Trial Aftermath: Documents Relating to the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Murders
The Martyrs: A Sketch of the Lives and a Full Account of the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith by Lyman O. Littlefield (Salt Lake City, 1882)(Chapter X)

The Smith homestead in Nauvoo, with the grave of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the foreground



WHILE Governor Ford was delivering his unfeeling and insulting speech at Nauvoo, the cannon was fired by the mob party, midway between Carthage and Warsaw, as a signal that the deed of murder and treachery had been accomplished. The report was heard at Nauvoo, and, although not understood by the citizens, yet from the movements of the governor and his posse, those who noticed their actions were satisfied, after­wards, that they understood what it meant. They made a pre­cipitate retreat, and, a little way out from the city, they met George D. Grant and David Bettisworth, who had been sent with the tidings, and the governor turned them back with him, to prevent the news from reaching Nauvoo before he could get a sufficient distance away to be safe against the pursuing "Mor­mons."
They reached Carthage about midnight. The governor had an interview with Dr. Richards, and then went to the public square and advised all who were there to disperse, as he expected the people of Nauvoo would come and burn the town. They took his advice and decamped instanter, while he rode on as fast as he could and made no further halt until he was about fifty miles distant from Nauvoo. After a short rest he continued, his hurried journey to his home. ''The wicked flee when no man pursueth."     

The Saints did not follow for vengeance. The tactics of man would have led to such a result; but they were mar­shaled under a banner whose omnipotent sovereign has declared that "vengeance is mine and I will repay." They made no demonstration of force whatever. Yet there was a general feeling of uneasiness through the country, for the people did not believe it possible that the Saints would restrain their pas­sions.

 While their enemies throughout the County were fleeing for their lives, or trembling lest retributive justice should overtake them, the Saints in Nauvoo were peacefully but sorrowfully performing the last rites over the remains of their martyred Prophet and Patriarch and taking steps to have Elder John Taylor, who still lay at Carthage terribly wounded and in a very precarious condition, brought home. The account of his return to Nauvoo is thus related by President Taylor:
"I lay from about five o'clock until the next morning with­out having my wounds dressed, as there was scarcely any help of any kind in Carthage, and Brother Richards was busy with the dead bodies, preparing them for removal. My wife Leo­nora started early the next day, having had some little trouble in getting a company or a physician to come with her; after considerable difficulty she succeeded in getting an escort, and Dr. Samuel Bennet came along with her. Soon after my father and mother came from Oquakie, near which place they had a farm at that time, and hearing of the trouble, hastened along.

"Many of the mob, came around and treated me with appar­ent respect, and the officers and people generally looked upon me as a hostage, and feared that my removal would be the signal for the rising of the "Mormons."

"I do not remember the time that I staid at Carthage, but I think three or four days after the murder, when Brother Marks with a carriage, Brother James Allred with a wagon, Dr. EUs, and a number of others on horseback, came for the purpose of taking me to Nauvoo. I was very weak at the time, occasioned by the loss of blood and the great discharge of my wounds, so when my wife asked me if I could talk I could barely whisper 'No.' Quite a discussion arose as to the propriety of my removal, the physicians and people of' Carthage protesting that it would be my death, while my friends were anxious for my removal if possible.

"I suppose the former were actuated by the above-named desire to keep me. Colonel Jones was, I believe, sincere; he had acted as a friend all the time, and he told Mrs. Taylor she ought to persuade me not to go, for he did not believe I had strength enough to reach Nauvoo. It was finally agreed, however, that I should go; but as it was thought that I could not stand riding in a wagon or carriage, they prepared a litter for me; I was carried down stairs and put upon it; A number of men assisted to carry me, some of whom had been engaged in the mob. As soon as I got down stairs, I felt much better and strengthened, so that I could talk; I suppose the effect of the fresh air.

"When we had got near the outside of the town I remem­bered some woods that we had to go through, and telling a person near to call for Dr. Ells, who was riding a very good horse, I said, 'Doctor, I perceive that the people are getting fatigued with carrying me; a number of 'Mormons' live about two or three miles. from here, near our route; will you ride to their settlement as quick as possible, and have them come and meet us?' He started off on a gallop immediately, My object in this was to obtain protection in case of an attack; rather than to obtain help to carry me.

"Very soon after the men from Carthage made one excuse after another, until they had all left, and I felt glad to get rid of them. I found that the tramping of those carrying me produced violent pain, and a sleigh was produced and attached to the hind end of Brother James Allred's wagon, a bed placed upon it, and I propped up on the bed. Mrs. Taylor rode with me, applying ice and ice-water to my wounds. As the sleigh was dragged over the grass on the prairie, which was quite tall, it moved very easily and gave me very little pain.

When I got within five or six miles of Nauvoo the brethren commenced to meet me from the city, and they increased in number as we drew nearer until there was a very large company of people of all ages and both sexes, principally, however, men.

“For some time there had been almost incessant rain, so that in many low places on the prairie it was from one to three feet deep in water, and at such places the brethren whom we met took hold of the sleigh, lifted it and carried it over the water; and when we arrived in the neighborhood of the city, where the roads were excessively muddy and bad, the brethren tore down the fences, and we passed through the fields.

