The Trail of Tears

An American Tragedy - The Story Continues Through Arkansas

June 9, 1838

On this day, the group led by Lieutenant Deas reached Decatur, where the river became impassable by boat for some distance, so Deas hired thirty two railroad cars and two engines, which could carry half of the 1,000 in his group at a time. While he was with one half of the group, the other half was back at camp getting drunk on whiskey, resulting in more than 100 escaping, to find their way back to their homes. By the time roll call was taken the next morning, he estimated that approximately 311 had left him. Fortunately, none of the Indians in this party lost their lives.

Behind Deas came another group under the charge of Lieutenant R.H.K. Whiteley. These Indians, like the ones led by Deas, were uncooperative and embittered, and would not give their names or except clothing and provisions offered them.

In the first two days, while traveling down the river and fighting the rapids, one child died and one child was born. Twenty-five escaped before the steamer and its flatboats reached Decatur and before reaching the Arkansas River four more children died.

When the group reached Little Rock, the boats could not navigate the river so Whiteley obtained enough wagons to carry the children and the sick, one hundred in all. From here the party continued, most of the Indians walking, on a course which took them through Pope County. It took this party until August 1st to reach Lee's Creek, near the Indian Territory.

August 1, 1838

More than half of the Whiteley group are sick, having eaten large amounts of green peaches and corn. As a result, the "flux" raged among them and on some days as many as six and seven died. In three weeks, the group had lost seventy, and others moved away from the group. Of the 875 who had left Tennessee, only 602 arrived in Indian Territory.

The land marches were brutal, and marked by suffering, losses to families, and exhaustion.

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