River Raisin National Battlefield Park
River Raisin Battlefield Site (20MR227)
Location within the state of Michigan
|Governing body||City of Monroe|
|NRHP Reference #||82000542|
|Added to NRHP||December 10, 1982|
|Designated NBP||March 30, 2009|
|Designated MSHS||February 18, 1956|
The River Raisin National Battlefield Park was established as the 393rd unit of the United States National Park Service under Title VII of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which was signed into law on March 30, 2009. The park is located in the city of Monroe in Monroe County, Michigan. It was designated as a Michigan Historic Site on February 18, 1956 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 10, 1982. It officially began operation as a national park unit on October 22, 2010 and, of the four National Battlefield Parks in the country, it is the only one marking a site of the War of 1812.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. While the Battle of Frenchtown is so named because it took place within what was called Frenchtown township, the primary the area of the battlefield is within the present-day city limits of Monroe. The area of conflict extended during the three days of battle several miles to the north and south of the current park site. 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) east 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.
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). 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.
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.
Promotion to the National Park System
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Projected attendance to the park upon its completion was estimated to range from 20,000–25,000 visitors a year, but during FY 2012, the Battlefield was visited by 52,027 people. 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. 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. The site began operations as a National Park unit on October 22, 2010.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 11, 2009.
- State Historic Preservation Office (2009). "River Raisin Battlefield Site". Historic Sites Online. Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Staff (2010). "Our Nation's "Newest" National Park". River Raisin Battlefield. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Eaton, John H. (2000). Returns of Killed and Wounded in Battles or Engagements with Indians and British and Mexican Troops, 1790-1848, Compiled by Lt. Col J. H. Eaton. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. p. 7.
- Google (July 15, 2010). "The River Raisin Battlefield Site" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Map of the City of Monroe (PDF) (Map). City of Monroe. 2009. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Bak, Richard (June 2009). "River Raisin’s Bloody Banks". Hour Detroit. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Staff (2010). "Visitor Center". River Raisin Battlefield. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- Reiter, Mark (December 2, 2009). "River Raisin National Battlefield Park boundaries to be revealed". The Blade (Toledo, OH). Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- US Congress (2010). "Bill Text: 111th Congress (2009-2010): H.R.401". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Staff (March 31, 2009). "Battlefield bill signing celebrated". Monroe Evening News. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
- Staff (March 30, 2009). "Summary of H. R. 146 as of becoming Public Law No. 111-11". Congressional Research Service. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
- Benson, Adam (January 15, 2009). "Senate Vote Moves River Raisin Battlefield National Park Closer to Reality" (Press release). Office of John Dingell. Archived from the original on August 8, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- See List of National Battlefield Parks in the National Park System of the United States.
- Janiskee, Bob (December 10, 2009). "The New River Raisin National Battlefield Park Highlights One of the Bloodiest Conflicts of a Seldom Mentioned War". National Parks Traveler. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- 2012 Annual Report
- Woodruff, Betsy (June 22, 2010). "Jeff Corwin helps celebrate River Raisin Trail opening". Toledo Free Press. Retrieved July 15, 2010.
- Verkennes, Joe (June 25, 2010). "River Raisin Heritage Trail Dedicated" (PDF) (Press release). Monroe County Community College. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- River Raisin National Battlefield Park, National Park Service