Ep 206 – I’d’ve Gone West and Raised A Mightier People

On this episode, the chaos following the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor continues to escalate. Joseph Smith calls together a military parade as a show of force to any enemies in the city where he gives his final public speech as first Prophet of Mormonism. Jo’s cronies are active in collecting affidavits concerning the movements of the Illinois militias near Mormon settlements. Whether or not they’re true is hard to tell but daily extras flowing from the antagonistic Warsaw Signal give some credence to some of the allegations. Governor Thomas Ford eventually makes his way to Carthage to figure out just what was going on. We spend a bit of time discussing the conflict from Governor Ford’s History of Illinois and use that to consider the many conflicting interests involved in the coming Illinois-Mormon War.


Last Public Address of Lieutenant General Joseph Smith

History of Illinois by Governor Thomas Ford

Warsaw Signal archive

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The Nauvoo Expositor had been destroyed and the city was in turmoil. Joseph Smith had intel from all over the state that various groups were forming mobs to descend upon the Mormon settlements. These mobs sought peaceful resolution to the Mormon leadership’s flagrant abuse of their own legal system but tensions were high and any unexpected spark could set off the powder-keg.

Our timeline currently rests on the morning of June 18th, 1844. Joseph and Hyrum would be dead in barely a week’s time but they were implementing every tool at their disposal to extricate themselves from their past transgressions. Jo had nearly declared martial law. He had credible threats that the printers of the Expositor were planning on destroying the Mormon press of the Nauvoo Neighbor and a nightguard watch was set around the Neighbor, at the wharf where folks would disembark from the Mississippi where ferries were also tightly monitored by Jo’s shadow force, the Danites. Jo also staked out a platoon of his personal bodyguards to watch over his home in the night. Mortal threats were a reality and Jo was flexing his Nauvoo Legion muscles to exhibit for his enemies that he was well-protected.

On the morning of the 18th, Jo called on Major-General Jonathan Dunham, a Danite, to gather the first cohort of the Legion in front of Jo’s house that morning for a military parade. Parade is too happy of a word for what actually happened, this was actually intimidation. If Jo could walk the streets of Nauvoo peacefully surrounded by his Legionnaires it creates a sense of shock and awe for any of his enemies watching him so daringly walking around the city in broad daylight.

Just like every good military leader, Jonathan Dunham gathered the first cohort at 9 A.M.! in front of Jo’s house. Any of our military or former military listeners, question for you. Is that how military operations usually run? Everybody has a good meal of pork and beans, bread, coffee, milks the family cow, feeds the horses, maybe talks to their kids about schoolwork before mustering for military duty at 9 A.M.? That’s how it goes, right? So they got together in front of Jo’s house. He’d been up really late the previous night sending out orders, receiving and sending letters, intercepting letters meant for his enemies, and he got a late start on the morning. However, some good news awaited Jo upon waking.

I was informed that there were several boxes of arms landed at the upper stone house, which were secured by the marshal. Soon after, it was discovered that the arms (40 stand) had been sent by H. G. Sherwood and the marshal bought them for the city.

What is a stand of arms? A stand is a complete set good enough for one soldier which includes, the rifle, bayonet, powder horn, ball pouch, and leather carrying strap; this shipment procured by Henry Sherwood was good enough to fit out 40 Legionnaires with a weapon and necessary equipment. We often overlook the logistics of running a militia in these days but a militia without enough weapons isn’t good for much. The equipment of the Nauvoo Legion was largely a patchwork of whatever each soldier could acquire for themselves as the Legion itself simply didn’t have many arms to issue. Guns were a precious commodity and to have 40 show up in the morning was good news for the prophet.

There was a lot of growing pressure in the state of Illinois. Every letter Jo received described dire straits and confusion from the Mormon settlements. Those who were threatened the most were furthest disconnected from Nauvoo, particularly Uncle John in Macedonia and Isaac Morley in Yelrom. Both those cities were intersected by the anti-Mormon settlements of Carthage and Warsaw, cutting them off from the main contingent of the Nauvoo Legion in the city. News of Jo’s release from his sham Municipal court hearing from the previous day was beginning to set ablaze the anti-Mormons. They wanted justice and the hearing Jo had a week ago wasn’t it. This second hearing which discharged the prisoners on riot, we discussed it last week, would be sure to excite their vigilante proclivities.

A man named Truman Gillett, he’s made a couple appearances on the show before but nothing really consequential, had just arrived this morning in Nauvoo from a Mississippi steamer. Along with dozens of others at this time he made an affidavit of intel he’d received while on the steamer. He told his story to White-out Willard Richards acting as recorder for the city. There’s a lot to discuss, which we’ll do after reading the affidavit but by way of introduction, Truman apparently witnessed a conversation between two men on the steamer who were colluding with William Law to kidnap and kill Joseph Smith.

while passing up the Ohio river on steamboat Massachusetts, deponent overheard two men, one a resident of Missouri and the other of Ohio, as reported, conversing together concerning incidents on the Upper Mississippi, when one said to the other—“If [William] Law could have succeeded in getting an introduction for us to Jo Smith, damn him, we would have gagged him and nabbed him, and damn him, all hell could not have rescued him from our hands.

The next morning deponent got in conversation with the man before mentioned from Missouri who stated that he had been on the Upper Mississippi on business, that he stopped at Nauvoo on his way down with some twelve or fourteen other men, who laid a plan to kidnap Jo Smith, that some of the company queried about getting access to him, but one of them said he knew they could if he could find Wm. Law. They called on William Law in the evening to get an introduction to their great Prophet, and Law went with them to the gate where they were stopped by the police, “and it was well for him that we did not succeed in getting an introduction to him.”

