Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter



On January 20, 1846, the High Council published the following instruction, and declaration of intention:-


"To the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and to all Whom it may concern; greeting.

"Beloved Brethren and Friends:- We the members of the High Council of the church, by the voice of all her authorities, have unitedly and unanimously agreed, and embrace this opportunity to inform you, that we intend to send out into the western country from this place, sometime in the early part of the month of March, a company of pioneers, consisting mostly of young, hardy men, with some families. These are destined to be furnished with an ample outfit, taking with them a printing press, farming utensils of all kinds, with mill irons and bolting cloths, seeds of all kinds, grain, etc.

"The object of this early move is to put in a spring crop, to build houses, and to prepare for the reception of families who will start so soon as grass shall be sufficiently grown to sustain teams and stock. Our pioneers are instructed to proceed west until they find a good place to make a crop, in some good valley in the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains, where they will infringe upon no one, and be not likely to be infringed upon. Here we will make a resting place, until we can determine a place for a permanent location. In the event of the President's recommendation to build blockhouses and stockade forts on the route to Oregon, becoming a law, we have encouragements of having that

(page 159)


work to do; and under our peculiar circumstances we can do it with less expense to the government than any other people.

"We also further declare for the satisfaction of some who have concluded that our grievances have alienated us from our country, that our patriotism has not been overcome by fire, by sword, by daylight, nor by midnight assassinations, which we have endured; neither have they alienated us from the institutions of our country. Should hostilities arise between the government of the United States and any other power, in relation to the right of possessing the Territory of Oregon, we are on hand to sustain the claim of the United States government to that country. It is geographically ours; and of right, no foreign power should hold dominion there; and if our services are required to prevent it, those services will be cheerfully rendered according to our ability. We feel the injuries that we have sustained, and are not insensible of the wrongs we have suffered; still we are Americans, and should our country be invaded, we hope to do, at least, as much as did the conscientious Quaker who took his passage on board a merchant ship and was attacked by pirates. The pirate boarded the merchantman, and one of the enemies' men fell into the water between the two vessels, but seized a rope that hung over and was pulling himself up on board the merchantman. The conscientious Quaker saw this, and though he did not like to fight, he took his jack-knife and quickly moved to the scene, saying to the pirate, 'If thee wants that piece of rope, I will help thee to it.' He cut the rope asunder, the pirate fell, and a watery grave was his resting place.

"Much of our property will be left in the hands of competent agents for sale at a low rate, for teams, for goods, and for cash. The funds arising from the sale of property will be applied to the removal of families from time to time as fast as consistent, and it now remains to be proven whether those of our families and friends who are necessarily left behind for a season to obtain an outfit, through the sale of property, shall be mobbed, burnt, and driven away by force. Does any American want the honor of doing

(page 160)


it? or will Americans suffer such acts to be done, and the disgrace of them to rest on their character under existing circumstances? If they will, let the world know it. But we do not believe they will.

"We agreed to leave the country for the sake of peace, upon the condition that no more vexatious prosecutions be instituted against us. In good faith have we labored to fulfill this engagement. Governor Ford has also done his duty to further our wishes in this respect. But there are some who are unwilling that we should have an existence anywhere. But our destinies are in the hands of God, and so also are theirs.

"We venture to say that our brethren have made no counterfeit money; and if any miller has received fifteen hundred dollars base coin in a week, from us, let him testify. If any land agent of the general government has received wagon loads of base coin from us in payment for lands, let him say so. Or if he has received any at all from us, let him tell it. Those witnesses against us have spun a long yarn, but if our brethren had never used an influence against them to break them up, and to cause them to leave our city, after having satisfied themselves that they were engaged in the very business of which they accuse us, their revenge might never have been roused to father upon us their own illegitimate and bogus productions.

"We have never tied a black strap around any person's neck, neither have we cut their bowels out, nor fed any to the 'catfish.' The systematic order of stealing of which these grave witnesses speak must certainly be original with them. Such a plan could never originate with any person, except some one who wished to fan the flames of death and destruction around us. The very dregs of malice and revenge are mingled in the statements of those witnesses alluded to by the Sangamon Journal. We should think every man of sense might see this; in fact, many editors do see it, and they have our thanks for speaking of it.

