History Late Persecution 6

History of Late Persecution

(Section 6)

Next morning General Lucas demanded the Caldwell militia to give up their arms, which was done, to the number of upwards of five hundred, the rest of the troops having fled during the night. After the Mormon troops had surrendered, the city of Far West was surrounded by the robbers, and all the men detained as prisoners, none being permitted to pass out of the city, although their families were starving for want of sustenance, the mills and provisions being some distance from the city. The brutal mob was now turned loose to ravage, steal, plunder and murder without restraint. Houses were rifled, and women ravished, and goods taken as they pleased. On the third morning after our imprisonment, we were placed in a wagon, in order for removal, and many of the more desperate then crowded round, and cocking their rifles swore they would blow us through. Some guns were snapped, but happily misfired; and the rest were in a small degree restrained by the officers, and we still lived.

We were now marched to Far West, and each one was permitted to go with a guard and take a final leave of our families, in order to depart as prisoners, to Jackson County, a distance of some 60 miles. This was the most trying scene of all. I went to my house, being guarded by two or three soldiers. The rain was pouring down without, and on entering my little cottage, there lay my wife, sick of a fever, with which she had been for sometime confined. At her breast was an infant three months old, and by her side a little girl of six years of age. These constituted my household, no other person belonged to my family. On the foot of the same bed lay a woman in travail, who had been driven from her house in the night, and had taken momentary shelter in my little hut of ten feet square (my larger house having been torn down.) I stepped to the bed, she burst into tears, I spake a few words of comfort, telling her to try to live for my sake, and her little babes, and expressing a hope that we should meet again, though years might separate us. She promised to try to live, and though an age should separate us, we would live for each other. I then kissed her and the little babes, and departed. Till now I had refrained from weeping, but to be forced from so helpless a family, who were destitute of provisions and fuel; in a bleak prairie with none to assist them, and exposed to a lawless banditti, who were utter strangers to humanity, and this at the approach of winter, was more than nature could well bear; I went to General Wilson in tears, and stated the circumstances of my sick, heart-broken and destitute family, in terms which would have moved any heart which had a latent spark of humanity yet remaining. But I was only answered with an exulting laugh, and a taunt of triumph, from this hardened murderer.

As I returned from my house towards the main body of the army who were to conduct us, I halted with the guard at the door of Hyrum Smith and heard the sobs and groans of his wife, at his parting words. She was about to be confined in child-birth when he left her to accompany us. As we returned to the wagon we saw Sidney Rigdon taking leave of his wife and daughters, who stood at a little distance in tears of anguish inexpressible; whilst in the wagon sat Joseph Smith; while his aged father and venerable mother came up, overwhelmed in tears, and took us all by the hand.

In the meantime, hundreds of the brethren crowded around us, anxious to take a parting look, or a silent shake of the hand, for feelings were too intense to allow of speech. In the midst of these scenes, orders were given, and we moved slowly on, surrounded by a brigade of Jackson and Van Buren County troops. After marching about 12 miles, we encamped for the night on Crooked River. Here General Wilson began to treat us more kindly; he became very sociable, conversing freely on the subject of his former murders and robberies, committed against us in Jackson. He did not pretend to deny any thing, but spoke upon the whole as frank as if he had been giving the history of something done in ages past, with which we were not personally concerned. He also informed us that he had been exhorted by many to hang us on the way to Jackson, but he should not suffer us to be injured. Indeed, it was now evident that he was proud of his prey, and felt highly enthusiastic in having the honor of returning in triumph to the town of Independence, with the exhibition of his prisoners, whom his superstition had magnified into noble or royal personages; who would be gazed upon as kings, or as something supernatural.

Next morning we were on our march, and in the after part of the day, we came to the Missouri River, which separated between Jackson County and us.–Here the brigade was halted, and the prisoners taken to a public house, where we were permitted to shave our beards and change our linen, after which we partook of an excellent dinner at the expense of the general. This done, we were hurried to the ferry, and across the river with the utmost haste; when but few of the troops had passed, this movement was soon explained to us. The truth was, General Clark had sent an express to take us from General Wilson, and prevent us from going to Jackson, as both armies were competitors for the honor of possessing the wonderful, or in their estimation, royal prisoners. Clark and his troops from a distance, who had not arrived in the city of Far West till after our departure, was desirous of seeing the strange men, whom it was said had turned the world upside down; and was desirous of the honor of possessing such a wonderful trophy of victory, or of putting us to death himself. And on the other hand, Wilson, Lucas and their troops, were determined to exhibit us in triumph through the streets of Independence. Therefore when demanded by General Clark’s express, they refused to surrender us, and hurried us across the ferry with all possible dispatch; after which, marching about a mile, we camped in the wilderness for the night, with about fifty troops for our guard, the remainder not crossing the ferry till next morning.

Next morning being Sunday, we were visited by some gentlemen and ladies. One of the women came up and very candidly inquired of the troops, which of the prisoners was the Lord whom the Mormons worshipped? One of the guard pointed to Mr. Smith, with a significant smile, and said this is he. The woman then turning to Mr. Smith, inquired whether he professed to be the Lord and Savior? Do not smile gentle reader, at the ignorance of these poor innocent creatures, who are thus kept under, and made to believe such absurdities by their men, and by their lying priests. Mr. Smith replied, that he professed to be nothing but a man, and a minister of salvation sent by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel. This answer so surprised the woman, that she began to inquire into our doctrine; and Mr. Smith preached a discourse both to her and her companions, and to the wondering soldiers, who listened with almost breathless attention, while he set forth the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance and baptism for remission of sins, with the promise of the Holy Ghost, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.–The woman was satisfied, and praised God in the hearing of the soldiers, and went away praying aloud that God would protect and deliver us. Thus was fulfilled a prophesy which had been spoken publicly by Mr. Smith, a few months previous; for he had prophesied that a sermon should be preached in Jackson County, by one of our elders, before the close of 1838.

