Battle of Raisin River - History

Battle of Raisin River - History

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On January 21, 1813, the Battle of Raisin River was fought. The US forces, commanded by General Winchester, sustained severe loses including 100 dead and 500 men captured. They surrendered to British Colonel Henry A. Proctor.


General William Henry Harrison's Northwest Army split into three groups in order to attack British forces stationed in Detroit. One of the divisions, consisting of 700 Kentuckians, ignored orders and sought to find food and shelter in the frigid weather. The division, led by Brigadier General James Winchester, captured an enemy store in Frenchtown on the River Raisin and set up camp. Because it was in a poor defensive position, the division was massacred by a surprise attack of 1,200 Brits and 1,400 Indians led by British General Henry Proctor. The Kentuckians attempted to flee but were hunted in the woods by the Indians. Over 400 Kentuckians died; 80 wounded were left behind to face the tomahawks of the Indians. Only 15 to 20 wounded Kentuckians managed to escape and survived.

Battle of Raisin River - History

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by Ralph Naveaux

Years of research has gone into the writing of the recently published "Invaded on all Sides". Mr. Naveaux is the most renowned historian on the battle of the River Raisin, and provided the most in depth study of the Battle of the River Raisin, War of 1812.

Ralph Naveaux has earned degrees in history and administration from Michigan State University, and in French from Easter Michigan University. He is also a graduate of the Seminar in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Michigan Police Reserve Training Council Basic Law Enforcement Course at Schoolcraft College. For 15 years, he was employed as a teacher of history and French in the Monroe Public School System. Mr. Naveaux retired as Director of the Monroe County Historical Museum in January of 2007.

"War of 1812: Battles of the Raisin"
DVD produced by the
Friends of the River Raisin Battlefield

Contact the River Raisin Battlefield Park

This is the story of the largest field battle ever fought in what is now the state of Michigan. It began with a skirmish at French Town on January 18, 1813. The initial engagement ended in victory for the United States, but the situation was reversed at the Battle of the River Raisin on January 22, when a force of British and Native Americans, led by Col Henry Proctor, completely destroyed the American army under Brig. General James Winchester.

As a result of this disaster, "Remember the Raisin" became the rallying cry for the American forces on the Northwestern Frontier during the War of 1812.

The Swamp Angles Cannon

RESTORATION PROJECT: Requesting donations to have a historical 3 pounder cannon restored at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

The Historical cannon named the “Swamp Angles” was a complicated provenance history to solve. Given to the City of Milford by the Great Showman PT Barnum who collected historical cannons that were used as part of his shows.

The name “Swamp Angles” referred to the history of the cannon being used with Perry on the great lakes in the 1812 War. One of the bloodiest US Naval engagements took place on the lakes where many free African American and Kentucky Riflemen patriots who lost their lives. Were committed to the Lake after the Battle of Lake Erie.

Historians who I have spoke to from Detroit haved documented the name origins “Swamp Angle’s” did refer to the bodies committed to the Lake, but some of the brave sould bodies did wash up on the shores around the lakes tributeries. The 2nd documented history that was well documented by the Kentucky National Guard Historian was that there was the famous battle “River Raisin”. Where Perry’s ships were documented not having any 3lbs cannon. Except for where the bloody bloody massacre took place on the River Raisin. The Swamp Angle’s is a relic from this history that is commemorating the men who gave thier lives on the great lakes in the fight from freedom in the War of 1812.

Today, the cannon is in a sad state, placed in the ground 30 plus years ago. Reason that the cannon would not be taken by collectors. Today it sits accross the street from the Milford Green on a street corner thats to close to traffic.

What you see is not a pretty sight, first thoughts is it was painted green and a cone thrown on top for some Holloween joke. But, no! This is to prevent cars from running the relic over. Now Im putting up the insurance money to dig it out. Request being made to the City Public Works to pull it out and send it to Vermont for restoration.

WHATS EVEN MORE SPECIAL: The famous Civil War Bombardment of Charleston, SC. was boombed by the famous cannon called the Swamp Angle by Gilmore(Scottish Iron Industry Connection in USA”. The famous all black American regiment who fought in Charelston, SC. was the 54th named the “Swamp Angles” and todays 54th does not even know where the name originated!

