The Association encourages research and presentation of information about the rich history of the Natchez Trace. The Act authorizing the original survey for the parkway states that the parkway’s primary purpose is the “memorialization of the historical importance of the old Natchez Trace.” That history includes the cultures of pre-historic peoples, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Natchez nations, early American settlers and the movement of soldiers on the road during the War of 1812, the War for Mexican Independence and the Civil War. It also includes the history of the construction of the road by the U.S. army as one of the first federal roads in the United States.
President Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of expanding the control of the United States to the port cities Natchez and New Orleans. He proposed building a road, ostensibly only to deliver mail and to provide a safer route for boatmen returning north after selling goods at the ports. Treaties with the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations were secured, and the United States Army began building the road in 1801.
By 1803, the military purpose of the road became evident when President Jefferson ordered Tennessee militiamen to march to Natchez to defend the new Louisiana Purchase in the event that Spain attempted to retake it. In 1813, a portion of Andrew Jackson’s militia marched along the road to Natchez to defend against a possible attack by Britain. Jackson marched along with his men back to Nashville on the road and earned the name “Old Hickory.” In 1815, many troops marched to New Orleans on the road to engage the British at New Orleans, and the soldiers marched home on the Trace, as victory celebrations greeted them at the settlements and towns along the way. On that return, General Jackson made the trip on the Natchez Trace in a carriage, accompanied by his wife Rachel. One Natchez Trace resident said that constant lines of returning soldiers could be seen on the road for months.
We encourage the development of living history programs to bring the history to life and interpretation that makes the history meaningful and relevant. Natchez Trace history will be presented at special meetings and through the journal that is in development. We are developing a traveling exhibit for counties along the Parkway. Information on the history of the Natchez Trace and lesson plans for school groups will also be made available on this site.
To read more about the History of the Natchez Trace, click the “History of the Natchez Trace” side tab under this heading.