Womack, Annette Carpenter. The Men Who Built Fort Claiborne in Natchitoches, Louisiana: Captain Edward D. Turner’s Company of the 2nd Regiment of the United States Army.

Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2003. 299p., softcover. $37.00 + $4.00 s/h. ISBN 1-58549-815-7.

Edward Turner was born about 1768, probably near Boston, a descendant of early settlers in the Plymouth Colony. In 1791, he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Army, serving thereafter in New England as a paymaster and quartermaster, and being promoted to captain in 1794, with supply duties on the frontier.

Two years later, he was in command of a company at Ft. Fayette (near Pittsburgh), accompanied by a new wife. In 1802, he found himself at Nashville, then Ft. Pickering, near the present site of Memphis. By the following year, he was at Ft. Adams, Mississippi Territory, where he was summoned by Gov. William C. C. Claiborne and told he was to be in charge of supplying the federal troops being moved to New Orleans following the Louisiana Purchase. Claiborne continued the colonial Louisiana practice of having local military commanders serve also as civil administrators, so when Turner was sent in April 1804 to establish an American military presence at the town of Natchitoches, he was to serve also as the local head of government. When he was replaced a year later, Turner resigned his commission and was immediately appointed Judge of Natchitoches County. He was later appointed the first postmaster as well, organized a local militia, and carried out a census, in addition to acquiring and expanding plantation holdings in the area. His promising career in the new state was cut short in 1811, however, by one of the periodic waves of malaria and he and his wife both were buried within forty-eight hours. This biographical research was developed by Richard M. Lytle in the process of writing a master’s thesis, but the bulk of this volume consists of the unusually legible military records he uncovered at the National Archives and which were transcribed by Womack, a well-known Louisiana genealogist with a deserved reputation for producing careful work. This includes muster rolls and payrolls of Turner’s Company for the period 1802–1805. Some of the men listed were part of the unit at Nashville and at Ft. Adams, while others joined in New Orleans and in Natchitoches itself. Some of them also were discharged there and may well have descendants in northwest Louisiana. Altogether, this is a very well done example of how to combine national military history, local history, biography, and genealogy – and it’s well worth reading even if you don’t have Louisiana ancestry.

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Published in: on 5 June 2011 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

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