Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Cherokees originally occupied vast areas of what are now the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. In 1835, a minority of the Cherokee tribe ceded all their traditional lands to the United States for land in what became known as the Indian Territory. The majority of Cherokees opposed this policy.

In early 1838, General Winfield Scott moved into the Cherokee country with 7000 soldiers to enforce removal of the tribe from Georgia. The Cherokee were rapidly concentrated into stockades, and in the fall of 1838, thirteen parties of Cherokees, approximately a thousand each, took up the long journey. By April 1839, the sad pilgrimage, known as the Trail of Tears, was completed, and at terrible cost: 4,000 Cherokees died during the removal. Shortly after arrival in the new country, the leaders of the tribal minority that gave up the land were killed, presumably for the sale of the eastern lands without authority.

Winfield Scott went on to fame and fortune in the Mexican War. Despite his Southern origins, Scott later opposed secession of the Confederacy, and sided with Lincoln and the Union. By the time the first fighting began, Scott was in very poor health. He was 75 years old, had ballooned to more than 300 pounds and had to be carried about on a door.

It's a little ironic that Saturday's hike will been at Lake Winfield Scott. Considering his War record, it's a little ironic that Georgia has a Lake Winfield Scott, especially located in the heart of (former) Cherokee country.

To get to Lake Winfield Scott, you have to drive north out of Dahlonega past Princess Trahlyta's grave. In a perfect world, General Winfield Scott's grave would be the one in the middle of the road to Lake Trahlyta.

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