Beginning on May 26, 1838, soldiers began rounding up Cherokee women, men, and children. They showed little concern or respect for families or their property. In the first days, confusion abounded as soldiers and militiamen gathered individuals wherever they were found. The military's action divided families and split communities.
"The military forces that had been ordered into the country were divided into companies, and a district given each for the clearing of it Cherokee inhabitants. Some neighborhoods were taken by foot soldiers and the prisoners marched at the point of bayonet, while other were taken by a party on horse, and some permitted to ride their own horses, and the small children often conveyed in wagon[s]..." Lucy Ames Butler to Drusilla Burnap, January 2, 1839
After the initial roundup and concentration, large groups of Cherokees marched overland to emigration depots near the Tennessee River. Jammed together in unsanitary encampments hundreds of Cherokees suffered from diarrhea, dysentery, measles, and whooping cough. Dependent on the United States Army for food and clothes, many suffered from exposure and lack of food they were accustomed to eating.
"June 16, 1838, Camp Hetzel, Near Cleveland. The Cherokees are nearly all prisoners. The have been dragged from their houses, and encamped at the forts and military posts, all over the nation. In Georgia, especially, multitudes were allowed no time to take anything with them, except the clothes they had on. Well furnished houses were left prey to plunderers, who, like hungry wolves, follow in the train of the captors. These wretches rifle the houses, and strip the helpless, unoffending owners of all they have on earth. Females who have been habituated to comforts and comparative affluence, are driven on foot before the bayonets of brutal men. Their feelings are mortified by vulgar and profane vociferations. It is a painful sight." Evan Jones, in Baptist Missionary September 1838