The dangers on the road to Natchez are really serious, & calling for attention. mere stationary posts, as proposed by Govr. Roan, appear to me inefficient. either a small body of cavalry, or mounted infantry, to be perpetually scouring the road and hovering about the caravans of passengers, as a marechaussée [local guard], seems worthy of consideration, as also the employing Indians in the same way, or offering rewards for apprehension & conviction of offenders.
To Gen. Henry Dearborne, July 12, 1803
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The primary role of government is the protection of its citizens.
The Natchez Trace was originally an Indian trail some 450 miles long, from Natchez, MS, on the Mississippi River, to Nashville, TN. Now a road, or at least a widened trail, it was a primary route for travel through what was then the southwest. In recent months, bandits along the road had assaulted and robbed travelers, including a postal carrier, and had murdered one person.
The President commissioned his Secretary of War to take whatever steps were necessary to make the route safe. His suggestions included:
1. An armed, roving military force
2. Local guards to escort caravans
3. Rewards for apprehending criminals
4. Enlisting natives in its defense
Within six days, Dearborne acted on a number of these recommendations.