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Natchez Trace Historical Markers
The Natchez Trace was a historical path that extended nearly 500 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee and was used as a main route of travel from pre-colonial times to the early 1800s. This series includes markers about the Natchez Trace and markers located along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
This scene would have occurred far below the surface of the lake you see now. From 1802 to 1819, George Colbert operated a ferry across the quarter-mile breadth of the powerful Tennessee River. The ferry carried mail, militia, settlers, Indians and . . . — Map (db m84705) HM
George Colbert operated a ferry across the Tennessee River from 1800 to 1819. His stand or inn offered travelers a warm meal and shelter during their journey on the Old Trace. Colbert looked after his own well-being and once charged Andrew Jackson . . . — Map (db m69630) HM
This monument is to memorialize Chickasaw Chief George Colbert who operated a river ferry, traveler’s stand, and had a home on this Natchez Trace site. Colbert Co. AL was named in his honor. — Map (db m84706) HM
Levi Colbert, a Chickasaw Chief, operated a stand near here that served Old Trace travelers in the early 1800's. Adjacent to this area was a spring which provided an abundant water supply. — Map (db m84708) HM
Rock Spring Nature Trail offers you an opportunity to explore a small natural spring as it bubbles forth from the ground. Small fish dart about a deep pool created as the stream wandered through rich bottomland soil and limestone rock. Vegetation . . . — Map (db m84703) HM
Mrs. Egbert Jones and Mrs. Ferriday Byrnes, members of the Mississippi State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), played important roles in the development of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Mrs. Jones, of Holly Springs, State Regent 1906 . . . — Map (db m42629) HM
After the American Revolution, frontiersmen from the Ohio Valley carried their products down stream to Spanish controlled New Orleans and Natchez.
Returning home, boatmen followed a series of Indian trails from Natchez to Nashville—trails . . . — Map (db m87224) HM
Marked by the Daughters of the American Revolution in Mississippi 1909.
This historic thoroughfare from Natchez to Nashville, Tenn. was used as a mail route in 1796.
Although it was a well known Indian trail in far earlier days. — Map (db m4555) HM
A National Road
Natchez in the extreme south-western corner of the United States was threatened by Spain in 1800 and later by France and Great Britain.
President Jefferson in 1801 decided that a road from Nashville . . . — Map (db m87267) HM
Before you is the second largest temple mound in the United States. Only Monks Mound in Cahokia, Illinois, is larger. This eight acre mound, constructed from a natural hill, was built and used from about 1300 to 1600 by the Mississippians, ancestors . . . — Map (db m61974) HM
Before you is a 30 foot secondary mound on which once stood a temple containing sacred Indian images.
Archeological evidence indicates that at least two small mounds stood along the North and South sides of the primary platform. These mounds . . . — Map (db m87272) HM
This bluff shows a deep deposit of windblown topsoil known as loess (pronounced LOW–ess). It was formed during the Ice Age when glaciers covered the northern half of the United States.
At this time nearly continuous duststorms swept in . . . — Map (db m62182) HM
Across the Parkway behind you is a portion of the Old Natchez Trace - - a wilderness road that originated from a series of trails used by the southeastern Indian tribes. The Natchez Trace was politically, economically, socially, and militarily . . . — Map (db m87265) HM
The Natchez Trace was still active and Mississippi had just become a state when the Elizabeth Female Academy opened its doors in November of 1818. Much can be learned about the culture of early Mississippi here in the community of Washington. As the . . . — Map (db m87232) HM
First women’s college in America chartered on Feb. 17, 1819 to confer degrees on women. Named in honor of Elizabeth Roach, through whose generosity the College was made possible. Audubon was on the faculty. — Map (db m87235) HM
About half a mile northwesterly, Bethel, meaning “House of God” was opened in 1822 as one of thirteen Choctaw mission stations. Indians, slaves, and other men “labored hard during four weeks ... frequently till 10 o’clock at night, . . . — Map (db m87479) HM
Forests are fascinating places – whole new worlds unfold to anyone who takes time to explore them.
Across Cole Creek you will find a typical mixed hardwood forest. Here you can discover for yourself the many marvels in a bottomland . . . — Map (db m87477)
Plants need water as much as men need money. Some are satisfied with little; some cannot flourish unless they have a lot; the majority can live contentedly with medium amounts.
