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The remains of Fort Armistead are surprisingly undisturbed. Archaeologist Bill Jurgelski is able to use an ordinary vacuum to remove the fine layer of dirt that covers much of the site."The Cherokee were trying to play by American rules," says archaeologist Lance Greene, who worked with Riggs at UNC and now works at the Fort Armistead dig. "They were forming their own national government. A large part of the population had converted to Christianity. They sang Christian hymns as they were marching. There's still an image of savage Indians living in tepees, but maybe the Cherokee, more than anybody, made an attempt [to acculturate]. But ultimately it failed."Despite the apparent Cherokee desire to join instead of fight, the federal government began a military buildup in preparation for what it assumed would become a long, bloody conflict. As part of this militarization, they reactivatedFort Armistead in 1836 and occupied it with soldiers who marched there from Florida. By the summer of 1838, more than7,000 federal and state troops were stationed throughout the Cherokee Nation -- a remarkably high concentration for America's nascent military."What drove their idea of a protracted conflict in North Carolina was the unanimous opposition to the Treaty of New Echota and strong activism to prevent its ratification, and then to have it annulled," Riggs says. "There were rumors afoot that there would be a guerilla war in North Carolina. The military was poised for an eventuality that never happened." There was no insurgency and little resistance when the military began the roundup of the Cherokee in June and July 1838. Most of them gathered what belongings they could and came together in their town squares or waited for a soldier's knock on the door (though some did seek refuge in the mountains). Coming together as they accepted their fate became a final act of preservation for their families, communities, and values, Riggs
says. "They were trying to promote the cohesion of their group," he adds. "They were making a political statement, a moral statement. They believed very strongly in the ideals of this country and the moral imperative to treat everybody fairly"For Cherokee living in North Carolina, Fort Armistead was the first stop outside their home state. It held as many as 800 to 1,000 for stays of two or three nights. These included not only the Cherokee, but also those traveling with them, including Creek and African Americans, some of them slaves. They continued on to a series of other outposts (there were up to 30