Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears

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by Brian Hicks
     
 

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Toward the Setting Sun chronicles one of the most significant but least explored periods in American history, recounting the little known story of the first white man to champion the voiceless Native American cause.

Son of a Scottish trader and a quarter-Cherokee woman, Ross was educated in white schools and was only one-eighth Indian by blood. But as…  See more details below

Overview

Toward the Setting Sun chronicles one of the most significant but least explored periods in American history, recounting the little known story of the first white man to champion the voiceless Native American cause.

Son of a Scottish trader and a quarter-Cherokee woman, Ross was educated in white schools and was only one-eighth Indian by blood. But as Cherokee chief in the mid-nineteenth century, he would guide the tribe through its most turbulent period. The Cherokees' plight lay at the epicenter of nearly all the key issues facing a young America: western expansion, states' rights, judicial power, and racial discrimination. Clashes between Ross and President Andrew Jackson raged from battlefields and meeting houses to the White House and Supreme Court. As whites settled illegally on the Nation's land, the chief steadfastly refused to sign a removal treaty. Only when a group of renegade Cherokees betrayed their chief and negotiated an agreement with Jackson's men was he forced to begin his journey west. In one of America's great tragedies, thousands died during the Cherokees' migration on the Trail of Tears.

Toward the Setting Sun retells the story of expansionism from the native perspective, and takes a critical look at the well-rehearsed story of American progress.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hicks (Raising the Hunley) revisits U.S. treachery and deceit toward Native Americans in his study of John Ross, the Cherokee chief who for 20 years led his people in defense of their lands. As the population of the fledgling U.S. grew, so too did pressure on the Cherokees to quit their land. Foremost among the advocates of Cherokee removal was Andrew Jackson, who used every power at his command--including eventually the power of the presidency--to see Cherokee land settled by whites. Against this formidable foe stood an unlikely champion, trading post owner John Ross. Only a fraction Cherokee, Ross nevertheless felt a powerful connection to the people and their cause, journeying repeatedly to Washington to plead their case and gain some sort of protection from the depredations of settlers and overzealous politicians. Ultimately defeated, he turned to doing what he could to ease the brutality of the long, bitter, and--for many thousands of Cherokee--fatal march on foot into the West along what came to be called the Trail of Tears. Richly detailed and well-researched, the heartbreaking history unfolds like a political thriller with a deeply human side. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“Richly detailed and well-researched, this heartbreaking history unfolds like a political thriller with a deeply human side.”—Publishers Weekly

“A vigorous account of the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their southern homelands. . .[Hicks] takes a measured view of Ross’s opponents and allies alike, shedding new light on the career of other eminent figures such as the newspaperman and Confederate general Stand Watie. A welcome addition to Cherokee history.”—Kirkus

“By focusing on the people behind the tragedy of the Cherokee and the Trail of Tears, Brian Hicks makes us see how individual men and women shaped the complex course of history. Written with sympathy and verve, Toward the Setting Sun is an important book that is also a pleasure to read.”—Nathaniel Philbrick, author Why Read Moby-Dick?, The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the National Book Award-winning In the Heart of the Sea

“In this powerful and engaging new book, Brian Hicks tells the compelling story of Chief John Ross and the tragedy of the Cherokee Nation. By focusing on the Ross family, Hicks brings narrative energy and original insight to a grim and important chapter of American life.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion

“With careful probing and quiet eloquence, Brian Hicks shows us the moral complexities of a leader struggling to make sense of his shrinking world. You feel the fate of John Ross and the Cherokees, a great people whose only crime was living in the path of a ravenous, covetous empire.”—Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder

“Brian Hicks' mastery has made history come alive as he reveals the voices of the past reaching out to us. Toward the Setting Sun is an extraordinary account of a sad time in our nation's history. It is truly timeless and of great historical worth.”—Clive Cussler, author of Spartan Gold

“Clear and compelling… Hicks is a gifted storyteller.” —Glenn C. Altschuler, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Hicks is a skilled writer and historian and this book about a tragic chapter in our nation’s story is enlightening and powerful.” —The Boston Globe

“‘Toward the Setting Sun’ is a powerful metaphor for the U.S. government’s forced expatriation of the [Cherokees]… Hick’s book is a must-read… [It] bears the trenchant style of a fine writer.” —The Post and Courier

“[Well] written… Hicks does a great job of establishing and building up his information.” —Library Journal

“Brian Hicks tells a compelling story about a determined Cherokee leader who was forced to make hard choices absent any good options in a rapidly changing land. Toward the Setting Sun is an honest, provocative examination of tragic betrayal and the limits of power for the Native American.”—Scott Zesch, author of The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier

