Expulsion of the Saints from Missouri
The actions of two ex-Mormons increased public agitation even more. Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, both of whom had been excommunicated, were angry and approached government officials with the Marsh-Hyde affidavits stating the alleged dangers of the Mormons as a people and claiming the Mormons intended to take over the state, the country, and eventually the world. On October 24, 1838, three Mormons were captured by the Missourians and a troop was organized to go free them. The group arrived just before dawn and when they were discovered, fighting soon began. Despite the inferior numbers of the Mormons, the Missourians scattered before them, causing both sides to think many of the Missourians had been killed. In fact, the Mormon casualties totalled three dead and seven wounded while the Missourians suffered only one death and six wounded.
After Generals Atchison, Doniphan, and Parks (all of whom had been sympathetic towards the Mormons), heard of the battle, they focused their efforts on protecting innocent Missouri citizens, though they still believed the conflict had been sparked by the Missoruians. General Lucas, who was strongly anti-Mormon, informed Governor Boggs that the Missourians would defend any deaths incurred. Soon afterwards, he led troops to march on Far West, where the majority of the Saints now were. During this time, several Mormons were taken prisoner, and horrible treatment of them led to many beatings and even deaths.
Governor Boggs’ Extermination Order and Saints Surrender at Far West
After exaggerated news, strongly favoring the Missourians’ side, reached Governor Boggs, he was finally roused from his passivity and issued an extermination order authorizing the driving out of all the Mormons from the state. Despite the fact that this order was illegal, the spirit of the time embraced it and all sides were forced to a peak of fervor. Missourians massacred the town of Haun’s Mill, a nearly defenseless town, killing at least seventeen Mormons and wounding thirteen. When Boggs’ orders to run the Saints out arrived, General Doniphan still attempted negotiations and a peaceful reconciliation. All troops gathered to Far West. Doniphan assured the Saints that Missourians only wished to punish those guilty of plundering, and Joseph Smith appointed Colonel Hinkle and four others to go negotiate a compromise. After hearing of Haun’s Mill, Joseph realized his people would be made extinct if they pursued battle, and thus told Hinkle to sue for mercy. General Lucas met their pleas with a non-negotiable option:
- The Saints would surrender their leaders to be tried and punished.
- The Saints would sign over all of their property to pay for debts incurred by the war.
- The Saints would leave the State with a militia escort to protect them.
- The Saints would surrender all of their arms.
These were the only conditions Lucas agreed to spare them on. He also required they surrender their leaders within the hour, or the militia would march on Far West. The negotiators returned to Far West and pleaded with the leaders to surrender themselves, which they ultimately decided to do. The leaders, however, were under the impression that they would be able to discuss the terms with Lucas. Lucas refused to speak to any of them, and the leaders were tried illegally and sentenced to death. Feeling betrayed, Joseph Smith accused Hinkle and the others of being traitors. It seems they had truly been trying to save the Saints, however, and had given all the facts, as they understood them, to their leaders before they surrendered. Regardless, after this point, the Mormons were treated worse than ever. Many were dragged from their beds and homes in the night and all were forced to sign over their property to the state — though this was recognized as so obviously illegal, that it was not enforced. The Mormons were allowed to stay until spring, due to the poor weather, but were warned that if they planted crops, they would be killed. Thus all of their property was taken before winter set in. Most did not have homes or adequate shelter, and their future was bleak: they were to be driven from the state as soon as the weather was clear.
Joseph Smith’s Imprisonment
Lucas went so far as to hold an illegal court martial for all of the Mormon leaders, none of whom were members of the military. They were tried and found guilty, then sentenced to death the following day in the square. Doniphan declared it would be cold-blooded murder and refused to follow the order. It seems Lucas realized he had finally stepped over a line, because he forced no one else to fill it. The prisoners were taken to Jackson County, where everyone, on both sides, assumed they would be killed. The prisoners were abused for two weeks before Joseph rebuked the guards for their vulgarities, blasphemies, and obscene jokes. After their trial, Judge King moved Joseph Smith and five of the other prisoners to Liberty Jail in Clay County. Parley P. Pratt and several others remained prisoners in Richmond, and most of the others were released.
Liberty Jail was little more than a dungeon with little heat and in which a man could not even stand upright. For four winter months, the prisoners suffered horrible conditions and were not allowed to accompany or to lead the destitute Saints being driven from Missouri. Finally, in April, Joseph and the others were sent to Daviess County for trial. The venue was changed to Boone County, but during the move of the prisoners, the sheriff and guards allowed them to escape to Illinois, because officials realized the innocent men would never get a fair trial.
Expulsion of the Saints from Missouri
Justice was one-sided; only the Mormons were tried and punished for their crimes, and the Missourians were treated as though they had never done anything wrong. While most non-Mormons in the rest of the state argued that expelling them was unconstitutional and that the state had no right to do it, it was the Missourians who had been involved in the conflicts who were given the voice. They wanted the Mormons expelled, and expelled they were going to be. Others in the state called for a thorough investigation of the war, but by January, the Mormons realized they would not be helped by the legislature, and determined to leave as best they could. Most families were destitute, so those who had an abundance pooled their resources, determining to leave no one behind. Those who had been fortunate enough to retain their property sold it to gain funds with which to leave the state, but they were only able to get a fraction of the properties’ values. The exodus from Missouri took place in the dead of winter, with many Mormons trudging eastward with bare feet and little to keep them warm.
Many kind people in Quincy, Illinois, took the bedraggled Mormons in, though eventually they were overwhelmed and had to ask the Mormons to leave and impose upon them no longer. Still, such kindness was greatly appreciated by the persecuted and destitute. Eventually the Saints began to settle Commerce, Illinois, yet again building up their own city, which they called Nauvoo. They had been forced to leave their homes for the fifth time in less than ten years. Despite all of their hardships, most of the Saints remained faithful and hopeful.