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River Raisin battlefield sets Weapon Demo Days

Popular events to convey feel of 1812 conflict

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Re-enactors open fire at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. More of that is promised at four Weapon Demo Days.

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MONROE — History buffs who hanker for the sounds of muskets and cannons can get their fill this summer at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, where Weapon Demo Days will be held July 13, Aug. 10, and Sept. 14 and 28.

The demonstrations will be at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m.

Dan Downing, the park’s chief of interpretation, education, and operations, said the weapon demonstrations have been held before at open houses and special events.

He said they’ve “been so popular with folks that we've decided to include it as part of our programming activities.”

The idea behind the demonstration is to give a sense of what a War of 1812 battlefield was like, with the explosion of black powder that was used in firearms and artillery.

Mr. Downing said the National Park Service even sent him to a black powder school at a military base in Alabama to learn how to handle the explosive material safely.

“There has never been a serious accident with black powder in a national park because the standards are so strict,” he said.

That means that the muskets and cannon are loaded only with powder — no projectiles — and fired into an empty field.

The park service does not allow re-enactors to fire at each other or feign death. Spectators are kept well away “in case there is a muzzle explosion,” Mr. Downing said.

The demonstration is a big crowd pleaser, he said. There’s a bang, a flash of flame, and lots of smoke.

The Sept. 28 demonstration will include a bicentennial commemoration of the liberation of Frenchtown in the War of 1812.

The British and their Indian allies retook the settlement after initially being driven out by the Americans, killing and taking prisoner hundreds of Americans. The British captured Frenchtown in January, 1813. It remained a stronghold of theirs until liberated on Sept. 27 of that year.

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