Archive for the 'colonial gothic' Category


on the trail of tears: the cruelest work

The last post on the Trail of Tears, this post is about the Cherokee removal. The title of this post comes from the account of an unnamed soldier who participated in the removal.

“I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew.”

The discovery of gold at Dahlonega in 1829 and demand for cotton plantations exacerbated a dire situation for the Cherokee who faced trespassing prospectors and division of lands into lots by Georgia government. In spite of legal battles, the Indian Removal Act 1830 and Treaty of New Echota signed by a group of Cherokee in 1835 gave the removal false legitimacy.

In 1836, some Cherokee (notably those who supported the Treaty signatories and by no means the majority) began their migration. Roughly 6,000 Cherokee had relocated by the end of 1836. The legality of the Treaty was in question and Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to President Van Buren asking him not to inflict “…so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation.”

In May 1838, the US Army rounded up 13,000 Cherokee at gunpoint from their homes into concentration camps near Cleveland, Tennessee. Those who didn’t go were shot, those who did were beaten if they resisted. In these camps, dysentery was rife and there were deaths and soldiers deserted regularly. The plan was to send the Cherokee along three routes to Oklahoma.

This was a journey of almost 1200 miles, taken on foot, horse or wagon and boat. Along the way, Cherokees were assaulted and killed, charged exorbitant fees to use ferries. At Red Clay, the Cherokee were given hospital blankets infected with smallpox and as a result, the Cherokee were not allowed near towns, forcing them to prolong their journey.

The Cherokee nation’s leader, John Ross negotiated with the US Army and asked that he would organise the removal, allowing them to travel and forage in smaller groups rather than the mass herding inflicted on other tribes. The groups of up to a thousand Cherokee were able to make the journey without extreme losses but death was still a constant companion on the journey.

It is commonly cited that 2000 Cherokee died in the camps and that another 2000 died on the trail of tears. Other estimates add up to 2000 more. The removal continued into the bitter winter of 1838 where Cherokee died of exposure waiting for a Kentucky river ferry that charged a dollar for a twelve-cent ride and twelve inches of ice covered the waters of South Illinois.

Along the way, the Cherokee sang ‘Amazing Grace’ to maintain morale – even today the song has special meaning to them. The Cherokee rose (Georgia’s state flower) is said to have been found as a sign of hope for those Cherokee on the trail. The Cherokee who were removed settled at Tahlequah, Oklahoma and those who signed the Treaty of New Echota were assassinated.

Not all the Cherokee were removed, some 600 were given citizenship in North Carolina through the actions of a white store owner. Another 400 hid in the North Carolina mountains from federal troops and yet another 400 submitted to state laws. The vast majority of those who were removed still remember those who died on the Trail of Tears.


on the trail of tears: bribery and bones

This post continues the tragedy of the Trail of Tears – the forced relocation of five Indian nations to Oklahoma so their lands could be exploited by the US Government and it’s citizens. What interests me is the differing attitudes to the tribes whose responses may inspire numerous game or story situations and the darker side of US national heroes like Andrew Jackson.

Chickasaw Purchase
Oddly, the Chickasaw nation weren’t forcibly relocated. This may be due to their ongoing good relations with the US Government, with whom they allied against the Northwest Territories and the presence of the Colberts, a Chickasaw family born of a Scots trader who became influential in the tribe and in state Government. Yet even this amiable relationship would not save them.

The Government paid money for their lands east of the Mississippi and the Chickasaw moved voluntarily. Yet much of this money would remain unpaid for nearly 30 years and the fair share of it become forfeit as the Chickasaw sided with the Confederates during the Civil War; of those who remained, they sought other lands to the west.

3,001 Chickasaw moved to Oklahoma and 500 died of dysentery and smallpox along the way; on their arrival they sought to assimilate with the Choctaw. This was met with distrust aggravated by the purchase of formerly Choctaw land by the Chickasaw and in some cases violence; so that with further Chickasaw relocations, they eventually reformed their own nation.

Muskogee Migration
The Muskogee (or Creek) nation were not so favoured by the Government. In 1812, a Shawnee warrior called Tecumseh sparked off a fierce war which in two years cost the US Government $26 million. In 1814 Andrew Jackson demanded it in compensation from the Muskogee ‘for listening to evil counsel’ despite the aid of some tribes in the war against Tecumseh.

Despite overturning a treaty (something no other tribe managed) and dissent between military and federal government that almost led to civil war; the Muskogee were told to sell their land in lots and relocate or stay and submit to state laws. As white land speculators defrauded the Muskogee, unrest grew leading to war in 1836 when two tribes turned violent.

