History of Late Persecution
But in a day or two after these transactions, the thunder rolled in awful majesty over the city of Far West, and the arrows of lightning fell from the clouds and shivered the liberty pole from top to bottom; thus manifesting to many that there was an end to liberty and law in that state, and that our little city strove in vain to maintain the liberties of a country which was ruled by wickedness and rebellion. It seemed to portend the awful fate which awaited that devoted city, and the county and people around.–Soon after these things, the war clouds began again to lower, with dark and threatening aspect. The rebellious party in the counties around had long watched the increasing power and prosperity of the Mormons with greedy and avaricious eyes, and they had already boasted that as soon as we had made some fine improvements, and a plentiful crop, they would drive us from the state, and again enrich themselves with the spoils. Accordingly, at an election held in [Gallatin] Daviess County, the robbers undertook to drive members of the Mormon Church from the poll box, and threatened to kill whoever should attempt to vote. But some were determined to enjoy their right or die; they therefore went forward to vote, but were seized by the opposing party and attacked, and thus a fight commenced. But some of our people knocked down several of the robbers, and thus cleared the ground and maintained their rights, though vastly unequal in numbers. The news of this affair soon spread far and wide, and caused the people to rally, some for liberty and some to support the robbers in their daring outrages. About one hundred and fifty of those who were on the side of liberty, marched to the spot next day, and went to the residence of the leaders in this outrage, and soon an agreement was signed for peace. But this was of short duration, for the conspirators were stirred up throughout the whole state, being alarmed for fear the Mormons, as they called them, should become so formidable as to maintain their rights and liberties, insomuch that they could no more drive and plunder them.
About this time, meetings were held by the robbers in Carroll, Saline, and other counties, in which they openly declared their treasonable and murderous intentions of driving the citizens who belonged to our society from their counties, and if possible, from the state. Resolutions to this effect were published in the journals of upper Missouri, and this without a single remark of disapprobation. Nay more, this murderous gang when assembled and painted like Indian warriors, and when openly committing murder, robbery, and house burning, were denominated citizens, white people, etc., in most of the papers of the state, while our society who stood firm in the cause of liberty and law, were denominated Mormons, in contradistinction to the appellation of citizens, whites, etc., as if we had been some savage tribe, or some colored race of foreigners. The robbers soon assembled, to the number of several hundred, under arms, and rendezvoused in Daviess County, being composed of individuals from many of the counties around. Here they commenced firing upon our citizens, and taking prisoners. Our people made no resistance, except to assemble on their own ground for defense. They also made oath before the circuit judge,[A.[Austin] A. King, to the above outrages.– One thousand men were then ordered into service, under the command of Major General Atchison, and Brigadier Generals Parks and Doniphan. These were soon mustered and marched through Caldwell, and took their stand in Daviess County, where most of them remained thirty days. The robbers were somewhat awed by these prompt measures, so that they did not proceed farther at that time in Daviess, but they proceeded to DeWitt, a small town in Carroll County, which was mostly settled by our people.–Here they laid siege for several days, and subsisted by plunder and robbery, watching every opportunity to fire upon our citizens. At this time they had one field piece, and were headed by a Presbyterian priest by the name of Sashiel Woods, who, it is said, tended prayer, night and morning, at the head of the gang. In this siege they say that they killed a number of our people. They also turned one Smith Humphrey and his wife and children out of doors when sick, and set fire to their house, and burned it to ashes before their eyes. At length they succeeded in driving every Mormon citizen from the place, to the sacrifice of everything which they could not take with them.
This event happened during a cold, bad spell of weather, in October, and as many of the citizens were sickly, and worn down by fatigue and war, and robbed of shelter and of every thing comfortable, they came near perishing; some of them did perish before they arrived in Caldwell, a distance of some sixty miles. Here they were hospitably taken in by their brethren. Even two or three families often crowded into one small house. The militia under General Parks made some show of trying to prevent these outrages, but at length General Parks informed our people that his forces were so small, and many of them so much in favor of the rebellion, that it was useless to look any longer to them for protection.–Several messages were also sent to the Governor, but he was utterly deaf to everything which called for the protection of our society, or any of the citizens who belonged to it.
But on the contrary, he hearkened to the insinuations of the robbers; and actually presumed to give orders for the raising of several thousand volunteers from the middle counties of the state, to march against the Mormons, as he termed them. This force was soon on their march with the governor at their head; but when he had come near the upper country, he was officially notified that the Mormons were not iin a state of insurrection, but were misrepresented by the robbers. His excellency then disbanded his forces and sneaked back to Jefferson City to wait till the robbers should drive the Mormons to some act which might be considered illegal, which would give him some pretext for driving them from the state.
