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There are a number of documents that describe the process of moving from arguing for a need for a fort to Joseph Calvit’s selling the land on which the fort was eventually built.



The Governor having received information (upon Oath) of a Robbery having been committed on the Mississippi, addressed the following Letter to the Governor General of Louisiana.—


Natchez February 10th—1802.—

To the Governor General of Louisiana.



From the friendly understanding, which happily exists between the United States, and his Catholic Majesty, I take the liberty to acquaint your Excellency, with a daring Robbery which has lately been committed upon some Citizens of the United States, who were descending the River Mississippi on their passage to this Town.—


The particulars of this transaction, are detailed in the papers enclosed, and to which, I beg leave to refer your Excellency;—It is indeed uncertain, whether the persons who were concerned in this act of Piracy, were Spanish subjects, but it seems, from the statements made, that the offence was committed more immediately within the Jurisdiction of Spain.—


I have (by Letter) requested the officer commanding the United States Troops, at the lower Chickasaw Bluffs, to make proper exertion to arrest those Pirates and Felons, if to be found upon the American soil, and I doubt not but your excellency will on this occasion, issue the necessary orders to your officers on the Mississippi & Arkensaw Rivers.—


The safety of the Western Commerce, is greatly interesting to both the United States and Spain, and if prompt and decisive Efforts should not be made to detect, & punish those recent offenders, similar outrages upon the Mississippi, will probably ensue, and much injury may be done to the Citizens of the one and Subjects of the other Nation.—


I pray your Excellency, to be assured of my perfect respect, & consideration—


William C. C. Claiborne


His Excellency

The Governor General of Louisiana
At New Orleans.—[1]




To Gov. Claiborne from Henry Dearborn

A Copy of a Letter from the Secretary of War to the Governor.

War Department


April 8th. 1802



From your representation of the state of Society at Natchez, and of the peculiar situation of the Territory, the President of the United States is of the opinion that a Company of regular Troops may be spared from Fort Adams to be disposed of in the manner you have suggested:—A Block House and quarters for the Troops will also be necessary at some healthy and convenient place.—While the President is desirous of doing for our Citizens whatever is necessary for their safety and prosperity, he is anxious to restrain all expences within just & reasonable limits, It is therefore expected that the Scite, materials and labor for these works will be furnished at such moderate and reasonable prices as a private Citizen would pay, these views of economy being previously secured, a company will be ordered from fort Adams to assist in erecting the Buildings, together with such artificers as can be spared from that Post.—High Commanding ground in the vicinity of good water, at one or two miles distance from the river should be selected for the Post and in the vicinity of the principal Population, perhaps it may be proper to place the Post at a greater distance from the River, say three or four miles, the healthfulness of the Scite should be considered an important object;—the Block House should be about thirty feet Square and two stories high, the Timber for the walls should be twelve inches thick and of the most durable kind that can be conveniently procured;—the upper Story should be made convenient for the residence of the officers, except such parts as will be necessary for depositing the Arms &c; the lower Story may serve as a Store for the Garrison;—the Huts or Barracks should be made sufficiently large to afford suitable accommodation to the non-commissioned officers and Soldiers:—If suitable Timber can be conveniently obtained for a Stockade, it would be an object worth your attention as a retreat in case of danger for Women and Children,—one hundred and forty feet square would perhaps be sufficiently extensive, that however can be better Judged of on the Spot.—


It is considered that it may be proper and beneficial to consult with the Commanding Officer of Fort Adams relative to the Scite for the above works.—


I have the honor to be

With esteem your mo:
obt: Servt:

(Signed) H. Dearborn


His Excellency

William C. C. Claiborne[2]




To Henry Dearborn, Secretary of War.

M. T. Near Natchez May 10th. 1802.—



I received by the last norther Mail, your Letter of the 10th of March, advising me that the President had directed five hundred Rifle Guns to be forwarded from Philidelphia to New Orleans, and to be delivered to my order, and also three hundred Muskets to be furnished me from Fort Adams on my receipting for them;—the whole to be sold under my directions to the Militia of this Territory,— This arrangement, has afforded me great satisfaction,— it certainly will add to the security of the District, and will I flatter myself, render our Militia respectable.— I shall take care that these arms be alone disposed of to Persons actually Enrolled in the Militia and I shall take every precaution, to prevent their becoming an object of speculation;— to enable me the better to do so, I shall, in Person superintend the sales, and for this purpose, I have it in contemplation to deposit the Arms in a small Magazine, which will be erected, in about four hundred yards of my own Dwelling.—


