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In Their Own Words

June 06, 1838

Letter Described Tragedy of Cherokee Removal

From Ross’s Landing [present-day Chattanooga], Gen. Nathaniel Smith wrote to Gen. Winfield Scott about the status of the Cherokee removal. Sadly, his letter tells of the tragic consequences suffered by Georgia’s Cherokees:

“At 9 o’clock this morning I started a party of near one thousand Cherokees for Arkansas, and there are now over 900 in camps and a thousand more expected within the next two days. I hope to start another party of a thousand on the 12th instant or before … .

“I fear great injustice has been done to very many of the Cherokees collected in Georgia. It has happened to me here to witness more distress within the last two days that in all my life before. There are several families now in camps at whose houses I have been and personally know them to have been possessed not only of fine stocks of every description but of a great abundance of household goods and other varieties of property requisite to the more comfortable living, who have not been suffered to bring along with them personal clothing sufficient for a change or bedding enough to accommodate at once half the family. These people assure me that the military so hurried and urged them away that no time was allowed at the time to gather up their effects, that, when after much entreaty they had been suffered to return (a day or more having elapsed) to look after their property, they found their houses stripped and robbed of everything left. In addition, I find many disserved families: mothers hurried away from their children and husbands and wives, in the scramble separated from each other. In reference to the dismembered families, I resolved at once and have retained here all such to be comfortably provided for and not removed from this rendezvous till the scattered members of the families shall be again satisfactorily reunited.”

Source: Edward J. Cashin (ed.), A Wilderness Still the Cradle of Nature (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994), p. 142.