Special notes here, PT. Barnum was famous for massive propaganda in the Civil War against the South with the burning of Charleston with cannon incendiary rounds. Confederate spys took revenge with a plot to burn NYC with the same Greek Fire that burned Charelston to the ground. They chose Pt. Barnums Museum and ironic because there was a small cannon like this one he gave to Milford that survived the blaze.

The truth is that this cannon teaches cannon history than another cannon in US history from the iron industry on the great lakes with the foundery that made the Civil War gun and families directly associated to being on Perry’s ships and who served at the River Raisin. Linking 1812 War history with Civil War Cannon manufacturing as well! Not to say that the cannon design indicates it was made during the American Revolution. Note that few authentic American cannons that are iron, have even been identifed in US History! The added history states this cannon was maybe at one used at the Battle of Stony Point, NY.

Any one wishing to help out! Please contact me on the blog. The cannon will cost $5k for conservation and I have a large historical marble stone it will be mounted too!

Remember the Raisin! The Battle of Frenchtown During the War of 1812

June marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. Here in the Delaware Valley area, many are familiar with some of the more-famous War of 1812 events, such as the bombing of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland the burning of the Capitol at Washington, D.C. Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner” and various maritime battles. Yet few recall the seminal skirmishes or major battles that occurred within the Old Northwest during the conflict.

Today, in what is now Monroe, Michigan, is the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. It is the only National Battlefield Park or site in the United States that is devoted exclusively to a battle of the War of 1812. “Remember the Alamo" strikes a familiar chord to most Americans, but “Remember the Raisin" has been largely forgotten, even though the battle here had the largest number of American casualties of the war.

The War of 1812 was largely fought in the South and the Great Lakes region, and a large contingent of troops were volunteers from the state of Kentucky. Some 25,000 Kentuckians participated in the conflict, and of the 1,876 Americans killed during the war, roughly 1,200 hailed from the Bluegrass State. Lt. Oliver Hazard Perry utilized Kentucky troops as ship-based marines at the Battle of Lake Erie and at the Battle of New Orleans. Kentucky and Tennessee sharpshooters won a resounding victory under the command of Andrew Jackson.

The Battle of Frenchtown or the River Raisin took place from January 18 to 23, 1813. British forces under the command of General Henry Proctor with his Native American allies fought a bitter engagement against Brig. Gen. James Winchester. A Maryland native and Revolutionary War veteran, Winchester was in command of the left wing of the Army of the Northwest under William Henry Harrison. During the battle, Winchester was captured and his army forced to surrender. Though the American forces were promised protection for prisoners and aid to the wounded, the British permitted the Indians to murder their Kentucky captives. Many eye-witness accounts exist for this event. Winchester was imprisoned in Canada for more than a year.

Pictured above is a letter written by James Winchester to General Henry Proctor. Winchester wrote the letter, which is dated May 31, 1813, during his imprisonment in Canada.

Kentucky native Lt. Isaac L. Baker was present at the Battle of Frenchtown and later taken to Detroit. Within his published narrative of the events, he remarked how after the surrender of the Kentucky troops, about half of the forty men he was with were massacred. He was then brought back toward the river where he saw the “dead bodies of my fellow-comrades, scalped, tomahawked and stripped, presented a most horrid spectacle to my view.” He learned the next day that “some of the wounded had been scalped alive and burnt in the houses,” where they’d been placed after their capture, and after “making enquiry about the massacres…found that 60 had been massacred…after they had surrendered.” This account of the event was taken from the Niles Weekly Register, shown below.

When they learned of this atrocity, thousands more Kentuckians volunteered for service. They played a large part in the series of battles in the Northwest culminating in the defeat of the British and their Indian allies at the Battle of the Thames, or Moraviantown, on October 5, 1813. Among the casualties was Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh. The victory helped secure the Northwest Territory for the remainder of the war. Currently nine of Kentucky’s 120 counties (Allen, Ballard, Edmondson, Graves, Hart, Hickman, McCracken, Meade, and Simpson) are named for soldiers who fought and died at the Raisin.

The War of 1812’s Forgotten Battle Cry

It’s 19 degrees with a brisk wind blowing off Lake Erie as the men of Lacroix Company march across a snow-crusted field in Michigan.

