Monroe and Monroe County Veterans, Memorial Day

Monroe and Monroe County Veterans, Page One

This is just the first page in many volumes of their stories.

Remember Them on Memorial Day and Every Day…


They, too, loved the ordinary human things – the soft spring breeze scattering wayward hair, the smell of a woodfire with stew bubbling above it, loving faces reflected in firelight, emerging from a dark physical or mental woods to home, a welcoming square of light and hope. Yet, they left home to fight for reasons of their own and sometimes caught in a government’s twisting arm. Some of them returned home to live out their lives. Others returned home to rest in quiet graveyards and watch the lives of others.

All across the country and the world, they are with us:  in names covered with moss covered stones, in names etched on stone monuments, in the hearts and minds of people who can’t forget. Remember them this Memorial Day and the other days of the year and thank them.

Revolutionary War

Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey









Samuel Stone. He served in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

War of 1812

Battle of Frenchtown, Monroe

John Barnett. Died August 11, 1872. Aged 86 years. Served in the War of 1812 through New York State. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

David Vanpelt. Circa 1788-November 25, 1880. He was a Private in the New Jersey Militia of Captain J. Vorhees in the War of 1812. He died at Dundee and he is buried in Old Petersburg Cemetery.

William Walters. He was born in 1794 in Pennsylvania. He fought in the War of 1812 and he is buried in Port Creek Evergreen Cemetery in Carlton.

Toledo War (1835)

Captain Nelson White. 1808-1899. Nelson White came to Michigan in 1832, locating his farm two miles west of the village of Dundee. He received his deed from President Andrew Jackson and owned the land since then. For many years after he settled in Dundee, Captain White went back east during the summer, commanding a boat on the Erie Canal. In 1838, he married Emily Jenne and they had ten children. He served as first lieutenant in the company recruited in Monroe County to fight the Toledo War. With his men, he “invaded” enemy territory and always enjoyed telling war stories.  He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Mexican War – 1846-1848

Augustus Glean. Soldier in the Mexican War. He also served in the Civil War in Company D, 7th Michigan Infantry He was wounded twice at the battle of Cold Harbor He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Edwin F. Mills. Company B., 2nd Ohio Infantry, Mexican War. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Civil War

Private Frederick A. Ballen of Company B, 47th Ohio Infantry, received the Civil War Medal of Honor for his bravery at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on May 3, 1863. His citation reads “Was one of a party that volunteered and attempted to run the enemy’s batteries with a steam tug and 2 barges loaded with subsistence stores”. He received his medal on November 6, 1908. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

John Banmiller. 1838-February 2, 1925. Civil War Veteran. He enlisted on November 18, 1862, in the First Michigan Light Artillery Battalion K. He is buried in St. Paul Cemetery, Maybee.


Grand Review, Union Troops, Washington D.C., May 1865.

Martin Bela Brockway. Company B, Fourth Michigan Infantry, Civil War. (1835-1905.) He was Wounded in action at New Bridge May 24, 1862. Shot in arm. Taken prisoner at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863. He was held as a prisoner of war for 21 months; most of that time at Andersonville, Georgia. His brother, Oliver of the Eighteenth Michigan Infantry, was also held at Andersonville and died the day after Martin arrived there. He was badly affected with scurvy that his gums bled and swelled. His teeth were all loose, so that he could not eat his rations of corn bread. His leg and foot were much swollen so that he could only walk with great effort. Discharged at Detroit, Michigan, July 13, 1865. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

Elijah M. Lamkin was born at Raisinville, Michigan on September 5, 1830,attended the district schools, and became a farmer. On August 23, 1861, he enlisted in Co. I of the 11th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. His regiment participated in the Battles of Gallatin, Elk River, Stone River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Wounded at the Battle of Stone River, Elijah had also been suffering from inflammation of the eyes which became so severe at Chattanooga that he had to be hospitalized. Later he was transferred to the hospital at Louisville, Kentucky, where he soon took charge of it as steward. He continued as steward for eight months and then received his honorable discharge on September 15, 1864. Elijah returned to Michigan and in 1865, he married Miss Martha D. Sabin. They raised a family of six children. (Talcott Wing, History of Monroe County, Michigan. (New York: Munsell & Company, 1890) p.665. Elijah is buried in London Township Cemetery, London.

John Peter McGill, Sr. was born on October 15, 1829 in Scotland. He served in the Confederate Army in the 1st Louisiana Infantry (Strawbridges), which fought in the Western Theater in the Battle of Shiloh and others. He and his wife Mary Jane McCusick McGill had three children. John died on August 29, 1912 in Toledo, Ohio, and he is buried in Doty Cemetery, Monroe.

