Are you for armed guards at schools?|
|Descriptions of Fort Adams: 1807-1839|
On Tuesday, March 10, 1807, Dr. Thomas Bedford's skiff arrived at Fort Adams, Mississippi Territory.
Built in the late 1790s by the U.S. Army, the fort was named in honor of President John Adams and was located on what was then the southwestern corner of the United States in the newly-created Mississippi Territory.
Originally known as La Roche a Davion where a French missionary -- Father Anthony Davion -- ministered to the Indians, the site was later called Loftus Heights, named after British officer Arthur Loftus whose fleet traveling upriver was attacked by Tunica Indians in 1764. The location in the hills above the Mississippi was a perfect location for a fort with a commanding view of the river.
While Bedford arrived at Fort Adams on a flatboat in 1807, another traveler, Fortesque Cuming, arrived on horseback the following year in 1808. Professor J. H. Ingraham also visited the fort in 1839.
Each offered descriptions of the little community.
FORT ADAMS: 1807
In 1807, a decade after U.S. troops built Fort Adams, Bedford observed a number of soldiers at their posts.
"The neighborhood of this place is wealthy," he wrote in "A continuation of A Tour in 1807 Down the Cumberland, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Nashville to New Orleans" and published in the "Tennessee Historical Magazine" in July 1919.
The region produced "much cotton. It is remarkable for being one of the loftiest pinnacles on the whole of the Mississippi. A bottom extends up and down the river a long way and off about 100 yards, then commences a bluff similar to that at Natchez, rising and falling in an undulating manner, but in a sudden freak bounded and formed the pinnacle called Loftus Height, two hundred feet above water mark, on which stands a block house only, under which is the barracks and arsenal in the bottom."
Bedford and his friends "sauntered about here 2 or 3 hours. Just before departing was very agreeably surprised by the sudden appearance of Thomas Butler on board the barge, in company with a Capt. Sample. Sincerely regretted the necessity of setting out so soon, because I wished to have much conversation with him, as I esteem him a good and sensible young man and one every way interesting to me.
"He had lately arrived in the Territory and then intended to settle thereabouts. The best of friends must part, and therefore took an affectionate farewell and set out from Fort Adams about 11 o'clock a.m." Sixteen miles down river, Bedford's skiff "passed the mouth of Red River, emptying in on the west or Louisiana side so much celebrated latterly for the fertility of its soil and salubrity of its climate."
FORT ADAMS 1808
From 1807 to 1809, Frotescue Cuming rode a horse through Natchez country.
He kept a journal and it was later published under the title: "Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country." This diary offered a detailed description of Natchez country, with information on some of the people, their farms and plantations, from Port Gibson all the way to Fort Adams.
In 1808, Cuming traveled southward on horse to Fort Adams along a "good road with a ridge of hills called Loftus's heights on the left, and the swamp which commenced at Buffaloe creek on the right." At Fort Adams, he observed "a few plantations on both sides of the road, those on the right joining the swamp, and the left hand ones being on the broken land beyond the cliffs and hills."
In 1808, the little town below the fort was called Wilkinsonburg by some, in honor of Gen. James Wilkerson, the commander in charge of the troops who built the fort.
Cuming saw in the "poor little village" a dozen houses "most of them in decay, hemmed in between the heights and the river. The fort from whence it derives its first name, is situated on a bluff overhanging the river, at the extremity of the ridge of Loftus's heights."
The fort, said Cuming, was 100 feet "above the ordinary level of the Mississippi, which is not more than three hundred yards wide here, so that the fort completely commands it, with several small brass cannon and two small brass howitzers mounted en barbette" (high platforms so the guns could be fired over the fort's brick wall.)
The fortification had one bastion (tower), and a small barrack inside.
One hundred fifty feet above the fort was a blockhouse built "on the sharp peak of a very steep hill, which in time of war might serve as a look out, as well as a post, as it commands a most extensive view over the surrounding wilderness of forest, as well as the meanders of the river for several miles." Cuming took a look from the peak and spotted "two gun boats moored a little above the fort."
A path descended from the blockhouse along "a very narrow ridge" to the town of Fort Adams. Midway down this path was a military cemetery, which included the graves of officers and privates.
Officer plots were distinctive because they had headstones listing the name, rank and the time of death of the deceased. Also buried in the cemetery were "two or three men" who had been killed in duels, which Cuming called "a barbarous custom," to which "they are much addicted in the American army."
Because of the fort's location along the river, it was considered unhealthy and most of the garrison didn't live there. Instead, the fort was operated with one officer "with a platoon being left in it, to guard the pass, and prevent smuggling..."
In Fort Adams, Cuming spent the night at Marsalis' tavern, the only tavern in the little town. While there, he ran into an old friend he called "Doctor H," who "lodged" there. The two men enjoyed "a tolerably good supper, according to the custom of the country, of coffee, bread and butter, sliced bacon, and a fine dish of gaspar-goo (freshwater drum), the best fish I had yet tasted of the produce of the Mississippi."
Traveling from Fort Adams southward "on a good road," Cuming was now mounted on a fresh horse supplied by Dr. H. The road traversed "the most broken and hilly country I had yet seen in the territory." This road, maintained by the soldiers, followed "high and steep precipices."
Four mile's distance on the road to Pinckeyville, a turn to the right led to the military camp a mile away on a high hill, where most of the soldiers and officers based at Fort Adams lived. At the outskirts, Cuming met people "returning home from a market which is kept there every Sunday morning."
Once there, Cuming was "much surprised with a village, differing from any I had ever before seen." Twenty-four huts "faced a wide open space cleared for a parade, in which is held the market. In the rear of these, with a narrow street between" were 10 "snug and well furnished cottages" where the officers lived, some bachelors and some married men with families.
But most remarkable was that the "whole camp is constructed with cane (the large reed) in such a manner to render every dwelling perfectly tight and warm." Each cottage was floored "with plank, and the officers' quarters are glazed, and each a little garden."
The camp had a "an air of neatness" and "cleanliness," where everyone he met was well behaved and mannered.
He said the camp was on "the slope of a very high hill, and the whole country for some miles round, particularly towards the Mississippi, is nothing but a continuation of steep and broken hills, covered with forest timber, and an impenetrable cane brake, except in a few places, where some adventurous settler has found a small spot, not too steep for the plough, or where narrow paths of communication have been cut through the canes."
FORT RUINS: 1839
In 1839, Professor J. H. Ingraham, described what he saw onshore during a steamboat journey up the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to Natchez in an article in "The Ladies' Companion," a magazine described as "embracing every department of literature" and "embellished with original engravings, and music, arranged for the piano-forte, harp and guitar."
"Fort Adams, which is the first town of the State of Mississippi seen in ascending the river," wrote Ingraham, "is a small village at the foot and scattered at the sides, of a collection of hills nearly two hundred feet high, covered with trees, and clothed with grass nearly to the water. Half-way to the summit of the principal hill of the group, stand the ruins of Fort Adams, consisting of a grass-grown, dismantled fortification of earth. Its site is well chosen, commanding a prospect, both up and down the river, for several miles.
"Fort Adams does not contain five hundred inhabitants, and its chief business is in shipping cotton; it is the mart of the adjacent cotton region. The amount of its business is not great. The hills of Fort Adams are a striking and romantic feature in this level region, standing alone like isolated promontories."
For the full story, subscribe to the The Concordia Sentinel's NEW E-Edition!
|Frank Morris Murder Series|