Parley P. Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 1839

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

of the late
inflicted by the state of upon the
in which ten thousand american citizens were robbed, plundered, and driven from the state, and many others imprisoned, marty red, &c. for their religion, and all this by military force, by order of the executive.
Minister of the Gospel.
written during eight months imprisonment in that state.
“Great is the truth, and it will prevail.”
Price 25 cents per copy, or $16 per hundred.
DAWSON & BATES, Printers.
1839. [p. [i]]
Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by , in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the for the District of . [p. [ii]]
The following Narrative professes to be a plain, unvarnished statement of facts, penned by one who was a personal sufferer in the scenes which it unfolds to the world. It makes few pretentions to literary merit, being written in a cold, dark, and dreary prison, and amid the chat, noise and confusion of several prisoners; and in the midst of the howling, laughing, contention, song-singing, gambling and blasphemy of a gang of demons in human shape, who were placed as guards over us. It was written by one who was held in bondage, to be tried for his life, in a where all law and justice were at an end; the highest authorities of the state having banished his and three little infant children from their homes, robbed of their all, to wander in a land of stangers, together with all his friends and witnesses. It was written by one who was daily in danger of being assassinated while prisoner, and who, to all human appearance, had no prospect of ever living to publish his work. And even the writings themselves were providentially and very narrowly preserved from destruction, and sent out of prison by stratagem, when eagerly sought for by those who dreaded to have truth come to light. The fact is, a goose-quill in our fingers was more terror to the guilty authorities of , than the slingstone of the stripling son of Jesse, or the jaw bone in [p. [iii]] the hands of the mighty Nazerene, were to the sons of Anack, or the hosts of Philistia. A smooth stone from the brook, hurled by a shepherd boy, decided the fortune of war between two mighty empires. A jaw bone of the most stupid of animals, wielded by a single arm, prostrated a thousand men, and made a nation tremble. And these were considered as wonderful achievements of olden time. But who, even in that age of wonders, would have believed that a quill, plucked from the wing of a silly goose, and sharpened at one end, when aimed at a Republican State, would have made its rulers and people tremble like a Belteshazer, when weighed in the balance and found wanting. Yet so it was in . Every precaution was taken to prevent our writing and sending truth to the world. Yet here it comes, in blazing torrents, bursting forth like a flame which had been for a moment smothered under the weight of its own fuel. It lays open to the broad light of day, the horrid scenes of murder, treason, robbery and plunder, which have been acted in our renowned Republic, and scenes which would put tyranny itself to the blush, and almost bring tears of blood from the heathen of the darkest age. Would the people of smother the truth under a bushel—hush the impulse of freedom in the bosoms of Americans—silence the voice of Liberty in the free born sons of Columbia? As well may they undertake to drain the ocean, hedge up the waters of the great , that they no longer make their way to the gulf of Mexico; or make a veil for the sun, to prevent its illuminating the face of nature. [p. iv]
The progress of truth is onward, with Omnipotent power and strength; and although obstacles may interpose to retard its progress for a moment, yet as if strengthened by this very opposition, it moves forward in awful majesty, crushing all things else beneath its weight, or blowing them away like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, until becoming a great mountain, it fills the whole earth, and ushers in the reign of universal peace. Americans, read, ponder, weigh and consider, and act accordingly. [p. v]
[p. [vi]]
The following is a copy of a declaration, which was signed by the mob at the commencement of their operations, in 1833; and, it may be considered as their articles of agreement in conspiring against the laws of the land; and the very foundation of that awful scene which has well nigh destroyed a flourishing society of many thousands, and involved the whole in irretrievable ruin.
“We, the undersigned, citizens of , believing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our civil society, in consequence of a pretended religious sect of people, that have settled and are still settling in our county, styling themselves Mormons: and intending as we do to rid our society, peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must: and believing as we do, that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee, or at least a sufficient one, against the evils which are now inflicted upon us, and seem to be increasing by the said religious sect; deem it expedient and of the highest importance; to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose; a purpose which we deem it almost superfluous to say, is justified as well by the law of nature as by the law of self-preservation. It is now more than two years since the first of these fanatics or knaves, (for one or the other they undoubtedly are) made their first appearance amongst us; and pretending as they did, and now do, to hold [p. [7]] personal communion and converse, face to face, with the most high God—to receive communications and revelations direct from Heaven—to heal the sick by laying on hands—and in short, to perform all the wonder working miracles wraught by the inspired Apostles and prophets of old. We believe them deluded fanatics, or weak and designing knaves; and that they and their pretensions would soon pass away; but in this we were deceived. The arts of a few designing leaders amongst them have thus far succeeded in holding them together as a society, and since the arrival of the first of them, they have been daily increasing in numbers, and if they had been respectable citizens in society, and thus deluded, they would have been entitled to our pity rather than our contempt and hatred. But from their appearance, from their manners, and from their conduct since their coming among us, we have every reason to fear, that with very few exceptions, they were of the very dregs of that society from whence they came—lazy, idle and vicious. This we conceive is not an idle assertion, but a fact susceptible of proof; for, with the few exceptions above named, they brought into our with them, little or no property, and left less behind them; and we infer, that those only, yoked themselves to the Mormon car, who had nothing earthly or heavenly to loose by the change; and we fear that if some of the leaders among them, had paid the forfeit due to crime, instead of being chosen embassadors of the Most High, would have been inmates of solitary cells. But their conduct here, stamps their characters in their true colors. More than a year since it was ascertained that they had been tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissentions and to raise seditions amongst them. Of this, their Mormon leaders were informed; and said that they would deal with any of their members who should again in like case offend. But how spe [p. 8]cious are appearances. In a late number of the Star, published in , by the leaders of this sect, there is an article inviting free negroes and mulattoes from other States, to become Mormons, and remove and settle among us. This exhibits them in still more odious colors. It manifests a desire on the part of their society to inflict on our society, an injury that they knew would be to us insupportable, and one of the surest means of driving us from the ; for it would require none of the supernatural gifts that they pretend to, to see that the introduction of such a cast among us, would corrupt our blacks, and instigate them to bloodshed.
“They openly blaspheme the most High God, and cast contempt upon His Holy Religion, by pretending to receive Revelations direct from Heaven—by pretending to speak in unknown tongues by direct inspiration—and by divers pretences derogatory of God and religion, and to the utter subversion of human reason. They declare openly that their God hath given them this of land, and that sooner or later, they must and will have possession of our lands for an inheritance; and in fine they have conducted themselves on many other occasions in such a manner, that we believe it a duty we owe to ourselves, to our wives and children, and to the cause of public morals, to remove them from among us. We are not prepared to give up our pleasant places and goodly possessions to them; or to receive into the bosom of our families as fit companions for our wives and daughters, the degraded free negroes and mulattoes, who are now invited to settle among us. Under such a state of things, even our beautiful would cease to be a desirable residence, and our situation intolerable. We therefore agree, that after timely warning, and upon receiving an adequate compensation for what little property they cannot take with them, they refuse to leave us in peace as they found [p. 9] us, we agree to use such means as may be sufficient to remove them. And to that end, we severally pledge to each other, our lives, our bodily powers, fortunes, and sacred honors! We will meet at the in the town of , on Saturday next, to consult of ulterior movements.”
Hundred of signatures were signed to the foregoing, among which were the following, viz: Henry Chiles, Attorney, , Attorney, , Attorney, Henry Westen, J.P., John Smith, J.P., John Cook, J.P., Lewis Franklin, jailor, , Lt. Col. Militia, and Constable, Samuel C. Owens, County Clerk, , Colonel of Militia, and Judge of County Court, Jones H. Flornay [Flournoy], P.M., .
Before I proceed with the history, I will briefly notice a few items of the foregoing bond of conspiracy, for I consider most of it as too barefaced to need any comment. In the first place I would enquire whether our belief as set forth in this declaration, as to gifts, miracles, Revelations and tongues, is not thesame that all the Apostles and disciples taught, believed and practiced, and the doctrine of the New Testament?
2ndly, I would enquire when the New Testament religion ceased, and a law revealed or instituted, which made blasphemy of the belief and practice of it? or what holy religion the mob were speaking of, which was thrown into contempt by the revival of the New Testament religion?
3rdly, They complain of our Society being very poor, as to property; but have they never read in the New Testament that God had chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of God? And when did poverty become a crime known to the law?
4thly, Concerning free negroes and mulattoes.— Do not laws of provide abundantly for [p. 10] the removal from the state of all free negroes and mulattoes? (except certain priviledged ones;) and also for the punishment of those who introduce or harbor them? The statement concerning our invitation to them to become Mormons, and remove to this state, and settle among us, is a wicked fabrication, as no such thing was ever published in the Star, or any where else, by our people nor any thing in the shadow of it; and we challenge the people of , or any other people, to produce such a publication from us.
In fact, one half dozen negroes or mulattoes, never have belonged to our Society, in any part of the world, from its first organization to this day, 1839.
5thly, As to crime or vice, we solemly appeal to all the records of the courts of , and challenge the county to produce the name of any individual of our Society on the list of indictments, from the time of our first settlement in the , to the time of our expulsion, a period of more than two years.
6thly, As it respects the ridiculous report of our threatening that we would have their lands for a possession, it is too simple to require a notice, as the laws of the guarantee to every man his rights, and abundantly protect him in their full enjoyment. And we hereby declare, that we settled no lands, only such as our money purchased, and that no such thing ever entered our hearts, as possessing any inheritance in any other way. And
7thly, We ask what public morals were in danger of being corrupted, where officers of the peace could openly violate their several oaths in the most awful manner, and join with hundreds of others in murder, treason, robbery, house burning, stealing, etc.
But to proceed with my history. Pursuant to the last clause of the bond, the mob met at the , on the 20th of July, and proceeded immediately to demolish the brick and dwel [p. 11]ling house of & Co., and destroyed or took possession of the press, type, books and property of the establishment; at the same time turning and children out of doors, after which they proceeded to personal violence by a wanton assault and battery upon the Bishop of the Church, Mr. , and a , whom they tarred and feathered, and variously abused. They then compelled Messrs. & Co. to close their store and pack their goods, after which they adjourned to meet again on the 23rd of July; on which day they again met, to the number of several hundred, armed with fire-arms, dirks and sticks, with red flags hoisted, and as they entered , threatening death and destruction to the Mormons. On this day six individuals of the Church signed an agreement to leave the , one half by the first of January, and the other half by the first of April, 1834; hoping thereby to preserve the lives of their brethren, and their property. After this the mob dispersed, threatening destruction to the Mormons on the next New-Years’ day if they were not off by that time.
After this, an express was sent to the of the , stating the facts of the outrages, and praying for some relief and protection. But none was afforded, only some advice for us to prosecute the offenders, which was accordingly undertaken. But this so enraged the mob that they began to make preparations to come out by night and re-commence depredations. Having passed through the most aggravating insults and injuries without making the least resistance, a general enquiry prevailed at this time throughout the Church, as to the propriety of self-defence. Some claimed the right of defending themselves, their families and property, from destruction; while others doubted the propriety of self defence; and as the agreement of the 23d of July, between the two parties had been published to the [p. 12] world, wherein it was set forth, that the Mormons were not to leave until the 1st of January and 1st of April, 1834. It was believed by many of the Mormons that the leaders of the mob would not suffer so bare-faced a violation of the agreement before the time therein set forth; but Thursday night, the 31st of October, gave them abundant proof that no pledge, verbal or written, was longer to be regarded; for, on that night, between forty and fifty, many of whom were armed with guns, proceeded against a branch of the Church, about eight miles west of , and unroofed and partly demolished ten dwelling houses; and in the midst of the shrieks and screams of women and children, whipt and beat, in a savage manner, several of the men; and with their horrid threats, frightened women and children into the wilderness. Such of the men as could escape, fled for their lives; for very few of them had arms, neither were they embodied; and they were threatened with death if they made any resistence. Such, therefore, as could not escape by flight, received a pelting by rocks, and a beating by guns and whips.
On Friday, the first of November, women and children sallied forth from their gloomy retreats, to contemplate, with heart-rending anguish, the ravages of a ruthless mob, in the mangled bodies of their husbands, and in the destruction of their houses and furniture. Houseless, and unprotected by the arm of civil law in —the dreary month of November staring them in the face, and loudly proclaiming a more inclement season at hand—the continual threats of the mob, that they would drive every Mormon from the —and the inability of many to remove because of their poverty, caused an anguish of heart indescribable.
These outrages were committed about two miles from my residence; news reached me before daylight the same morning, and I immediately repaired [p. 13] to the place, and was filled with anguish at the awful sight of houses in ruins, and furniture destroyed and strewed about the streets; women, in different directions, were weeping and mourning, while some of the men were covered with blood from the blows they had received from the enemy; others were endeavoring to collect the fragments of their scattered furniture, beds, &c.
I endeavored to collect together as many men as possible, and after consultation, we concluded to embody for defence. Accordingly we collected some sixty men, armed ourselves as well as we could, and took shelter the next evening in a log house. We set a guard, and sent out spies through the different parts of the settlement to watch the movements of the mob; but some time in the night two of the enemy advanced to our guard, being armed with guns and pistols, and while they were conversing I walked near them, and one of them struck me over the head, with all his might, with his gun. I staggered back, the blood streaming down my face, but I did not fall. As I had command of our party, I ordered our men to disarm the two ruffians and secure them, which was done; and this probably prevented a general attack of the mob that night. The next morning they were let go in peace.
The same night (Friday) a party in commenced stoning houses, breaking down doors and windows, destroying furniture, &c. This night the brick part of a dwelling house belonging to , was partly demolished, and the windows of his dwelling broken in, while a gentleman lay sick in his house.
The same night the doors of the house of Messrs. and were split open, and the goods strewed in the street, to which fact upwards of twenty witnesses can attest.
After midnight a party of our men marched for the [p. 14] , &c. and when the mob saw them approach they fled. But one of their number, a , was caught in the act of throwing rocks in at the door, while the goods lay strung around him in the street. He was immediately taken before , Esq. and a warrant requested, that said might be secured; but his justiceship refused to do any thing in the case, and was then liberated.
