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Published: Tuesday, 1/20/2009

Commemoration of skirmish slated for Saturday

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - The commemoration of the Battle of the River Raisin on Saturday will include a presentation from a local historian who has recently released a book on the War of 1812 battle.

Ralph Naveaux, retired director of the Monroe County Historical Museum, is the author of Invaded on All Sides, an in-depth account of the skirmish that occurred over several days in January, 1813.

A Monroe native, Mr. Naveaux said he began formulating the groundwork for the book while working at the museum. The last three years of his 17-year stint at the museum were spent as an assistant director. He retired two years ago.

He said the archives of the museum were an invaluable tool in writing the book, which is the only account of the battle available today in print. Resources for the publication included first-hand accounts of the battle from American and British soldiers in the form of letters to relatives, military correspondence to superiors, and the court-martial documents of a British officer.

"I was in a fortunate position in working at the museum. A lot of information about the battleAmerican and British soldiers in the form of letters to relatives, military correspondence to superiors, and the court-martial documents of a British officer.

"I was in a fortunate position in working at the museum. A lot of information about the battle came to me there," he said.

One of two other known books about the Battle of the River Raisin was written by Dennis Au, a former assistant director of the museum.

"There have not been a lot of books written about the battle," he said. "What struck me the most was there is still a lot of mystery about the battle."

David Ingall, museum assistant director, said this year's commemoration - the 196th anniversary of the battle - will begin at 10 a.m. with a tactical drill demonstration at the actual battlefield site near the Monroe Sports Center at the corner of North Dixie and East Elm Avenue.

As many as 500 re-enactors representing American militia and British soldiers from Canada and the Midwest are expected to show up for the demonstration, only the second time that a re-enactment has been held at the site.

"This year's battle celebration is a combination of what we did last year, toned down a little bit, but similar to what was done in years past," Mr. Ingall said.

Other events open to the public include a flag raising and a wreath-laying ceremony at 11:30 a.m. at the River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center, 1403 East Elm Ave.

The speech by Mr. Naveaux will begin at 3 p.m. at the Monroe County Historical Museum, 126 South Monroe St.

The battle was fought Jan. 18 and 22, 1813, on what is now the area near North Dixie Highway and East Elm Avenue.

Then known as the Battle of Frenchtown, it was an action with the British military and their Native American allies in which hundreds of American soldiers were killed.

U.S. soldiers, mostly from the Kentucky militia, were killed Jan. 23, 1813, by Indians after British soldiers withdrew from battle. Only 33 of the soldiers escaped death or capture.

"Remember the River Raisin!" became the rally cry for the U.S. militia during the rest of the war and served as turning point.

The battlefield is the focus of a congressional study that could elevate it to national historic landmark. The U.S. Park Service is reviewing the battlefield's national significance to determine the suitability of absorbing the site into the national parks system,

The 35-acre battlefield site, which the city acquired in June, 2006, is also the focus of an archaeological analysis commissioned by the Monroe County Historical Society.

A team of historians and archaeologists, including Michael Pratt, a professor from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, has unearthed sections of the battlefield site.



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