A Day at River Raisin National Battlefield

Memorial Day

Down in Monroe Michigan is a Park that commemorates a War of 1812 battlefield. Apparently, the only such in the United States.
It was certainly the worst defeat, worst massacre suffered by the fledgling nation until that time. On January 18, 1813 United States Army and militia forces under James Winchester (about 1000 men) drove the British and Native Americans out of the Frenchtown area (current day Monroe, this was part of a campaign involving battles in Detroit and nearby Canada). On January 22, British and Native American (about 1400 men) forces under General Henry Proctor retook the town. They mostly achieved complete surprise in spite of General Winchester receiving ample warning of enemy movement in the area. Kentucky militia, camped somewhat distant, acquitted themselves far better by holding out much longer. They were finally convinced to surrender by General Winchester himself, who was already in British custody, but only when they were clearly low on ammunition.
The next day General Procter took his British troops and able bodied prisoners back to Canada. Native American forces then massacred the wounded that had been left behind (between 30 and 100, depending on what sources we believe.
The three events are known as The 1st and 2nd Battles of Frenchtown (or 1st and 2nd Battles of River Raisin) and the River Raisin Massacre.

The battlefield is small, and really right in town. There’s not a lot to see, except for a Memorial Field set up with flags to honor those fallen. A half mile walking trail with markers for points of interest, circles the main battlefield. The River Raisin borders the area about 100 yards south.
The visitor center is new and quite nice with some interesting displays and an excellent diorama of the area right before the battle.
But there’s some serious bad news here too. The introductory films running continuously in the small theater are the worst, most one-sided and biased presentations I’ve ever seen at a US Park. The talking heads narrating the tale are ALL Native American. Apart from some lip service to the fact “atrocities were committed by both sides” they basically just make excuses for the well known massacre that happened here. The adult version of “they started it”. Seriously, you don’t have to know much American history to know settler/native relations were often terrible; and virtually any human being living in North America could find reasons to loathe “the other side” without looking very far. A more honestly balanced telling of the events would be much appreciated (several earlier atrocities by Native Americans were omitted from the story, and significant good deeds of the US Army were overlooked. Maybe they could have asked why the mostly French speaking residents of the area supported the US forces?). But now the woke US Government looks for ways to tell us all how shameful and ugly our own history is, with absolutely no effort to provide meaningful perspective. I felt very sad for those who work there, and angry with whoever is pushing and creating this nonsense.

At least is was a really nice day to walk the battlefield path…

How fitting is it to have a Hellraisin* Hellcat at the River Raisin Battlefield?!
  • actual Dodge color name!

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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