Known as the Treaty Party (Ridgites), only 350 of 17,000 Cherokee actually endorsed the agreement. Threatened by violence from their own people, they and 2,000 family members quickly gathered their property and left for Oklahoma. The treaty was clearly a fraud, and a petition of protest with 16,000 Cherokee signatures was dispatched to Washington to halt ratification. After violent debate, Jackson succeeded in pushing it through the Senate during May by the margin of a single vote. The Cherokee Nation was doomed. For the next two years, Ross tried every political and legal means to stop the removal, but failed. When the deadline arrived in May, 1838, 7,000 soldiers under General Winfield Scott (virtually the entire American Army) moved into the Cherokee homeland. The Cherokee found that their reward for 'taking the white man¹s road' was to be driven from their homes at gunpoint. It was the beginning of the Nunadautsun't or 'the trail where we cried.' History would call it the Trail of Tears.
Forced to abandon most of their property, the Cherokee were herded into hastily-built stockades at Rattlesnake Springs near Chattanooga. Little thought had been given to these, and in the crowded and unsanitary conditions, measles, whooping cough and dysentery took a terrible toll throughout the summer. After most of the Cherokee had been collected, relocation by boat began in August, but drought had made Tennessee River unusable. At this point Cherokee desperation contributed to the disaster. Not wishing to remain until spring in the lethal conditions at Rattlesnake Springs, Ross petitioned the government to allow the Cherokee to manage their own removal.
Permission was delayed until October. When it finally came, several large groups of Cherokee departed into the face of an approaching winter. They were marched west without adequate shelter, provisions, or food. The soldiers were under orders to move quickly and did little to protect them from whites who attacked and robbed the Cherokee of what little they had left. Two-thirds were trapped in southern Illinois by ice on the Mississippi and forced to remain for a month without shelter or supplies. As many as 4,000, including the wife of John Ross, died enroute. Many had to be left unburied beside the road.
Some Cherokee avoided the removal. Under the provisions of the 1817 and 1819 treaties, 400 Qualia of Chief Yonaguska who lived in North Carolina were United States citizens and owned their land individually. Not members of the Cherokee Nation, they were not subject to removal and allowed to stay. Several hundred Cherokee escaped and hid in the mountains. The army used other Cherokee to hunt them. Tsali and two of his sons were captured and executed after they had killed a soldier trying to capture them. In 1842 the army gave up the effort, and the fugitive Cherokee were allowed to remain in an "unofficial" status. Formal recognition came in 1848 when Congress agreed to recognize the Eastern Cherokee provided North Carolina would do likewise. Currently there are more than 8,000 Eastern Cherokee who living in the mountains of western North Carolina. The Echota Cherokee Tribe in Alabama is another group descended from individual Cherokee landowners protected from removal by the 1817 and 1819 treaties.