Concise History of the Mormon Battalion
Daniel Tyler, a Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, 1846-47
BY SERGEANT DANIEL TYLER.
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1881, by Daniel Tyler, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War. 1846-1847.
me of the enlistment of the Mormon Battalion, no apology is required for
After a lapse of thirty-six years from the ti publishing its history. Had its publication been undertaken at an earlier date, it might have been accomplished more satisfactorily to all concerned, as many important and interesting facts and incidents have doubtless been buried with the departed veterans. However, the most sanguine expectations of the author have been realized in the data collected for compiling this history, consisting of diaries written during service and numerous letters and statements from surviving members of that valiant corps.
Neither labor, pains nor expense has been spared in the effort to make this a just and authentic history. The author has not aimed at sensational effect, nor made any attempt at literary embellishment, but rather endeavored to offer a plain statement of facts and give due credit to all concerned.
Should his efforts meet the approval of his intelligent readers, his highest ambition in the publication of this work will be attained.
A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War. 1846-1847.
BEFORE entering upon the History of the Mormon Battalion, it seems necessary to offer some explanation of the previous condition of the Latter-day Saints; otherwise the reader unacquainted with those facts would scarcely be able to appreciate the situation of the people at the time of the enlistment of the Battalion.
The following sketch, written by President John Taylor, many years since, gives an excellent idea of affairs previous to the exodus of the Saints from Illinois. It is therefore republished here by the kind permission of the author. As stated in the context, it was written at a time when documentary evidence was not available; it has, however, been since revised and compared with authentic data, and may be relied upon as true in every particular.
The historical address of General Thomas L. Kane, also inserted in this same connection, depicts in graphic terms some scenes of which he was a witness when the Saints fled from their homes in Nauvoo to journey into the wilderness.
The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith, By President John Taylor
BEING requested by Elders George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff, Church historians, to write an account of events that transpired before, and took place at, the time of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, in Carthage jail, in Hancock County, State of Illinois, I write the following, principally from memory, not having access at this time to any public documents relative thereto farther than a few desultory items contained in Ford’s “History of Illinois.” I must also acknowledge myself considerably indebted to George A. Smith, who was with me when I wrote it, and who, although not there at the time of the bloody transaction, yet, from conversing with several persons who were in the capacity of Church historians, and aided by an excellent memory, has rendered me considerable service.
These and the few items contained in the note at the end of this account are all the aid I have had. I would farther add that the items contained in the letter, in relation to dates especially, may be considered strictly correct.
After having written the whole, I read it over to the Hon. J. M. Bernhisel, who with one or two slight alterations, pronounced it strictly correct. Brother Bernhisel was present most of the time. I am afraid that, from the length of time that has transpired since the occurrence, and having to rely almost exclusively upon my memory, there may be some slight inaccuracies, but I believe that in the general it is strictly correct. As I figured in those transactions from the commencement to the end, they left no slight impression on my mind.
In the year 1844, a very great excitement prevailed in some parts of Hancock, Brown, and other neighboring Counties of Illinois, in relation to the “Mormons,” and a spirit of vindictive hatred and persecution was exhibited among the people, which was manifested in the most bitter and acrimonious language, as well as by acts of hostility and violence, frequently threatening the destruction of the citizens of Nauvoo and vicinity, and utter annihilation of the “Mormons” and “Mormonism,” and in some instances breaking out in the most violent acts of ruffianly barbarity. Persons were kidnapped, whipped, persecuted, and falsely accused of various crimes; their cattle and houses injured, destroyed, or stolen; vexatious prosecutions were instituted to harass, and annoy. In some remote neighborhoods they were expelled from their homes without redress, and in others violence was threatened to their persons and property, while in others every kind of insult and indignity were heaped upon them, to induce them to abandon their homes, the County, or the State.
These annoyances, prosecutions, and persecutions were instigated through different agencies and by various classes of men, actuated by different motives, but all uniting in the one object-prosecution, persecution, and extermination of the Saints.
There were a number of wicked and corrupt men living in Nauvoo and its vicinity, who had belonged to the Church, but whose conduct was incompatible with the gospel; they were accordingly dealt with by the Church and severed from its communion. Some of these had been prominent members, and held official stations either in the city or Church. Among these were John C. Bennett, formerly mayor; William Law, Counselor to Joseph Smith; Wilson Law, his natural brother, and general in the Nauvoo Legion; Dr. R. D. Foster, a man of some property, but with a very bad reputation; Francis and Chauncey Higbee, the latter a young lawyer, and both sons of a respectable and honored man in the Church, known as Judge Elias Higbee, who died about twelve months before.
Besides these, there were a great many apostates, both in the city and county, of less notoriety, who for their delinquencies, had been expelled from the Church. John C. Bennett and Francis and Chauncey Higbee were cut off from the Church; the former was also cashiered from his generalship for the most flagrant acts of seduction and adultery; and the developments in their cases were so scandalous that the High Council, before whom they were tried, had to sit with closed doors.