From This Story

Die-hard Michigan re-enactors fire vintage muskets and dine on local rodents. (Andrew Spear) A diorama at the River Raisin visitor center depicts the war’s northern front. (Andrew Spear)

Photo Gallery

“Prepare to load!” shouts Ralph Naveaux, the unit’s commander. Fumbling with frozen hands, the men shove ramrods down the muzzles of their flintlocks.

“Aim!” Naveaux yells, and the soldiers point their muskets at an industrial park on the far side of the field.

Six triggers click in unison. “Bang,” one of the men says.

After a second mock volley, the re-enactors retire to the parking lot of one of the bloodiest battlefields of the War of 1812. On this ground, hundreds of U.S. soldiers died in a defeat so stinging that it spawned a vengeful American battle cry: “Remember the Raisin!”

Today, almost no one does. Nor do many Americans hallow the war of which it was part. The “Raisin”—short for the River Raisin that runs by the site—recently became the first national battlefield park devoted to the War of 1812. And it’s no Gettysburg, but rather a small patch of “brownfield” (ground contaminated by industry) south of Detroit. The belching stacks of a coal-fired plant poke above the park’s tree line. Nearby stands a shuttered Ford factory where some of the re-enactors used to work.

This neglect saddens Naveaux, who has labored hard to preserve the battlefield. But ignorance of the War of 1812 lightens his role as Lacroix Company leader. “I made up some of the orders today, and they weren’t carried out well,” he concedes at the end of the wintry drill. “But if we do things wrong out here, how many people are going to know or care?”

If they ever will, it should be now, on the War of 1812’s bicentennial. Two centuries ago this June, the United States made its first declaration of war, inaugurating a 32-month conflict with Britain that claimed almost as many lives as the Revolutionary War. The war also cemented the young nation’s independence, opened vast tracts of Indian land to settlement and gave Americans “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Yet the War of 1812 still struggles for notice, even on its 200th birthday—which has the misfortune of coinciding with the 150th anniversary of what 1812 enthusiasts call “that other war.” The one featuring slavery, Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln.

“In the fight for memory, we’re like a few guys with flintlocks going up against Robert E. Lee’s army,” says Daniel Downing, chief of interpretation at the River Raisin Battlefield.

The Civil War’s superior firepower in national lore isn’t the only source of 1812’s obscurity. Here’s another: The 200-year-old war was mostly a debacle, with unsettling parallels to our own era. Eighteen-twelve was a war of choice rather than necessity it was undertaken with naïve expectations of American success and it concluded with the nation failing to achieve any of its stated aims.

“The war was so ill conceived and ineptly run that the government wanted to forget the whole embarrassment almost from the moment it ended,” says Gordon Wood, a leading historian of the early United States. He believes this willful amnesia, and the illusions that fueled the War of 1812, reflect a strain in the nation’s character that has surfaced many times, right down to Afghanistan and Iraq. “History should teach humility and prudence, but America doesn’t seem to learn. I’ve never seen a virgin who loses her innocence so often.”

In 1812, at least, the U.S. had the excuse of being very young and insecure. The Constitution wasn’t yet 25 years old, the nation remained a shaky experiment and Britain still behaved in a neo-colonial fashion. Desperate to defeat Napoleon, Britain restricted U.S. trade with Europe and “impressed,” or seized, sailors on American ships for service in the Royal Navy. To President James Madison and “War Hawks” in Congress, these acts violated U.S. sovereignty and represented an affront to the nation’s newly won independence. “There’s a sense that America’s identity is at stake,” says Wood, who calls 1812 “an ideological war.”

It was also extremely unpopular. The vote to declare war was the closest in U.S. history, and Congress failed to adequately fund the nation’s tiny, ill-prepared military. Some states withheld their militia. And critics decried “Mr. Madison’s War” as a reckless adventure, motivated less by maritime grievances than by lust for land.

Indeed, the U.S. war plan began with a land invasion—of Canada. By occupying land north of the border, Hawks sought to secure the nation’s flank, sever British aid to Indians in the upper Midwest and acquire new territory. Americans also believed that settlers in British-held Canada would welcome the invaders with open arms. Conquering present-day Ontario, Thomas Jefferson predicted, would “be a mere matter of marching.”

