EMU Historic Preservation group 'Raisin' awareness of 1812 battlefield
YPSILANTI — Eastern Michigan University’s Historic Preservation Program is working to raise awareness about the importance of the River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe.
“I think we have been able to open some eyes about the importance of this site,” said Ted Ligibel, director of EMU’s Historic Preservation Program. Ligibel is part of a team that includes two EMU Historic Preservation Program alumni working with the Heidelberg College’s Center for Historic and Military Archeology, the Monroe County Historical Society and the National Park Service.
The project team is researching and documenting the boundaries of the battlefield. The project covers the routes taken by both the American and British armies and Native Americans to and from the battle site at the tiny settlement of Frenchtown (now Monroe) during the War of 1812.
Ligibel and project leader G. Michael Pratt of Heidelberg and EMU alumni Jeffrey Green, Preservation Planner for the City of Monroe and preservation consultant William Rutter, recently had a rare opportunity to make a presentation about the site to the Secretary of the Interior at a meeting facilitated by Congressman John Dingell.
“Congressman Dingell invited our team to present the case for National Park designation of the battlefield site to Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne while he was in the area for a ceremonial signing,” said Ligibel, a professor of geography and geology. “Normally, the secretary wouldn’t hear about a project like this until they were ready to sign the bill creating the park. Now when the case is presented our case he’ll know directly about the site and its significance.”
The ultimate goal of the project is to get approval as both a National Historic Landmark and possibly a National Park.
“How many communities have a national park within their borders?” Ligibel said. “That translates into economic development as well. So it’s honorific and income generating, and cultural interest generating, at the same time,” said Ligibel, who has been involved with the site for more than a decade.
Ligibel said there is still plenty of research to be done before a final report goes to the Secretary of Interior.
“We are reviewing war records from the British government from 1812-1814; taking testimony from those with knowledge of the site; reviewing newspaper accounts and reading first-hand accounts from people who were there,” said Ligibel. “We are leaving no stone unturned.”
Three grants are supporting the work. Two from the American Battlefield Protection Program (NPS) and a third from the Monroe County Historical Society.The Battle of the River Raisin, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Frenchtown or the Massacre on the River Raisin, is one of the largest military encounters in the War of 1812. On Jan. 22, 1813, about 1,000 U.S. soldiers and militia fought a force of about 1,000 British and Indian forces. After taking Frenchtown from a small Canadian and Indian force, the Americans were surprised by the main British and Indian force. The British lost 24 men, compared to the 397 Americans that were killed.
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