The same night many of their houses had poles and rails thrust through the shutters and sash, into the rooms of defenceless women and children, from whence their husbands and fathers had been driven by the acts of the mob which were made by ten or twenty men upon one house at a time. On Saturday, the 2d of November, all the families of these people who lived in , moved out of town about one half mile west, and embodied for the preservation of themselves and property. Saturday night a party of the mob made an attack upon a settlement about six miles west of town. Here they tore the roof from a dwelling, broke open another house, found the owner, Mr. David Bennet, sick in bed; him they beat inhumanly, and swore they would blow his brains out, and discharging a pistol, the ball cut a deep gash across the top of his head. In this skirmish one of their men was shot in the thigh.
On Sunday evening, about sunset, and a set out on horseback to visit the Circuit Judge at Lexington, a distance of some forty miles. We were under the necessity of going the most private paths across the country, in order to avoid our enemies; but we had a most faithful pilot, who knew every crook and turn of the country. We had rode but a few miles, when it became so extremely dark that we could not see each other. Our pilot dismounted several times and felt his way; but at length we came to a halt, and lay down upon the ground until it [p. 15] broke away and became some lighter, and then we were enabled to go on; but the rain began to fall in torrents, and continued all the latter part of the night; we soon became completely drenched, and every thread about us perfectly wet; but still we dare not stop for any refreshment or shelter until day dawned, when we found ourselves forty miles from home, and at the door of a friend, where we breakfasted and refreshed ourselves.
We then repaired to Lexington and made oath, before , of the outrages committed upon us, but were refused a warrant; the advising us to fight and kill the mob whenever they came upon us. We then returned to the place where we breakfasted; and, night coming on, we retired to bed.— Having been without sleep for the three previous nights, and much of the time drenched in rain, together with the severe wound I had received, I was well nigh exhausted. No sooner had sleep enfolded me in her kind embrace, than a vision opened before me:
I found myself in , heard the roar of fire-arms, and saw the killed and wounded lying in their blood. At this I awoke from my slumber; and awaking and the family with whom we tarried, I told them what I had seen and heard in my dream, and observed to them that I was sure that a battle had just ensued. Next morning we arose and pursued our journey homeward, with feelings of anxiety and amazement which cannot be described.
Every officer of the peace had abandoned us to our fate, and it seemed as if there was no way but for men, women and children to be exterminated. But as we rode on, ruminating upon these things, a man met us, from , who told us that there was a battle raging when he left, and how it had terminated he knew not.
This only heightened our feelings of anxiety and [p. 16] suspense. We were every moment drawing nearer to where a moment would decide whether we were to find our friends alive and victorious,or whether they were slain, and we in the hands of a worse than savage enemy.
On coming within four miles of , we ventured to enquire the distance, at a certain house. This we did in order to pass as strangers, and also in hopes to learn some news.
The man seemed frightened, and enquired where we were from? We replied, “From Lexington.”— Said he, “Have you heard what has happened?”
We replied that we had understood there was some difficulty respecting the Mormons, but of all the particulars we had not been informed. “Why!” said he, “The Mormons have riz and have killed six men.” At this we seemed much surprised, and enquired if the government would not put down such an insurrection? We then passed on, and as soon as we were out of sight, we left the road and rode into the woods. Taking a circuitous route through thickets of hazel, interwoven with grape-vine, &c., and after some difficulty and entanglement, we came in sight of , and advanced towards it, wishing to pass through, in order to get to a camp of our men near a half mile west of town. But seeing parties of armed men advancing towards us, we wheeled about and retreated a distance, and turned again to the woods, and struck around on the side of the town, through the wilderness, towards the tents of our brethren, rushing our horses with the greatest speed; thus we avoided being taken, and arrived safe. But what was our astonishment when we found our brethren without arms, having surrendered them to their enemies. The truth of the matter was this: on Monday eve, while I lay sleeping at our friend’s, near Lexington, the same eve that I dreamed of the battle, the mob again advanced upon the [p. 17] settlement where they had first destroyed the ten houses, and commenced an attack upon houses and property, and threatening women and children with immediate destruction. While some 60 of the mob were thus engaged, about 30 of our men marched near them, and a battle ensued, in which the mob were entirely routed, leaving two of their number dead on the field, together with a number of horses. Several were severely wounded on both sides, and one young man of the Church died the next day, his name was Barber.
One of the enemy who fell, was an Attorney by the name of , he had been heard a short time before to say, that he would wade to his knees in blood or drive the Mormons from the .
The same night runners were despatched in every direction, under pretence of calling out the militia; spreading as they went, every rumor calculated to excite the unwary; such as, that the Mormons had taken , and the Indians had surrounded it, being allied together, &c. The same eve, November 4th, the said , who had been detected in breaking open the of Gilbert & Co., was suffered to take out a warrant and arrest the said , and others of the Church, for a pretended assault and false imprisonment of said .
Late in the eve, while the court were proceeding with the trial in the , a gentleman unconnected with the court, perceiving the prisoners to be without councel and in eminent danger, advised said and his brethren to move for jail as the only alternative to save life; for the north door was already barred, and a mob thronged the house with a determination to beat and kill; accordingly and four others were committed to jail, the dungeon of which must have been a pallace compared to a court room where dignity and mercy were strangers, and naught but the wrath of man in horrid threats [p. 18] stifled the ears of the prisoners. The same night, , and , were liberated from jail, that they might have an interview with their brethren, and try to persuade them to leave the ; and on their return to jail, about 2 o’clock on Tuesday morning, in custody of the sheriff, an armed force of six or seven men, stood near the jail and hailed; they were answered by the sheriff, who gave his name and the names of his prisoners, crying, “don’t fire, don’t fire, the prisoners are in my charge,” &c. They however fired one or two guns, when and retreated; stood, with several guns pointed at him. Two, more desparate than the rest, attempted to shoot, but one of their guns flashed, and the other missed fire. was then knocked down by Thomas Wilson. About this time a few of the inhabitants arrived, and again entered jail; from which he and three others were liberated about sunrise, without further prosecution of the trial. The same morning, November 5th, the town began to be crowded with armed men from every quarter, and it was said the militia had been called out, under the sanction of , and that one had the command. Among this militia, (so called) were embodied the most conspicuous characters of the mob. Very early on the same morning, several branches of the Church on hearing of the outrages in , volunteeered, and united their forces, and marched towards town to defend their brethren. When within one mile of , they halted, and were soon informed that the militia were called out for their protection. But in this they placed little confidence; for the body congregated had every appearance of a county mob, which subsequent events soon verified. On application to , it was found that there was no alternative but for the Church to leave the forthwith; and to deliver up certain men to be tried for murder said to have [p. 19] been committed by them in the battle the previous evening. The arms of this people were also demanded by the , and among the committee appointed to receive their arms, was several of the most unrelenting of the old mob committee of July; who had directed in the demolishing of the , &c., viz: Henry Chiles, Abner Staples, and Lewis Franklin.
Rather than have submitted to these outrageous requirements, the Saints would willingly have shed their blood; but they knew that if they resisted this mob, the lies of the designing, and the prejudice of the ignorant would construe their resistance into a violation of law, and thus bring certain destruction upon them: therefore they surrendered their arms to the number of 50, and agreed to leave the forthwith. The men who were demanded as prisoners, were also surrendered and imprisoned; but were dismissed in a day or two without trial. A few hours after the surrender, we arrived at the camp of our brethren near , on our return from Lexington, as stated in the foregoing, and when we found that the struggle was over, and our liberties completely trampled under foot, I retired into the woods and kneeled down, and wept before the Lord.
The sun was then setting, and 12 miles separated me from my family; but I determined to reach home that night. My horse being weary, I started on foot, and walked through the wilderness in the midst of darkness, avoiding the road, lest I should fall into the hands of the enemy. I arrived home about the middle of the night; spent a few hours with my family, and arose again before day, and fled to the wilderness, as the mob were driving our people, and hunting them in every direction. After walking a few miles, I found a brother by the name of Lowry, who was moving from the in a covered waggon, he having a permit from the mob to pass in safety. [p. 20]
This man concealed me in his waggon, and thus we passed in safety, although frequently meeting armed men, who were pursuing our brethren. When night again overtook us, we were on the bank of the , which divided between and counties. Here we encamped for the night, as we could not cross the ferry till morning. I left the camp and ascended the tall bluff, and finding a cavity of a rock, I slept therein. But before morning, I was joined by and several others, who fled for their lives, and brought news that the mob were driving, and probably butchering men, women and children. On hearing this news, we tried to pray, but we could say but little. Next morning we crossed over the river, and found ourselves once more in a land of peace. While I thus made my escape, companies of ruffians were ranging the in every direction, bursting into houses without fear, knowing that the arms were secured, frightening women and children, and threatening to kill them if they didn’t flee immediately. At the head of one of these companies appeared the , (a noted Missionary to the Indians) with a gun upon his shoulder, ordering the Mormons to leave immediately, and surrender every thing in the shape of arms. Other pretended preachers of the Gospel took part in the persecution; calling the Mormons the common enemy of mankind, and exulting in their afflictions. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the 5th and 6th of November, women and children fled in every direction, before a merciless mob. One party of about a hundred and fifty women and children, fled to the prairie, where they wandered for several days, mostly without food, and nothing but the open firmament for their shelter. Other parties fled towards the . During this dispersion of women and children, parties of the mob were hunting men, firing upon some, tying up and whipping others; and some they pursued upon horses for several miles. [p. 21]
Thursday, November 7th, the shore began to be lined on both sides of the ferry, with men, women, children, goods, waggons, boxes, chests, provisions, &c., while the ferrymen were very busily employed in crossing them over; and when night again closed upon us, the wilderness had much the appearance of a camp meeting. Hundreds of people were seen in every direction. Some in tents and some in the open air, around their fires, while the rain descended in torrents. Husbands were enquiring for wives, and women for their husbands; parents for children, and children for parents. Some had had the good fortune to escape with their family, household goods, and some provisions; while others knew not the fate of their friends, and had lost all their goods. The scene was indescribable, and I am sure would have melted the hearts of any people upon earth, except our blind oppressors, and a prejudiced and ignorant community. Next day, our company still increased, and we were chiefly engaged in felling small cotton wood trees, and erecting them into temporary cabins, so when night again came on, we had the appearance of a village of wigwams, and the night being clear, we began to enjoy some degree of comfort.
About 2 o’clock the next morn, we were aroused from our slumbers by the cry of “Arise, and behold the signs in the Heavens.” We arose, and to our great astonishment, all Heaven seemed enwraped in a splendid fireworks, as if every star in the broad expanse, had been suddenly hurled from its course, and sent lawless through the wilds of ether. I can give the reader no better idea of this scene, than by an allusion to the shooting of a bright meteor, with a long train of light following its course, such as most of us have seen in a bright starlight night. Now suppose that thousands of such meteors with their fiery trains, were to run lawless through the Heavens for hours together, this would be a scene such as our eyes be [p. 22]held on that memorable morning; and the scene only closed by giving place to the superior light and splendor of the king of day. No sooner was this scene beheld by some of our camp that the news reached every tent, and aroused every one from their slumbers; every eye was lifted towards the Heavens, and every heart was filled with joy at this majestic display of signs and wonders, showing the near approach of the coming of the Son of God.
In fact we looked up and lifted up onr heads rejoicing, knowing that our redemption drew near. It is a singular coincidence that this wonder should happen at the very time of our dispersion. And let others think as they may, I take it as a special manifestation, to fulfil the scriptures, and to rouse our drooping spirits, by a fresh memorial, reminding us of a coming Messiah, for the redemption of those who look for him; and to the destruction of their oppressors.
After a few days, I sent a lad with a horse for my wife, who escaped in safety, by riding 15 miles on horseback; leaving all our goods, which, however, I afterwards obtained, at the risk of my life. But all my provisions for the winter were destroyed or plundered; and my grain left growing on the ground, for our enemies to harvest. My house was afterwards burned, and my apple trees, rails and improvements destroyed or plundered. In short, every member of the society was driven from the , and fields of corn were plundered and destroyed. Stacks of wheat were burned—household goods plundered, and improvements and every kind of property lost, and at length no less than two hundred and three houses burned, according to the estimate of their own people in .
The saints who fled, took refuge in the neighboring counties—mostly in , which received them with some degree of kindness. Those who fled to the county of Van Buren, were again driven, and [p. 23] compelled to flee; and those who fled to , were soon expelled, or the most part of them, and had to move wherever they could find protection.
When the news of these outrages reached the of the , courts of enquiry, both civil and military, were ordered by him; but nothing effectual was ever done to restore our rights, or to protect us in the least. It is true the attorney general, with a military escort and our witnesses, went to and demanded indictments, but the court and jurors refused to do any thing in the case, and the military and witnesses were mobbed out of the , and thus that matter ended. The also ordered them to restore our arms which they had taken from us, but they were never restored; and even our lands in that were robbed of their timber, and either occupied by our enemies for years, or left desolate.