Instead, the first U.S. Army to march into Canada was so badly led that it promptly retreated and then surrendered, ceding Michigan to the British. Two later invasions of Canada likewise failed. The U.S. did have success at sea, stunning the British Navy by winning frigate duels early in the war. But in 1814, following Napoleon’s exile to Elba, the British brought much greater might to bear on the American theater.

After seizing eastern Maine and ravaging the New England coast, British troops invaded the Chesapeake, causing a frantic U.S. retreat in Maryland that was dubbed “the Bladensburg races.” The British then marched into Washington, which American officials had hastily abandoned, leaving behind a formal dinner set at the White House. British troops devoured the victuals and wine before burning the White House, Congress and other buildings. When Congress reconvened, in temporary quarters, it narrowly voted down a proposal to relocate the capital rather than rebuild. The beleaguered U.S. government also defaulted on the national debt.

These inglorious episodes are little heralded today, apart from Dolley Madison’s rescue of George Washington’s portrait from the White House (which still bears scorch marks from its 1814 burning). One exception is an annual event in the Connecticut town of Essex the cheekily titled “Loser’s Day Parade” marks the British raid and burning of its harbor.

The River Raisin Battlefield has also tried to lighten its image by adopting a furry and cartoonish mascot called “Major Muskrat.” The rodent, common to southeastern Michigan, helped early European settlers ward off starvation during the lean years of the War of 1812. And muskrat remains a local delicacy. Typically, it’s parboiled with vegetables, cut in half and then fried with onions, as it was at an all-you-can-eat muskrat and spaghetti dinner preceding the Lacroix Company’s winter drill.

“Muskrat’s an acquired taste,” acknowledges Ralph Naveaux, scraping dark meat from the rodent’s bony hindquarters, or what another diner calls “the ass-end.” Naveaux likens the taste to wild duck, or “a very aggressive turkey.” Many others at his table stick to the spaghetti.

Re-enacting at River Raisin also requires a hardy constitution, since the original battle occurred in January. Some of the Lacroix men hide hand warmers in their boots and wear long johns beneath period knee pants and linen shirts. Most are over 50, and there aren’t enough of them to stage a full-scale battle. Ken Roberts, a former autoworker who has re-enacted almost every conflict in American history, says the War of 1812 attracts fewer participants than any other. “It’s not a Hollywood kind of war,” he says.

This is especially true of the River Raisin fight. At first, Americans succeeded in dislodging a British encampment by the river. But a few days later, the British and their Indian allies launched a devastating counterattack. Of the thousand or so Americans involved, mostly Kentuckians, only a few dozen escaped killing or capture. This made River Raisin the war’s most lopsided U.S. defeat, accounting for 15 percent of all American combat deaths in the entire conflict.

But the most notorious incident at River Raisin occurred after the battle, when Indians attacked 65 wounded American prisoners, in apparent reprisal for atrocities the Kentuckians had committed against natives. Reports of the slaughter were quickly exaggerated in wartime propaganda, with political cartoons and recruitment broadsides depicting a drunken massacre and scalping by Indian “Savages,” abetted by their British allies.

In October 1813, shouting “Remember the Raisin!,” U.S. troops exacted revenge in a victory over the British and Indians that resulted in the killing and skinning of the great Shawnee warrior Tecumseh.

The vengeful Raisin battle cry was the precursor of “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember the Maine!” Bitterness over River Raisin also contributed to the postwar expulsion of tribes living east of the Mississippi, a campaign championed by William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson, two leading Indian fighters from the War of 1812.

“This isn’t just local history, it’s critical to our nation’s long war against Native Americans,” says Daniel Downing.

Even so, the Raisin and its legacy are largely forgotten, and the War of 1812’s bicentennial has brought little federal or state support to the battlefield, which lies within the industrial city of Monroe. Until recently, a paper mill covered the heart of the battlefield. It’s been demolished, but a light industrial park, an ice rink and other buildings occupy other parts of the historic ground. Toxic chemicals linger beneath the field and in the River Raisin, originally named by French settlers for the abundant grapes along its banks.

Downing, a disabled Iraq War veteran, attributes some of this neglect to Americans’ penchant for redacting dark passages from their history. “This battle, and all that flows from it, isn’t flattering to our self-image,” he says.

The opposite applies at Fort McHenry, on the shore of Baltimore Harbor. It was here, during a British bombardment in 1814, that Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The flag that Key saw waving above the rampart now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Key’s words appear on the inside flap of U.S. passports and Fort McHenry is a well-preserved national monument and historic shrine, attracting 650,000 visitors a year.

