Historian wants recognition for forgotten hero

August 19, 2009 3:33:11 PM PDT
Almost all Chicagoans have heard of the Fort Dearborn Massacre. But very few of us have ever heard of Ensign George Ronan. Ronan was a hero of that battle in the War of 1812, and now, a Chicago historian wants recognition for that forgotten man.

In this age of political correctness, the Fort Dearborn Massacre is now referred to as the Battle of Fort Dearborn. And at 18th and Prairie along the lakefront, a new historical marker tells the story of how 91 people - soldiers, men, women and children - who were fleeing Fort Dearborn were attacked by 500 Potawatomi Indians. More than half the Americans were killed.

Chicago historian Victorio Giustino has studied the event for years.

"This is where it took place, August 15, 1812, when the troops leaving Fort Dearborn were attacked by the Indians," said Giustino.

There is little left now of that terrible day during the War of 1812. A painting hangs in City Hall in the council chambers, and it gives us some idea of what happened. On the Chicago flag, the first star represents the tragedy. And at Michigan Avenue and Wacker, the site of Fort Dearborn is clearly outlined.

And a giant sculpture does a very distant replay of the hand-to-hand combat.

It happened on August 15, 1812, and now, 197 years later, a very interesting fact is coming out about that bloody day. The connection between West Point and Chicago. Giustino discovered it digging deep into the history books.

"Ensign George Ronan, a West Point graduate of 1811, was killed here in 1812 according to West Point records. He's the first West Pointer killed in action," said Giustino.

And survivors of the battle said Ronan died a hero. He was fatally wounded but fought on trying to protect the others. Giustino said he thinks he should be remembered.

"A little piece of land set aside honoring Lt. Ronan, first West Pointer killed in action. That's what I want. That's what I think is right," said Giustino.

But so far no one is listening to Giustino.


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