A WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS by William C. Davis

A WAY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Southern Frontier
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Historian Davis (A Government of Our Own, 1994, etc.) uses the story of an old Indian trail as an opportunity to take a leisurely, pleasurable look at the social and cultural history of the Mississippi/Alabama frontier. Davis takes as his theme the Natchez Trace, an Indian trail that traversed present-day Mississippi and Alabama, and that settlers developed into a frontier highway in the 50 years following the American Revolution. The trace went south from Nashville, Tenn., to the town of Natchez on the Mississippi River. In the early part of the 19th century, the trace was extensively traveled by a colorful race of fiercely proud, endlessly opportunistic, and often violent frontiersmen. Telling the story of the trace, Davis also uses it as a metaphor to sketch different aspects of frontier society. For instance, in ``The Road to Travel,'' he discusses how rapidly frontier transport developed from crude wagons over rugged trails to more comfortable travel over a sophisticated network of roads, before the trace was made obsolete by newly developed steamboats and barges; in ``The Road to Knowledge,'' he discusses the utilitarian attitude of frontiersmen toward education and the gradual development of respectable institutions of higher learning as civilization made its inroads; and in ``The Road to the Indian Nations,'' he considers the surprisingly cordial relations between frontiersmen and the Choctaws and Chickasaw Indians (until the federal government intervened, deporting the Indians in the 1830s). Davis sketches vivid portraits of individual pioneers (including Davy Crockett) to illustrate his account of the daily life on the frontier. An intimate picture of a vanished world. (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club alternate selections)

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-016921-4
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994




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