Deponent said “Did William Law know your business?” and he said “Yes!” Deponent asked “What have you against Joseph Smith?—did he ever injure you?” The man replied “No, but he has others.” “Did you ever see him?” “Yes, I was one who helped to run the Mormons from Missouri,” and related many circumstances concerning the Missouri mob.

Deponent said to the man he was acquainted with William Law, considered he was an honorable man, and was led to doubt his being engaged with them in a conspiracy against Joseph Smith; he replied, “God damn you it is true whether you believe it or not,” and repeatedly affirmed it. Deponent did not believe the statements of the man from Missouri as mentioned above, until after hearing the recent developments before the city council.


Who these men were that were colluding with William Law, we’ll never know. When they planned to put their plan into effect, we’ll never know. Whether the conversation with the two men was completely fabricated and we can slap the label of “fake news” on the whole affidavit, we’ll never know. That’s the trouble with all the affidavits collected in Nauvoo during these middle two weeks of June 1844. It’s affidavits like this, most-likely spawning from mere rumors in the first place, which just heightened the excitement of the situation. While we can’t determine how accurate the affidavit is with historical hindsight, what we do know is that the decisions made following affidavits like this were heavily influenced by said affidavits.

Reacting to the intel he’d received the previous evening and all these affidavits, and probably wanting to flex a little bit more, Jo made a crucial mistake around noon on this day. Here it is

To the Marshal or the City of Nauvoo:

From the newspapers around us, and the current reports as brought in from the surrounding country, I have good reason to fear that a mob is organizing to come upon this city, and plunder and destroy said city, as well as murder the citizens; and by virtue of the authority vested in me as mayor, and to preserve the city and lives of the citizens, I do hereby declare the said city,… under martial law. The officers, therefore, of the Nauvoo Legion, the police, as well as all others will strictly see that no persons or property pass in or out of the city without due orders.


Now, Nauvoo was officially under a declaration of martial law by the highest-ranking commanding officer of the legion who also happened to be the mayor of the city and the sole authority religious leader of the near-total majority Mormon city. Here represents the greatest underlying issue people had with Joseph Smith and his religious movement. He was in total control of all three pillars of societal organizations, military, government, and religious. He was the top of these three pillars and the fourth pillar of societal organizations, the press, had just been forcefully subjugated to his power with the destruction of the Expositor printing press. Beyond that, when a military leader declares martial law, it opens up a wide range of powers not otherwise enjoyed by the government. It allows the military to infringe on constitutional rights by quartering soldiers, limiting movement, instating curfews, directing factories for wartime production, and drafting soldiers from citizens among other things. It also opens up emergency funding. But, because it’s such a broad power, it’s very rarely used because non-combatants lose their minds under martial law. Rights aren’t rights if the government can take them away at a moment’s notice. They’re temporary privileges and Jo took those privileges away in response to his own act of fascism and the ensuing chaos. This would prove to be a massive mistake as the people, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, groaned under the increased powers granted by the declaration of martial law in the city.

In accordance with this new declaration, Jo held his parade in full battle regalia that same afternoon. The number of Legionnaires who filled the streets for this parade is unknown but suspected to be a few hundred with the first cohort under the command of acting brigadier-general Piggy-bank Stephen Markham, and the second cohort under Colonel Hosea Stout, acting under the direction of major-general Jonathan Dunham. They mustered their powder and ball in full uniform and gathered on the street in front of the Nauvoo Mansion, where Joseph Smith “stood in full uniform on the top of the frame of a building.” Here, Joseph made his final public speech as first prophet of the Mormons. Yes, I mean it, his FINAL public speech. There’s so much to tease out of this speech. It lasted about an hour and a half and a synopsis was recorded by Joseph G. Hovey, William G. Sterret, Robert Campbell, George A. Smith, and a few others who remembered what was said after the event. We have to take what’s recorded with a grain of salt as it was recorded initially by Robert Campbell, and was supplemented at a later time by statements from these other men. Regardless of the source for it, the speech does a fantastic review of everything that’s happened the last few weeks on the podcast. Let’s dig in.

It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction; but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the gospel. The opposition of these men is moved by the spirit of the adversary of all righteousness; it is not only to destroy me, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach to this generation.

We have never violated the laws of our country; we have every right to live under their protection, and are entitled to all the privileges guaranteed by our State and national Constitutions. We have turned the barren bleak prairies and swamps of this State into beautiful towns, farms and cities by our industry; and the men who seek our destruction and cry thief, treason, riot, &c., are those who themselves violate the laws, steal and plunder from their neighbors, and seek to destroy the innocent, heralding forth lies to screen themselves from the just punishment of their crimes by bringing destruction upon this innocent people. I call God, angels and all men to witness that we are innocent of the charges which are heralded forth through the public prints against us by our enemies; and while they assemble together in unlawful mobs to take away our rights and destroy our lives, they think to shield themselves under the refuge of lies which they have thus wickedly fabricated.

We have forwarded a particular account of all our doings to the governor; we are ready to obey his commands, and we expect that protection at his hands which we know to be our just die.

We have taken the counsel of Judge Thomas, and have been tried before a civil magistrate on the charge of riot; not that the law required it, but because the judge advised it as a precautionary measure to allay all possible pretext for excitement; we were legally acquitted by Esq. Wells who is a good judge of law. Had we been before the circuit, the supreme, or any other court of law in the State or nation, we should have been acquitted, for we have broken no law.

