History of Late Persecution
We were astonished above measure at proceedings so utterly ignorant and devoid of all law or justice. Here was a major general, selected by the governor of Missouri, 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 Missouri a separate independent government, having a right to treat with a foreign nation, a right which belongs only to the United States, 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 colonel of one of the regiments of their own state militia, which was at that time under his immediate command, as a part of his own forces.
Thus Colonel Hinkle is converted into a foreign minister, an envoy extraordinary, in behalf of the Mormon empire, to enter into treaty stipulations with his Missouri majesty’s forces, under Generals Lucas, Wilson, and Clark. The city of Far West, 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 Richmond. 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 Illinois 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 Richmond, that all these things had actually taken place; and in addition to all the rest of these unheard of outrages, eighteen of our citizens had been shot dead at Hauns’ Mill, in Caldwell County, 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 governor’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 murderers put their guns through the crevices between the logs, and shot the dead and dying through 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 (Warren Smith) 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 Ohio, 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 [Thomas] McBride, came up to them and begged for his life; but they hewed him in pieces with some old pieces of a scythe. The women fled, but were fired upon; and one young lady (Mary Steadwell, from Ohio, 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 Hauns’ Mill massacre, which will doubtless be given in the writings of others. Now to return to the subject as we left it at Richmond.
I must not forget to state that when we arrived at Richmond as prisoners, there were some fifty others, mostly heads of families, who had been marched from Caldwell on foot, and were now penned up in a cold, open, unfinished courthouse; in which situation they remained for some weeks, while their families were suffering everything but death. The next morning after my dialogue with General Clark, 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 General Lucas, in compliance with the governor’s order, compelling all our people to leave the state by the next spring? He replied that he approved of all the proceedings of General Lucas, and should not alter them. I make this statement, because many writers have commended Clark for his heroic, merciful, and prudent conduct towards our society, and have endeavored to make it appear that Clark was not to be blamed for any of the measures of Lucas.
The court of inquiry now commenced, before Judge A. A. King. 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 courthouse.
It was a very severe spell of snow and winter weather, and we suffered much. During this time Elder Rigdon 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, George Robison, the only male member of his numerous family, was chained by his side; and thus Mrs. Rigdon and her daughters were left entirely destitute and unprotected. One of his daughters, Mrs. Robison, a young and delicate female, with her little infant, came down to see her husband, and to comfort and take care of her father 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 inquiry, 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 inquired by the judge (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,” etc. “And the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole Heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High,” etc.–These texts, and many others, were inquired 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 inquiring diligently into the prophesies concerning the birth of Christ, and on learning that Bethlehem was the honored place designated by the Jewish oracles for the birth place of Messiah, and on learning 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 oracles 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 Governor Boggs, the modern Herod, and his wicked coadjutors,) fled into Illinois, 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 inquiry was also had concerning our sending missionaries to all nations to preach the gospel. And after all these inquiries, our religion was converted by false testimony and by false coloring, into treason against the state of Missouri; 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-defense 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 Missouri. Justice should be administered to the guilty governor, 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 Missouri, 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 Amasa Lyman, 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., Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin and Alexander McRay, were committed to the jail of Clay County, on the charge of treason. And Messrs. Morris Phelps, Luman Gibbs, Darwin Chase, Norman Shearer, and myself, were committed to the jail of Richmond, being accused of defending ourselves in the battle with Bogart 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 Far West, to leave the state by the following spring, they now commenced moving by hundreds and by thousands, to the State of Illinois, 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 defenseless citizens; committing all manner of plunder, and driving off cattle, sheep and horses–abusing and insulting women, etc.
My wife and children soon came to me in prison, and spent most of the winter with me in the dark, 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, and kill us because of our belief in Mormonism.
The state legislature was 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 Missouri, 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 unconscionable absurdity. The spirits of the ancient martyrs will hail their brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of 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.