"We have now stated our feelings, our wishes, and our intentions, and by them we are willing to abide; and such editors as are willing that we should live and not die, and

(page 161)


have a being on the earth while heaven is pleased to lengthen out our days, are respectfully requested to publish this article. And men who wish to buy property very cheap to benefit themselves, and are willing to benefit us, are invited to call and look; and our prayer shall ever be that justice and judgment, mercy and truth, may be exalted, not only in our own land, but throughout the world, and the will of God be done on earth as it is done in heaven.

Done in council at the city of Nauvoo, on the twentieth day of January, 1846.













-Times and Seasons, vol. 6, pp. 1096, 1097

The Times and Seasons of February 1, 1846, stated editorially as follows:-

"All things are in preparation for a commencement of the great move of the saints out of the United States, (we had like to have said, beyond the power of Christianity,) but we will soften the expression by merely saying, and back to their 'primitive possessions,' as in the enjoyment of Israel. It is reduced to a solemn reality that the rights and property, as well as the lives and common religious belief of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, cannot be protected in the realms of the United States, and, of course, from one to two hundred thousand souls must quit their freedom among freemen, and go where the land, the elements, and the worship of God are free.

"About two thousand are ready and crossing the Mississippi to pioneer the way, and make arrangements for summer crops at some point between this and the 'Pacific.'

(page 162)


where the biggest crowd of good people will be the old settlers.

"To see such a large body of men, women, and children, compelled by the inefficiency of the law and potency of mobocracy to leave a great city in the month of February, for the sake of the enjoyment of pure religion, fills the soul with astonishment, and gives the world a sample of fidelity and faith brilliant as the sun and forcible as a tempest and as enduring as eternity.

"May God continue the spirit of fleeing from false freedom and false dignity, till every saint is removed to where he 'can sit under his own vine and fig tree' without having any to molest or make afraid. Let us go-let us go."-Ibid., p. 1114.

This indicates that preparation for an exodus was fast maturing, and also the number of adherents to the faith who were thus destined to be exiled.

With the issue of February 15, 1846, the Times and Seasons was discontinued.

Early in February, 1846, the first wagons crossed the Mississippi River, destined for the western exodus. They could not all go, however. Some must remain behind to dispose of property and to await a more propitious season for traveling. In fact, it was a concession for any to go in the winter, as the agreement with which all should have complied permitted them to remain until spring. But in the vain hope of appeasing the wrath of their enemies, and proving that their agreement would be carried out in good faith, some consented to leave in the most inclement season of the year and to subject themselves and families to cold and privations incident to moving over a storm-swept prairie. All through the spring and summer they continued to move, as fast as possible, sacrificing in almost every instance material interests into the hands of their covetous enemies.

Whether the "Mormons" could have avoided this dire calamity by a different course of procedure, is a question which does not belong to the historian to determine. Whatever may truthfully be said in regard to the improper

(page 163)


conduct of the Mormons at Nauvoo, there can be no justification for the inhuman and disgraceful conduct of their oppressors. Though not in sympathy with the policies of the fleeing host at the time, yet one can discern that if the "anti-Mormons" had been as desirous of peace and as honorable in their agreements as were the Mormons, much of suffering, sacrifice, and death might have been avoided.

Of these events Governor Ford writes:-

"During the winter of 1845-46 the Mormons made the most prodigious preparations for removal. All the houses in Nauvoo, and even the temple, were converted into workshops; and before spring, more than twelve thousand wagons were in readiness. The people from all parts of the country flocked to Nauvoo to purchase houses and farms, which were sold extremely low, lower than the prices at a sheriff's sale, for money, wagons, horses, oxen, cattle, and other articles of personal property, which might be needed by the Mormons in their exodus into the wilderness. By the middle of May it was estimated that sixteen thousand Mormons had crossed the Mississippi and taken up their line of march with their personal property, their wives and little ones, westward across the continent to Oregon or California; leaving behind them in Nauvoo a small remnant of a thousand souls, being those who were unable to sell their property, or who having no property to sell were unable to get away.

