War plays upon people's minds and hearts in a way that I think we will never understand and never be able to explain.
Next on The Joseph Smith Papers, war in northern Missouri.
K-JAZZ television, in cooperation with the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presents this weekly series highlighting the research of scholars and historians as they prepare for the publication of The Joseph Smith Papers. And now your host, Glenn Rawson.
There were several factors that caused the conflict between the Mormons and the residents and officials of the state of Missouri.
Among those, Joseph Smith coming to Missouri.
Also, the defection and apostasy of certain church leaders going over to the Missourians.
Then we also had the formation and organization of a so-called band of Mormon vigilantes.
Now also settlement by the Mormons in counties other than Caldwell County.
All of this together, coupled with politics, of course, at the root spawned chaos.
Mormon war was literally that. It was a war between the state of Missouri and the Mormons.
It was—it’s in the record books. It is . . .
States have these kinds of conflicts, particularly in the western frontier.
The war, actually, I guess we could if we wanted to set a beginning date, we'd have to say it was the Election Day battle at Gallatin in Daviess County on August 6th. It appears that
a small number of Mormons came to cast their ballots in Gallatin on August 6th. While there, they recognized who they were.
Clearly, these are the Mormons here. They're here to do what they feel is their patriotic duty.
And significantly, one of the candidates for the state legislature, none other than William Peniston,
the Whig candidate—I’m sure he probably was not well-liked by the Mormons and was probably recognizing that their vote would probably hurt his election— began to issue a call against their voting rights.
He stood up on something and began to harangue the Mormons. Well, the situation escalated and in pretty much short order, there was a pretty good knock-out brawl.
What is the most damaging part of the brawl
is that a rumor will spread about the damaging effect of it. When the rumors reached Joseph at far west down in Caldwell County,
he immediately called for volunteers to ride north up into Daviess County to investigate.
They check in at Lyman White’s in Adam-ondi-Ahman and learn,
fortunately, no one was killed. No one was severely injured.
But for Joseph Smith, that wasn’t enough. Him and this company,
which is probably now about in number of 150 men, decided to pay a visit to a man by the name of Adam Black.
Now, Adam Black was the justice of the peace in that area.
Adam Black didn’t live very far from Lyman White there in Adam-ondi-Ahman. So here comes this company, and they paid a visit to Adam Black.
We could go into the details, but make a long story short,
basically, the Mormons came to his house,
asked him to sign a written statement—prepared, I believe,
by them—that Adam Black would maintain peace and order in Daviess County.
The prophet is not the leader of this group.
He stands behind while others go into and visit with Adam Black, but he refuses to sign their document.
After much discussion, he writes a document of his own and and provides it.
But a few days after this, he registered a complaint with a circuit judge that he'd been intimidated and threatened,
even threatened with his life.
And so consequently, Joseph Smith,
who was not the leader of the group but did meet with Adam Black and the Lyman White, will be indicted before the circuit court.
The Mormons show force at Gallatin,
coupled with the charges that came against Joseph Smith and Lyman White as a result of that,
enraged the citizens of northern Missouri. They sent out the call throughout the state
for volunteers to come and help them fight the Mormons. Joseph
asked the Saints to gather to Adam-ondi-Ahman for their safety.
So during the month of September, these Missouri vigilantes—
these are not legitimate state militia or anything.
They took the law into their own hands and began to harass,
intimidate, and, in some cases, molest Mormons and their property.
To partially illustrate some of the difficulty that the Saints at Adam-ondi-Ahman suffered,
let me read to you a brief passage from
President John Smith’s journal:
“Since September the 6th, nothing but mobs.
All the while, we have been harassed
so that we are not able to do but little business
but stand upon our arms, day and night, to guard against the mob. The Lord knows when we shall be delivered from these calamities. Help Thy Saints, O Lord!”
The September difficulties the Saints encountered up in Daviess County was such that
the state militia was actually called out to go up, not only investigate, but to restore peace and order.
Generals David Rice Atchison and Alexander W. Doniphan are the two commanding generals sent to the area to restore order.
These men raised a militia force and marched to Daviess County,
and fortunately, these two commanders were successful in getting the Missouri citizens of Daviess County to back off,
to stop their retaliations, their their harassment of the Mormons,
and basically peace and order was restored in September of 1838.
The militia’s show of force in Daviess County quelled the mob activity for a time, enough that peace was restored and the militia was disbanded.
