'Going as a lamb to the slaughter'

A succession of interrelated events impacted the lives of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Patriarch Hyrum Smith during the month of June 1844. These occurrences ultimately led the two brothers to Carthage, Ill., where they were subjected to death at the hands of a vicious mob.

Their supreme sacrifice for the gospel's sake secured to each an eternal distinction as martyrs of the restoration, sealing their testimonies with their blood. (See D&C 135; 136:39.) Their surviving companions in Carthage Jail, John Taylor and Willard Richards, were no less willing to lay down their lives had they been required to do so.The Prophet was embroiled in a political campaign, running for the office of President of the United States on the National Reform Party ticket. He had entered the field "for conscience sake" with the object of calling attention to and obtaining redress for the losses experienced by the Mormons during their expulsion from the state of Missouri, l838-39. Likewise, Hyrum Smith was politically involved as a candidate for the state legislature from Hancock County. (Dallin H. Oaks, "The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor," Utah Law Review, 9

Winter 1965T:863.)

An opposition combine centered in Carthage and Warsaw, and styling themselves the Anti-Mormon Party, had also taken the field. Their avowed purpose was to nullify any contemplation of expanding the political influence of the Prophet or the Mormons generally. Their goal was to ultimately drive the Saints from the state as had previously been done by gubernatorial edict in Missouri.

While contending with the seriousness of these external forces, Joseph was required to devote an inordinate amount of energy contending with "right-handed Brutes" from within who formed a conspiracy to depose and Prophet and certain of the leading brethren with the design of instituting their own reform policies.

Once the conspirators' plans were exposed and they were excommunicated, they sought to expand their reform church which they had already set in motion, under the presidency of William Law, Austin Cowles and James Blakeslee. At the same time they established an opposition press in the heart of Nauvoo.

The Nauvoo Expositor was short lived. The solitary number of June 7, 1844, "put into circulation the most libelous, false and infamous reports concerning the citizens of Nauvoo." (Taylor p. 7.) It immediately attracted the attention of an irate Mormon citizenry and a concerned council. The Nauvoo City Council met on the case, convening both Saturday, June 8, and Monday, June 10. After deliberating their possible avenues of recourse according to such legal precedents as they could discover, the sheet was declared a public nuisance. The council passed an ordinance ordering the Mayor, Joseph Smith, to direct the Marshall, John P. Greene to pi the type and destroy the libelous handbills, which directives were (with assistance from the Nauvoo Legion) carried out on the 10th. (Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975T, pp. 14-15; Taylor, pp. 7-10.)

The conspirators, elated with their good fortune in goading the Nauvoo City Council to carry out such an overt act, hurried to Carthage, Hancock County seat. There Francis M. Higbee, one of the publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor, swore out a complaint before Thomas L. Morrison, Justice of the Peace, on a charge of riot. An arrest warrant or "writ" was issued on June 11, for the apprehension of Joseph Smith, Samuel Bennett, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, Hyrum Smith, John P. Greene, Stephen Perry, Dimick B. Huntington, Jonathan Dunham, Stephen Markham, William Edwards, Jonathan Holmes, Jesse P. Harmon, John Lytle, Joseph W. Collidge, Harvey D. Redfield, Porter Rockwell and Levi Richards. (Deseret News, 7

Sept. 30, 1857T: 233.)

The Prophet was arrested on June 12, at his office in Nauvoo by constable David Bettisworth. However, Joseph took out a writ of habeas corpus and made application to the Municipal Court of Nauvoo. The court heard the case and discharged him from lithe accusations and of the writ." (Deseret News, 7

Sept. 30, 1857T: 233.) An indignation meeting was held at Carthage on June 13, 1844, by Hancock County citizens opposed to the Mormons and the course of action taken in Nauvoo. Among the resolutions passed on that occasion was the following:

"Resolved, that the time, in our opinion, has arrived, when the adherents of Smith, as a Body, should be driven from the surrounding settlements, into Nauvoo. That the Prophet and his miscreant adherents, should then be demanded at their hands, and if not surrendered, a war of extermination should be waged to the entire destruction, if necessary for our protection, of his adherents." (Warsaw Signal, June 14, 1844.)

As the mob-militia began to gather in various locations in preparation for an anticipated offensive against the Mormons, Lt. General Joseph Smith assembled the respective units of the Nauvoo Legion on June 18, and issued a "Declaration of martial Law" to protect the Saints.

