Fort Jefferson (Kentucky)
Chickasaw tribal land, Kentucky territory of Virginia, present-day site one mile south of Wickliffe, Ballard County, Kentucky
Site information
Controlled byVirginia
Site history
In use1779–1781
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Garrison information
George Rogers Clark, Capt. Robert George
Capture of Fort Jefferson
Part of American Revolutionary War
DateJune 1780 - June 1781[1]
Vicinity of fort Jefferson
Result Chickasaw victory, abandonment of US actions against the Chickasaws
Chickasaw  United States
Commanders and leaders

James Colbert

Alexander Colbert

George Rogers Clark

Capt. Owen

120 soldiers

unknown amount of local settlers
Casualties and losses
unknown but small

unknown, but significant

fort Jefferson burned down by Chickasaw forces [2]
Return of the public stores (at Fort Jefferson), signed Martin Carney, approximately February 16, 1781

Fort Jefferson was a town on the Mississippi River, about one mile south of Wickliffe, Kentucky in southwestern Ballard County.[3]

In 1779, George Rogers Clark built a stronghold of the same name at the intersection of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in order to consolidate his forces and to control access to the Ohio.[4][5] The original fort was burned down by Chickasaw forces in 1781. The settlement was reestablished in 1858.[3] The town itself no longer exists. The site is now home of the Phoenix Paper mill.

Planning of Fort Jefferson

The initial proposal for a fortification on the mouth of the Ohio was made by Virginia governor Patrick Henry in 1777, in a letter to the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez. He proposed a fortification to protect trade and supplies between Virginia and Spanish Louisiana from British interference. Henry would also propose this idea to George Rogers Clark, who saw it as a fortification for frontier protection and conquest of British Indian allies. Clark would later press Henry's successor, Thomas Jefferson, on the importance of a fort along both rivers, to control commerce and stop British supplies. In January 1780, Jefferson formally approved the fort with the formal stipulation that the land must be purchased from the Chickasaws, whom he erroneously identified as Cherokees. Jefferson would also write to Joseph Martin that "the ground at the mouth of the Ohio on the south side belonging to the Cherokee, we would not meddle in without their leave".[6] George Rogers Clark would go on to ignore this provision, as he would not buy the land from the Chickasaws or gain their consent to build the fortifications. Many historians point to Clark's disregard of the Chickasaw as the point at which the fortification and settlement project was doomed to failure.


In 1782, four Chickasaw chiefs sent a letter to American military post commanders in the west to open peace negotiations, stating "What damage was done by reason you settled a fort in our hunting ground without our leave and at that place you suffered most from us". The Chickasaw would eventually sign a peace treaty with the Spanish (representing the American alliance) that respected Chickasaw territorial integrity, but kept them at war with the Kickapoo.[7]


  1. ^ " | Fort Jefferson".
  2. ^ Fraser, Kathryn M. (1983). "Fort Jefferson: George Rogers Clark's Fort at the Mouth of the Ohio River, 1780-1781". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 81 (1): 1–24. JSTOR 23379603.
  3. ^ a b "Fort Jefferson, Kentucky". Kentucky Atlas & Gazetteer. 1994. Archived from the original on 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
  4. ^ Ryan, Finley (2000-02-13). "Fort Jefferson, 1779". Retrieved 2007-05-29.
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Fort Jefferson (Kentucky)
  6. ^ Fraser, Kathryn M. (1983). "Fort Jefferson: George Rogers Clark's Fort at the Mouth of the Ohio River, 1780-1781". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 81 (1): 1–24. JSTOR 23379603.
  7. ^ St. Jean, Wendy (2009). "The Chickasaw-Quapaw Alliance in the Revolutionary Era". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. 68 (3): 272–282. JSTOR 40543238.

36°57′11″N 89°05′23″W / 36.95306°N 89.08972°W / 36.95306; -89.08972