Soon after had rebelled against the laws and constitution, several of the adjoining counties followed her example by justifying her proceedings, and by opposing the saints in settling among them; and soon this rebellion became general in the upper country. The counties of , , Clinton, and various others, held public meetings, the tenor of which was, to deprive the members of our society of the common rights of citizenship, and to drive them from among them, and force them to settle only in such places as the mob should dictate; and even at that time some of their proceedings went so far as to publicly threaten to drive the whole Society from the . The excuses they offered for these outrages, were, 1st, The Society were principally guilty of being eastern or northern people. 2nd, They were guilty of some slight variations, in manners and language, from the other citizens of the . 3rd, Their religious principles differed in some important particulars from most other societies. 4th, They were [p. 24] guilty of emigrating rapidly from the different states, and of purchasing large quantities of land, and of being more enterprising and industrious than some of their neighbors. 5th, Some of our Society were guilty of poverty, especially those who had been driven from time to time from their possessions, and robbed of their all. And lastly, they were said to be guilty of believing in the present government administration of Indian affairs, viz; that the land west of the , which government has deeded in fee simple to the emigrating tribes, was destined by Providence for their permanent homes. All these crimes were charged home upon our Society, in the public proceedings of the several counties; and were deemed sufficient to justify their unlawful proceedings against us. The reader may smile at this statement, but the public journals published in that country, in 1835, actually printed charges and declarations against us of the tenor of the foregoing. By these wicked proceedings our people were once more compelled to remove, at a great sacrifice of property, and were at last permitted to settle in the north of ; where, by the next legislature, they were organized into the counties of and . Here they again exerted the utmost industry and enterprise and these wild regions soon presented a more flourishing aspect than the oldest counties of the upper country. In the mean time a majority of the so far countenanced these outrages, that they actually elected , one of the old mobbers of , who had assisted in the treason, murder, house-burning, plundering, robbery, and driving out of twelve hundred citizens, in 1833, for governor of the and placed him in the executive chair, instead of a solitary cell in the state penetentiary, as his crimes justly deserved. This movement may be said to have put an end to liberty, law, and government, in that state. About this time, also, , whose name was [p. 25] attached to the written circular of the first conspiracy in , was advanced to the office of Major General, instead of being hung for treason. , one of the head leaders of the mob, was advanced to the office of Brigadier General; and Thomas Wilson, another of the mob, was elected a Captain of the Militia.
The reader will recollect that in a former part of this history, these Wilsons are represented as acting a most forward part in all the murders, house-burning, robbing and driving; and that Thomas Wilson, in particular, went so far as to fire upon certain prisoners, and to knock down one while in care of an officer, who was committing them to jail. These crimes, which in a country of laws would have hanged them or imprisoned them for life, so far exalted them in the eyes of their associates, that their worthy deeds proved a step stone to office. They all very readily received their commissions from their accomplice, ; and thus corruption, rebellion, and conspiracy had spread on every side, being fostered and encouraged by a large majority of the ; and thus the treason became general.
In the mean time our Society had greatly increased by a rapid emigration, and having long felt the withering hand of oppression from so corrupt an administration, they had endeavored to organize themselves, both civil and military, in the counties where they composed the majority, by electing such officers as they thought would stand for equal rights, and for the laws and constitution of the . And in this way they hoped to withstand the storm which had so long beat upon them, and whose black clouds now seemed lowering in awful gloom, and preparing to burst with overwhelming fury, upon all who dare to stand for liberty and law.
On the Fourth of July, 1838, many thousands of our people assembled at the city of , the [p. 26] county seat of , erected a liberty pole, and hoisted the bold eagle, with its stars and stripes, upon the top of the same. Under the colors of our we laid the corner stone of a of worship, and had an address delivered by , in which was painted, in lively colors, the oppression which we had long suffered from the hand of our enemies; and in this discourse we claimed and declared our constitutional rights, as American citizens, and manifested a determination to do our utmost endeavors, from that time forth, to resist all oppression, and to maintain our rights and freedom according to the holy principles of liberty, as guaranteed to every person by the constitution and laws of our government. This declaration was received with shouts of hosannah to God and the Lamb, and with many and long cheers by the assembled thousands, who were determined to yield their rights no more, except compelled by a superior power.
But in a day or two after these transactions, the thunder rolled in awful majesty over the city of , and the arrows of lightning fell from the clouds and shivered the liberty pole from top to bottom; thus manifesting to many that there was an end to liberty and law in that , and that our little strove in vain to maintain the liberties of a country which was ruled by wickedness and rebellion. It seemed to portend the awful fate which awaited that devoted , and the and people around.— Soon after these things, the war clouds began again to lower, with dark and threatening aspect. The rebellious party in the counties around had long watched our increasing power and prosperity with greedy and avaricious eyes, and they had already boasted that as soon as we had made some fine improvements, and a plentiful crop, they would drive us from the , and again enrich themselves with the spoils. Accordingly, at an election held in [p. 27], the robbers undertook to drive our people from the poll box, and threatened to kill whoever should attempt to vote. But some were determined to enjoy their right or die; they therefore went forward to vote, but were seized by the opposing party and attacked, and thus a fight commenced. But some of our people knocked down several of the robbers, and thus cleared the ground and maintained their rights, though vastly unequal in numbers. The news of this affair soon spread far and wide, and caused the people to rally, some for liberty and some to support the robbers in their daring outrages. About one hundred and fifty of those who were on the side of liberty, marched to the spot next day, and went to the residence of the leaders in this outrage, and soon an agreement was signed for peace. But this was of short duration, for the conspirators were stirred up throughout the whole , being alarmed for fear the Mormons, as they called them, should become so formidable as to maintain their rights and liberties, insomuch that they could no more drive and plunder them. About this time, meetings were held by the robbers in Carroll, Saline, and other counties, in which they openly declared their treasonable and murderous intentions of driving the citizens who belonged to our society from their counties, and if possible, from the . Resolutions to this effect were published in the journals of Upper , and this without a single remark of disapprobation. Nay more, this murderous gang when assembled and painted like Indian warriors, and when openly committing murder, robbery, and house burning, were denominated citizens, white people, &c., in most of the papers of the , while our society who stood firm in the cause of liberty and law, were denominated Mormons, in contradistinction to the appelation of citizens, whites, &c, as if we had been some savage tribe, or some colored race of foreigners. The rob [p. 28]bers soon assembled, to the number of several hundred, under arms, and rendezvoused in , being composed of individuals from many of the counties around. Here they commenced firing upon our citizens, and taking prisoners. Our people made no resistence, except to assemble on their own ground for defence. They also made oath before the Circuit Judge, , to the above outrages.— One thousand men were then ordered into service, under the command of , and Brigadier Generals and . These were soon mustered and marched through , and took their stand in , where most of them remained thirty days. The robbers were somewhat awed by these prompt measures, so that they did not proceed farther at that time in , but they proceeded to , a small town in Carroll county, which was mostly settled by our people.— Here they laid siege for several days, and subsisted by plunder and robbery, watching every opportunity to fire upon our citizens. At this time they had one field piece, and were headed by a Presbyterian priest by the name of , who, it is said, tended prayer, night and morning, at the head of the gang. In this siege they say that they killed a number of our people. They also turned one and his wife and children out of doors when sick, and set fire to their house, and burned it to ashes before their eyes. At length they succeeded in driving every citizen from the place, to the sacrifice of every thing which they could not take with them.
This event happened during a cold, bad spell of weather, in October, and as many of the citizens were sickly, and worn down by fatigue and war, and robbed of shelter and of every thing comfortable, they came near perishing; some of them did perish before they arrived in , a distance of some sixty miles. Here they were hospitably taken in by [p. 29] their brethren. Even two or three families often crowded into one small house. The militia under made some show of trying to prevent these outrages, but at length informed our people that his forces were so small, and many of them so much in favor of the rebellion, that it was useless to look any longer to them for protection.— Several messages were also sent to the , but he was utterly deaf to every thing which called for the protection of our society, or any of the citizens who belonged to it. But on the contrary, he hearkened to the insinuations of the robbers; and actually presumed to give orders for the raising of several thousand volunteers from the middle counties of the , to march against the Mormons, as he termed them. This force was soon on their march with the at their head; but when he had come near the Upper Country, he was officially notified that the Mormons were not in a state of insurrection, but were misrepresented by the robbers. His then disbanded his forces and sneaked back to to wait till the robbers should drive the Mormons to some act which might be considered illegal, which would give him some pretext for driving them from the .
After the evacuation of , when our people were officially notified that they must protect themselves, and expect no more protection from any department of the Government, they assembled in the city of , to the number of near one thousand men, and resolved to defend their rights to the last; calling upon every person who could bear arms to come forward in the support of our houses, our homes, our wives and children, and the cause of our and our God. In the mean time the robbers elated with success, and emboldened by the negligence of every department of the Government, were increasing in numbers daily, and were on [p. 30] their march for , with their artillery and military stores, declaring that they would now drive the citizens from and from counties, which were settled mostly by our people.— In this march they took a number of the citizens prisoners, among whom was , a minister of the Gospel, and an excellent citizen of . They kept him a number of days, while his wife and children mourned his absence, and they held frequent consultations to kill him, but at length he was set at liberty. Our forces assembled in to the number of several hundred, to protect their homes; and at length a detachment of about one hundred men, under the command of Col. , met the robbers, and took from them their artillery, which consisted of one six pounder, and some powder and balls also, were taken from the enemy. All this was done without bloodshed, as the robbers buried their cannon in the earth and fled at the first news of the approach of our army. While the army were busily engaged in searching the camp of the robbers to find their field piece, a young lad saw some swine rooting in the middle of the highway, and he at length discovered some projecting part of the cannon, which had been uncovered by the swine, and he exclaimed, “here is the cannon.” At this, the soldiers gathered round, and soon raised the monster from its untimely grave. It was taken in triumph to the city of , and there on the heights of , amid rejoicing thousands, it uttered its voice in favor of liberty and law, and told the sad tale of some twenty miles around, that the robbers had lost their God of war, notwithstanding the pious prayers of priest . On another occasion the Robbers were transporting a waggon load of arms and ammunition from to , through , but in they providentially broke the[i]r waggon. In the mean time our sheriff got wind of the movements, [p. 31] and went with a company of militia, and took the arms and ammunition and brought them in triumph to the city of , where they helped to arm the patriotic citizens for defence. About the time of the taking of the cannon, a small party of our men, under the command of the brave Lieut. B. went out through among those who pretended great friendship for the laws, but were secretly aiding the robbers. This party pretended to be men from the Platt who had come down to assist the robbers against the citizens, or Mormons as they were called. Under this disguise their horses and themselves were fed free of cost, and welcomed every where to all they could eat and drink, and many furnished them rifles, and ammunition, together with coats, blankets, &c., wishing them success. Sometimes they would offer to pay for their entertainment, but their zealous hosts refused to take pay, and wished that their horses could eat a thousand bushels of grain, for they were more than welcome.
In this way our troops were supplied with considerable armament, and their secret enemies were discovered and detected in their wicked plottings. During this time the robbers were busily engaged in burning and plundering houses, and driving women and children from their homes, to perish with hunger and cold, while they were robbed of every thing they possessed, and their houses burned to ashes. Hundreds were thus compelled to flee to the cities and strongholds; women and children came in by night and by day; and some of them in the midst of a tremendous snow storm, in which they came near perishing; but those who fled were kindly received into the houses of their brethren, and thus their lives were spared, but only to witness a more dreadful scene at hand. It is said that some of our troops, exasperated to the highest degree, retalliated in some instances by plundering and burning houses, and bringing the [p. 32] spoil to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, whose provisions and clothing had been robbed from them; and upon the whole, I am rather inclined to believe it was the case; for human nature cannot endure all things.
Soon after these things had transpired in , was threatened from every quarter; and her citizens assembled in , many of them moving their wives and children, goods, provisions, and even houses into the city; leaving their lands desolate, in order that they might be embodied and prepared to defend themselves and families to the last. Our and his other commissioned officers, had the troops paraded night and morning on the public square, and ordered them to be always ready in case of alarm. When we were dismissed at eve, we were ordered to sleep in our clothes, and be ready at a moments warning to run together at any hour of the night. During this state of alarm, the drum was beat, and guns fired, one night, about midnight. I ran to the , where many had already collected together, and the news was that the south part of our , adjoining , was attacked by a mob, who were plundering houses, threatening women and children, and taking peaceable citizens prisoners; and telling families to be gone by the next morning or they would burn their houses over their heads. With this information, (to whom had committed the command of the troops in , when he himself was not present) sent out a detachment under the command of Captain Durphey, aided by the brave . This company, consisting of about sixty men, was sent to see what the matter was on the lines; and who was committing depredations, and if necessary, to protect or move in the families and property; and if possible, effect the release of the prisoners.
This company was soon under way, having to ride [p. 33] some ten or twelve miles mostly through extensive prairies. It was October, the night was dark, and as we moved briskly on, (being forbidden to speak a loud word.) no sound was heard but the rumbling of our horses hoofs over the wide extended and lonely plains. While the distant plains, far and wide, were illuminated by blazing fires; and immense columns of smoke were seen rising in awful majesty, as if the world was on fire. This scene of grandeur can only be comprehended by those who are acquainted with the scenes of prairie burning. As the fire sweeps over millions of acres of dry grass in the fall season, and leaves a smooth black surface, divested of all vegetation. The thousand meteors blazing in the distance like the camp fires of some war host, throw a fitful gleem of light upon the distant sky, which many might mistake for the Aurora Borealis. This scene added to the silence of midnight—the rumbling sound of the prancing steeds—the glistening of armor—and the unknown destiny of the expedition—all combined to impress the mind with deep and solemn thoughts; and to throw a romantic vision over the imagination, which is not often experienced, except in the poet’s dream, or the wild imagery of sleeping fancy. In this solemn procession we moved on for some two hours, when it was supposed that we were in the neighborhood of danger. We were then ordered to dismount and leave our horses in care of part of the company, while the others should proceed on foot along the principal highway, to see what discoveries could be made. This precaution was for fear we might be suddenly attacked, in which case we could do better on foot than on horse back. We had not proceeded far when as we entered the wilderness, we were suddenly fired upon by an unknown enemy, in ambush. First one solitary gun, as was supposed, from some out post of the enemy, brought one of our number to the ground, where he lay groan [p. 34]ing while the rest of the troop had to pass directly by his dying body. It was dawn of day in the eastern horizon, but darkness still hovered over the awful scene. When our men saw that they were ambushed and attacked, they found it too late to retreat, and orders were issued to form along in the brush, and under the cover of trees, which was instantly done, while the enemy, though unseen, were pouring in a deadly fire upon our whole line. We soon returned the fire, and charging upon the enemy, the whole wilderness seemed for a few moments as if wrapped in a blaze of lightning; and overwhelmed with the sharp crack of peals of thunder. The enemy were soon driven from their ambush and completely routed. Having a creek immediately in their rear, many were seen forcing their retreat through the stream, and up to their arms in water. The firing now ceased, and the whole battle ground resounded with the watchword, God and Liberty. Our forces which had been thrown into some disorder, were instantly formed, and their pieces reloaded, while here and there over the battle ground, lay the dead and wounded. The enemy had left their horses, saddles, camp and baggage, in the confusion of their flight, which fell into our hands. Their baggage waggon was immediately harnessed to a couple of horses, and the wounded were picked up and laid in it upon blankets, while every man saddled and mounted a horse, and we commenced our retreat to the place where we had left our horses and guard, a distance of more than a mile; here we halted, and laid our wounded upon blankets, on the ground, while we made arrangements in the waggon for them to ride more comfortably.— There were about six of our men badly wounded, among whom was the brave , a ball having entered the lower part of his body. It was an awful sight to see them pale and helpless, and hear their groans. We had as yet lost but one man, [p. 35] who was left dead on the ground; his name was . The enemy had one killed and four wounded, as we afterwards learned. We ascertained from the prisoners whom we had rescued, and one whom we had taken, that the enemy consisted of one and his company, who together with some volunteers from different neighborhoods, mounted about 60 men. Our party engaged, was from forty to fifty in number, at the time of the engagement. There were three of our fellow citizens prisoners in their camp. Two of these ran away and escaped at the commencement of the firing, and the other was shot through the body in trying to run to our lines, but fortunately he recovered, and is now a witness against them.
