During the War of 1812, General William Henry Harrison's Northwest Army
divided to march by three routes through Ohio and Indiana in hopes of
reuniting on the Maumee River (northern Ohio) to attack British forces
stationed in Detroit. One of the divisions, made up of 700 Kentuckians,
ignored orders and decided to pursue food and shelter from the frigid
weather. The division, under Brigadier General James Winchester,
captured an enemy store in Frenchtown on the River Raisin and set up
camp. In a poor defensive position, the division was massacred by a
surprise attack of 1,200 Britons and 1,400 Indians under British General
Henry Proctor. The Kentuckians were pummeled by British artillery, and
then attempted to flee but were hunted through the woods by the Indians.
Over 400 Kentuckians died; 80 wounded were left behind to face the
tomahawks of the Indians. Only 15 to 20 wounded Kentuckians managed to
escape and survived.
The Battle of River Raisin was the largest battle ever fought on Michigan soil, and concluded a streak of U.S. setbacks during the early months of the War of 1812. Among the casualties, nine Kentucky officers died. These officers were honored by the government of Kentucky by naming nine counties after them.