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MONROE - The efforts of preservationists, historians, the city of Monroe, and local groups to create a national park at one of the bloodiest battles in the War of 1812 were recognized Friday during a dedication ceremony at Monroe County Community College.
The River Raisin Battlefield site along East Elm Avenue near North Dixie Highway was recently transferred to the National Park Service.
A bulk of the 45 acres of parkland, including property that once was a turn-of-the-20th-century paper mill, was owned by the city of Monroe.
The battlefield visitor's center, owned and operated by the Monroe County Historical Museum since 1990, and several acres acquired recently by the Monroe County Historical Society for the project were also given to the park service.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn), who was instrumental in the legislation signed into law in March, 2009, that established the park, was among the dignitaries to address the audience.
"Congratulations, Monroe. We have come a long way. This is the culmination of great partnership of a holistic community-wide effort to reclaim the battlefield from turn-of-the century industrial development," Mr. Dingell said.
Ernest Quintana, the National Park Service's midwest regional director, said: "What we see now as a National Park Service role is continuing that great partnership and doing our part to elevate on a national stage the story of the River Raisin [battle]."
The battle, fought over several days in January, 1813, is viewed as nationally significant for its role in being the turning point in the War of 1812.
The skirmish was among the bloodiest battles in the war between Americans and allied British and Native American forces and the most deadly battle ever fought on Michigan soil.
Only 33 of 934 soldiers from Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky escaped death or capture in the battle's second day.
About 60 wounded and unarmed American soldiers, mostly of the Kentucky militia, were killed the next day by Indians after the British withdrew in what became known as the Massacre at River Raisin.
"Remember the River Raisin" became the emotional rallying cry for Kentucky militia and other soldiers for the rest of the war.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D. Mich.) said the creation of a national park is a fitting tribute to the memory of the Kentucky militia and others who died in the skirmish.
"They lost the battle here. But their sacrifice inspired their countrymen," Mr. Levin said. "Their sacrifices, all of their sacrifices, helped to win the War of 1812 and with it to win the future of our nation."