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Blood Moon: An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation by John Sedgwick

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For generations, Americans have been amazed and impressed with how quickly and thoroughly many Cherokee people assimilated into the American mainstream. That John Ridge, of the Wild Potato Clan in North Georgia, for example, not only graduated at the top of his class at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, in 1824, but married the headmaster’s daughter, is emblematic. The outrage of the locals, over what they viewed as miscegenation, resulted in the closing of the school. Recent non-fiction and fiction books by Dr. Tiya Miles of Harvard have brought renewed attention to the Cherokee plantations that bought and worked African-American slaves. Cherokee scholars and readers have been fascinated by the rivalry between the two most powerful Cherokee leaders during the period leading up to the Trail of Tears which President Andrew Jackson implemented in 1938 despite the U.S. Supreme Court prohibiting it. The Ridge family largely cooperated with the move to Oklahoma while John Ross’s family opposed the Cherokee Removal until it became inevitable. Recriminations, even murders, continued between the two families in Oklahoma after the removal and into the Civil War as the Ross faction favored the Union and the Ridge faction supported the Confederates.  It has seemed at times that Cherokee scholars have even been divided, as well, between sympathizers of the Ridge family and the Ross family.  For decades, the scholarly book, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic by Dr. William G. McLoughlin (1922-1992) of Brown University, published in 1986 by Princeton University Press was widely considered the definitive work on the rivalry. In 1988, Doubleday published Trail of Tears by John Ehle (1925-1918), primarily a fiction writer. It became a popular rendering of the same subject. This book, Blood Moon, falsely advertised as “an astonishing untold story,” arguably over-emphasizes the Ross/Ridge rivalry, even appearing to blame their rivalry, rather than the Georgia Gold Rush or President Jackson, for the Trial of Tears. Yet it must be honored as the most complete rendering of the Ross/Ridge rivalry in print as well as a dramatic and very readable telling of an important part of Appalachian, indeed American, history. “This 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. The story of the Trail of Tears, and of its aftermath in Arkansas and Oklahoma, has never been told with more passion or finesse.” – Ian Frazier. “John Sedgwick’s absorbing and ultimately damning story of the destruction of the Cherokee Nation—so that white settlers could pour in and take over their rich lands—finally unearths the ugly but quintessentially American truth about our young nation’s path to expansionism.” – Rinker Buck. The author, John Sedgwick, has written thirteen books and is a frequent contributor to magazines including GQ, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic. He lives in Brooklyn.

New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. 487 pages with four maps, an Index, Notes, and Selected Bibliography. Hardback in dust jacket.