Witnessing the deteriorating conditions in Hancock County, the Prophet thought to preserve an element of continuity among the key leadership by advising his brother Hyrum, the assistant president of the Church, to take his family on the very next steamboat and go to Cincinnati. However, Hyrum quickly replied, "Joseph I can't leave you," at which time Joseph turned to the others who were present and remarked, "I wish I could get Hyrum out of the way, so that he may live to avenge my blood, and I will stay with you and see it out." (HC 6:520.) Hyrum had previously endured imprisonment with Joseph in Independence, Richmond, Liberty, and Gallatin during the Missouri persecutions and was not now about to desert his brother in the greatest peril.

Gov. Thomas Ford arrived in Carthage on June 22, 1844, to evaluate the situation. As early as June 17, the Carthage committee had requested the governor to mobilize a sufficient force of state militia to execute legal process in Nauvoo. Despite the decidedly hostile attitudes displayed by the Carthage Greys and the Warsaw Independent Battalion, they were among the troops mobilized by the governor in the emergency. This gave some credence to the preparations for war already going on among these units. Perhaps to lend some element of detached stability to his volatile contingency force, Ford also called up troops from McDonough, Schuyler and Brown counties. The governor estimated the force assembled at Carthage to be about 1,200-1,300 men. (HC 7:14.)

When emissaries representing the Prophet's view were called to Carthage by Thomas Ford, Joseph Smith appointed John Taylor and John M. Bernhisel as respondents. Of an interview on June 22, John Taylor stated that Gov. Ford "was surrounded by some of the vilest and most unprincipled men in creation." After a five or six hour wait, while Gov. Ford lingered over the preparation of a communication to the Prophet, the brethren made their return to Nauvoo. They were accompanied by Capt. Yates, carrying the governor's correspondence to Joseph and a constable with an arrest warrant. Also with Yates was a company of mounted men acting both as a posse and an escort for the purpose of taking the Prophet and the accused back to Carthage should they comply with the governor's summons. (Taylor, pp. 24-25.)

Joseph called a council consisting of Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, John Taylor, John Bernhisel, William W. Phelps, Abraham C. Hodge, John L. Butler, Alpheus Cutler, William Marks and some others. He read aloud Ford's declaration, in which the governor stated that if they did not submit themselves to arrest he had "great fears that your city will be destroyed, and your people many of them exterminated." (HC 6:536.)

After reading the letter the Prophet responded, "There is no mercy - no mercy here." Hyrum remarked, "No; just as sure as we fall into their hands we are dead men." (HC 6:545.) Following continued discussion into the night, the Prophet arrived at a plausible solution. With a brightened countenance he proposed a new plan, saying:

"The way is open. It is clear to my mind what to do. All they want is Hyrum and myself; then tell everybody to go about their business, and not to collect in groups, but to scatter about. There is no doubt they will come here and search for us. Let them search; they will not harm you in person or property, and not even a hair of your head. We will cross the river tonight, and go away to the West." (HC 6:545-46.)

The decision having been made, the Prophet, Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, and Orrin Porter Rockwell crossed the Mississippi to the Iowa side in Aaron Johnson's skiff. Rockwell was sent back to Nauvoo for horses and provisions. When he returned to the home of William Jordan, where Joseph was staying, he had with him Lorenzo D. Wasson, nephew of the Prophet, and Reynolds Cahoon, and Hiram Kimball. Cahoon presented a letter from Emma Smith imploring her husband to return to Nauvoo and give himself up. The visiting brethren likewise invited his return, commenting on the shepherd being gone from the flock when the wolf was at the door. To which the Prophet dejectedly observed, "If my life is of no value to my friends it is of none to myself." (HC 6:549.) To Hyrum the Prophet asked, "What shall we do?" to which Hyrum replied, "Let us go back and give ourselves up, and see the thing out." Joseph then said, "If you go back I shall go with you, but we shall be butchered." Hyrum said, "No, no, let us go back and put our trust in God, and we shall not be harmed. The Lord is in it. If we live or have to die, we will be reconciled to our fate. (Millennial Star 24:332.) Despite the very strong premonition of impending death should he fall into the hands of his enemies, Joseph concluded to go to Carthage.

On the morning of Monday, June 24, the Prophet met members of the Nauvoo city council, Mr. James W. Woods of Burlington, Iowa, who was acting as one of Joseph's attorneys, and witnesses for the defense in front of the Mansion House, preparatory to their ride to Carthage. Before leaving his own home to join the others, Hyrum Smith took occasion to pray with his loved ones and bade each goodbye. He spent a moment reading a paragraph (Ether 12:36-38) from the Book of Mormon and turned down the page at that point. (See D&C 135:4-5.)