"The twelve apostles went first with about two thousand of their followers. Indictments had been found against nine of them in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Illinois, at its December term, 1845, for counterfeiting the current coin of the United States. The United States Marshal had applied to me for a militia force to arrest them; but in pursuance of the amnesty agreed on for old offenses, believing that the arrest of the accused would prevent the removal of the Mormons, and that if arrested there was not the least chance that any of them would ever be convicted, I declined the application unless regularly called upon by the President of the United States according to law. It was generally agreed that it would be impolitic to arrest the leaders and thus put an end to the preparations

(page 164)


for removal, when it was notorious that none of them could be convicted; for they always commanded evidence and witnesses enough to make a conviction impossible. But with a view to hasten their removal they were made to believe that the President would order the regular army to Nauvoo as soon as the navigation opened in the spring. This had its intended effect; the twelve, with about two thousand of their followers, immediately crossed the Mississippi before the breaking up of the ice. But before this the deputy marshal had sought to arrest the accused without success.

"Notwithstanding but few of the Mormons remained behind, after June, 1846, the anti-Mormons were no less anxious for their expulsion by force of arms; being another instance of a party not being satisfied with the attainment of its wishes unless brought about by themselves, and by measures of their own. It was feared that the Mormons might vote at the August election of that year; and that enough of them yet remained to control the elections in the county, and perhaps in the district for Congress. They, therefore, took measures to get up a new quarrel with the remaining Mormons. And for this purpose they attacked and severely whipped a party of eight or ten Mormons, which had been sent out into the country to harvest some wheat fields in the neighborhood of Pontoosuc, and who had provoked the wrath of the settlement by hallooing, yelling, and other arrogant behavior. Writs were sworn out in Nauvoo against the men of Pontoosuc, who were arrested and kept for several days under strict guard, until they gave bail. Then in their turn, they swore out writs for the arrest of the constable and posse who had made the first arrest, for false imprisonment. The Mormon posse were no doubt really afraid to be arrested, believing that instead of being tried they would be murdered. This made an excuse for the anti-Mormons to assemble a posse of several hundred men to assist in making the arrest; but the matter was finally adjusted without any one being taken. A committee of anti-Mormons was sent into Nauvoo, who reported that the Mormons were making every possible preparation for removal; and the leading Mormons on their part agreed that their

(page 165)


people should not vote at the next election."-History of Illinois, pp. 412-414.

Whether the "Mormons" did agree not to vote as set forth in the above by Governor Ford, or whether if they did so agree they violated their pledge, it is impossible to tell, there are so many conflicting reports. It is asserted that they did so agree, and then violated their pledge by voting solidly for the Democratic ticket. This so enraged the Whigs that their press again renewed the attack by pouring forth a volume of vituperation and abuse. Thus was the public mind aroused to such desperation that control was impossible.

On this point Governor Ford states:-

"This vote of the Mormons enraged the whigs anew against them; the probability that they might attempt to remain permanently in the country, and the certainty that many designing persons for selfish purposes were endeavoring to keep them there, revived all the excitement which had ever existed against that people. In pursuance of the advice and under the direction of Archibald Williams, a distinguished lawyer and whig politician of Quincy, writs were again sworn out for the arrest of persons in Nauvoo, on various charges. But to create a necessity for a great force to make the arrests, it was freely admitted by John Carlin, the constable sent in with the writs, that the prisoners would be murdered if arrested and carried out of the city. This John Carlin, under a promise to be elected recorder in the place of a Jack Mormon recorder to be driven away, was appointed a special constable to make the arrests. And now the individuals sought to be arrested were openly threatened to be murdered. The special constable went to Nauvoo with the writs in his hands, the accused declined to surrender. And now having failed to make the arrests, the constable began to call out the posse comitatus. This was about the 1st of September, 1846. The posse soon amounted to several hundred men. The Mormons in their turn swore out several writs for the arrest of leading anti-Mormons, and under pretense of desiring to execute them, called out a posse of Mormons. Here was

(page 166)


writ against writ; constable against constable; law against law, and posse against posse."-Ibid., pp. 414, 415.

To follow all the details of this controversy and conflict would be tedious and unprofitable. It will be sufficient to say that the agitation finally resulted in a battle between those clamoring for expulsion and the citizens of Nauvoo. Many of the latter were not Mormons but received the same treatment from the opposition, who were bent on robbing Nauvoo.