Having now arranged every thing to the best advantage for the wounded, we moved on slowly towards . When we came within fiive miles of the city, our express had reached there with the news of the battle, and we were met by a surgeon and others for our relief, and among others the wife of the pale and dying .
Our wounded were now taken into a house, and their wounds dressed; and as Mrs. Patten entered the room and cast her eyes on the pale and ghastly features of her husband, she burst into tears, exclaiming O God! O my husband! how pale you look! He was still able to speak, but he died that evening in the triumphs of faith; having laid down his life as a martyr in the cause of his and his God. The young , who was shot through the body by the first fire of the enemy’s sentinel, also died about the same time. Thus three brave men had fallen; and their blood cries against their enemies for vengeance. The others I believe recovered of their wounds. Having conveyed the wounded to this place of hospitality, we hastened home to , and delivered the horses and spoils of the enemy to , the commanding officer of the Regiment. These several defeats of the mob in and , [p. 36] checked, for a time, their ruinnous ravages. They saw that it was impossible to conquer a people who were fighting for their homes, and their wives and children, unless they could come against them with some show of authority, for it was a well known fact, that the Mormons never resisted authority, however abused; therefore their next exertion was to spread lies and falsehoods of the most alarming character; such as that the Mormons were in a state of rebellion against the Government, and that they were about to burn , &c. This flame was greatly assisted by several in high authority who deserted from the Church, and fell away to the robbers because of fear, and also for the sake of power and gain. These deserters became far more false, hardened and blood-thirsty, than those who had never known the way of righteousness, insomuch that they were filled with all manner of lying and murders, and plundering. The who had long sought some opportunity to destroy us, and drive us from the , now issued an order for to raise several thousand men, and march against the Mormons, and drive them from the , or exterminate them if necessary, etc. While was mustering his forces for this murderous and treasonable enterprize , and , the old leaders of the conspiracy, being nearer the scene of action, and wishing to immortalize their names, put themselves at the head of the old robbers, together with the late forces of the robbers who had all the while been embodied against us, and turning the brave and humane out of the command, took the lead of all the assembled forces of the upper country, consisting of three or four thousand men, and with this formidable force, commenced their march directly for the city of , where they arrived, while and his forces were several days march in the rear. In the mean time, the ’s Order, and all these military movements, were kept an entire secret from the Mormons, and even the mail was withheld from , thus cutting off all intelligence. [p. 37] We had only heard that companies of armed men were seen in the south part of the : and we had sent a white flag and a guard of one hundred and fifty men, to make inquiries. But while they were absent on this business, an alarm came in to town that the whole to the South of us was filled with hostile troops, who were murdering, plundering, and taking peaceable citizens prisoners, in their own houses, etc. On receiving this intelligence, every man flew to arms, for the protection of our . It was now towards evening, and we had heard nothing of our white flag, and the hundred and fifty men who went South in the morning. While we stood in our armor, gazing to the South in anxious suspense, we discovered an army advancing on horse back, over the hills, at two miles distance from the town. We at first supposed it might be our little company of a hundred and fifty returning to us, but we soon saw that there were thousands of men, with a long train of baggage waggons; we then were in hopes that it might be some friendly troops sent for our protection; and then we thought it might be a troop of robbers coming to destroy us. At all events, there was no time to be lost, for although our force then present did not exceed five hundred men, yet we didn’t intend that they should enter the town without giving some account of themselves.— We accordingly marched out upon the plains on the South of the city, and formed in battle array, extending our line of foot something like a half mile, while a small company of horse was posted on our right wing on a commanding eminence, and another small company in the rear of our main body, intended as a kind of reserve. By this time the sun was near setting, and the advance of the unknown army had come within plain view, at less than one mile distant. On seeing our forces presenting a small but formidable front, they came to a halt, and formed along the borders of the wilderness. And in a few moments both parties sent out a white flag, which met between the two armies; when our messenger demanded who they were, and what was their intentions? The answer was, that they wanted three [p. 38] persons out of the city before they massacred the rest.— This was a very alarming and unexpected answer. But they were soon prevailed upon to suspend hostilities till morning, when we were in hopes of some further and more satisfactory information. The hostile army under the command of , then commenced their encampment for the night, and our little army continued to stand to their arms for fear of some treachery. Our company of a hundred and fifty soon returned, informing us that they had been hemmed in through the day, and only escaped from their superior knowledge of the ground.— We also sent an express to , and by morning were reinforced by quite a number of troops, with at their head. In the mean time, the painted robbers and murderers under the command of one , came pouring in from the west, to strengthen the enemy, and another company of murderers came in from Carrel [Carroll] county, and were taken into the ranks of , after murdering some twenty of our citizens at , of which I will give a particular account hereafter. Thus both parties were considerably reinforced during the night. In the mean time our people, being determined, if attacked, to defend their homes, and wives and children to the last, spent the night in throwing up a temporary breastwork of building timber, logs, rails, &c., and by morning our south side of the was fortified with a breastwork, and also a considerable part of the east and west sides; the whole line of fortification extending a mile and a half. This nights labor may seem incredible; but it happened that a great quantity of building materials had been accumulated near the spot where were thrown up the breastworks: and this proved an excellent material for the work. The next day, towards evening, we were informed that the had ordered this force against us, with orders to exterminate us or drive us from the . As soon as these facts were ascertained, we determined not to resist any thing in the shape of authority, however tyrannical or unconstitutional might be the proceedings against us; therefore we had nothing more to do but to submit to be massacred or [p. 39] 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] us on the ground in the open air, and amid the most horrid imprecations, threats and insults, that ever was witnessed, even in the abodes of the damned. News reached us by their own troops before morning, that they had murdered one prisoner on their march the day they entered , by knocking out his brains, and also, that several of our citizens were then lying here and there unburied, whom they had shot down and murdered in cold blood, and also that several females had bee[n] ravished, and much robbery committed, besides the beef and corn which was taken from us to support three or four thousand men and horses for several days. No pen need undertake to describe our feelings while there confined; not knowing the fate of our wives and children, and our brethren and sisters, and seeing no way for our lives to be saved except by the miraculous power of God. But notwithstanding all earthly hopes were gone, still we felt a calmness indescribable, and a secret whispering, portending that our work was not yet done, and therefore our enemies would be restrained from taking our lives. While in this situation, , (who had once been intimate with me as a fellow laborer in the Gospel, having deserted from the Church) came to me, (being one of the soldiers against us) and observed, well , you have now got where you are certain never to escape; how do you feel as to the course you have taken in religion? I replied that I had taken that course which I should take if I had my life to live over again. He seemed thoughtful for a moment, and then replied, well , I think if I were you, I would die as I had lived: at any rate, I see no possibility of escape for you and your friends. This little interview gave us to understand that our doom was fixed in the minds of the people.
Next morning demanded the militia to give up their arms, which was done, to [p. 41] the number of upwards of five hundred. The rest of the troops having fled during the night. After the troops had surrendered, the city of was surrounded by the robbers, and all the men detained as prisoners, none being permitted to pass out of the city, although their families were starving for want of sustenance. The mills and provisions being some distance from the . 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. On the third morning after our imprisonment, we were placed in a waggon, in order for removal, and many of the more desperate then crowded round, and cocking their rifles, swore they would blow us through. Some guns were snapped, but happily missed fire; and the rest were in a small degree restrained by the officers, and we still lived. We were now marched to , and each one was permitted to go with a guard and take a final leave of our families, in order to depart as prisoners, to , a distance of some 60 miles. This was the most trying scene of all. I went to my house, being guarded by two or three soldiers. The rain was pouring down without, and on entering my little cottage, there lay my , sick of a fever, with which she had been for sometime confined. At her breast was an infant three months old, and by her side a little girl of six years of age. These constituted my household, no other person belonged to my family. On the foot of the same bed lay a woman in travail, who had been driven from her house in the night, and had taken momentary shelter in my little hut of ten feet square, (my larger house having been torn down.) I stepped to the bed, she burst into tears, I spake a few words of comfort, telling her to try to live for my sake, and her little babes, and expressing a hope that we should meet again, though years might separate us. She [p. 42] promised to try to live, and though an age should separate us, we would live for each other. I then kissed her and the little babes, and departed. Till now I had refrained from weeping, but to be forced from so helpless a family, who were destitute of provisions and fuel; in a bleak prairie with none to assist them, and exposed to a lawless banditti, who were utter strangers to humanity, and this at the approach of winter, was more than nature could well bear; I went to in tears, and stated the circumstances of my sick, heart-broken and destitute family, in terms which would have moved any heart which had a latent spark of humanity yet remaining. But I was only answered with an exulting laugh, and a taunt of triumph, from this hardened murderer.
As I returned from my house towards the main body of the army who were to conduct us, I halted with the guard at the door of , and heard the sobs and groans of , at his parting words. She was about to be confined in child-birth when he left her to accompany us. As we returned to the waggon we saw taking leave of his wife and daughters, who stood at a little distance in tears of anguish inexpressible; whilst in the waggon sat Joseph Smith; while his aged and venerable came up, overwhelmed in tears, and took us all by the hand.
In the meantime, hundreds of the brethren crowded around us, anxious to take a parting look, or a silent shake of the hand, for feelings were too intense to allow of speech. In the midst of these scenes, orders were given, and we moved slowly on, surrounded by a brigade of and Van Buren county troops. After marching about 12 miles, we encamped for the night on . Here began to treat us more kindly; he became very sociable, conversing freely on the subject of his [p. 43] former murders and robberies, committed against us in . He did not pretend to deny any thing, but spoke upon the whole as frank as if he had been giving the history of some thing done in ages past, with which we were not personally concerned. He also informed us that he had been exhorted by many to hang us on the way to , but he should not suffer us to be injured. Indeed, it was now evident that he was proud of his prey, and felt highly enthusiastic in having the honor of returning in triumph to the town of , with the exhibition of his prisoners, whom his superstition had magnified into Noble or Royal personages; who would be gazed upon as Kings, or as something supernatural.
Next morning we were on our march, and in the after part of the day, we came to the , which separated between and us.— Here the brigade was halted, and the prisoners taken to a public house, where we were permitted to shave our beards and change our linen, after which we partook of an excellent dinner at the expense of the . This done, we were hurried to the ferry, and across the river with the utmost haste; when but few of the troops had passed, this movement was soon explained to us. The truth was, had sent an express to take us from , and prevent us from going to , as both armies were competitors for the honor of possessing the wonderful, or in their estimation, Royal Prisoners. and his troops from a distance, who had not arrived in the city of till after our departure, was desirous of seeing the strange men, whom it was said had turned the world upside down; and was desirous of the honor of possessing such a wonderful trophy of victory, or of putting us to death himself. And on the other hand, , and their troops, were determined to exhibit us in triumph through the streets of . Therefore when demanded by [p. 44] ’s express, they refused to surrender us, and hurried us across the ferry with all possible despatch; after which, marching about a mile, we camped in the wilderness for the night, with about fifty troops for our guard, the remainder not crossing the ferry till next morning.
Next morning being Sunday, we were visited by some gentlemen and ladies. One of the women came up and very candidly enquired of the troops, which of the prisoners was the Lord whom the Mormons worshipped? One of the guard pointed to Mr. Smith, with a significant smile, and said this is he. The woman then turning to Mr. S., enquired whether he professed to be the Lord and Saviour? Do not smile gentle reader, at the ignorance of these poor innocent creatures, who are thus kept under, and made to believe such absurdities by their men, and by their lying Priests. Mr. S. replied, that he professed to be nothing but a man, and a minister of salvation sent by Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel. This answer so surprised the woman, that she began to enquire into our doctrine; and Mr. Smith preached a discourse both to her and her companions, and to the wondering soldiers, who listened with almost breathless attention, while he set forth the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance and baptism for remission of sins, with the promise of the Holy Ghost, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.— The woman was satisfied, and praised God in the hearing of the soldiers, and went away praying aloud that God would protect and deliver us. Thus was fulfilled a prophesy which had been spoken publicly by Mr. Smith, a few months previous; for he had prophesied that a sermon should be preached in , by one of our Elders, before the close of 1838.
About 10 o’clock the brigade had all crossed the ferry and come up with us. We were then marched [p. 45] forward in our carriages, while the troops were formed in our front and rear, with quite a martial appearance. As we went through the settlements, hundreds of men, women, and children flocked to see us, and our oft halted the whole brigade to introduce us to the ladies and gentlemen, pointing out each of his prisoners by name. We were oft shaken by the hand; and, in the ladies at least, there often appeared some feelings of sympathy. In this way we proceeded until we arrived at . It was now past noon, and in the midst of a great rain. But hundreds crowded to witness the procession, and to gaze at us as we were paraded in martial triumph through all the principal streets—our carriages moving in the centre, while the brigade on horseback were formed in front and rear, and the bugles sounded a blast of triumphant joy.
