Like many newly established territories and states in the early nineteenth century, the Mississippi Territory—encompassing most of present-day Mississippi and Alabama—was a product of a surging spirit of national expansion, white settlement, and Native American removal. After the Revolutionary War, the new nation had been granted territorial rights to the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. British authorities had made provisions for their independent Indian allies living west of the Appalachian Mountains before acknowledging American independence. After the British departed, however, those claims began to fuel racial tensions as whites ignored the treaties signed by their government and settled anyway.
Restless Americans were pulled westward by dreams of economic profit and greater autonomy on the frontier or pushed by shrinking opportunities in the coastal regions. After hard-won negotiations with the Creeks, Thomas Jefferson had authorized a federal road from Athens, Georgia, to Mobile, Alabama, in 1805, and though it was little more than a horse path by 1810, American settlers were pouring into the burgeoning territory. A hard life of clearing trees, cultivating crops, and surviving perpetual border conflicts awaited those brave or foolish enough to attempt the journey.
But come, they did, in swelling numbers—and most without legal title to Alabama lands. On February 7, 1810, David Holmes, governor of the Mississippi Territory, sent a frantic letter to U.S. Secretary of War, William Eustis, saying, “From good information I learn that from four to five thousand white persons are settled within the Indian Boundary and that they are determined to remain there in opposition to the law of the United States until removed by force.” Governor Holmes spent the early months of 1810 buying time with the few troops he had and assuring the Indian tribes that the settlers would be removed from Indian lands in the spring or early summer. But along the road from Georgia, the wagons kept coming.