Trail of Tears

Battle of Horseshoe Bend

On 27 March 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson 's army of 3,300 men attacked Chief Menawa's 1,000 Red Stick Creek warriors fortified in a horseshoe shaped bend of the Tallapoosa River. Over 800 Red Sticks died that day. Cherokee Chief Sequoyah was in the Cherokee Regiment, fighting with Sam Houston and Andrew Jackson against the Creek warriors.

The battle ended the Creek War, resulted in a land session of 23,000,000 acres to the United Sates. In 1828, partly as a result of his fame from the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, Andrew Jackson was elected the seventh President of the United States.

Though the Red Sticks had been crushed at Tohopeka, remnants of the war party held out for several months. In August 1814, a treaty between the United States and the Creek Nation was signed at Fort Jackson near the present day city of Wetumpka, Alabama. The Treaty of Fort Jackson ended the conflict and required the Creeks to cede 23 million acres of land to the United States. The state of Alabama was carved out of this domain and admitted to the Union in 1819.

Indian Removal Act

John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War under President James Monroe devised the first plans for Indian removal. The president approved the plan on January 27, 1825. The Indians east of the Mississippi were to voluntarily exchange their lands for land in the west.

On December 6, 1830 President Andrew Jackson asked congress to enforce the Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830. He wanted to open up land for whites in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee as well as other states. President Jackson declared the Indian removal would, "incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier." Clearing Alabama and Mississippi of their Indian populations would enable those states to advance rapidly in population, wealth, and power."

The most infamous of the removals took place in 1838, two years after the end of President Jackson's final term. The Indian were forcibly removed by the military. This journey, where thousands of Native Americans died, is known as the "Trail of Tears".

The Choctaw (9,000) became the first nation to be removed from their land in the winter of 1831. Many were bound without food or supplies. The last of the Muscogee (Creek) were driven out in 1836. Approximately 21,000 Muscogee (Creek) removed. The Chickasaw (6,000) and Seminole people (4,000) were also driven out.

The Treaty of New Echota was negotiated in 1835. The agreement was that the Cherokee people would trade all of their land east of the Mississippi for five million dollars. It also gave them relocation assistance and compensation for lost property. The Cherokee people felt betrayed because it was not sanctioned by the Cherokee people. Almost 16,000 Cherokees signed a petition led by John Ross protesting the Treaty, but Congress approved it anyway.

Fort Payne, Alabama

Many people in the area were against the Indian removal. Wills Town Mission was built in 1823 by the American Board of Missions to further education and Christianity among the Cherokee Indians. The mission included ten acres of land. Classrooms were build, housing for the missionaries, six cabins for the students that lived onsite, a smokehouse, two corn cribs, a spring house and a gristmill The Cherokees would hold council meetings on the property. It was here that Cherokee Chief Sequoyah created the Cherokee alphabet that brought literacy to his people.

The mission closed in 1838 when the Removal began. A cemetery with more than fifty graves still stands. Archaeologists believe that many more people are buried there. The National Park Service has certified the Willstown Mission Cemetery Site as an official component of the Trail of Tears national Historic Trail. The congressionally designated trail honours all of the lives that were lost.

A log cabin surrounded by a log stockade was built near Big Spring in Will's Town, now known as Fort Payne. Captain John G. Payne approved the site in February 1838 because it was located next to a large spring that would provide drinking water. Captain James H. Rogers built the structure with twenty-two men from the Alabama Militia. He named the stockade Fort Payne in honour of Captain Payne.

In 1838, U.S. soldiers and local militia rounded up over 1,100 men, women, and children in the Little River area during the removal of the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Indians. Soldiers held some of them at Fort Likens and Fort Lovell east of Lookout Mountain before moving them to Fort Payne. Cherokee Indians living in the area were placed in the stockade prior to being marched to Oklahoma. People were forced to take only what they could carry. Thousands of people died of starvation, exposure, disease and exhaustion before they reached their final destination.

They crossed Little River near the present-day bridge. Cherokee John Benge led the Fort Payne group of American Indians over 798 miles on the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.

Neither the fort nor the stockade remains. The only reminder is an old chimney where the cabin used to be. The site is open to the public, and can be seen from the end of 4th Street SE in downtown Fort Payne, Alabama.

Last updated: May 11, 2018

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4322 Little River Trail NE Ste 100
Fort Payne, AL 35967


256 845-9605 x201
Main phone number for Little River Canyon National Preserve.

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