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1838 Mormon War

The Mormon War is a name sometimes given to the 1838 conflict which occurred between Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and their neighbors in the northwestern region of the US state of Missouri. This conflict is also sometimes referred to as the Missouri Mormon War to differentiate it from the Utah Mormon War (also known as the "Utah War") and the lesser known Illinois Mormon War.

The specific dates of the war are from August 6, 1838, (the Gallatin election battle) to November 1, 1838, when Joseph Smith surrendered at Far West. During the conflict 22 people were killed (3 Mormons and 1 non-Mormon at Crooked River,[1] one Mormon prisoner fatally injured while in custody,[2] and 17 Mormons at Haun’s Mill).[3] An unknown number of non-combatants died due to exposure and hardship as a result of being expelled from their homes in Missouri.[4]

The conflict was preceded by the eviction of the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833.

All of the conflicts in the Mormon War occurred in a corridor 100 miles (160 km) to the east and northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

As a result of the war, nearly all Mormons in Missouri, estimated at more than ten thousand, were forced to leave the state. Most of these refugees settled in or near what would become the city of Nauvoo, Illinois.


  • Background 1
  • Compromise breaks down, 1838 2
  • Salt Sermon and Danites 3
  • Gallatin Election Day Battle 4
  • Mormons expelled from De Witt 5
  • Daviess County expedition 6
    • Marsh affidavit 6.1
  • Battle of Crooked River 7
  • Extermination Order 8
  • Haun's Mill Massacre 9
  • Siege of Far West and capture of church leaders 10
  • Trials of Mormon leaders 11
  • Aftermath 12
    • Flight of Mormons to Illinois 12.1
    • Political fallout 12.2
    • Boggs assassination attempt 12.3
  • See also 13
  • Notes 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


Shortly after organizing the Church of Christ in 1830, Joseph Smith revealed that the Second Coming of Christ was near, that the City of Zion would be near the town of Independence in Jackson County, Missouri, and that his followers were destined to inherit the land held by the current settlers.

If ye are faithful, ye shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies.[5]

Smith's followers, commonly known as Mormons, began to settle in Jackson County in 1831 to "build up" the city of Zion. Tensions built up between the rapidly growing Mormon community and the earlier settlers for a number of reasons:

  • They believed -- after a revelation recorded on June 6th, 1831 -- that if they were righteous they would inherit the land held by others ("which is now the land of your enemies") in Missouri.[5]
  • Their economic cohesion allowed the Mormons to dominate local economies.[6][7]
  • They believed that the Native Americans were descendants of Israelites, and proselytized among them extensively.[8]
  • Most Mormon immigrants to Missouri came from areas which were sympathetic to abolitionism.[9][10]
  • They tended to vote in blocs. Where there was a critical mass of Mormons in the community, they were frequently viewed as having sold the election to the highest bidder, although there is no recorded proof of this ever taking place.[6][11]

These tensions led to harassment and mob violence against the Mormon settlers. In October 1833, anti-Mormon mobs drove the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri.[12]

At that time, opponents of the Mormons used a pattern that would be repeated four times,[13] culminating in the expulsion of the Mormons from the entire state. Lilburn Boggs, as a Jackson county resident, and as Lieutenant Governor, was in a position to observe and assist in executing the tactics described by one Mormon historian:

In 1833 Boggs passively saw community leaders and officials sign demands for Mormon withdrawal, and next force a gunbarrel contract to abandon the county before spring planting...anti-Mormon goals were reached in a few simple stages. Executive paralysis permitted terrorism, which forced Mormons to self-defense, which was immediately labeled as an "insurrection," and was put down by the activated militia of the county. Once Latter Day Saints were disarmed, mounted squads visited Mormon settlements with threats and enough beatings and destruction of homes to force flight.[14]

Forcefully deprived of their homes and property, the Latter Day Saints temporarily settled in the area around Jackson County, especially in Clay County.[12]

A map of Northwestern Missouri in 1838, showing points of conflict in the Mormon War.

Mormon petitions and lawsuits failed to bring any satisfaction: the non-Mormons in Jackson refused to allow the Mormons to return and reimbursement for confiscated and damaged property was refused. In 1834, Latter Day Saints attempted to effect a return to Jackson County with a quasi-military expedition known as Zion's Camp, but this effort also failed when the governor failed to provide the expected support.[15]

New converts to Mormonism continued to relocate to Missouri and settle in Clay County. Tensions rose in Clay County as the Mormon population grew. In an effort to keep the peace, Alexander William Doniphan of Clay County pushed a law through the Missouri legislature that created Caldwell County, Missouri specifically for Mormon settlement in 1836.[16] Mormons had already begun buying land in the proposed Caldwell County, including areas that were carved off to become parts of Ray and Daviess Counties.[17] They had also founded the Caldwell County town of Far West as their Missouri headquarters.

