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Why One Michigan City Always Flies Kentucky Flags

Visit the city of Monroe, Michigan, and you will find multiple tributes to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The area surrounding the River Raisin, a 139-mile river that flows from Rollins Township, Mi. to Lake Erie, has long held Kentucky in high regard thanks to a War of 1812 battle that took place here 205 years ago.

"Remember the River Raisin!" became a battle cry that motivated an American victory in that conflict.

While The River City News was on the way back from Detroit, where it covered Northern Kentucky's basketball teams in the Horizon League tournament, a stop was made at the River Raisin National Battlefield Park and the downtown Monroe "Monument to Kentucky".

The city retains immense gratitude for a large number of soldiers who marched from Kentucky following the Siege of Detroit in 1812, in which Fort Detroit was relinquished to the British. 

Few of these Kentuckians would ever return home.

The hastily created militia from Kentucky was organized in the summer of 1812, with many responding to the call of impassioned orators who told tales of British and Indian attacks. The Kentuckians mostly used their own clothes and weapons, expecting to take part in an easy victory. They marched from Georgetown to Newport where the new army first learned of the fall of Detroit.

The 2,000 soldiers moved northward through Ohio, then to Indiana, then back to Ohio, and on to southern Michigan Territory.

The winter months were brutal to the ill-prepared Kentuckians, who had left home in warmer times.

On January 18, 1813, the Kentuckians engaged in the first battle at River Raisin, and the smaller skirmish was successful for the U.S. The Kentucky militia took up its place in Frenchtown, after winning it from the British.

The victory would be short-lived.

Days later, on January 22, the British returned and were so quiet that by the time the Kentuckians knew they had been ambushed, they were already under fire. The British were joined by Native American forces, and after a bloody battle, the Americans surrendered.

The following morning, the Indians began to rob the injured Kentuckians, and ultimately upwards of a hundred of them were murdered. Overall, nearly 400 Kentuckians gave their lives at the battle.

The massacre horrified the nation.

"Remember the River Raisin!" and "Remember the Raisin!" became a battle cry and led many more men to enlist.

Months later, the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames were much-needed American victories that ultimately led to the end of the war.

Now, two centuries later, the Kentucky state flag flies in multiple locations near the River Raisin battlefield. The U.S. Department of the Interior maintains the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, which is open to the public seven days a week, and features programming explaining the battle, and includes historical markers along the battlefield.

A "Monument to Kentucky" was created in downtown Monroe in 1904 and is surrounded by a small park where the remains of unidentified soldiers were buried.

Nine counties in Kentucky are named for men who fell at River Raisin: Allen, Ballard, Graves, Edmonson, Hart, Hickman, McCracken, Meade, and Simpson. George Madison was an officer in the battle and captured. He was released and returned to Kentucky and was elected governor in 1816, dying soon after. Madison Avenue in Covington is named for him.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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