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In 1824, President James Monroe invited the last surviving General from the Revolutionary War, the French-born Marquis de Lafayette, to return the United States to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Revolution. Among the 24 states Lafayette visited in over 12 months was Alabama. He spent nine days traveling from the Chattahoochee River, through the Creek Indian Nation along the Federal Road—arguably the first Interstate highway—to Montgomery, then down the Alabama River via the new, fast transportation, the steamboat, to tropical, and formerly French, Mobile, and Gulf Coast forts at Mobile Point.
The Bicentennial of Lafayette's Grand Tour is fast approaching! If after 200 years Lafayette came back and traveled the route again, what would he see? What would be different? What would be the same?
And how would you travel the route today?
Nine Days Traveling is your guide
book to Lafayette’s Grand Tour of Alabama, with dozens of maps,
including Lafayette walking tour maps for Fort Mitchell, Montgomery, Old
Cahaba, Claiborne, and Mobile, more than 50 historical sites, 37 of
which are directly related to Lafayette, visible Federal Road traces in
Russell, Macon and Montgomery Counties, and over ninety photographs! Revisit 1825...today!
||Lafayette crosses the Chattahoochee River from
today's Fort Benning to Fort Mitchell. He is greeted by both Creek
Indians and Alabama militia and politicians. After speeches and
watching the Creeks play a vicious lacrosse-like game, he sets off down
the Federal Road just a few miles and stops for the night at Crabtree's
Tavern, at the junction of the Big and Little Uchee Creeks.
||Spends the day traveling with his escorts down
the Federal Road, more or less following Russell County's CR 137, then
Carden Road, CR 22, through forests to Boromville Road into Macon County
past Fort Bainbridge. Deciding not to stay at Lewis' Tavern as planned
Lafayette instead follows today's Upper Boromville Road and CR 10 to
Warrior Stand where he spent the night at Creek chief Big Warrior's
Stand. Unfortunately Big Warrior himself had died three weeks
||Much of Lafayette's travels today are through the
Persimmon and Calebee Creek swamps rarely following roads existing
today, though a piece of his Federal Road exists as Persimmon Creek Road
south of Tuskegee. Near the end of his day he again declines to
stay at an expected stop, William Walker's Tavern at Polecat Springs,
today along US 80 near CR 7, and instead heads along a (today!) paved
section of the Federal Road ending up across Line Creek in Montgomery
County at Lucas' Tavern (the actual building existing today in
Montgomery city in Old Alabama Town).
||More or less following today's US 80 and I-85 to
Atlanta Highway, Lafayette is paraded into Montgomery for two days of
celebration. This first day finds him first greeted at the foot of
Goat Hill, today the hill crown by the state Capitol. After
speeches he is escorted to Edmondson's Houses where he will stay,
attends church at the no-longer-existing courthouse where today's
fountain sits, and spends the rest of the day conversing with people at
Edmondson's, in the first block of Commerce Street.
||In early evening, Lafayette is escorted to
Freeny's Tavern, at Tallapoosa and Commerce, for his welcoming
ball. Around 11, he leaves for an hour of refreshment at Intendent
(sort of the Mayor) John Gindrat's home on Commerce before heading to
his steamboat--a new-fangled, high-speed technology!--one of three,
taking him down the Alabama River to Mobile, at the Wharf. It
leaves at midnight.
||Lafayette makes a brief stop at Selma, the
steamboat landing site still existing as a gap in the bluff behind the
St. James Hotel. Then, with cannons booming along the way
announcing his passage, he boats downriver to Cahawba (the then-spelling
of the capital city of the state). Lafayette disembarks at the
sloping-to-the-river North 2nd Street. Greeted under an arch at
the top of the slope where it meets Vine Street, he then heads to a
second Arch at Capitol Avenue and into the Capitol itself. He
later enjoys a lunch across the street at White's Hotel, visits the
public in the large open Capitol Reserve area, visits the local Masons
somewhere, and then heads back to his boat at the end of the day. The
various roadways still exist today, but none of the structures.
||Midway down the river Lafayette makes a short
stop at the then-important river port of Claiborne. The city is atop a
tall bluff so he lands two miles downriver at a ferry point, takes a
road (still existing in the woods!) to a courthouse/Masonic Hall, eats
at a prominent citizens home, then returns to the boat. The
Masonic Hall was moved decades later two miles down the road to the
small town of Perdue Hill after Claiborne fell into post-War ruin, and
still exists today.
||Lafayette arrives in Alabama's largest city,
Mobile, for an expected days of celebration, but he is exhausted and
only agrees to three events that one afternoon. He leaves his
steamboat, the Henderson, at the Government Street Wharf, then ending at
today's parking lot entrance, not the River itself, and walks uphill to
the then-top of the bluff at Royal Street to be greeted. The city
crowd is met there, mostly in the Street and nearby today's Mardi Gras
Park. Politicos meet with him in the Old Spanish Government House,
at the corner of today's Government and St. Emanuel. Lunch is a
few block walk away, at Dumouy's House on Royal and St. Michael.
He decides to visit the local Masonic Hall, then located on Dauphin
Street facing the other end of St. Emanuel. By six o'clock he is back at
the Wharf sleeping on his new boat, the Natchez, which is to take him
to New Orleans.
||But first, Lafayette has decided he wants to meet
a French military colleague who is rebuilding Fort Bowyer into what
will become Fort Morgan, on Mobile Point where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf
of Mexico, across from Dauphin Island. One does not say No to
America's Guest, so early this morning, the Natchez leaves Mobile with
cannons booming and Lafayette waving to the city, the boat following the
Bay's western shoreline until it crosses the channel to Mobile
Point. It ties up at Engineer's Wharf. There are no official
activities or speeches. Lafayette and his party go onshore and
meet with the military builders for a tour for a few hours and then say
farewell to the Alabama folks. A short conference on route takes
place offshore before they head south of Dauphin Island, almost
disastrously into a storm, and to New Orleans.
A piece of Lafayette-traveled Federal Road
Nine Days Traveling
Table of Contents
Read chapters 1-3 free!
Before Lafayette Arrived Here;
(fast, low resolution, 1.83M)
Nine Days Traveling
Author: Lawrence Krumenaker
Size: 150 pages; 8.5 x 11 inches
(c) 2020 Hermograph Press LLC, Opelika, AL
Paperback, full color, perfect binding.
Price: (US)$26.95 (+S/H and appropriate sales tax)
Lucas' Tavern, one of two buildings that Lafayette went to that still survive today.
Masonic Lodge, in Perdue Hill, formerly in Claiborne. Lafayette gave a speech here.
|Reviews and Testimonials:
Don Noble, Tuscaloosa News, June 6, 2021
'Lawrence Krumenaker, in "Nine Days Traveling",.....has meticulously traced every step Lafayette took and has written out a plan whereby we can follow the same route, but by car,.....Now that we are able to move freely about, following Lafayette around Alabama might be great fun for the historically minded." Also on Don Noble's Book Reviews on Alabama Public Radio June 15, 2021.
In Orrville, AL (central AL south of Selma):
Visitor Center, Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, 9518 Cahaba Road.
In Tuskegee, AL, buy our book at:
The Tuskegee Museum and Visitor Center, 104 S. Elm.
In Fort Mitchell, AL (near Columbus, GA/Phenix City, AL), the book is for sale at:
Fort Mitchell National Historic Site Visitor Center, 561 AL-165.
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