Once they were established in a county of their own, a period of relative peace ensued. According to an article in the Elders' Journal – a Latter Day Saint newspaper published in Far West – "The Saints here are at perfect peace with all the surrounding inhabitants, and persecution is not so much as once named among them..."[18]

John Corrill, one of the Mormon leaders, remembered:

"Friendship began to be restored between (the Mormons) and their neighbors, the old prejudices were fast dying away, and they were doing well, until the summer of 1838"[19]

Compromise breaks down, 1838

In 1837, problems at the Church's headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio, centering around the Kirtland Safety Society bank, led to schism. The Church relocated from Kirtland to Far West, which became its new headquarters. Mormon settlement increased as hundreds of members from Kirtland and elsewhere poured into Missouri. Latter Day Saints established new colonies outside of Caldwell County, including Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County and De Witt in Carroll County.[20]

In the eyes of many non-Mormon citizens (including Alexander Doniphan),[10] these settlements outside of Caldwell County were a violation of the compromise.[21] Mormons felt that the compromise only excluded major settlements in Clay County and Ray County, not Daviess County and Carroll County.[22]

The earlier settlers saw expansion of Mormon communities outside of Caldwell County as a political and economic threat.[14] In Daviess County, where Whigs and Democrats had been roughly evenly balanced, Mormon population reached a level where they could determine election results.[11]

Salt Sermon and Danites

At the same time, a leadership struggle between the church presidency and Missouri leaders led to the excommunication of several high-placed Mormon leaders, including Oliver Cowdery (one of the Three Witnesses and the church's original "second elder"), David Whitmer (another of the Three Witnesses and Stake President of the Missouri Church), as well as John Whitmer, Hiram Page, William Wines Phelps and others.[23] These "dissenters," as they came to be called, owned a significant amount of land in Caldwell County, much of which was purchased when they were acting as agents for the church.[24] Possession became unclear and the dissenters threatened the church with lawsuits.

The presidency responded by urging the dissenters to leave the county, using strong words that the dissenters interpreted as threats. In his famous Salt Sermon, Sidney Rigdon announced that the dissenters were as salt that had lost its savor and that it was the duty of the faithful to cast the dissenters out to be trodden beneath the feet of men.[25][26]

At the same time Mormons, including Danites, whose purposes included obeying the church presidency "right or wrong" and expelling the dissenters from Caldwell County.[27] Two days after Rigdon preached his Salt Sermon, 80 prominent Mormons including Hyrum Smith signed the so-called Danite Manifesto, which warned the dissenters to "depart or a more fatal calamity shall befall you." On June 19, the dissenters and their families fled to neighboring counties where their complaints fanned anti-Mormon sentiment.[26][28][29]

On July 4, Sidney Rigdon gave an oration, which was characterized by Mormon historian Brigham Henry Roberts as a "'Declaration of Independence' from all mobs and persecutions."[30] The text of this speech was endorsed by Joseph Smith, who appeared at the event and participated in the raising of a liberty pole.[31]

In the speech, Rigdon declared that the Latter Day Saints would no longer be driven from their homes by persecution from without or dissension from within, and that if enemies came again to drive out the Saints, "And that mob that comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them until the last drop of their blood is spilled; or else they will have to exterminate us, for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed..."[26]

Gallatin Election Day Battle

The Gallatin Election Day Battle was a skirmish between Mormon and non-Mormon settlers in the newly formed Daviess County, Missouri, on August 6, 1838.[32][33]

William Peniston, a candidate for the state legislature, made disparaging statements about the Mormons, calling them "horse-thieves and robbers",[34] and warned them not to vote in the election.[35] Reminding Daviess County residents of the growing electoral power of the Mormon community, Peniston made a speech in Gallatin claiming that if the Missourians "suffer such men as these [Mormons] to vote, you will soon lose your suffrage." Around 200 non-Mormons gathered in Gallatin on election day to prevent Mormons from voting.[36]

When about thirty Latter Day Saints approached the polling place, a Missourian named Dick Weldon declared that in Clay County the Mormons had not been allowed to vote, "no more than negroes." One of the Mormons present, Samuel Brown, claimed that Peniston's statements were false and then declared his intention to vote. This triggered a brawl between the bystanders.[34]

At the start of the brawl, Mormon John Butler let out a call, "Oh yes, you Danites, here is a job for us!" which rallied the Mormons and allowed them to drive off their opponents.[36]

A number of Missourians left the scene to obtain guns and ammunition and swore that they would "kill all the Saints they could find, or drive them out of Daviess County, sparing neither men, women or children."[35] The crowd dispersed, and the Mormons returned to their homes.

The skirmish is often cited as the first serious violence of the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

Rumors among both parties spread that there were casualties in the conflict. When Joseph Smith and volunteers rode to Adam-ondi-Ahman to assess the situation, they discovered there were no truths to the rumors.[35][36]

When the Mormons heard a rumor that Judge Adam Black was gathering a mob near Millport, one hundred armed men, including Joseph Smith, surrounded Black's home. They asked if the rumor was true, and demanded that he sign a document disavowing any connection to the vigilance committees. Black refused, but after meeting with Smith, he wrote and signed a document stating that he "is not attached to any mob, nor will attach himself to any such people, and so long as they [the Mormons] will not molest me, I will not molest them."[27][37] Black later confirmed that he had felt threatened by the large number of hostile armed men.[38]

The Mormons also visited Sheriff William Morgan and several other leading Daviess County citizens, also forcing some of them to sign statements disavowing any ties to the vigilance committees.[37]

At a meeting at Lyman Wight's home between leading Mormons and non-Mormons, both sides agreed not to protect anyone who had broken the law, and to surrender all offenders to the authorities. With peace restored, Smith's group returned to Caldwell County.[37]