Henry Alonzo Stewart, 1838-1906. In 1847, Henry Alonzo Stewart came to Dundee with his parents and until he reached 19 years of age, he lived with Mr. Cady who conducted a hotel in Dundee for many years. Henry learned the blacksmith trade and worked as a blacksmith for five years. In November 1863, he enlisted in Company L of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. He lost the sight of one eye while serving in the Civil War and he mustered out on August 28, 1865. He was a member of William Bell Post No. 10 of the G.A.R. in Dundee. He married Mary A. Haines on April 15, 1860 and their three children all died in infancy. Henry operated a grocery business in Dundee for many years and was undertaker for two years. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Irvin Rufus Whipple was born in New York, and raised, educated, and married there.  He came to Ash Township with his wife Sarah shortly after they were married, and eventually they had five children. An ardent supporter of the Union, Irvin Rufus enlisted in Company K of the 24th Michigan Infantry. He was so seriously wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, that one of his legs had to be amputated in the field hospital and he died from loss of blood on August 26, 1864.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

After her husband’s death, Sarah Whipple fought her own battles with trial and hardship  and the survival of her family, but according to her contemporaries, she met the challenges with fidelity, and endured its privations with a “serene and lofty spirit.” Sarah and her five children lived in Ash Township and Flat Rock, Michigan. )Talcott Wing, History of Monroe County, Michigan. (New York: Munsell & Company, 1890) p.613. Irvin Rufus Whipple is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Jerome Willard was born on April 16, 1835, to George and Elizabeth Rider Willard in Monroe County, Michigan. (There is some confusion about his birth year. His obituary says he was born April 16, 1835; his family genealogy says he was born in 1844, but his tombstone lists his age as 29 years, 9 months.) Jerome enlisted in Company M, Eighth Michigan Cavalry, on August 23, 1864 at Ida. He died of disease at Louisville, Kentucky on January 16, 1865, and he is buried in Neriah Cemetery, Ida Township, Monroe County.

Indian Wars (1873-1878)

Frank McCallum. Frank was born on September 15, 1863 in New York, but later moved to Michigan with his family. Frank served as a private in Company F of the United States 7th Infantry. Colonel John Gibbon was his commanded when Frank arrived at the valley of the Little Big Horn River on June 28, two days after the massacre of General George A. Custer and his men. He probably served on burial detail and prepared wounded troopers to be moved to the riverboat Far West. He died on June 1, 1921 in Marion, Michigan, and he is buried in Ash Center Cemetery, Carleton.

George Augustus Stone. Indian Wars – 1873-1878. PVT 2nd Cavalry-Massachusetts. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

Spanish American War

Spanish American War Nurses

John Beyer. Cuba, Spanish American War. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

Jerome Bentley Galloway. 1876-1945. Company C, 33rd Michigan, Spanish American War. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Edwin F. Gates. Edwin served in Company I, Ohio Infantry, 7th Regiment, Spanish American War. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Richard Vivian. 1865-1945. Spanish American War. Sgt. 31 Mich. Inf. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

World War I


Edward Clinton Biccum. 1896-1918. Killed in action in France during World War I. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

Dr. A.H. DeGroot was born on a farm in Vriesland, Michigan, and received his early education in Vriesland, “a widening of the highway about four miles from Zeeland.” Between farming seasons, he worked at a furniture factory in Grand Rapids, and eventually enrolled in the Grand Rapids Veterinary College, graduating with the class of 1917.

During his junior year at college, he had the opportunity to become acquainted with Monroe Country when he went to Ida for several months to take over the practice of Dr. D.M. Hagen who was recovering from an operation. After he graduated, he went to Dundee to set up his veterinary practice. In 1918, he enlisted in World War I and was training as a second lieutenant in the Sixth Co. Veterinary Corps when the war ended. He returned to Dundee and resumed his practice. In 1922, he joined Edward A. Schaap in founding the Dundee Hatchery, but in 1936 he dropped out to concentrate on his veterinary practice. On October 4, 1923, he married Leona M. Schultz and they had one daughter. He served on the Dundee Village Council for three years. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Henry S. Lewis. Michigan. Pvt. Company M, 26th Infantry. He is buried in St. Patricks Cemetery #2. Carleton.

Andrew Neidermeier, Michigan. Pvt. Co. C 121 Infantry, World War I. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

World War II

Female Pilot

Leland L. Abel. 1925-2014. Leland served in World War II as a corporal in the United States Marine Corps, fighting in the Pacific Theater from 1944-1946. He participated in the Iwo Jima Campaign and the occupation of Japan. He is buried in McIntyre Cemetery, Monroe.

Paul J. Benore. U.S. Army, World War II. Paul served in the United States Army during World War II, from March 2, 1943 to January 10, 1946. Paul fought in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He received the American Theater Ribbon, the EAME Theater Ribbon with four Bronze Battle Stars, the Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

Lewis Vernon Esper. 1925-April 19, 1944. Seaman 1st Class, USNR. Killed in action. Lost at Sea. Listed on the Tablets of the Missing at Hawaii Punchbowl Cemetery. Memorial in St. Patricks Cemetery, Carleton.

Genevieve E. “Gen” Niemann Gramlich. She worked at the Ypsilanti Bomber Plant during WWII. She is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

Henry Phillip “Hank” Karen. 1915-2016. He worked for the Karner Brothers Elevator in Dundee, the family business, and during World War II, he was a test pilot and member of the flight crew that flew B-24’s at Willow Run. He ran the Ann Arbor Airport, was a flight instructor and charter pilot, and then a corporate pilot for Hoover Ball Bearing. He retired as Chief Pilot in 1964. After he retired, he joined the Boyne Highlands professional ski patrol.  He loved to hunt and fish and shot a bear at age 91. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Corporal Hiram Davis Wilkinson. CPL, U.S. Army Air Forces, World War II. Corporal Wilkinson was the flight engineer on B-17E #41-2635, assigned to the 5th Air Force, 19th Bombardment Group, 30th Bombardment Squadron. They were one of a group of six planes that took off in 1942 from Seven Mile aerodrome near Port Moresby on a night mission to bomb Japanese shipping in Tonolei Harbor, but Wilkinson’s plane disappeared on the way to the target and the crew was officially declared dead in 1945. Because of that he is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

In 1999, the plane’s wreckage was discovered where it struck a mountain near Alotau, Papua New Guinea. The crew’s remains were recovered and what could be identified of Wilkinson via DNA is interred in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg. There is also a group burial in Arlington National Cemetery. He received the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.