The day after the receipt of your communication, I addressed to Captain Shaumburgh, commanding the United States Troops in this quarter a Letter, of which the Paper No.l. is a Copy, and I received on yesterday, his answer No: 2. and to which correspondence, I— beg leave here to refer you.— I did not suppose it safe, to have several stand of arms, deposited any where in this Territory, without a Guard of protection, and the number of Men I requested of Captain Shaumburgh will not I presume be deemed too many;— in erecting the Magazine & Block-House, the utmost economy shall be observed, and the work formed on a small scale;— the use of the Land on which the Buildings will be erected, shall be procured gratis, also all necessary Timber, or if it should be deemed advisable, I shall procure for the United States (from a Mr. Foster the present owner of the Land) upon very moderate terms, a Title to the Ground.—


The President, in submitting to my discretion, the terms upon which the Rifles and Muskets are to be sold, and also the mode of payment, has given me a high proof of his confidence, & I shall endeavour to discharge that confidence with fidelity;— but I must confess, it would have been more pleasing to me, if the conditions of the sale had been prescribed; I should then, have had nothing to do, but to comply with my Instructions;—but at present, I feel a responsibility, which will attach to my mind no small share of anxiety.—


With great respect & Esteem,

I am Sir,

Your Hble. Servt:

(Signed) William C. C. Claiborne[3]




To Henry Dearborn

Town of Washington, May 24th. 1802



I am honored with the receipt of your Letter of the 8th of April.—'

The stationing of a Company of regular Troops at some Position central to the population of the Territory, and the erecting of some works of Defence, to be appropriated also, as a place of Deposit for Arms &c. are in my opinion, prudent measures;— I flatter myself that no event will arise, to disturb the peace of this distant settlement, but really in its present defenceless and exposed situation, I should think myself wanting in duty, had I not suggested the propriety of placing the means of defence, within the reach of the People.—


The Scite, materials and labour for the Fort &c, I will take care to obtain on such "reasonable and moderate terms, as a private Citizen would pay," and so far as may depend upon my agency, I shall endeavour;on all occasions, to restrain the expences of Government in this quarter, within just and economical limits.— It seems to me that the cost of the works contemplated, will be far from being considerable;— A Company of Men, aided by a few artificers from Fort Adams, would be enabled in a short time, to erect the necessary Buildings and I presume a few acres of Land, and the necessary materials, such as Timber, Iron &c, (including the expence of hauling) may be procured for a sum less that, six hundred Dollars.—


I shall advise with the Commanding Officer at Fort Adams, as to the proper Scite for these works;— and will write further upon the subject by the next Mail:— I shall however, cause a small Block House about fourteen feet square, to be raised, to deposit temporarily the arms, that are to be sold to the Militia; It will be situated about four hundred yards from my House, and within the same distance of the Town of Washington, the present seat (of) Government for the Territory.— I have procured the Timber for the Block-House, and also the use of one acre of ground gratis;— But should the Secretary of War wish the ground to be conveyed to the United States, the owner has agreed to do so, for thirty five dollars.—


The arrangement of the Militia in this Territory, receives a great share of my attention;— It is a troublesome undertaking but I shall persevere, until I effect a complete organization.—


I have not yet heard of the arrival of the Rifles at Orleans;— It is my intention, to dispose of the Muskets & Rifles for cash, and upon such Terms, as will remunerate the United States, the original Cost. —


With great Respect and sincere Esteem
I am Sir,

Your HbleServt
(Signed) William C. C. Claiborne[4]




To Henry Dearborn.

Near Natchez, June 29th— 1802


I have received your letter of the 24th— ultimo covering an invoice of certain Indian goods, which were Shiped from Philadelphia in October 1800.  These goods are now at Natchez; and shall be forwarded with care to the Chactaws, as soon as I learn of Mr. Dinsmoor's arrival in the nation.


It is expedient to carry into effect at an early period, the third article of the late Treaty between the U. States and the Choctaw nation, which provides that the line of demarcation which was formerly established between the officers of his Britanic majesty, and the Chactaw nation, which runs in a parallel direction with the Mississippi river, and eastward thereof shall be retraced and plainly marked; The particular course of this line in its whole extent is little known, and the interest of both parties, requires that it should be ascertained with certainty.