From here, a trail descends to the vegetation that thrives in the . . . — Map (db m87476)
This monument marks the Natchez Trace through Chickasaw County. By the Treaty of Pontotoc in 1832, the Chickasaw Indians ceded to the United States their lands east of the Mississippi. In 1801-1802 the old Indian trail was converted into a wagon . . . — Map (db m97567) HM
Preserved here is a portion of a nearly 200-year old road – the Old Natchez Trace. Maintaining this 500-mile long wilderness road in the early 1800's was a difficult if not hopeless task.
As you look down the sunken trench note the . . . — Map (db m84832) HM
On February 15, 1934, while serving as U.S. Congressman from Mississippi, Thomas Jefferson Busby (1884-1964) introduced a bill authorizing a survey of the Old Natchez Trace. Four years later the historic road was designated a unit of the National . . . — Map (db m87481) HM
The Great Eastern Hardwood Forest
Before Columbus, the world of the eastern Indian was one of a vast continuous forest stretching from Canada to the Gulf coast. A mature forest, it changed little over the centuries, and . . . — Map (db m87480) HM
Louis Leflore first traded with the Choctaw Indians at a bluff now part of Jackson Mississippi. About 1812 he established his stand 900 feet to the northeast on the Natchez Trace.
Because of the storekeepers nationality, the area was often . . . — Map (db m87485) HM
This memorial marks a stage on the “Natchez Trace.” The first highway opened through the lower South, by the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830, between the American government and the Choctaw Indians. The surrounding country became . . . — Map (db m87495) HM
Pigeon Roost Creek, to your left, is a reminder of the millions of migrating passenger pigeons that once roosted in trees in this area. The species has been completely destroyed.
One mile east where the Natchez Trace crossed the creek, . . . — Map (db m87484) HM
In the early 1800's many thoughtful Americans believed that isolation and the difficulties of communication would force the Mississippi Valley settlements to form a separate nation. Hoping to hold the frontier, Congress in 1800 established a post . . . — Map (db m87483) HM
This is the Natchez Trace. For many years it served man well, but as with many things when its usefulness passed, it was abandoned.
Over the years, this time-worn path has been a silent witness to honor and dishonor. It bears the prints of . . . — Map (db m87357) HM
At the end of this trail is evidence of a once thriving rural community. First settled in the late 1790's, the town grew from a watering place along the Natchez Trace, and took its name from the source of that water -- the Rocky Spring. In 1860, a . . . — Map (db m80147) HM
This ford marked the beginning of the wilderness of the Choctaw nation and the end of the old Natchez District. Nearby Fort Deposit was a supply depot for troops clearing the Trace in 1801-02, and troops were assembled here during the Burr . . . — Map (db m61981) HM
Excavation of this site tells us much about the people of the late prehistoric periods. The Plaquemine culture included the ancestors of the modern tribes of Mississippi and Louisiana. It was a society with elaborate agriculturally oriented . . . — Map (db m87325) HM
The sounds of a busy woodland stream and the quiet murmur of a lazy waterfall have long been stilled here. Only after a heavy rainfall does water fill the stream and set the waterfall singing.
Over the years the water table has dropped . . . — Map (db m87327)
Preserved here is a portion of the deeply eroded or “sunken” Old Trace. Hardships of journeying on the Old Trace included heat, mosquitoes, poor food, hard beds (if any), disease, swollen rivers, and sucking swamps.
