battlefield a historic landmark.

The documentation, expected to be completed later this year, will be sent for review by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

The battle, which was fought in what is present-day Monroe in January, 1813, was one of the bloodiest of the war in the War of 1812.

More than 900 soldiers from Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky fought the combined forces of British and Native American troops.

About 60 wounded and unarmed American soldiers, mostly from the Kentucky militia, were killed Jan. 23, 1813, by Indians after British soldiers withdrew in what was the Massacre at River Raisin. "Remember the River Raisin" became a rallying cry for the U.S. militia during the rest of the war.



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