Courtesy of C. Cappa Films. www.NatchezTraceProject.com
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The Natchez Trace Parkway was created, in part, to preserve the story of the Natchez Road in the War of 1812. The military road built by the U.S. army provided for the movement of soldiers and supplies from the settled areas of Tennessee and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast.
Recognizing the need to protect access to ports in Natchez and New Orleans, President Thomas Jefferson instructed the military to build a federal wagon road along the old Natchez Trace in 1801. President Jefferson sent the first militia down the road in 1803 to ensure Spain’s acknowledgement of the Louisiana Purchase.
The road proved its utility when British forces threatened to invade New Orleans in 1812. General Andrew Jackson mustered volunteer militias. Cavalry under the command of Colonel John Coffee marched down the Natchez Road to Fort Dearborn near Natchez. Jackson’s troops were dismissed by the War Department, and he borrowed funds to return them home. It was on that return journey that Jackson earned the name “Old Hickory.”
The road continued to be developed for military use. A shortcut road was cut from the Natchez Trace to Lake Pontchartrain above New Orleans. During 1814, the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations supplied volunteers to aid the American war effort. In fall 1814, when Jackson learned that the British were sailing toward the Gulf Coast with over 12,000 troops, he ordered fresh recruits be sent from Kentucky and Tennessee, and that they be marched down the Natchez Road to defend New Orleans. Because of the difficulty the troops experienced in the marches in 1813, Jackson’s aid-de-camp made a late decision to send most of the recruits to New Orleans by river; however, detachments of cavalry marched down the Natchez Road toward New Orleans.
The decisive Battle of New Orleans and the war itself forged a new American spirit and led to the settlement of what became the American South. Many of the officers in that battle became southern political leaders, and the victory propelled Jackson to the White House.
The Association has partnered with the National Park Service and the 7th U.S.Living History Association to commemorate the War of 1812. We are telling the story of the Natchez Trace and the years when those who lived near it were called on to defend their homes. The information we gather and the programs we create will last beyond the bicentennial to become a permanent part of the information available to visitors. The stories of heroism and sacrifice in what has been called the “forgotten war,” will serve as a catalyst to give new life to the history of the Natchez Trace and a better understanding of the important role it played in the independence and development of the United States.
For more information on upcoming and past events, click on the War of 1812 Bicentennial tab again and select the Events box that will appear to the right.
For more history about the War of 1812, including highlights for a driving tour, click on the “More History- War of 1812 Bicentennial” tab on the right.