Parley P. Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 1839
, History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons, in Which Ten Thousand American Citizens were Robbed, Plundered, and Driven from the State, and Many Others Imprisoned, Martyred, &c. for Their Religion, and All This By Military Force, By Order of the Executive; i–vi, 7–84 pp.; Detroit, MI: Dawson & Bates, 1839. The copy used for this transcription is held at CHL.
While incarcerated at , Missouri, in March 1839, JS addressed a letter to the church “at Illinois and scattered abroad and to in particular,” instructing the Saints to gather up “a knoledge of all the facts and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this state.” (JS et al., Liberty, MO, to the church members and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 123:1, 6].) Edward Partridge responded with an account that became the three opening installments of “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” an eleven-part series published in the church’s Illinois newspaper, Times and Seasons, between December 1839 and October 1840. “A History, of the Persecution” receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website.
may have intended to tell the entire story himself, but he fell ill shortly after publication of “A History, of the Persecution” began and died on 27 May 1840. Prompted by Partridge’s illness and subsequent death, the editors of the Times and Seasons, and , sought elsewhere for source materials to continue the series. It is probable that they composed the fourth installment to provide a brief transition from Partridge’s account, which ends in 1836, and the conflicts in and adjoining counties beginning in 1838. In April and June 1840, the fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates 1839). The sixth and eighth through tenth installments drew upon ’s pamphlet, An Appeal to the American People. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in October 1840, featuring Missouri militia general ’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at , Missouri, in November 1838.
wrote History of the Late Persecution, the document featured here, during his eight-month imprisonment in jails in 1838–1839. His wife, , daringly smuggled the manuscript out of the jail. After his escape on 4 July 1839 and reunion with the Saints in , Pratt left on a mission to England with the Twelve Apostles. When he reached he paused to visit relatives and arranged for the publication of his history there, obtaining a copyright for his book on 30 September 1839. Revised versions were subsequently reprinted in in 1840 as a pamphlet under the same title and as an expanded hardback with the title Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 89–90, 100–103.) Pratt later drew upon his history when he composed his autobiography in the 1850s.
’s History of the Late Persecution provides an autobiographical account of events in , , , and counties, Missouri, beginning in 1833. Some of the material describing events that transpired in Jackson County in 1833 was drawn from an earlier publication Pratt co-authored with and , “‘The Mormons’ So Called.” History of the Late Persecution also rehearses the conflict that engulfed Caldwell and Daviess counties, the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri, the mistreatment of Mormon prisoners by Missouri authorities, and the smuggling of Pratt’s manuscript copy of the History from jail, concluding with his narrow escape from imprisonment in Columbia, Missouri.
driven at the option of our persecutors. waited on Messrs. J. Smith, , , . and , with a polite request from , that we would surrender ourselves as prisoners, and repair to his camp, and remain over night, with assurances that as soon as peaceable arrangements could be entered into next morning, we should be released. With this request we readily complied, as soon as we were assured by the pledge of the honor of the principal officers, that our lives should be safe; we accordingly walked near a mile voluntarily, towards the camp of the enemy; who, when they saw us coming, came out to meet us by thousands, with at their head. When the haughty rode up to us, and scarcely passing a compliment, gave orders to his troops to surround us, which they did very abruptly, and we were marched into camp surrounded by thousands of savage looking beings, many of whom were painted like Indian warriors. These all set up a constant yell, like so many blood hounds let loose on their prey, as if they had achieved one of the most miraculous victories which ever dignified the annals of the world.— In camp we were placed under a strong guard, and before morning, and several others were added to our number. We hardly got an interview with the that evening; he maintained a most haughty and unsociable reserve; but a hint was given us that the general officers held a secret council which they dignified a Court Martial, in which without being heard, or even brought before them, we were all sentenced to be shot; and the day and hour appointed, as we learned afterwards by , who was one of the council, but who was so violently opposed to this cool blooded murder, that he assured them he would revolt and withdraw his whole brigade, if they persisted in so dreadful a proceding, his and a few others so alarmed the haughty murderer and his accomplices that they dare not put the decree in ; and thus through a merciful providence of God, our lives were spared through that dreadful night, which was spent by [p. 40]