Constable Bettisworth comes here with a writ requiring us to go before Mr. Morrison, “or some other justice of the peace of the county,” to answer to the charge of riot; we acknowledged ourselves his prisoners, and were ready to go before any magistrate in any precinct in this part of the county, or anywhere else where our lives could be protected form the mob, who have published the resolutions for our extermination, which you have just heard read. This is a privilege the law guarantees to us, and which the writ itself allows. He breaks the law, and refuses us this privilege, declaring that we shall go before Morrison in Carthage, and no one else, when he knew that a numerous mob was collecting there, who are publicly pledged to destroy our lives.

It was under these circumstances that we availed ourselves of the legal right of the ancient, high and constitutional privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and were brought before the municipal court of this city, and discharged from the illegal detention under which we were held by Constable Bettisworth. All mob-men, priests, thieves and bogus makers, apostates and adulterers, who combine to destroy this people now raise the hue and cry throughout the State that we resist the law, in order to raise a pretext for calling together thousands more of infuriated mob-men to murder, destroy, plunder and ravish the innocent.

We are American citizens; we live upon a soil for the liberties of which our fathers periled their lives, and spilt their blood upon the battlefield; those rights so dearly purchased shall not be disgracefully trodden under foot by lawless marauders, without at least a noble effort on our part to sustain our liberties.

Will you all stand by me to the death, and sustain at the peril of your lives the laws of our country, and the liberties and privileges which our fathers have transmitted unto us, sealed with their sacred blood? ([“]Aye,[“] shouted thousands.) He then said “it is well, if you had not done it I would have gone out there (pointing to the west) and would have raised up a mightier people.[“]

I call upon all men, from Maine to the Rocky Mountains, and from Mexico to British America, whose hearts thrill with horror to behold the rights of freemen trampled under foot, to come to the deliverance of this people from the cruel hand of oppression, cruelty, anarchy, and misrule, to which they have been long made subject. Come all ye lovers of liberty, break the oppressor’s rod, loose the iron grasp of mobocracy, and bring to condign punishment all those who trample under foot the principles of our glorious Constitution and the people’s rights. (Drawing his sword and presenting it to heaven he said)—I call God and angels to witness, that I have unsheathed my sword with a firm and unalterable determination that this people shall have their legal rights, and be protected from mob violence, or my blood shall be spilt upon the ground like water, and my body consigned to the silent tomb. While I live I will never tamely submit to the dominion of cursed mobocracy; I would welcome death rather than submit to this oppression, and it would be sweet—oh, sweet to rest in the grave rather than submit to this oppression, agitation, annoyance, confusion, and alarm upon alarm any longer.

I call upon all friends of truth and liberty to come to our assistance; and may the thunders of the Almighty and the forked lightnings of heaven and pestilence, and war and bloodshed, come down on those ungodly men who seek to destroy my life and the lives of this innocent people.

I do not regard my own life; I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people, for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch; Do not seek to save your lives; for he that is afraid to die for the truth will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected, and become like Gods and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions, while this cursed mob will sink to hell, the portion of all those who shed innocent blood.

God has tried you; you are a good people, therefore I love you with all my heart; greater love hath no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends. You have stood by me in the hour of trouble, and I am willing to sacrifice my life for your preservation.

May the Lord God of Israel bless you for ever and ever, I say it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and in the authority of the holy priesthood which he hath conferred upon me.

That was Jo’s final public sermon before his death. He did it to a crowd of hundreds or thousands, in full battle regalia, standing atop a building under construction to carry his voice further, given to the first 2 cohorts of the Nauvoo Legion. There’s a very famous portrait of Joseph Smith standing on scaffolding with the Nauvoo Mansion and the Nauvoo Temple in the background with crowds of people listening to him while his sword is raised to the sky and Hyrum and presumably a red-coat William Clayton standing behind him. Some of you have probably seen it. That portrait depicts Jo’s last public speech we just read and it was painted in 1888 by a guy named John Hafen. This is one of those few times where we can actually visualize history and I encourage you to do so by clicking the link to the painting in the show notes.

After this grand speech, Jo took his militia and “with my staff rode in front of the Legion, marched up Main Street, and returned to our former parade ground.” This was no benign military parade, this was a show of force. This was done to effectively intimidate any enemies of the prophet as he rode around the city, surrounded by hundreds or possibly even a thousand or two of his uniformed soldiers who were all willing to give their life in exchange for the prophet’s safety. But to consider the broader context of what he’d done in his court system the past week, all the letters he’d sent, all the threats he’d received, in some ways an enemy watching this parade must have felt defeated. Look, we know what happens in a week, but nobody watching this parade did. If a person is sitting back and considering the tactics of the Mormon vs. anti-Mormon battlefield before us, Jo had won. He got his court to throw out the charges against him, he’d defied arrest warrants with impunity, even if the state militia invaded Nauvoo he was surrounded by thousands of men who owed fealty to only him, not to their family or country, but their cult leader. He must have seemed untouchable.