Of the events immediately preceding the fight, Governor Ford writes:-

"The posse continued to increase until it numbered about eight hundred men; and whilst it was getting ready to march into the city, it was represented to me by another committee, that the new citizens of Nauvoo were themselves divided into two parties, the one siding with the Mormons, the other with their enemies. The Mormons threatened the disaffected new citizens with death, if they did not join in the defense of the city. For this reason I sent over M. Brayman, Esq., a judicious citizen of Springfield, with suitable orders restraining all compulsion in forcing the citizens to join the Mormons against their will, and generally to inquire into and report all the circumstances of the quarrel.

"Soon after Mr. Brayman arrived there, he persuaded the leaders on each side into an adjustment of the quarrel. It was agreed that the Mormons should immediately surrender their arms to some person to be appointed to receive them, and to be redelivered when they left the State, and that they would remove from the State in two months. This treaty was agreed to by General Singleton, Colonel Chittenden and others, on the side of the anties, and by Major Parker and some leading Mormons on the other side. But when the treaty was submitted for ratification to the anti-Mormon forces, it was rejected by a small majority. General Singleton and Colonel Chittenden, with a proper self respect, immediately withdrew from command; they not being the first great men placed at the head of affairs at the beginning of violence, who have been hurled from their places before the popular frenzy had run its course. And

(page 167)


with them also great Archibald Williams, the prime mover of the enterprise, he not being the first man who has got up a popular commotion, and failed to govern it afterwards. Indeed, the whole history of revolutions and popular excitements leading to violence, is full of instances like these. Mr. Brayman, the same day of the rejection of the treaty, reported to me that nearly one half of the anti-Mormons would abandon the enterprise, and retire with their late commanders, 'leaving a set of hair-brained fools to be flogged or to disperse at their leisure.' It turned out, however, that the calculations of Mr. Brayman were not realized; for when Singleton and Chittenden retired, Thomas S. Brockman was put in command of the posse. This Brockman was a Campbellite preacher, nominally belonging to the democratic party. He was a large, awkward, uncouth, ignorant, semi-barbarian, ambitious of office, and bent upon acquiring notoriety. He had been county commissioner of Brown County, and in that capacity had let out a contract for building the courthouse, and it was afterwards ascertained had let the contract to himself. He managed to get paid in advance, and then built such an inferior building, that the county had not received it up to December, 1846. He had also been a collector of taxes, for which he was a defaulter, and his lands were sold whilst I was Governor, to pay a judgment obtained against him for moneys collected by him. To the bitterness of his religious prejudices against the Mormons, he added a hatred of their immoral practices, probably because they differed from his own. Such was the man who was now at the head of the anti-Mormons, who were about as numerous in camp as ever."-Ibid., pp. 416-418.

Bancroft in his "History of Utah" gives the following account of the struggle, its antecedents and consequences:-

"In short, from the 1st of May until the final evacuation of the city, the men of Illinois never ceased from strife and outrage. Of the latter I will mention only two instances: 'A man of near sixty years of age,' writes Major Warren in the letter just referred to, 'living about seven miles from this place, was taken from his house a few nights since,

(page 168)


stripped of his clothing, and his back cut to pieces with a whip, for no other reason than because he was a Mormon, and too old to make a successful resistance. Conduct of this kind would disgrace a horde of savages.' In August a party consisting of Phineas H. Young, his son Brigham, and three others who were found outside the City, were kidnapped by a mob, hurried into the thickets, passed from one gang to another-men from Nauvoo being in hot pursuit-and for a fortnight were kept almost without food or rest, and under constant threat of death.

"Fears are now entertained that, by reason of the popular feeling throughout the country, Nauvoo city will be again attacked; the Gentile citizens therefore ask Governor Ford for protection, whereupon Major Parker is sent to their relief. All through August troubles continue, the anti-Mormons almost coming to blows among themselves. Before the end of the month about six hundred men are assembled at Carthage, by order of Thomas [John] Carlin, a special constable, ostensibly to enforce the arrest of Pickett, but in reality to enforce the expulsion of the Mormons. Major Parker orders the constables posse to disperse, otherwise he threatens to treat them as a mob. The constable replies that if the major should attempt to molest them in discharge of their duty he will regard him and his command as a mob and so treat them. 'Now, fellow-citizens,' declares a committee selected from four counties, in a proclamation issued at Carthage, 'an issue is fairly raised. On the one hand, a large body of men have assembled at Carthage, under the command of a legal officer, to assist him in performing legal duties. They are not excited-they are cool, but determined at all hazards to execute the law in Nauvoo, which has always heretofore defied it. They are resolved to go to work systematically and with ample precaution, but under a full knowledge that on their good and orderly behavior their character is staked. On the other hand, in Nauvoo is a blustering Mormon mob, who have defied the law, and who are now organized for the purpose of arresting the arm of civil power. Judge ye which is in the right.'

