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In Their Own Words

March 06, 1838

Letter on Cherokees Refusing to Leave Georgia

The Treaty of New Echota, signed in Dec. 29, 1835 by one faction of the Cherokee Indians, obligated the entire nation to leave their homeland and move to the west. Many Cherokees, however, refused to acknowledge the validity of that treaty. As the deadline for removal approached, there was uncertainty as to whether the Cherokees would voluntarily leave. From Van’s Valley in Floyd County, J. Hemphill wrote Georgia Gov. George Gilmer with bad news:

“… I have just been hand[ed] a letter from Captain A. Bishop, who makes the following remarks: The Indian news are rather unfavorable. Great excitement and alarm prevails amongst the citizens and, I am inclined to believe, not without good cause. Perhaps no immediate danger is at hand, but not far ahead. I am apprised that a great many others differ with me on this subject, and they may be honest, too, but I really think that if our people will pursue a proper and prudent course towards this people that may be removed without spilling a drop of blood. I am fearful that the state of excitement that is said to exist in some sections (and a great part of without a cause) will lead our people to do acts of violence that may lead to difficulties. One great cause of alarm and excitement originates from the indifference manifested by the Indians about the treaty and the non-preparation of them for emigration. Their intention is to carry out Ross’s policy, that is after having recourse to every means of resistance and failing, then to suffer themselves to be dragged off by government officers and troops. And in my humble opinion that is the only call for a force: To gather the Indians and drive them on to the place of rendezvous. They never will resist the forces. They have not the means of defence. They have neither arms nor ammunition, nor places to flee to.”

Source: Edward J. Cashin (ed.), A Wilderness Still the Cradle of Nature: Frontier Georgia, A Documentary History (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994), pp. 128-129.