Take 5 . . . — Map (db m87313) HM
Like many of his generation, Mead came from the east seeking opportunity in the Mississippi Territory. He owned a tavern on the Old Trace near Natchez and held several political offices, including acting governor in 1806. During this time, he . . . — Map (db m69679) HM
Operated at junction of Natchez Trace and Old Vicksburg Rd. by Robert H. Bell (1783-1835) & his "yellow man Vincent," freed by Bell's will in 1835. Bell-Vincent Scholarship, Millsaps College, endowed with funds from the sale of this land, . . . — Map (db m50873) HM
To improve communication to the Old Southwest, the Natchez Trace was declared a post road in 1800. Afterwards, with Choctaw permission, improvements to this section of the Old Trace began. In 1805, the Choctaw allowed inns, known as stands, to be . . . — Map (db m87361) HM
By the time of the Civil War, the Natchez Trace had lost its significance as a national road. One of the sections ran from Port Gibson toward Jackson but the route veered from the original Trace to reach Raymond. In the spring of 1863, General U.S. . . . — Map (db m87360) HM
The Treaty of Doaks Stand, 1820, opened this land to white settlement. Land was quickly claimed, and pioneer families established themselves in this wilderness. William Dean and his wife Margaret settled near here on the Old Natchez Trace in 1823. . . . — Map (db m87359) HM
Lower Choctaw Boundary
The line of trees to your left has been a boundary for 200 years. It was established in 1765 and marked the eastern limits of the Old Natchez District. This boundary ran from a point 12 . . . — Map (db m87312) HM
This woodland trail takes you through a lowland where rich soil and abundant moisture support a variety of large, water-tolerant trees including tulip poplar, sycamore, and water oak.
Baldcypress thrive in the swampy backwaters of a . . . — Map (db m84763)
Before your very eyes an endless struggle is taking place. Trees are striving here for the essentials of life – water, sunlight and space. Trying to get ahead, the hardwoods push upward, their crowns filling all the overhead space, shutting . . . — Map (db m87285)
Mount Locust as an Inn
Growing traffic on the Trace gave Ferguson opportunity to develop Mount Locust.
After 1795, the Mississippi was legally opened for American traffic. Settlers floated their products downriver . . . — Map (db m87276) HM
Constructed ca. 1780, this home is one of the oldest structures in Mississippi. It functioned as both a working plantation and as an inn, where travelers on the Natchez Trace could rest for the night. Mount Locust is the only surviving inn of the . . . — Map (db m87277) HM
Meet the Beaver
A member of the rodent family that has adapted itself to work and live both on land and in the water.
Beavers are large, weighing up to 60 pounds in Mississippi. Squat and with a low center of . . . — Map (db m87489)
The road to your left, running to Canton, Mississippi, was opened in 1834 and named for Choctaw Indian Chief Ofahoma or Red Dog. Like other Choctaw, he had accepted the way of his European neighbors and had become a farmer.
Chief Ofahoma . . . — Map (db m87488) HM
The road crossing the Parkway follows the Robinson Road which was built in 1821; nearly all of it passing through the country of the Choctaw Indians. It joined Jackson, Mississippi, and Columbus, center of the “settlements on the . . . — Map (db m87487) HM
Twentymile Bottom, now cultivated, was typical of the many low areas along streams through which the Natchez Trace passed.
In 1812 Reverend John Johnson stopped at Old Factors Stand, near this bottom, and wrote this account of bottomland . . . — Map (db m84764) HM
Much of the Old Trace had been abandoned by the start of the civil war. However, the war did leave its mark on the Trace as it did upon the rest of the South, as soldiers marched, camped and fought along portions of this historic old road.
A 5 . . . — Map (db m61803) HM
Ages ago this area was under an arm of the ocean. Shells and other marine organisms were deposited to form the limestone seen here.
Exposure of the limestone to all types of weathering gradually changed it into a heavy fertile soil of various . . . — Map (db m84816) HM
A Chickasaw Village
Here once stood an Indian village of several houses and a fort.
During the summer they lived in rectangular well-ventilated houses.
In the winter . . . — Map (db m84809) HM
This monument marks a stage in the course of the Natchez Trace through Mississippi. Over this first high-road came a tide of the best population of the older Southern states seeking homes in the Southwest. After the Treaty of Pontotoc, Oct. 20, . . . — Map (db m84800) HM
In the early 1800's ordinary Americans could not be bothered with learning the names of Chickasaw villages on the Natchez Trace. One they called Old Town, and passed the name on to the stream running through this valley. It is one of the sources of . . . — Map (db m84799) HM
About 1812 William Doak established his stand or tavern on the Natchez Trace which is five miles north of the Parkway at this point. The Treaty of Doaks Stand was signed there in 1820.
Because . . . — Map (db m87493) HM
This monument marks the Natchez Trace over which our pioneer ancestors came to Mississippi. It is located on the site of Madisonville, an early county seat of Madison County.
