An astonishing untold story from the nineteenth century—a “riveting…engrossing…‘American Epic’” (The Wall Street Journal) and necessary work of history that reads like Gone with the Wind for the Cherokee.
“A vigorous, well-written book that distills a complex history to a clash between two men without oversimplifying” (Kirkus Reviews), Blood Moon is the story of the feud between two rival Cherokee chiefs from the early years of the United States through the infamous Trail of Tears and into the Civil War. Their enmity would lead to war, forced removal from their homeland, and the devastation of a once-proud nation.
One of the men, known as The Ridge—short for He Who Walks on Mountaintops—is a fearsome warrior who speaks no English, but whose exploits on the battlefield are legendary. The other, John Ross, is descended from Scottish traders and looks like one: a pale, unimposing half-pint who wears modern clothes and speaks not a word of Cherokee. At first, the two men are friends and allies who negotiate with almost every American president from George Washington through Abraham Lincoln. But as the threat to their land and their people grows more dire, they break with each other on the subject of removal.
In Blood Moon, John Sedgwick restores the Cherokee to their rightful place in American history in a dramatic saga that informs much of the country’s mythic past today. Fueled by meticulous research in contemporary diaries and journals, newspaper reports, and eyewitness accounts—and Sedgwick’s own extensive travels within Cherokee lands from the Southeast to Oklahoma—it is “a wild ride of a book—fascinating, chilling, and enlightening—that explains the removal of the Cherokee as one of the central dramas of our country” (Ian Frazier).
Populated with heroes and scoundrels of all varieties, this is a richly evocative portrait of the Cherokee that is destined to become the defining book on this extraordinary people.
In this richly textured slice of Native American history, journalist Sedgwick (War of Two) delves into the decades-long conflicts that divided the Cherokee Nation and eventually led factions to fight on both sides of the Civil War. At the center sit two Cherokee leaders, friends turned bitter rivals. He Who Walks on Mountains, known as the Ridge, and John Ross both of mixed Cherokee and Scottish ancestry first crossed paths while fighting under Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. Fourteen years later, the two men served, respectively, as the principal chief and first counselor of a thriving tribe whose government had a constitution and legislative and judiciary branches."Then," Sedgwick notes, "gold was found in Cherokee Georgia, and that ruined everything." By the early 1830s, the Cherokee were forced to leave Georgia on the Trail of Tears. Sedgwick recounts the growing hostility between Ross, whose followers wanted to fight the order, and the Ridge, whose followers considered removal inevitable and wanted to make sure they got the best deal possible, through the Civil War. Though Sedgwick doesn't break new ground with primary sources, and his storytelling suffers from some language that treats members of the tribe as an exotic monolith ("The Cherokee have always been an inspired, resilient people, close to the earth, and, with it, to the eternal"), he has mined the best contemporary scholarship to craft a narrative riven with human drama. Illus.