The threat of imminent attack by a foreign power produced an early unity along the people living along the old Trace. At the Battle of New Orleans, American militiamen and U.S. Army Regulars fought side by side with American Indians and free men of color to defend their common homeland. General Jackson insisted that American Indians and men of color be paid the same amounts as the militiamen, and some held positions of high rank.
After the Revolutionary War, leaders of the new American republic preferred to rely on volunteer militias rather than a large standing army. All men were expected to muster and train throughout the year to be prepared to defend their homes and their country. Cavalry officers were generally farmers, professionals and businessmen. Officers wore uniform similar to those worn by officers in the U.S. army. Most soldiers in the War of 1812, like today’s military, were in their late teen and early twenties; however, each company was led by a group of musicians, and drummers were sometimes as young as twelve. The drummer’s beat served as a form of communication.
1812 A NATION ON THE BRINK OF WAR
1813 EXPEDITION NATCHEZ
1814 PREPARING TO ENCOUNTER THE BRITISH
1815 VICTORY AT NEW ORLEANS AND RETURN MARCHES ON THE NATCHEZ ROAD
HIGHLIGHTS OF WAR OF 1812 SITES ALONG THE PARKWAY
0. Natchez- Andrew Jackson’s infantry landed in a flotilla on the Mississippi River on Feb. 15, 1813, and marched through the town to Fort Dearborn to join the cavalry which had marched down the Natchez Road. In 1814 and 1815, Natchez served as a supply depot and hospital for the war effort. A victory ball was held for Jackson in Natchez at the end of the war.
5.1 Camp Jackson – Just south of this site in 1813, Andrew Jackson established Camp Jackson, an encampment for the 2,070 Tennessee volunteers called to aid in the defense of the Gulf Coast. The men trained here to prepare to meet the enemy in New Orleans. In early March, Jackson received a letter from the War Department ordering him to dismiss his men in the field. Jackson disobeyed the order and borrowed funds to return his men home. That decision and the determination Jackson demonstrated on the return march earned Jackson the nickname “Old Hickory” (as in “tough as an old hickory tree”), a nickname which he later used to win the presidency.
8.0 Historic Jefferson College- (off parkway on Hwy. 61). The site of Washington, the capital of the Mississippi Territory, and Fort Dearborn. Mississippi dragoons mustered there in September, 1812. Jackson’s troops camped there before moving to Camp Jackson. British Prisoners of War from the Battle of New Orleans were housed there before being exchanged. A victory ball was held for Jackson in Washington at the end of the war.
15.5 Mount Locust- In 1813, Natchez Expedition troops fell ill soon after departing Camp Jackson, and they made an emergency encampment at Selsertown, across from Mount Locust. The Ferguson family tradition held that Jackson stayed in the house now known as “Mount Locust.” In 1815, a hospital for infirm troops was established at Selsertown. A victory ball for Jackson was held in nearby Greenville.
100.7 Choctaw Agency- Troops camped near the agency complex on all marches. In 1815, Jackson’s aide-de-camp purchased 200 horses from the agency for the return marches. Choctaw Chief Pushmataha refused Shawnee Chief Tecumseh’s proposal to form an alliance against the Americans. The Choctaw Nation supplied soldiers to serve under Jackson’s command in the Creek Wars, at Pensacola, and at the Battle of New Orleans.
104.5 Brashears’ Stand- In 1814, a shortcut road was cut from the Natchez Road near this point as a direct route to Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans. Colonel Coffee attended courts martial at the stand in October, 1814. In 1815, about 300 infirm soldiers were treated at the stand until they were well enough to march. Six rooms were rented to physicians.
108.7 French Camp- Louis LeFleur’s inn provided accommodations to detachments of soldiers, and some soldiers died at the inn. They were buried at French Camp. The DAR marker on the parkway commemorates the site for its role in the War of 1812.
175.6 Cole Creek- The swamp a Cole Creek is typical of the swamps troops encountered during the rainy winter and spring marches. One wrote that they sometimes walked for miles in water up to their waists.
241.4 Chickasaw Agency – At the Chickasaw Agency in 1813, Colonel Coffee discovered that government contractors had not supplied food as planned. Chickasaw Chief George Colbert drew on his nation’s winter food supply to feed the soldiers. Coffee wrote, “I find that we shall want for nothing while traveling through the nation.” Soldiers began to rely on the Colberts to provide corn for food for soldiers and horses. On the 1813 return, the even greater number of soldiers began to run out of food. When Jackson’s request for support from the Tennessee governor was denied, he wrote an angry reply about 13 miles south of the agency, “are these brave men…. to be left a pray (sic) to the Vultures…” Nashville citizens borrowed funds to buy food for the soldiers. They would be greeted with wagons loaded with food and horses near the Tennessee line.
261.8 Chickasaw Village Site- Soldiers camped near the Chickasaw Old Town. A second prong of the Natchez Road, built through Tennessee toward Fort Massac, intersected near this point. Some returning soldiers formed separate detachments near this point and marched northwest along the new route.
283.3 Donivan Slough/Brown’s Bottom- This wetland area challenged wagon travel on the road during wet seasons. In 1815, wagons carrying food supplies south on the road to give relief to the soldiers could not pass Brown’s Bottom. Soldiers often went hungry on the marches.
