General Orders for Nauvoo Legion, 4 May 1841
JS, General Orders, to , , Hancock Co., IL, 4 May 1841. Featured version published in “Nauvoo Legion,” Times and Seasons, 15 May 1841, vol. 2, no. 14, 417–418. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
In anticipation of the upcoming Independence Day celebration, JS, as lieutenant general of the , prepared general orders for the legion on 4 May 1841. Three months earlier, on 4 February 1841, the legion was officially organized during its first official meeting, or court-martial, in accordance with provisions in the city charter of , Illinois. At subsequent courts-martial, the legion specified penalties for failing to participate in parades and made plans for involvement in the upcoming Independence Day festivities. These general orders outlined the legion’s drilling, inspection, and decorum for the celebration and clarified the legion’s composition and its status as a militia unit.Included with the orders was a 3 May letter from , a supreme court judge, affirming the legitimacy of the Nauvoo Legion as a state-recognized militia unit. Apparently some had objected to the formation of the Nauvoo Legion or questioned its legitimacy, and the arrival of Douglas in on 2 May 1841 provided an opportunity for the legion officers to confirm their right to serve in the legion as opposed to serving in the Fifty-Ninth Illinois regiment, the other militia unit in the area. Douglas’s 3 May letter was addressed to the legion’s major general, , and suggests Bennett asked Douglas about the matter during Douglas’s visit to Nauvoo. Douglas’s affirmative response on 3 May was a welcome endorsement from the state.In addition to including ’s letter, the general orders further defended the legion’s status by citing a section in the militia law that allowed for independent companies. Citing the law supported Douglas’s assertion that the Nauvoo Legion was a valid way to fulfill the legal requirement of state-mandated military service for all males between the ages of 18 and 45. This meant the legion’s members were not only complying with the law, but they also had no obligation to obey officers or instructions from other regiments in the Illinois militia.JS likely disseminated these general orders to the Nauvoo Legion by sending them to , the major general, as was standard practice. Copies would have then been sent by Bennett or his personal staff to other officers of the legion, who would share them with the men under their command. The orders were published in the 15 May issue of the newspaper the Times and Seasons; that is the only extant version of the orders.JS’s orders and the statement from also clarified that the legion wanted all eligible male citizens—of any religious denomination—to enlist. Publishing orders in a newspaper was somewhat unusual, but doing so allowed the orders and the clarifying information found therein to reach a wider audience, including outsiders who were increasingly apprehensive about the Nauvoo Legion.