Black and others filed complaints against Smith and the other identifiable Mormon participants. On September 7, Smith and Lyman Wight appeared before Judge Austin A. King to answer the charges. King found that there was sufficient evidence to have the defendants appear before a grand jury on misdemeanor charges.[39]

Mormons expelled from De Witt

In the spring of 1838, Henry Root, a non-Mormon who was a major land-owner in Carroll County, visited Far West and sold his plots in the mostly vacant town of

  • Far West Cultural Center primary sources
  • Mel Tungate's Battle of Crooked River sources website
  • Joseph Smith's Journal Entries
  • History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Volume 2 Chapter 11

External links

  • .  
  • .  
  • Baugh, Alexander L., A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, BYU Studies, 2000.
  • Baugh, Alexander L (Spring 2001), We Took Our Change of Venue to the State of Illinois": The Gallatin Hearing and the Escape of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Prisoners from Missouri, April 1839""" (PDF), Mormon Historical Studies: 59–82, retrieved November 29, 2012 .
  • Bushman, Richard L (2007), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York City, NY: Vantage, .  
  • Cannon, Donald Q., and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844, Salt Lake City, 1983.
  • Corrill, John, A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Commonly Called Mormons), St. Louis, 1839.
  • DeVoto, Bernard (2000), The Year of Decision: 1846, New York City, NY: .  
  • Foote, Warren, The Autobiography of Warren Foote, typescript in Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  • Furniss, Norman F (1966), The Mormon Conflict, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, retrieved 12 April 2011 .
  • .  
  • Hamer, John, Northeast of Eden: A Historical Atlas of Missouri's Mormon County, Mirabile, Missouri, 2004.
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  • Jenkins, James H., Casus Belli: Ten Factors That Contributed to the Outbreak of the 1838 'Mormon War' in Missouri, Independence, Missouri: CreateSpace, 2014.
  • Jessee, Dean, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984.
  • Johnson, Clark V., Mormon Redress Petitions: Documents of the 1833–1838 Missouri Conflict, Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1992.
  • Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
  • Lee, John D., Mormonism Unveiled: The Life and Confessions of John D. Lee and the Life of Brigham Young, 1877.
  • LeSueur, Stephen C., The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, University of Missouri Press, 1990.
  • McGee, Joseph H., Story of the Grand River Country, Gallatin, Missouri, 1909.
  • Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri (1841), Document containing the correspondence, orders, &c., in relation to the disturbances with the Mormons; and the evidence given before the Hon. Austin A. King, judge of the Fifth judicial circuit of the state of Missouri, at the Court-house in Richmond, in a criminal court of inquiry, begun November 12, 1838, on the trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and others, for high treason and other crimes against the state., Fayette, Missouri: Printed at the Office of the Boon's Lick Democrat, .  
  • McLaws, Monte B. “The Attempted Assassination of Missouri’s Ex-Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs,” Missouri Historical Review, 60.1 (October 1965): 59.
  • Peck, Reed, The Reed Peck Manuscript, complete text.
  • Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Salt Lake City, 1994.
  • .  
  • .  
  • Rigdon, Sidney, An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter-day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri, Cincinnati, 1840.
  • .  
  • Thorp, Joseph, Early Days in the West Along the Missouri One Hundred Years Ago, Liberty, Missouri, 1924.
  • The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Plano, Illinois.
  • Turner, J B (1842), Mormonism in All Ages; or the Rise, Progress and Causes of Mormonism; with the Biography of Its Author and Founder, Joseph Smith, Jr (PDF), New York City, NY: Platt & Peters, retrieved 22 April 2011 .
  • Van Wagoner, Richard S., Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Salt Lake City, 1994.


