Dan Downing, chief of education, interpretation, and operations at River Raisin Battlefield Park in Monroe, says planning for the 200th anniversary commemoration has been under way for years.
MONROE — “Remember the Raisin” was a great American rallying cry of the War of 1812, and history lovers intend to live up to the exhortation next month for the bicentennial observance of the Battles of the River Raisin.
Participants from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Ontario, including Native Americans and many Monroe County residents, are to gather Jan. 19 for re-enactments, speeches, and music.
It’s in remembrance of the conflict on the north bank of the River Raisin that brought the defeat of an American army by the British and their Indian allies and the capture of its commander.
“We’ve been planning this, communitywide, for a couple of years,” said Dan Downing, chief of education, interpretation, and operations at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
The events are to start at 9 a.m. with a flag-raising at the park, then move across Dixie Highway to the ice rink, the ground where the battle was fought, for a tactical demonstration featuring more than 100 re-enactors in period uniforms bearing replicas of 1812 weapons. The demonstration also will include artillery pieces.
The re-enactors then will move three-quarters of a mile south, crossing the Raisin, to the Sawyer Homestead, 320 E. Front St.
This was the location of the headquarters of the American commander, Gen. James Winchester, and the private home of Lt. Col. Francois Navarre.
A Kentucky Rifleman is depicted in a diorama at River Raisin Battlefield Park. Many from Kentucky died in the battle.
The Sawyer Homestead is said to be similar to the Navarre log home — two main rooms separated by a central hallway. General Winchester was said to have slept in the east room, and was wakened by the Navarre family when the battle erupted. He mounted his horse and galloped to the sound of the guns. The date was Jan. 22, 1813.
After speeches at the Sawyer Homestead, re-enactors are to march north along the path General Winchester used to reach the battle, where he found the right flank of his army falling apart and in retreat. He, his 16-year-old son, and several aides were captured by Indians and turned over to the British commander, Col. Henry Proctor.
Other Americans who surrendered were massacred by Indians that day and the next. American casualties totaled more than 300 dead, 60 wounded, and more than 500 taken prisoner. The disaster became known as “The River Raisin Massacre.”
Back at the park visitors center, re-enactors are to present arms as more flags are raised.
At noon, James McConnell, a member of the Michigan War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, is to speak. He is to be followed an hour later by Eddie Price, director of the Hancock County, Kentucky, Historical Society.
Brian Leigh Dunnigan, associate director of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and Larry Lee Nelson, retired director of Fort Meigs in Perrysburg are to speak at the Monroe County Historical Museum that day. Mr. Dunnigan’s 3:30 p.m. presentation will be “Uncorking the Truth: Spirits of the 1812 Military,” and Mr. Nelson’s address an hour later will be “The Northwest Campaigns of the War of 1812.”
Monroe County Community College will be the scene of a concert, “Musical Remembrances of the War of 1812,” at 3:30 and 7 p.m. in the Meyer Theater.
Program narrator William McCloskey is to tell interwoven stories of the music, poetry, and dance of the era, and musical performers will include the group fiddlesix, the Agora Chorale, Leh Nah Weh Drum group, the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps, and Branch 28 Royal Canadian Legion Pipe and Drum Corps.