“This is the feel-good side of the War of 1812,” says Vince Vaise, Fort McHenry’s chief interpreter. “We won the battle here, we don’t hate the British anymore, and the flag and national anthem have positive connotations for most people.”

Many Americans, however, have a shaky grasp of the history behind this patriotic tale. Tourists often confuse McHenry’s flag with Betsy Ross’, or think Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment of a fort called Sumter. “It’s all history in a blender,” Vaise says.

The fort’s museum sets this history straight—and strips away some of its mythic gloss. Key, who poetically extolled “the land of the free,” was himself a prominent slaveholder. The British, by contrast, offered liberty to fleeing slaves and enlisted 200 of them in the fight to take Fort McHenry. Key’s original verse was so venomous—celebrating British blood spilled over their “foul footsteps pollution”—that much of it was deleted from the national anthem.

The museum also upends the blurry, rather blithe notions that visitors have about the War of 1812 as a whole. While Americans may dimly recall Key, the naval heroics of “Old Ironsides,” or Jackson’s triumph at the Battle of New Orleans, they’re generally unaware that most of the war occurred along the Canadian border and went badly for the home team. Jackson’s victory (two weeks after the signing of a peace treaty) also created an enduring myth that the U.S. won the war. In reality, it ended in stalemate, and the peace treaty simply re-established the pre-war status quo—without mentioning the maritime issues that led Congress to declare war in the first place.

“It’s not exactly ‘Mission Accomplished’ for the U.S.,” Vaise observes. “It’s more like a kid who gets a bloody nose from a bully who then goes home.” In fact, the U.S. was lucky to avoid losing territory to the British, who were eager to conclude what they regarded as an irksome sideshow to the Napoleonic conflict.

Though the War of 1812 ended without a military victor, the clear losers were Native Americans. Ravaged by war, and abandoned after it by the British, tribes east of the Mississippi could no longer resist American expansion. This sad history is also told at Fort McHenry, which offers visitors a chance to vote on a computer monitor, stating whether they would have declared war in 1812 or not.

“Some days the vote is 50-50,” Vaise says. “Other days, almost everyone’s a hawk. Maybe they’re in a bad mood.”

More seriously, he suspects that visitors view 1812 through the prism of current events. Then, as now, many Americans opposed military ventures. The political climate during the War of 1812 grew so ugly that New Englanders flirted with secession. And almost everyone became disenchanted with government.

“It’s easy to be down on the present because we romanticize the past,” Vaise says. “But I’d say what we’re living through now is the norm rather than the exception.”

For all its sobering lessons, the War of 1812 also offers cause for celebration apart from “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Americans, having fought a mighty foe to a draw—and even bested the fearsome British Navy in several engagements—emerged newly secure about their country’s status as a free nation. Never again would the U.S. make war on Britain, which in time became a close ally.

The war also laid the foundation for an enduring peace with Canada, along one of the world’s longest borders. “We take that for granted today, but it’s an enormous boon to both countries that we’re not at odds,” says historian Alan Taylor, author of a new history of the War of 1812.

The conflict set the U.S. on a new economic course as well. The Jeffersonian ideal of a yeoman society, exporting agricultural goods and importing manufactured ones, no longer held. The war forced the nation to become self-reliant and demonstrated the need for factories, internal transport, a national bank and domestic trade.

“We became a world unto ourselves, rather than one turned toward Europe,” says historian Gordon Wood. The economy took off in the years after the war, as canals, roads, cities and industries rapidly expanded.

But the nation’s growth, and its inward turn, deepened the divide between agricultural slave states and the urbanizing, industrializing North. The ultimate result was “that other war,” which has so long shadowed 1812. It looms even at Fort McHenry, where Maryland legislators were sequestered in 1861 so they couldn’t vote for secession.

“We can never win,” sighs Vaise, who volunteered at the fort as a teenager and has been an employee since 1994. “The Civil War is the American Iliad. The War of 1812 is a 19th-century version of Korea.”

But he hopes the war’s 200th anniversary will finally bring a long overdue measure of respect. “The Civil War hit the big time with its centennial,” he says. “Maybe, just maybe, our bicentennial will do the same, and we won’t be that dead, forgotten war anymore.”

