Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the History Department of Hanover College.

Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis, Tennessee)

When the steamboat New Orleans made her way down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans in 1811-1812, it marked a turning point in the Transportation Revolution.  After the New Orleans showed that it could be done, steamboats proliferated on the Ohio and the Mississippi and their tributaries.  Steamboat traffic helped create a national economy, opening markets for farm goods and drawing people and commerce to cities along the rivers.

The Chickasaw Bluffs (where Memphis is now located)  belonged to the Chickasaw until they ceded that territory in 1818. On one memorable occasion during the New Orleans' time in Chickasaw territory, Indians threatened and chased after the steamboat. There were a few Euro-American settlers living in the area in 1811, and visitors reported on the earthquake there. 

News of Events around Chickasaw Bluffs:

Jan. 15, 1812, Liberty Hall - report of a letter from Chickasaw Bluffs, written six days after the earthquake
Jan. 18, 1812, Western Spy - another report of the letter from Chickasaw Bluffs
Jan. 31, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - detailed "letter from a gentleman" on the Dec. 16 earthquake: the Chickasaw Bluffs "have fallen in considerably"
Feb. 1, 1812, Western Spy - eyewitness gives details about the Chickasaw Bluffs ("chiefly fallen in) and surrounding area
Feb. 8, 1812, Western Spy - the editor responds to charges of exaggeration, referring to letter describing the Chickasaw Bluffs area
Feb. 12, 1812, Liberty Hall - more discussion of the letter from Chickasaw Bluffs
Feb. 19, 1812, Connecticut Current - William L. Pierce reports area near the Chickasaw Bluffs was "extremely agitated" making a block house "tremble like the aspen leaf"
Mar. 13, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - James Smith provides revisions for The Navigator: through the Chickasaw Bluffs, "the river is wholly changed"
Apr. 4, 1812, Western Spy - Jesse Hunt gives eyewitness account of "truly distressing" earthquake damage upriver from Chickasaw Bluffs
June 13, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - the Chickasaw Indian Factor reports that Indians north of Natchez, Mississippi, support Tenskwatawa against the whites

1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother describes a threatened Chickasaw attack and a fire on board the New Orleans

More about the "Steamboat Adventure" of 1811-1812 --



Steamboat Adventure homepage


Spring 1811
Summer 1811
Fall 1811
Winter 1811-1812
Spring 1812


Louisville (Kentucky) and Madison (Indiana Territory)
New Madrid (now in Missouri)
Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis)
New Orleans


Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt
The Transportation Revolution
The Great Comet of 1811
The New Madrid Earthquakes
Indian Relations

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