WAC Company Marching

Edgar T. Crawley, Sr. SK G3 U.S. Navy. World War II, Korea. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Lawrence S. “Larry” Esper. U.S. Navy, Korea. He is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Carleton.

Clyde E. Knaggs . CPL Co. B 32 Infantry 7 Inf. Div. Korea PH. 1932-1950. His casualty date is December 2, 1950, and he is listed as declared dead – missing in action or captured. He was a light weapons infantryman. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

Clinton J. Strouse, Michigan. PFC 35 INF 25 INF DIV, Korea. He was killed in Korea and he is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.


Vietnam Nurses

James LaVern Bowman. Vietnam. E3, Private First Class, U.S. Army. C CO, 2ND BN, 3RD INFANTRY, 199TH INFANTRY BDE, USARV. PFC Bowman, 20, was killed on March 28, 1968, in Long An Province, South Vietnam. He us buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Spec Vincent Michael La Rocca. SP4, U.S. Army, Vietnam. He was born October 1, 1949 and he died on February 11, 1970 in Thua Thien-Hue, Vietnam. On 11 February 1970, Specialist Four Vincent Michael La Rocca was serving with B Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. On that day, SP4 La Rocca was killed in action when he sustained wounds from small arms fire. His body was recovered. Badge and Medals: Combat Infantryman Badge; Purple Heart; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Campaign Medal. Vincent Michael La Rocca’s name is located on Panel W14 Line 126 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. SPC4 Vincent M. La Rocca has Honoree Record 210069 at He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

Ronald Frederick Parish, Sr. Michigan. A03 U.S. Navy, Vietnam. 1943-1970. He is buried in Ash Center Cemetery, Carleton.

Frank Anthony Uhlik, Jr. Frank Anthony Uhlik, Jr. Airman First Class, 388th MM SQDN, 388th CBT SPT GRP, 388thTFW, 7th AF United states Air Force. Vietnam. Ground casualty on March 15, 1968. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.


Lloyd Thomas Harris, Jr. Naval officer for 35 years in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and Grenada wars and conflicts. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Dundee.

Persian Gulf


Todd Allen Prajzner. 1972-1999. PFC U.S. Army. Persian Gulf. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dundee.


Sgt. Christopher P. Messer. Army, Polar Bears, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Drum, N.Y. He participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2004 to March 2005 He died December 27, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with ‘V’ device, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Driver Badge. He is buried in Pleasant View Cemetery, Petersburg.

More Veterans Voices

Arlington National Cemetery

This PDF features more Dundee cemeteries.


This PDF features more Petersburg veterans.

Petersburg Veterans

This list features a few Veterans in Carleton Cemeteries     a-few-veterans-buried-in-carleton-cemeteries

This list is a link  to the list: maybee-veterans

Veterans Voices, South Rockwood



Rachel and Elizabeth Knaggs: Mother and Daughter Frenchtown Traders and Brave Women


Fran Maedel – “Escape from Frenchtown”

Rachel Sly (Schley or Fry, according to Knaggs family genealogy and Wing’s History of Monroe County) Knaggs  and her daughter Elizabeth probably had their parasol moments. After all, George, their husband and father, had been born in England- but the moments didn’t last long. Rachel and Elizabeth were too busy trading with the Native Americans, teaching their children, escaping from British soldiers and managing farms alongside the River Raisin in Michigan Territory.

The Knaggs family history says that George Knaggs, was an Englishman of good family. Undocumented family tradition assigned him the occupation of a sea faring man, made him a friend and protégé of Sir William Johnson and afforded him the rank of an officer in the British Army. Family documents prove that George Knaggs married Rachel Sly (Schley) in 1760. Rachel’s family had Dutch origins and she was born in the Mohawk Valley in New York State. She married George Knaggs in Philadelphia and they moved to the Maumee Valley in the Ohio Country the same year.

George Knaggs built a family homestead along the Maumee River about eight miles from Toledo after the Ottawa Indians awarded him a land grant, and he and Rachel operated an Indian trading post. Since little money circulated in these early settlement days, the Indian trade relied on barter. Goods that Rachel and George bartered included muskets, powder, balls, blankets, kettles, knives, beads, trinkets, and fire water. The Indians mostly offered furs in exchange, and occasionally maple sugar. Rachel had great force of character, she managed prudently and carefully, and she functioned as the business head of their trading with the Indians.

Rachel Educates her Children and Is Widowed


George and Rachel had eight children between 1763 and 1784. They were: Whitmore Knaggs, born 1763; George Knaggs, born about 1765; Elizabeth Knaggs, born January 11, 1772; Rebecca Knaggs, born February 28, 1775; Anne Knaggs, born January, 1777; James Knaggs, born about 1780; Thomas Knaggs, born November 1, 1782; and William Knaggs, born about 1784.

