Monroe kicks off bicentennial of Battles of River Raisin

A new passport stamp is available at River Raisin National Battlefield in Monroe, Mich. The old passport stamp can be seen on the left.
A new passport stamp is available at River Raisin National Battlefield in Monroe, Mich. The old passport stamp can be seen on the left.

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.