Hyrum paused in the street long enough to reach down from his horse and lift 5-year-old Joseph F. in front of him. He gave the lad a kiss and told him to be a good boy while he was away. (Don C. Corbett, Mary Fielding Smith Daughter of Britain

Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1970T, p. 164.) The next time the boy saw his father, Hyrum was lying on the kitchen table in the Mansion House being prepared for burial.

John Taylor said, "We were instructed by Br. Joseph Smith not to take any arms, and we consequently left them behind." (Taylor, p. 29.) While stopping for a moment at Brother Albert G. Fellows' farm, just four miles out of Carthage, Joseph's party encountered a company of about 60 cavalry. On seeing the unit the Prophet remarked to a friend, apparently John Bernhisel, "I am going as a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning: I have a conscience void of offense towards God & man." (Taylor, p. 69; compare also D&C 135:4.) At Joseph's request his attorney advanced to ascertain just who the soldiers were. Their commander, Capt. Dunn, flanked by Mr. Coolie, one of the governor's aide-de-camps, informed Mr. Woods that they were under orders from Gov. Ford to proceed to Nauvoo and secure the state arms which had been issued to the Nauvoo Legion. The Prophet not only countersigned the order of Gov. Ford but also accompanied the cavalry unit back to Nauvoo to insure compliance with the request. In Nauvoo three pieces of cannon and 220 stand of small arms were surrendered. The Prophet bid a final farewell to Emma and the children and arrived in Carthage just before midnight. He housed in the Hamilton House amidst some tumult created by the Carthage Greys, who stoutly opposed the Mormons (TS 5:563; Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois

Chicago: S.C. Griggs and Co., 1854T, p. 336.)

On the morning of June 25, Joseph and Hyrum, along with those charged with riot, surrendered themselves to David Bettisworth, the constable who held the writ against them. Gov. Ford pledged his faith and that of the State of Illinois that they would be protected from violence. While Joseph was in an interview with William G. Flood of Quincy, Constable Bettisworth returned with new writs, issued by Justice Robert P. Smith, charging Joseph and Hyrum with treason against the State of Illinois. According to Gov. Ford, "The overt act of treason charged against them consisted in the alleged levying of war against the State by declaring martial law in Nauvoo, and in ordering out the legion to resist the posse comitatus." The complaints had been issued on the affidavits of Augustine Spencer and Henry O. Norton, who were in league with the conspirators. However, nothing was said at the time about the Smiths being remanded to jail on the charges. (Ford, p. 337.)

That same morning, Joseph and Hyrum "trooped the line" with Gov. Ford and Brigadier-General Minor R. Deming, commander of the 4th Brigade, 5th Division. Gov. Ford estimated the force assembled at Carthage to be about twelve or thirteen hundred men with four to five hundred more gathered at Warsaw. They were introduced to the various units which had been assembled by the governor in Carthage so that all might see General Smith. The Carthage Greys remonstrated and said that they would introduce themselves to the Mormons in a different style. (HC 6:563-654; Ford, p. 339.)

In the late afternoon Joseph, Hyrum, and 13 others appeared before Robert F. Smith, justice of the peace, on the charge of riot. Robert Smith was not the justice who had issued the original writ (despite the governor's previous insistence) and, in fact, was a captain of the Carthage Greys, a bitter enemy. The defendants were allowed to enter into a recognizance (bail) in the sum of $500 each to answer at the next term of the circuit court, this despite resistance from the prosecution. (Oaks and Hill, p. 18.)

During the evening, Constable Bettisworth came to the Hamilton House and insisted that Joseph and Hyrum accompany him to jail on the charge of treason previously issued. Joseph demanded that he be allowed to see a committal mittimus. This was at first refused but when Joseph's lawyers, James W. Woods and Hugh T. Reid, declared that the prisoners were entitled to an examination before a justice of the peace before they could be committed to jail, Bettisworth then produced what was of necessity a false mittimus. The instrument stated that Joseph and Hyrum had already appeared before Justice Smith on the charge of treason, which was not the case, and that the trial had been postponed because of the absence of material witnesses. It further stipulated that the prisoners should therefore be remanded to jail until the time of the trial. (TS 5:562.)

Over their strenuous objections to the irregularities of the mittimus, Capt. Dunn and a troop of men escorted the two brothers to prison where they were received by the jailor, George W. Stigall. Joseph and Hyrum were also accompanied by a contingent of friends, John Taylor, Willard Richards, John P. Greene, Stephen Markham, Dan Jones, John S. Fullmer, Dr. Southwick (later discovered to have been an enemy), and Lorenzo D. Wasson, each highly concerned for the safety of their leaders. The evening was spent crowded together in the debtors' cell on the ground level in the northwest corner of Carthage Jail. (HC 6:569-74.)

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