Elizabeth and her brothers and sisters were baptized at the Huron Jesuit mission at Sandwich, Ontario across from Detroit. Although George may have been Protestant or indifferent to religion, Rachel was a devout Catholic and brought up her children in that faith. Rachel was educated and versed in Latin, an unusual accomplishment for a woman of her times. She taught all her children Latin, Dutch, French, and the other subjects covered in an elementary school education.

Family tradition had it that George was quite aristocratic in his ideas and he objected to his daughters doing any household work. “There are servants for such things,” he insisted.

George and Rachel moved to Detroit about 1794 after General Anthony Wayne’s troops destroyed their trading post buildings, acting on the rumor that George sympathized with the British.  The Knaggs family history states that George and Rachel and their children had a store and dwelling within the stockade at Detroit. How George met his death is disputed. The family history says that he died in Detroit in 1797 and John Askin administered his will. Another family story contends that George went to sea on a whaling voyage and never returned. Whatever the cause of George’s demise, he left Rachel behind to support herself and their small children.

Rachel Knaggs, the Level-Headed Business Woman and Frenchtown Land Owner


French Town Community – Ralph Naveaux. Frenchtown Settlement by Edward Long

 Rachel continued to be a level-headed business woman. A reliable witness swore that before July 1, 1795, he saw Rachel in possession of the premises on the River Raisin, consisting of house, stores, stables, etc. and about 12 arpents – an old French land measure equivalent to about an acre –  were cultivated. She operated the store and continued to trade in furs with the Indians. Records show that she was a taxpayer on the Raisin in 1802.  The American State Papers show that in 1808, Rachel Knaggs preferred her claim before the United States Land Board as owner of 275 arpents being 2 ¾ x 108 arpents fronting on the River Raisin, in the rear by unlocated lands, above by lands of Giles Barnes, and below by lands of Thomas Knaggs, her son.

May Stocking Knaggs married a great-grandson of George Knaggs and Rachel Sly. In Volume 17 of the Michigan Historical Collections George Knaggs Family reminiscence, she wrote that she possessed a parchment bearing the signatures of James Madison, president and James Monroe, Secretary of State. The document dated May 30, 1811, granted Rachel Knaggs 259 acres on the north side of the River Raisin in Frenchtown. This is probably a patent on the same property as 275 arpents are about equal to 259 acres.

War Comes to the Knaggs Family in Frenchtown

Rachel Knaggs and her children prospered in Frenchtown until the War of 1812. Her daughter Elizabeth had married Colonel John Anderson who commanded the 2nd Michigan Territorial Militia Regiment at the beginning of the War and they operated a Frenchtown trading post.

All of Elizabeth’s five brothers ignored the terms of General Hull’s surrender and continued to fight the British.


James Knaggs fled Michigan Territory with Isaac Lee’s detachment of Michigan militia and fought at the Battle of Mississinewa , part of General William Henry Harrison’s campaign against the Miami Indian villages along the Mississinewa River in Indiana.  He also served as a private in Captain Lee’s Company of Dragoons, “River Raisin men are the best troops in the world,” and became an expert spy, scout and ranger. In 1813, he fought in the Battle of the Thames, under Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson and according to the Lyman Copeland Draper manuscripts, he helped identify the body of Chief Tecumseh who was killed at the Battle of the Thames.

Whitmore Knaggs accompanied General Winchester and he was captured with him at the Battle of the River Raisin on January 22, 1813. He spent in the rest of the war in a Quebec prison.

After General William Hull surrendered Detroit and over 2,000 men to General Isaac Brock on August 16, 1812, Colonel Anderson and other militiamen left Frenchtown because of Indian threats. Elizabeth Knaggs Anderson stayed behind to run the family trading post located on what is now Elm Street in Monroe. The family used part of the house as a residence and the rest as a store and fur trading post, supplying the Indians with goods and fire-water. All of the brothers served as spies for Captain William Wells who was killed at Chicago.

Elizabeth Refuses to Arise

Elizabeth spoke various Indian dialects, and as a clerk and helper in the store knew most of the trading Indians well. When she heard that General Winchester and his forces had been captured, she sprang into action. Fearing that the Indians would come to ransack the trading post and raid the liquor stores, she hurried to the cellar where they kept barrels of whiskey and she and a few helpers knocked in the heads of the barrels.

The Indians ransacked the store and then stormed into the cellar, lying flat on the floor to drink as much whiskey as they could. When they had finished the whiskey, they thundered back upstairs to the house, yelling and whooping. They emptied the scalps they had gathered in bags on the parlor floor and then danced around the room, slapping the bleeding scalps against the walls. Elizabeth sat in the adjoining room on a large chest, some versions of the story say with a baby in her lap,  which held money and valuables. The Indians discovered her and advanced toward her with upraised tomahawks and knives. They ordered her to get up from the chest.

Shouting at the Indians in turn, Elizabeth pointed at them and said in their own language: “Shame, so many Indians fight one squaw.”

Two determined friendly Indians intervened and eventually they all departed, leaving Elizabeth and her treasures intact. Elizabeth fled to Detroit with her three children, John, Alexander, and Eliza where she rented a house and took in boarders to sustain them until her husband returned from Ohio.

