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Russian text by Yuri Shymanovsky: Изгнание Чероки.

                        Cherokee Removal. 1838-1839.

By John G. Burnett.
Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellans
Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian
Removal, 1838-39.

   This is my birthday, December 11, 1890, I am eighty years old today. I
   was born at Kings Iron Works in Sulllivan County, Tennessee, December
   the 11th, 1810. I grew into manhood fishing in Beaver Creek and
   roaming through the forest hunting the deer and the wild boar and the
   timber wolf. Often spending weeks at a time in the solitary wilderness
   with no companions but my rifle, hunting knife, and a small hatchet
   that I carried in my belt in all of my wilderness wanderings.
   On these long hunting trips I met and became acquainted with many of
   the Cherokee Indians, hunting with them by day and sleeping around
   their camp fires by night. I learned to speak their language, and they
   taught me the arts of trailing and building traps and snares. On one
   of my long hunts in the fall of 1829, I found a young Cherokee who had
   been shot by a roving band of hunters and who had eluded his pursuers
   and concealed himself under a shelving rock. Weak from loss of blood,
   the poor creature was unable to walk and almost famished for water. I
   carried him to a spring, bathed and bandaged the bullet wound, and
   built a shelter out of bark peeled from a dead chestnut tree. I nursed
   and protected him feeding him on chestnuts and toasted deer meat. When
   he was able to travel I accompanied him to the home of his people and
   remained so long that I was given up for lost. By this time I had
   become an expert rifleman and fairly good archer and a good trapper
   and spent most of my time in the forest in quest of game.
   The removal of Cherokee Indians from their life long homes in the year
   of 1838 found me a young man in the prime of life and a Private
   soldier in the American Army. Being acquainted with many of the
   Indians and able to fluently speak their language, I was sent as
   interpreter into the Smoky Mountain Country in May, 1838, and
   witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of
   American Warfare. 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.
   One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. Chief
   John Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons
   started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved
   their little hands good-by to their mountain homes, knowing they were
   leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have
   blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted.
   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. Among
   this number was the beautiful Christian wife of Chief John Ross. This
   noble hearted woman died a martyr to childhood, giving her only
   blanket for the protection of a sick child. She rode thinly clad
   through a blinding sleet and snow storm, developed pneumonia and died
   in the still hours of a bleak winter night, with her head resting on
   Lieutenant Greggs saddle blanket.
   I made the long journey to the west with the Cherokees and did all
   that a Private soldier could do to alleviate their sufferings. When on
   guard duty at night I have many times walked my beat in my blouse in
   order that some sick child might have the warmth of my overcoat. I was
   on guard duty the night Mrs. Ross died. When relieved at midnight I
   did not retire, but remained around the wagon out of sympathy for
   Chief Ross, and at daylight was detailed by Captain McClellan to
   assist in the burial like the other unfortunates who died on the way.
   Her unconfined body was buried in a shallow grave by the roadside far
   from her native home, and the sorrowing Cavalcade moved on.
   Being a young man, I mingled freely with the young women and girls. I
   have spent many pleasant hours with them when I was supposed to be
   under my blanket, and they have many times sung their mountain songs
   for me, this being all that they could do to repay my kindness. And
   with all my association with Indian girls from October 1829 to March
   26th 1839, I did not meet one who was a moral prostitute. They are
   kind and tender hearted and many of them are beautiful.
   The only trouble that I had with anybody on the entire journey to the
   west was a brutal teamster by the name of Ben McDonal, who was using
   his whip on an old feeble Cherokee to hasten him into the wagon. The
   sight of that old and nearly blind creature quivering under the lashes
   of a bull whip was too much for me. I attempted to stop McDonal and it
   ended in a personal encounter. He lashed me across the face, the wire
   tip on his whip cutting a bad gash in my cheek. The little hatchet
   that I had carried in my hunting days was in my belt and McDonal was
   carried unconscious from the scene.
   I was placed under guard but Ensign Henry Bullock and Private Elkanah
   Millard had both witnessed the encounter. They gave Captain McClellan
   the facts and I was never brought to trial. Years later I met 2nd
   Lieutenant Riley and Ensign Bullock at Bristol at John Robersons show,
   and Bullock jokingly reminded me that there was a case still pending
   against me before a court martial and wanted to know how much longer I
   was going to have the trial put off?
   McDonal finally recovered, and in the year 1851, was running a boat
   out of Memphis, Tennessee.
   The long painful journey to the west ended March 26th, 1839, with
   four-thousand silent graves reaching from the foothills of the Smoky
   Mountains to what is known as Indian territory in the West. And
   covetousness on the part of the white race was the cause of all that
   the Cherokees had to suffer. Ever since Ferdinand DeSoto made his
   journey through the Indian country in the year 1540, there had been a
   tradition of a rich gold mine somewhere in the Smoky Mountain Country,
   and I think the tradition was true. At a festival at Echota on
   Christmas night 1829, I danced and played with Indian girls who were
   wearing ornaments around their neck that looked like gold.
   In the year 1828, a little Indian boy living on Ward creek had sold a
   gold nugget to a white trader, and that nugget sealed the doom of the
   Cherokees. In a short time the country was overrun with armed brigands
