Trial Report, , Hancock Co., IL, [8–26 July 1843], Extradition of JS for Treason (Nauvoo, IL, Municipal Court 1843); “Municipal Court of the City of Nauvoo, Illinois” and “Trial of Joseph Smith,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 12 July 1843, –; 19 July 1843, ; 26 July 1843, –.
ting farms, that they had set fire to a wagon loaded with goods and they were all consumed; that they had also set fire to a house, and when he left, it was burning down. Such was the situation of affairs at at that time, that could not spare any of his forces, as an attack was hourly expected at . The messenger went off, and I heard no more about it, till some time the night following, when I was awakened from sleep by the voice of some man apparently giving command to a military body, being somewhat unwell, I did not get up. Some time after I got up in the morning, the of the stopped at the door, and said that , had had a battle with the mob last night at , and that several were killed and a number wounded; that was among the number of the wounded, and his wound supposed to be mortal. After I had taken breakfast another gentleman called, giving me the same account, and asked me if I would not take my horse and ride out with him and see what was done. I agreed to do so, and we started, and after going some three or four miles, met a company coming into , we turned and went back with them.
This mob proved to be that, headed by the Reverend , a methodist preacher, and the battle was called the Bogard Battle. After this battle there was a short season of quiet, the mobs disappeared, and the militia returned to ; though they were not discharged, but remained under orders until it should be known how the matter would turn. In the space of a few days, it was said that a large body of armed men were entering the south part of . The county court ordered the military to go and enquire what was their object, in thus coming into the without permission. The military started as commaded, and little or no information was received at about their movements until late the nex afternoon, when a large army was descried making their way towards . being an elevated situation, the army was discovered while a number of miles from the place. Their object was entirely unknown to the citizens as far as I had any knowledge on the sub[j]ect; and every man I heard speak of their object, expressed as great ignorance as myself.— They reached a small stream on the east side of the , which was studded with timber on its banks and for perhaps from half a mile to a mile on the east side of the stream, an hour before sundown. There the main body halted, and soon after a detachment under the command of , marched towards the in line of battle. This body was preceded, probably three fourths of a mile in advance of them, by a man carrying a white flag, who approached within a few rods of the eastern boundary of the , and demanded three persons, who were in the , to be sent to their camp, after which the whole , he said, would be massacred. When the persons who were inquired for, were informed, they refused to go, determined to share the common fate of the citizens. One of those persons did not belong to the “Church of Latter Day Saints.” His name is , a merchant in that .
The white flag returned to the camp. To the force of , was the small force of militia, under , opposed. Who also marched in line of battle to the eastern line of the . The whole force of did not exceed three hundred men—that of , perhaps three times that number. I was no way connected with the militia, being over age, neither was Joseph Smith Senior. I went into the line formed by though unarmed, and stood among the rest to await the result, and had a full view of both forces, and stood there. The armies were within rifle shot of each other. About the setting of the sun ordered his army to return to the camp at the Creek: they wheeled and marched off. After they had retired, it was consulted what was best to do—by what authority the army was there no one could tell, as far as I knew—it was agreed to build through the night a sort of fortification, and if we must fight, sell our lives as dear as we could, accordingly all hands went to work, rails, house-logs, and waggons, were all put in requisition, and the east line of the as well secured as could be done by the men and means, and the short time allowed; expecting an attack in the morning. The morning at length came and that day passed away and still nothing done; but plundering the cornfields, shooting cattle and hogs, stealing horses and robbing houses, and carrying off potatoes, turnips, and all such things as the army of could get, for such in the event they proved to be. The main body being commanded, by , a Deacon in the Presbyterian church. The next came and then it was ascertained that they were there by order of the .
A demand was made for Joseph Smith Senior, , , , and myself, to go into their camp with this demand we instantly complied and accordingly started to their camp. When we came in sight of their camp the whole army was on parade, marching toward the , we approached and met them, and were informed by that we were prisoners of war. A scene followed that would defy any mortal to describe, a howling was set up, that would put any thing I ever heard before or since at defiance, I thought at the time it had no parallel except it might be in the perdition of ungodly men. They had a cannon. I could distinctly hear the guns as the locks were sprung, which appeared from the sound to be in every part of the army. came riding up where we were, and swore by his maker that he would hew the first man down that cocked a gun, one or two other officers on horseback also rode up, ordering those who had cocked their guns to uncock them or they would be hewed down with their swords, we were conducted into their camp and made to lay on the ground through the night.