 Rachel Rides a Sled

The British victors of the Battle of Frenchtown, especially General Isaac Proctor according to Wing’s History of Monroe County,  ordered 80-year-old Rachel Knaggs to leave Frenchtown. She made the 33-mile trip from Frenchtown to Detroit through the woods in an open traineau or sled, where several friends and relatives welcomed her. When they asked her why she hadn’t frozen, she answered, “My spunk kept me warm.”

Later, Rachel returned to her home in Frenchtown, but in a short time relocated to her farm on the River Raisin, seven miles above Monroe. For several years she operated a store at Green Bay, Wisconsin, which she visited periodically. She dealt mainly in furs, but also distributed a large quantity of bear oil which people of those days demanded to dress their hair.

Rachel wrote her will dated December 4, 1813 in French, appointing Gilbert Lacroix as executor, and in her will she gave adjoining farms each fronting three arpents on the River Raisin, to her sons Thomas and William Knaggs. She attached some conditions to the inheritance when she required them to pay a cash bequest to  her daughters Elizabeth Knaggs Anderson and Rebecca Knaggs, her son Whitmore Knaggs and the children of her deceased son George Knaggs who died in Detroit in 1809. The balance of the estate she willed to be divided between her sons William and James. Rachel died in 1816 and George McDougall of Detroit issued letters of administration on July 1, 1816.

The records don’t show where Rachel died, but Mrs. Keysor, widow of George Knaggs of Maumee, says that she died at Green Bay, then in the territory of Michigan, but now in Wisconsin. She was buried on her home farm.

Elizabeth and her husband Colonel John Anderson are buried in Woodland Cemetery in Monroe. James Knaggs is buried in the Old Burial Ground in Monroe and Whitmore is buried St. Anne’s Church graveyard in Detroit.

Time has flowed along with the River Raisin and erased  Rachel and Elizabeth’s farm homes and stores, but their courage and contributions are still imprinted in Monroe history.









Marker Memories: Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart’s Story


Captain Hart’s marker is located just four tenths of a mile south of Heck Park, on the east side of North Dixie Highway, in front of Carter Lumber. The post office address is 850 North Dixie Highway, Monroe, Michigan  48162. Monroe County Historical Society. Photograph by Dale K. Benington.

Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart’s Story

Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart, born in Hagerstown Maryland in 1794, probably never dreamed that he would die at the hands of a Native American near the Raisin River in Frenchtown, Michigan Territory. A Lexington lawyer and businessman, Captain Hart served with the Kentucky volunteer militia during the War of 1812 as Captain of the Lexington Light Infantry. He and many of his men died in the River Raisin Massacre on January 23, 1813 after the British and Indians had taken them prisoner the day before. News of the deaths of Nathaniel and many of his men in the two Battles of Frenchtown and the Massacre afterwards spread across the territories, states, and fledgling country and soldiers and citizens alike rallied around “Remember the Raisin” as their call to arms.

Perhaps pictures from his life flashed through Captain Hart’s mind as he lay dying in the snowy Michigan woods far from his Kentucky home.

Nathaniel’s father, Colonel Thomas Hart had fought in the Revolutionary War, and in 1794, the year of his second son Nathaniel’s birth, he moved his family to Lexington, Kentucky. A wealthy businessman, Colonel Hart and his wife Susanna Gray Hart had four daughters and three sons. The four Hart girls married well:  Ann married James Brown, a United States Senator and Minister to France; Eliza married surgeon Dr. Richard Pindell a Society of the Cincinnati member; Susanna married lawyer Samuel Price; and Lucretia married Henry Clay, United States Senator and Secretary of State. Nathaniel himself married well. His wife Anna Edward Gist’s stepfather was Charles Scott, Kentucky Governor. While Nathaniel attended Princeton College, he met William Elliott from Western Ontario, whose Loyalist father had moved to Canada after the Revolutionary War. The two Princeton students became close enough friends for William to stay with Nathaniel’s family to recover from a serious illness. Captain William Elliott would not return the caring or hospitality at the River Raisin.[1]

After he returned to Lexington, Nathaniel Hart read law with his brother-in-law Henry Clay, and he passed the bar and created a law practice there. In April 1809, he married Anna Edward Gist and they had two sons, Thomas Hart Jr. and Henry Clay Hart. In a less positive parallel with the life of his brother-in-law. Nathaniel Hart dueled with Samuel E. Watson on January 7, 1812, on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, near site where Silver Creek emptied into the river. The site was the same spot where Henry clay had dueled with his fellow state legislator Humphrey Marshall in 1809.[2]

In 1812, national events changed the course of Nathaniel Hart’s life and ultimately brought him to his death on the Michigan frontier. On June 18,,1812, the United States declared War on Great Britain. On August 16, 1812, American General William Hull surrendered Fort Detroit and his 2,000 mostly militiamen to British General Isaac Brock. General Brock allowed the militiamen to return to their homes, but sent the regular U.S. Army troops as prisoners to Canada. With the British takeover of Fort Detroit, Michigan Territory was declared part of Great Britain and Shawnee Chief Tecumseh increased his raids against American positions on the frontier.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, Nathaniel Hart received a commission as Captain of the Lexington Light Infantry Company, -the “Silk Stocking Boys-” a volunteer arm of the Fayette County, Kentucky Militia. He went on to serve as Inspector of General William Henry Harrison’s Army of the Northwest. In August 1812, his command joined the Fifth Regiment of the Kentucky Volunteer Militia and it became part of the Army of the Northwest under General James Winchester.


