, Commission, , Sangamon Co., IL, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 10 Mar. 1841; printed form with manuscript additions in handwriting of ; includes signatures of and and canceled signature of ; notation in handwriting of ; one page; JS Collection, CHL. Includes notation and docket.
Single leaf measuring 12⅜ × 15¾ inches (31 × 40 cm), with embossed seal of the state of in the bottom left corner. The signature of was knife-erased, and then signed the document over the erasure. added a notation and his signature on the verso. The commission was folded for filing.
The commission has presumably remained in institutional custody since it was docketed and filed by JS’s clerk , who served as JS’s scribe from 1843 to 1844 and as clerk to the church historian and recorder from 1845 to 1865.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
On 10 March 1841, governor commissioned JS as lieutenant general of the of the Illinois state militia. As set forth in the city charter, the Nauvoo Legion was subject to the governor and required his authorization to appoint all officers.
The state government approved the establishment of ’s volunteer militia in December 1840. The legion, however, deviated from traditional militia structure in its designation of JS as lieutenant general. In the traditional chain of command, the governor functioned as commander in chief of the state’s militias, and next in command was each militia’s major general, a position filled in the Nauvoo Legion by . There had not been a standing lieutenant general in the Army or any state militia since President John Adams appointed George Washington as the senior officer of the United States Army in July 1798. Yet the Nauvoo Legion elected JS as their lieutenant general on 4 February 1841, and both the and the of Illinois approved the commission.
The generic printed form featured here required handwritten customization to tailor its contents to the particular commission being granted. , the secretary of state until 27 February 1841, filled in the blanks on the printed form and signed it, likely on 5 February. As the new secretary of state, erased Douglas’s signature and replaced it with his own apparently by 10 March, when the commission was finalized and issued. Carlin authorized the commission by adding his signature. On 15 March, after receiving the executed commission, administered JS’s oath of office and added a notation to that effect on the back.
The legion chose to adopt Alexander Macomb’s Concise System of Instructions but deviated from it somewhat in rank and organization. Not only was the rank of major general superseded by the rank of lieutenant general, but the legion also changed the makeup of companies and battalions. In Macomb’s system, an infantry battalion comprised ten companies and a cavalry regiment three squadrons. In the Nauvoo Legion, two companies formed a battalion and two battalions a regiment. (“Record of the ‘Nauvoo Legion,’” 4, 5, Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL; Cooper and Macomb, Concise System of Instructions, pt. 1, p. 59; pt. 2, p. 22.)
Nauvoo Legion Records, 1841–1845. CHL. MS 3430.
Cooper, Samuel, and Alexander Macomb. A Concise System of Instructions and Regulations for the Militia and Volunteers of the United States, Comprehending the Exercises and Movements of the Infantry, Light Infantry, and Riflemen; Cavalry and Artillery: Together with the Manner of Doing Duty in Garrison and in Camp, and the Forms of Parades, Reviews, and Inspections, as Established by Authority for the Government of the Regular Army. Philadelphia: Robert P. Desilver, 1836.
Lieutenant general ranked immediately below general but above the more common major general. George Washington earned the rank of general during the Revolutionary War but resigned his commission at that war’s conclusion. After Washington retired from political and military life, on 2 July 1798, John Adams reappointed him “Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of all the armies raised,” which was the most senior office in the United States military at that time, in hopes of using Washington’s name to boost morale within the nation during an ongoing conflict with France. (Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate, 1:284; see also “From Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, [8 July 1798],” in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 21:534–536.)
Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, from March 4, 1829, to March 3, 1837, Inclusive. Vol. 4. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1887.
Syrett, Harold C., ed. Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961–1987.
The office of secretary of state in Illinois had been contested since 1838, when Governor Carlin tried to appoint a new secretary and incumbent Alexander Field refused to resign. With disagreements across party lines causing a stalemate, the matter was taken to court. After hearing the case, the Illinois Supreme Court decided in favor of Field, but eventually Field retired and Carlin appointed Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas only held the office for two months before resigning to take his appointment on the Illinois Supreme Court in mid-February 1841, at which point Lyman Trumbull was appointed the next secretary of state. (See White, Life of Lyman Trumbull, 11; Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas, 84–87, 96–97; and Ford, History of Illinois, 305.)
White, Horace. The Life of Lyman Trumbull. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913.
Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
Ford, Thomas. A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847. Containing a Full Account of the Black Hawk War, the Rise, Progress, and Fall of Mormonism, the Alton and Lovejoy Riots, and Other Important and Interesting Events. Chicago: S. C. Griggs; New York: Ivison and Phinney, 1854.
To All to Whom these presents shall come—Greeting:
KNOW YE, That Joseph Smith having been duly elected to the office of Lieut-Genl of the —— Regiment of the Militia of the State of , I, , Governor of said , for. and on behalf of, the People of said , do commission him Lieutenant Genl Nauvoo Legion —— of said Regiment, to take rank from the fifth day of February 1841. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of said office, by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging; and I do strictly require all officers and soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders; and he is to obey such orders and directions as he shall receive from time to time, from the Commander-in-Chief, or his superior officer.
[seal] IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Great Seal of to be hereunto affixed. Done at , this 10th day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-one and of the Independence of the , the sixty-fifth
The militia’s organization was determined in a Nauvoo City Council meeting, during which the participants declared that the lieutenant general was “the Chief Commanding & reviewing officer, & president of the Court Martial, & Legion.” (Minutes, 3 Feb. 1841.)