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Sequoyah Research Center

Journal of Jefferson Van Horne — Choctaw Removal, November 1832

Journal of a party of Choctaws proceeding with horses in charge of Lieut. J. Van Horne United States disbursing agent for the removal of Indians from Vicksburg M. to join the main party of Choctaws emigrating west of the Mississippi River on the road leading to Fort Towson.

On 2nd November 1832 about 9 o’clock A.M. I started according to instructions with all the horses & cattle belonging to Greenwood Laflore’s party. Proceeded with my party eight miles up the Mississippi River [from Vicksburg] to ____ferry. There the snag boat Heliopoles commenced crossing them about 2 o’clock. 8 miles

3rd It was half past 8 o’clock on the 3rd before all the horses 244 were crossed but as I was anxious to make a start. With some difficulty packed the horses with provisions which the party received on separating from the main party and then proceeded six miles. We stopped early for the party to encamp on an elevated spot convenient to wood and water. Turned the horses out into a spacious cane break contained on all side by the river and the fence of an adjacent plantation. My party consisting of Indians, negroes & squaws numbering 47. Rained moderately during the evening. 6 miles

4th It continued to rain most of the day but as the roads were good, I thought it best to take advantage of them. We started at about one half past 7 o’clock and encamped at 4 o’clock P. M. The horses were contained at night in a dense cane break between the river and _______. The pack horses were supplied with corn. 21 miles

5th It continued to rain powerfully until about half past __o’clock A. M. The steam boats with the rest of the party passed near our encampment to get wood. I put an Indian of my party (who had become lame and unfit to travel) on board. Two Indians (as I afterwards discovered) left the boats here & joined my party. At half past 10 o’clock we started and traveled over a good road, through a slight rain, until a short time before sunset; when we encamped on the edge of the swamp two miles beyond Lake Providence. In the afternoon we crossed Tensas River. The baggage, provisions, two pack horses, and six old men & women crossed in the boat (ferriage 621/2 ct.). The remainder forded. I swam the horses. 21 miles

Started at 8 o’clock, on a cold morning. Made twelve miles, over very deep and bad swamp where many of the ponies (weak and exhausted when we started) were mired and we had to pull them out. One or two that were unable to get along were knocked in the head by their owners. When we arrived at the Bayou Mason, I called for some time for the ferryman. At length a drunken old hag bellowed from the cabin on the opposite side, that there was no man about and I must wait until he should come. Upon this, I commenced crossing the horses. We drove in about twenty. They swam over and every one mired on the opposite shore. I convinced an Indian to swim over and bring the raft. About a dozen of us crossed and with some difficulty pulled all the horses out. I now crossed all the people & baggage on the raft and drove the remainder of the horses in lower down, where they crossed without difficulty. Mrs. Fields (a squaw who herself owned 5 horses & who on the whole trip was giving us trouble every day by falling to the rear with her party,) had not yet come up. I passed on with the main party and encamped 15 minutes past 4 o’clock where wood and water were abundant leaving Mr. Byrn to assist her party over. As we received no assistance in crossing, as the old woman would not sell me any corn, and not only refused to accommodate us in any way, but was boisterous and abusive, I went off without paying her for the use of the raft. Mean time the ferryman arrived and assisted in crossing Mrs. Field’s party. He urged and prevailed on Mr. Byrn to pay $2 for the use of the raft and canoe and the assistance afforded in crossing. 12 miles

7th The weather very cold with rain and sleet. About twenty horses strayed off last night. We were detained until eleven o’clock searching for them. Found it difficult to keep the horses together. Some could not yet be found. Encamped at 4 o’clock, and turned the horses into a cane break surrounded by the waters of Bayou Mason. As the horses were much exhausted by crossing the swamp, I issued corn to them. 12 miles

8th Waited for the party and the horses that were not yet found. Started at half past 10 o’clock and proceeded 10 miles to Morris’s (the last house in the settlement). Encamped at 4 o’clock. As we now had a wilderness, where for 25 miles, the trail was very dim, swampy and impossible for a stranger to follow. I hired Morris to guide us. Ever since August last, when I had a severe attack of bilious fever, my health had been bad, and my bowels in a disordered state. For the last day or two I had the dysentery very severely. I had become prostrated. In the evening one of my party called me aside, told me his systems, and desired the prescription for cholera. I gave it. As it was very cold, this man and myself slept before the fire at Morris’ house. The symptoms increased on me until near midnight, when the constant purging & vomiting and terrible cramps in my stomach & bowels, induced me to take 20 grains of calomel & a large pill of opium. These I threw up. While vomiting through the floor, (from which Morris had torn up a plank,) and bent double with pain, I was repeating the dose. I was ordered to leave the house. Morris said he had a large family, that their lives and his own were at stake, that I had imposed on him in coming there in that situation & that I must quit the house. The ground was already covered with frost & freezing severely. I rolled myself in my blanket, after begging in vein to remain, and walked three fourths of a mile to my tent. Fortunately the last dose remained on my stomach, and in the morning I felt relieved, except that I was debilitated and dizzy from the effects of the opium. 10 miles

