Nauvoo Legion court-martial, Minutes, [, Hancock Co., IL], 12 Mar. 1842. Featured version copied [ca. Dec. 1843] in Nauvoo Legion Minute Book, pp. 10–16; handwriting of ; Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL.
Medium-size ledger book measuring 12¾ × 8½ × 1½ inches (32 × 22 × 4 cm). The paper measures 12⅜ × 7¾ inches (31 × 20 cm) and is ruled horizontally with one blue double line and thirty-four single blue lines and vertically with four single red lines and one red double line, demarcating columns. The book contains 180 extant leaves, including one unruled front flyleaf and two unruled back flyleaves. The first eleven ruled leaves compose a tabbed index. The final tabbed leaf was later torn out, along with an unknown number of additional leaves, presumably ten, as the first extant ruled leaf is hand paginated 21. The second front flyleaf was also torn out of the volume. The gatherings were sewn all along. Shell marbled papers, with a blue and black body and red veins, are glued to the inside covers of the boards and to the exterior page of each endpaper. The text block is bound in ledger style to the boards. The boards and spine are covered in brown suede. The front and rear boards are embossed along the edges with vegetal designs. The spine was constructed with four false raised bands demarcating five panels. The second panel, which was painted red, has the word “LEDGER” stamped in gold leaf. The two bands and two panels below the red panel were painted black. Paper labels are glued to the third and fifth panels. The label on the third panel has a handwritten title: “Nauvoo | Legion Min. | 1841–4.” in black ink on lined white paper. There is an archival label glued to the fifth panel that was apparently added later and includes an identification number handwritten in black ink. There is also an archival label affixed to the marbled pastedown on the inside of the front board with archival markings in ink and in graphite.
The first inscription in the book is the headers “Woods” and “Cr.” above two columns on the first extant ruled page following the tabbed index pages, suggesting that the book was originally intended to be an account book. This use was aborted, as evidenced by the removal of the second front flyleaf—which may have contained a title page—as well as the final “XYZ” tabbed index page and the additional ten leaves that would have been paginated 1 through 20. Additionally, none of the extant index pages include any inscription.
began inscribing the Nauvoo Legion minutes on the first leaf following the “Woods” account page, beginning pagination anew with the number 1. He apparently added pagination as he inscribed each page, as both the minutes and pagination terminate on page 82. The remaining 124 ruled leaves in the volume are blank.
Before inscribing the minutes of the ’s meetings—which began on 4 February 1841 and were designated as courts-martial—into the volume, first inscribed in the book section 25 of “An Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo,” which was passed by the legislature in December 1840 and provided the legal authority to create the Nauvoo Legion as an independent body of the state militia, and the City Council’s 3 February 1841 “ordinance organizing the ‘Nauvoo Legion.’” On page 9, following minutes of a court-martial dated 9 March 1841, Stout wrote a note stating that the original drafts of all minutes following 9 March 1841 and prior to 12 March 1842 were missing. Stout speculated that , former major general in the legion and Nauvoo’s first mayor, took the minutes with him when he was cashiered from the legion and left Nauvoo. Stout dated this note 8 December 1843. It is possible that he inscribed all the text in the book previous to this note on or shortly before 8 December 1843. The minutes continue sporadically until 20 October 1844. Changes in ink density suggest that the 1844 minutes were kept roughly contemporaneously.
The volume was likely included in the “Nauvoo Legion papers” listed in an inventory produced by the Church Historian’s Office (now CHL) in 1846, when they were packed up with church records that were taken to the Salt Lake Valley. The archival labels and markings indicate continuous institutional custody.
“Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” , Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
On 12 March 1842 JS and the other general officers of the gathered at his home in , Illinois, for a general court-martial that further organized and regulated the legion. JS, the commanding officer of the legion, presided over the meeting as “President” of the court. The general court-martial—which constituted the organization’s legislative body—passed at least six resolutions, dividing the city into militia districts aligned with the city’s wards, reorganizing some of the militia’s unit structures, and requiring that all laws the court-martial passed be published. The court also passed the lengthy “Ordinance No. 1”—consisting of several sections—which described in detail the legion’s organizational structure and outlined the service requirements of the legion’s members. This ordinance augmented the “Ordinance Organizing the ‘Nauvoo Legion,’” which the city council had passed in February 1841. The most significant organizational change introduced with this new ordinance was the expansion of the staffs of the legion’s various generals. , the legion’s major general, served as the “Secretary” for at least some of the resolutions and may have kept minutes for the 12 March court generally.
The minutes of the court-martial are in the handwriting of , who was appointed in October 1843 to collect and record Nauvoo Legion proceedings. Stout likely produced the record sometime after this appointment, copying from an earlier version of this document. A note dated 8 December 1843 in Stout’s handwriting on the page of the minute book preceding these minutes indicates that most of the minutes subsequent to the legion’s meetings of March 1841 and prior to this 12 March 1842 meeting were lost. When Bennett was cashiered from the legion and left in summer 1842, he apparently took these minutes with him.
Two additional versions of some of the resolutions featured in these minutes are extant, also in ’s handwriting. The first contains the first four resolutions featured below; the second includes only the final resolution. Either or both of those versions possibly predate the copy in the organization’s minute book and may have served as its basis. Stout included a note at the end of the text presented here stating that this copy of the minutes was incomplete, suggesting that the court-martial conducted at least some additional business on this date. The final resolution copied by Stout in the minutes ordered that all laws the court-martial passed be printed, resulting in the publication of the lengthy “Ordinance No. 1” in the next issue of the Times and Seasons, the newspaper published in .
Companies, that their places in the line First Regiment be filled by new Companies of volunteers raised from the militia for that purpose and that the aforesaid organizations be completed before the General Parade on the 7th of May proximo.
On motion of Captain ,
Resolved that the company of Artilery which is now being raised shall constitute the Second Company First Battalion, and that Captains ’s and ’s Companies of Light Infantry the Second Battalion of the First Regiment, and that the rifle companies bearing the oldest date shall constitute the Second Regiment of the Second Cohort &c. <-[See Page 16 Resolution omitted]->
The following ordinance was then proposed by , who was also appointed to prepare the same for the press under the title of
Ordinance No. 1.
<Sec 1> Be it ordained by the Court martial of the Nauvoo Legion in General Court assembled, That the decipline, drill, rules, regulations, and uniform of the ’ Army, so far as applicable, be and they her[e]by are adopted for the Legion; Provided That each Company may adopt its own uniform for the noncommissioned <officers> and privates belonging to it.
<Sec 2.> That from and after the 15th day of April next, it shall be the duty of every white male inhabitant of the City of , between eighteen and forty five years of age, to enroll himself in some company of the Legion, by reporting himself to the captain thereof, within fifteen days; and every person neglecting or refusing to do so [p. 11]
As reported in the text that follows, section 3 of the “Ordinance No. 1” that was passed during this same court-martial stipulated that the legion hold a general parade on the Fourth of July and on the first Saturdays in May and September of each year.
Wilber was commissioned as a captain in the legion’s Second (infantry) Cohort, First Regiment, First Battalion, Second Company, on 1 May 1841. (“1841 Abstract of Miltitay [Military] Return to Adgt. Genl,” 14 June 1841, Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.)
Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.