The Natchez Trace describes an overland route roughly 600 miles long from the lowest bluffs overlooking the Mississippi Delta northward to what is now the city of Nashville. It has had many nicknames, of which The Devil's Backbone was perhaps the most justifiable because of both the rugged wilderness and the depredations of several generations of brigands. Daniels' attempt to assemble a definitive history of the highroad rambles, winds, doubles back, and often loses itself in an avalanche of persiflage. In the middle of chapters he is prone to insert stories like the one about ""five sad Dutchmen"" -- never identified by name or noteworthy deed -- memory of whose movement across the Trace is somehow preserved although ""history does not record...what happened to them"". Time and again he suggests that the vignette he has just left unfinished ""is not regarded as significant in history,"" and fails to validate its partial presence in his book. Liveliest episodes in the luckless assortment are those concerning the courtship of Rachel and Andrew Jackson. The effect is one of wading endless miles upstream to pick a few berries of questionable sweetness.