But that was merely the outward appearance he put on as this show of force. What was really going through his mind was a complex game of defensive plays to keep him, his family, and his legacy secure. Upon the dismissal of the Legion, Jo retired to his home to exchange more letters and review affidavits being collected about the movements of the anti-Mormons surrounding Nauvoo. An ever-present question remained in Jo’s mind, how quickly could Talos be mobilized. Talos is our metaphorical war machine being constructed in sheds and dark alleys of the city of Nauvoo. The leadership spent the last 5 years collecting armor, machinery, weapons, and the energy source for this war machine. Each Mormon convert thickened the armor. Each new factory equipped Talos with stronger machinery. Each new conscript to the Nauvoo Legion added killing power to the weapon system. Each proclamation of persecution from the stand fueled Talos with a deeper energy source. Years of construction and preparation had been devoted to this Mormon revolutionary war machine, set to blaze a path into the great unknown west where it could become stronger and better-equipped for as complete and total warpath straight to Washington. For Joseph Smith, the fact that he was so heavily considering dragging the Talos prototype out of Nauvoo and take it West before it was ready seemed like an only option. The Rocky Mountains would provide enough cover for Talos to gather strength and the Great Basin was clearly on Jo’s mind. His vehicle of choice was his Mormon war machine but was it ready? The contents of his letters reveal to me that he thought it wasn’t yet time, but the time was nearing.

H.T. Hugins, Esq.:

Sir:--I… feel grateful for your favors… The enemy, or mob, is prowling in the southern and eastern part of the county, and threatening us with extermination; and we ask the friends of peace and good government everywhere to use their influence in suppressing the spirit of mobocracy, and sustain us in our righteous course. So far as you can conscientiously speak in our behalf, and lend your influence in our favor for the public good, your favors will be highly appreciated. Please show this to Dr. Hicko[c]k and such confidential friends as you think proper. The bearer, Dr. Wakefield, will give you all particulars.

In haste, I remain, your friend, respectfully, JOSEPH SMITH.

When Jo finished writing this letter, “messengers arrived from Carthage, and report that the mob had received intelligence from the governor,”. This was big news. Both the Mormons and the anti-Mormons were awaiting communication from Governor Thomas Ford to determine how to act and whose side he would take. Ford was a smart guy and we’ll see his intellect play further into the coming week of Nauvoo history, but both sides wanted his blessing to do whatever they needed to the other side. Jo wanted Governor Ford to recognize what was happening as religious persecution and baseless. The anti-Mormons wanted Governor Ford to recognize the outrages committed by the Mormons and that burning the Expositor printing press was the final straw. Whoever Ford sided with would win the day and everybody’s decisions hinged on communication from Governor Ford. Also worth pointing out, both sides were asking Governor Ford to attend to the matters personally instead of sending representatives. If we remember back to the Missouri-Mormon war of 1838, this was the primary complaint the Mormons and anti-Mormons there had with Governor Lilburn Boggs; the dude never left his office and just took meetings, wrote letters, and sent representatives. His personal presence would have given the weight of the government to whichever side he chose. Boggs’ refusal to appear in person exacerbated the problems and Jo was determined to not have that same mistake again made. I would assume that Governor Ford also learned from Governor Boggs’ mistakes and this issue took precedence over everything else going on in his life at the time.

There was a problem though, information traveled at the speed of a horse. Governor Ford was only receiving the first letters and meetings with folks from Nauvoo and Carthage about the situation and he wasn’t up to speed on what was going on in the cities at the time. He hadn’t yet received Jo’s letters about the Nauvoo municipal hearings which discharged him on the charges of riot. He’d yet to receive the latest resolution passed by the anti-Mormons in Carthage for their meeting on the 14th of June which called for a war of extermination against the Mormons. All he knew by the 18th was that the Mormons had burned down a printing press. However, upon receiving these meetings and letters Governor Ford resolved to immediately travel to the area himself and likely began his roughly 5-day journey on the 19th or 20th.

But, because Governor Ford wasn’t yet there, rumors circulated about who he would side with upon his arrival. Accordingly, “the mob damned the governor as being as bad as “Jo Smith”. The [anti-Mormons] did not care for him, and they were just as willing he would not help them, as if he would.” Also, two guys named Cyrus Canfield and Gilbert Belknap made an affidavit about what they witnessed the prior day in Carthage.

[Affiants] say, that on yesterday, June 17th, 1844, at Carthage, certain persons, to-wit, Dr._____ Barnes and Joseph H. Jackson, having entered into conversation with your deponents, among other things, declared that the governor of Illinois was as big a scoundrel as Joseph Smith, and that he is the d---dest scoundrel that was ever suffered to live—that they did not care for the governor, and had rather that the governor would side with Smith—that they (the mob) were coming to Nauvoo with a sufficient force to take Smith, and if the people endeavored to prevent them, they should kill the people; and that if Smith had left Nauvoo, they had determined to destroy the mansion and other buildings.

Affidavits like this fill the pages of the History of the Church. Did this actually happen? Did these men actually witness Barnes and Jackson talking about killing all the Mormons and burning down the city? What they claim in the affidavit after what I just read is even more speculative and fascinating to me.

your deponents further say that one John Eller declared that heh had lived in Missouri and was at the massacre of the Mormons at Haun’s Mill; that he had killed one Mormon, and that he had left Missouri on purpose to fight the Mormons, and would hunt a Mormon as he would a deer.