But it wasn't long before trouble brought the militia back again.
After the state militia withdrew from Daviess County,
the Daviess County regulators
looked elsewhere to try to find where can we begin to expel the Mormons? Obviously, we can’t do it in Caldwell County They’re too concentrated; there’s too many.
But they decided on this little community of De Witt. There’s about 400 Mormons there. So it’s a considerably . . .
That's a settlement of considerable size.
A mob leader, Dr. William Austin,
will not approve of what they're doing gathering there
and will attack them or place the siege on them for about a week. The Saints in De Witt will suffer. Some of them will be very hungry.
They'll be put in a state of starvation.
They will eventually send word down to Jefferson City to contact
Governor Boggs. And Boggs is unwilling to send help up and tells them that they and the mob are to fight it out.
During the problems the Mormons had in De Witt,
Joseph Smith felt like he needed to investigate for himself, and he went down there.
We know he made it and made it into the community.
We don’t know how he circumvented
these lines that were literally, of course,
isolating the Mormons in the community,
but he was able to see firsthand the seriousness of the situation
and probably ascertained, we need to probably capitulate here.
The Saints in De Witt held out for about 10 days,
but finally they were forced to surrender.
Seventy wagons of Mormons made their way to the north into Caldwell County and safety, harassed by the mobs as they went. For the beleaguered Mormons,
it was a time of terrible suffering.
Because of the conflict going on in De Witt,
a group of state militia was sent over there, under the command of Hiram Parks.
Hiram G. Parks later wrote that he was having a hard time controlling his own man who wanted to go over on the side of the mob. It was very difficult for him to employ his militia to protect the Saints when none of them were in favor of that operation.
And I think to the Mormons, that was saying,
we received no help from the government, governor—
governor or government.
We're not going to have any support from Boggs.
And we may not get that kind of support even from the state militia. The one thing, if I had one major criticism of Lilburn W. Boggs, it’s that he never,
ever came to the scene of action.
He never got up there to see for himself,
these poor Mormons are getting picked on.
He always took reports, and many of them are sometimes erroneous, inflated these kinds of things, and and he takes those at face value and thinks the Mormons are the cause of the problem.
And I'm not saying that Mormons didn't cause some of the problems, but if he would have come there,
I think he would have realized, these people are in
Though Generals Acheson and Doniphan had some success in routing the mobs in Daviess County,
ultimately their efforts would not bring peace.
They, too, dealt with troops that were more loyal to the mobs than to the militia.
Doniphan, after a time,
recognized the situation that the Mormons were in.
He realized that the Latter-day Saints now have probably arrived at their breaking point.
He writes this interesting letter to the commander of Fort Leavenworth:
“The citizens of the northern counties,”
meaning Daviess and Livingston and those other counties around there,
“raised mob after mob, for the last two months, for the purpose of driving a community of Mormons from their counties and from the State.
Those things have at length goaded the Mormons into a state of desperation that has now made them aggressors
instead of acting on the defensive.”
On the 18th of October, the
Caldwell County militia organized, which had been organized, of course, and functioning under the leadership of George Hinkle,
went north from Caldwell County with the Prophet Joseph into Daviess County to see if they couldn’t
quell the mob activity that were there. While they were up there,
tried to help the Saints as much as they could, and they went into the main anchor villages of the mob,
which was Gallatin, and Millport and Grindstone Fork,
and demonstrated against the local people who were, they believed, were the mob element
and burnt, in some cases, burnt their homes and their facilities. In Gallitin they burnt a store, the Jacob Stollings store and a tailor shop next door to it.
They burnt a couple of buildings in Millport and dismantled the mill there and did something similar to that in
Grindstone as well. Now, the Mormons, of course, did this,
they felt, legally because they were functioning as a military organization; however, others saw them only as Mormons.
And while they were burning these log buildings in these
communities, they also ransacked the store, the Stollings store.
the Saints in Adam-ondi-Ahman were starving. They were hungry, and they were, in some cases, without sufficient clothing.
And so they brought the goods from the stores back to Adam-ondi-Ahman, and put them in the Lord's storehouse to provide for the poor and the hungry and the naked.
So they didn't kill anybody who didn't hurt anybody. They gave them plenty of time to leave.
But this is where the Mormons said no more.
And we're sending a clear message. Leave us alone.