As part of the campaign to retake Detroit from the British, General William Henry Harrison, Commander of the Army of the Northwest, arrived at the American camp on the Maumee River where he found just 300 Kentucky troops. He discovering that the remainder of the troops had left the night before with General Winchester bound for Frenchtown on the River Raisin in Michigan Territory, because the 200 Frenchtown residents had asked the American Army to protect them from an occupying British force and their Indian allies.  General Harrison sent Captain Hart with orders to General Winchester to “hold the ground we had got at any rate.”[3]

The First Battle of the River Raisin


On January 18, 1813, Canadian Major Ebenezer Reynolds, 200 Canadian militia and Indian Chiefs Round-Head and Walk-in-the Water along with a positioned howitzer waited in Frenchtown for the arrival of the Kentuckians. Some accounts of the battle state that Shawnee Native American leader Tecumseh was present at the battle, but left before the massacre and others say that he commanded the Indians from afar.  Kentuckian Lt. Colonel William Lewis commanded 660 men without artillery. They crossed solidly frozen Maumee Bay at the western end of Lake Erie and advanced on Frenchtown. At Frenchtown, the Kentucky troops crossed the frozen solid River Raisin under withering Canadian and Indian musket fire and formed a line of battle.

They charged gallantly up the river bank, leaped the pickets, dislodged the Canadians and Indians, and drove them into the surrounding forests. The Kentuckians pursued the fleeing Canadians and Indians into the forest and the fighting continued from 3 o’clock until dark. The Kentuckians decisively won the battle, with casualties of 12 killed and 55 wounded. The Canadians and Indians retreated 18 miles to Malden, leaving 15 dead in the open field and carrying away their wounded.

That evening the Kentuckians returned to Frenchtown and camped on the ground that the Canadians had previously occupied within the picketed gardens. The officers took over the same buildings where the British officers had been quartered. Colonel Lewis sent a messenger to General Winchester, reporting the victory and General Winchester immediately sent a messenger to General Harrison with the good news. General Winchester’s troops were wild with excitement, demanding to march to Frenchtown at once to celebrate the first land victory of the war. They believed this victory to be the first in a series of victories that would lead to the recapture of Detroit, the capture of the British headquarters at Malden. Despite the American victory, Colonel Lewis held a precarious position at Frenchtown, because everyone knew that the British would use their best resources to keep the Americans from retaking Detroit. The Americans knew that the British and Indians would return soon, and they did.

On January 19, General Winchester, Colonel Samuel Wells of the 17th United States Infantry recruited entirely in Kentucky, and about 300 men marched from his encampment on the Maumee River, arriving at Frenchtown on the afternoon of January 20. General Winchester and the troops crossed the River Raisin and camped in an open field on the right of the forces of Colonel Lewis. General Winchester ignored Colonel Lewis when he said it would be safer for the troops to camp within the picketed enclosure, arguing that the “regulars” were entitled to the post of honor on the right of the position. Then General Winchester re-crossed the river and set up his headquarters at a house more than and mile and a half from the American lines. Colonel Wells was left to command the reinforcements, consisting of three companies of the 17th Infantry and one company of the 19th Infantry. On January 20, Colonel Wells returned to the camp on the Maumee to transact some personal business.

The British, Canadians and Indians Recoup and Return

After the Kentuckians defeated the British and Indians at Frenchtown on January 18, they retreated to Malden, Canada where Colonel Henry Proctor, the Commander of the British forces in the region, rallied and revived them.  Colonel Procter gathered a force of about 500 British regular and Canadian militia, 600 Indians under Round-Head and Walk-in-the-Water and six pieces of artillery. On January 21, Colonel Procter led his revitalized force and the army marched to the outskirts of Frenchtown and camped for the night without alerting the Americans to their presence.

On the morning of January 22,1813, Colonel Procter’s troops were ready for battle, and still undetected. The afternoon before, General Winchester had heard rumors that a great army of British in Indians were approaching from Malden, but he didn’t believe the rumors. He posted the camp sentinels, but he didn’t picket the roads leading into town because of the bitterly cold weather.

The Second Battle of the River Raisin


Near dawn on the morning of January 22, 1813, just as reveille sounded, a force of British troops and war whooping Indians attacked the American soldiers at Frenchtown, showering them with bombshells and canister. They drove Colonel Wells and his regulars camped in the open field toward the picketed camp of Colonel Lewis. General Winchester hastened to the battle field and attempted to rally the demoralized regular troops. A horde of Indians flanked the regular troops who fled across the River Raisin, carrying 100 men from Colonel Lewis’s regiment who had come to support them. Colonel Lewis, Colonel Allen, and General Winchester attempted to rally the men behind the houses and fences on the south side of the River Raisin., leaving Major Graves and Major Madison in charge of the picketed gardens on the north side of the River Raisin. Despite the desperate efforts of General Winchester, Colonel Lewis and Colonel Allen to hold the line on the south side of the River, the American soldiers continued to flee. The Indians flanked them and swarming in the woods along their path of retreat to the Maumee River, they shot and scalped scores of Americans. Nearly 100 Kentuckians were killed and scalped near Mill Creek.