Did these men actually witness a person boasting about killing a Mormon at Haun’s Mill? Was he actually a Missourian who fought in the Missouri-Mormon war or was he just the town drunkard talking a big game like usual? But, the affidavit didn’t stop there.

your deponents further say that they heard that about one hundred persons had already arrived from Missouri, and were expecting a many more from that State. And your deponents further say, that they heard in Carthage that they had already received a number of guns and ammunition, and provisions from St. Louis, in order to prosecute their attack upon Nauvoo;

No only was this guy talking about killing a Mormon during the Haun’s Mill massacre, but there were as many as a hundred other men who’d arrived in Carthage from Missouri with provisions for war against the Mormons in Nauvoo. True or not, it had weight and many other affidavits like this fill page after page of the History of the Church. Another affidavit by Carlos W. Lyon claimed “while at St. Louis, [Missouri] it was a common topic that they were furnishing arms and ammunition to be sent by steamboat to Warsaw, Illinois, and said if the people of Warsaw need five hundred men to give notice… and… also saw a cannon landed from the steamer Mermaid at Warsaw,”. Multiple affidavits from Allen T. Wait, Solomon Hancock, William Garner, John G. Lofton, Isaac Morley, Gardner Snow, Edmund Durfee all claim that the vicious anti-Mormon Levi Williams was running around with a posse and seizing arms from the Mormons, forcing them to either fight with him or fight against him alongside their prophet. They claim that this evil Levi Williams said “[he] would take Smith by law if they could, or if the Governor would not grant a writ to take him, they would take him anyhow; he also said that if the people would not give Smith up, they would lay the whole city of Nauvoo in ashes.” They further claimed that Levi Williams had absolutely no regard for the law and that “they intended to proceed against the Mormons, whether they got any authority from the Governor or not.”

Another affidavit about Colonel Levi Williams, that Colonel of the Illinois militia, definitely NOT the Nauvoo Legion, Levi Williams was one of the 5 people put on trial for murdering Joseph and Hyrum, he was not a friend of the Mormons. But another affidavit detailed exactly what Levi Williams would do to ensure compliance with his evil anti-Mormon campaign to kill the prophet.

According to this affidavit, given by Anson Call, David Evans, and William E. Horner, Colonel Levi Williams wanted to tar and feather the circuit judge for not issuing a new arrest warrant for Jo after the first one had failed to bring him to Carthage. Further, Jo received intel from somebody about a troubling development incited by the enemy, Colonel Levi Williams, who was displeased that a Captain Loveland of the Illinois State militia wouldn’t participate in the Mormon arresting posse.

On Sunday the 16th a committee of the mob,… went to the house of Captain Chester Loveland, who lives four miles southeast of Warsaw, and required him to call out his company to join the posse of David Bettisworth [(the first constable who’d arrested Jo a week ago)] to go to Nauvoo and arrest me and the city council; he peremptorily refused to comply with their request; the same posse returned on the 17th with an order as they stated from the governor, which Loveland believed (and no doubt correctly) to be a forgery, and therefore still refused to go on any terms; the posse then reported his refusal to Colonel [Levi] Williams, who appointed a committee of twelve to lynch, tar and feather Captain Loveland on the 18th, which committee went that evening and arrived about midnight.

Loveland, who had been informed of Williams’s order, prepared himself for defense and kept watch; as soon as they came, and he saw their number, and that they were provided with tar bucket, bag of feathers and a bundle of withes, in addition to their fire-arms, he blew out his light and placed himself in a suitable position to defend the door (which he had fastened) and the window. They went round his house several times, tried his door, rapped, called him by name, and consulted together; some were for breaking the door, others thought it too dangerous; they knew he must be in there, for they were near his door when the light was blown out. Finally their courage failed; and notifying him to leave the country immediately, they took their departure. During this trying time Loveland did not speak.

Basically, Captain Loveland refused to join Colonel Levi Williams in arresting the prophet and the posse returned with an explicit order from Governor Thomas Ford telling Loveland to comply; Loveland presumed it was a forgery. He still refused and they nearly tarred and feathered him then lynched him for not calling his platoon and joining the arresting posse in their invasion of Nauvoo to arrest Jo. Understandably, Colonel Levi Williams hated Joseph Smith and wanted the prophet to answer for his crimes, but would he go to the lengths of threatening a fellow member of the Illinois militia with death for not helping him? It seems to strain credulity, but that’s a theme throughout many of these affidavits. Can we trust any of them? Can we believe the contents of any of these affidavits to be true?

If we turn over to the Warsaw Signal, printed by one of the founding fathers of the anti-Mormon political movement, Thomas Coke Sharp, we can see substantiation for some of these claims made in these affidavits. Notably, one of the resolutions of one of their many meetings stated: “The citizens of this county are ordered to assemble at their various places of rendezvous, on Wednesday Next, by the Officer, from whom Smith was rescued [that’s Colonel Levi Williams] and there to receive general orders to co-operate as a posse to aid in arresting Smith.” In addition to this order to comply with Colonel Levi Williams, Thomas Sharp also added to the same edition of the Warsaw Signal this fascinating detail which complicated matters but also adds weight to the affidavits made in Nauvoo stating the anti-Mormons were being supported by the Missourians.

Citizens of the adjoining State [Missouri], Territory and Counties, who feel interested in bringing to justice the most depraved wretch on earth, will observe that they can join our standard, and act with the posse comitatus without violating the Law. We are all prepared in this County to do our duty. If the governor orders out the Militia, there will be no difficulty—if not we are determined to try the posse comitatus; being assured that the citizens of surrounding counties, and of Missouri and Iowa will join us. As soon as the day for a general co-operation is set, we will notify by a handbill, all the citizens in the adjacent country.

The anti-Mormons in Carthage and Warsaw calling on the oldest enemies of the Mormons, the Missourians, for support amped up the excitement even more. In that same edition of the Warsaw Signal it also reported details of the support the anti-Mormons were receiving.

