Letter from B. F. Withers, 28 December 1841
B. F. Withers, Letter, Natchez, Adams Co., MS, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 28 Dec. 1841; handwriting presumably of B. F. Withers; one page; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal notations, postal stamp, endorsement, and docket.Bifolium measuring 9⅞ × 7⅞ inches (25 × 20 cm). The upper left corner of each leaf bears a circular embossment containing the now-illegible name of the paper’s manufacturer. The paper is ruled with twenty-seven blue horizontal lines. The first page is inscribed, whereas the second and third pages are blank. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, sealed with a red adhesive wafer, and postmarked. The letter was torn when opened, and some wafer residue remains. The letter was refolded several times for filing.The letter was endorsed by , who served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. The document was docketed by , who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) from 1853 to 1859. It was listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The document’s early docket as well as its inclusion in the circa 1904 inventory and in the JS Collection by 1973 indicate continuous institutional custody.
On 28 December 1841 B. F. Withers of Natchez, Mississippi, penned an enigmatic letter to JS in , Illinois. In the communication, Withers proposed an alliance between the —a contingent of the militia—and a “secret association of Gentlmen” in order to mount an unspecified expedition that would result in “honor & wealth” for its participants.Little is known about Withers or the context surrounding the letter’s creation. Withers described himself as “an entire stranger” and disclosed little personal information about himself. The letter was mailed from Natchez, a town located on the banks of the over six hundred miles downriver from . Withers’s occupation is unknown, but antebellum Natchez was the commercial locus of the area’s burgeoning cotton industry and slave trade. Withers described himself as an agent of a secret association, but it is unknown what organization he purported to represent. Withers’s awareness of the Nauvoo Legion suggests that he had at least some knowledge of affairs in Nauvoo. JS was the head of the Nauvoo Legion and received the commission of lieutenant general from Illinois governor in February 1841. Though Withers invited the Nauvoo Legion to join in an expedition, he did not disclose the intended purpose or destination of the expedition. It is possible that “B. F. Withers” was a pseudonym for a person or persons antagonistic to JS and that the offer was a ruse.JS likely received the letter in January 1842. The letter was endorsed by JS’s scribe , who noted that the replied to the communication on 8 February 1842. At the time, the mayor of was . The reply is not extant.
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