About Tony Horwitz

Tony Horwitz was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and wrote for the New Yorker. He is the author of Baghdad without a Map, Midnight Rising and the digital best seller BOOM. His most recent work, Spying on the South, was released in May 2019. Tony Horwitz died in May 2019 at the age of 60.

War of 1812: The River Raisin Massacre, January 23, 1813

After General Winchester surrendered to end the Battle of Frenchtown (Raisin River), wounded American soldiers were slaughtered by frenzied tribal warriors.

When Brigadier General James Winchester ended the Battle of Frenchtown (Battle of Raisin River) on January 22, 1813, by surrendering to the British, nearly 700 Kentucky soldiers initially refused to surrender. They had suffered very few casualties and held a strong defensive position behind a picket fence. Every British attempt to assault their position had been repulsed. Perhaps remembering the fate of the soldiers in Chicago whose surrender led to the Fort Dearborn Massacre the previous August, the Kentuckians only agreed to lay down their arms after Colonel Henry Procter, leading the British forces, guaranteed them protection from the rampaging native warriors.

The British Make a Hasty Retreat

Fearing that the rest of William Henry Harrison’s army would attack, the battered British forces withdrew eighteen miles to Brownstown on their way to Fort Amherstburg in Malden. They took all of the American prisoners with them, except for 60-100 badly wounded soldiers. Sleds were required to move immobilized patients through the snow, and the British claimed to have only enough for their own wounded. Colonel Procter promised to return with more sleds the next day.

Two doctors and a few volunteer attendants remained behind to tend the wounded. British Captain William Elliot and three interpreters served as a weak guard to protect the wounded from the tribesmen, who were pillaging Frenchtown. Warriors looted the American camp and plundered the wounded soldiers. After stripping the commissary’s house of all its valuables, they set it on fire however, the British officers and American attendants quickly extinguished it.

A sleepless night ensued while individual warriors continued to search the town for more loot and attempted to enter the homes with the wounded. Towards dawn, when the town was peaceful and the last of the tribal warriors had left, the British guard quietly slipped away and followed their army towards Malden.

American Soldiers are Massacred at Raisin River

When the sun rose over Frenchtown on January 23, 1813, the Americans left behind by the retreating British forces were hopeful. They expected to see British troops returning with the promised sleds, or perhaps even the arrival of General William Henry Harrison and his army. Instead, towards 10 o’clock that morning a war party with painted faces strode into town. They entered the houses where the wounded were being treated, stripped the men of their blankets and clothes, and then ordered them outside.

As the naked, wounded soldiers attempted to hobble or crawl outside, the warriors set fire to the houses. Some of the wounded died horribly in the flames. Many who escaped the fires were subsequently shot or tomahawked and then scalped, tortured, and mutilated.

The warriors plundered the settlers’ homes and then burned many of them. Gathering together the few soldiers left alive, the natives marched them towards Malden. Along the way, any American soldier who fell behind the march was butchered. Few survived.

Results of the Battle of Frenchtown (Battle of Raisin River)

General Winchester advanced half of his army, approximately 1,000 soldiers, to defend Frenchtown. After the action was over and the British withdrew to Fort Amherstburg, only 33 men rejoined the Army of the Northwest. Atrocities committed during the rout of the American right wing and the massacre on the following day resulted in 397 soldiers killed. Only 27 of the wounded survived. The remaining 547 soldiers were taken prisoner, including General Winchester and Colonel Lewis. Abandoning his attempt to recapture Fort Detroit after the loss of nearly half his army, General William Henry Harrison withdrew to Ohio and built Fort Meigs.

During the winter of 1813, the United States began developing a new strategy to win the war. “Remember the Raisin!” became their rallying cry.