On the 14th— of this month, a man of the name of Bracken who was removing with his family to Natchez, was robbed of several horses & other property by a party of Indians (supposed to be Choctaws) on the ' road leading from Tennessee to this Territory: On this morning I dispatched Bracken to the nation with a letter to the agent, (of which the enclosed is a copy) and I flatter myself that the stolen property will be returned, & the offenders punished.


I have not yet been enabled, in conjunction with the commanding officer of Fort Adams to select a scite for the erection of a Garrison, central to the population of this Territory.  The new organization of the Troops has for a few weeks past, confined the commanding officer of Fort Adams at that post: In the course of next week, however, I expect Captn. Sparks, (the officer commanding) at my house; and we will then proceed to select a scite, and to make other necessary arrangements, of which you shall be immediately notified.


In a letter from Mr. Hulings of New Orleans, dated on the 12th. Inst: I am informed of the arrival at that port of the five hundred rifles, which you advised me of in your letter of the 10th. of march last: I shall take measures for the transportation of these guns to Natchez and will dispose of them in conformity to the instructions I have heretofore received


With great respect, & sincere esteem,

I am


Yr. mo: ob: Hb: servt.

William C. C. Claiborne.

The Honble:

H. Dearborn, Secretary at War.[5]




To Henry Dearborn.

Near Natchez, July 20th—1802.



I have received your letter of the 7th Ult. and will endeavor faithfully to execute the duties you require of me.


I am persuaded that General Wilkinson will meet with no difficulty in making with the Choctaw nation, the arrangement you desire.  The Choctaws are an humble people and very much disposed to accommodate.


When General Wilkinson may be in readiness to proceed on the line, I shall select a suitable person to assist him as a surveyor: and will provide chainmen, Packhorses, provisions & stores.  It will be my care to obtain the necessary assistance and supplies on the most moderate terms; but the price of labor, and of everything else, is so enormous in this District, that I fear you will suppose the terms extravagant.


I cannot at present give a decided opinion as to the most elligible spot for the establishing "a trading house for the accommodation of the Choctaws"; but I am inclined to think that some convenient Scite on the Tombigbee river near the mouth of the Alabama would best answer the views of Government; But upon this point I will consult our agent in the nation, and other characters, and will write you more fully in a few weeks.


Since my last letter to you, I have been visited by Captn. Sparks, the commanding officer at Fort Adams; and we have selected an elligible spot for the erection of a Garrison.  It is situated on high commanding ground; in a healthy part of the District, possessing the advantage of excellent spring water, near the center of our population; and not more than six miles from the Mississippi river.  But for more particular information I refer you to the enclosed draft and description of the scite.— Mr. Calvit, the gentleman who owns the ground selected for the Garrison, is at present from home, so that I cannot now learn upon what terms a purchase of a few acres of land might be effected: but I will venture an opinion that he will not ask more than fifteen dollars per acre for 10 or 12 acres; and that for a small consideration he would permit the timber necessary for the works to be cut from his adjacent land:  But on Mr. Calvit's return, which will be in a few days, I will know his terms with certainty and will advise you thereof.


A Lieutenant and thirty six men are at this time stationed near this town, & engaged in erecting a small blockhouse for the reception of the arms intended to be sold to the militia.   At my request, Captn. Sparks detached, a few days since a party of men from Fort Adams to New Orleans for a part of the rifles which had arrived at that port, and the balance Mr. Hulings is requested to forward to me by the first safe conveyance.


The prospect of organizing the militia is flattering: the different Counties are laid off into regiments, battalions and company Districts: the officers are all appointed, and the men enrolled: a great degree of rivalry exists between the different corps: and I flatter myself that in a little time I shall have a well-armed and well disciplined militia.


I received, the other day, sixty stand of muskets from Fort Adams.  They have been heretofore used, and are not in good order: I propose therefore to sell them at the moderate sum of eight dollars apiece.  At this reduced price I expect the militia will speedily purchase them.  But I find that the people here are much prejudiced against muskets, and are unwilling to depend upon any other arms but rifles.


About twelve days ago the Choctaw annuity for the year 1801, together with the goods which I had lately received by the way of New Orleans, were forwarded by water from Natchez to Fort Stothart on the Mobile under the care of one Lefluar, a trader in the nation.  This man was sent to Natchez for the Choctaw annuity by John McKee, the present acting agent among the Choctaws, who recommended him to me as an honest and industrious, prudent man.