About 10 o’clock the brigade had all crossed the ferry and come up with us. We were then marched forward in our carriages, while the troops were formed in our front and rear, with quite a martial appearance. As we went through the settlements, hundreds of men, women, and children flocked to see us, and our general oft halted the whole brigade to introduce us to the ladies and gentlemen, pointing out each of his prisoners by name. We were oft shaken by the hand; and, in the ladies at least, there often appeared some feelings of sympathy. In this way we proceeded until we arrived at Independence. It was now past noon, and in the midst of a great rain. But hundreds crowded to witness the procession, and to gaze at us as we were paraded in martial triumph through all the principal streets– our carriages moving in the center, while the brigade on horseback were formed in front and rear, and the bugles sounded a blast of triumphant joy.

This ceremony being finished, a vacant house was prepared for our reception, into which we were ushered through the crowd of spectators who thronged every avenue. The troops were then disbanded, and each returned to the bosom of his family, where, amid the joys of domestic felicity, they rested from the fatigues of war. In the meantime we were kept under a small guard, and were treated with the greatest hospitality and politeness, while thousands flocked to see us day after day. We spent most of our time in preaching and conversation, explanatory of our doctrines and practice, which removed mountains of prejudice, and enlisted the populace in our favor, notwithstanding their old hatred and wickedness toward our society.

We were soon at liberty to walk the streets without a guard; and soon we were removed from our house of confinement to a respectable hotel, where we were entertained in the best style of which the place was capable. We had no longer any guard; we went out and came in when we pleased, a certain keeper being appointed merely to look to us; with him we walked out of town and visited the desolate lands which belonged to our society, and the place which, seven years before, we had dedicated and consecrated for the building of a temple, it being a beautiful rise of ground, about half a mile west of Independence. When we saw it last it was a wilderness, but now our enemies had robbed it of every stick of timber, and it presented a beautiful rolling field of pasture, being covered with grass. Oh, how many feelings did this spot awaken in our bosoms! Here we had often bowed the knee in prayer to Jehovah in by-gone years; and here we had assembled with hundreds of happy saints, in the solemn meeting, and offered our prayers, and songs, and sacraments, in our humble dwellings; but now all was solemn and lonely desolation; not a vestige remained to mark the place where stood our former dwellings; they had long since been consumed by fire, or removed to the village and converted to the use of our enemies. While at Independence we were once or twice invited to dine with General Wilson, and others, which we did, with much apparent politeness and attention on their part, and much cheerfulness and good feeling on our own.

After about a week spent in this way, during which I was at one time alone in the wilderness, more than a mile from town, we were at length (after repeated demands) sent to General Clark, at Richmond. This place was on the same side of Missouri that Far West was, and about thirty miles distant. General Lucas and Wilson had tried in vain to get a guard to accompany us; none would volunteer, and when drafted, they would not obey orders; for, in truth, they wished us to go at liberty. At last a colonel and two or three officers started with us, with their swords and pistols, which was more to protect us than to keep us from escaping. On this journey some of us rode in carriages, and some on horseback. Sometimes we were sixty or eighty rods in front or rear of our guard, who, by the by, were three sheets in the wind, in the whiskey line, having a bottle in their pockets; but knowing that we were not guilty of any crime, we did not wish to escape by flight. At night, having crossed the ferry, we put up at a private house. Here our guards all went to bed and to sleep, leaving us their pistols to defend ourselves in case of any attack from without, as we were in a very hostile neighborhood.

Next morn we rode a few miles, and were met by an express from General Clark, at Richmond, consisting of Colonel Price and a company of soldiers, who immediately surrounded us with poised pieces, in regular military order, as if we had been Bonaparte and his body guards, on a march from St. Helena; thinking, perhaps, that if we should escape, the United States and all Europe would be immediately overthrown. In this way we were escorted to Richmond, the headquarters of Major General Clark and his army, which was composed of three or four thousand men. Here, as usual, we had to endure the gaze of the curious, as if we had been a caravan of exhibiting animals. We were conducted, with some military parade, into a block house, and immediately put in chains; besides a strong guard, who stood over us night and day, with presented rifles and pistols. We were soon introduced to General Clark, who seemed more haughty, unfeeling, and reserved, than even Lucas or Wilson.

We enquired of the general what were his intentions concerning us. I stated to him that we had now been captives for many days, and we knew not wherefore; nor whether we were considered prisoners of war, or prisoners of civil process, or prisoners of hope; at the same time remarking that all was wrapped in mystery; for, as citizens of the United States, and of Missouri, in time of peace, we could not be considered as prisoners of war; and without civil process, we were not holden by civil authority; and as to being prisoners of hope, there was but little chance to hope from present appearances. He replied, that we were taken in order to be tried. “Tried? by what authority?” I inquired. “By court martial,” said he.–“What!” said I, “ministers of the gospel, who sustain no office or rank in military affairs, and who are not even subject by law to military duty, to be tried by court martial, and this in time of peace, and in a republic where the constitution guarantees to every citizen the right of trial by jury?” “Yes,” said he, “this is according to the treaty stipulations entered into at Far West, at the time of the surrender, and as agreed to by Colonel Hinkle, your commanding officer.” “Colonel Hinkle, our commanding officer?” inquired I; “what has he to do with our civil rights? he was only the colonel of the Caldwell militia.” “Why,” said the general, “was he not the commanding officer of the fortress of Far West, the headquarters of Mormon forces?” I replied that “we had no fortress, nor Mormon forces, but were part of the militia of the state of Missouri;” at which the general seemed surprised, and the conversation ended.

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