The Preparation

Our town in the last weeks has been in a constant state of excitement. Business has been almost entirely suspended, and every able-bodied man is under arms and almost constantly in drill…

On Monday last about 150 men mustered in this place under the command of General Knox. The attention paid by every man, and the anxiety manifested to acquire knowledge of military movements, is a full guarantee for the good conduct of our men in the coming emergency.

In Carthage and Green Plains, the citizens are all in arms, and as far as we can hear, throughout the country, every man is ready for the conflict.

We have assurances that our neighbors in Missouri and Iowa will aid us. In Clark County, Mo., we understand that many are holding themselves in readiness to march as soon as wanted. From Rushville, [Mo.] we have just learned by express that 300 men have enlisted for the struggle. McDonough County [Illinois] is all alive and ready for the word of command. From Keosaqua, Iowa we have just received intelligence by a resident of that place, that the citizens are in arms in our behalf, and only wait our call. From Keokuk and the river towns we learn that all are arming. Gen. Stapp of this Brigade, is requested to call out the militia, and hold himself in readiness…

Capt. Grover last week obtained from Quincy 59 muskets. Men and arms are promised from St. Louis, and everything betokens prosperity to our enterprise…

D.W. Mathews, who was sent last Saturday to St. Louis, has just returned, by the Die Vernon. He has succeeded in procuring cannon, and has brought up a good supply ammunition.

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Thompson have just returned from their trip to Missouri, and report all is right, and ready…

To our friends at a distance, we say come! We are too weak in this county, without aid to effect our object. Come! you will be doing your God and your country service, in aiding us to rid earth of a most Heaven daring wretch.

The fact of the matter is, this was a chaotic time in Nauvoo and Illinois at large. Rumors were spread and rumors became affidavits, and affidavits could be given by anybody claiming anything and those affidavits carried weight. How did they carry weight? Well, permit me to read a brief letter that Jo drafted on June 20th with the power of all these affidavits behind it.

[John Tyler]

Sir:--I have just enclosed to the Governor of the State of Illinois copies of the enclosed affidavits and [Nauvoo Neighbor] extra. I am sorry to say that the State of Missouri, not contented with robbing, driving, and murdering many of the Latter Day Saints, are now joining the mob of this State for the purpose of the “utter extermination” of the Mormons, as they have resolved. And now, sir, as President of the United States, will you render that protection which the Constitution guarantees in case of “insurrection and rebellion,” and save the innocent and oppressed from such horrid persecution?

With great respect I have the honor to be,

Your obedient servant,


Yeah, Joseph Smith wrote to the President of the United States asking for protection against this new wave of what he called persecution. Also, a brief sidenote… Joseph Smith, you’re addressing the president of the United States and you called yourselves Mormons?! Come on man, couldn’t you see the future to know that in 2020 that was a victory for Satan? My point remains, whether or not the contents of the affidavits was true, they carried weight and found their way to not only Governor Thomas Ford but to President John Tyler as well. Of course, the president never replied because by the time he received the letter the problem was kind of solved but still; these affidavits were believed to be true even if the person giving the affidavit completely fabricated it.

It should also be noted that the Mormon affidavits wasn’t the only misinformation making its way to Governor Thomas Ford. He reports information coming to him during his trip from Springfield to Carthage to handle the situation as “of the most fearful character.”

A system of excitement and agitation was artfully planned and executed with tact. It consisted in spreading reports and rumors of the most fearful character. As examples:--On the morning before my arrival at Carthage, I was awakened at an early hour by the frightful report, which was asserted with confidence and apparent consternation, that the Mormons had already commenced the work of burning, destruction, and murder; and that every man capable of bearing arms was instantly wanted at Carthage, for the protection of the country. We lost no time in starting; but when we arrived at Carthage, we could hear no more concerning this story. Again: during the few days that the militia were encamped at Carthage, frequent applications were made to me to send a force here and a force there, and a force all about the country, to prevent murders, robberies, and larcenies, which, it was said, were threatened by the Mormons. No such forces were sent; nor were any ssuch offenced committed at that time, exept the stealing of some provisions, and there was never the least proof that this was done by a Mormon. Again: on my late visit to Hancock county, I was informed by some of their violent enemies, that the larcenies of the Mormons had become unusually numerous and insufferable. They indeed admitted that but little had been done in this way in their immediate vicinity. But they insisted that sixteen horses had been stolen by the Mormons in one night, near Lima, in the county of Adams. At the close of the expedition, I called at this same town of Lima, and upon inquiry was told that no horses had been stolen in that neighborhood, but that sixteen horses had been stolen in one night in Hancock county. This last informant being told of the Hancock story, again changed the venue to another distant settlement in the northern edge of Adams [county].

Governor Thomas Ford simply couldn’t trust a single thing he heard from anybody. It was a complex situation with lots of moving parts and all this complication was exacerbated by the constant flow of misinformation. Thomas Ford was a good guy. He knew the history of the Mormons in Missouri and while he couldn’t come out openly and say it, he knew that if he bungled this up the way Boggs did he might get a visit from Pistol Packin’ Porter Rockwell too so he was extra cautious in this circumstance. Ford wasn’t influenced as much as the citizens of Hancock county because he wasn’t a citizen there himself. That made put Governor Ford in the tough position of not truly empathizing with either side, but still having the force and power of the law behind anything he did while trying to see clearly from his 30,000 foot view of the circumstances. Ford was also smart enough to see people’s personal motivations in blowing up this latest controversy during an election year.

