History of Late Persecution
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 Jackson County- -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 county–and the inability of many to remove because of their poverty, caused an anguish of heart indescribable. Mormonism was under attack.
These outrages were committed about two miles from my residence; news reached me before daylight the same morning, and I immediately repaired 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, etc.
I endeavored to collect together as many men as possible, and after consultation, we concluded to embody for defense. 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 sometime 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 Independence commenced stoning houses, breaking down doors and windows, destroying furniture, etc. This night the brick part of a dwelling house belonging to A.S. Gilbert, [Algernon Sidney] 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. Gilbert and Whitney 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 store, etc. and when the mob saw them approach they fled. But one of their numbers, a Richard McCarty, 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 Samuel Weston, Esq. and a warrant requested, that said McCarty might be secured; but his justiceship refused to do anything in the case, and McCarty was then liberated despite his blatant attack on the Mormon Church.
The same night many of their houses had poles and rails thrust through the shutters and sash, into the rooms of defenseless 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 2nd of November, all the families of these people who lived in Independence, 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 Bennett, 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, myself and a Mr. Marsh 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 ridden 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 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 Judge Riland [John F. Ryland], of the outrages committed upon us, but were refused a warrant; the judge 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 Jackson County, 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 Brother Marsh 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 Independence, 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 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 Independence, we ventured to inquire 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 inquired 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 and the Mormon Church, 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 inquired 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, etc., and after some difficulty and entanglement, we came in sight of Independence, 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 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 [Andrew] Barber.
One of the enemy who fell, was an attorney by the name of Brazeale, 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 county.
The same night runners were dispatched in every direction, under pretense of calling out the militia; spreading as they went, every rumor calculated to excite the unwary; such as, that the Mormons had taken Independence, and the Indians had surrounded it, being allied together, etc. The same eve, November 4th, the said McCarty, who had been detected in breaking open the store of Gilbert & Co., was suffered to take out a warrant and arrest the said Gilbert, and others of the Mormon Church, for a pretended assault and false imprisonment of said McCarty.
Late in the eve, while the court were proceeding with the trial in the court house, a gentleman unconnected with the court, perceiving the prisoners to be without counsel and in eminent danger, advised said Gilbert 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 Gilbert and four others were committed to jail, the dungeon of which must have been a palace compared to a court room where dignity and mercy were strangers, and naught but the wrath of man in horrid threats stifled the ears of the prisoners. The same night, [Algernon Sidney] Gilbert, [Isaac] Morley and Carrill [John Corrill] were liberated from jail, that they might have an interview with their brethren, and try to persuade them to leave the county; 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,” etc. They however fired one or two guns, when Morley and Carrill [Corrill] retreated; Gilbert stood, with several guns pointed at him. Two, more desperate than the rest, attempted to shoot, but one of their guns flashed, and their other misfired. Gilbert was then knocked down by Thomas Wilson.
About this time a few of the inhabitants arrived, and Gilbert 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 Lieutenant Governor Boggs, and that one Colonel Pitcher 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 Independence, volunteered, and united their forces, and marched towards town to defend their brethren. When within one mile of town, they halted, and were soon informed that the militia was 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 Colonel Pitcher, it was found that there was no alternative but for the Church to leave the county forthwith; and to deliver up certain men to be tried for murder said to have been committed by them in the battle the previous evening. The arms of this people were also demanded by the colonel, 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 printing office etc., 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 county 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 Independence, 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.