(page 169)


"Intending, as it seems, to keep his word, Carlin places his men under command of Colonel Singleton, who at once throws off the mask, and on the 7th of September announces to Major Parker that the Mormons must go. On the same day a stipulation is made, granting to the saints sixty days extension of time, and signed by representatives on both sides. But to the terms of this stipulation the men of Illinois would not consent. They were sore disgusted, and rebelled against their leaders, causing Singleton, Parker, and others to abandon their commands, the posse being left in charge of Constable Carlin, who summoned to his aid one Thomas Brockman, a clergyman of Brown County, and for the occasion dubbed general. On the 10th of September the posse, now more than a thousand strong, with wagons, equipments, and every preparation for a campaign, approached Nauvoo and encamped at Hunter's farm.

"At this time there were in the city not more than a hundred and fifty Mormons, and about the same number of Gentiles, or, as they were termed, 'new citizens,' capable of bearing arms, the remainder of the population consisting of destitute women and children and of the sick. Many of the Gentiles had departed, fearing a general massacre, and those who remained could not be relied upon as combatants, for they were of course unwilling to risk their lives in a conflict which, if successful, would bring them no credit. Nothing daunted, the little band, under command of Colonels Daniel E. Wells and William Cutler, took up its position on the edge of a wood in the suburbs of Nauvoo, and less than a mile from the enemy's camp.

"Before hostilities commenced, a deputation from Quincy visited the camp of the assailants, and in vain attempted to dissuade them from their purpose. No sooner had they departed than fire was opened on the Mormons from a battery of six-pounders, but without effect. Here for the day matters rested. At sunrise the posse changed their position, intending to take the city by storm, but were held in check by Captain Anderson at the head of thirty-five men, termed by the saints the Spartan band. The enemy now fired some rounds of grape-shot, forcing the besieged

(page 170)


to retire out of range; and after some further cannonading, darkness put an end to the skirmish, the Mormons throwing up breastworks during the night.

"On the morning of the 12th the demand of unconditional surrender was promptly rejected; whereupon, at a given signal, several hundred men who had been stationed in ambush, on the west bank of the river, to cut off the retreat of the Mormons, appeared with red flags in their hands, thus portending massacre. The assailants now opened fire from all their batteries, and soon afterward advanced to the assault, slowly, and with the measured tramp of veterans, at their head being Constable Carlin and the Reverend Brockman, and unfurled above them-the stars and stripes. When within rifle range of the breastworks the posse wheeled toward the south, attempting to outflank the saints and gain possession of the temple square. But this movement had been anticipated, and posted in the woods to the north of the Mormon position lay the Spartan band. Leading on his men at double quick, Anderson suddenly confronted the enemy and opened a brisk fire from revolving rifles. The posse advanced no farther, but for an hour and a half held their ground bravely against the Spartan band, the expense of ammunition in proportion to casualties being greater than has yet been recorded in modern warfare. Then they retreated in excellent order to the camp. The losses of the Mormons were three killed and a few slightly wounded; the losses of the Gentiles are variously stated. Among those who fell were Captain Anderson and his son, a youth of sixteen, the former dying, as he had vowed that he would die, in defense of the holy sanctuary.

"The following day was the Sabbath, and hostilities were not renewed; but on that morning a train of wagons, dispatched by the posse for ammunition and supplies, entered the town of Quincy. It was now evident that, whether the men of Illinois intended massacre or forcible expulsion, it would cost them many lives to effect either purpose. With a view, therefore, to prevent further bloodshed, a committee of one hundred proceeded to Nauvoo and attempted mediation. At the same time the Reverend

(page 171)


Brockman sent in his ultimatum, the terms being that the Mormons surrender their arms, and immediately cross the river or disperse, and that all should be protected from violence. There was no alternative. The armed mob in their front was daily swelling in number, while beyond the river still appeared the red flag; their own ranks, meanwhile, were being rapidly thinned by defection among the new citizens.

