I remember the first time I visited Fort Toulouse. I was on a field trip with
my daughter and her eighth
grade class. I rode about 200 miles one way to the
site on a school bus filled with students excited to not be in school. Once we
got to Fort Toulouse, I found there were a number of other schools doing field
trips as well. Did I say there were a lot of kids there?
Anyway, I returned to the fort recently to see if I had missed anything because of the number of visitors during my initial trip. No kids this time. Actually, I found it more exciting when the kids were there. They were energetic, asking questions and ready to learn about the history of the fort. I on the other hand found myself just walking and looking. I did not know what questions to ask!
Fort Toulouse and Fort Jackson are two forts that shared the same site at the fork of the Coosa River and the Tallapoosa River, southwest of Wetumpka, Alabama off U.S. Highway 231 and Alabama Highway 21.The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
At the beginning of the 18th Century--in order to check the growing influence of the British --the French decided to build a fort on the eastern flank of the Louisiana colony. With the goodwill and help of the Indians, the French constructed their fort in 1717 and named it for the Compte de Toulouse.
The Fort was also know as the "Post of the Alabama", named after the Indian tribe who lived here at the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.
A small garrison of French soldiers manning the fort cultivated the friendship of the Indians and traded extensively with them. In exchange for fur and deerskins, which were popular in Europe at the time, the Indians received European trade goods such as glass beads, guns, ribbons and household items.
In 1720, the fort's commander, Jean Baptiste Louis DeCortel Marchand, married Sehoy, an Indian princess of the Clan of the Wind. Ironically as it may seem, their great grandsons Alexander McGillivray, the most noted of the Creek leaders and William Weatherford, known as "Red Eagle", led the creeks in war against American settlers in the early 1800's that brought Andrew Jackson to Alabama. (Battle of Burnt Creek, Massacre at Fort Mims, Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Battle of Talladega, etc.)
Commander Marchand was killed when a mutiny disrupted the peace at the fort in 1722. The solders' discontent stemmed from boredom, isolation, and shortages of food, suppliers and pay. The rebellious soldiers imprisoned the officers, who managed to escape. With the help of friendly Indians they captured the mutineers and sent them to Mobile, where harsh punishment was administered.
In 1735 portions of the wall fell into the river due to river erosion. The fort was rebuilt a bit further back from the river to avoid erosion effects. Fort Toulouse served as a trading post with the Creek Indians until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.
With the French loss of that conflict, the French Garrison spiked their cannons and left for both New Orleans and a return to France. The British victors chose not to occupy the fort, and it eventually collapsed into decay.
During the War of 1812, "Red Stick" Creek Indians of northern Alabama and Georgia attacked white settlements and killed over 400 settlers at Fort Mims. In the resulting Creek War, General Andrew Jackson commanded the combined American forces of Tennessee militia, U.S. regulars, and Cherokee and Southern Creek "White Stick" Indians.
Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, and afterwards initiated construction of a fort atop the site of the old French fort at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. The fort was intentionally built near the sacred Creek site known as the Hickory Ground. Jackson then temporarily traveled to Washington and in his absence the Fort was named "Jackson" in his honor.
After Jackson's return, he imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson upon both the Northern Creek enemies and the Southern Creek allies, wresting 20 million acres from all Creeks for white settlement.
During the American Bicentennial in the mid 1970's an attempt was made to reconstruct Ft. Toulouse, however the replica was incorrectly built upon the outline of the much larger Fort Jackson. In the 1980's the park became a property of the Alabama Historical Commission and the incorrectly built Fort was dismantled and recycled to partially construct a "correct" replica of Ft. Toulouse adjacent to the original site, allowing for a future reconstruction of Ft. Jackson on the actual site once occupied by both forts.
The Fort Toulouse-Jackson Park has active "Living History" programs depicting the original Creek Indian inhabitants, the French Colonial Military presence, and the War of 1812 era US Military presence.
The Graves House originally located in Lowndes County was constructed between 1825 and 1830. This Carolina Tidwater Cottage was built by David Graves, the son of a Revolutionary War hero and ancestor of Alabama Governor Bibb Graves. The building has been restored to its original appearance and houses the site museum and gift shop.
Fort Toulouse-Fort Jackson is also home to many natural wonders. William Bartram, a famed 18th century botanist and friend of Benjamin Franklin, visited the site in 1776 creating notes and drawings of the area's flora and fauna.
The nature trail offers wonderful bird watching opportunities. During the spring and fall, migrants are present thought out the site. During the winter months, spotting the Fox Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird is simple, as well as the common Chipping, Song, Savannah, Field, and White-throated Sparrow plus the Dark-eyed Junco. Also present during the winter are the Hermit Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo and the Yellow-belled sapsucker woodpecker.
The summer months bring out the petite Northern Parula, and the Summer Tanager, add to that the many breeding Acadian Flycatchers and Fort Toulouse is a bird watcher's year-round place to visit.
Fort Toulouse / Fort Jackson Park
2521 W. Fort Toulouse Road
Wetumpka, Alabama 36093