Lyman White and many of the
Latter-day Saints living in and around Adam-ondi-Ahman,
other Mormon settlements, literally do a clean sweep of Daviess County. They warn the settlers,
“We’re taking over. We’ve been expelled. We’ve been pushed around long enough. It’s your turn.”
Most of the citizens, the Daviess citizens went east into Livingston County.
There, of course, they were questioned by those citizens. “What are you doing here? What’s happened?” And they basically, of course, said, “The Mormons have expelled us from Daviess County.”
Rather than intimidate the mobs,
these actions by the Mormons only enraged them more, provoking, ultimately, a hopeless situation for the Mormons.
It was at this time that a commander from the Ray County militia, a man by the name of Samuel Bogart, who had the rank of captain, received permission for his men,
for a small contingent of men,
to actually patrol the line between Caldwell County and Ray County, Missouri, fearing that the Mormons might come down and actually begin to have military activities against them in Ray County and possibly burn Richmond.
He noticed, of course, that there were some Mormons living in that region and he began to take them as prisoners. And I have surmised that Bogart was anticipating, if not even actually provoking, an attack. He wanted to actually
cause something to happen. And I’m not sure why.
But the fact he took prisoners seems to also indicate he’s just
baiting the Mormons for them to come and come after him.
And on the afternoon and evening, we should say, of October 24th,
Elias Higbee, the Caldwell County judge,
called up a military contingent to go down and rescue those prisoners.
The man in charge, chosen to direct that company, was David W. Patten, who was also an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve—very fearless guy. They called him “Captain Fear Not.”
They will go down south for several miles down near the border of Ray County. And just as
the bit of light is beginning to be shown from the east,
pick a guard of Captain Samuel Bogart
sees a silhouette in the morning sky and pulls the trigger and shoots. And we will begin a battle.
It's really more of a skirmish, but it’s known as the Battle of Crooked River. Three
of our Latter-day Saint brethren are killed. Patrick O’Bannion and
eventually Brother Patten and
Brother Carter will die of wounds.
And the skirmish will be a very serious one. And one of the militia of the Ray county militia will be killed.
This is very important in that this will be the root, or the basis for later indictment against the Mormons for murder.
The reports, again, that began to be circulated was that the Mormons routed and completely annihilated all of Bogart’s company. It was those reports that made their way to
Jefferson City on the 27th.
And upon hearing those reports or believing the report that the Bogart company, which was legitimate state militia,
was routed and annihilated by the Mormons,
this was when Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous “Extermination Order.”
Governor Boggs began his executive order with these words:
“I have received . . . information of the most appalling character,
which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State.”
Now, these rumors received by the governor about the battle at Crooked River would not be the only distortions that reached the governor and goaded him into this rash action.
Two of the apostles, Apostle Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde,
will leave Far West and go to Richmond,
the county seat of Ray County, and sign an affidavit.
And in the affidavit, they will identify the fact that there is this group of Danites
working with the Mormons that are fulfilling the wishes of the First Presidency, and that they were, the Mormons, were on their way to burn Liberty
and to burn Richmond. This is what will get to Jefferson City.
And the governor will respond with the Extermination Order,
which he'll issue on the 27th of October, 1838.
At the same time that the governor was drafting his Extermination Order,
another crisis was rising to the east of Caldwell County in Livingston County,
that ultimately resulted in one of the most notorious events in Mormon history.
With the arrival of the refugees from Daviess County,
the Livingston citizens were certainly alarmed at what had happened and what had taken place to them.
And this is where we see the two groups of citizens, Daviess and Livingston, unite together.
And I think we can safely say that it was the Livingston people who said we can help you in this situation
by not necessarily getting your lands back, but we can enact revenge. And it was blood revenge on this account.
On October the 25th, one of the military officers of Livingston County just to the east of Hauns Mill,
came into Hauns Mill to retrieve the guns of the Mormon people there. And most of them surrender their guns very well. His name was Nehemiah Comstock. And now on the 30th of October,
this a large band of ruffian militiamen came in Hauns Mill and attacked the Latter-day Saints at that settlement.
It was a brutal attack. Very, very tragic episode in Mormon history.
Seventeen men and boys killed from this encounter.
They were victims in every sense of the word.
They had had nothing to do with the earlier problems and situation associated with the Saints and
the Daviess County citizens.
How could these people be so barbaric?
Unfortunately, I think at this stage of the Mormon conflict,
it’s all out war. And there’s a war mentality.