William Law, although Counselor to Joseph, was found to be his most bitter foe and maligner, and to hold intercourse, contrary to all law, in his own house, with a young lady resident with him; and it was afterwards proven that he had conspired with some Missourians to take Joseph Smith’s life, and was only saved by Josiah Arnold and Daniel Garn, who, being on guard at his house, prevented the assassins from seeing him. Yet, although having murder in his heart, his manners were generally courteous and mild, and he was well calculated to deceive.
General Wilson Law was cut off from the Church for seduction, falsehood, and defamation; both the above were also court-martialed by the Nauvoo Legion, and expelled. Foster was also cut off I believe, for dishonesty, fraud, and falsehood. I know he was eminently guilty of the whole, but whether these were the specific charges or not, I don’t know, but I do know that he was a notoriously wicked and corrupt man.
Besides the above characters and “Mormonic” apostates, there were other three parties. The first of these may be called religionists, the second politicians, and the third counterfeiters, black-legs, horse-thieves, and cut-throats.
The religious party were chagrined and maddened because “Mormonism” came in contact with their religion, and they could not oppose it from the scriptures. Thus like the ancient Jews, when enraged at the exhibition of their follies and hypocrisies by Jesus and His apostles, so these were infuriated against the “Mormons” because of their discomfiture by them; and instead of owning the truth and rejoicing in it, they were ready to gnash upon them with their teeth, and to persecute the believers in principles which they could not disprove.
The political party were those who were of opposite politics to us. There were always two parties, the Whigs and Democrats, and we could not vote for one without offending the other; and it not unfrequently happened that candidates for office would place the issue of their election upon opposition to the “Mormons,” in order to gain political influence from religious prejudice, in which case the “Mormons” were compelled, in self-defense, to vote against them, which resulted almost invariably against our opponents. This made them angry; and although it was of their own making, and the “Mormons” could not be expected to do otherwise, yet they raged on account of their discomfiture, and sought to wreak their fury on the “Mormons.” As an instance of the above, when Joseph Duncan was candidate for the office of governor of Illinois, he pledged himself to his party that, if he could be elected, he would exterminate or drive the “Mormons” from the State. The consequence was that Governor Ford was elected. The Whigs, seeing that they had been out-generaled by the Democrats in securing the “Mormon” vote, became seriously alarmed, and sought to repair their disaster by raising a crusade against the people. The Whig newspapers teemed with accounts of the wonders and enormities of Nauvoo, and of the awful wickedness of a party which could consent to receive the support of such miscreants. Governor Duncan, who was really a brave, honest man, and who had nothing to do with getting the “Mormon” charters passed through the Legislature, took the stump on this subject in good earnest, and expected to be elected governor almost on this question alone.
The third party, composed of counterfeiters, black-legs, horse-thieves, and cut-throats, were a pack of scoundrels that infested the whole of the western country at that time. In some districts their influence was so great as to control important State and County offices. On this subject Governor Ford has the following;
“Then, again, the northern part of the State was not destitute of its organized bands of rogues, engaged in murders, robberies, horse-stealing, and in making and passing counterfeit money. These rogues were scattered all over the north, but the most of them were located in the Countries of Ogle, Winnebago, Lee, and De Kalb.
“In the County of Ogle they were so numerous, strong, and well organized that they could not be convicted for their crimes. By getting some of their numbers on the juries, by producing a host of witnesses to sustain their defense, by perjured evidence, and by changing the venue of one County to another, by continuances from term to term, and by the inability of witnesses to attend from time to time at distant and foreign Counties, they most generally managed to be acquitted.”
There was a combination of horse-thieves extending from Galena to Alton. There were counterfeiters engaged in merchandising, trading, and store-keeping in most of the cities and villages, and in some districts, I have been credibly informed by men to whom they have disclosed their secrets, the judges, sheriffs, constables, and jailors, as well, as professional men, were more or less associated with them. These had in their employ the most reckless, abandoned wretches, who stood ready to carry into effect the most desperate enterprises, and were careless alike of human life and property. Their object in persecuting the “Mormons” was in part to cover their own rascality, and in part to prevent them from exposing and prosecuting them; but the principal reason was plunder, believing that if they could be removed or driven they would be made fat on “Mormon” spoils, besides having in the deserted city a good asylum for the prosecution of their diabolical pursuits.
This conglomeration of apostate “Mormons,” religious bigots, political fanatics and black-legs, all united their forces against the “Mormons,” and organized themselves into a party, denominated “anti-Mormons.” Some of them, we have reason to believe, joined the Church in order to cover their nefarious practices, and when they were expelled for their unrighteousness only raged with greater violence. They circulated every kind of falsehood that they could collect or manufacture against the “Mormons.” They also had a paper to assist them in their infamous designs, called the Warsaw Signal, edited by a Mr. Thomas Sharp, a violent and unprincipled man, who shrunk not from any enormity. The “anti-Mormons” had public meetings, which were very numerously attended, where they passed resolutions of the most violent and inflammatory kind, threatening to drive, expel and exterminate the “Mormons” from the State, at the same time accusing them of every evil in the vocabulary of crime.