Trail of Tears
The United States government, unable to conclude an agreement with the duly authorized leaders of the Cherokee Nation, signed a treaty with a minority faction willing to cede the last remaining portion of the original Cherokee homeland on December 29, 1835. Despite the protests of the overwhelming majority of the Cherokee People, the fraudulent “Treaty of New Echota” was ratified by the U.S. Senate by only a single vote on May 23, 1836. The Cherokees were given two years from that date to remove to the Indian Territory. When the time had expired only 2,000 of the nearly 17,000 Cherokee remaining in the east had departed their ancestral homeland.
In late May, 1838 General Winfield Scott and 7,000 federal and state troops arrived in the Cherokee Nation to enforce the removal. Cherokee families were forced from comfortable homes into 31 stockades and open military stations scattered throughout the Cherokee Nation in southeast Tennessee, western North Carolina, northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. From the stockades the Cherokee were sent to the principal emigrating depots near Ross’s Landing at Chattanooga, Tennessee, Fort Cass, near Calhoun, Tennessee, and a camp eight miles south of Fort Payne, Alabama.
In June 1838 the first three detachments of Cherokee captured by the Georgia Guard were forced to depart from Ross’s Landing, Tennessee. Because of the highcasualties of these first groups permission was given to delay the removal ofthe other groups until fall when it would be cooler. Also, the Cherokee leaders petitioned General Scott that they be allowed to conduct their own removal. Permission was granted.
The remainder of the Cherokees began their trek west in the fall of 1838 in 13 detachments. After enduring an extremely severe winter, they arrived in the West in late winter and early spring of 1839. It has been estimated that from 2,000 to 4,000 of the 16,000 Cherokees died as a result of the forced removal. The true story of the forced removal for the Cherokee people is one of survival. In spite of their hardships, they adapted and rebuilt their homes and government. Only 12 years after removal, the Cherokee Female Seminary opened on these grounds as the first public institution of higherlearning for females west of the Mississippi River.