After the evacuation of DeWitt, when our people were officially notified that they must protect themselves, and expect no more protection from any department of the state government, they assembled in the city of Far West, to the number of near one thousand men, and resolved to defend their rights to the last; calling upon every person who could bear arms to come forward in the support of our houses, our homes, our wives and children, and the cause of our country and our God. In the meantime the robbers elated with success, and emboldened by the negligence of every department of the state government, were increasing in numbers daily, and were on their march for Daviess, with their artillery and military stores, declaring that they would now drive the citizens from Daviess and from Caldwell Counties, which were settled mostly by members of the Mormon Church.–In this march they took a number of the citizens prisoners, among whom was Amasa Lyman, a minister of the gospel, and an excellent citizen of Caldwell County. They kept him a number of days, while his wife and children mourned his absence, and they held frequent consultations to kill him, but at length he was set at liberty. Our forces assembled in Daviess County to the number of several hundred, to protect their homes; and at length a detachment of about one hundred men, under the command of Col. D. W. Patten, met the robbers, and took from them their artillery, which consisted of one six pounder, and some powder and balls also, were taken from the enemy. All this was done without bloodshed, as the robbers buried their cannon in the earth and fled at the first news of the approach of our army. While the army were busily engaged in searching the camp of the robbers to find their field piece, a young lad saw some swine rooting in the middle of the highway, and he at length discovered some projecting part of the cannon, which had been uncovered by the swine, and he exclaimed, “here is the cannon.” At this, the soldiers gathered round, and soon raised the monster from its untimely grave. It was taken in triumph to the city of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there on the heights of Daviess, amid rejoicing thousands, it uttered its voice in favor of liberty and law, and told the sad tale for some twenty miles around, that the robbers had lost their God of war, notwithstanding the pious prayers of priest Wood [Sashel Woods].
On another occasion the robbers were transporting a wagon load of arms and ammunition from Ray County to Daviess, through Caldwell County, but in Caldwell they providentially broke their wagon. In the meantime our sheriff got wind of the movements, and went with a company of Caldwell militia, and took the arms and ammunition and brought them in triumph to the city of Far West, where they helped to arm the patriotic citizens for defense. About the time of the taking of the cannon, a small party of our men, under the command of the brave Lieutenant B. went out through Daviess among those who pretended great friendship for the laws, but were secretly aiding the robbers. This party pretended to be men from the Platt who had come down to assist the robbers against the citizens, or Mormons as they were called. Under this disguise their horses and themselves were fed free of cost, and welcomed every where to all they could eat and drink, and many furnished them rifles, and ammunition, together with coats, blankets, etc., wishing them success. Sometimes they would offer to pay for their entertainment, but their zealous hosts refused to take pay, and wished that their horses could eat a thousand bushels of grain, for they were more than welcome.
In this way our troops were supplied with considerable armament, and their secret enemies were discovered and detected in their wicked plottings. During this time the robbers were busily engaged in burning and plundering houses, and driving Mormon women and children from their homes, to perish with hunger and cold, while they were robbed of every thing they possessed, and their houses burned to ashes. Hundreds were thus compelled to flee to the cities and strongholds; women and children came in by night and by day; and some of them in the midst of a tremendous snow storm, in which they came near perishing; but those who fled were kindly received into the houses of their brethren, and thus their lives were spared, but only to witness a more dreadful scene at hand. It is said that some of our troops, exasperated to the highest degree, retaliated in some instances by plundering and burning houses, and bringing the spoil to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, whose provisions and clothing had been robbed from them; and upon the whole, I am rather inclined to believe it was the case; for human nature cannot endure all things.
Soon after these things had transpired in Daviess County, Caldwell was threatened from every quarter; and her citizens assembled in Far West, many of them moving their wives and children, goods, provisions, and even houses into the city; leaving their lands desolate, in order that they might be embodied and prepared to defend themselves and families to the last. Our colonel and his other commissioned officers, had the troops paraded night and morning on the public square, and ordered them to be always ready in case of alarm. When we were dismissed at eve, we were ordered to sleep in our clothes, and be ready at a moments warning, to run together at any hour of the night.
During this state of alarm, the drum was beat, and guns fired, one night, about midnight. I ran to the public square, where many had already collected together, and the news was that the south part of our county, adjoining Ray, was attacked by a mob, who were plundering houses, threatening women and children, and taking peaceable citizens prisoners; and telling families to be gone by the next morning or they would burn their houses over their heads. With this information, Captain Killian (to whom Colonel Hinkle had committed the command of the troops in Far West, when he himself was not present) sent out a detachment under the command of Captain Durphey, aided by the brave D. W. Patten. This company, consisting of about sixty men, was sent to see what the matter was on the lines; and who was committing depredations, and if necessary to protect or move in the families and property; and if possible, effect the release of the prisoners.
This company was soon under way, having to ride some ten or twelve miles mostly through extensive prairies. It was October, the night was dark, and as we moved briskly on, (being forbidden to speak a loud word,) no sound was heard but the rumbling of our horses hoofs over the wide extended and lonely plains. While the distant plains, far and wide, were illuminated by blazing fires; and immense columns of smoke were seen rising in awful majesty, as if the world was on fire. This scene of grandeur can only be comprehended by those who are acquainted with the scenes of prairie burning. As the fire sweeps over millions of acres of dry grass in the fall season, and leaves a smooth black surface, divested of all vegetation. The thousand meteors blazing in the distance like the camp fires of some war host, throw a fitful gleam of light upon the distant sky, which many might mistake for the aurora borealis. This scene added to the silence of midnight–the rumbling sound of the prancing steeds–the glistening of armor–and the unknown destiny of the expedition–all combined to impress the mind with deep and solemn thoughts; and to throw a romantic vision over the imagination, which is not often experienced, except in the poet’s dream, or the wild imagery of sleeping fancy.
In this solemn procession we moved on for some two hours, when it was supposed that we were in the neighborhood of danger. We were then ordered to dismount and leave our horses in care of part of the company, while the others should proceed on foot along the principal highway, to see what discoveries could be made. This precaution was for fear we might be suddenly attacked, in which case we could do better on foot than on horse back. We had not proceeded far when as we entered the wilderness, we were suddenly fired upon by an unknown enemy, in ambush. First one solitary gun, as was supposed, from some outpost of the enemy, brought one of our number to the ground, where he lay groaning while the rest of the troop had to pass directly by his dying body.