Saturday, August 20, 2005

Copperheads & The Trail Of Tears

Most of my life I have observed a strange association between the behaviour of animals, sea creatures and birds that relate in an intimate way to events in our world. Not only obvious signs where animals sense the danger of earthquakes or approaching storms, but signs where nature seems to talk to us directly from the invisible world. These deeper signs are more complex and they speak a very ancient direct language, a sign language that is understood through the heart and less through the rational mind.
Take, for example, the latest unusual and therefore attention catching behaviour of Copperhead snakes in Littlerock Arkansas. Nearly 100 Copperhead snakes are using the Cedar tree as a place of gathering ... The snakes began to swarm in the back yard of Arkansas, resident, Chuck Miller.
He knew it was too early for the Copperheads to swarm plus he'd never seen so many snakes together before. Copperheads don't usually move into groups, or "aggregates," until late September to October for hibernation. Unusual Summer Swarm of Arkansas Copperheads
The actual behaviour of the snakes is even more interesting. The snakes are gathering mainly around a large cedar tree:
"The snakes tend, as they move toward the cedar tree, they have been exhibiting unusual behavior which has not been described before in copperheads. They raise their heads and it looks like they are sniffing the air. Then they go down to the surface of the ground and rub the sides of their heads against the soil and then move up into the air again, like they are trying to sense something. They do this around the cedar tree. Afterward, they move off in almost a direct line up to the top of the ridge."
The most obvious questions have been do the Copperheads sense an approaching earthquake, as snakes are sensitive to vibration or an extremely severe and unusual change in the weather? However, look at the above description of their behaviour around the tree.
Trail of Tears, one of Illinois' state forests, is situated in western Union County, five miles northwest of Jonesboro and 20 miles south of Murphysboro. Just over 5,000 acres are within the State Forest. Two species of poisonous snakes, timber rattlesnakes and northern copperheads, occur here.
The area was used extensively by prehistoric Native Americans. Individuals and small groups hunted game or gathered nuts within the Ozarks, but established their settlements closer to the Mississippi River or Clear Creek. Chert was mined (for making tools) at Iron Mountain, east of the Forest.
As settlers of European descent entered (around 1803), Native Americans were pushed south and west. In 1838-39 the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw nations were forced by the U.S. Army to move from the southeast to reservations in Oklahoma Territory. They overwintered at makeshift camps 4 miles south of the Forest's southern boundary. Bitter cold and starvation claimed hundreds of lives. The cruel trek came to be known as the "Trail of Tears." The State Forest's name memorializes the tragic event.
Arkansas is one of the four routes on which the Cherokee Indians were forced to walk "The Trail Of Tears" from Georgia to Oklahoma. There is more. Not only does the history of the area stretching from Illinios to Arkansas meet with the brutal treatment of the Cherokee, but another story emerges that relates directly to events in the USA today.
The Copperheads Anti War Movement - 1863
Not every person living in the North during the Civil War favored making war against the Confederacy. Such persons came to be identified as Copperheads. Often affiliated with the Democratic party and residing in the Midwest, Copperheads favored a negotiated peace settlement that would allow the South to leave the Union. Some of them were arbitrarily thrown into jail without proper habeas corpus proceedings after publicly advocating their views.
By 1863, America's northern states and southern states had been fighting a bitter, bloody civil war for two years.
Both sides felt the pressure of the costly struggle. The south was beginning to suffer from a lack of supplies and men for its armies. The north was beginning to suffer from a lack of fighting spirit. Many Americans in northern states did not support the war policies of Union President Abraham Lincoln. Some said openly that they did not care who won the war. They just wanted to be left alone.
Coal miners in Pennsylvania protested against a law drafting men into the Union army. They rioted and attacked officials who tried to take them. Soldiers were sent to Pennsylvania to put down the riots. Farmers in Ohio also protested. They refused to be drafted.
The law said a man who was drafted could stay out of the army by doing one of two things. He could pay the government three hundred dollars. Or he could pay another man to serve in his place. If a drafted man could not do either thing, then he must join the army or be shot as a deserter.
In the wartime economy of the north, prices were rising much faster than wages. Even a man with a good job had a difficult time feeding his family. It was impossible for him to pay the government three hundred dollars or pay someone else to serve for him in the army.
Poor men protested against the law. They said it was unfair. "It's a rich man's war," they cried, "but a poor man's fight. The rich man's money against the poor man's blood."
The leaders of the anti-war movement in the north were members of the opposition Democratic Party. They wore on their coats a copper penny showing the head of a native American Indian. This gave them the name "Copperheads. " One important Copperhead was a former congressman from Ohio, Clement Vallandigham.

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