Ryan and I have been working hard on our next narrative history project for the History Press. We are happy to announce that Death Along the Natchez Trace will be coming sometime next year. Over the summer we published Hidden History of Natchez, and told some forgotten stories from one of the South’s oldest and most important cities. Naturally, the Natchez Trace, that ancient road that begins in Natchez and stretches to Nashville, pulled our attention north.
Death Along the Natchez Trace will tell stories from Natchez, Port Gibson, Clinton, Kosciusko, Mathiston, Tupelo, and Nashville, and from the quiet, secluded sections of the road that connected those early southern towns. And although the title of the book is rather grim-sounding, the characters in the book do plenty of living as well as dying. This is not a dismal book, but rather a book that tells the story of a road that offered immense danger — but also opportunity — to its travelers.
The photo collage on the cover of Death Along the Natchez Trace hints at some of the content the book will contain. In the upper left is Tecumseh, the powerful Indian leader, who visited the Choctaw and Chickasaw and predicted the New Madrid earthquakes. The middle photo shows the American alligator, covered in so much natural armor that it defied predation by Indians. In the upper right is a visitor to the National Museum admiring Andrew Jackson’s personal dueling pistols. And the large dramatic scene in the lower part of the cover is the midnight burial of Hernando de Soto on the Mississippi — to prevent his body falling into the hands of Indians, his ragged men nailed him into a green oak log and sunk him in the river.
We don’t have a release date yet and are still early in the editing process. But we thought you might like to see the cover of our next book (and in my opinion, one of the most fun we have worked on).
Working on the book has taught me that travel on the early Trace was unbelievably dangerous, but also must have been one of the most exhilarating and immersive experiences an early American could have. I’m sorry I will never get to see and experience what those early travelers did — and thankful that I don’t have to.