the Cherokee did not cry. Not on the outside, for the Cherokee would not let them see his souls; as he would not ride in the
And so they called it the Trail of Tears. Not because the Cherokee cried; for he did
not. They called it the Trail of Tears for it sounds romantic and speaks of the sorrow of those who stood by the Trail. A
death march is not romantic.
You cannot write poetry about the death-stiffened baby in his
mother's arms, staring at the jolting sky with eyes that will not close, while his mother walks.
You cannot sing songs of the father laying down the burden of his wife's corpse, to lie by it through the night and to
rise and carry it again in the morning - and tell his oldest son to carry the body of his youngest. And do not look ... nor
speak ... nor cry ... nor remember the mountains.
It would not be a beautiful song. And so
they called it the Trail of Tears."
— Forrest Carter, The Education of Little Tree
"I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet
point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep
into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west....On the morning of November the 17th we encountered a
terrific sleet and snow storm with freezing temperatures and from that day until we reached the end of the fateful journey
on March the 26th 1839, the sufferings of the Cherokees were awful. The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had
to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night
of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold and exposure..."
-- Pvt. John G. Burnett, Cpt. Abraham McClellan's
Co., 2nd Reg., 2nd Brig., Mtd. Inf., Cherokee Indian Removal (1838-39)
THE CHICKASAW REMOVAL
Cherokees were one of the tribes removed under the Indian Removal Act. There were others. The Chickasaws, from whom Andrew
Jackson purchased the land that now bears his name, also were moved west of the Mississippi.
According to Hunter
Whitesell, it was not a good time for them either.
"I would imagine the Chickasaws in these parts
were little better off. I know enough from stories I have heard all of my life that the Chickasaw 'little people'
were very sad to leave these parts. I think there are areas in and around still haunted by their melancholy. (I know
of such grounds each in Fulton and Hickman Counties) Some hangers-on probably witnessed the forced exodus of their mountain
brethren as they trudged west across our river..."
The Trail of Tears: the Benge Route
The Benge Route is named for the conductor of the detachment, John Benge. This was the only
group to follow this route. This detachment of about 1200 Cherokee departed Ft Payne, Alabama, October 1, 1838, and disbanded
in Indian Territory, January 11 1839.
Assistant Conductor: Lowery, George C.
Physician: Rowles, William P.
Interpreter: Lowery, A.P.
Commissary: Rogers. James H.
Assistant Commissary: Lovett, George W.
Assistant Managers: Campbell, Archibald; Lovett, Jesse; Money, Cryer
Wagon Master: Benge, Robert
Wagon Master: Campbell, George W.
Subcontractor (for Lewis Ross): Colborn, J.L., Col
are difficult to obtain. The number of Cherokee departing with the Benge Detachment varies according to various sources of
information available and range between 1079 to 1200. The other information is fairly consistent with 1132 arriving in Indian
Territory, 33 deaths and 3 births. Some of the other detachments have a category for "desertions"; however, there
is no listing for deserters in the Benge records. When all is summed up, this detachment had one of the lowest attrition rates.
After departing Ft. Payne, Alabama, they would have continued to Gunter's Landing and made their first crossing
of the Tennessee River. They would be traveling south and west of the route taken by the detachments using what is designated
"The Northern Land Route." Their second crossing of the Tennessee River, using the Comprehensive Management and
Use Plan-Map supplement of the National Park Service as a guide, was at Reynolds Ferry and through what is today the Nathan
Bedford Forrest Memorial State Park. They then continued through Paris, Tennessee and Clinton, Kentucky. They then
continued to what is today Columbus-Belmont State Park where they crossed the Mississippi River.
crossing into Missouri they traveled in a northwesterly direction to just south of Cape Girardeau where they turned in a westerly
direction until they intersected the "Old Spanish Road" sometimes called "The Old Southwest Trail." This
route was marked by the Spanish from St. Louis to Texas in the early 1800s. They followed this road south to the Current River
where they crossed into Arkansas at a place today called "Indian Ford."
In Arkansas they crossed the
Fouche Dumas river at Columbia Crossing, the Eleven Point River at Blacks Ferry and the Spring River at Miller's Ford.