  1. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 131–142
  2. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 148–149,162
  3. ^ a b Hartley 2001, p. 6
  4. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 257
  5. ^ a b Doctrine and Covenants 52:42
  6. ^ a b DeVoto 2000, pp. 84–85
  7. ^ Arrington & Bitton 1979, pp. 49–50
  8. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 10,17–21
  9. ^ Furniss 1966, p. 2
  10. ^ a b "Mormonism. The Settlement of The Peculiar People in Jackson County. And Subsequent Expulsion. Gen. Doniphan's Recollections of the Troubles of that Early Time.". Kansas City Daily Journal. June 12, 1881. Archived from the original on 27 April 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011.  Reprinted by Dale R. Broadhurst at
  11. ^ a b Arrington & Bitton 1979, pp. 50–52
  12. ^ a b Arrington & Bitton 1979, p. 45
  13. ^ Hartley 2001, pp. 6–7
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Anderson 1994
  15. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 19
  16. ^ Bushman 2007, pp. 344–345
  17. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 19,23–24
  18. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 24
  19. ^ Corrill 1839, p. 26
  20. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 29–31
  21. ^ "The Mormons", The Western Star (Liberty, Missouri), September 14, 1838 . Reprinted by Dale R. Broadhurst at
  22. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 25–26
  23. ^ Cannon & Cook 1983, pp. 162–171
  24. ^ Hamer 2004, p. xv–xvii
  25. ^ Van Wagoner 1994, p. 218
  26. ^ a b c LeSueur 1990, pp. 37–43
  27. ^ a b Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 97–108
  28. ^ Quinn 1994, p. 94
  29. ^ Baugh 2000, pp. 36–40
  30. ^ Roberts 1965, Vol. 1, p. 438
  31. ^ Bushman 2007, p. 355
  32. ^ Arrington & Bitton 1979, p. 51
  33. ^ Bushman 2007, pp. 357–358
  34. ^ a b Greene 1839, pp. 18–19
  35. ^ a b c Smith, Rigdon & Smith 1840, pp. 16–17
  36. ^ a b c LeSueur 1990, pp. 55–64
  37. ^ a b c LeSueur 1990, pp. 65–67
  38. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 159–163
  39. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 77–85
  40. ^ Johnson 1992, p. 666
  41. ^ Baugh 2000, p. 65
  42. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 54–58
  43. ^ a b Johnson 1992, p. 470
  44. ^ "The Mormons". Southern Advocate. September 1, 1838. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2011. 
  45. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 70–71
  46. ^ Johnson 1992, pp. 211–305
  47. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 85–86
  48. ^ a b c d e LeSueur 1990, pp. 101–110
  49. ^ a b Perkins, Keith W (1994). "De Witt-Prelude to Expulsion". Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History: Missouri. Retrieved April 9, 2011. 
  50. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, p. 39
  51. ^ a b Rigdon 1841, pp. 41–42
  52. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, p. 24
  53. ^ a b c Baugh 2000, pp. 85–87
  54. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 116
  55. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 43–46,53–54
  56. ^ a b c d e f LeSueur 1990, pp. 117–124
  57. ^ Thorp 1924, p. 91
  58. ^ McGee 1909, p. 13
  59. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 193–194
  60. ^ Corrill 1839, p. 38
  61. ^ Foote, p. 25
  62. ^ Bushman 2007, pp. 363–365,370–372
  63. ^
  64. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 57–59
  65. ^ affidavit
  66. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 108–110
  67. ^ Baugh 2000, p. 102
  68. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 137–142
  69. ^ Baugh 2000, p. 108
  70. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, p. 60
  71. ^ a b LeSueur 1990, p. 145
  72. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 147–149
  73. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, p. 61
  74. ^ "The Extermination Order and How it was Rescinded".  
  75. ^ "Governor Bond's Rescission order" (PDF). The Missouri Mormon War collection. Missouri State Archives. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  76. ^ a b c d LeSueur 1990, pp. 162–168
  77. ^ Baugh 2000, p. 115
  78. ^ Baugh 2000, p. 127
  79. ^ Greene 1839, pp. 21–24
  80. ^ Lee 1877, p. 80
  81. ^ Arrington & Bitton 1979, p. 45
  82. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 153–158
  83. ^ Journal History 13:449
  84. ^ Corrill 1839, p. 41
  85. ^ a b Peck 1839, p. 24
  86. ^ a b c LeSueur 1990, pp. 168–172
  87. ^ Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, p. 73
  88. ^ a b Journal History 13:451
  89. ^ Jesse 1984, p. 362
  90. ^ a b LeSueur 1990, pp. 175–177
  91. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 174
  92. ^ Robinson, Ebenezer, Autobiographical Remarks by Ebenezer Robinson (1832–1843) . Reprinted by the Book of Abraham Project at
  93. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 180–181
  94. ^ The Manuscript History of Brigham Young, taken from the Millennial Star, 1801–1835
  95. ^ Johnson 1992, pp. 619–681
  96. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 182
  97. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 183
  98. ^ a b Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri 1841, pp. 153–163
  99. ^ Bushman 2007, pp. 363–372
  100. ^ Whitmer, John (1832–1846). The Book of John Whitmer. Provo, UT: Book of Abraham Project. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 
  101. ^ a b Bushman 2007, pp. 382–386
  102. ^ LeSueur 1990, pp. 243–244
  103. ^ Greene 1839, p. 27
  104. ^ Hartley 2001, pp. 8–22
  105. ^ Greene 1839, pp. 26–28,34,36
  106. ^ Johnson 1992
  107. ^ Black, Susan Easton (2001). "Quincy—A City of Refuge" (PDF).  
  108. ^ Greene 1839, p. 10
  109. ^ Hartley 2001, p. 10
  110. ^ Arrington & Bitton 1979, p. 57
  111. ^ Turner 1842, p. 58
  112. ^ LeSueur 1990, p. 258
  114. ^ a b Bushman 2007, p. 468
  115. ^ McLaws 1965
  116. ^ DeVoto 2000, p. 85


See also

Whatever the case, the following year Rockwell was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the attempted murder,[114] although most of Boggs' contemporaries remained convinced of his guilt. A grand jury was unable to find sufficient evidence to indict him, convinced in part by his reputation as a deadly gunman and his statement that he "never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!... He's still alive, ain't he?"

Joseph Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent. One historian notes that Governor Boggs was running for election against several violent men, all capable of the deed, and that there was no particular reason to suspect Rockwell of the crime.[115] Other historians are convinced that Rockwell was involved in the shooting.[116]

John C. Bennett, a disaffected Mormon, reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs, and that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed.[114]

Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot. He surmised that the perpetrator had fired upon Boggs and lost his firearm in the night when the weapon recoiled due to its unusually large shot. The gun was found to have been stolen from a local shopkeeper, who identified "that hired man of Ward's" as the most likely culprit. Reynolds determined the man in question was Orrin Porter Rockwell, a close associate of Joseph Smith. However, Reynolds was unable to capture Rockwell.