This ceremony being finished, a vacant house was prepared for our reception, into which we were ushered through the crowd of spectators who thronged every avenue. The troops were then disbanded, and each returned to the bosom of his family, where, amid the joys of domestic felicity, they rested from the fatigues of war. In the mean time we were kept under a small guard, and were treated with the greatest hospitality and politeness, while thousands flocked to see us day after day. We spent most of our time in preaching and conversation, explanatory of our doctrines and practice, which removed mountains of prejudice, and enlisted the populace in our favor, notwithstanding their old hatred and wickdness toward our Society.
We were soon at liberty to walk the streets without a guard; and soon we were removed from our house of confinement to a respectable hotel, where we were entertained in the best style of which the place was capable. We had no longer any guard; we went out and came in when we pleased, a certain [p. 46] keeper being appointed merely to look to us; with him we walked out of town and visited the desolate lands which belonged to our Society, and the place which, seven years before, we had dedicated and consecrated for the building of a , it being a beautiful rise of ground, about half a mile west of . When we saw it last it was a wilderness, but now our enemies had robbed it of every stick of timber, and it presented a beautiful rolling field of pasture, being covered with grass. Oh, how many feelings did this spot awaken in our bosoms! Here we had often bowed the knee in prayer to Jehovah in by-gone years; and here we had assembled with hundreds of happy saints, in the solemn meeting, and offered our prayers, and songs, and sacraments, in our humble dwellings; but now all was solemn and lonely desolation; not a vestage remained to mark the place where stood our former dwellings; they had long since been consumed by fire, or removed to the village and converted to the use of our enemies. While at we were once or twice invited to dine with , and others, which we did, with much apparent politeness and attention on their part, and much cheerfulness and good felling on our own.
After about a week spent in this way, during which I was at one time alone in the wilderness, more than a mile from , we were at length (after repeated demands) sent to , at . This place was on the same side of that was, and about thirty miles distant. Generals and had tried in vain to get a guard to accompany us; none would volunteer, and when drafted, they would not obey orders; for, in truth, they wished us to go at liberty. At last a colonel and two or three officers started with us, with their swords and pistols, which was more to protect us than to keep us from escaping. On this journey some of us [p. 47] rode in carriages, and some on horseback. Sometimes we were sixty or eighty rods in front or rear of our guard, who, by the by, were three sheets in the wind, in the whiskey line, having a bottle in their pockets; but knowing that we were not guilty of any crime, we did not wish to escape by flight. At night, having crossed the ferry, we put up at a private house. Here our guards all went to bed and to sleep, leaving us their pistols to defend ourselves in case of any attack from without, as we were in a very hostile neighborhood.
Next morn we rode a few miles, and were met by an express from , at , consisting of and a company of soldiers, who immediately surrounded us with poised pieces, in regular military order, as if we had been Bonaparte and his body guards, on a march from St. Helena; thinking, perhaps, that if we should escape, the and all Europe would be immediately overthrown. In this way we were escorted to , the head quarters of and his army, which was composed of three or four thousand men. Here, as usual, we had to endure the gaze of the curious, as if we had been a caravan of exhibiting animals. We were conducted, with some military parade, into a block house, and immediately put in chains; besides a strong guard, who stood over us night and day, with presented rifles and pistols. We were soon introduced to , who seemed more haughty, unfeeling, and reserved, than even or .
We enquired of the what were his intentions concerning us. I stated to him that we had now been captives for many days, and we knew not wherefore; nor whether we were considered prisoners of war, or prisoners of civil process, or prisoners of hope; at the same time remarking that all was wrapt in mystery; for, as citizens of the , and of , in time of peace, we could not be consider [p. 48]ed as prisoners of war; and without civil process, we were not holden by civil authority; and as to being prisoners of hope, there was but little chance to hope from present appearances. He replied, that we were taken in order to be tried. “Tried? by what authority?” I enquired. “By court martial,” said he.— “What!” said I, “ministers of the gospel, who sustain no office or rank in military affairs, and who are not even subject by law to military duty, to be tried by court martial, and this in time of peace, and in a republic where the constitution guarantees to every citizen the right of trial by jury?” “Yes,” said he, “this is according to the treaty stipulations entered into at , at the time of the surrender, and as agreed to by , your commanding officer.” , our commanding officer?” enquired I; “what has he to do with our civil rights? he was only the colonel of the militia.” “Why,” said the , “was he not the commanding officer of the fortress of , the head quarters of Mormon forces?” I replied that “we had no fortress, nor Mormon forces, but were part of the militia of the state of ;” at which the seemed surprised, and the conversation ended.
We were astonished above measure at proceedings so utterly ignorant and devoid of all law or justice. Here was a , selected by the of , and sent to banish or exterminate a religious society. And then to crown the whole with inconceivable absurdity, this officer and his staff considered the state of a separate independent government, having a right to treat with a foreign nation, a right which belongs only to the , and not to any one state in the Union. And then, to cap the climax, he considers the Mormons a nation distinct from all other governments; and, in fact, enters into a treaty with the of one of the regiments of their own state militia, which was at that [p. 49] time under his immediate command, as a part of his own forces. Thus is converted into a foreign minister, an envoy extraordinary, in behalf of the Mormon empire, to enter into treaty stipulations with his Majesty’s forces, under Generals , and . The city of , the capitol of Mormonia, is the Ghent where this treaty of peace is ratified. After which the standing army of Mormonia stack their arms, which are carried in triumph to . The royal family and other nobles are surrendered in this treaty to be tried by court martial and punished, and the inhabitants of the fallen empire, like those of Poland, are to be banished to instead of Siberia. But this banishment (more cruel than that of Poland by the Russians) is to include every man, woman, and child of the whole empire, with the exception of a few who are retained in prison, and their women and children sent off from their homes and firesides to wander alone. And at the same time a deed of trust is drawn up, and all the Mormons are compelled, on pain of death, to sign away their houses, lands, and property, for the disposal of their conquerors.
We found, on our arrival at , that all these things had actually taken place; and in addition to all the rest of these unheared of outrages, eighteen of our citizens had been shot dead at , in , and many others wounded, all this without making any resistance. The circumstances of this massacre were as follows: some two hundred robbers, on hearing of the ’s order for extermination, rushed suddenly upon some of our Society, who, on seeing them approach, took shelter in a log building which had been occupied as a blacksmith shop. On seeing their enemies approach in a hostile manner, they cried for quarter, but were instantly fired upon, and when most of them had fallen, and were lying in heaps, in the agonies of death, the [p. 50] murderers put their guns through the crevices between the logs, and shot the dead and dying thro’ and through, as a token of bravery, and also to glut their bloodthirsty disposition.
A little boy had crawled under the bellows in hopes to escape; but, on being discovered, he was instantly shot. Another little boy, of nine years of age, whose father () had just fell dead, cried out to the enemy to spare his life; but they replied, “Kill him—God damn it, kill him—he is the son of a damned Mormon!” At this they shot his head all open, and laid him sprawling by his father; thus leaving Mrs. Smith to mourn the loss of husband and child both at once. This was a worthy family, from , who had long been near neighbors to me; and better neighbors I never had. About the same time, an old soldier of the revolution, by the name of , came up to them and begged for his life; but they hewed him in pieces with some old pieces of a sythe. The women fled, but were fired upon; and one young lady (Mary Steadwell, from , who was a worthy lady, and had been a member of my family,) was shot in the hand while fleeing, and fell behind a log in time to save her life, just as a shower of balls struck it.
The robbers then loaded themselves with household plunder and departed. These particulars are as we have learned them; but being confined in prison, we lack much information on the subject of the massacre, which will doubtless be given in the writings of others. Now to return to the subject as we left it at .
I must not forget to state that when we arrived at as prisoners, there were some fifty others, mostly heads of families, who had been marched from on foot, and were now penned up in a cold, open, unfinished court house; in which situation they remained for some weeks, while their families were [p. 51] suffering every thing but death. The next morning after my dialogue with , he again entered our prison and informed us that he had concluded to deliver us over to the civil authorities for an examining trial. I then asked him why he did not do away the unlawful decree of banishment, which was first ordered by , in compliance with the ’s order, compelling all our people to leave the by the next spring? He replied that he approved of all the proceedings of , and should not alter them. I make this statement, because many writers have commended for his heroic, merciful, and prudent conduct towards our Society, and have endeavored to make it appear that was not to be blamed for any of the measures of .
The court of enquiry now commenced, before Judge . This continued from the 11th to the 28th of November, during which we were kept most of the time in chains, and our brethren, some fifty in number, were penned up in the open, unfinished court house.
It was a very severe spell of snow and winter weather, and we suffered much. During this time was taken very sick, from hardship and exposure, and finally lost his reason; but still he was kept in our miserable, noisy, and cold room, and compelled to sleep on the floor with a chain and padlock round his ankle, and fastened to six others; and here he endured the constant noise and confusion of an unruly guard, who were changed every few hours, and who were frequently composed of the most noisy, foul-mouthed, vulgar, disgraceful, indecent rabble, that ever defiled the earth. While he lay in this situation, his son-in-law, , the only male member of his numerous family, was chained by his side; and thus Mrs. [Phebe Brook] Rigdon and her daughters were left entirely destitute and unprotected. One of his daughters, Mrs. Robison [Athalia Rigdon Robinson], a young and delicate fe [p. 52]male, with her little infant, came down to see her , and to comfort and take care of her in his sickness. When she first entered the room, amid the clank of chains and the bristle of weapons, and cast her eyes on her sick and dejected parent, and sorrow worn husband, she was speechless, and only gave vent to her feelings in a flood of tears. This faithful lady, with her little infant, continued by the bed of her father till he recovered from his sickness, and till his fevered and disordered mind assumed its wonted powers of intellect.
In this mock court of enquiry, the judge could not be prevailed on to examine the conduct of the murderers, robbers, and plunderers, who had desolated our Society. Nor would he receive testimony except against us. And by the deserters and apostates who wished to save their own lives and property at the expense of others; and by those who had murdered and plundered us from time to time, he obtained abundance of testimony, much of which was entirely false. Our Church organization was converted, by such testimony, into a temporal kingdom, which was to fill the whole earth, and subdue all other kingdoms. Much was enquired by the (who, by-the-by, was a Methodist,) concerning the prophesy of Daniel—“In the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall break in pieces all other kingdoms, and stand forever,” &c. “And the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole Heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High,” &c.— These texts, and many others, were enquired into with all the eagerness and apparent alarm which characterized a Herod of old, who feared a rival in the person of King Jesus, and who, after enquiring dilligently into the prophesies concerning the birth of Christ, and on learning that Bethlehem was the honored place designated by the Jewish oricles for the birth place of Messiah, and on learning [p. 53] from the wise men of the east that he was already born, sent forth a cruel order for the extermination of the children of Bethlehem, from two years old and under. In this way Herod thought to falsify the oricles of God—to destroy the King of the Jews, and maintain his own usurpation of power. But, lo! he was disappointed. The angel of the Lord had caused the father and mother and infant to flee into Egypt. So this cruel judge decreed the destruction of the Church and Kingdom of God, in the last days. But we shall see, in the sequel, that those whose destruction was firmly decreed (by , the modern Herod, and his wicked coadjutors,) fled into , instead of Egypt; for the predictions of Daniel and others must be fulfilled now, as well as those predictions concerning Christ were fulfilled, in spite of judges and governors.
Much enquiry was also had concerning our sending Missionaries to all nations to preach the Gospel. And after all these enquiries, our religion was converted by false testimony and by false coloring, into treason against the State of ; and like the Pharisees of old, all these modern ignoramuses seemed to think, “if we let them thus alone all men will believe on them, and the Mormons will come and take away our place and nation.” Here let me remark, that it is, and ever has been, the firm and expressed belief of our society, that Religion is one thing, and Politics another, and that the laws of all governments should be respected, and obeyed, so long as their administration protects the lives and property of their citizens, until the end of the world, when Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of Lords. But if self-defence and opposition to tyranny and oppression amounts to treason, then I for one, am a treasoner with every feeling of my heart; for had I the power, I would restore the supremacy of the laws and Constitution, which have been violated by the authorities of [p. 54]. Justice should be administered to the guilty , Generals, Judges, and others who have murdered, plundered and driven us; and those who have suffered should be restored to their rights and to their possessions, and the damages should be paid them. Mark the saying, I am opposed to the unlawful proceedings of the highest authorities of , and would glory in laying down my life in opposing such abominations.
But to return to my narrative: At the close of the Court of Inquiry, some twenty or thirty were dismissed, among whom were , one of our number who had been with us in our captivity, and in our chains: and some twenty others were let to bail; and Messrs. Joseph Smith, Jr., , , , and , were committed to the jail of , on the charge of treason. And Messrs. Morris Phelps, , , Norman Shearer, and , were committed to the jail of , being accused of defending ourselves in the battle with and his company.
This done, the civil and military authorities dispersed, and the troubled waters became a little more tranquil. As our people were compelled by the memorable treaty of , to leave the by the following spring, they now commenced moving by hundreds and by thousands, to the State of , where they were received in the most humane and friendly manner by the authorities, and by the citizens in general. Mean time, bands of murderers, thieves and robbers, were roaming unrestrained among our unarmed and defenceless citizens; committing all manner of plunder, and driving off cattle, sheep and horses—abusing and insulting women, etc.
My and children soon came to me in prison, and spent most of the winter with me in the dark, [p. 55] cold and filthy dungeon, where myself and fellow prisoners were constantly insulted and abused by our dastardly guards, who often threatened to shoot, hang us, &c.
