Letter to the Citizens of Jackson County, 5 November 1838
JS, , , , , , and , Letter, , Jackson Co., MO, to the “citizens of ,” MO, 5 Nov. 1838. Featured version published in Daily Commercial Bulletin (St. Louis), 19 Nov. 1838, p. .
Issue containing four pages, with six printed columns per page. This issue was photographed on microfilm on 14 April 1976 by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The microfilm copy, which is the version featured in this volume, has remained in institutional custody.
On 5 November 1838, JS and his fellow prisoners—, , , , , and —wrote a letter to the citizens of , Missouri, expressing gratitude for the treatment the prisoners received from the citizens and the state militia’s Fourth Division. On 2 November 1838, the prisoners, Brigadier General , and three hundred militiamen departed , Caldwell County, Missouri, for , Jackson County, the headquarters of Wilson’s superior, Major General . The prisoners likely did not expect a positive experience in Jackson County, given the violent expulsion of the Saints from the county in 1833, church leaders’ arrest in late October 1838, the threat of execution, and the militia’s occupation of Far West.
Upon the prisoners’ arrival in on 4 November, rather than being confined in the county jail, they were lodged in a large log house situated on the north side of the public square. Their militia guards provided good food, prepared comfortable sleeping quarters, and permitted guests to visit the prisoners. According to , the day after their arrival the prisoners “were at liberty to go where we pleased about through the town,” including to the place church leaders had designated for a in 1831. As wrote to his wife, , “Were it not for the abscence of Our families we Should allmost forget that we were Prisoners.”
In the prisoners’ 5 November 1838 letter, they expressed their “unfeigned gratitude” to ’s citizens, to and , and to the militia for the unexpected kindness and civility. The prisoners may have believed that the letter would cultivate favor among the county’s residents and encourage the good treatment to continue.
Because the original letter is apparently not extant, it is unknown which of the prisoners penned the letter. Upon its completion, JS and the other men signed it. Addressed to the “citizens of ,” the letter may have been intended for publication, perhaps as a broadside or in a local newspaper. However, it is unclear whether the letter circulated in Jackson County—either in manuscript form or in print—after it was completed. The earliest known publication of the letter was on 10 November 1838 in the Boon’s Lick Democrat, a newspaper published in Fayette, Howard County, Missouri, more than one hundred miles east of . As published, the letter was titled “a card”; it is unknown whether this title was editorially supplied or if it was original to the letter. The editors of the Boon’s Lick Democrat stated in an introductory note that the letter “furnishes a refutation of the reports which have reached here from various sources and that some of ’s command, after their arrival at , had been guilty of many flagrant and nameless outrages upon the persons of some of their Mormon prisoners.” Although this issue of the Boon’s Lick Democrat has not been located, the letter and introductory note were reprinted in the 19 November 1838 issue of the St. Louis Daily Commercial Bulletin; that version of the letter is featured here.
Notice, Daily Commercial Bulletin (St. Louis), 19 Nov. 1838, . Major General John B. Clark later reported, “Hearing at Richmond that some of the guard left by Genl Lucas at Far West were killing prisoners and commiting other excesses I left my troops and went in advance riding all night in order to check such things.” Although Clark concluded that such reports were exaggerated, he was unwilling to “vouch for the troops before [his] arrival” on 4 November. Pratt echoed several Latter-day Saints who claimed that after Lucas’s troops disarmed the Saints, “the brutal mob were now turned loose to ravage, steel, plunder and murder without restraint. Houses were rifled, and women ravished, and goods taken as they pleased.” (John B. Clark, Jefferson City, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 29 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA; Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 42; see also Historical Introduction to Declaration to the Clay County Circuit Court, ca. 6 Mar. 1839; and Hyrum Smith, Commerce, IL, to “the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Dec. 1839, in Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:22–23.)
Daily Commercial Bulletin. St. Louis, MO. 1835–1841.
Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
To the citizens of :
It is with feelings of no ordinary kind that the undersigned take this method of tendering their most unfeigned gratitude to you for the kind treatment and great attention they have received at your hands since they were committed to your charge as prisoners: having received every degree of kindness that could be expected at the hands of a magnanimous and honourable people. This, gentlemen, is not designed as flattery, but a debt that they feel they owe to you. We hope that Generals and , and all the officers and privates under their command, will receive this expression of our feelings, as due to them from us, in return for the kind treatment received at their hands. Gentlemen, we found you friends at a time when we most needed them; and since the time arrived at this , we have not received the first insult from any individual. Gentlemen, we are prisoners in your hands, and such has been your magnanimity, that while we remain prisoners, we shall desire to continue in your care.
For your prosperity in this life, and rest eternal in that which is to come, you have the sincere desire and devout prayer of your prisoners in tribulation.