Few Americans escaped, and surrender did not guarantee survival, for in this struggle for land and cultural and political dominance, the Indians were not inclined to take prisoners. In Malden, British agents paid a fixed price for every “scalp lock”, and they had multitudes customers eager for the exchange. American casualties and scalps grew as high as their hopes of victory had been. Colonel John Allen was killed and Chief Round-Head took General Winchester and Colonel Lewis prisoner. Chief Round-Head brought General Winchester and Colonel Lewis to Colonel Proctor who with great difficulty persuaded him not to murder his captives and return their uniforms.

While the British and Indians were defeating General Winchester and Colonel Lewis on the south side of the River Raisin, Major Benjamin Franklin Graves and Major George Madison and their men effectively defended themselves in their picketed camp north of the river. They repulsed fierce British and Indian artillery and musketry attacks and had no intention of surrendering. Kentucky sharpshooters behind the pickets killed the horse and driver of the sleigh hauling the ammunition for the guns and then picked off 13 of the 16 artillerymen serving the battery. At 10:00 in the morning, Colonel Proctor and his forces retreated into the woods and the Kentuckians in the picketed enclosure ate breakfast. While they were eating, they spied a British soldier approaching with a white flag. Major George Madison supposed the British were coming to ask for a truce so the dead could be buried. He and the other Kentuckians were shocked to see Major Samuel R. Overton of General Winchester’s staff carrying the flag and Colonel Proctor alongside him guarding him as a prisoner.

Colonel Proctor had forced his prisoner General Winchester to order Major Madison to surrender at once, assuring him that as soon as the Indians had returned from pursuing and massacring the fleeing American troops they would turn on the remaining Americans and massacre them. Colonel Proctor craftily didn’t tell General Winchester that Major Madison had defeated the British and Indians and driven them back into the woods. Horrified at the bloodshed he had already witnessed and fearing more, General Winchester sent Major Overton to Major Madison with orders to surrender.

The orders to surrender came in writing from his commanding General, but Major Madison refused to obey the orders unless General Proctor guaranteed the safely and protection of all prisoners from violence by the Indians. Major Madison informed General Proctor that the Kentuckians preferred to fight fiercely for their lives instead of being massacred in cold blood. He and General Proctor finally negotiated terms that provided all private property should be respected; sleds would be sent the next morning to remove the sick and wounded to Amherstburg; the disabled would be protected; and that the side arms of the officers would be returned to them when they reached Malden. General Proctor promised to fulfill these terms on his honor as a soldier and a gentleman, but he refused to put them in writing. The Indians began to plunder before the surrender negotiations were finished. Major Madison sprang into action, ordering his men to resist because they hadn’t yet surrendered their arms saving his men from being robbed or killed. The unwounded officers and men and the wounded who could march, were immediately taken to Malden. None of them were harmed.[4]

Massacre on the River Raisin


General Proctor didn’t keep his promise to send sleighs to transport the sick and wounded Americans left in Frenchtown after the battle to the safety of Malden. General Proctor heard rumors that General William Henry Harrison and an American army were rapidly approaching Frenchtown, so he and his white troops quickly left Frenchtown, but the night before he returned to Canada, General Proctor gave his Indian allies a “frolic” at Stony Creek, six miles from Frenchtown on the road to Malden, where he furnished them with plenty of liquor.

The wounded Americans had no one to guard them from Indian atrocities and no sleighs to carry them to safety. Sympathetic Frenchtown villagers took the wounded soldiers into their homes where Doctors Todd and Bowers, from Colonel Lewis’s regiment cared for them. On January 23, 1813, the morning after the battle, instead of sleighs from Malden, about 200 intoxicated Indians with their faces painted red and black, whopped and yelled their way into Frenchtown. They plundered the village, and then broke into houses containing wounded soldiers. They stripped them, tomahawked and scalped them. The Indians set fire to two houses holding a large number of wounded soldiers, burning them alive, and they tomahawked and scalped soldiers trying to escape through the doors and windows. Outside the houses, the Indians scalped wounded soldiers alive and threw them into the flames. They marched the prisoners who could walk toward Malden, but when they collapsed from exhaustion the Indians killed and scalped them.

Captain Elliott, a False Friend, and the Murder of Captain Nathaniel G.S. Hart

During the massacre, Captain Hart encountered his college friend Captain William Elliott of the British Army. They had been classmates at Princeton, and Captain Elliott had spent months at the Hart home in Lexington recovering from a devastating fever. Now Captain Hart needed the help of his old friend. Captain Elliott promised on his honor to send Captain Hart a sled to carry him to Malden. When Captain Hart reminded him of the promise, his old friend coolly said, “Charity begins at home; my own wounded must be carried to Malden first.” When Captain Hart asked him for a surgeon for the American wounded, Captain Elliott said, “The Indians are most excellent surgeons.” [5]