This was late in October—we were kept here for two days and two nights. It commenced raining and snowing until we were completely drenched and being compelled to lay on the ground which had became very wet and the water was running round us and under us—what consultation the officers and others had in relation to the disposition which was to be made of us. I am entirely indebted to the report made to me by as none of us were put on any trial. gave an account of which the following is the substance, as far as my memory serves me: “That they held a Court Martial and sentenced us to be shot at 8 o’clock the next morning after the Court Martial was holden, in the public square in the presence of our families—that this Court Martial was composed of seventeen preachers and some of the principal officers of the army— presided— arose and said “that neither himself nor his brigade should have any hand in the shooting, that it was nothing short of cold blooded murder and left the Court Martial and ordered his brigade to prepare and march off the ground.”
This was probably the reason why they did not carry the decision of the Court Martial into effect. It was finally agreed that we should be carried into , accordingly on the third day after our arrest the army was all paraded, we were put into waggons and taken into the —our families having heard that we were to be brought into town that morning to be shot. When we arrived a scene ensued such as might be expected, under the circumstances. I was permitted to go alone with my family into the house, there I found my family so completely plundered of all kinds of food that they had nothing to eat but parched corn which they ground with a hand mill, and thus were they sustaining life. I soon pacified my family and allayed their feelings by assuring them that the ruffians dared not kill me. I gave them strong assurances that they dared not do it, and that I would return to them again. After this interview I took my leave of them, and returned to the waggon got in and we were all started off for . Before we reached the a man came riding along the line apparently in great haste. I did not know his business. When we got to the came to me and told me that he wanted us to hurry, as had arrived from with a message from Gen. ordering him to return with us to as he was there with a large army, he said he would not comply with the demand, but did not know but might send an army to take us by force. We were hurried over the as fast as possible with as many of ’ army as could be sent over at one time and sent hastily on, and thus we were taken to the Shire town of , and put into an old house and a strong guard placed over us. In a day or two they relaxed their severity, we were taken to the best tavern in and there boarded, and treated with kindness—we were permitted to go and come at our pleasure without any guard. After some days Colonel arrived from ’s army with a demand to have us taken to , Ray county. It was difficult to get a guard to go with us, indeed, we solicited them to send one with us, and finally got a few men to go and we started; after we had crossed the , on our way to , we met a number of very rough looking fellows, and as rough acting as they were looking, they threatened our lives.— We solicited our guard to send to for a stronger force to guard us there, as we considered our lives in danger. met us with a strong force and conducted us to where we were put in close confinement.
One thing I will here mention which I forgot —while we were at I was introduced to , a lawyer of some note in the country. In speaking on the subject of our arrest and being torn from our families, said he presumed it was another scrape. He said the Mormons had been driven from that and that without any offence on their part. He said he knew all about it, they were driven off because the people feared their political influence. And what was said against the Mormons was only to justify the mob in the eyes of the world for the course they had taken. He said this was another scrape of the same kind.
This , by his own confession, was one of the principal leaders in the mob.
After this digression I will return—The same day that we arrived at , came into the place where we were, with a number of armed men, who immediately, on entering the the room cocked their guns, another followed with chains in his hands, and we were ordered to be chained all together—a strong guard was placed in and around the house, and thus we were secured. The next day came in, and we were introduced to him—the awkward manner in which he entered and his apparent embarrassment was such as to force a smile from me. He was then asked for what he had thus cast us into prison?—to this question he could not or did not give a direct answer. He said he would let us know in a few days, and after a few more awkward and uncouth movements he withdrew. After he went out I asked some of the guard what was the matter with , that made him appear so ridiculous? They said he was near sighted: I replied that I was mistaken if he were not as near witted, as he was near sighted.
We were now left with our guards, without knowing for what we had been arrested, as no civil process had issued against us—for what followed until came in again to tell us that we were to be delivered into the hands of the civil authorities. I am entirely indebted to what I heard the guards say—I heard them say that had promised them before leaving Coles county that they should have the privilege of shooting Joseph Smith Senior and myself. And that was engaged in searching the military law to find authority for so doing; but he found it difficult as we were not military men and did not belong to the militia; but he had sent to for the military code of law, and he expected, after he got the laws, to find law to justify him in shooting us.
