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MONROE — War of 1812 re-enactors and history buffs will descend on Monroe this weekend to mark the bicentennial of the Battles of the River Raisin.
The January, 1813, battles — and the Americans’ defeat at the hands of the British and their American Indian allies — rallied U.S. forces with the slogan “Remember the Raisin.” Two hundred years later, Monroe’s historic and cultural organizations will host numerous events, lectures, concerts, and tactical demonstration featuring costumed re-enactors, muskets, and cannon fire. Most events take place Saturday in historic locations around Monroe, including the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.
“We’re just delighted since we are a new park, and we’re trying to get established,” said Daniel Downing, the park’s chief of education, interpretation, and operations. “We couldn’t pay for the publicity.”
The park, established as a National Park Service site in 2010, will offer visitors several ways to commemorate the 200th anniversary. Beginning today, visitors can get park passport books stamped with a bicentennial cancellation stamp. Many park service visitors collect stamps from various national park sites. The River Raisin park will offer the special stamp through Jan. 18, 2014.
Also available is a limited-edition bicentennial coin for $5 at the park’s trading post.
Officials estimated this weekend’s activities could attract a couple thousand visitors to Monroe, including roughly 300 re-enactors wearing historically accurate dress. The city is urging visitors to patronize businesses and restaurants and has worked with community organizations to plan the events.
“It is one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812. We often call this the Forgotten War,” said Dan Swallow, the city’s director of economic and community development. “But yet it was pivotal in the formation of the United States.”
After an initial battle victory, Americans suffered a major loss at the River Raisin. On Jan. 22, 1813, Gen. James Winchester was awakened to the sound of fighting and galloped on horseback nearly a mile from the home where he was staying to the battlefield, said historian Ralph Naveaux, president of Friends of the River Raisin Battlefield and former director of the Monroe County Historical Museum.
Hundreds of Americans died or were captured that day. The battle resulted in a “resounding victory for the British” and a disaster for the Americans, but the loss was transformed into an American rallying cry, Mr. Naveaux said.
Re-enactors on Saturday will depict battle events on part of the battlefield that remains city-owned land. The park service does not allow such re-enactments on its property, citing a policy advocating respect for those who died at the site by not trying to recreate battles, Mr. Downing said.
The park will sponsor a flag and wreath ceremony and a historical documentary screening.