   claiming to be government agents, who paid no attention to the rights
   of the Indians who were the legal possessors of the country. Crimes
   were committed that were a disgrace to civilization. Men were shot in
   cold blood, lands were confiscated. Homes were burned and the
   inhabitants driven out by the gold-hungry brigands.
   Chief Junaluska was personally acquainted with President Andrew
   Jackson. Junaluska had taken 500 of the flower of his Cherokee scouts
   and helped Jackson to win the battle of the Horse Shoe, leaving 33 of
   them dead on the field. And in that battle Junaluska had drove his
   tomahawk through the skull of a Creek warrior, when the Creek had
   Jackson at his mercy.
   Chief John Ross sent Junaluska as an envoy to plead with President
   Jackson for protection for his people, but Jacksons manner was cold
   and indifferent toward the rugged son of the forest who had saved his
   life. He met Junaluska, heard his plea but curtly said, "Sir, your
   audience is ended. There is nothing I can do for you." The doom of the
   Cherokee was sealed. Washington, D.C., had decreed that they must be
   driven West and their lands given to the white man, and in May 1838,
   an army of 4000 regulars, and 3000 volunteer soldiers under command of
   General Winfield Scott, marched into the Indian country and wrote the
   blackest chapter on the pages of American history.
   Men working in the fields were arrested and driven to the stockades.
   Women were dragged from their homes by soldiers whose language they
   could not understand. Children were often separated from their parents
   and driven into the stockades with the sky for a blanket and the earth
   for a pillow. And often the old and infirm were prodded with bayonets
   to hasten them to the stockades.
   In one home death had come during the night. A little sad-faced child
   had died and was lying on a bear skin couch and some women were
   preparing the little body for burial. All were arrested and driven out
   leaving the child in the cabin. I dont know who buried the body.
   In another home was a frail mother, apparently a widow and three small
   children, one just a baby. When told that she must go, the mother
   gathered the children at her feet, prayed a humble prayer in her
   native tongue, patted the old family dog on the head, told the
   faithful creature good-by, with a baby strapped on her back and
   leading a child with each hand started on her exile. But the task was
   too great for that frail mother. A stroke of heart failure relieved
   her sufferings. She sunk and died with her baby on her back, and her
   other two children clinging to her hands.
   Chief Junaluska who had saved President Jacksons life at the battle of
   Horse Shoe witnessed this scene, the tears gushing down his cheeks and
   lifting his cap he turned his face toward the heavens and said, "Oh my
   God, if I had known at the battle of the Horse Shoe what I know now,
   American history would have been differently written."
   At this time, 1890, we are too near the removal of the Cherokees for
   our young people to fully understand the enormity of the crime that
   was committed against a helpless race. Truth is, the facts are being
   concealed from the young people of today. School children of today do
   not know that we are living on lands that were taken from a helpless
   race at the bayonet point to satisfy the white mans greed.
   Future generations will read and condemn the act and I do hope
   posterity will remember that private soldiers like myself, and like
   the four Cherokees who were forced by General Scott to shoot an Indian
   Chief and his children, had to execute the orders of our superiors. We
   had no choice in the matter.
   Twenty-five years after the removal it was my privilege to meet a
   large company of the Cherokees in uniform of the Confederate Army
   under command of Colonel Thomas. They were encamped at Zollicoffer and
   I went to see them. Most of them were just boys at the time of the
   removal but they instantly recognized me as "the soldier that was good
   to us". Being able to talk to them in their native language I had an
   enjoyable day with them. From them I learned that Chief John Ross was
   still ruler in the nation in 1863. And I wonder if he is still living?
   He was a noble-hearted fellow and suffered a lot for his race.
   At one time, he was arrested and thrown into a dirty jail in an effort
   to break his spirit, but he remained true to his people and led them
   in prayer when they started on their exile. And his Christian wife
   sacrificed her life for a little girl who had pneumonia. The
   Anglo-Saxon race would build a towering monument to perpetuate her
   noble act in giving her only blanket for comfort of a sick child.
   Incidentally the child recovered, but Mrs. Ross is sleeping in a
   unmarked grave far from her native Smoky Mountain home.
   When Scott invaded the Indian country some of the Cherokees fled to
   caves and dens in the mountains and were never captured and they are
   there today. I have long intended going there and trying to find them
   but I have put off going from year to year and now I am too feeble to
   ride that far. The fleeing years have come and gone and old age has
   overtaken me. I can truthfully say that neither my rifle nor my knife
   were stained with Cherokee blood.
   I can truthfully say that I did my best for them when they certainly
   did need a friend. Twenty-five years after the removal I still lived
   in their memory as "the soldier that was good to us".
   However, murder is murder whether committed by the villain skulking in
   the dark or by uniformed men stepping to the strains of martial music.
   Murder is murder, and somebody must answer. Somebody must explain the
   streams of blood that flowed in the Indian country in the summer of
   1838. Somebody must explain the 4000 silent graves that mark the trail
   of the Cherokees to their exile. I wish I could forget it all, but the
   picture of 645 wagons lumbering over the frozen ground with their
   cargo of suffering humanity still lingers in my memory.
   Let the historian of a future day tell the sad story with its sighs,
   its tears and dying groans. Let the great Judge of all the earth weigh
   our actions and reward us according to our work.
   Children - Thus ends my promised birthday story. This December the
   11th 1890.

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