I must here again digress, to relate a circumstance which I forgot in its place. I had heard that had given a military order to some persons who had applied to him for it, to go to our houses and take such goods as they claimed. The goods claimed, were goods sold by the sheriff of on an , which I had purchased at the sale. The man against whom the execution was issued, availed himself of that time of trouble to go and take the goods wherever he could find them.— I asked if he had given any such authority. He said that an application had been made to him for such an order, but he said, “your lady wrote me a letter, requesting me not to do it—telling me that the goods had been purchased at the sheriff’s sale, and I would not grant the order.” I did not, at the time, suppose that , in this, had barefacedly lied; but the sequel proved he had—for some time afterwards, behold there comes a man to with the order, and shewed it to me, signed by . The man said he had been at our house, and taken all the goods he could find. So much for a lawyer, a Methodist, and very pious man at that time in religion, and a major general of .
During the time that was examining the military law, there were some thing took place which may be proper to relate in this place. I heard a plan laying among a number of those who belonged to ’s army, and some of them officers of high rank, to go to , and commit violence on the persons of Joseph Smith Senior’s , and my wife and daughters.
This gave me some uneasiness. I got an opportunity to send my family word of their design, and to make such arrangements as they could to guard against their vile purpose. The time at last arrived, and the party started for . I waited with painful anxiety for their return. After a number of days, they returned. I listened to all they said, to find out, if possible, what they had done. One night, I think the very night after their return, I heard them relating to some of those who had not been with them, the events of their adventure. Inquiry was made about their success in the particular object of their visit to . The substance of what they said in answer, was, “that they had passed and repassed both houses, and saw the females, but there were so many men about the , that they dare not venture for fear of being detected, and their numbers were not sufficient to accomplish anything if they had made the attempt, and they came off without trying.”
No civil process of any kind had been issued against us: we were there held in duress without knowing what for, or what charges were to be preferred against us. At last, after long suspense, came into the prison, presenting himself about as awkwardly as at first, and informed us, “that we would be put into the hands of the civil authorities. He said he did not know precisely what crimes would be charged against us, but they would be with[i]n the range of treason, murder, , , , theft and stealing.” Here again another smile was forced, and I could not refrain, at the expense of this would-be great man, in whom, he said, “the faith of was pledged.” After long and awful suspense, the notable , judge of the circuit court, took the seat, and we were ordered before him for trial, , Esq., prosecuting attorney. All things being arranged, the trial opened. No papers were read to us, no charges of any kind were preferred, nor did we know against what we had to plead. Our crimes had yet to be found out.
At the commencement, we requested that we might be tried separately; but this was refused, and we were all put on trial together. Witnesses appeared, and the swearing commenced. It was so plainly manifested by the that he wanted the witnesses to prove us guilty of treason, that no person could avoid seeing it. The same feelings were also visible in the States’ . made an observation something to this effect, as he was giving directions to the scribe, who was employed to write down the testimony—“that he wanted all the testimony directed to certain points—Being taken sick at the early stage of the trial, I had not the opportunity of hearing but a small part of the testimony when it was delivered before the court.
During the progress of the trial, after the adjournment of the court in the evening, our lawyers would come into the prison, and there the matters would be talked over.
The propriety of our sending for witnesses, was also discussed. Our attornies said that they would recommend to us not to introduce any evidence at that trial. said it would avail us nothing, for the would put us into prison, if a cohort of angels were to come and swear that we were innocent: and beside that, he said that if we were to give to the court the names of our witnesses, there was a band there ready to go, and they would go and drive them out of the country, or arrest them and have them cast into prison, to prevent them from swearing, or else kill them. It was finally concluded to let the matter be so for the present.
During the progress of the trial, and while I was laying sick in prison, I had an opportunity of hearing a great deal said by those of them who would come in. The subject was the all absorbing one. I heard them say that we must be put to death—that the character of the required it. The must justify herself in the course she had taken, and nothing but punishing us with death, could save the credit of the , and it must therefore be done.
I heard a party of them one night telling about some female whose person they had violated, and this language was used by one of them: “The damned bitch, how she yelled.” Who this person was, I did not know; but before I got out of prison, I heard that a widow, whose husband had died some few months before, with consumption, had been brutally violated by a gang of them, and died in their hands, leaving three little children, in whose presence the scene of brutality took place.