The Legislature were soon in session, and from this body, so high in responsibility, we had hoped for some redress or protection. But what was our astonishment, when after much noisy debate on the subject, they refused to investigate the matter, and actually became partakers of the same crimes by passing a law appropriating $200,000 for the payment of the troops engaged in this unlawful, unconstitutional and treasonable enterprise. This last act of unheard of outrage, sealed with eternal infamy, the character of the State of , and established her downfall, to rise no more. She will be looked upon by her sister States as a star fallen from Heaven, and a ruined and degraded outcast from the federal union. While the whole civilized world will detest and abhor her, as the most infamous of tyrants. Nay, tyranny itself will blush to hear her deeds mentioned in the annals of history; and the most cruel persecutors of the christians or reformers, in Pagan or Papal Rome, will startle with astonishment from their long slumbers, and with a shudder of the deepest horror, and a frown of the most indignant contempt, they will look upon her unheard of deeds of blind infatuation, and inconscienable absurdity. The spirits of the ancient martyrs will hail their brethren of the Church of the latter-day Saints, as greater sufferers than themselves, and the blood of ancient and modern Saints, will mingle together in cries for vengeance, upon those who are drunken with their blood, till justice will delay no longer to execute his long suspended mission of vengeance upon the earth.
These disgraceful proceedings of the legislature were warmly opposed by a large minority of the House, among whom were , of [p. 56] , and all the members from , and Messrs. Rollins and Gordon, from , and by various other members from other counties, but the mob majority carried the day, for the guilty wretches feared an investigation, knowing that it would endanger their lives and liberties.
Many of the State journals have tried to hide the iniquity of the , by throwing a covering of lies over her atrocious deeds. But can they hide the ’s cruel order for extermination or banishment? Can they conceal the facts of the disgraceful treaty of the Generals, with their own officers and men, at the city of ? Can they conceal the fact that ten or eleven thousand men, women and children, have been banished from the without trial or condemnation. And this at an expense of two hundred thousand dollars, and this sum appropriated by the State Legislature, in order to pay the troops for this act of lawless outrage? Can they conceal the fact that we have been imprisoned for many months, while our families, friends and witnesses have been driven away? Can they conceal the blood of the murdered husbands, and fathers; or stifle the cries of the widow and fatherless? Nay!— The rocks and mountains may cover them in unknown depths—the awful abyss of the fathomless deep may swallow them up—and still their horrid deeds will stand forth in the broad light of day, for the wondering gaze of angels and of men! They cannot be hid.
But to return—Mr. Smith, and his fellow prisoners in , applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and were brought before the county Judges, and their cases examined as to why they were in confinement. At this trial, was let to bail under bonds of two thousand dollars, and the rest were about to be dismissed, but the mob was so violent as to threaten the lives of the Judges if they let them go. [p. 57] Therefore they were detained. In April, having been confined near six months, they were taken to , to be tried by a band of robbers, under the name of Grand Jury. Here a bill was soon found against them for high treason, and various other offences. Their venue was then changed, and they were sent towards Columbia, Boon county, for trial. This was some 120 miles down the country, towards . On their way to this place, they all made their escape from the sheriff and three guards. Some say that the guards got beastly drunk and let them escape. Others, that they were bought for the paltry sum of $250, but be this as it may, they escaped unhurt, and arrived safe in , where they were kindly received, and welcomed by the , and by the community, as men who had escaped from a long and terrible persecution. And there they have now been for some months, and that publicly, without any attempt on the part of the State of to retake them, although they are but just over the line. Why does the thus neglect them?— The answer is, that they are now ashamed of their own conduct, and glad to drop the subject and let it slumber where it is.
On the seventeenth of March, (as the time drew near for all of the Society to leave the ) my took leave of the prison, and with a broken heart returned to , in order to get passage with some of the brethren, for . She tarryed in about a month, and all the Society had gone from the , but a few of the poor, and widows, and a committee who tarryed behind to assist them in removing. About the middle of April, a gang of robbors entered armed, and ordered my and the committee, and the others, to be gone by such a day, or they would murder them. Thus my was driven away, according to the previous orders of the , while I was still detained in a [p. 58] filthy dungeon. My family were conveyed to , Illinois, distance one hundred and eighty miles, by , of , who is a descendant of the celebrated martyr, John Rogers, of Smithfield, England.
On the 26th of April, 1839, the last of the Society departed from . Thus had a whole people consisting of about 10 or 11 thousand souls, been driven from houses and lands, and reduced to poverty, and had removed to another State during one short winter, and part of a spring. The sacrifice of property was immense, probably amounting to several millions, and one of the most flourishing counties of the , and part of several others, were reduced to desolation, or inhabited by gangs of robbers.
On the 24th of April, our cases were had before the Grand Jury of the county of ; and and Norman Shearer were dismissed, after being imprisoned near six months. This release happened just as Mr. Shearer came to visit his son for the last time before he left the country. He came into the prison to see us, and not knowing of the intended release, he took an affctionate leave of us and of his son, who seemed to weep with heart-broken anguish. But while he yet lingered in town, his son was called before the court, and with , was told that they might go at liberty. The father and son then embraced each other, almost overcome with joy, and depa[r]ted. At the same time my brother , whom I had not before seen for a year, came from to see me, but was only permitted to visit me for a few moments, and then was ordered to depart. Mrs. [Laura Clark] Phelps, who had waited in prison for some days, in hopes that the court would release her husband, now parted with him, overwhelmed with sorrow and tears, and with her infant, moved slowly away, to remove alone to , and leave her husband behind. Thus our families wander [p. 59] in a strange land, without our protection, being robbed of house and home. O God! Who can endure the thought? Come out in justice, O Lord! and restore us to our mourning families.
Our number in prison was now reduced to four.— One having been added about the middle of April. His name was ; he was dragged from his distressed family just as they were leaving the . Thus of all the prisoners (which were taken at an expense of two hundred thousand dollars) only two of the original ones, who belonged to the Church, now remained, ( having denied the faith, to try to save his life,) these were Morris Phelps and . All who were let to bail were banished the , together with those who bailed them. Thus none are like to have a trial by law, but ourselves, and we are without friends or witnesses in the . After the Grand Jury had found a bill against us for defending ourselves in the battle with ’s company, we were kept in prison at for about a month, we then took a change of venue, and were ordered to be sent to Columbia, Boon county, for trial. On the 22d of May we were handcuffed together, two and two, with irons round the wrist of each, and in this fix we were taken from prison and placed in a carriage. The people of gathered around us to see us depart; but none seemed to feel for us except two persons. One of these, (’ Lady) bowed to us through the window, and looked as if touched with pity. The other was a Mr. Huggins, merchant of , who bowed with some feeling as we passed. We now took leave of , accompanied by sheriff Brown, and four guards, with drawn pistols and moved on towards Columbia. No tongue can describe our sensations as we came forth from a most filthy dungeon, where we had been confined for near seven months, and began to breathe the free air, and to change the scenery, and look abroad [p. 60] upon the face of the earth. There was a sweetness in the air and a perfume from the earth, which none could so fully sense, except such as have been for a long time confined in tainted air. It had been thundering and raining for some days, and the thunder storm lasted with but short cessations from the time we started, till we arrived at the place of destination, which was five days. The small streams were swollen so as to be very difficult crossing them. On the second day we came to a creek which was several rods over, with a strong current, and very deep. It was towards evening, and far from any house, and we had had no refreshment through the day. Here we halted, and knew not what to do; we waited awhile for the water to fall, but it fell but slowly. All hands were hungry and impatient, and a lowery night seemed to threaten that the creek would rise before morning by the falling of additional rains. In this dilemma, some counciled one thing, and some another.— Some said, go back some miles to a house, and tarry till morning. Others said camp here for the night.— Others said swim the river, and leave the carriage and baggage till morning, and some advised to attempt to drive some miles around the head of the stream. At last I proposed to the sheriff that if he would take off my irons I would go into the water to bathe; and by that means ascertain the depth and bottom; this he consented to do, after some hesitation. I then plunged into the stream, and swam across and attempted to wade back; I found it to be a hard bottom, and the water about up to my chin; but a very stiff current. After this, Mr. Brown, the sheriff, undertook to cross on his horse; but just as his horse neared the opposite shore, he sprung sidewise, to gain a bank, and Mr. Brown was thrown off his horse and buried in the stream. He could not swim, but sprang out, hallowing and flouncing in a manner that caused much merriment to the company. [p. 61] This accident decided the fate of the day. Being now completely wet, he resolved to effect the crossing of the whole company, bag and baggage. Accordingly several stripped off their cloths and mounted on the bare backs of the horses; and, taking their clothing, saddles, and arms, together with our trunk and bedding upon their shoulders, they bore them across in safety, without wetting. This was done by riding backwards and forwards, across the stream, several times. In this sport and labor, prisoners, guards, and all, mingled in mutual exertion. All was now safe but the carriage. Mr. Phelps then proposed to swim that across, by hitching two horses before it; and he mounted on one of their backs, while myself and one of the guards swam by the side of the carriage to keep it from upsetting by the force of the current. And thus, Paul like, we all got safe to land. Every thing was soon replaced; and ourselves in the carriage, and our suite on horseback, we moved swiftly on, and at dark arrived at a house of entertainment, amid a terrible thunder storm. Next morning we proceeded on, but in a few miles came to another swimming stream; but after some consultation, it was thought best to go around the head of the stream. We accordingly took our back track for a half mile, and then striking to the north in the open prairie, without any track, we rode some seven miles around, crossed the head of the stream, and returned to the road which we had left; this day we crossed the at a place called Arrow Rock, being named from the circumstance of the natives coming there from all quarters to get a kind of hard rock from the bluff to make arrow points. In this journey we had slept each night on our backs, on the floor; being all four of us ironed together, with hand and ankle irons made for the purpose. This being done, the windows and doors were all fastened, and then five guards with their loaded pistols staid in the room, and one at a time [p. 62] set up and watched during the night. This cruelty was inflicted on us, more to gratify a wicked disposition, than any thing else; for it was in vain for us to have tried to escape, without any irons being put on us, and had we wished to escape, we had a tolerable good opportunity at the creek.
When we arrived within four miles of Columbia, the bridge had been destroyed from over a large and rapid river; and here we were some hours in crossing over, in a tottleish canoe, having to leave our carriage, together with our bedding, clothing, our trunk of clothing, books, papers, &c., but all came to us in safety after two days. After we had all crossed the river, our guards having swam their horses, mounted them, and we proceeded towards Columbia, the prisoners walking on foot, two being fastened together by the wrists.
After walking two or three miles, Mr. Brown hired a carriage, and we rode into Columbia. It was about sun-set Sunday evening, and as the carriage and our armed attendants drove through the streets, we were gazed upon with astonishment by hundreds of spectators, who thronged the streets, and looked out at the windows, doors, &c., anxious to get a glimpse of the strange beings called Mormons. On our arrival we were immediately hurried to the prison, without going to a tavern for refreshment, although we had travelled a long summer day without any thing to eat. When unloosed from our fetters, we were ushered immediately from the carriage into the jail, and the next moment a huge trap-door was opened, and down we went into a most dismal dungeon, which was full of cobwebs and filth above, below, and all around the walls, having stood empty for near two years. Here was neither beds, nor chairs, nor water, nor food, nor friends, nor any one on whom we might call, even for a drink of cold water; for Brown and all others had withdrawn to go where they [p. 63] could refresh themselves. When thrust into this dungeon, we were nearly ready to faint with hunger, and thirst, and weariness. We walked the room for a few moments, and then sank down upon the floor in despondency, and wished to die; for, like Elijah of old, if the Lord had enquired, “What dost thou here?” we could have replied, “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and thrown down thine altars, and have driven out all thy saints from the land, and we only are left to tell thee; and they seek our lives, to take them away; and now, therefore, let us die.”
Our feelings were the more melancholy, because here we had hoped to see our families from , or some kind friend from thence, as we had not heared from them for some time, and were now within one hundred miles of them; but we neither saw nor heared of any one who knew us, or cared for us. We now sent to the post office, but got no letters. Our families and friends, it seemed, had even neglected to write to us—this seemed the more unaccountable, as they had long expected us at Columbia. When we had been in the dungeon for some time, our new jailor handed down some provisions, but by this time I was too faint to eat; I tasted a few mouthfuls, and then, suddenly, the trap-door opened, and some chairs were handed to us, and the new sheriff, Mr. Martin, and his deputy, Mr. Hamilton, entered our dungeon and talked so kindly to us, that our spirits again revived in some measure. This night we slept cold, and uncomfortable; having but little bedding. Next morning we were suffered to come up out of the dungeon, and the liberty of the upper room was given us through the day, even afterwards. We now began to receive kind treatment from our jailor, and from our new sheriff; for it was Mr. Brown that had caused all our neglect and sufferings the previous evening. It was his business to have taken us from the carriage to a hotel, and refreshed us, previous to our be [p. 64]ing committed to jail, after causing us to travel all day without eating, or refresment of any kind. Our jail in Columbia was a large wooden block building, with two apartments; one was occupied by the jailor and his family, and the other by the prisonars. Our dungeon I have already described as disagreeable and gloomy; its walls consist of three tiers of hewn timber, which are, in all, about a yard thick; it is lighted by two small windows, about sixteen inches square each, and fortified with three rows of large iron grates.
Our upper room was about eighteen feet square, with a decent floor, and two large grated windows, one looking to the east, and the other to the west, thus giving a free circulation of air, which in summer renders it very pleasant. It has a fine prospect of part of the flourishing village, and some fine farms, and upon the whole is as comfortable as one can expect to enjoy, when shut from all exercise, and from his family and friends, and every thing dear to his heart. After being in this jail for some days, a messenger arrived from , bringing news from our families. This was Mr. Watson Barlow. His coming truly refreshed our spirits. My wrote to me, that she intended to come and see me soon. On arriving at Columbia, we applied to the Hon. Judge Reynolds, for a special term of the Court to be holden for our trials; this petition was granted, and the first of July was appointed for the sitting of said Court. It is now the thirteenth of June, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine; I have been in confinement seven months and fourteen days; this record has all been written in prison, and most of it in a dark, cold, filthy, crowded room, in the midst of the chat of six or seven prisoners, and the threatening, abuse, blasphemy and gambling of miserable, unfeeling wretches, under the name of guards. Under these considerations, I trust its literary defects will be kind [p. 65]ly and charitably overlooked by the candid reader. And I must now give some account of the manner in which part of the manuscript escaped destruction, and made its way out of prison. From the beginning of our confinement, it had been the study of our enemies to prevent us from sending the truth abroad in the world; for they dreaded our pen more than the swords of a legion of Sampsons; they were well aware that this little scribbling goose quill would, if unchecked, work more mightily against their awful proceedings, than the sling stone in the hand of David, or the jaw bone in the hand of the mighty Nazarine against the Philistines.