And under normal circumstances, people just wouldn't do that to anyone,
especially, you know, a small
community of virtually, you know, young
families that are minding their own business.
But war plays upon people’s minds and hearts in a way that I think we will never understand and never be able to explain.
Governor Boggs issued the Extermination Order
on October 27th, 1838.
The massacre at Hauns Mill happened on October 30th.
Were the two events connected?
The natural assumption most historians looking at dates would say, “Oh, extermination ordered the 27th, they got the order;
30th, they’re carrying it out.”
You’ve got to remember, the order came from
the governor’s office in Jefferson City,
over 100 miles away. When Boggs issued the order, the order was going to be sent to his field generals in Caldwell County, not over to Livingston.
My point in saying this is, simply, that the citizenry in
Livingston County, who carried out the
terrible, atrocious act at Hauns Mill,
never heard of the Extermination Order.
These people were acting completely on their own.
They made the decision. It is a mob decision
and they cannot base their activity or actions on the fact the governor is giving them license to kill.
Governor Boggs’s order said, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary, for the public peace.”
The word “exterminate” has more than one meaning.
Evidence suggests that Governor Boggs may have had something different in mind than mass murder of the Mormons.
I think it's important to note that the interpretation most scholars have looked at in terms of reading the Extermination Order and deciphering what Boggs’s intent was, was that exterminate
means, of course, obviously, annihilate, utter destruction, destroy. There's no question that that's one of the meanings of the word exterminate.
However, I think it's important to note that the 1828 Webster's Dictionary, the very first definition of exterminate is,
one of the first ones, “to drive from within the limits or borders.” Now I say that, given this definition,
the order should probably be interpreted to read,
“The Mormons must be exterminated or in other words,
driven from the state.”
I think he’s basically trying to send the message,
we’ve had enough conflict up there.
I really don't know what to do anymore.
The best thing we can do is just let's get rid of these guys and let's order them out of the state.
I think it was a removal order,
not an annihilation or execution order.
Later, in his report to the Missouri legislature, he said, “I issued the order to avoid the effusion of blood.”
He's trying to remedy the situation.
Governor Boggs issued his order to expel the Mormons from the state, but that order still had to be carried out by his field commander. Well, that field commander was David Rice Atchison,
a friend of Joseph Smith.
Boggs did not want David Rice Atchison to be the commander of this final push to expel the Mormons.
So he issued another order or the previous order, I should say, right before he issues the Extermination Order,
is an order to remove David Rice Atchison from his command.
And indeed he does, and he replaces him with a guy by the name of John B. Clark from Howard County.
Now, fortunately for Joseph Smith, that order did not also remove
Alexander W. Donaphin. So Donaphin’s still in the field.
The other problem we have is, who takes command?
John B. Clark's in Howard County.
That’s quite a distance, I’m not sure of the exact mileage, but quite a distance from Far West. Who’s going to take charge?
This is when Samuel Lucas,
the major general of the 4th Division from Jackson County, decides to take over.
I bring this out merely to say that the commander who will now try to execute the order of of Governor Boggs to remove the Mormons is none other than the Jackson County
Commander who does not like Mormons.
And he will use everything in his power to bring down Joseph Smith.
October 31st, 1838, an armed force of some 2,500 Missouri state militia positioned themselves about a mile and a half south of the city of Far West,
preparing to advance upon the city and its 900 defenders.
What’s even more perhaps astonishing is another 1,600
troops were already on their way.
That’s over 4,000 troops.
And I can possibly indicate from my research that another 2,500 militia had been called from other areas of the state. This was a whole statewide effort to go after the Mormons. So all total.
eventually, there could have been probably as many as six to seven thousand
state militia converge upon
the Mormons in Caldwell County.
And this will cause Joseph Smith to reconsider and realize,
we’ve got to surrender. We can’t have any more loss of life.
Just before sunset on October 31st, 1838,
Joseph Smith and others went to the camp of General Samuel D. Lucas to negotiate,
they thought, the terms of surrender.
Instead, General Lucas brandished a sword and said,
“You are my prisoners. There is no time for talking at the present.
You will march into camp.”
For the next five and a half months, Joseph was a prisoner.
Next week on The Joseph Smith Papers,
it’s been called a Prison Temple—Liberty Jail.
I’m Glen Rawson. Thanks for joining us.