Commemoration weekend features re-enactments, music and moreWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Historical re-enactors and musicians will help eventgoers travel through time Jan. 19 and 20 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of the River Raisin in Monroe.
From Jan. 18-23, 1813, the United States and Great Britain fought for control of Michigan and the lower Great Lakes in the Battle of the River Raisin. The battle was part of the War of 1812, which lasted from June 1812 to February 1815.
“[The 200th anniversary is a] very busy time for a lot of people. All of Monroe is kind of wrapped up in this. It’s not just the park, it’s not just the city and it’s not just the college,” said Dan Downing, chief of education, interpretation and operations for River Raisin Battlefield Park.
The commemorative weekend kicks off at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 with a re-enactment of Gen. James Winchester’s march. Winchester commanded the United States forces during the Battle of the River Raisin.
Re-enactors will march from the Sawyer Homestead, 320 E. Front St., to the River Raisin National Battlefield Park Visitor Center, 1403 E. Elm Ave.
“Actually [Winchester] rode a horse, but we’re marching,” said Ralph Naveaux, who will serve as narrator of the tactical demonstration later that day.
At 10:30 a.m. Jan. 19, after the group has arrived at the visitor center, there will be a flag and wreath laying ceremony. The family of Alma Moore-Egen will be honored in addition to other families whose ancestors served during the War of 1812. Moore-Egen is a descendent of Joseph Navarre, who had 30 family members serve.
A commemoration ceremony honoring soldiers from Kentucky who fought in the Battle of the River Raisin is set for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Memorial Place, 620 S. Monroe St. At noon Jan. 20, there will be a “Salute to the Fallen” at the visitor center.
The tactical demonstration is set to occur around 11 a.m. Jan. 19 at the Monroe Multi-Sports Complex, 33 N. Dixie Hwy. A portion of the Battle of the River Raisin will be re-created using cannons, muskets and rifles.
“There’s no way to rehearse this thing. We’re going to try to re-create what happened,” Naveaux said. The weapons use black powder, he added.
“So there will be lots of noise and smoke and everybody will be in uniform,” he said.
Nearly 300 people will be in historical costumes during the commemoration weekend. The re-enactors come from around the region, including Indiana, Pennsylvania, Canada and Western Ohio.
“The people that put on these demonstrations are very interested in history, in the War of 1812 in particular. And not just reading about it or studying it, but trying to replicate some of the lifestyle,” Naveaux said.
Naveaux became interested in
re-enacting during the bicentennial of the Revolutionary War while serving as a history teacher.
“It’s very fascinating to me because I’ve always been interested in local history and early culture in Monroe,” he said. “For me, it’s a way of connecting back to my historical and genealogical roots.”
Eventgoers also will have the chance to experience music of the times during the “Musical Remembrances” concerts set for 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at Monroe County Community College, 1555 S. Raisinville Road.
“This period of time was an extraordinarily enlightening period,” said Bill Saul, the concerts’ facilitator. “All of the music that we’re listening to today, like the Beethovens and the Bachs, all of them were alive during that period.”
The two-hour concerts were arranged by musician Michael Mohn and Agora Chorale Director Catherine Brodie. The shows will feature about 115 performers and include an intermission.
The concerts will feature unique acts like the Leh Nah Weh Drum group, which will perform a Native American chant accompanied by drums, and the Branch 28 Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band, a bagpipe group coming in from Ontario accompanied by the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps. The group Fiddlesix, featuring six family members ranging in age from about 8 to 20, is also set to perform historical music.
The Agora Chorale will showcase a “beautiful” song based on an 1813 poem by Brandon Ulrich, Saul added.
William McCloskey, a professor at Monroe County Community College, will narrate the concerts. Other featured groups include the Inside Out Dance Ensemble, the All Star Community Band and the Monroe County Community College Bicentennial Band, which includes area high school and college students.
“We’re bringing our youth to let them be part of this because these will be memories they have the rest of their lives,” Saul said.
Tickets to the concerts are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and $5 for children younger than 10. Tickets are available at
monroenews.com/1812concert. All other weekend events are free.
Several educational lectures are also set for Jan. 19. At noon, “Michigan at War,” a documentary aired on public broadcast channels, will screen at the visitor center.
“I found it interesting. I’m probably one of the more critical viewers in that I wished it had all been about the Battle of River Raisin,” Downing said with a chuckle.
After the documentary, Eddie Price will present on the historical novel “Widder’s Landing” at 1 p.m. Jan. 19 at the visitor center.
Brian Dunnigan will talk about the use of alcohol and spirits during the war at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Monroe Museum, 126 S. Monroe St. At 4 p.m. at the museum, L. Nelson will present “Northwest Campaigns,” an overview of the Great Lakes.
Downing said he recommends dressing appropriately for the weather and arriving early to get a parking spot during the weekend’s events. He added that eventgoers should bring extra camera batteries because, “You’re going to be taking a lot of pictures.”