On May 6, 1842, Boggs was shot in the head at his home three blocks from Temple Lot.[113] Boggs survived, but Mormons came under immediate suspicion.

Boggs assassination attempt

LeSueur notes that, along with other setbacks, Boggs's mishandling of the Mormon conflict left him "politically impotent" by the end of his term.[112]

Mormonism is a monstrous evil; and the only place where it ever did or ever could shine, this side of the world of despair, is by the side of the Missouri mob.[110][111]

Even people who otherwise would have had no sympathy for the Mormons were appalled by Boggs's Executive Order and the treatment of the Mormons by the mobs. One contemporary critic of the Mormons wrote:

They cannot be driven beyond the limits of the state—that is certain. To do so, would be to act with extreme cruelty. Public opinion has recoiled from a summary and forcible removal of our negro population;—much more likely will it be to revolt at the violent expulsion of two or three thousand souls, who have so many ties to connect them with us in a common brotherhood. If they choose to remain, we must be content. The day has gone by when masses of men can be outlawed, and driven from society to the wilderness, unprotected. . . . The refinement, the charity of our age, will not brook it.[109]

The Missouri Argus published an editorial on December 20, 1838, that public opinion should not permit the Mormons to forcibly be expelled from the state:

Many of Boggs's constituents felt that he had mis-managed the situation, by failing to intervene earlier in the crisis, and then by overreacting on the basis of partial and incorrect information.

When events in Daviess County caused Missourians to see the Mormon community as a violent threat, non-Mormon public opinion hardened in favor of a firm military response. Even militia commanders such as Clark, Doniphan, and Atchison who were sympathetic to the Mormons came to see a military response as the only way to bring the situation under control.[71]

Political fallout

Eventually, the large portion of the Mormons regrouped and founded a new city in Illinois which they called Nauvoo.

Resolved: That the gov of Missouri, in refusing protection to this class of people when pressed upon by an heartless mob, and turning upon them a band of unprincipled Militia, with orders encouraging their extermination, has brought a lasting disgrace upon the state over which he presides.[108]

Stripped of their property, the Mormons were then given a few months to leave the state. Most refugees made their way east to Illinois, where residents of the town of Quincy helped them. When faced with the Mormon refugees from Missouri, the people of Quincy, Illinois, were outraged by the treatment the Mormons had experienced.[107] One resolution passed by the Quincy town council read:

Flight of Mormons to Illinois

With the refusal of the Governor or Legislature to intervene, and having surrendered the bulk of their firearms, Mormons were left nearly defenseless to face the mob.[104] Mormon residents were harassed and attacked by angry residents who were no longer restrained by militia officers.[105][106] Judge Austin A King, who had been assigned the cases of the Mormons charged with offenses during the conflict, warned "If you once think to plant crops or to occupy your lands any longer than the first of April, the citizens will be upon you: they will kill you every one, men, women and children."[14]

Mormon leaders appealed to the state legislature to overturn the requirement that they leave the state, but the legislature tabled the issue until a date well after that when the Mormons would have left the state.[14]

Missouri blamed the Mormons for the conflict and forced the Latter Day Saints to sign over all their lands in order to pay for the state militia muster.

General Clark viewed Executive Order 44 as having been fulfilled by the agreement of the Mormons to evacuate the state the following spring.[103] The militia was disbanded in late November.[14]


Daviess County residents were outraged by the escape of Smith and the other leaders. William Bowman, one of the guards, was dragged by his hair across the town square. Sheriff Morgan was ridden through town on an iron bar, and died shortly afterward from the injuries he suffered during the ride.[102]

Smith and the other Mormons resettled in Nauvoo, Illinois, beginning in 1839.[101]

It is also believed that Smith's imprisonment had become an embarrassment, and that an escape would be convenient for Boggs and the rest of the Missouri political establishment.[101]

During a transfer to another prison in the spring of 1839, Smith escaped. The exact circumstances that allowed for him to escape are not certain. John Whitmer recounts that Smith bribed the guards.[100]

The defendants, consisting of about 60 men including Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, were turned over to a civil court of inquiry in Richmond under Judge Austin A. King, on charges of treason, murder, arson, burglary, robbery, larceny and perjury.[14][98] The court of inquiry began November 12, 1838. After the inquiry, all but a few of the Mormon prisoners were released, but Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wight, Caleb Baldwin, Hyrum Smith and Alexander McRae were held in the Liberty Jail in Liberty, Clay County on charges of treason against the state, murder, arson, burglary, robbery and larceny.[98][99]

It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty to-morrow morning, at 8 o'clock, and if you execute those men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God![97]

Doniphan refused to obey the order, replying:

You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning.[96]

Lucas tried Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders by court martial on November 1, the evening of the surrender. After the court martial, he ordered General Alexander William Doniphan:

Trials of Mormon leaders

[T]hey commenced their ravages by plundering the citizens of their bedding, clothing, money, wearing apparel, and every thing of value they could lay their hands upon, and also attempting to violate the chastity of the women in sight of their husbands and friends, under the pretence of hunting for prisoners and arms. The soldiers shot down our oxen, cows, hogs and fowls, at our own doors, taking part away and leaving the rest to rot in the streets. The soldiers also turned their horses into our fields of corn.[94][95]