I requested the commanding officer at fort Stothart to receive the goods & to deliver them to the order of the agent for the United States in the Choctaw nation.


I have the honor to be


with the greatest respect

yr. Hble: Servt.

William C. C. Claiborne[6]


The Honble.

H. Dearborn,

Secretary at War




To Henry Dearborn.

Copy of a letter from the Governor to the Secretary of War.

Near Natchez, August 6th— 1802.



By the last mail I forwarded a draft of the scite selected by the commanding officer at Fort Adams & myself for the erection of a new Garrison: I now have the honor to enclose you the copy of a letter from a Mr. Calvit to me, which will acquaint you of the terms upon which ten acres of land, including the scite, may be purchased.


The consideration per acre is not more than lands in the neighbourhood will generally command; and when we take into view the peculiar advantages of the ground, I am of opinion that Mr. Calvit's terms are quite reasonable.


As the works progress the greatest economy shall be observed; and no unnecessary expense incurred: and I am now well assured that the aggregate cost will fall short of the sum I heretofore stated to you.


If a company should be ordered from Fort Adams to assist in erecting, and to occupy this Garrison, may I be permitted to ask of you the favor to direct, that Captn. Sparks be detached on this command!  Of his integrity, prudence, & patriotism, I have the highest opinion; & believe him well calculated to take charge of a seperate post.


The rifles from Orleans have not yet reached me; but I expect them every day. A small Block-house for the reception of these arms is nearly completed.


In the course of this week I have reviewed the militia of Jefferson & Adams Counties; and can assure you that the prospect of having a well-trained & a well-armed militia, exceeds my most sanguine expectations.— In the course of the ensuing week I shall review the militia of two other counties; and by the next mail I hope shall be enabled to make you a return of the effective force of this Territory.


With great respect, & sincere esteem

I have the honor to be

yr: very Hble: servt.

W. C. C. Claiborne[7]




To Gov. Claiborne, from Henry Dearborn.

War Department

September 10th 1802



Your favors of the 6th: ult: with the enclosures have been duly received; from the best information I have been able to obtain, I agree with you in opinion as to the more suitable place for our trading house with the Indians, will it not be in your power, to sound the Governor of the Floridas on the subject of our navigating that river, until more permanent arrangements between the two Governments can be made?  It may not be proper to intimate that we have any doubts of the right of Navigating any of the Rivers, which pass out of the United States and through the Spanish Territory, but perhaps you may ascertain their present disposition, by intimating that you presume there will be no objection to our furnishing the Posts in the Mobile and our Indian Agency ati Tombigbee thro' their Territory:— If it should be determined to establish a trading house on the Tombigbee, It will be necessary to give directions to our Consul at Orleans, to, retain the goods there until the place for the establishment shall be decided on; You will please to consult General Wilkinson on the subject, to whom I have written relative to the proper Site for a trading house &c—


It will be proper at all events to have the goods kept at New Orleans, until a decision is made by you and General Wilkinson, you will be pleased, Sir, to take measures accordingly—


You will also accept the Offer of Mr. Calvit relative to the land for a Post.


The progress made in organising the Militia, is really a very happy circumstance, and will undoubtedly have a vary favorable effect on the administration of your Government.


General Wilkinson will decide on the Captn. who shall Command, the Post at Natchez; I have no doubt he will consent that Captn: Sparks may be stationed at that place agreeable to your request.


I am &c.

(signed) H. Dearborn[8]




To James Wilkinson.

Washington Novem: 16: 1802



In a letter from the Secretary of War, dated on the 10th: of September last, I am directed to advise with you, as to the Site, for establishing a Factory, for the accommodation of the Choctaw Indians:— The Factor is now at Natchez, and the goods are arrived and deposited at Fort Adams:— It is therefore advisable that the Site, should be speedily determined upon and the business commenced, or the factor will loose the advantage of the fall hunt:— I had named to the Secretary a position some where on the Mobile, as the most eligible, and he seems to incline to that opinion; but the late proceedings at Orleans, rendering it uncertain, how far the trade of the Mobile and Mississippi, may be embarrassed, induce me to think it unsafe for the present to venture the establishment in that quarter. But on this subject I wish much for a personal interview with you, and if you cannot conveniently come to Natchez, I will meet you at the Grind Stone ford, at any time you will name.


