Major Ridge - Assassination


In the West, the Ross faction blamed Ridge and the other signers of the Treaty of New Echota for alienating communal land, which they considered a capital crime, and for the hardships of removal. In June 1839, Cherokee assassinated Major Ridge, his son John, and nephew Elias Boudinot. They attacked Elias' brother Stand Watie, but he survived. Other Treaty Party members were later killed, starting a wave of violence within the nation.

Among Ridge's killers was Bird Doublehead. Ridge had killed his father Chief Doublehead under orders by the National Council. Another of his killers was James Foreman, Bird's half-brother. In 1842 Stand Watie, Ridge's nephew, killed Foreman. In 1845 opponents killed his younger brother, Thomas Watie, part of the cycle of retaliatory violence that resulted in the deaths of all the Watie family males of that generation. Stand Watie survived the violence of the 1840s, when the Cherokee conflict descended into virtual civil war. In the 1850s, Watie was tried in Arkansas for Foreman's murder but was acquitted on grounds of self-defense; he was defended by his brother Elias' son, Elias Cornelius Boudinot.

Tribal divisions were exacerbated by the outbreak of the American Civil War. Many Cherokee supported the Confederacy, whose officials had suggested they would recognize an Indian state if successful in creating an independent nation. Stand Watie served as Principal Chief (1862-1866) of the pro-Confederate Cherokee after Ross and many Union-supporters withdrew to another location. He served as a Confederate general and was the last to surrender to Union troops.

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