They had never suffered us to receive or send out any writings without they were first read by our guards.— No one except our wives, could converse with us without the guard was present to hear all that was said, and every handkerchief or other article was carefully examined when handed in or out. The guard and sheriff had noticed for some time that I had been very busy in writing, and at length it came to our ears once and again, that my writings would be siezed and never suffered to go out of prison. At length the time was set for a search. had then been in the prison for some days, and the sheriff was coming with the guards to search our room and beds and trunk; and even they said that should not leave the jail again without being searched by some female.
The manuscript was then in a pillow case, and the pillow case was suspended from her under garments in the form of an apron. We looked out and saw the company coming with the sheriff to search. I feared that if these writings were found about her person, she might be injured by their rage, and therefore hurried her below, where we rip[p]ed open the straw bed and laid them in a flat position, and sewed it up again. I then turned to go up in haste, lest the guards were at the door.— Our little Mary Ann, of six years of age, had followed us down. It was a steep ladder, and a huge trap door, [p. 66] made of doubled oak plank, and nearly as much as a man could raise. I lifted it up and went up; the little girl followed, and while holding it for her to come up, by some means the strap by which I held it, slipped from my grasp, and it fell upon the head, and caught the arm of the child. It was seized instantly, and raised up again and the child rescued from the top of the ladder before she fell to the bottom of the dungeon; her head and arm were dreadfully bruised. Meantime, the guards and sheriff, had halted to chat with some one within a few rods of the jail. At this moment I ordered to run below and take the manuscript from its place in the straw bed, and instantly replace it about her person, while at the same time I would call to the sheriff and guards, and inform them that our little girl was dreadfully hurt, and that her mother wished to go out instantly for some spirits to put in her camphor bottle to bathe the bruised child. This was instantly done, the alarm was given, the guards came running, and unlocked the door, and we told them that our little girl was dreadfully hurt; at which , with the manuscript concealed about her person, instantly took the child and hastened out with much fright, lest the child was nearly killed. Under these circumstances, the guard could make no objection to her going; it being a poor time indeed to wait for searching or ceremony.— The little child though much hurt, was not so badly injured as we expected; she was soon as well as ever.— When she had gone out into a house near the prison, and had taken care of the child, I feared that they would search her then, and search the house. At this moment Mrs. Gibbs happened to the door of the prison, and by watching a good opportunity, I handed her a scrap of writing, folded up to the bigness of my thumb nail. In this was written as follows: let the truth remain with the people of . At the same time my shoes needing some new soles on them, I pulled them off, and called the guard to hand them to , and request her to carry them to the shoemaker, and get them mended. The fact was this: liv [p. 67]ed about a half a mile from our prison; he was an excellent shoemaker, and a true disciple, but secretly for fear of the people. This man was our friend, and was formerly from . I wished my to go there and carry my shoes to be mended, which would be a good excuse for going unsuspitioned by our jealous guards, and at the same time leave the manuscript there. Therefore I wrote as above, “let the truth remain with the people of .” This was done.
Thus kind reader, was this little book providentially, and I may say, miraculously preserved, and by this means you have it to read. If it had not been for all these unforseen accidents or providences, the world would never have read this account of awful persecutions, and terrible scenes through which myself and family, and fellow Saints have been called to pass. The writings would have been consumed to ashes. But, “truth is mighty, and will prevail.” The horrid deeds of murder and injustice will come to light. Iniquity cannot be hid.
Is it possible! have I been recording the history of realities as the scenes transpired in the broad light of the nineteenth century, and in the boasted land of Liberty—in the midst of the most renowned now existing on the Globe? Alas! it is too true. Would to God it were a dream. Would to God it were a novel, a romance, that had no existence, save in the wild regions of fancy. But the prison door yet grating on its huge hinges, and the absence of my beloved , and our little babes, with the gloom of the dungeon where I yet repose; these and ten thousand other things, cause me to think that my almost incredible narrative is no fiction but an awful reality. A fact more truely distressing than my feeble pen can find worlds to set forth. How oft in my sleeping visions I see my beloved wife, or my playful children, surrounded with the pleasures of home in my sweet little cottage, or walk with them in some pleasant grove or flowery field as in the years past. How oft I see myself surrounded with listening thousands, as in by gone years, and join with them in the sacred song [p. 68] and prayer, or address them with the sound of the glad tidings of the fullness of the Gospel. But alas! I soon awake, and to my inexpressible grief and sorrow, find myself still in my lonely dungeon. O Liberty—O sound once delightful to every American ear—O sacred privilege of American citizenship! Once sacred, now trampled upon. O the blessings so dearly purchased by the blood of our fathers! When shall I and my injured family and friends again enjoy thy sweets? When shall we repose beneath thy bower, or bask in thy boundless ocean of felicity? When shall we set again under our vine and under our fruit tree and worship our God, with none to molest or make us afraid? Awake, O Americans—Arise, O sons and daughters of freedom, restore a persecuted and injured people to their rights as citizens of a free Republic. Down with tyranny and oppression, and rescue your liberties from the brink of ruin. Redeem your much injured country from the awful stain upon its honor; and let the cries of helpless orphans and the tears of the sorrowing widow cease to ascend up before the Lord for vengeance upon the heads of those who have slain, plundered, imprisoned and driven the Saints. And let the news go forth to the wondering and astonished nations, that still is free, O tell it not in Britain; nor let the sound be heard in Europe, that liberty is fallen: that the free institutions of our once happy country are now destroyed: lest the daughters of Britania rejoice and laugh us to scorn. Lest the daughters of monarchy triumph, and have us in derision.
I shall now introduce several extracts from the public journals of and other States, to show that the unprejudiced part of the community look upon the proceedings of the State of in the same light as the author of this work.
Extract of a letter from A. W. Turner, one of the members of the Legislature; dated city of , November 31st, 1838: taken from the ‘Columbia Patriot,’ a Whig paper published in :
‘The Mormon war is the most exciting subject before the Legislature or the community; it involves an enqui [p. 69]ry the most critical of any ever presented to the Legislature of this : one in which the rights of a portion of the free citizens of the is concerned on one side, and the rights of another portion of the same citizens on the other. Upon the decision of this subject the character of the is suspended. If upon full investigation it is found (and reported by the committee to the Legislature) that the Mormons are not the aggressors, and that some of them have been murdered, others driven from the by a military force, and others imprisoned by order of the , then our character will be established as the most lawless invaders of religious and civil rights.’
Will the public believe that with the above view of the subject, the Legislature avoided an investigation? Wonder and be astonished, O Americans!
The following toast was given by John A. Gordon, at a public dinner in honor of Major Gen. , given by the citizens of , Missouri, Nov. 12th, 1838, in relation to the proceedings against the Mormons:
‘Gen. ; paid high compliment to his bravery as a soldier, and his humanity as a man in supersceding him in the command of the late expedition against the Mormons; he is not a fit instrument to carry on a war of extermination against defenceless women and children, or to treat uncourteously defenceless and unarmed prisoners.’ -[Taken from the ‘ Columbia Patriot.]-
The following is from a paper, printed in Callaway county, entitled ‘The Banner of Liberty.’
‘The of has negotiated a State loan with the Bank of of three hundred and forty thousand dollars. Of this sum two hundred thousand dollars are to go towards paying the expenses of the troops called out to drive the mormons from the State.
The following is taken from the ‘Boonslick Democrat,’ a paper, under date of January 19, 1839:
‘A letter under date of the 29th November, 1838, has [p. 70] been written by , of , to the delegation from that county in the General Assembly, now in session, from which the following is an extract: ‘Humanity to an injured people prompts me at present to address you this. You were aware of the treatment (to some extent fefore you left home) received by that unfortunate race of beings called Mormons, from devils in the form of human beings, inhabiting , and a part of counties. Not being satisfied with a relinquishment of all their rights as citizens and human beings, in the treaty forced upon them by , by giving up their arms and throwing themselves upon the mercy of the and their follow citizens generally, hoping thereby protection of their lives and property, they are now receiving treatment from those demons which makes humanity shudder, and the cold chills run over any man not entirely destitute of humanity. These demons are now strolling up and down in small companies, armed; insulting the women in any and every way, and plundering the Mormons of all the means of subsistence, (scanty as it was) left them, and driving off their cattle, horses, hogs, &c., and rifling their houses and farms of every thing thereon, taking beds, bedding, wardrobes and such things as they see they want, leaving the Mormons in a starving and naked condition. These are facts I have from authority that cannot be questioned, and can be maintained and substantiated at any time.’
The above needs no comment, it tells its own story in language which will melt the heart of every true American. I will now give a piece which appeared in the (Mo.) Saturday News, and leave the reader to contrast the two, and draw his own conclusions as to our being a self afflicted people, or as to our having much chance to live by labor:
The Mormons.—That self-afflicted class of people, which has chosen the fancy name of Mormons, has elicited some sympathy and well intended compassion from some of our charitable citizens, and two meetings have been called to devise means of relieving their present [p. 71] wants. Although many of the Mormons deserve hanging, as an atonement for their criminal proceedings and corrrupt intentions, they are truly objects of charity.
But if this intrinsically vagrant race, (the Mormons) would relieve themselves from the humiliating necessity of asking charity, they should mind their own business, abandon abolition, and apply themselves to hard labor, as those do who are actively engaged in attempting their relief.
No attempt should be made to retain a single Mormon within the boundaries of . A Colonization society might find advantageous employment in sending them all off to Botany Bay.” I have only to enquire of the editor who published the above, first, what advantage hard labor would be to a people who are banished from all their hard earnings in the , and are now recommended to be banished the Continent and sent to Botany Bay? Secondly, whether crimes and corrupt intentions are more manifest in the conduct of the Mormons, than in the sentiments of the editor of the “Saturday News”? What greater crime can a person be guilty of, than destroying the rights of men, women and children, and banishing eleven thousand citizens from their houses and lands, and thus overthrowing the government, constitution and laws of our once happy Republic? These criminal proceedings, the pious editor recommends, and still further proposes a second and more distant banishment of our suffering people. O, Editor! blush to put forth such bare-faced absurdity, and imposition. Thirdly, our Society has never taken part in the abolition question, neither one side or the other, but each individual thinks as he pleases on that subject. The following resolves were unanimously adopted at a large meeting of the people of , Missouri, and published in one of the journals of the . We publish them to show what bare faced absurdity men can be guilty of; the reader [p. 72] will readily perceive that the first resolve pretends that they are in favor of the laws of our country.— The second highly approves of the most lawless and unconstitutional outrages that ever disgraced the annals of this or any other country. O, Consistancy! whither has thou fled?
1st, Resolved, That we esteem the laws of our our great bulwark, and the only safe refuge to protect us in this and every other emergency.
2d, Resolved, that we highly approve of the course of the in placing in command of the forces ordered out against the Mormons, and that his order to exterminate and drive them from the , was dictated by the imperious duty of his office as of the .
The following is taken from the “ Republican,” a Whig paper published at :
“To show our readers the amount of injury which is now inflicted upon the character of our , and which there is no means of repelling, the Legislature having refused to inquire into the matter, we copy the following from the proceedings of a public meeting held in , Ill. Whig of the 2d inst.: ‘Mr. rose and read the memorial which his people had presented to the Legislature of , and other documents, going to show the absence of all law and justice, in the course which the authorities had pursued towards them, from down to the lowest grade of officers.’— After another had addressed the meeting, the same account says: ‘ again took the floor, and in a very eloquent and impressive manner, related the trials, sufferings and persecutions which his people had met with at the hands of the people of . We saw the tear standing in the eyes of many of his people while he was recounting their history of wo and sorrow; and, in fact, the gentleman himself was so agitated at different periods of his [p. 73] address, that his feelings would hardly allow him to proceed. We are satisfied that his address will have a lasting and good effect, sustained as it was by the public documents which he produced.
“We will not attempt to follow him through the cold blooded murder, by the mob of , of Mormon men and children, the violation of females, the destroying of property, the burning of houses, &c.”——“In vain may the press in protest against these representations. In vain may we declare that and his followers were doing injustice, misrepresenting and slandering our people, their institutions and officers, &c.; the public abroad will judge us by the course of our Legislature.—We have made our bed and must lie down on it. A friend residing in , a few days since, called our attention to reports in circulation in , seriously affecting the character of this , growing out of this subject, and requested us to contradict them. Most cheerfully would we undertake the task, but we know it is hopeless.”
The following is from the “ Sun.” After giving some extracts from papers, showing the outrages of the people of against the Mormons, the editor proceeds thus: “That must be very much like a blackguard and a coward, if he is not a decided candidate for both titles. He was one of those who started the horrible stories of the “cutting up of Missourians, fifty at a batch, by the Mormons.” Probably he ran away from his company, and imagined the horrible stories he carried; the shooting down of a flag staff, bearing a flag of truce, is characteristic of the bravery of a coward, when backed by 3000 men against 700.
“They must have a primitive mode of administering justice in . These Mormons are as much citizens as the others, and yet, without trial, upon the exparte testimony of the persons who had provoked [p. 74] the Mormons to retaliation, the issues orders, if we understand the case, for the expulsion of the Mormons from the State of . The Emperor of Russia—the Schah of Persia, or the Sultan of Turkey, could not embrace in his own person, more legislative, judicial, Executive power than is here assumed:—Legislative in the enactment and promulgation of an edict of banishment. Judicial, extra-judicial, or under judicial in sentencing them to banishment under it. Executive in summoning the force of the to put in force his own judgment upon his edict. Well done, !
We are sorry to hear of the massacre of the Mormons by the the armed mob, however, this violence being the natural promptings of infuriated men, is positively less culpable than the cool ignorance, and impudent, illegal assumptions of the of .”
