Ft. Adams

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Historical Maps of Ft Adams below.

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The Spanish had just withdrawn from the Natchez territory, and the United States needed a frontier post on the river just across from the land still claimed by Spain.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 was named.

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 United States.

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 Trace.

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 was named.

"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 object."

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.




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