"On the 17th of September the remnant of the Mormons crossed the Mississippi, and on the same day the Gentiles took possession of Nauvoo.

"It was indeed a singular spectacle, as I have said, this upon the western border of the world's great republic in the autumn of 1846. A whole cityful, with other settlements, and thousands of thrifty agriculturists in the regions about, citizens of the United States, driven beyond the border by other citizens: not by reason of their religion alone, though this was made a pretense; not for breaking the laws, though this was made a pretense; not on account of their immorality, for the people of Illinois and Missouri were not immaculate in this respect; nor was it altogether on account of their solid voting and growing political power, accompanied ever by the claim of general inheritance and universal dominion, though this last had more to do with it probably than all the rest combined, notwithstanding that the spirit of liberty and the laws of the republic permitted such massing of social and political influence, and notwithstanding the obvious certainty that any of the Gentile political parties now playing the role of persecutors would gladly and unscrupulously have availed themselves of such means for the accomplishment of their ends. It was all these combined, and so combined as to engender deadly hate. It gave the Mormons a power in proportion to their numbers not possessed by other sects or societies, which could not and would not endure it; a power regarded by the others as unfairly acquired, and by a way and through means not in accord with the American idea of individual equality, of equal rights and equal citizenship. In regard to all other sects within the republic, under guard of the Constitution, religion was

(page 172)


subordinated to politics and government; in regard to the Mormons, in spite of the Constitution, politics and government were subordinated to religion.

"And in regard to the late occupants of the place, the last of the Mormon host that now lay huddled to the number of six hundred and forty on the western bank of the river in sight of the city: if the first departures from Nauvoo escaped extreme hardships, not so these. It was the latter part of September, and nearly all were prostrated with chills and fevers; there at the river bank, among the dock and rushes, poorly protected, without the shelter of a roof or anything to keep off the force of wind or rain, little ones came into life and were left motherless at birth. They had not food enough to satisfy the cravings of the sick, nor clothing fit to wear. For months thereafter there were periods when all the flour they used was of the coarsest, the wheat being ground in coffee and hand mills, which only cut the grain; others used a pestle; the finer meal was used for bread, the coarser made into hominy. Boiled wheat was now the chief diet for sick and well. For ten days they subsisted on parched corn. Some mixed their remnant of grain with the pounded bark of the slippery elm which they stripped from the trees along their route."-Pages 226-233.

To close this chapter we here present the graphic description of the abandoned city, the fleeing exiles, and their despoilers, from the pen of Colonel Thomas Kane, as follows:-

"A few years ago, ascending the Upper Mississippi in the autumn when its waters were low, I was compelled to travel by land past the region of the Rapids. My road lay through the Half-Breed Tract, a fine section of Iowa, which the unsettled state of its land titles had appropriated as a sanctuary for coiners, horse thieves, and other outlaws. I had left my steamer at Keokuk, at the foot of the Lower Fall, to hire a carriage, and to contend for some fragments of a dirty meal with the swarming flies, the only scavengers of the locality. From this place to where the deep water of the river returns, my eye wearied to see everywhere sordid, vagabond

(page 173)


and idle settlers; and a country marred, without being improved, by their careless hands.

"I was descending the last hillside upon my journey, when a landscape in delightful contrast broke upon my view. Half encircled by a bend of the river, a beautiful city lay glittering in the fresh morning sun; its bright, new dwellings, set in cool, green gardens, ranging up around a stately dome shaped hill, which was crowned by a noble marble edifice, whose high, tapering spire was radiant with white and gold. The city appeared to cover several miles; and beyond it, in the background, there rolled off a fair country, chequered by the careful lines of fruitful husbandry. The unmistakable marks of industry, enterprise, and educated wealth everywhere, made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty.

"It was a natural impulse to visit this inviting region. I procured a skiff, and rowing across the river, landed at the chief wharf of the city. No one met me there. I looked, and saw no one. I could hear no one move; though the quiet everywhere was such that I heard the flies buzz, and the water ripples break against the shallow of the beach. I walked through the solitary streets. The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it; for plainly it had not slept long. There was no grass growing up in the paved ways; rains had not entirely washed away the prints of dusty footsteps.