It is indeed unfortunate for [the Mormons] peace that they do not divide in elections, according to their individual preferences or political principles, like other people.

This one principle and practice of theirs arrayed against them in deadly hostility all aspirants for office who were not sure of their support, all who have been unsuccessful in elections, and all who were too proud to court their influence, with all their friends and connections.

These also were the active men in blowing up the fury of the people, in hopes that a popular movement might be set on foot, which would result in the expulsion or extermination of the Mormon voters. For this prupose, public meetings had been called; inflammatory speeches had been made; exaggerated reports had been extensively circulated; committees had been appointed, who rode night and day to spread the reports, and solicit the aid of neighboring counties. And at a public meeting at Warsaw, resolutions were passed to expel or exterminate the Mormon population. This was not, however, a movement which was unanimously concurred in. The county contained a goodly number of inhabitants in favor of peace, or who at least desired to be neutral in such a contest. These were stigmatized by the name of “Jack Mormons” and there were not a few of the more furious exciters of the people who openly expressed their intention to involve them in the common expulsion or extermination.

Not only was everything the Mormons did the next outrage de-jour for the people to get excited about, but failing politicians who were too proud to curry the Mormon vote used the outrage as an opportunity to step up and exhibit leadership and make themselves look better in the eyes of the public. Anybody who opposed violent extermination of the Mormons were considered Mormon sympathizers, the Jack Mormons of the day, and were threatened with the same extermination the Mormons would suffer. And, as Governor Ford points out, this was the result of the Mormons voting as a bloc instead of their own preferences because if they voted individually then people like Colonel Levi Williams and other politicians trying to make a name for themselves wouldn’t use the Mormons as a wedge issue.

There are simply so many angles by which to consider this conflict and so many factors which played into all of it. Thomas Coke Sharp at the Warsaw signal bears a fair amount of blame for fanning these flames because in addition to daily extras the Signal printed, the issue which contained the resolutions to exterminate the Mormons also reprinted witness statements from the Missouri-Mormon war court of inquiry wherein Doctor Sampson Avard testified about the existence of the Danites and the movements of the Mormon extra-military shadow force. However, Sampson Avard never would have testified about the Danites if Jo and Hingepin Rigdon hadn’t created the Danites amidst a war against the state of Missouri and the Danites couldn’t be used as ammunition against the Mormons during this next impending war we’re seeing come into sharper focus every episode. However, because the Missouri-Mormon war had happened and the Danites were a real thing, the fury which fueled the anti-Mormons in Illinois had deep roots in Missouri from a decade before. There’s just so much to consider here and Governor Ford knew that as well.

As soon as Governor Ford arrived in Carthage to figure out just what the hell was going on, he sent a letter to Joseph Smith.

To the Hon. The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Nauvoo:

Gentlemen.—Having heard of the excitement in this part of the country, and judging that my presence here might be necessary to preserve the peace and enforce the laws, I arrived at this place this morning. Both before and since my arrival, complaints of a grave character have been made to me of certain proceedings of your honorable body. As chief magistrate it is my duty to see that impartial justice shall be done, uninfluenced either by the excitement here or in your city.

I think before any decisive measure shall be adopted that I ought to hear the allegations and defenses of all parties. By adopting this course I have some hope that the evils of war may be averted; and at any rate I will be enabled by it to understand the true merits of the present difficulties; and shape my course with reference to law and justice.

For these reasons I have to request that you will send out to me at this place, one or more well-informed and discreet persons, who will be capable of laying before me your version of the matter, and of receiving from me such explanations and resolutions as may be determined on.

Col. Elam S. Freeman will present you this note in the character of a herald from the Governor; you will respect his character as such, and permit him to pass and repass free from molestation.

Your messengers are assured of protection in person and property, and will be returned to you in safety.

I am, gentlemen, with high consideration, most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Governor and Commander in Chief.

As soon as Jo received this message from Governor Ford, he called together the Nauvoo City Council for the last time under his office as Mayor where they read all the affidavits discussed today and on last week’s episode, compiled them all together and wrote this brief line in reply to Governor Ford.

Sir:--The affidavits and handbills herewith connected are submitted for your Excellency’s consideration.

Respectfully, I have the honor to be

Your obedient servant,


With this folder of affidavits and handbills under arm, John Bernhisel and second prophet of the Salt Lake City church, John Taylor, set off for Carthage suspecting they would not be harmed during their mission.

Now that Governor Thomas Ford was on scene, a new set of factors needed to be considered in the calculus of both the Mormons and the anti-Mormons. Now that daddy was in town, both sides needed to figure out how best to explain their conduct to get him on their side and make him punish the other. Whoever Governor Ford sided with, broader Illinois history would reflect his decisions for decades to come. I’ve tried to put myself in his head for this time but it’s impossible and his History of Illinois provides little insight as the book is such a cold recitation of events with very little personal commentary. Really, what would a person do in his situation? The Mormons had acted in such a way that the state of Missouri had exterminated them and Governor Lilburn Boggs completely botched it. How was Governor Ford to keep his state from devolving into the same frenzy? If he mishandled it as Boggs had, his political career couldn’t take the hit and he may even be assassinated like Port had attempted with Lilburn Boggs. This was an absolute minefield for Governor Ford to walk into and too many competing interests made facts are scarce commodity when facts were exactly what Ford needed to conduct his office properly. Beyond the act of tyranny from burning the Expositor printing press, the Mormons were far more lawless than inciting a riot. There was all the stuff about robbing people, manufacturing bogus, and the questionable validity of the Nauvoo Charter to begin with weighing in the balance. Could the Expositor issue be disentangled and handled separately from these other criminal acts? Could a Governor effectively prosecute a prophet, priest, and king operating a government within a government? Could the anti-Mormons be deescalated from their precipice? Could the Mormons be brought into conformity with the law without them crying persecution? More importantly in the day-to-day decision-making… who could be trusted? Even if Governor Ford did everything perfectly could he rely on any of the anti-Mormons conducting themselves impartially? Was anything anybody said true, and how does one make a good decision with such little verifiable information amidst chaos and misinformation?

