Nauvoo Legion Court-Martial, Minutes, , Hancock Co., IL, 4 Feb. 1841. Featured version copied in “Record of the ‘Nauvoo Legion,’” pp. 1–2; handwriting of ; Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL. Includes docket.
Single leaf, measuring 12 × 7½ inches (30 × 19 cm), with thirty-four horizontal lines printed in blue ink and two vertical lines printed in red ink. Minutes were written in ink on the recto and verso. The top, right, and bottom edges of the leaf have the square cut of manufactured paper, whereas the left edge is uneven, suggesting it was cut from a blank book; the leaf was folded for filing.
The document was docketed by James Ure, who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office from 1852 to 1855. copied the minutes into his “Record of the ‘Nauvoo Legion,’” of which only three loose leaves are extant. These loose leaves, including the following minutes, have likely remained in institutional custody since their creation.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
After the , Illinois, city council passed an ordinance organizing the on 3 February 1841, the newly authorized militia unit met for the first time on the morning of 4 February in a court-martial in JS’s in Nauvoo. The Nauvoo charter, passed on 16 December 1840, authorized the city council to organize a city militia that would be independent of the local state militia in —the Fifty-Ninth Illinois Regiment—but would operate as an official unit of the state militia and therefore be subject to the Illinois governor.
Most militias conducted their business in regular meetings for commissioned officers, called courts-martial. The city charter had designated the court-martial of the Nauvoo legion as the “law making department, with full powers and authority to make, ordain, establish, and execute, all such laws” necessary for governance of the militia. Like other militias, the legion conducted two types of courts-martial. One consisted of general regulation of duties, expectations, and the proposition of resolutions, as was the case with this first meeting. The other enforced bylaws and ordinances through judiciary measures and discipline for members accused of breach of conduct.
Historical records suggest the legion met almost weekly for the first year, even though minutes are extant for only a fraction of these gatherings. JS presided at this initial court-martial, and acted as secretary. Bennett likely recorded the proceedings in a document that is no longer extant and then copied his notes into a larger document titled “Record of the ‘Nauvoo Legion.’”
The Nauvoo Legion’s official relationship to the state government mirrored that of other city militias. Governor Thomas Carlin’s commission to JS declared: “I do strictly require all officers and soldiers under [JS’s] 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.” (Commission from Thomas Carlin, 10 Mar. 1841.)
In 1843, Hosea Stout copied the minutes from Bennett’s “Record of the ‘Nauvoo Legion’” into a hardbound ledger book as part of a larger project to collect and record the militia’s history. (See Nauvoo Legion Minute Book, 4 Feb. 1841, 4–6.)
Pursuant to an ordinance of the City Council of the City of , entitled “An Ordinance organizing the ,” passed, Feb. 3rd, AD. 1841, the Court Martial of Said Legion assembled at the office of Joseph Smith, on Thursday the 4th day of February, AD. 1841; present—
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , & , all commissioned officers of the State of .
The Court was called to order by . , & , were elected Judges, and , Clerk, of the election, when the court proceeded to elect the General officers of the legion; whereupon Joseph Smith was duly elected Lieutenant General; , Major General; , Brigadier General of the 1st Cohort; and , Brigadier General of the 2nd Cohort. Generals J. Smith, , & , were sworn by , and by . Lt. Gen. Smith proceeded to the appointment of the following staff; to wit: [p. 1]
The officers listed here were all previously commissioned in the Illinois state militia. (Adjutant General’s Office, Rank Roll, 13 Jan. 1841, Illinois Governors’ Correspondence, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.)
Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.