Erected by the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution, . . . — Map (db m87496) HM
Pine forests of the south played a major role in the growth of the Nation and have become a southern economic mainstay along with soybeans, cotton, and other agricultural products. Today, through reforestation and management as a crop, pines produce . . . — Map (db m87492)
Water tupelo and baldcypress trees can live in deep water for long periods. After taking root in summer when the swamp is nearly dry, the seedlings can stay alive in water deep enough to kill other plants.
This trail leads through an . . . — Map (db m87490)
Archeologists tell us there was a house here sometime around 500 A.D. and that the pottery found in the mounds was made before 700 A.D. Likely, the population was continuous over centuries with customs being handed from generation to generation, . . . — Map (db m87364) HM
At the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, Great Britain gained control of the territory between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River except for the New Orleans area. The northern boundary of West Florida was first established at 31° . . . — Map (db m87366) HM
U.S. agents like Silas Dinsmoor lived among the Choctaw and represented their interests while implementing U.S. policy. His duties included surveying and preventing illegal settlement on Choctaw land. He also encouraged the Choctaw to be more . . . — Map (db m87362) HM
Two portions of a nearly 200 year old wilderness road, the Old Natchez Trace, are preserved here. Nearly 500 miles long, it grew from Indian trails to a national road and communications link between the Old Southwest and the United States to the . . . — Map (db m87363) HM
In 1698 the French explorer, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, sailed into the mouth of this river and found pearls. He named it "River of Pearls."
The Natchez Trace, a hundred years later, avoided the marshy lowlands by following the ridge . . . — Map (db m86031) HM
The United States agents to the Chickasaws lived from 1802 to 1825 west of here on the Old Natchez Trace.
That Americans could peacefully travel the road through Indian lands was due in large measure to the agents. Their efforts to preserve . . . — Map (db m84821) HM
Somewhere in this vicinity, the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto crossed the animal paths that later became the Natchez Trace. In 1539, he set out on a long arduous journey that took him across the Southeastern United States. He crossed the . . . — Map (db m84820) HM
At Monroe Mission Station northwest of here, the Chickasaws first received Christianity and education in 1822. Five years later, 100 acres were under cultivation and 81 pupils were attending the school. Boys learned farming and carpentry, and girls . . . — Map (db m84819) HM
Westerly on the Natchez Trace stood an Indian village “Pontatock” with its council house which, in the 1820's, became the “Capitol” of the Chickasaw Nation.
The chiefs and headmen met there to sign treaties or to . . . — Map (db m84817) HM
Named for a Chickasaw word meaning “tree root,” Tockshish was a community of Indians and white men on the Natchez Trace to the northwest. John McIntosh, British agent to the Choctaws, first settled there before 1770.
In 1801, . . . — Map (db m84818) HM
Pharr Mounds is the largest and most important archeological site in northern Mississippi. Eight large, dome-shaped burial mounds are scattered over an area of 90 acres (100 football fields).
These mounds were built and used about 1-200 A.D. by a . . . — Map (db m35764) HM
The parkway bridge is named in honor of United States Representative Jamie L. Whitten who for years fought for funds in Congress to complete the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
His vision helped make possible this . . . — Map (db m84731) HM
The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway has three main parts. The largest section from Demopolis, Alabama, north to Amory, Mississippi, utilizes the Tombigbee River but changes and shortens the existing channel with dams, locks, and short cuts. From Amory . . . — Map (db m84732) HM
In the mid 1700's Sieur de Bienville, founder of Mobile, recommended to Louis XIV, a waterway connecting the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River. Later, American settlers also recognized the advantages of such a shortcut. Residents of Knox . . . — Map (db m84730) HM
The village site was occupied as early as 8000 B.C. by hunters who stayed only long enough to prepare their kill. From the time of Christ to 1000 A.D., migratory people of this area practiced limited agriculture.
The nearby fields and streams . . . — Map (db m36061) HM
The description of the ground surface and the type of rock indicate that this cave was a result of solution activity. A long room or corridor was dissolved out of the rock by under-ground water. The roof of the room eventually weakened and . . . — Map (db m84728) HM
Unlike modern nations, Indian tribes seldom recognized clear, exact boundaries to their lands. However, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians came to accept as a dividing line the stream that flowed in this valley. It remained the boundary until both . . . — Map (db m84833) HM
This monument marks the Natchez Trace at Mathiston in the county of Webster, named for the great statesman Daniel Webster.