The Far West militia was marched out of the city and forced to turn over their weapons to General Lucas. The men under the command of Lucas were then allowed to ransack the city to search for weapons.[93] Brigham Young recounts that, once the militia was disarmed, Lucas's men were turned loose on the city:

"General Clark made the following speech to the brethren on the public square:...'The orders of the governor to me were, that you should be exterminated, and not allowed to remain in the state, and had your leaders not been given up, and the terms of the treaty complied with, before this, you and your families would have been destroyed and your houses in ashes.'"[92]

Ebenezer Robinson described the scene at Far West,

Joseph Smith Jr attempted to negotiate with Lucas, but it became clear that Lucas considered his conditions to be non-negotiable. At 8:00 am, Joseph sent word to Far West to surrender.[90]

Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, and other leaders left at Far West warned the veterans of Crooked River to flee. "If found, they will be shot down like dogs," warned Hyrum.[91]

Joseph Smith and the other arrested leaders were held overnight under guard in General Lucas' camp, where they were left exposed to the elements.

Colonel Hinkle rode to the church leaders in Far West and informed them of the offered terms. According to Latter Day Saint witness Reed Peck, when Smith was told that the Mormons would be expected to leave the state, he replied that "he did not care" and that he would be glad to get out of the "damnable state" anyway.[85] Smith and the other leaders rode with Hinkle back to the Missouri militia encampment. The militia promptly arrested Smith and the other leaders.[86] Smith believed that Hinkle had betrayed him,[89] but Hinkle maintained his innocence and claimed that he was following Smith's orders. To William Wines Phelps, a fellow Latter Day Saint and witness to the events, Hinkle wrote: "When the facts were laid before Joseph, did he not say, 'I will go'; and did not the others go with him, and that, too, voluntarily, so far as you and I were concerned?"[88][90]

Lucas' terms were severe. The Latter Day Saints were to give up their leaders for trial and to surrender all of their arms. Every Mormon who had taken up arms was to sell his property to pay for the damages to Missourian property and for the muster of the state militia. Finally, the Mormons who had taken up arms were to leave the state.[86][87] Colonel Hinkle stated that the Latter Day Saints would help bring to justice those Mormons who had violated the law, but he protested that the other terms were illegal and unconstitutional.[88]

Surrounded by the state militia, the mood in besieged Far West was uneasy. Joseph Smith ordered Colonel [83] Other Latter Day Saint witnesses remembered that Smith said to "beg like a dog for peace."[84][85][86]

Most Mormons gathered to Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman for protection. Major General Samuel D. Lucas marched the state militia to Far West and laid siege to the Mormon headquarters.[82]

Siege of Far West and capture of church leaders

None of the Missourians were ever prosecuted for their role in the Haun's Mill Massacre.[76]

In all, 17 Latter Day Saints were killed in what came to be called the Haun's Mill Massacre.[3][81] When survivors of the massacre reached Far West, the reports of the savagery of the attack played a significant part in the decision of the Mormons to surrender.[76]

While Mormon women and children scattered and hid in the surrounding woods and nearby homes, Mormon men and boys rallied to defend the settlement. They moved into a blacksmith shop, which they hoped to use as a makeshift defensive fortification. Unfortunately, the shop had large gaps between the logs which the Missourians shot into and, as one Mormon later recalled, it became more "slaughter-house rather than a shelter."[80] The mob gave no quarter. After most of the defenders in the blacksmith shop had been killed or mortally wounded, some of the Missourians entered to finish the work. Finding 10-year-old Sardius Smith hiding behind the bellows, William Reynolds of Livingston County shot and killed the boy, saying: "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon"[76]

On October 29, this large vigilante band of some 250 men assembled and entered eastern Caldwell County. When the Missourian raiders approached the settlement on the afternoon of October 30, some 30 to 40 Latter Day Saint families were living or encamped there. Despite an attempt by the Mormons to parley, the mob attacked. Thomas McBride surrendered his rifle to Jacob Rogers, who shot McBride with his own gun. When Rogers held out a hand, Jacobs cut it off with a corn knife, then may have further mangled his body while Rogers was still alive.[79] Other members of the mob opened fire, which sent the Latter Day Saints fleeing in all directions.

Although it had just been issued, it is unlikely that the governor's "Extermination Order" would have already reached these men, and in any event it would not have authorized them to cross into Caldwell County to raid. In addition, none of the participants in the raid cited the order as justification for their actions.[78]

"The Daviess County men were very bitter against the Mormons, and vowed the direst vengeance on the entire sect. It did not matter whether or not the Mormons at [Haun's] mill had taken any part in the disturbance which had occurred [in Daviess County]; it was enough that they were Mormons. The Livingston men became thoroughly imbued with the same spirit, and were eager for the raid ... feel[ing] an extraordinary sympathy for the outrages suffered by their neighbors"[77]

Agitation against the Latter Day Saints had become particularly fierce in the sparsely settled counties north and east of Caldwell County. Mormon dissenters from Daviess County who had fled to Livingston County reportedly told Livingston County militia under Colonel Thomas Jennings that Mormons were gathering at Haun's Mill to raid into Livingston County.[76] One 19th century Missouri historian noted:

