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This Day in Georgia History

October 01, 1838

Final Council Meeting Before Trail of Tears

To view the document given to militia before the Cherokee removal, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Though voluntary emigration of a few Cherokee Indians had begun in early 1837, the great majority of the Cherokee Nation continued to resist removal to the West. U.S. Gen. Winfield Scott (who was in charge of the emigration) had planned for 13 detachments of about 1,000 Cherokees each to be escorted west by mounted U.S. soldiers, departing at intervals of three or four days following both river and overland routes westward to lands reserved for the Cherokees in present-day Oklahoma. Those traveling by boat would travel westward on the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, then south on the Mississippi River, finally west on the Arkansas River to the Cherokee Territory. Two land routes took the Cherokees through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and into what is now Oklahoma. Forced emigration began in June 1838, when three detachments totaling almost 3,000 Cherokees left Ross’ Landing by boat on the Tennessee River. However, a severe drought made the river unnavigable, so further removal was delayed until fall. On Oct. 1, 1838, the main body of the Cherokees assembled for a final council meeting at Rattlesnake Springs in Tennessee. In all, there were 12,500 Cherokees, with 645 wagons, 5000 horses, and additional oxen. Here, they pledged to keep their laws and form of government in their new home. The Rattle Springs council meeting was brief, and when it ended, a signal was given for the first detachment of Cherokees to move out on the road to Nashville. Because of cold weather and disease, thousands would die during what the Cherokees would call their “Trail of Tears.”

Final Council Meeting Before Trail of Tears View large image
Source: The Georgia Studies Book