Congressman John Dingell (D-MI15) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) this week introduced legislation for the 111th Congress that would designate the River Raisin Battlefield site a unit of the National Park System. Passage of this bill would mark the culmination of years of hard work by Congressman Dingell, Senators Levin and Stabenow, and most importantly the citizens of Monroe County who've worked diligently to turn the historical site into a lasting tribute to the many soldiers who died there. Congressman Dingell and Senator Levin introduced this same bill in the 110th Congress. The House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held hearings on the legislation where City of Monroe Mayor Mark Worrell and Monroe County Historical Society President William H. Braunlich provided testimony.
"The people of Monroe have done so much to make this project work. It's a reclamation project unlike any in our nation's history," said Congressman Dingell. "We are very proud of what they have done thus far. The bicentennial of the War of 1812 will be here in just a few short years, and I can think of no better way to commemorate it than with a River Raisin National Battlefield Park."
"The events at the River Raisin are a critical part of our nation's history, and deserve to be shared with all Americans through our National Park System," Levin said. "With the approaching 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, we need to act quickly so that all Americans will Remember the Raisin.'"
The site was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812. Out of nearly 1,000 American troops that participated in the engagement, only 33 escaped death or capture. This bloody event, arguably the largest land engagement of the war, gave birth to the emotional rallying cry "Remember the Raisin," which spurred the American forces on to victory at the Battle of the Thames nine months later.
In the almost two hundred years since the fighting ended, the Battlefield was developed for commercial purposes, serving as home to a paper mill at the turn of the last century. During the 110th Congress, Congressman Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow helped bring more than $1.5 million in grant money, joining an additional $1.5 million from state and local sources, to pay for the rehabilitation effort, returning the Battlefield to the way it looked 195 years ago. Demolition crews have since brought down the smokestacks and blighted paper mills and archeologists and historians have been shedding new light on this pivotal moment in American history.
Dingell, Levin and Stabenow also pushed through the River Raisin National Battlefield Study Act. Singed by President Bush in 2006, this bill initiated a Special Resource Study, bringing together archeologists, planners and historians with in-depth expertise of the War of 1812, to determine if the site met the criteria to become a full fledged unit of the National Park System. The study is ongoing and expects to reach completion ahead of schedule sometime later this year.
The 195th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Raisin is January 22. The annual Battle Commemoration ceremony will be held at the Battlefield on Saturday, January 24th.