“Along this road brave spirits came over shallow brook and roaring stream, to toil and die and leave to men . . . — Map (db m97625) HM
The Natchez Trace Parkway
This parkway, a unit of the National Park System, commemorates one of the great thoroughfares of early-day America: the Natchez Trace.
A . . . — Map (db m87494) HM
The house of John Cockrill, an early settler, stood about 60 yards north, near a large spring, whose waters ran northeast into Lick Branch, which emptied Great Salt Lick, around which Nashville was founded. A blacksmith shop stood under the great . . . — Map (db m12765) HM
In 1742 a European settler recorded his travel and the conditions of the path which was known as the Natchez Trace. This is the earliest known recording of the trace, a portion of which was located on the site of Belle Meade Plantation. The trace, . . . — Map (db m81472) HM
This trail descends to Jackson Falls, a beautifully sculptured cascade that seems ageless. But it isn’t. For thousands of years before the falls existed, Jackson Branch flowed into this high valley, isolated from the Duck River below.
Then, in . . . — Map (db m84576)
Preserved here is a 2,000-foot long section of the original Old Natchez Trace which follows a ridge 300 feet above the Duck River.
A 10-15 minute stroll will take you to the end of the trail and back and provide a change of pace from driving. . . . — Map (db m84582) HM
The Morrow family farm, visible from this outlook, is an excellent example of agriculture working in harmony with the environment. The Morrow’s, like other conservation farmers, have a strong conservation ethic and a desire to leave improved soil . . . — Map (db m84575) HM
A Ride on the Old Natchez Trace
From this point you may drive over a mile and a half of the Old Trace and see for yourself this frontier road much as it appeared in the early 1800's.
En route, stop at the three . . . — Map (db m84649) HM
over which pioneers traveled through Lawrence County, Tennessee, which was organized Oct. 21, 1817.
The county seat, Lawrenceburg, was created on Nov. 23, 1819, and named in honor of Capt. James Lawrence, naval hero of the War of 1812. . . . — Map (db m36078) HM
Before 1805 the Chickasaw Indians owned all the land in this vicinity. Only the Natchez Trace – part of which remains here – had made inroads into tribal territory.
When the Indians ceded land to the United States in the early . . . — Map (db m84626) HM
From here north for approximately 40 miles the parkway passes through or near a geologic region of limestone rich in phosphate deposits.
Abandoned mine shafts in limestone ledges on both sides of the parkway in this immediate area are silent . . . — Map (db m84647) HM
Beneath this monument erected under Legislative Act by the State of Tennessee, A.D., 1848, reposes the dust of Meriwether Lewis, a Captain in the United States Army, Private Secretary to President Jefferson, Senior Commander of the Lewis and Clark . . . — Map (db m36068) HM
In 1809, renowned explorer Meriwether Lewis traveled up the Old Natchez Trace on his way to Washington, D.C. He stopped here at an inn called Grinder’s Stand, and died during the night.
What is a Compass Rose?
A compass rose is a symbol . . . — Map (db m84631) HM
“I was roused from this melancholy reverie by the roaring of Buffalo River, which I forded with great difficulty.”
Alexander Wilson, 1811
Here travelers on the Natchez Trace crossed the river which was fordable except after . . . — Map (db m84658) HM
This plainly visible, though long deserted road is a section of The Natchez Trace, evolved from Buffalo and Indian Trails, into The First National Highway of the South-West, cut and opened under authority of the United States Government, after . . . — Map (db m42767) HM
Here, about 1820, stood a charcoal-burning furnace used to manufacture pig iron. All that remain of this pioneer enterprise are a slag pile and the evidence of a mill race, used to bring water from Buffalo River to operate the furnace’s air blasting . . . — Map (db m84657) HM
The Natchez Trace, a very old trail, was traveled by many early Americans. Captain Meriwether Lewis, leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory, died near this point in 1809 while traveling the Natchez . . . — Map (db m84633) HM
Tobacco Farm- You see here a typical early 1900's tobacco farm. A 10-minute loop walk takes you through the field and to the barn where you see tobacco hanging to dry.
