River Raisin battle corridor grows with $4.8M grant
A $4.8 million grant announced Monday in Monroe is designed to help people remember "Remember the River Raisin."
Organizers say the money from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is an important step in creating a five-mile-long, $100 million River Raisin Heritage Corridor that would hark back to life — and death — in 1813.
"This is the only National Battlefield Park site that tells the story of the War of 1812, let alone the Battle of River Raisin," pointed out Monroe economic development director Mark Cochran in advance of the Monday press conference.
It would become, in addition, the only place with a faithful re-creation of Old Frenchtown in the early 1800s, and displays tied to the fate of the Native American tribes active at the time.
The Battle of River Raisin, also known as the Battle of Frenchtown, began with an American victory against British and Native American forces on Jan. 18, 1813. Four days later, a counter-attack against poorly commanded Americans led to a resounding defeat, followed by something historically grisly.
On Jan. 23, Potowatomie Indians slaughtered somewhere between 30 and 100 prisoners, some of whom were burned to death. The resulting outrage overshadowed the actual battle, prompted the rallying cry "Remember the River Raisin," and helped inspire the removal policies that pushed Native American tribes from the Michigan Territory to the American west.
"We call it the untold story of the War of 1812. When people think about the war, they only think of the fires in Washington, D.C.," said Toni Cooper, executive director of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park Foundation.
The site was given its national battlefield park designation by Congress in 2009. It's one of only four with that title; the others, in Virginia and Georgia, are tied to the Civil War, as are many of the similar locations designated as "national battlefield" or "national military park."
The National Park Service has managed the 74-acre park since 2010. Other pieces of the heritage corridor will be owned by Monroe or private partners, Cochran said.
Monroe owns the 45 acres central to Monday's announcement. Part of the $4.8 million grant purchased the land and will pay for the demolition of 20 houses and a former taxi company garage in what Cochran described as "the most impoverished part of the city."
Plans for the heritage corridor include the Frenchtown settlement, with ribbon farms and historically accurate houses and activities; a waterfront development with dining, shopping and possibly a hotel; a peace garden; a reenactment area; an amphitheater near an existing boat launch; and a greenway stretching from the first battlefield to the Americans' last stand at Plum Creek.
Fundraising and construction are expected to stretch across 20 years. When completed, organizers said, they expect a regional economic impact of more than 300 jobs and about $30 million per year.