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John Holdridge
Cherokee War 1838

John Holdridge served as a private in the Georgia Militia during the Cherokee removals in 1838. Men were required to enlist for three months in the militia to assist with the removals, the beginning of the "Trail of Tears". He joined for duty and enrolled May 14, 1838. John mustered in on May 19, 1838, at New Echota, Georgia, serving in Capt. McMullen's Company, 2nd Regiment (Turk's).[1]

He appears on the Muster-out roll at New Echota, Georgia dated June 24, 1838. Although the enlistment period was for three months it appears that he was not required to serve that amount.

In the treaty of New Echota, a date of May 23, 1838 was set for the Cherokee Indians to be removed from Georgia to land set aside for them in Oklahoma Indian Territory. The removals proceeded very slowly under the man in charge, General Wool. His replacement, Colonel William Lindsay, determined to speed up the process to enforce the May 23 deadline for removal of the entire tribe. It is in this short time frame in spring to summer of 1838 that men of Georgia, including John Holdridge, were enlisted to help round up the Cherokees and place them in stockades, awaiting escorts by federal troops out of Georgia. Fort New Echota, where John enlisted, was built to house the Cherokee before moving west. Local operations began on May 18, 1838, mostly carried out by Georgia Guard under the command of Colonel William Lindsey.

The process is described by Charles Russell Logan in The Promised Land: The Cherokees, Arkansas, and Removal, 1794-1839. "Colonel William Lindsay, in nine months of frenetic activity made up for much of Wool's ambivalence, creating a militia force of 31 companies, building 23 forts and collecting vast subsistence stores. The government's apparent determination to enforce the Treaty of New Echota drew criticism from several Congressmen and many newspapers, which deplored the treaty as an "improper instrument". Even foreign observers commented cynically about "a government founded upon such lofty principles" having its "deviations exposed to public scrutiny." Despite the protests...on April 6 the War Department ordered General Winfield Scott to report to the Cherokee agency on the Hiwassee River to "ensure compliance" with the treaty. Scott arrived at the agency May 10. He had at his command about 2,200 regular troops, officially called the Army of the Cherokee Nation, as well state militia and volunteer troops from Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, which brought his force to more than 7,000 men. Scott, like Wool, felt sympathy for the Cherokees, but he did not allow this sentiment to interfere with the execution of his duties. On May 10, two days after he arrived in Cherokee country, Scott gathered some 60 chiefs and other important tribesmen at the agency and explained that he had come to the Cherokee Nation to enforce the Treaty of New Echota. "The emigration must be commenced in haste ...," he said. "The full moon of May is already on the wane, and before another shall have passed away, every Cherokee man, woman and child must be in motion to join their brethren in the far West.. ." Scott sent copies of his address to newspapers and ordered it printed on handbills and circulated throughout the Cherokee Nation. On May 17, Scott issued orders to his troops concerning a roundup of the Cherokees and he commanded them to treat the Cherokees humanely and mercifully. Finally, on May 23, 1838, the date set by the treaty for the Indians" removal, came and passed without incident. Three days later, soldiers in Georgia left their posts in squads with orders to collect all Cherokees and return with them to the stockades."

"Unfortunately, a few of the troops under Scott's command did not obey his orders for mercy toward the Cherokees. According to interviews with Cherokees participants conducted late in the nineteenth century by James Mooney and published in 1900 by the Bureau of Ethnology, "Families at dinner were startled by the sudden gleam of bayonets in the doorway ... Men were seized in their fields or going along the road, women were taken from their wheels and children from their play ... they saw their homes in flames, fired by the lawless rabble that followed on the heels of the soldiers to loot and pillage ... hunts were made by the same men for Indian graves, to rob them of the silver pendants and other valuables deposited with the dead." A Georgia volunteer, afterward a colonel in the Confederate service, said of the roundup: "I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands, but the Cherokee removal was the cruelest work I ever knew." Treaty Party members had prepared for removal and therefore saved much of their property, but those caught in the roundup often had no more than the clothes they wore when captured. In the stockades, the soldiers had built almost no shelters inside the 16-foot-high walls, and thus most Cherokees slept exposed to the elements. Also, because they had no implements with which to cook, the Cherokees often ate their daily ration of salt pork raw. Eventually, Scott ordered his officers to allow a few women outside the walls to hunt for fruit and edible plants. A few men also received permission to return to their homes to retrieve property, but usually they found the abodes had been stripped bare by roving hordes of whites who followed the soldiers as they collected the Cherokees."[2]

Many of the settlers in this area of Georgia had lived in peace with the Cherokee. White settlers were easily accepted into Cherokee society. There was intermarriage between Cherokee and white settlers. When the removals began some of these helped the Cherokee by hiding them and providing shelter. Since we know from family stories that John's future wife Edy Coley was part Cherokee, it is interesting to speculate what might have happened when he participated in the removals. Did he know her before he had to serve in the militia? Or did he meet her during the removals? They married within a year after he ended his service, on July 21, 1839.

Captain McMullan's 2nd Georgia Militia, Henry County, Georgia[3]

Captain John S McMullan Lieutenant William M Wallace
Ensign Joseph T Albert Sergeant James Alexander
Sergeant Memory Turner Corporal Eli Copeland
Corporal William Henry Corporal Isaac Joiner
Privates:
Ashley, Jackson Lackey, Early
Bluford, Thomas Lambert, Seth H
Brown, Mathew Lowe, James P
Brown, William McCormick, Hugh
Cagle, David M McDaniel, William
Camp, John L Millions, Leonard
Carter, Andrew Miller, James
Carter, Shadrick Mills, John
Cates, William Mitchell, William
Chapman, Nathan Morgan, Eldridge
Cleveland, Alexander Pickett, Bright
Cobb, William Pool, Hiram
Connelly, James Rape, Peter
Conglar, Jesse Ray, S.B [Solomon]
Copeland, Joseph Reeves, Anderson
Crawford, Milton N Reynolds, Berry
Crawford, William Simonton, Thomas H
Davis, Chesley Sims, Hiram
Dingler, John T Sims, Sterling T
Downing, Charles Smith, Joshua B
Dye, Elijah Smith, Parnell L
Easter, David Stephens, Merriman
Fletcher, James M Stephens, William D
Gaines, William Toller, Joel
Garrett, Charles M Wallace, Richard
Garrett, Wesley Warren, James D
Goldman, Thomas S Wells, Hezekiah
Hill, James M West, John W
Holdridge, John H Whitley, William
Holland, Mathew Wright, William F
Johnson, Jeremiah F Wright, Wilson
Johnson, John Yarbrough, Silas

  1. John Holdridge, Cherokee War, Service Record #397, National Archives
  2. Charles Russell Logan, The Promised Land: The Cherokees, Arkansas, and Removal, 1794-1839
  3. McMullan's 2nd Georgia Militia Cherokee War, compiled by Linda Ayers, online at http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/military/indian/mcmullan.txt, accessed March 14, 2012