Nine detachments ranging in size from 729 to 1,766 individuals began crossing the Tennessee River at Blythe's Ferry in October, 1838. Cherokee leaders, called conductors, Hair Conrad, Elijah Hicks, Reverend Jesse Bushyhead, Situwakee, Captain Old Fields, Moses Daniel, Chooalooka, George Hicks, and Peter Hildebrand, directed each detachment. Wagon masters, doctors, mounted guards, and contractors who provided food and other supplies assisted the Conductors in coordinating the marches.
The first two detachments that approached Blythe's Ferry in late August 1838 stopped because of drought and hot weather. The first detachment camped on both sides of the river. The second group camped four miles back of the Ferry. While encamped, contractors provided rations of sugar, coffee, salt, and soap. The Cherokee added to the rations by hunting and fishing.
Weather conditions improved by early October and the detachments began crossing the Tennessee River. Detachments continued to cross at Blythe's Ferry until mid-November. The traveled westward with heavy hearts. Some deserted. Most, however, continued somberly trekking westward.