Ignoring a Supreme Court decision reversing the Indian Removal Act, President Andrew Jackson ordered the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their homelands in the Southeast.
White settlers had discovered gold on Indian land and wanted to freely mine it. The Cherokee were rounded up in 1838 and taken to holding pens, which had been used for livestock. They were then forced by soldiers, most on foot, to march hundreds of miles to Indian Territory (now northeastern Oklahoma), to a reservation.
Ethnologist James Mooney later interviewed survivors and White soldiers and wrote about the “Trail of
Tears,” as it was described to him.
Trail of Tears- The Cherokee Experience
Soldiers told Mooney of being ordered to surround each Cherokee home and take them by surprise. Cherokee families were eating dinner in their warm cabins in the Cherokee Nation (Southeast), when soldiers appeared at their door holding rifles with bayonets fixed and pointed at the men, and the women and children who wearing crying.
They were driven by the soldiers along a trail to animal holding pens within a stockade. Some of the Cherokee men who had still been working in the fields were seized and taken directly to holding pens.
As soon as the Cherokees had been driven from their homes, White settlers came along and looted the homes and stole the livestock.
Conditions in the holding pens were crowded, had no roofs for shelter, and light rains had soon turned the manure filled ground into a muddy, smelly, disease-ridden environment. Infants and children were the first to become sick. Many died.
Soldiers were then ordered to begin the long march towards the reservation in Indian Territory hundreds of miles away.
When removed from their homes, the Cherokee were not allowed to take anything with them. Soldiers had to provide was little food and warm clothing was available for the march.
As they marched along, a cold and fierce winter began to set in. The Cherokee people died at an alarming rate, especially women and children. It is estimated that close to 8,000 died.
The Cherokee call this bitter road where so many died, “Trail of Tears.”
|The Trail of Tears
by Robert Lindneux