9th This morning Morris refused to go as our guide. I mounted my horse before sunrise to endeavor to get another guide. I was unable to get one who could be of service. A young man attempted to guide us but on reaching Bayou Mason, I discharge him, as he could not find the way. Owing to my exposure and exertions, I threw up the castor oil I had taken in the morning and my suffering for two or three days exceeded any thing I ever experienced. I could with difficulty keep upon my horse and was often compelled to lie on the ground. My patient recovered. These were the only cases of sickness on the journey. We swam Bayou Mason and encamped where there was abundance of cane, wood & water, at 15 minutes past 4 o’clock. The road this day was very bad & the weather disagreeable. 10 miles

10th Started at 8 o’clock. Our route continued very bad. We passed Lakeport where I purchased some provisions and crossed the difficult Bayou (outlet of Old river lake). Encamped about 4 o’clock in good range. Three Indians who had been left on shore by the steam boat joined us. 12 miles

11th Started at half past 8 o’clock, through cane breaks and thick undergrowth for about five miles without any road or trail and eight miles through the swamp between the Mississippi & Bayou Bartholomew, As there is much cane on this part of the route, I could nearly always encamp where it is abundant. Stopped at 4 o’clock. 13 miles

12th Started at 8 o’clock. Traveled all day through a bad swamp, crossing many bayous, over some of which we had to swim our horses, and cross ourselves on trees. We encamped at half past 4 o’clock on dry ground. Water, wood, & young cane abundant & convenient. 13 miles

13th Proceeded at 8 o’clock through excessively bad swamp. Crossed Bayou Bartholomew swimming the horses over. As the weather was cold, the Indians & baggage were crossed in the boat. As the horses were much exhausted corn was issued to them at this place where we stopped 15 minutes before 4 o’clock. 10 miles

14th Issued corn to the horses for the day and one bundle of fodder for each horse for tomorrow, as I was informed neither corn nor good range could be found on our route. Set off at half past 7 o’clock. For fifteen miles the road was muddy after that the road is good. A good horse was killed this day by a tree falling on it neck as we were passing along the road. Another was so badly foundered that we were obliged to leave him. Encamped 4 o’clock 20 miles

15th Started at half past seven and encamped at 4 o’clock. 20 miles

16th Detained until ten o’clock collecting the horses. Encamped at half past three o’clock. Cane, water, & wood convenient. 10 miles

17th Started at 8 o’clock and encamped about 4 o’clock. Issued five days rations to the people and one days ration of corn to the horses. 15 miles

18th Excessive and constant rain all day. Very cold. Started at ten o’clock and encamped at 3 o’clock P. M. 10 miles

19th Very cold. Started at 9 o’clock. Road very muddy and bad. Crossed many difficult bayous, some of which we had to swim. Encamped at 4 o’clock. 15 miles

20th Issued two days rations to the people and corn to the horses. Started at half past 8 o’clock. The roads still bad and covered with water. Encamped at half past four o’clock. 26 miles

21st Started at eight o’clock. Traveled over a small path filled with bushes and logs and encamped at four o’clock. 22 miles

22nd Started at half past seven o’clock. Path very dim and obstructed with bushes. Reached Brummet’s on the old Towson road eight miles west of Little Rock about 2 o’clock P. M. Made issues to the people and the horses. I was told here that Lafore’s party (to which my horses belonged) had not yet reached Little Rock. I rode to the latter place in the evening to ascertain satisfactorily. I there learned that this party had passed by near Brummet’s the morning of the day we arrived there. 21 miles

23rd I returned to Brummet’s and proceeded with the party to overtake Laflore’s people. On my way, the road was crowded with emigrating Choctaws. Some of my party anxious to join their wives and relatives hastened on and united with them in the evening. Others joined the next day. As Capt. J. Brown Principal Distr. Agt. informed me that from a recent occurrence, my services were required with the party of 1800 then coming on between Rock Roe & Little Rock. I directed Mr. Byrn to go on with and unite Field’s party (and a few others who were in the rear) with the main body, which he did, (as he informed me) at the Washita river. 22 miles

24th I preceded on the 24th to Little Rock, (30 miles.). On the next day 25th I crossed the Arkansas river and reported to Maj. F. W. Armstrong Spec. Agt. 22 miles east of Little Rock. Maj. Armstrong told me that as soon as the party could be divided, either that evening or on arriving at Little Rock, I would be placed in charge of a party of upwards of 600. That until then I would remain with and assist in the transportation of the whole detachment. Arrived at Little Rock, the division was made. Lieut. Montgomery crossed the Arkansas on the 28th with a party of about 600. Mr. Byrn was appointed assistant conductor to my party by Maj. Armstrong.

Source: National Archives Record Group, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Entry 210, Records of the Commissary General of Subsistence, Letters received, Choctaw, 1833, Box 11.

Transcribed by Carolyn Y. Kent

Updated 1.12.2010