The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 necessitated that the Americans protect their
newly-acquired property, much to the chagrin of the
French and Spanish creoles in
northern Louisiana, which saw these "depraved Americans" as a threat to their way
of life. The conflict between the American new-comers and the "old inhabitants"
along the Red River could be seen with the establishment of Fort Claiborne.

With the original fort of
Natchitoches, St. Jean Baptiste, in ruins, the United States
established a new garrison to the north of town. Fort Claiborne, named after the
territorial governor, became a quite substantial locale as it continued to be occupied
for close to fifteen years. Here, the Indian Agent Dr. John Sibley signed treaties with
Caddoan, Coushattan, and other tribes - including the famous Caddo chief,
Dehahuit - to begin the process of westward removal. It was also at Fort Claiborne
where the
Red River expedition of 1806 by Peter Custis, Thomas Freeman, and
Captain Sparks was launched.

However, the creole parishioners of Natchitoches sued the American government to
remove the fort, since they believed that the fort was built on communal property
that was overseen by the church, which was located at the fort's southeastern
corner. The suspicion that the Creole community had against the Americans was
evidenced by the abandonment of the original cemetery at the location of Fort St.
Jean Baptiste. The Catholic Creoles removed their dead from the cemetery once
protestants began their burials at the newly renamed "American Cemetery."

Fort Claiborne thus had an active but relatively short life. After the signing of the
Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, which firmly established the border between New Spain
and the Louisiana Territory, the Mexican Revolution of 1821, and the
American push
into North Texas, the U.S. government established Fort Jesup along the Spanish
Road (Camino de Real) northwest of Natchitoches.

Today, the old location of Fort Claiborne has been reclaimed by the Natchitoches
citizens. The site is now occupied by the convention and visitor's bureau, Louisiana
museum and hall of fame, the events center, the Main Street office, and other city
service buildings. The only reminder of the old fort is its guest house, which sits at
the corner of Second and Lafayette Streets.
Fort Claiborne
An 1814 map depicts the location of Fort Claiborne along the San Antonio road
(once, the Camino de Real). (Library of Congress)
In 2005, James
Rosenthal
documented the Fort
Claiborne guest
house for the Historic
American Buildings
Survey. This is the
only extant building
that remains of the
fort.