From the foregoing numerous extracts, the public can see that my horrible tale of woe is not a fiction, but an awful reality. I might fill a volume with similar quotations from the public journals of every part of the , but I forbear, with the full conviction that the foregoing are sufficient to show that an impartial public, who stand entirely unconnected with our Society as religionists, bear out my narrative in its awful tale of woe and suffering, and I now submit the subject to the perusal of all people, willing to meet my statements in the foregoing, at the bar of Him who knows all secret things, and who judges righteously.
The of the foregoing narrative is now at liberty, and some account of his narrow escape from prison, and from the State of , is due to the public. On the 1st of July, the special term of the Court was held at Columbia, for our trials, but was adjourned for near three months because all our wit [p. 75]nesses were banished the . Under these circumstances we were unwilling to be tried in a where all law and justice were at an end. We accordingly thought it justifiable to make our escape. In the mean time, we were visited by Mrs. Phelps, the wife of one of the prisoners, and also by my brother, , and Mrs. Phelps’ brother, these all came from or , on horseback, and visited with us for several days. On the 4th of July, we felt desirous as usual to celebrate the anniversary of American liberty. We accordingly manufactured a white flag, consisting of the half of a shirt on which was inscribed the word Liberty, in large letters, and also a large American Eagle was put on in red, we then obtained a pole from our jailor, and on the morning of the 4th, this flag was suspended from the front window of our prison, overhanging the public square, and floating triumphantly in the air to the full view of the citizens who assembled by hundreds to celebrate the national Jubilee. With this the citizens seemed highly pleased and sent a portion of the public dinner to us and our friends, who partook with us in prison with merry hearts, as we intended to gain our liberties or be in paradise before the close of that eventful day. While we were thus employed in prison, the town was alive with troops parading, guns firing, music sounding, and shouts of joy resounding on every side. In the mean time we wrote the following toast, which was read at their public dinner, with many and long cheers:
The patriotic and hospitable citizens of : opposed to tyranny and oppression, and firm to the original principles of Republican Liberty—may they in common with every part of our wide spreading country, long enjoy the blessings which flow from the fountain of American Independence.* Our din
*The inhabitants of being mostly Whigs, were opposed to the proceedings of the against our people. [p. 76]
ner being ended, our two brethren took leave of us and started for , (leaving Mrs. Phelps to still visit with her husband;) they had proceeded a mile or two on the road and then took into the woods, and finally placed their three horses in a thicket within one third of a mile of the prison, and there they waited in anxious suspense till sundown. In the mean time we put on our coats and hats and waited for the setting sun. With prayer and supplication for deliverance from this long and tedious bondage, and for a restoration to the society of our friends and families, we then sung the following lines:
Lord, cause their foolish plans to fail,
And let them faint or die,
Our souls would quit this loathsome jail,
And fly to .
To join with the embodied Saints,
Who are with freedom blessed,
That only bliss for which we pant,
With them a while to rest.
Give joy for grief—give ease for pain,
Take all our foes away;
But let us find our friends again,
In this eventful day.
This ended the celebration of our National Liberty, but the gaining of our own was the grand achievement now before us. In the mean time, the sun was setting; the moment arrived, the footsteps of the jailor were heard on the stairs, every man flew to his feet, and stood near the door—the great door was opened, and our supper handed in through a small hole in the inner door, which still remained locked, but at length the key was turned in order to hand in the pot of coffee. No sooner was the key turned, than the door was jerked open, and in a moment all three of us were out and rushing down the stairs, the foremost, Mr. Phelps, was clinched by the jailor, both tumbled down the stairs, through the entry and out into the door yard, when Phelps cleared himself with [p. 77]out injuring the jailor, and all of us leaped several fences, ran through the fields towards the thicket, where we expected to find our friends and horses.— In the mean time, the town was alarmed, and many were seen rushing after us, some on horseback, and some on foot, prepared with dogs, guns, and whatever came to hand. But the flag of Liberty with its eagle, still floated on high, in the distance, and under its banner our nerves seemed to strengthen at every step. We gained the horses, mounted, and dashed into the wilderness, each his own way. After a few jumps of my horse I was hailed by an armed man at pistol shot distance, crying, “d—m you stop or I’ll shoot you.” I rushed onward deeper into the forest, while the cry was repeated in close pursuit, crying “d—m you stop or I’ll shoot you,” at every step, till at length it died away in the distance.
I plunged a mile into the forest—came to a halt,—tied my horse in a thicket—went a distance, and climbed a tree, to await the approaching darkness.— Being so little used to exercise, I fainted through over exertion, and remained so faint for near an hour that I could not get down from the tree. But calling on the Lord, he strengthened me, and I came down from the tree. But my horse had got loose and gone. I then made my way on foot for several days and nights, principally without food, and scarcely suffering myself to be seen. After five days of dreadful suffering with fatigue and hunger, I crossed the , and found myself once more in a land of freedom. Hundreds of my friends crowded around me, and many of the citizens of , although strangers to me, received and welcomed me as one who had escaped from a persecution almost unparalleled in modern history. I was every where invited to preach the Gospel, and gave many public addresses, but no attempt has ever been made to retake myself and fellow prisoners. The fact is, rob [p. 78]bers dare not show themselves among a free people, on such an errand, and those who are not robbers do not wish to see us imprisoned again, but rather feel to weep over suffering humanity. I found our Society scattered wide through , and , and many of them destitute of home and the comforts of life, and hundreds of them dwelling in tents during the sickly season, and thus exposed, many were sick and dying, when I left them on the last of August, 1839.— Thus through the mercy of God, my life is still spared. I am delivered from a dreadful bondage, and again permitted to persue my calling. And I now bear witness to small and great, that the system of religion for which we are persecuted, is true; and that God has committted unto us a dispensation of the Gospel in its fulness; restoring the Ancient order of the doctrine and kingdom of God—and being specially commissioned by Revelation from the Almighty, we hereby warn all men to repent of their sins, and to be baptised in the name of the Lord, for the remission of their sins, and those who do these things shall receive the Holy Spirit; and signs shall follow them that believe, and if they endure in faithfulness to the end, they shall be saved.
And again, concerning the signs of the times, we are authorized to say to all people, that the time is at hand for the restoration of the Jews and all the remnants of Israel to their own land, for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and for the fulfilling of the covenants and promises which God made with their fathers; and when the remnant has re-turned and Jerusalem is rebuilt, behold the Messiah will come with all his Saints, and he will set his feet on mount Olivet, which is before Jerusalem on the East. He will defend the Jews and sanctify the nation of Israel. He will set up his kingdom in their midst, and reign over all the earth, and the brightness of his coming will destroy the wicked, and there will be but one fold and one shepherd. [p. 79]
It is in view of these coming events, that God has sent us with a dispensation, to prepare his way, and to make straight his paths—by gathering in one the children of God from all jarring systems in which they are now organized, and planting them in one fold by the ministration of the ordinances in their Ancient purity. And having this ministry to fulfil we glory in tribulation, in persecution, in imprisonment, in banishment, in reproaches for Christ’s sake and the Gospel; yea, we take joyfully the spoiling of our goods, and even count our lives not dear to us, if it so be that we may finish our course with joy, and the ministry we have received of the Lord Jesus. But while we do live, we will testify that God has opened the heavens and communicated with man in these days as in days of old; and by his own voice—by the ministering of Angels—by the Holy Ghost, and by Revelations and visions, he has communicated to us his will and sent us to warn this generation. And now if an Angel or Spirit has appeared to any of these men, take the council of the Pharisees—do not oppose them, lest haply you be found fighting against God.
, Ray County, State of Missouri, May 13th, 1839.
To the Honorable , Judge of the Circuit Court of this and the adjoining counties:—
Honorable Sir, Having been confined in prison near seven months, and the time having now arrived when a change of venue can be taken in order for the further prosecution of our trials: and the time having come when I can speak my mind freely, without endangering the lives or liberties of any but myself, I now take the liberty of seriously objecting to a trial any where within the bounds of the ; and of earnestly praying to your Honor, and to all the authorities, civil and military, that my case may come within the law of banishment, which has been so rig [p. 80]orously enforced upon near ten thousand of our Society, including my and little ones, together with all my witnesses and friends.
My reasons are obvious, and founded upon notorious facts which are known to you, Sir, and to the people in general of this Republic, and therefore need no proof. They are as follows:
First, I have never received any protection by law, either of my person, property or family, while residing in this , to which I first emigrated in 1831.
Secondly, I was driven by force of arms from , wounded and bleeding, in 1833; while my house was burned, my crops and provisions robbed from me or destroyed; and my land desolated and kept from me until now, while my family was driven out, without shelter, at the approach of winter.
Thirdly, These crimes still go unpunished, notwithstanding I made oath before the honorable , then Circuit Judge of that District, to the foregoing outrages, and I also applied in person to his Excellency, , then Governor of the , for redress and protection, and a restoration of myself, and about 1200 of my fellow sufferers, to our rights, but all in vain.
Fourthly, My and children have now been driven from our house and improvements in , and banished the on pain of death, together with about ten thousand of our Society, including all my friends and witnesses, and this by the express orders of his Excellency, , Governor of the State of , and by the vigorous of this order, by his Generals, and , and followed up by murders, rapes, plunderings, thefts and robberies of the most barbarous and inhuman character, by a lawless mob who have from time to time, for more than five years past, trampled upon all law and authority, and upon all the rights of man. [p. 81]
Fifthly, all these inhuman outrages and crimes go unpunished, and are unnoticed by you, Sir, and by all the authotities of the .
Sixthly, the Legislature of the has approved of and sanctioned this act of banishment, with all the crimes connected with it, by voting some two hundred thousand dollars for the payment of troops engaged in this unlawful, unconstitutional and treasonable enterprize. In monarchial Governments, the banishment of criminals, after their trial and legal condemnation, has been frequently resorted to—but the banishment of innocent women and children from house and home and country, to wander in a land of strangers, unprotected and unprovided for, while their husbands and fathers are retained in dungeons, to be tried by some other law, is an act unknown in the annals of history, except in this single instance, in the nineteenth century, when it has actually transpired in a Republican State, where the Constitution guarantees to every man the protection of life and property, and the right of trial by jury. These are outrages which would put monarchy to the blush, and from which the most despotic tyrants of the dark ages would turn away with shame and disgust.
In these proceedings, has enrolled her name on the list of immortal fame; her transactions will be handed down the stream of time to the latest posterity, who will read with wonder and astonishment the history of proceedings which are without a parallel in the annals of time. Why should the authorities of the strain at a gnat and swallow a camel? Why be so strictly legal as to compel me, through all the forms of a slow and legal prosecution previous to my enlargement, out of a pretence of respect to the laws of the statute which have been openly trampled upon and disregarded towards us from first to last? Why not include me in the general, wholesale banishment of our Society, that I may sup [p. 82]port my family which are now reduced to beggary in a land of strangers.
But when the authorities of the shall redress all these wrongs; shall punish the guilty according to the law; and shall restore my family and friends to all the rights of which we have been unlawfully deprived both in and all other counties; and shall pay all the damages which we as a people have sustained, then I shall believe them sincere in their professed zeal for law and justice—then shall I be convinced that I can have a fair trial in the . But until then, I hereby solemnly protest against being tried in this , with the full and conscientious conviction, that I have no just grounds to expect a fair and impartial trial.
I therefore most sincerely pray your Honor and all the authorities of the , to either banish me without further prosecution; or I freely consent to a trial before the Judiciary of the .
With sentiments of high consideration and due respect, I have the honor to subscribe myself, your Honor’s most humble and obedient, etc.
Hon. .
As down a lone dungeon, with darkness o’erspread,
In silence and sorrow I made my lone bed,
While far from my prison my friends had retired,
And joy from this bosom had almost expired.
From all that was lovely, constrained for to part,
From and from children so dear to my heart;
While foes were exulting, and friends far away,
In half broken slumbers, all pensive I lay.
I though upon Zion—her sorrowful doom:—
I thought on her anguish—her trouble and gloom,
How for years she had wandered, a captive forlorn,
Cast out and afflicted, and treated with scorn.
I thought on the time when some five years ago,
Twelve hundred from , were driven by foes, [p. 83]
While two hundred houses to ashes were burned;—
Our flourishing fields to a desart were turned.
I remembered these crimes still unpunished remained,
And the like oft repeated—again, and again,
From counties adjoining, compelled to remove,
We purchased in , Prairie and Grove.
And there ’mid the wild flowers, that bloomed o’er the plain,
Our rights and our freedom, we thought to maintain;
Nor dreamed that oppression would drive us from thence,
The laws of our we claimed for defence.
But soon as kind autumn rewarded our toil,
And plenty around us began for to smile,
Our foes were assembled—being tempted with gain;
To ravage and plunder, and drive us again.
When many were driven, and plundered, and rob’d;
And some had been murdered by this dreadful mob,—
When cries for redress and protection were vain,
We arose in our strength, our own rights to maintain.
The mob soon dispersed, to the Rulers appealed,
Saying, lend us your aid, and the Mormons will yield,
For surely they never were known to resist
A mob when commissioned by Rulers and Priests.
This soon was considered by far the best plan;
And orders were issued for ten thousand men,
Including the Willson’s and ’s of course,
And all the mob forces, for better, for worse.
These soon were forthcoming, in dreadful array!
Some painted like Indians, all armed for the fray!
The Mormons soon yielded without the first fire,
And the mob[b]ers accomplished their utmost desire.
Some females were ravished—and cattle and grain
Became a free booty—and one pris’ner slain.
Some twenty or thirty were murdered outright,
And ten thousand others were Banished the State!
By what law of the Statute to me is unknown;
But it must be by law all these great things were done;
For the next Legislature the expense to defray,
Voted two hundred thousand, the soldiers to pay.
To resist this oppression—These excellent laws,
Was murder! and treason!! (in technical clause,)
So while women and children were driven away,
Their husbands and fathers in prison must stay.
So now to the Jury and Judge I submit;
I’m not learned in such laws,—they may hang or acquit—
But though they should hang me, or keep me in jail,
The spirit of Freedom and Truth will prevail. [p. 84]