Unable to conclude a treaty with the duly elected representatives of the Cherokee Nation, the United States signed a treaty with a minority faction on December 29, 1835. In spite of petitions with 15,656 Cherokee signatures denouncing the treaty as a fraud, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on May 23, 1836.
Recognizing that the Indians could only be removed by force, Brigadier General Winfield Scott, was brevetted to Major General and ordered on April 6, 1838, by Commanding General of the Army Alexander McComb, to take command of the large number of federal and state troops being assembled to expel the Cherokees.
At the time Scott arrived in the Cherokee Nation, only seven companies of Tennessee militia were operating in southeast Tennessee. According to Captain Morrow, one mounted company was stationed at Fort Foster, near Rattlesnake Springs, nine miles from the Cherokee Agency. Another mounted company was at Cleaveland (sic) in Bradley County, 11 miles from the agency. Two mounted companies were at Rossís Landing, 45 miles away (Tennesseeís largest contingent of militia) and one mounted company and two infantry companies were at Fort Morrow, 20 miles from the Cherokee Agency. The military post at Cleveland, Tennessee was later called Camp Hetzel, not to be confused with Fort Hetzel in Georgia.
The federal troops under General Scott totaled about 3,000 men and were officially called the Army of the Cherokee Nation. Adding a battalion of Tennessee to Scottís original call for state troops brought the total to about 4,000 men. In all, approximately 7,000 federal and state troops comprised the Army of the Cherokee Nation by early June 1838.
On May 17, 1838, Scott issued Orders Number 25, which detailed the composition of his administrative staff, established three military districts to expedite the collection of the Indians and instructed his troops in the non-violent and merciful exercise of their duties.
Scott divided the Cherokee Nation into three military Districts: the Eastern District, the Middle District and the Western District. The boundaries and commanders of these districts were as follows:
Eastern District, to be commanded by Brigadier General Eustis, of the United States Army, or the highest officer of rank serving therein: North Carolina, the part of Tennessee lying north of Gilmer County Georgia, and the counties of Gilmer, Union, and Lumpkin in Georgia. Headquarters Fort Butler.
Middle District, to be commanded by Brigadier General Armistead, of the United States Army, or the highest officer of rank serving therein: All that part of the Cherokee country lying within the State of Georgia and which is not comprised in the two other districts. Headquarters New Echota.
Western District, to be commanded by Colonel Lindsay, of the United States Army, or the highest officer of rank serving therein: Alabama, the residue of Tennessee and Dade County, in Georgia. Headquarters Rossís Landing.