In his accessible history narrative Blood Moon, author John Sedgwick pulls no punches in depicting the Cherokees’ forced migration, and the book’s accounts of displacement, dispossession and disease make wrenching reading ... But Blood Moon places the tragic event in a context that’s more complex than many readers may realize, revealing how internal divisions within the Cherokee Nation may have made a bad situation worse ... Blood Moon unfolds as a sweeping intergenerational saga that views the devastation of a people from the perspective of two families ... As a century-spanning history book, Blood Moon is unusually fast-paced and compelling, at times reading more like one of Bernard Cornwell’s action-packed period novels rather than an academic tome. Sedgwick seems most vested when his accounts hinge on personalities or battles, but becomes less focused and authoritative when describing larger, less tangible socioeconomic forces ... Few tragedies prove as readable.
The history of relations between the indigenous peoples of North America and interlopers from Europe is more complicated than you think, as John Sedgwick demonstrates in his engrossing book on the Cherokee, Blood Moon. Actually, it’s more complicated than he thinks, or at least than he portrays it to be. This isn’t his fault; a story has to start somewhere, and it can’t move forward without omitting many details. But even posing the conflict in terms of indigenous peoples and interlopers oversimplifies ... Mr. Sedgwick deftly hangs his tale on two remarkable individuals: The Ridge (He Who Walks on Mountaintops) and John Ross. Each was of mixed ancestry ... Mr. Sedgwick’s account is filled with riveting, often gory details ... The harrowing parts of the story add not simply drama but insight into the self-righteous attitudes both sides brought to their struggle for the land ... Mr. Sedgwick’s subtitle calls the Cherokee story an 'American Epic,' and indeed it is.
Under government pressure during the 1830s, the Cherokee were divided between 'accommodationists' willing to leave their lands and those determined to stay. The leaders of the opposing factions, John Ross and a warrior usually called the Ridge, began as friends but became bitter opponents. Their inability to resolve their differences led to intratribal violence and the split during the war. Sedgwick has written an informative and engrossing account of this sad episode in American history.
As author John Sedgwick is not a historian, there are no traditional footnotes. The notes reference specific pages and list the source(s) consulted. Also, the sources used are virtually all secondary ones from the 20th century. Seemingly, there are no archives, memoirs, journals or documents from the Cherokee themselves or others prior to 1900. Fortunately, there are two excellent sections of illustrations, photographs, and engravings of relevant personages, places, and other significant items that provide context and further information to enhance the text. The four maps provided are also important as they delineate the traditional Cherokee homeland over several states in the early days of white contact, the shrinkage experienced as white settlement expanded by hook or by crook, the routes taken to the west as removal was enforced and, lastly, sites associated with fighting in the Indian Territory in the 1860s. Characterized as the Cherokee Holocaust, ultimate removal and the Trail of Tears, in spite of their efforts to become 'civilized,' serve to spotlight their long suffering history and what could be described as an early nadir in our relations with native peoples which culminated at the end of the 19th century. They, at the very least, deserved better than they got.
In this richly textured slice of Native American history, journalist Sedgwick...delves into the decades-long conflicts that divided the Cherokee Nation and eventually led factions to fight on both sides of 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...he has mined the best contemporary scholarship to craft a narrative riven with human drama.
Veteran journalist and author Sedgwick...dispels any notion that the Native American world was either monolithic or pacific ... A vigorous, well-written book that distills a complex history to a clash between two men without oversimplifying.