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                      History Continued - Page 3

Three detachments of Cherokees, totaling about 2,800 persons, traveled by river to Indian Territory. The first of these groups left on June 6 by steamboat and barge from Ross's Landing on the Tennessee River (present-day Chattanooga). They followed the Tennessee as it wound across northern Alabama, including a short railroad detour around the shoals between Decatur and Tuscumbia Landing. The route then headed north through central Tennessee and Kentucky to the Ohio River. The Ohio took them to the Mississippi River, which they followed to the mouth of the Arkansas River. The Arkansas led northwest to Indian Territory, and they arrived aboard a steamboat at the mouth of Salisaw Creek near Fort Coffee on June 19, 1838. The other two groups suffered more because of a severe drought and disease (especially among the children), and they did not arrive in Indian Territory until the end of the summer.

The rest of the Principal People traveled to Indian Territory overland on existing roads. They were organized into detachments ranging in size from 700 to 1,600, with each detachment headed by a conductor and an assistant conductor appointed by John Ross. The Cherokees who had signed the treaty of New Echota were moved in a separate detachment conducted by John Bell and administered by US. Army Lt. Edward Deas. A physician, and perhaps a clergyman, usually accompanied each detachment. Supplies of flour and corn, and occasionally salt pork, coffee, and sugar, were obtained in advance, but were generally of poor quality. Drought and the number of people being moved reduced forage for draft animals, which often were used to haul possessions, while the people routinely walked.

The most commonly used overland route followed a northern alignment, while other detachments (notably those led by John Being and John Bell) followed more southern routes, and some followed slight variations. The northern route started at, Tennessee, and crossed central Tennessee, southwestern Kentucky, and southern Illinois. After crossing the Mississippi River north of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, these detachments trekked across southern Missouri and the northwest corner of Arkansas.

Road conditions, illness, and the distress of winter, particularly in southern Illinois while detachments waited to cross the ice-choked Mississippi, made death a daily occurrence. Mortality rates for the entire removal and its aftermath were substantial, totaling approximately 8,000.

"I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west....On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey on March the 26th 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure..."
Private John G. Burnett
Captain Abraham McClellan's Company,
2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry
Cherokee Indian Removal 1838-39    

  History-Continued    
 


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