Parley P. Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 1839
, History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons, in Which Ten Thousand American Citizens were Robbed, Plundered, and Driven from the State, and Many Others Imprisoned, Martyred, &c. for Their Religion, and All This By Military Force, By Order of the Executive; i–vi, 7–84 pp.; Detroit, MI: Dawson & Bates, 1839. The copy used for this transcription is held at CHL.
While incarcerated at , Missouri, in March 1839, JS addressed a letter to the church “at Illinois and scattered abroad and to in particular,” instructing the Saints to gather up “a knoledge of all the facts and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this state.” (JS et al., Liberty, MO, to the church members and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 123:1, 6].) Edward Partridge responded with an account that became the three opening installments of “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” an eleven-part series published in the church’s Illinois newspaper, Times and Seasons, between December 1839 and October 1840. “A History, of the Persecution” receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website.
may have intended to tell the entire story himself, but he fell ill shortly after publication of “A History, of the Persecution” began and died on 27 May 1840. Prompted by Partridge’s illness and subsequent death, the editors of the Times and Seasons, and , sought elsewhere for source materials to continue the series. It is probable that they composed the fourth installment to provide a brief transition from Partridge’s account, which ends in 1836, and the conflicts in and adjoining counties beginning in 1838. In April and June 1840, the fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates 1839). The sixth and eighth through tenth installments drew upon ’s pamphlet, An Appeal to the American People. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in October 1840, featuring Missouri militia general ’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at , Missouri, in November 1838.
wrote History of the Late Persecution, the document featured here, during his eight-month imprisonment in jails in 1838–1839. His wife, , daringly smuggled the manuscript out of the jail. After his escape on 4 July 1839 and reunion with the Saints in , Pratt left on a mission to England with the Twelve Apostles. When he reached he paused to visit relatives and arranged for the publication of his history there, obtaining a copyright for his book on 30 September 1839. Revised versions were subsequently reprinted in in 1840 as a pamphlet under the same title and as an expanded hardback with the title Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 89–90, 100–103.) Pratt later drew upon his history when he composed his autobiography in the 1850s.
’s History of the Late Persecution provides an autobiographical account of events in , , , and counties, Missouri, beginning in 1833. Some of the material describing events that transpired in Jackson County in 1833 was drawn from an earlier publication Pratt co-authored with and , “‘The Mormons’ So Called.” History of the Late Persecution also rehearses the conflict that engulfed Caldwell and Daviess counties, the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri, the mistreatment of Mormon prisoners by Missouri authorities, and the smuggling of Pratt’s manuscript copy of the History from jail, concluding with his narrow escape from imprisonment in Columbia, Missouri.
persons out of the city before they massacred the rest.— This was a very alarming and unexpected answer. But they were soon prevailed upon to suspend hostilities till morning, when we were in hopes of some further and more satisfactory information. The hostile army under the command of , then commenced their encampment for the night, and our little army continued to stand to their arms for fear of some treachery. Our company of a hundred and fifty soon returned, informing us that they had been hemmed in through the day, and only escaped from their superior knowledge of the ground.— We also sent an express to , and by morning were reinforced by quite a number of troops, with at their head. In the mean time, the painted robbers and murderers under the command of one , came pouring in from the west, to strengthen the enemy, and another company of murderers came in from Carrel [Carroll] county, and were taken into the ranks of , after murdering some twenty of our citizens at , of which I will give a particular account hereafter. Thus both parties were considerably reinforced during the night. In the mean time our people, being determined, if attacked, to defend their homes, and wives and children to the last, spent the night in throwing up a temporary breastwork of building timber, logs, rails, &c., and by morning our south side of the was fortified with a breastwork, and also a considerable part of the east and west sides; the whole line of fortification extending a mile and a half. This nights labor may seem incredible; but it happened that a great quantity of building materials had been accumulated near the spot where were thrown up the breastworks: and this proved an excellent material for the work. The next day, towards evening, we were informed that the had ordered this force against us, with orders to exterminate us or drive us from the . As soon as these facts were ascertained, we determined not to resist any thing in the shape of authority, however tyrannical or unconstitutional might be the proceedings against us; therefore we had nothing more to do but to submit to be massacred or [p. 39]