Old Trace- From here you may drive north on a narrow 2 -mile section of the . . . — Map (db m60218) HM
The 500 mile long Natchez Trace of the early 1800's, then known as the Natchez Road, connected Nashville on the Cumberland River with Natchez on the Mississippi River. This historic wilderness road crossed the Duck River 1/4 mile south of here. John . . . — Map (db m84260) HM
Travel on the Natchez Trace was an adventure in the early 1800's. The 500-mile trail traversed a sprawling wilderness where only Indians, outlaws, and wild animals were at home. Travelers needed a place to find food, supplies, and rest.
At . . . — Map (db m84620) HM
On this model farm, Burley tobacco is grown and air-cured. It’s a hard crop to raise, each acre requiring about 250 hours of labor. (Wheat is only three hours!)
William Coleman has been growing tobacco here for over 40 years. Listen as he . . . — Map (db m84579) HM
One of the few remaining buildings associated with the Old Natchez Trace is the house of ferry operator John Gordon.
In the early 1800s Gordon made an agreement with the Chickasaw Chief George Colbert to operate a trading post and ferry on the . . . — Map (db m60217) HM
One of the few remaining buildings associated with the Old Natchez Trace is the house of ferry operator John Gordon. Built in 1817-18, the Gordon House was one of the first brick homes in this area.
In the early 1800's, Gordon settled here as . . . — Map (db m84261) HM
This monument, located on the Natchez Trace at the site of the Tobacco Farm, honors the farming industry of Maury County, Tennessee. Maury County was named in honor of Abram Maury and was the home of the 11th United States President, James K. Polk. . . . — Map (db m84584) HM
Burley tobacco must be air-cured for four to six weeks in the barn before it’s ready for market. Listen.
Burely is a light brown, aromatic tobacco used chiefly in cigarettes. A small percentage is used for pipe and chewing tobacco.
. . . — Map (db m84583) HM
In frontier language, a stand was an inn or a trading post—sometimes both—usually located on a well traveled route. Such a place was established on the Old Natchez Trace, near here, in 1849 by John McGlamery. Although the stand did not . . . — Map (db m84673) HM
In this locality was a tavern and blacksmith shop which served travelers on the Natchez Trace from early 19th century days. Its early proprietor who came here in 1818, is buried in the cemetery to the northeast along with members of his family. — Map (db m83159) HM
This early interstate road building venture produced a snake-infested, mosquito-beset, robber-haunted, Indian-traveled forest path. Lamented by the pious, cussed by the impious, it tried everyone’s strength and patience.
When the trail became . . . — Map (db m84674) HM
In 1663, King Charles II of England granted the
colony of Carolina all the land between 31 and 36 degrees
north latitude from the Atlantic Ocean "west
in a direct line as far as the South Seas."
The separation of North and South Carolina . . . — Map (db m69634) HM WM
A mile to the south, the Old Natchez Trace crossed a depression in the flat, dogwood-covered ridge. After heavy rains it became almost impassable for wagons. Its name “Dogwood Mudhole” recalls the ordeals of frontier travel. It shows too . . . — Map (db m84670) HM
Crossing the highway here, this famous road followed ancient Indian trails used by the travelers between Natchez and Nashville. It was built in 1801 by Army Engineers.
Officially "The Columbian Road", it was for many years the only highway . . . — Map (db m80314) HM
This small branch receives its name from the clean and fresh, or “sweet”, flavor of its water. Thousands of years of erosion and flooding have gradually built up the fertile bottom lands that you see under cultivation near here. . . . — Map (db m84672) HM
The high ground you are on is part of a long ridge that divides central Tennessee. Streams south of the divide flow to the Duck and Tennessee Rivers, while streams to the north empty into the Cumberland River.
Travelers in the early days of the . . . — Map (db m83186) HM
This Monument memorializes War of 1812 soldiers buried along the Old Natchez Trace, and it honors the service of all brave volunteers who marched on the Natchez Trace during the War of 1812 to help establish American Independence.
The Natchez . . . — Map (db m83188) HM