A significant military presence (inspired by fear of another Seminole war) ended the war quickly and forced relocation took place. Thousands of men, women and children were herded between internment camps from Fort Mitchell, Alabama to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. Many died on the route, enough that their bones littered the trail to the Indian Territories.

This post summarises heavily; a little digging into this era reveals a rich tapestry of events and shows a side of American history some may find uncomfortable. Again thanks to Rogue Games for Colonial Gothic, without which I wouldn’t have enquired into this topic.


on the trail of tears: peace and war

Doing some research for a game led me to a potentially deep seam of material – the Trail of Tears was the route taken by the forced migration of five Indian nations into Oklahoma by the American Government at the behest of Andrew Jackson whose ignorance of treaties and court rulings in favour of Indian independence led to the deaths of thousands and spending of millions for their lands.

The Choctaw Trail of Tears
After negotiating a treaty in which about a quarter (some 5000 or so) of their tribe were allowed to remain on land ceded to the US Government, the Choctaw left peacefully, unwilling to be ruled by laws in which they had no part. President Jackson intended the Choctaw removal to be a model one – however it led to nearly 100 years of persecution by neighbouring white settlers.

The first migration in the winter of 1831 led to the migration of about 17,000 Choctaw, of whom 2,500 died due to hunger, harsh weather and being lost in the Lake Providence swamps by incompetent guides – when Alexis de Tocqueville, a French philosopher witnessed the migration, he asked one Choctaw why he was leaving to receive the solemn reply “To be free.

Future removals displaced hundreds until in 1930, only 1,700 Choctaw remained in their native lands around the Mississippi. During this, they were persecuted having ‘…our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered… until by such treatment some of our best men have died.’

The Seminole Wars
In 1832, the Seminole were given an offer to move west and assimilate into the Creek nation, which they had left. This offer was declined based on fears of Creek retribution, a lack of trust in the US Government and lack of authority in the chiefs approached. Some tribes moved west, others did not and the local Florida government chose to send the military in to force the issue.

This met fierce resistance – with the help of escaped slaves, the Seminole killed 107 soldiers, leaving only three survivors from an Army company. For the next 27 years, the Army and Seminoles fought a series of running wars as warriors were bribed with rifles and money to relocate and the Seminole caused dramatic casualties in set-piece battles in the Florida swamps.

After wars costing millions of US dollars, thousands of lives and requiring continued Army presence and raising militias, a series of raids on Seminole villages and significantly increased bribes helped to re-settle the majority of Seminole until only about 200 of them were left in their ancestral lands. They subsequently declined to participate in the governance of Florida.

The more I look at this, the more in awe I am of the authors of Colonial Gothic. You could adopt this story into the system of your choice and come up with encounters and vignettes that would highlight the conflict yet they did a lot of this work for you and the scholarship and research on their Indian player characters is impressive.


papa’s got a brand new (dice) bag

Visited the FLGS on Saturday. A pilgrimage involving a train journey (yes I can source RPGs from local shops but there are no specialists where I am) in order to spend money and get an indication of the state of the art. I went in intending to buy PHB2 but failed to do so; when I handed over the swag, it got switched with Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema.

Fortunately for me, I also have Dark Heresy and my guaranteed DH player I know doesn’t have it yet. It’s a lovely glossy book (expensive but IMHO worth it) and Fantasy Flight know their audience well. The monsters are the mix of wonderful horror and fantasy pastiche that DH excels in. The final chapter is an excellent section for GM advice too.

In my bag of swag was a cool dice bag with the Elder Sign on it, a couple more trinkets and a little game called Colonial Gothic by Rogue Games which I read on the train back. I didn’t expect quality fluff (Indian PCs with proper tribal backgrounds) and simple mechanics featuring every AD&D grognard’s icon , the d12! I heartily recommend it and it’s companion volume Secrets.

I may do a couple of one-shots and even put some things up here for perusal. The total cost for Colonial Gothic and Secrets was £20; I think the PHB2 was £16. Is it a bad thing you can get a rule set, a setting and a sourcebook for nearly the same price as a partial rules upgrade for a game? Do we even think in those terms any more?

Maybe I didn’t look like (whatever that is) a 4E player. No matter, I can find a deadtree copy anytime – legal PDF may be trickier of course. Besides, the DM for the latest game I’m about to start has declared it’s 3.xE forevermore for him and I have no current headspace to run 4E right now (rebooting a Mage:The Ascension game while moving house) though I’m writing stuff fine.