The First Phase In Removing The Choctaws Begins

Secretary of War Lewis Cass appointed George Gaines to manage the removals.

Gaines decided to remove Choctaws in three phases starting in 1831 and ending in 1833. The first was to begin on November 1, 1831 with groups meeting at Memphis and Vicksburg. A harsh winter would batter the emigrants with flash floods, sleet, and snow. Initially the Choctaws were to be transported by wagon but floods halted them. With food running out, the residents of Vicksburg and Memphis were concerned. Five steamboats (the Walter Scott, the Brandywine, the Reindeer, the Talma, and the Cleopatra) would ferry Choctaws to their river-based destinations. The Memphis group traveled up the Arkansas for about 60 miles (97 km) to Arkansas Post. There the temperature stayed below freezing for almost a week with the rivers clogged with ice, so there would be no travel for weeks. Food rationing consisted of a handful of boiled corn, one turnip, and two cups of heated water per day. Forty government wagons were sent to Arkansas Post to transport them to Little Rock. When they reached Little Rock, Choctaw chief (thought to be Thomas Harkins or Nitikechi) quoted to the Arkansas Gazette that the removal was a "trail of tears and death." The Vicksburg group was led by an incompetent guide and was lost in the Lake Providence swamps.

Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, and a U.S. Senator representing Michigan. He was the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States in 1848.