The area was the site of the costly Battle of Frenchtown, in which 397 Americans were killed and 547 taken prisoner after surrender to the British Army and Indian coalition during the War of 1812. [4] The fighting took place from January 18–23, 1813. The first engagement, sometimes referred to as the "first" Battle of the River Raisin, was a success for the American forces against the British and Indian alliance. Angered by their forced retreat, the British and Native Americans counterattacked the unsuspecting American forces four days later on January 22 in the same location along the River Raisin. Many of the Americans were inexperienced troops from Kentucky they were ill-prepared and were unable to retreat from the ambush. [4]

During the Battle of Frenchtown, American brigadier general James Winchester reported that only 33 of his approximate 1,000 men escaped the battlefield. 397 were killed, and 547 were taken prisoner, which marked the deadliest conflict ever on Michigan soil and the worst single defeat the Americans suffered in the entire War of 1812. [5] The day after the battle, dozens of defenseless and wounded Americans were killed on January 23 by the Native Americans, mostly Potawatomi, in what is referred to as the River Raisin Massacre. The total casualties among the British and Native American alliance are unknown. [4] Surviving prisoners were forced to march toward Detroit, and those who could not keep up were killed along the way.

The River Raisin Battlefield Site was listed as a Michigan Historic Site on February 18, 1956, although the exact date at which the park was first organized is unknown. The location of the site is bounded by North Dixie Highway, the River Raisin, Detroit Avenue, and Mason Run Creek. [3] [6] The Battle of Frenchtown is so named because it took place in and surrounding the Frenchtown Settlement (1784), on the River Raisin's north bank and within the present-day city limits of Monroe. [7] The area of conflict extended during the three days of battle several miles to the north and south of the current park site. After the battles, Frenchtown was gradually abandoned and the present-day city of Monroe developed from its downtown site 1.5 miles west and on the opposite bank of the River Raisin. The current park area encompasses some 40 acres (16 ha) of undeveloped land on Monroe's east side approximately one-quarter mile (0.4 km) west of Interstate 75. The area contains houses on the outer fringe along East Elm Avenue, and much of the area is occupied by urban development. The River Raisin Paper Company built a large paper mill on the site around 1911, which operated under multiple owners until 1995. [8]

The site was recognized nationally when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 10, 1982. It was officially listed as the River Raisin Battlefield Site (20MR227). [1] In July 1990, the Monroe County Historic Commission and the Monroe County Historic Society opened the River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center within the site at 1403 East Elm Avenue. The museum contains a few relics from the original battle that were discovered during archeological investigations. The park holds a memorial service every January to commemorate all the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Frenchtown, including the British and Indian soldiers who were allied against the Americans. [9]

Expansion to the present-day park boundaries commenced in 1995 with closure of the paper mill, at which time the City of Monroe organized efforts to restore the entire battlefield site. The City, Historical Society, and property owner negotiated, acquired and facilitated clean up the former paper mill property and adjacent landfill area for future donation to the park service. In addition they transferred a large expanse of wetlands marsh to the State of Michigan for expansion of the adjacent Sterling State Park. Acquisitions were complete by 2006, the paper mill was demolished by 2009, the cleanup finished in 2010, and land transfers were completed in 2011. [8] [10]

Promotion to the National Park System Edit

The River Raisin Battlefield Site was chosen to be included as a unit of the National Park System. The River Raisin National Battlefield Act (H.R. 401.IH), which was passed by the House of Representatives of the 111th Congress on January 9, 2009, said that the future national battlefield site would include land in both Monroe and Wayne counties that has been deemed significant to the Battle of Frenchtown. [11]

The passing of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act on March 30, 2009, allocated the funding necessary to promote the site to the status of a National Battlefield Park. The park had been authorized as such but was not officially established until this bill was passed. It was included in the bill thanks to the work of Michigan natives and United States senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, as well as Congressman John Dingell, a history enthusiast. [12] [13] [14] The site is only the fourth National Battlefield Park in the United States National Park System and is the only one commemorating the War of 1812. [15] Battlefields, however, have been designated using various terms, even within the national park system. These include National Battlefield (without "Park" in the name), National Military Park, National Battlefield Site, National Historical Park, National Monument, and National Historic Site. River Raisin is the fifth national park unit in Michigan. Others include Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Father Marquette National Memorial is an affiliated unit.

The park is still being developed to meet National Park Service standards, with elements dependent on additional funding. [8] The construction of and promotion of a national park typically takes eight years, which includes a variety of steps, such as land acquisition, funding, a management plan, and development of tourism facilities. However, since the county has already preserved and managed the battlefield site, this process took considerably less time. [16] Some areas have yet to be restored to landscapes of the era of the battle.