After I got out of prison, and had arrived in Illinois, I met a strange man in the street, who was inquiring and inquired of me respecting a circumstance of this kind—saying he had heard of it, and was on his way going to to get the children if he could find them. He said the woman thus murdered was his sister, or his wife’s sister, I am not positive which. The man was in great agitation. What success he had I know not.
The trial at last ended, and , Joseph Smith Senior, , , , and myself were sent to in the village of , Clay county Missouri.
We were kept there from three to four months; after which time we were brought out on before one of the judges. During the hearing under the habeas corpus, I had, for the first time, an opportunity of hearing the evidence, as it was all written and read before the court.
It appeared from the evidence, that they attempted to prove us guilty of treason in consequence of the militia of being under arms at the time that ’ army came to . This calling out of the militia, was what they founded the charge of treason upon—an account of which I have given above. The charge of murder was founded on the fact, that a man of their number, they said, had been killed in the Bogard battle.
The other charges were founded on things which took place in . As I was not in at that time, I cannot testify anything about them.
A few words about this written testimony.
I do not now recollect of one single point, about which testimony was given, with which I was acquainted, but was misrepresented, nor one solitary witness whose testimony was there written, that did not swear falsely; and in many instances I connot see how it could avoid being intentional on the part of those who testified—for all of them did swear things that I am satisfied they knew to be false at the time—and it would be hard to persuade me to the contrary.
There were things there said, so utterly without foundation in truth—so much so—that the persons swearing, must, at the time of swearing, have known it. The best construction I can ever put on it, is, that they swore things to be true which they did not know to be so, and this, to me, is wilful perjury.
This trial lasted for a long time, the result of which was, that I was ordered to be discharged from prison, and the rest remanded back; but I was told by those who professed to be my friends, that it would not do for me to go out of jail at that time, as the mob were watching, and would most certainly take my life—and when I got out, that I must leave the , for the mob, availing themselves of the exterminating order of , would, if I were found in the , surely take my life—that I had no way to escape them but to flee with all speed from the . It was some ten days after this before I dare leave the . At last the evening came in which I was to leave the . Every preparation was made that could be made for my escape. There was a carriage ready to take me in and carry me off with all speed. A pilot was ready—one who was well acquainted with the country—to pilot me through the country so that I might not go on any of the public roads. My wife came to the to accompany me, of whose society I had been deprived for four months. Just at dark, the sheriff and jailer came to the jail with our supper. I sat down and ate. There were a number watching. After I had supped, I whispered to the jailor to blow out all the candles but one, and step away from the door with that one. All this was done. The sheriff then took me by the arm, and an apparent scuffle ensued—so much so, that those who were watching, did not know who it was the sheriff was scuffling with. The sheriff kept pushing me towards the door, and I apparently resisting, until we reached the door, which was quickly opened and we both reached the street. He took me by the hand and bade me farewell, telling me to make my escape, which I did with all possible speed. The night was dark. After I had gone probably one hundred rods, I heard some person coming after me in haste. The thought struck me in a moment that the mob was after me. I drew a pistol and cocked it, determined not to be taken alive. When the person approaching me spoke, I knew his voice, and he speedily came to me. In a few minutes I heard a horse coming. I again sprung my pistol cock. Again a voice saluted my ears that I was acquainted with. The man came speedily up and said he had come to pilot me through the country. I now recollected I had left my wife in the . I mentioned it to them, and one of them returned, and the other and myself pursued our journey as swiftly as we could. After I had gone about three miles, my wife overtook me in a carriage, into which I got, and we rode all night. It was an open carriage, and in the month of February 1839. We got to the house of an acquaintance just as day appeared. There I put up until the next morning, when I started again and reached a place called Tenny’s Grove; and to my great surprise, I here found my family, and was again united with them, after an absence of four months, under the most painful circumstances. From thence I made my way to , where I now am. My wife, after I left her, went directly to and got the family under way, and all unexpectedly met at Tenny’s Grove.
After hearing the foregoing evidence in support of said Petition—it is ordered and considered by the Court, that the said Joseph Smith, Senior, be discharged from the said arrest and imprisonment complained of in said Petition, and that the said Smith be discharged for want of substance in the warrant, upon which he was arrested, as well as upon the merrits of said case, and that he .
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said Court, at the city of , this 2d day of July, 1843.