The Arkansas Gazette tells of them camping at Smithville in Lawrence County, December 12 and being in Batesville (Poke Bayou)
for Wagon repairs, December 15, 1838.
Here they intersected "The Jacksonport Road." President Jackson
had secured funding in 1831-32 to extend this road from Jacksonport on the White River to Van Buren "to remove Indians
to the west." They would follow this road to Fayetteville where they would turn due west into Indian Territory. The writings
of W.B. Flippin, who as a teenager observed their passage, document their crossing of the White River just upstream from the
present day town of Cotter.
When using a 10 mile corridor (the Long Distance Trails Office uses a 20 mile corridor),
better than 60% of the route of the Benge Detachment across North Arkansas can be documented. This documentation of the Benge
detachment in Arkansas is supported with property deeds, newspaper accounts, land surveys from the state land office, visible
depressions of the old roads identified by the state land surveys, private journals of eyewitnesses, and oral history.
Records of much of the research on the Benge Route in Arkansas can be found in the Baxter County Museum in Gassville,
More information on the Benge Trail and the Cherokee removal
John Benge had relatives in Clinton - which may be why the
trail came through Hickman County, according to a local historian.
First named Iron Banks by early French explorers
who mistakenly thought there were iron deposits that made the bluffs rust colored, Columbus Belmont Park now stands on
the site of the Confederate stronghold that overlooked the Mississippi River. Thosands of troops and 140 guns
looked down on the River.
A post of several hundred Confederate soldiers were also stationed right across the river
at Belmont, Missouri. This outpost was attacked by General U. S. Grant in a daring raid in November 1861.
General Leonidas Polk, CSA, sent troops across the river to reinforce the Confederates. Grant rallied his men, getting his
horse shot out from under him, dodging Rebel bullets and barely escaping death.
Whether Grant "won"
or not still depends on who you ask! He and his force were driven off, with only a small loss of life. It was counted a victory
by the Union amid a string of Yankee defeats and brought Grant to the attention of Abraham Lincoln.
its mile long chain to halt traffic on the Mississippi River became superfluous when Grant captured Forts Henry and Donaldson
down the river in Tennessee.
The role of Columbus as a spot on the Cherokee Trail of Tears is a mostly forgotten
bit of history. With the new feasibility study going on, this may be a good time to bring this portion of our history into
focus. The Trail of Tears - during which one fifth of the Cherokee nation died - around 4000 people, according Dr. Elizur
Butler, a missionary doctor who accompanied the Cherokees.
Go to the bluffs and imagine crossing the Mississippi
River at that point- old and young, men, women and children, the sick and the healthy, soldiers and their captives. Not
a proud moment - but one to remember, lest we repeat it with another minority.
|Looking down the Mississippi from the Park
|Imagine crossing this river in 1838
Andrew Jackson - Part
of Our History
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Jackson Purchase is a region in the state of Kentucky bounded by the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to the east. It was technically part of Kentucky at its statehood in 1792, but did not come under definitive U.S. control until it was purchased from the Chickasaw Indians by Andrew Jackson in 1818. Kentuckians generally call this region simply the Purchase.
Although Jackson's purchase also included
all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, the term Jackson Purchase is used only to refer to the Kentucky portion of the acquisition;
the Tennessee region directly to the south is typically called West Tennessee.
This is, of course, the same Andrew Jackson, whose victory at Horseshoe Bend during the Creek War, was due in
no small part to Cherokee participation and who in 1829 proposed removing them to Oklahoma.
ADDITIONAL ROUTES FEASIBILITY STUDY
Congress designated two routes of Cherokee removal as the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. One was the Bell Trail that
ran from east of Chattanooga, Tennessee to just west of the Arkansas state line. The other route - the Benge Trail, ran from
north Alabama to Tahlequah, Oklahoma. There are other routes that were used, but are not so well researched.
2006, President Bush authorized a feasibility study to research the trails and determine the desirability of adding additional
routes. A national historic trail is an extended trail that follows, as closely as possible, the original routes of travel
associated with important historic events.
The purpose of the study is to identify the potential effects of route
additions of the national historic trail.
...excerpted from Trail Study News, Trail of Tears National Historic
Trail Newsletter, Summer 2007
For more information visit
The National Park Service Trail of Tears website
Join a Trail of Tears Organization