320.3 Buzzard Roost- Chickasaw leader Levi Colbert maintained an inn at Buzzard Roost. Chickasaw tradition holds that Levi Colbert fought in the Battle of New Orleans. It was near this point at the mouth of Bear Creek in spring 1812, Creek rebels brought Martha Crawley, a settler, as hostage from Tennessee. George Colbert intervened with the Creeks to seek the rebels’ arrest. The incident spurred a war fever in Tennessee, and Tennessee federal legislators became part of the War Hawks to seek a proclamation of war. In the 1813 southbound march, Coffee told his men at Bear Creek, “We are a band of brothers who are to share and share alike.”
327.3 Colbert Ferry- Shawnee Chief Tecumseh met with the Chickasaw Chiefs at Colbert Ferry in 1811 to seek their alliance in a war on the Americans. The Chickasaw king told Tecumseh that if his American friends died, he would die too. Another counsel was held here in spring 1813 among the Chickasaws, Choctaws and Cherokees to determine which side they would support in the upcoming war. Colbert made his friendship to the Americans clear. Colbert ferried troops across the river throughout the war, and troops stayed at his inn. In 1814, the U.S. Army occupied the ferry to defend it against a possible attack from Creek rebels. Also in 1814, Colonel Coffee met with Levi Colbert here to recruit Chickasaw volunteers. Chickasaw warriors joined the U.S. war effort and served to patrol the former Creek nation.
327.8 Tennessee River- Crossing the Tennessee River was one of the primary challenges for the troop marches. The small ferry accommodated only a few of the hundreds of troops at a time, and divided troops were more vulnerable to attack. Colonel Coffee, who led the march of the cavalry in the 1813 expedition, and for whom this bridge is named, ordered troops arriving on the south side of the river to line their tents along the bank of the river, apparently to make it appear to potential attackers that the force was larger in number.
382.8 McLish’s Stand- George Colbert’s son-in-law John McLish operated a inn for travelers and a mill at this site. McLish provided food for soldiers. On Jackson’s return in 1815, he stayed at McLish’s. A postal road to Columbia intersected the Natchez Road at this point in 1812.
386 Grinder’s Inn- A soldier on the return march in 1813 noted that the Chickasaw boundary was located about ten paces from the door of Robert Grinder’s cabin. Once troops crossed that border, they had returned home. Tennessee histories state that a number of troops were dismissed here, and some soldiers who did not survive the marches are buried here. The returning soldier in 1813 recorded that his detachment enjoyed breakfast at Grinder’s Inn and then walked to Meriwether Lewis’s grave.
390.7 Dobbins Stand/Swan Creek- Captain David Dobbins operated a stand near this point, where the 1808 Columbia Turnpike intersected the Natchez Road. In 1813, the cavalry camped at Dobbins Stand on the southbound march and the men spent the evening shelling corn to provide food for their horses until they reached the Tennessee River. Troops traveling east toward Columbia on the return likely exited the Natchez Road at this point. Andrew Jackson traveled immediately to Columbia on the 1813 return to make arrangements to pay the troops. A number of troops were dismissed in Columbia.
400.2 Sheboss/ Kegg Stand- A widow maintained an inn at Kegg Springs. Returning chaplain Learner Blackman wrote of her hospitality.
407.7 Gordon Ferry- Captain John Gordon moved his family to this site in 1812 near the outbreak of war. He was a military man, and he became the captain of Jackson’s Company of Spies. He ferried about 5,000 Tennessee and Kentucky soldiers across the Duck River. In 1814, when Jackson faced a mutiny of his volunteers, Gordon spoke first to quell the mutiny, and helped save Jackson’s career. Gordon was sent as the sole spy into Pensacola. The intelligence he reported led to Jackson’s invasion of Pensacola, which was then held by the Spanish.
426.3 War of 1812 Memorial- This site is one of the largest War of 1812 memorials in the nation. It was designated as the War of 1812 Memorial site on the bicentennial. The stone wall separates the area from the parkway to provide a contemplative space. The loop and walk lead to a preserved section of the old Natchez Road and a monument placed on the bicentennial of the War of 1812 by the U.S. Daughters of 1812. The monument honors all soldiers who marched during the war and pays particular honor to those who did not survive the marches. Soldiers are buried in unmarked graves along the old road. As Jackson returned in 1815, the citizens of Franklin met him on the road and asked him to give a speech. He proclaimed the meaning of the victory that foreign powers would henceforth respect the rights of Americans.
428. Leiper’s Fork- Originally known as Benton Town and Hillsboro, the town was founded along the Natchez Road by the mother of Jackson’s 1813 aide-de-camp Thomas Hart Benton. The Benton home site is marked. Benton or his brother shot Jackson (both claimed credit) in a brawl on the streets of Nashville soon after the 1813 return. Jackson suffered the effects of the wound throughout the remainder of the war. Benton served under Jackson again in 1814, and their friendship later renewed. When Benton became a U.S. senator from Missouri, he cast an important vote against President Jackson’s impeachment.
444. Nashville- The Natchez Road ran east of the terminus by the Belle Meade Plantation (off parkway on Hwy. 100). The Belle Meade Planntation property contains the cbain that was Natchez Trace Post Rider Benjamin Joslin’s Natchez Trace stand, before it was sold to John Harding. Cavalry marching south stopped at the stand and used the services of Harding’s blacksmith. The December 10, 1812 rendezous of Andrew Jackson’s volunteer militia took place near the Broawday and Seventh Avenue area, and campsites stretched as far north as Sulphur Dell. Jackson reviewed troops on the Public Square, and he spoke there on his return from the Natchez Expedition. A victory dinner was held for Jackson at a tavern on the Public Square in 1815.