“A riveting history of the white chief who led the Cherokee tribe through their most progressive era, then through their greatest tragedy.” —The Daily Beast

“An excellent introduction to an important episode in U.S. history, and a gateway to further Native American study.” —Jim Cullen, History News Network.com

“This tragic chronicle has numerous complex subplots that require a talented storyteller such as Brian Hicks… absorbing…[Toward the Setting Sun] is narrative history at its best.” —History Book Club.com

“[T]he engaging writing style will draw in readers and will make accessible to a wide audience both the magnitude of the tragedy of removal and the resiliency of the Cherokee peoples” – Choice, Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

Library Journal
John Ross became principal chief of the Cherokees in 1827 and led his people through multiple trials, including removal from their homelands in the Southeast, a violent conflict between rival political factions in Oklahoma, and the Civil War. Hicks (Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew) utilizes Ross as the prism through which to explore the history of the Cherokee during the removal era. Although well written, the story feels incomplete. Eleven chapters set the stage for the Trail of Tears, but the event itself receives only one chapter. Short shrift is also given to the subsequent violence that erupted when Cherokee aligned with Ross allegedly began killing prominent Cherokee, such as Major Ridge and Elias Boudinot, who had signed away the tribal homelands in the Treaty of New Echota. VERDICT Although Hicks does a great job of establishing and building up his information, he then seems to quit and simply bring the book to an end, leaving readers stranded. Instead consider Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green's The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears or Tim Alan Garrison's The Legal Ideology of Removal: The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
Kirkus Reviews

A vigorous account of the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their southern homelands and the complex events leading to what the author does not hesitate to call a "death march."

Charleston Post and Courier senior writer Hicks (When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake, 2006, etc.) shapes his story around tribal leader John Ross, popularly known as "the Cherokee Moses," who led his people to Oklahoma and thereafter tried to forge of their reservation a true independent state. "He was the architect of the tribe's greatest period of advancement; he made the Cherokees the most civilized of American Indian tribes," writes the author. It is no small curiosity that Ross was as white as were the settlers who infringed on Cherokee territory and eventually displaced his people, whose number he joined by choice out on the frontier. In fact, he "barely had any Indian blood coursing through his veins. Yet, as Hicks, himself of Cherokee ancestry, capably argues, Ross was perhaps the greatest of all Cherokee leaders, even though in many ways he failed at his efforts. For one thing, he often outflanked but could never completely outrun Andrew Jackson, who was bent on making the hunting grounds of the Cumberland Plateau a white domain. Even before he became president, Jackson wanted to force the Indians of the southeast onto distant reservations to the west. For another, Ross's efforts were often undone by tribal factionalism, betrayed even by his own brother. In his attempts to forge a true confederacy of Cherokee bands, he failed to reckon with private jealousies and with the demands of Indians who had already moved west before Ross and his people arrived. Hicks writes with appropriate indignation of their removal, calling it "little more than a human cattle drive." He also takes a measured view of Ross's opponents and allies alike, shedding new light on the career of other eminent figures such as the newspaperman and Confederate general Stand Watie.

A welcome addition to Cherokee history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802195999
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
188,425
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt


From the prologue:

When Harris cocked his rifle, Ross wheeled his horse around and galloped off, retreating by the sound of the gun’s report. Ross knew the countryside well, and that knowledge gave him an advantage in the dark. He rode fast, knowing that it was not only himself, but the entire Cherokee Nation he had to save. The tribe depended on him; there was no one else who could stop Jackson.
Even though the attack made his blood boil, turning to fight never occurred to Ross. He was not a warrior, and he knew it. Ross’s only thoughts were of escape. Although it would have been natural to be afraid, Ross was more annoyed than anything else. The attack was just something else standing in the way of his business. He knew that he must get away, but he still had much work to do.
Andrew caught up to Ross within minutes, and the two rode quickly and quietly through the night. After a while, they turned off the trail that led to Coodey’s, not wanting to bring this trouble on their nephew.
As his horse sprinted, dodging branches on the narrow trail, John Ross had little time to wonder who had sent this man Harris. Had it been the governor of Georgia, the president of the United States, or one of his own tribesmen? In truth, he knew it mattered very little at that moment, because he could hear the man gaining.
And then, another shot rang out in the dark.

Meet the Author

Brian Hicks is a senior writer for The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., and this is his fifth book. Of Cherokee heritage, he lives in Charleston.

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Toward the Setting Sun: John Ross, the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ckearing/fresh kill pile -Leaves the fall