"Yet I went about unchecked. I went into empty workshops, ropewalks, and smithies. The spinner's wheel was idle; the carpenter had gone from his workbench and shavings, his unfinished sash and casing; fresh bark was in the tanner's vat, and the fresh-chopped lightwood stood piled against the baker's oven. The blacksmith's shop was cold; but his coal heap, and ladling pool, and crooked water horn, were all there, as if he had just gone off for a holiday. No work people anywhere looked to know my errand. If I went into the gardens, clinking the wicket latch loudly after me, to pull the marigolds, heart's-ease, and ladyslippers, and draw a drink with the water-sodden well bucket and its

(page 174)


noisy chain; or, knocking off with my stick the tall heavy-headed dahlias and sunflowers, hunted over the beds for cucumbers and love apples, no one called out to me from any opened window, or dog sprang forward to bark and alarm. I could have supposed the people hidden in the houses, but the doors were unfastened; and when at last I timidly entered them, I found dead ashes white upon the hearths, and had to tread a-tiptoe, as if walking down the aisle of a country church, to avoid rousing irreverent echoes from the naked floors.

"On the outskirts of the town was the city graveyard; but there was no record of plague there, nor did it in any wise differ much from other Protestant American cemeteries. Some of the mounds were not long sodded; some of the stones were newly set, their dates recent, and their black inscriptions glossy in the mason's hardly dried lettering ink. Beyond the graveyard, out in the fields, I saw, in one spot hard by where the fruited boughs of a young orchard had been roughly torn down, the still smoldering remains of a barbecue fire, that had been constructed of rails from the fencing round it. It was the latest sign of life there. Fields upon fields of heavy headed yellow grain lay rotting ungathered upon the ground. No one was at hand to take in their rich harvest. As far as the eye could reach they stretched away, they sleeping too in the hazy air of autumn.

"Only two portions of the city seemed to suggest the import of this mysterious solitude. On the southern suburb, the houses looking out upon the country showed, by their splintered woodwork and walls battered to the foundation, that they had lately been the mark of a destructive cannonade. And in and around the splendid temple, which had been the chief object of my admiration, armed men were barracked, surrounded by their stacks of musketry and pieces of heavy ordnance. These challenged me to render an account of myself, and why I had had the temerity to cross the water without a written permit from a leader of their band.

"Though these men were generally more or less under

(page 175)


the influence of ardent spirits, after I had explained myself as a passing stranger, they seemed anxious to gain my good opinion. They told the story of the Dead City: that it had been a notable manufacturing and commercial mart, sheltering over twenty thousand persons; that they had waged war with its inhabitants for several years, and had been finally successful only a few days before my visit, in an action fought in front of the ruined suburb; after which they had driven them forth at the point of the sword. The defense, they said, had been obstinate, but gave way on the third day's bombardment. They boasted greatly of their prowess, especially in this battle, as they called it; but I discovered that they were not of one mind as to certain of the exploits that had distinguished it; one of which, as I remember, was, that they had slain a father and his son, a boy of fifteen, not long residents of the fated city, whom they admitted to have borne a character without reproach.

"They also conducted me inside the massive sculptured walls of the curious temple, in which they said the banished inhabitants were accustomed to celebrate the mystic rites of an unhallowed worship. They particularly pointed out to me certain features of the building, which, having been the peculiar objects of a former superstitious regard, they had, as matter of duty, sedulously defiled and defaced. The reputed sites of certain shrines they had thus particularly noticed; and various sheltered chambers, in one of which was a deep well, constructed, they believed, with a dreadful design. Beside these, they led me to see a large and deep chiseled marble vase or basin, supported upon twelve oxen, also of marble, and of the size of life, of which they told some romantic stories. They said the deluded persons, most of whom were emigrants from a great distance, believed their Deity countenanced their reception here of a baptism of regeneration, as proxies for whomsoever they held in warm affection in the countries from which they had come. That here parents 'went into the water' for their lost children, children for their parents, widows for their spouses, and young persons for their lovers; that thus the Great Vase came to be for them associated with all dear and

(page 176)


distant memories, and was therefore the object, of all others in the building, to which they attached the greatest degree of idolatrous affection. On this account, the victors had so diligently desecrated it, as to render the apartment in which it was contained too noisome to abide in.