A new post (by direction of the President) is to be established, near to the town of Washington1 and a Company stationed thereat.


The Site is selected, and contracted for, and the Secretary at War, informs me that ''General Wilkinson will decide on the Captain who shall command.''  May I ask the favor of you to detach Captain Sparks for this command :— you can anticipate my reasons.

My great friendship for Sparks, and the great addition which his small family, would be to our little society, lead me to make this request.


The last Northern Mail brings nothing very interesting :— The french troops are daily expected at Orleans:


General Victor, is the Commander, he brings with him, only three thousand men, but eight thousand are to follow in a few months.


The enclosed letter from the Secretary of War, to you, is the only one, which has reached me.


Mrs.. Claiborne unites with me in best wishes for your health and Happiness.


Yours &c

(signed) Wm.. C. C. Claiborne



A part of Captain Spark's company is now stationed near to Washington:— I have suggested to the Commanding Officer at Fort Adams, that it might be proper that this detachment should occupy the ground selected for the post and commence the work for the Garrison

(signed) W. C. C. C.[9]




To Henry Dearborn

Mississippi Territory

Town of Washington

January 19th. . 1803



I this day bargained with Mr. Joseph Calvit, for forty one acres of land which includes the Site which had been selected for the new post; an ample supply of timber for the contemplated buildings and of firewood for the use of the Garrison for several years.


The price Pr. acre, is fifteen dollars, which I fear, will appear to you extravagant,—but I do assure you Sir, that from the singular advantages which this little tract possesses—Its contiguity to the town of Washington, the healthiness of the situation: —the great elegance of the Site, fertility of the soil, the plentiful supply of good Spring Water, the consideration Pr. acre is far from being high:—Indeed I could at private sale, sell the premises for a greater sum, than I have contrated to give.


The expense of the contemplated establishment (exclusive of the land) will be very inconsiderable.  The hauling of the timber may be done by a public team, and the necessary sawing hewing &ca: and putting up the block houses will be performed by the soldiers.


General Wilkinson has ordered a company from Fort Adams, to occupy the new post, and to erect the block houses, which when completed, I must again recommend as a proper place to deposit the spare arms and Military stores, which are now at Fort Adams.  Fort Adams is a barrier post on our extreme frontier, and consequently, not a fit position for a large Military deposit, but the new Garrison is near the center of our population and could be resorted to by the great body of the people in the time of danger.


I shall send you by the next mail a plan of the survey of the Site, and I flatter myself, that the discretion I have exercised in relation to the quantity of land purchased will receive your approbation.


I am &c

Signed Wm— C. C. Claiborne[10]




To Henry Dearborn.

Near Natchez, February 15th. 1803.



Enclosed is a Map of forty three acres of land purchased for the new Garrison.  I have obtained a deed for the land and so soon as it is recorded in the proper office, I will forward to you, the Original Copy.


After the Surveyor had made an accurate calculation he found there was forty three acres included within the survey, two acres more than I named to you in my letter of the 19th. ulto.


To avoid the expense of purchasing timber for the contemplated buildings, and fuel for the use of the Garrison and to secure ground sufficient for convenient gardens, and to prevent the Citizens from erecting tippling houses immediately in the vicinity of the Fort, which invariably produces irregularities among the troops, I deemed it expedient to contract for the quantity of land above mentioned.


I am &ca

signed Wm. C. C. Claiborne[11]




To Henry Dearborn.

Town of Washington. March 2. 1803




I now enclose you a Draft of the Fort erecting near to this Town, which was presented me by Lieutenant Hopkins of the First Regiment.—


The work is commenced, & will be completed in conformity to the plan pointed out in your letter to me of the 8th- of April last.1


As Fort Dearborn (the name which has been given to the new Post) will frequently be visited by the Citizens, & the Officer commanding consequently subjected to increased Expence, I ask the liberty to suggest the propriety of allowing him double Rations.


I am &c

Wm- C, C, Claiborne—[12]

[1] Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books, 44-45.

[2] Ibid., 110-12.

[3] Ibid., 105-06.

[4] Ibid., 112-13.

[5] Ibid., 131-33.

[6] Ibid., 150-53.

[7] Ibid., 154-55.

[8] Ibid., 226-27.

[9] Ibid., 225-26.

[10] Ibid., 261-62.

[11] Ibid., 268-69.

[12] Ibid., 276.