Mississippi Magic, November 1961
Published by the Mississippi
Agricultural and Industrial Board
This Tiny Mississippi Village Was Once
The Center Of An International " Cold War"
In 1798, the southwestern corner of
United States property was the Territory of Mississippi, on the
Mississippi river. Right across the river was Spanish territory, and the
struggle for possession of America was still on.
The Spanish had just withdrawn from
the Natchez territory, and the United States needed a frontier post on
the river just across from the land still claimed by Spain.
Some 38 miles south of Natchez was a
high hill known first as "Roche a Davion" for a French
missionary who established a mission there among the Tunica Indians in
1698, and then as Loftus Heights after 1764, when the British took over.
The site was recommended by a Captain
Guion, and the fort was built in 1799 after the arrival of General James
Wilkinson as the commanding officer - the man for whom Wilkinson county
The engineering work was done under
the direction of Major Thomas Freeman, who had been acting as surveyor
of the boundary line between American and Spanish holdings. And the
frontier post was named after John Adams, who was then president of the
In 1801, General Wilkinson negotiated
a treaty with the Choctaw Indians for re-surveying the British line from
the Yazoo river southward, marking the limits of the Natchez district,
and also for a road through Choctaw country north to Chickasaw country
and then to Nashville - a road which became known as the famous Natchez
A few months ago, a team from the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., together with officials of
the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, visited the site of
the old fort and found nothing but a few buttons and pieces of glass.
Fortunately, the National Archives, in
Washington, has the plan of the fort, which we are happy to show MAGIC
readers on this page. The site, when these plans were drawn, was known
as Loftus Heights.
The fort had a garrison of about 500
regular United States troops. The stronghold included a strong
earthwork, a powder magazine and barracks. It served as the United
States port of entry on the Mississippi river, and export-import duties
were collected there until the purchase of the Louisiana Territory in
1803 shifted this work to New Orleans.
Fort Adams was the setting for Edward
E. Hale's famous story, "The Man Without a Country."
Meriwether Lewis, of the famed Lewis-Clark expedition, lived for a time
at Fort Adams before leaving for Washington, D. C., to be-come private
secretary to President Thomas Jefferson.
The importance of Fort Adams in 1803
is reflected in a letter written that year to William C. C. Claiborne,
governor of the Territory of Mississippi, by General James Wilkinson,
its commanding officer, for whom Wilkinson county
"I hold this point to be the door
to our whole western country. And while we keep it barred, we shall be
able to secure and control the interior - a consideration paramount to
all others and which would justify the abandonment of every inferior
After American acquisition of
Louisiana through the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish threat
disappeared, and Fort Adams was abandoned. The little town nearby, which
had also taken on the name Fort Adams, remained. But during the War
Between the States, a federal boat, the "Chilicothe," was
stationed at the foot of the hill so long that the drift of the river
around the boat caused the channel of the river to change more than a
mile from the old fort site.