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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: First 'Federal Road' goes from Washington to New Orleans
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is part of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.

Henry Southerland and Jerry Brown's "The Federal Road through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama" (1989) reveals that in 1806, Congress authorized President Thomas Jefferson to open a "plank road" to New Orleans.

Under the 1805 Treaty of Washington, the Creeks along the route were encouraged to provide "houses of entertainment (which) ... became stagecoach stops ... about
16 miles apart (or) an average day's (foot) travel."

In June 1810, Fort Stoddert's commanding officer Col. Richard Sparks was ordered to begin marking off military roads in the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana territories. The second scouting party marked off each mile of their journey by carving Roman numerals into trees.

In July 1811, Brig. Gen. Wade Hampton constructed three wagon roads through the Creek Nation, one being the "Federal Road." This road connected Fort Stoddert on the Mobile River to Fort Wilkinson near Milledgeville on the Oconee River. Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia at the time.

In A. Hodgson's "Letters from North America" (1824), the Federal Road was declared "tolerable for horses (but) impossible for wheels ... because of a perpetual undulation of the roadway."

Hodgson wrote, "Brush was to be cleared to a width of 4 feet ... (logs) laid across the creeks ... (the road width) not to exceed 16 feet ... (and)
8 feet ... cut close ... and smoothed for passengers."

Stretching 1,152 miles from Washington to New Orleans, the Federal Road was intended primarily for moving supply wagons, cannons and men on horse and foot.

Southerland's book "The Federal Road" (1990) revealed that "over this route passed ... (Frenchman and Revolutionary War hero) Marquis de Lafayette (with his grand entourage)."

In the Mississippi Territory, free males and all male slaves between the ages of 16 and 50 were required to work on at least one road for up to six days a year, using privately owned tools to make the repairs.

Gen. Q. A. Gilmore wrote in "A Practical Treatise on Roads, Streets, and Pavements" (1888) that before building the road, they considered "the amount of traffic over the road ... (and) the natural features of the county through which the road must pass."

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at



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