For almost twenty years, the U.S. government forced over sixty thousand Native Americans – the majority from the five “civilized” tribes -- from the Southeast to the Oklahoma Territory. Some of their number included enslaved black people claimed by the tribes as well. Many people were forced to march the entirety of the distance, while others were transported part of the way via water routes. During this time, each tribe subsequently lost their homelands, and roughly fifteen thousand lost their lives.
The Trail of Tears, as it became known, is the collected routes used during the Cherokee removal between 1838 and 1839.The trail uses several land and water routes that passed through Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas, before reaching Oklahoma. Some of these routes relied heavily on water transport or rail, which made Tuscumbia Landing a regional hub for the transport of the Native Americans. The evicted Cherokees arrived in detachments under the supervision of Lt. Edward Deas and Lt. R.H.K. Whiteley via the Tuscumbia, Courtland, & Decatur Railroad and then switched to boats for transport down the Tennessee River. While four groups travelled by rail to Tuscumbia Landing, a fifth travelled by land, through Florence.
Recently, some of these routes have been preserved and developed by the National Park Service as part of the 2,200-mile Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. This preservation effort has been a collaboration between tribal nations and the NPS, as well as local groups and representatives.
John Ross: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain