An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation
By John Sedgwick
This sweeping American epic reveals one of the greatest untold stories of the nineteenth century: the fierce rivalry between two great Cherokee chiefs that led to war, forced migration, and the devastation of a once-proud nation.
Blood Moon is the story of the century-long blood feud between two rival Cherokee chiefs from the early years of the United States through the infamous Trail of Tears and into the Civil War. While little remembered today, their mutual hatred shaped the tragic history of the tribe far more than anyone, even the reviled President Andrew Jackson, ever did.
In this epic saga, John Sedgwick brings to life an untold chapter of American history through the relationship between one chief called The Ridge, a fearsome warrior who spoke no English but whose exploits on the battlefield were legendary, and John Ross, who was the Cherokees’ primary chief for nearly forty years, yet displayed the Scottish side of his mixed-blood heritage and spoke not a word of Cherokee. To protect their sacred landholdings from American encroachment, these two men negotiated with almost every American president from George Washington through Abraham Lincoln. At first friends and allies, they broke on the subject of Removal, breeding an enmity that lead to a bloody civil war within Cherokee Nation that culminated in the two factions battling each other in the War Between the States.
Dramatic, far-reaching, and unforgettable, Blood Moon paints a portrait of these two inspirational leaders who worked together to lift their people to the height of culture and learning as the most civilized tribe in the nation, and then drop them to the depths of ruin and despair as they turned against each other. Theirs is a story of land, pride, honor, and loss that forms much of the country’s mythic past today.
Adult Point of View
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Blood Moon in exchange for my honest review.
Blood Moon sucked me into history and the dilemmas faced by the Cherokee living among the European settlers. Both sides committed atrocities, and Sedgwick presents the facts in a balanced manner – showing both sides role in the decline in their relationships.
The lifestyle was incredibly interesting to learn about. One particular scene highlights the traditional Cherokee legal principal of justice in the case of murder, being blood vengeance, which is changed by The Ridge through persuasion. Another poignant insight was the Cherokee’s spiritual beliefs surrounded by the rise of Christian missionaries. Traditionally they believed in a Spirit of all good and a being who was the author of all evil, who were at war with each other. They believed in a “heaven” which was visible for those who had undergone a change after death where there was plenty of fruit, game and beauty. The converse was also true that the wicked would be compelled to live with hunger, hostility and darkness.
Another poignant moment was the divide within the Cherokee Nation was shown to have begun as early as 1809 where statistics proved those of mixed-blood were more likely to prosper than the full-blood members. The Ridge personified the uprising class of Cherokee, adopting the European custom of farming, purchasing African slaves for his plantation and changed crops to build greater wealth and land holdings. While wearing the trappings of the wealthy plantation owners, some of the Cherokee felt at odds with their heritage. Pressure within the Nation increased the divide as some wished to move west, while others persisted in retaining their homeland.
It is a tragic chapter in history to watch both the Cherokee and American settlers fall into prejudice and war. As the fall out between The Ridge and John Ross occurred the Cherokee were further divided, they lost themselves and ultimately their people were expelled on the Trail of Tears.
I believe that scholars of history, and particularly early American history will love Blood Moon. I would have liked to have the novel to be more concise.
4 out of 5 stars