Although wounded, Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart escaped from a burning house and he was able to travel, so he paid a friendly Pottawattomie chief 100 dollars to guide him safely to Malden. The Pottawattomie Chief Indian put Captain Hart upon a horse, and they started on their journey. While they were still in Frenchtown, a Wyandot Indian claimed Captain Hart as his prisoner and the two Indians argued over the Captain  Finally, the Pottawattomie and the Wyandot compromised by killing Captain Hart and dividing his money and clothing between them. Another version of Captain Hart’s murder says that the Pottawattomie Chief tried to defend Captain Hart, but the Wyandot shot and scalped him and yet another version says that the Indians cut off Captain Hart’s head and used it to play football.[6]

Reverend Thomas Dudley, an eyewitness to the massacre, wrote this version of Captain Hart’s murder. He saw the Indians arriving in Frenchtown at sunrise on January 23, 1813, instead of the British with the sleighs to take the wounded to Malden. The Indians ransacked a house where wounded officers were staying and Rev. Dudley watched them murder Captain Hickman and heard Captain Hart talked to an interpreter. Captain Hart asked why Indians were mutilating people and the interpreter said, “They intend to kill you.” Captain Hart begged the interpreter to tell the Indians to stop the killing, but the interpreter said, “If we undertook to interpret for you, they would as soon kill us as you.” Captain Hart paid the interpreter $600 to spare his own life. The interpreter put him on a horse and they began their journey to Malden. A short way down the path they ran into another Indian who demanded the $600 that Captain Hart had paid the interpreter. The interpreter shot Captain Hart off his horse to settle the dispute.[7]

Colonel Proctor ordered all the citizens of Frenchtown to move to Detroit a few days after the massacre and Frenchtown remained deserted for several years.

“Remember the Raisin”


All the troops participating in the two Battles of Frenchtown except for one company of the 19th Infantry “Regulars” were Kentuckians, nearly 1,000 of them. In the defeat and massacre at the River Raisin on January 22 and 23, 1813, they lost 290 men killed and missing and 644 taken prisoner. Out of the entire army, only 33 men escaped being killed or captured. Colonel Proctor reported 24 of his men killed and 158 wounded. There are no known Indian casualty figures.

John Eaton cited some different figures when he estimated that in the second Battle of Frenchtown the Americans lost 397 soldiers with 547  being taken prisoner. The Battle of Frenchtown was the deadliest battle taking place in Michigan and the casualties included the most Americans killed in a single battle during the War of 1812.[8]

The entire state of Kentucky mourned the loss of so many of its young men, but the surviving Kentucky soldiers and citizens gradually replaced the first wave of shock and horror with the passionate battle cry:  “Remember the Raisin.”

Nine months after the Battle of Frenchtown on October 5, 1813, at the Battle of the Thames in Canada, American soldiers rushed into battle shouting “Remember the Raisin!” Within an hour, the Americans had destroyed Major- General Henry Proctor’s (he was promoted after his victory at Frenchtown) entire army, although he escaped capture.

Captain Hart Finally Comes Home

Colonel Richard M. Johnson’s Regiment of Kentucky Cavalry buried some of their fellow Kentuckians a few months later when they marched quickly over the battlefield to another destination. Most of the remains of the massacred Americans weren’t buried until October 15, 1813, when Kentuckians returning victoriously from decimating General Major-General Proctor’s Army at the Battle of the Thames deliberately detoured to Frenchtown to bury their fellow soldiers. They found 65 skeletons and buried them with military honors.

Five years later on July 4, 1818, the remains were reburied in the Monroe Cemetery and in August they were moved to Detroit and buried the Protestant Cemetery there. In 1834, the remains were moved to Clinton Street Cemetery in Detroit and in September 1834, they were once again exhumed, placed in boxes labeled “Kentucky’s Gallant Dead, January 18, 1813, River Raisin, Michigan” and taken to the State Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart is buried in Frankfort Cemetery, Franklin County, Kentucky, along with his comrades at arms.[9]

In 1819, newly created Hart County, Kentucky was named in honor of Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart and some of his descendants still live there.

Over the decades, the State of Michigan designated parts of the original River Raisin Battlefield as a state historic park and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, Congress designated the site the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, one of only four such parks in the country and the only one commemorating the War of 1812.


[1] Heidler, David Stephen; Heidler, Jeanne T. (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. pp. 232–23

[2] The Lexington Reporter, January 11, 1812.

[3] Clift, G. Glenn (2009) [1961]. Remember the Raisin! Kentucky and Kentuckians in the battles and massacre at Frenchtown, Michigan Territory, in the War of 1812 Remember the Raisin! reprinted with Notes on Kentucky veterans of the War of 1812 (Reprinted, two volumes in one ed.). Baltimore, Md: Clearfield by Genealogical Pub. Co. pp. 149–150.

[4]  Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 16Kentucky Historical Society. 1918. p. 59.

[5] Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society …, Volume 10, Issue 31, January 1912. “100 Years Ago – Remember the Raisin” by A.C. Quisenberry.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The Diary of Reverend Thomas Dudley.;size=100;view=image Western Reserve Historical Society.

[8]  Eaton, John (2000). Returns of Killed and Wounded in Battles or Engagements with Indians and British and Mexican Troops, 1790–1848, Compiled by Lt. Col J. H. Eaton. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. p. 7.

[9] Thirty human skulls and many human bones were exhumed on the battlefield on February 25, 1871 during some excavations and they are believed to be the remains of Kentuckians massacred there and buried by Johnson’s Regiment a few months after the battle.