"Never shall I forget the difference of' feeling that I experi­enced between the place that I had left and the one that I had now arrived at. I had left a lot of reckless, bloodthirsty mur­derers, and had come to the city of the Saints, the people of the living God, friends of truth and righteousness, thousands of whom stood there with warm, true hearts, to offer their friendship and services, and to welcome my return. It is true it was a painful scene, and brought sorrowful remembrance to mind, but to me it caused a thrill of joy to find myself once more in the bosom of my friends, and to meet with the cordial welcome of true, honest hearts. What was very remarkable, I found myself very much better after my arrival at Nauvoo than I was when I started on my journey, although I had traveled eighteen miles. "

The governor continued to be alarmed, so much so that he sent A. Jonas and Colonel Fellows to Nauvoo, where they arrived on the first of July- seven days after the murder. Their instructions from the executive were as follows:

"Colonel Fellows and Captain Jonas are requested to proceed by the first boat to Nauvoo, and ascertain what is the feeling, disposition, and determination of the "people there, in reference to the late disturbances, ascertain whether any of them pro­pose in any manner to avenge themselves, whether any threats have been used, and what is proposed generally to be done by them."

The City Council met and deliberated upon the matter. They passed resolutions that, for the preservation of peace; they would rigidly sustain the laws and the governor of the State, so long as he and they would sustain them in their constitu­tional rights. As the governor had taken from the people of Nauvoo their arms, they thought he should also take possession of all the public arms of the State. They reprobated private revenge for the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and appealed to the majesty of the law for redress, and should the law fail, they concluded to leave the matter with God.

In the remaining resolutions, the members of the City Council pledged themselves for the City of Nauvoo that no aggressions should be made by the citizens upon the people of the surround­ing country, and they also expressed their willingness to “uphold the governor and the law by all honorable means while he took a course to allay excitement and restore peace, and would use his influence to stop all vexatious proceedings in law until confidence should be restored, so that the citizens of Nauvoo could go, if necessary, to Carthage, or any other place, for trial, without exposing themselves to the violence of assassins. "

The same day a public meeting was held by the citizens of Nauvoo, at which Messrs. Jonas and Fellows were present, and the resolutions of the City Council were read and unanimously endorsed by the citizens.

From Nauvoo the governor's commissioners went to Carthage and Warsaw, and at the latter place Mr. Jonas made a speech to the people in which he requested them to say whether they would support Governor Ford in enforcing the law and uphold­ing the Constitution, and they unanimously refused to give the pledge.

This refusal on the part of the people of Warsaw is in keep­ing with all their previous proceedings towards the people of Nauvoo, and it requires but very little discernment to discover where the wrong existed. They thirsted for further trouble and bloodshed and said that either they or the Mormons must leave the County.

The people of Carthage and Warsaw were not alone in sanc­tioning the cruel murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith; the deed met with a general feeling of approval throughout the whole country, so far as bigoted priests, traitorous apostates and lawless mobocrats had been able to raise a prejudice against them. The feeling was not as outspoken everywhere else as at those places; but still there was a strong under-current of approval in the public sentiment. The majority of the people winked at the transaction, though there were some honorable exceptions. This is most clearly set forth in a letter written by Ford about this time, to the people of Nauvoo, in which he thus insults their misfortunes:

"The naked truth then is, that most well-informed persons condemn in the most unqualified manner the mode in which the Smiths were put to death; but nine out of every ten of such accompany the expression of their disapprobation by a manifestation of their pleasure that they are dead. The disap­proval is most unusually cold and without feeling. It is a dis­approval which appears to be called for, on their part, by decency, by a respect for the laws and a horror of mobs, but does not flow warm from the heart. The unfortunate victims of this assassination were generally and thoroughly hated throughout the country, and it is not reasonable to suppose that their death has produced any reaction in the public mind resulting in active sympathy; if you think so, you are mis­taken. Most that is said on the subject is merely from the teeth out; and your people may depend on the fact, that public feeling is now, at this time, as thoroughly against them as it has ever been."
It was not enough that the Saints should have their beloved leaders murdered in cold blood! It was not sufficient that they should be sacrificed to treachery! It did not suffice that their lives should be cut short by the assassin! It was not disgraceful enough that Ford should outrage honor and humanity by breaking the plighted faith of the State! It was not suffi­ciently barbarous and unprincipled that he should draw his confiding victims into death's snare and then leave them defense­less, after repeatedly pledging himself for their protection! It was not cruel enough for him to thus make them the victims of a ruthless mob! No, all this did not suffice. He must send his relentless stings still deeper into the wounded heart and taunt the Saints in the depths of that grief which his own treach­ery had produced. After he, and his willing helpers, had shed the innocent blood, he must coolly and in this heartless manner insult the tenderest feelings of love and respect that it is possi­ble for mortal beings to entertain for any of their race.

Ford was a weak governor. He lacked the essential quali­ties for a statesman. He was destitute of stability and energy. He could not brook the taunts and threats of mobocrats, but suffered himself to be moulded as their pliant tool. He descended from the dignity of a governor and walked arm in arm with those who trampled his authority under their feet.

The governor was right in what he said in the foregoing extract as to the bitter feeling of the people of the State against the "Mormon" community and their secret sanction of the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

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