The battlefield site is expected to generate a positive economic effect in tourism. [8] Projected attendance to the park upon its completion was estimated to range from 20,000–25,000 visitors a year, [16] but during FY 2012, the Battlefield was visited by 52,027 people. [17] The other three National Battlefield Parks, which all relate to the Civil War, receive more visitors, based on attendance figures from 2005: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (1,005,510), Manassas National Battlefield Park (715,622), and Richmond National Battlefield Park (68,438).

In 2010 the battlefield park was connected to the nearby Sterling State Park through a newly completed nature trail, which is expected to increase the number of visitors in both parks. [18] [19] The president of the Monroe County Historical Society, William Braunlich, hoped to complete elements in the park before the bicentennial celebration of the Battle of Frenchtown on January 22, 2013. [10] The site began operations as a national park unit on October 22, 2010.

In 2014, the park expanded by adding a disconnected coastal parcel that includes a historic corduroy road, a remnant of Hull's Trace, a military road that connected Fort Detroit to Ohio. [20] The Hull's Trace Unit at the beginging of West Jefferson Avenue in Brownstown Township, about 13 miles northeast of the battlefield park, had been managed by Wayne County Parks, and is now cooperatively managed by the National Park Service, the county, U.S. Silica, and the Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality. It is an unstaffed site.

Spurred in part by planned construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, historic Fort Wayne in Detroit was studied in 2017 and 2018 as a possible addition to the national park system, including as a unit of River Raisin National Battlefield Park. [21] The National Park Service had previously assisted in identifying ways to preserve Fort Wayne and draw visitors.

Battle of Raisin River - History

The United States suffered what became known as a “National Calamity” at the hands of the Native Nation Confederation and their British-Canadian allies in the January 1813 Battles of the River Raisin. These Battles resulted in the United States’ greatest defeat of the war, with only 33 of a nearly 1,000-man army escaping capture or death. The casualties of the River Raisin accounted for 15% of the total casualties for the entire war.


The Battlefield’s hallowed grounds remain the site of Michigan’s largest and bloodiest clash, and the location of the most American POWs ever taken by a foreign power on U.S. soil. The United States’ first wartime rally cry “Remember the Raisin” stirred Americans to retake the Michigan Territory, avenging the losses at the River Raisin.

Advocates used the River Raisin events as a reason for the forced removal of Native Nations west of the Mississippi, opening Native land for westward expansion. Now, over 200 years later in present day Monroe, these momentous events are forever memorialized at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.

First Battle of the River Raisin

Over this ground, Jan. 18, 1813, 667 Kentuckians and nearly 100 local Frenchmen charged across the frozen river toward the British and Indian positions. The 63 British and Canadian soldiers and 200 Potawatomi Indians made a brief stand there, then retreated with their cannon into a wooded area a mile to the north where the fighting raged for several hours.

Across this ground during the second battle, Jan. 22, the Indians closely pursued the retreating U.S. 17th Infantry and its reinforcements. They tried to reform on the south bank, but became disorganized among farm lot buildings and fence rows. Constantly out flanked by mounted Indians, they fled south along a narrow lane, being fired on from both sides.

Erected by Monroe County Historical Commission.

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Military &bull Native Americans &bull War of 1812. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1820.

Location. Marker is missing. It was located near 41° 54.554′ N, 83° 22.719′ W. Marker was in Monroe, Michigan, in Monroe County. Marker could be reached from East Front Street 0.3 miles east of Winchester Street. This historical marker is located just off of East Front Street in Hellenberg Park, very near the south side

of the River Raisin. To see this historical marker, turn into the park and go to the far end of the parking lot (the end nearest the river) and there one will see a historical marker at the approach to the footbridge that goes to Sterling Island. Touch for map. Marker was in this post office area: Monroe MI 48161, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. The 1st Battle of the River Raisin (approx. 0.2 miles away) The 2nd Battle of the River Raisin (approx. 0.2 miles away) a different marker also named The 2nd Battle of the River Raisin (approx. 0.2 miles away) "Newton" Strike (approx. 0.2 miles away) Battle of the River Raisin Memorial Bench (approx. 0.2 miles away) Private Claim 96 of Jean (John) Baptist Couture (approx. 0.2 miles away) Battles of the River Raisin (approx. 0.2 miles away) a different marker also named Battle of the River Raisin Memorial Bench (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Monroe.


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Watch the video: The history of the Battle of River Raisin