"They permitted me also to ascend into the steeple, to see where it had been lightning struck on the Sabbath before; and to look out, east and south, on wasted farms like those I had seen near the city, extending till they were lost in the distance. Here, in the face of the pure day, close to the scar of the Divine wrath left by the thunderbolt, were fragments of food, cruses of liquor, and broken drinking vessels, with a brass drum and a steamboat signal bell, of which I afterwards learned the use with pain.

"It was after nightfall, when I was ready to cross the river on my return. The wind had freshened since the sunset, and the water beating roughly into my little boat, I hedged higher up the stream than the point I had left in the morning, and landed where a faint glimmering light invited me to steer.

"Here, among the dock and rushes, sheltered only by the darkness, without roof between them and sky, I came upon a crowd of several hundred human creatures, whom my movements roused from uneasy slumber upon the ground.

"Passing these on my way to the light, I found it came from a tallow candle in a paper funnel shade, such as is used by street venders of apples and peanuts, and which, flaming and guttering away in the bleak air off the water, shone flickeringly on the emaciated features of a man in the last stage of a billious [bilious] remittent fever. They had done their best for him. Over his head was something like a tent, made of a sheet or two, and he rested on a but partially ripped open old straw mattress, with a hair sofa cushion under his head for a pillow. His gaping jaw and glazing eye told how short a time he would monopolize these luxuries; though a seemingly bewildered and excited person, who might have been his wife, seemed to find hope in occasionally forcing him to swallow awkwardly sips of the tepid river water, from a burned and battered bitter smelling tin

(page 177)


coffee pot. Those who knew better had furnished the apothecary he needed; a toothless old bald-head, whose manner had the repulsive dullness of a man familiar with death scenes. He, so long as I remained, mumbled in his patient's ear a monotonous and melancholy prayer, between the pauses of which I heard the hiccough and sobbing of two little girls, who were sitting upon a piece of driftwood outside.

"Dreadful, indeed, was the suffering of these forsaken beings; bowed and cramped by cold and sunburn, alternating as each weary day and night dragged on, they were, almost all of them, the crippled victims of disease. They were there because they had no homes, nor hospital, nor poorhouse, nor friends to offer them any. They could not satisfy the feeble cravings of their sick: they had not bread to quiet the fractious hunger-cries of their children. Mothers and babes, daughters, and grandparents all of them alike, were bivouacked in tatters, wanting even covering to comfort those whom the sick shiver of fever was searching to the marrow.

"These were Mormons, in Lee County, Iowa, in the fourth week of the month of September, in the year of our Lord 1846. The city-it was Nauvoo, Illinois. The Mormons were the owners of that city and the smiling country around. And those who had stopped their plows, who had silenced their hammers, their axes, their shuttles, and their workshop wheels; those who had put out their fires, who had eaten their food, spoiled their orchards, and trampled under foot their thousands of acres of unharvested bread; these were the keepers of their dwellings, the carousers in their temple, whose drunken riot insulted the ears of the dying.

"I think it was as I turned from the wretched nightwatch of which I have spoken, that I first listened to the sounds of revel of a party of the guard within the city. Above the distant hum of the voices of many, occasionally rose distinct the loud oath-tainted exclamation, and the falsely intonated scrap of vulgar song; but lest this requiem should go unheeded, every now and then, when their boisterous orgies

(page 178)


strove to attain a sort of ecstatic climax, a cruel spirit of insulting frolic carried some of them up into the high belfry of the temple steeple, and there, with the wicked childishness of inebriates, they whooped, and shrieked, and beat the drum that I had seen, and rang in charivaric unison their loud-tongued steamboat bell.

"They were, all told, not more than six hundred and forty persons who were thus lying on the river flats. But the Mormons in Nauvoo and its dependencies had been numbered the year before at over twenty thousand. Where were they? They had last been seen, carrying in mournful train their sick and wounded, halt and blind, to disappear behind the western horizon, pursuing the phantom of another home. Hardly anything else was known of them: and people asked with curiosity, 'What had been their fate-what their fortunes?'"- Smucker's History of the Mormons, pp. 217-223.

We will not follow the exodus of this people to the West, where their history is well known. The treatment they had received in the United States was of that character which would impel them to a desire to plunge into the desert beyond the confines of civilization, and leave them in a condition to be easily duped by designing men who would lead them away from oppression and hostile foes, and deceive them if they chose to do so.

(page 179)

Previous chapter Previous chapter Table of Contents Table of Contents Next chapter Next chapter