Haun's Mill Massacre

Meanwhile, exaggerated reports from the Battle of Crooked River made their way to Missouri's governor, Lilburn Boggs. Boggs held strong preconceptions against the Latter Day Saints, dating from the time when both he and they had lived in Jackson County, and the governor believed the reports. Although he had refrained from stopping the illegal anti-Mormon siege of De Witt, he now mustered 2,500 state militia to put down what he perceived to be a Mormon insurrection against the state. Possibly playing on Rigdon's July 4 sermon that talked of a "war of extermination," Boggs issued Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the "Extermination Order," which stated that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace..."[73] The Extermination Order was finally rescinded on June 25, 1976 by Governor Christopher Samuel "Kit" Bond.[74][75]

While the state militia gathered, Missourian vigilante parties continued to act on their own, driving Latter Day Saints inward to Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman.[72]

"The citizens of Daviess, Carroll, and some other normal counties have raised mob after mob for the last two months for the purpose of driving a group of fanatics, (called mormons) from those counties and from the State. These things have at length goaded the mormons into a state of desperation that has now made them the aggressors instead of acting on the defensive."[71]

News of the battle quickly spread and contributed to an all-out panic in northwestern Missouri. Exaggerated initial reports indicated that nearly all of Bogart's company had been killed.[70] Generals Atchison, Doniphon and Parks decided they needed to call out the militia to "prevent further violence." This is how it was explained in a letter to US Army Colonel R. B. Mason of Ft. Leavenworth:

Extermination Order

When the Mormons arrived on the scene, the state militia unit was camped along Crooked River in the Bunkham's Strip just south of Caldwell County. The Mormons divided into three columns led by David W. Patten, Charles C. Rich, and James Durphee. The Missourians had the advantage of position and fired, but the Mormons continued to advance. The state militia broke ranks and fled across the river. Although Mormons won the battle, they took heavier casualties than the Missourians. Of the Missourians, only one, Moses Rowland, was killed. On the Mormon side, Danite leader Gideon Carter was killed in the battle and nine other Mormons were wounded, including Patten, who soon after died from his wounds.[68] According to one Latter Day Saint witness, the deaths "threw a gloom over the whole place."[69]

Fearing attack, many citizens of Ray County moved their wives and children across the Missouri River for safety. A militia under the command of Samuel Bogart was authorized by General Atchison to patrol the no-man's land between Ray and Caldwell Counties known as "Bunkham's Strip" – an unincorporated territory 6 miles (9.7 km) east to west and 1-mile (1.6 km) north to south.[66] Instead of staying in the strip, Bogart passed into southern Caldwell County and began to harass Latter Day Saints, who were forcibly disarmed. Rumor reached Far West that a mob of vigilantes from Ray County had taken Mormons prisoner and an armed party was quickly assembled to rescue these prisoners and push the mob out of the county.[67]

Click the image for an enlarged map illustrating the Battle of Crooked River.

Battle of Crooked River

Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church, and fellow Apostle Orson Hyde were alarmed by the events of the Daviess County expedition. On October 19, 1838, the day after Gallatin was burned, Thomas B. Marsh and fellow apostle Orson Hyde left the association of the Church.[63] On October 24, they swore out affidavits concerning the burning and looting in Daviess County. They also reported the existence of the Danite group among the Mormons and repeated a popular rumor that a group of Danites was planning to attack and burn Richmond and Liberty.[64][65]

Marsh affidavit

Local citizens were outraged by the actions of the Danites and other Mormon bands. Several Mormon homes near Millport were burned and their inhabitants expelled into the snow. Agnes Smith, a sister-in-law of Joseph, was chased from her home with two small children when her home was burned. With one child in each arm, she waded across an icy creek to safety in Adam-ondi-Ahman. Nathan Tanner reported that his militia company rescued another woman and three small children who were hiding in the bushes as their home burned. Other Mormons, fearing similar retribution by the Missourians, gathered into Adam-ondi-Ahman for protection.[56]

Many Latter Day Saints were greatly troubled by the occurrences. Mormon leader John Corrill wrote, "the love of pillage grew upon them very fast, for they plundered every kind of property they could get a hold of."[60] Some Latter Day Saints claimed that some of the Missourians burned their own homes in order to blame the Mormons.[61] None of these claims, however, purport to be eye-witness accounts. Overwhelmingly, these claims are contradicted by the majority of both Missourian and Latter Day Saint testimony (which implicate the Mormons in the burnings) and also by the evidence of the looted property found in the possession of Latter Day Saints.[56] Even Mormon leader Parley P Pratt conceded that some burnings had been done by Mormons.[62] Based on the available evidence, LeSueur estimates that Mormons were responsible for the burning of fifty homes or shops and the displacement of one hundred non-Mormon families.[56]

When a Mormon band plundered and burned the Taylor home, one young Mormon, Benjamin F Johnson, argued his fellow vigilantes into leaving a horse for a pregnant Mrs Taylor and her children to ride to safety. Ironically, as a result of his kindness, he was the only Mormon who was positively identified to have participated in the home burnings. After several non-Mormons made statements to the authorities that Johnson had acted as a moderating influence on the Danites, he was allowed to escape rather than stand trial.[59]

Even Missourians who had been friendly to the Mormons were not spared. Jacob Stollings, a Gallatin merchant, was reported to have been generous in selling to Mormons on credit, but his store was plundered and burned with the rest. Judge Josiah Morin and Samuel McBrier, both considered friendly to the Mormons, both fled Daviess County after being threatened. McBrier's house was among those burned.[56]