When I try to view the world through Governor Ford’s eyes, I can’t envy his position. For that matter though, I don’t envy any of the people involved here. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of advantages to capitalize on during this growing conflict. Thomas Coke Sharp’s Warsaw Signal was selling more copies of the paper than it ever had before. Colonel Levi Williams was leading the charge against the Mormons in an effort to posture himself in a decisive and hard-on-crime position for the coming election. Nationwide Joseph Smith was getting more press than he ever could buy because papers across the country were covering the brewing conflict. The Mormons always had multiple locations designated as their retreat position in the event of another extermination, which seemed imminent at this point; that location would be far outside the boundaries of any legal authority and they would be more able to truly build the theocracy they’d attempted in Nauvoo. If Governor Ford handled this situation perfectly, he had a good future in politics.

But for each of those positive outlooks there were plenty of drawbacks. If Governor Ford handled this as terribly as Governor Lilburn Boggs had handled the Mormon problem in Missouri, his political career, and possibly his life, were over. If the whole conflict with the Mormons were just handled in the courts where it belonged, that wasn’t exactly the climax the Warsaw Signal was riling people up to expect. If Jo was taken into the courts he’d likely be arrested and the rest of his life would be clouded with criminal hearings and transfers among prisons in Illinois and Missouri until he met his demise at the gallows. If Joseph was arrested, what would happen to the Mormon movement who considered him their one and only prophet? On the flipside of that proposition, what if Jo was too well-protected by his militia to arrest and he waged war against state militias that his Nauvoo Legion far outmanned and outgunned? The results of another Mormon war would not look as it did in Missouri because the Mormon leadership had learned so much from their previous war. Illinois is a big state and there were a lot of non-Mormon settlements the Mormons could pillage for supplies to sustain a war effort for months. Plus, they had direct access to the largest commercial river in America at the time and they could control the passage of ships on the Mississippi. In fact, the Warsaw Signal reported on June 19th, a day after Jo declared martial law that the Iowa, a steamer, “reports that she was not allowed to land her passengers at Nauvoo, the city having been declared by the prophet, under Martial Law.” While not even engaged in actual war, the martial law powers of Jo’s kingdom were able to thwart passage of a steamer on the Mississippi. The Mormon settlement was also very close in proximity to many Native American settlements and Jo had been currying favor with chiefs of multiple tribes who were expecting a Mormon revolution as their opportunity to take revenge against the white man who’d removed them from their lands. In possibly the most symbolic of any article published in the Warsaw Signal, the report from Thomas Sharp saying “A rumor is afloat that the Mormons have melted the type of the Expositor office and converted them into bullets” summarizes the mentality of the day more than anything I could ever write.

We simply can’t imagine an analogue of this in America today. Stuff like this happens all over the globe every day, but a modern-day example of this happening in America is very hard to bring to reality. I’ve made this analogy before but it bears repeating. Suppose a chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood opened up in Oregon and started amassing converts. Tens of thousands of converts in just a few short years. After just 5 years of gaining tens of thousands of followers, or if we account for population inflation it would be closer to about 153,000 because Mormons were about 4% of the Illinois population in 1844. After just 5 years of this movement gaining traction, they establish their own government, harbor fugitives, print their own money, and then they seize control of the Columbia River. The government is flummoxed because every time they try to send in officers to arrest the leaders those officers are arrested and imprisoned in the Muslim Brotherhood city. To make matters worse, the government allows such broad deference to Christian sects so any laws they pass to overcome the growing power of this Muslim regime would be discriminatory against one religion. Oh yeah, for this thought exercise these are all white Muslims and they’re all preppers with basements full of supplies and guns they can legally stockpile, that feels like it’s important to make this thought exercise work. They also have politicians in their pockets. How would the Governor of Oregon deal with this? How would our president deal with this? Interestingly, this isn’t even a thought exercise that far away from reality. Remember the whole Cliven Bundy armed standoff against the government back in 2014 and his son taking over the bird sanctuary a few years later in Oregon? Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about. They’re crazy prepper Mormons steeped in the writings of Cleon Skousen and Ezra Taft Benson who spent days pointing loaded semi-automatic rifles at FBI agents for a week. His son called himself Captain Moroni when he took over the wildlife refuge in 2016. The anti-government, anti-society, and religious supremacy elements created by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and perfected by Bloody Brigham Young in Utah, are alive and well to this day even if the armed standoffs and acts of insurrection are at a much smaller scale. The world of June 1844 makes a lot more sense if Governor Ford, Thomas Sharp, Levi Williams, and every other non-Mormon citizen of the state of Illinois could just see the truth; that they were living on Mormon land, Jo was just nice enough to let them borrow it for now.

Jean Aldritch WOCA Hangout 5/11/20 6 PM PST patron Q&A thread MyBoM

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