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Bill Thayer

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Appendix D

This webpage reproduces part of an item in the
Tennessee Historical Magazine

published by the
Tennessee Historical Society

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Appendix F
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Bedford's Tour (1807)

Vol. V
Appendix E. — Fort Pickering.

Manuel Gayosoº de Lemos, commandant of the Natchez District in the spring of 1795, ascended the Mississippi and occupied a place opposite to the Chicasawº Bluffs with a post which he called Fort Esperanza (Hopefield). After secretly providing all necessary material for the building of block-house and stockade he suddenly on May 30th moved across the river to the site of the Bluffs, where in twenty-four hours he erected a post to which he gave the name of Fort Fernando.

On the signing of the Treaty between the United States and Spain October 27th, 1795, arrangements were soon made for the official marking of the boundary decided on between Spain and the United States. For this purpose Andrew Ellicott, an experienced engineer with twenty-five woodsmen and a small military escort commanded by Lieutenant McCleary, left Pittsburg to descend to the Mississippi country. Stopping at Fort Washington (Cincinnati) and Fort Massac en route, they arrived at the mouth of the Ohio on November 18th, 1796. Here an accurate survey of the locality was made, when they dropped down the Mississippi to New Madrid, arriving there December 2d. Thence they descended to the Chicasaw Bluffs — Fort San Fernando — where he remained from December 8th to the 10th, proceeding from here to Fort Nogales and later to Natchez.

Ellicott's party did not go to occupy the new domain in the name of the United States army; it was a civil, not a military errand.

The first military detachment to go on Spanish soil was under Lieutenant Pope. He, in the fall of 1796, was sent by Gen. Wayne to Fort Massac with orders to remain there until further command was given him. However, hearing after the descent of Ellicott that the flag of the U. S. had been raised at Natchez and that the company of surveyors were in eminent danger of attack, Lieutenant Pope set out to the relief of the situation, not waiting for orders, and arrived at Fort Nogales April 15th, 1797, later joining Ellicott at Natchez.

It is to be noted that even this military movement was not official as to occupation of Spanish soil, for it was not until Capt. Isaac Guion of the Third Regiment, was ordered by Gen. Wilkinson (who had succeeded to the command of the U. S. Army on the death of Wayne in December, 1796) on May 20th, 1797, to prepare to descend to the Mississippi, that the first real military occupancy was provided for, and even this was conditional, and to be attempted in a most cautious manner. Guion's orders were to proceed from Fort Washington on May 26th down the Ohio to Fort Massac, where the commandant, Captain Zebulunº Pike, would provide him a detachment, etc., with which he should descend South, provided he was not hindered by the Spanish. If impediment was put in his way, he was to officially offer protest, and return to Fort Massac, or if his judgment prompted such a measure, to occupy some location on the American side of the Mississippi. If no objection was made to his descent, Guion was authorized to proceed to the mouth of Wolf River, just above the Chickasawº Bluffs, where certain presents of supplies, etc., destined for the Chicasaw Indians were to be distributed. This done, further descent was to be made to Fort Nogales, which was to be occupied, or in case it had not been evacuated by the Spanish, due demand for same should be made.

 p124  On reaching New Madrid, the Spanish commandant objected to his proceeding further down the river, but on promise by Guion that he would not go further than the Chicasaw Bluffs, he agreed for him to go on, in the meantime each was to hear from their superiors.

Accordingly Guion on July 20th occupied the Chicasaw Bluffs, made distribution of the gifts to the Indians and built a fort to which he gave the name of Fort Adams, in honor of John Adams, the second President. The Spanish having before withdrawn and dismantled Fort San Fernando.

Later, in the summer of 1798, General Wilkinson himself came South and occupying Natchez, built below a short distance, at Loftus Heights, a fort to which he gave the name Fort Adams.

After this the name of the fort at Chicasaw Bluffs was changed to Fort Pickering, in honor of the Secretary of State. Just exactly when this took place is not to be gathered from the data at hand. However, a letter from Gov. Claiborne of Mississippi Territory, dated shortly after his arrival at Natchez, viz.: November 23rd, 1801, says:

"On the eastern or American bank of the Mississippi, the only improvement until I reached the Walnut Hills (Fort Nogales) was our Fort Pickering at the Bluffs below Wolf River."

Mention is made by Cuming of a fort built on the site of the Chicasaw Bluffs, to which the name of Fort Pike was given. He says:

"Foy was the first settler fourteen years ago (1794). . . . Soon after Foy's settlement, and very near it, the Americans erected a small stockade fort, named Fort Pike, from the major commandant. After the purchase of Louisiana by the United States from the Spaniards, Fort Pickering was erected two miles lower down at the end of the bluffs and Fort Pike was abandoned" (page 292).

Evidently there is some confusion in this data.

In the "History of Memphis and Shelby County," by J. M. Keating, 1888, it is said (page 202):

"In 1805 he (Gen. Wilkinson) was ordered to relieve General Pike, there since 1803, in command of the Chicasaw Bluffs. Upon his arrival there his first work was to dismantle Fort Pike (formerly Fort Adams) and move the troops three miles further south to the vicinity of the mound on which the old chief Chisca lived when De Soto first came to the Mississippi River."

Here there is without doubt further confusion. That Fort Pickering had been in existence since 1801 is shown in the reference given in the above letter of Gov. Claiborne. Just when any fort on the Bluffs bore the name of Fort Pike is difficult to determine. Cuming says it was named "from the commandant," and it was not until 1803 that we find Pike stationed here.

Further, it has been said that this "Pike" was the afterwards well-known General Zebulun Montgomery Pike for whom "Pike's Peak" was named. We know that Capt. Zebulun Pike, the father of Gen. Zebulun M. Pike, was the officer in charge at Fort Massac when Capt. Guion descended to build the first Fort Adams on the Bluff. At the same time it is possible his youthful son (born in 1779) was a member of his garrison there, and it is further possible that it was this youthful son who was in charge at Fort Pickering in 1803‑5. Yet there is room for grave confusion here. It should be remembered that the older Zebulun Pike served in the army till 1812, and lived many  p125 years longer, dying at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, in 1843; while the brilliant son, known as General Zebulun M. Pike, who explored the source of the Mississippi and the regions of the far West, was killed by the explosion of the magazine at York, Canada, April 27, 1813.

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