The Missourians evicted from their homes were no better prepared than the Mormon refugees had been. After the stress of being expelled from Millport into the snow, Milford Donaho's wife gave birth prematurely, and the child was severely injured during the birth.[56]

During the days that followed, Latter Day Saint vigilantes under the direction and encouragement of Lyman Wight drove Missourians who lived in outlying farms from their homes, which were similarly plundered and burned.[57] According to one witness, "We could stand in our door and see houses burning every night for over two weeks... the Mormons completely gutted Daviess County. There was scarcely a Missourian's home left standing in the county. Nearly every one was burned."[58]

Having taken control of the Missourian settlements, the Mormons plundered the property and burned the stores and houses. The county seat, Gallatin, is reported to have been "completely gutted" – only one shoe store remained unscathed.[53][55] Millport, Grindstone Fork and the smaller Missourian settlement of Splawn's Ridge were also plundered and had some houses burned.[56]

On October 18, these Mormons began to act as vigilantes and marched under arms in three groups to the Missourian settlements of Gallatin, Millport and Grindstone Fork. The Missourians and their families, outnumbered by the Mormons, made their way to neighboring counties. [53] Colonel Hinkle and Mormons of the Caldwell County militia were joined by church leaders including Joseph Smith and also by elements of the

[54] Latter Day Saint refugees began to flee to [14] Meanwhile, a group of non-Mormons from Clinton, Platte, and other counties began to harass Mormons in Daviess County, burning outlying homes and plundering property.

General David R. Atchison wrote a letter to Governor Lilburn Boggs on October 16, 1838. He stated that General Parks reported to him that "a portion of the men from Carroll County, with one piece of artillery, are on their march for Daviess County, where it is thought the same lawless game is to be played over, and the Mormons to be driven from that county and probably from Caldwell County." Atchison said further, "I would respectfully suggest to your Excellency the propriety of a visit to the scene of excitement in person, or at all events, a strong proclamation" as the only way to restore peace and the rule of law.[50] Boggs, however, ignored this plea and continued to wait as events unravelled.[14]

Daviess County expedition

On the first night of the march out of Carroll County, two Mormon women died. One woman died of exposure, the other (a woman named Jenson) died in childbirth. Several children also became ill during the ordeal and died later.[48][49]

On October 11, Mormon leaders agreed to abandon the settlement and move to Caldwell County.

On October 9, A C Caldwell returned to De Witt to report that the Governor's response was that the "quarrel was between the Mormons and the mob" and that they should fight it out.[48]

The besieged town resorted to butchering whatever loose livestock wandered into town in order to avoid starvation while waiting for the militia or the Governor to come to their aid. General Parks arrived with the Ray County militia on October 6, but his order to disperse was ignored by the mob. When his own troops threatened to join the attackers, Parks was forced to withdraw to Daviess County in hopes that the Governor would come to mediate. Parks wrote his superior, General Atchison, that "a word from his Excellency would have more power to quell this affair than a regiment."[48][49]

On October 1, the mob burned the home and stables of Smith Humphrey.[43] The citizens of De Witt sent non-Mormon Henry Root to appeal to Judge King and General Parks for assistance. Later that day, the Carroll County forces sealed off the town.[48]

On September 20, 1838, about one hundred fifty armed men rode into De Witt and demanded that the Mormons leave within ten days. Hinkle and other Mormon leaders informed the men that they would fight. They also sent a request for assistance to Governor Boggs, noting that the mob had threatened "to exterminate them, without regard to age or sex."[48]

Some isolated Mormons in outlying areas also came under attack. In Livingston County, a group of armed men forced Asahel Lathrop from his home, where they held his ill wife and children prisoner. Lathrop wrote "I was compeled[sic] to leave my home my house was thronged with a company of armed men consisting of fourteen in number and they abusing my family in allmost[sic] every form that Creturs[sic] in the shape of human Beeings[sic] could invent."[46] After more than a week, a company of armed Mormons assisted Lathrop in rescuing his wife and two of his children (one had died while prisoner). Lathrop's wife and remaining children died shortly after their rescue.[47]

As tensions built in Daviess County, other counties began to respond to Carroll County's request for assistance in expelling the Mormons from their county. Citizens in Saline, Howard, Jackson, Chariton, Ray, and other nearby counties organized vigilance committees sympathetic to the Carroll County expulsion party.[14][45]

By what color of propriety a portion of the people of the State, can organize themselves into a body, independent of the civil power, and contravene the general laws of the land by preventing the free enjoyment of the right of citizenship to another portion of the people, we are at a loss to comprehend.[44]

Initial reaction by Missourians was mixed. While Mormons were viewed as deluded or worse, many Missourians agreed with the sentiment expressed in the Southern Advocate:

Sentiment among the anti-Mormon segment of Carroll County's population hardened, and some began to take up arms. On August 19, 1838, Mormon settler Smith Humphrey reports that 100 armed men led by Colonel William Claude Jones took him prisoner for two hours and threatened him and the rest of the Mormon community.[43]

On July 30, citizens of Carroll County met in Carrollton to discuss the Mormon colonization of De Witt. The question of whether or not Mormons should be allowed to settle in the county was placed on the August 6 ballot; a heavy majority favored expulsion of the Mormons. A committee sent to De Witt ordered the Latter Day Saints to leave. Hinkle and Murdock refused, citing their right as American citizens to settle where they pleased.[14][42]


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