Volume 6 Chapter 33 | BYU Studies

Volume 6 Chapter 33


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Chapter 33

The Day of Martyrdom—Threats—Repeated Warnings of the Prisoners' Danger Given to Governor Ford—The Carthage Greys as Guards.

Tuesday, 27, 5 A.M.—John P. Greene and William W. Phelps called at the jail, on their way to Nauvoo.

Threats of Frank Worrell.

5:30 A.M.—Arose. Joseph requested Dan Jones to descend and inquire of the guard the cause of the disturbance in the night. Frank Worrell, the officer of the guard, who was one of the Carthage Greys, in a very bitter spirit said, "We have had too much trouble to bring Old Joe here to let him ever escape alive, and unless you want to die with him you had better leave before sundown; and you are not a damned bit better than him for taking his part, and you'll see that I can prophesy better than Old Joe, for neither he nor his brother, nor anyone who will remain with them will see the sun set today."

Governor Ford Warned of Worrell's Threat.

Joseph directed Jones to go to Governor Ford and inform him what he had been told by the officer of the guard. While Jones was going to Governor Ford's quarters, he saw an assemblage of men, and heard one of them, who was apparently a leader, making a speech, saying that, "Our troops will be discharged this morning in obedience to orders, and for a sham we will leave the town; but when the Governor and the McDonough troops have left for Nauvoo this afternoon, we will return and kill those men, if we have to tear the jail down." This sentiment was applauded by three cheers from the crowd.

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Captain Jones went to the Governor, told him what had occurred in the night, what the officer of the guard had said, and what he had heard while coming to see him, and earnestly solicited him to avert the danger.

His Excellency replied, "You are unnecessarily alarmed for the safety of your friends, sir, the people are not that cruel."

Jones' Warning to Gov. Ford.

Irritated by such a remark, Jones urged the necessity of placing better men to guard them than professed assassins, and said, "The Messrs. Smith are American citizens, and have surrendered themselves to your Excellency upon your pledging your honor for their safety; they are also Master Masons, and as such I demand of you protection of their lives."

Governor Ford's face turned pale, and Jones remarked, "If you do not do this, I have but one more desire, and that is if you leave their lives in the hands of those men to be sacrificed—"

"What is that, sir?" he asked in a hurried tone.

"It is," said Jones, "that the Almighty will preserve my life to a proper time and place, that I may testify that you have been timely warned of their danger."

Jones then returned to the prison, but the guard would not let him enter. He again returned to the hotel, and found Governor Ford standing in front of the McDonough troops, who were in line ready to escort him to Nauvoo.

Boasts of the Mob.

The disbanded mob retired to the rear, shouting loudly that they were only going a short distance out of town, when they would return and kill old Joe and Hyrum as soon as the Governor was far enough out of town.

Jones called the attention of the Governor to the threats then made, but the Governor took no notice of them, although it was impossible for him to avoid hearing them.

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Jones then requested the Governor to give him passports for himself and friends to pass in and out of the prison, according to his promise made to the prisoners. He refused to give them, but he told General Deming to give one to Dr. Willard Richards, Joseph Smith's private secretary.

Chauncy L. Higbee's Declared Intention to Kill the Prophet.

While obtaining this, Jones' life was threatened, and Chauncey L. Higbee said to him in the street, "We are determined to kill Joe and Hyrum, and you had better go away to save yourself."

At 7 A.M., Joseph, Hyrum, Dr. Richards, Stephen Markham and John S. Fullmer ate breakfast together. Mr. Crane ate with them, and wanted to know if the report was true that Joseph fainted three times on Tuesday, while being exhibited to the troops. He was told it was a false report.

8 A.M.—Cyrus H. Wheelock, at Joseph's request, applied to the Governor, and obtained the following passes:

Cyrus H. Wheelock's Passes.

Suffer Mr. C. H. Wheelock to pass in to visit General Joseph Smith and friends in Carthage jail unmolested.

Thomas Ford,

Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

June, 27th, 1844.

Protect Mr. C. H. Wheelock in passing to and from Carthage and Nauvoo.

Thomas Ford,

Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

June 27th, 1844.

While receiving these passes he related to the Governor the numerous threats he had heard.

John S. Fullmer went to the Governor to get a pass.

8:20 A.M.—Joseph wrote to Emma as follows:

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Letter: Joseph Smith to Emma Smith—Prophet's Instruction as to Reception of the Governor.

Carthage Jail, June 27th, 1844.

20 minutes past eight A.M.

Dear Emma.—The Governor continues his courtesies, and permits us to see our friends. We hear this morning that the Governor will not go down with his troops today to Nauvoo, as we anticipated last evening; but if he does come down with his troops you will be protected; and I want you to tell Brother Dunham to instruct the people to stay at home and attend to their own business, and let there be no groups or gathering together, unless by permission of the Governor, they are called together to receive communications from the Governor, which would please our people, but let the Governor direct.

Brother Dunham of course will obey the orders of the government officers, and render them the assistance they require. There is no danger of any extermination order. Should there be a mutiny among the troops (which we do not anticipate, excitement is abating) a part will remain loyal and stand for the defense of the state and our rights.

There is one principle which is eternal; it is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of the household, whenever necessity requires, and no power has a right to forbid it, should the last extreme arrive, but I anticipate no such extreme, but caution is the parent of safety.

Joseph Smith.

P. S.—Dear Emma, I am very much resigned to my lot, knowing I am justified, and have done the best that could be done. Give my love to the children and all my friends, Mr. Brewer, and all who inquire after me; and as for treason, I know that I have not committed any, and they cannot prove anything of the kind, so you need not have any fears that anything can happen to us on that account. May God bless you all. Amen.

8:30.—John S. Fullmer returned to jail.

9:40 A.M.—Mr. Woods and Mr. Reid called. They said another consultation of the officers had taken place, and the former orders of the Governor for marching to Nauvoo with the whole army were countermanded.

Dr. Southwick's Report of the Carthage Meeting.

Dr. Southwick was in the meeting, seeing what was going on. He afterward told Stephen Markham that the purport of the meeting was to take into consideration the best way to stop Joseph Smith's career, as his views on government were widely circulated and took like wildfire. They said if he did not get into the Presidential chair this election, he would be sure to the next time; and if Illinois and Missouri would join together and kill him, they would not be brought to justice for it. There were delegates in said meeting from every state in the Union except three. Governor Ford and Captain Smith were also in the meeting.

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Appointment of the Carthage Greys to Guard the Prisoners.

Captain Dunn and his company were ordered to accompany the Governor to Nauvoo. The Carthage Greys, who had but two days before been under arrest for insulting the commanding general, and whose conduct had been more hostile to the prisoners than that of any other company, were selected by Governor Ford to guard the prisoners at the jail; and other troops composed of the mob whom the Governor had found at Carthage, and had mustered into the service of the State and who had been promised "full satisfaction" and that they should be marched to Nauvoo, were disbanded and discharged in Carthage; yet Governor Ford suffered two or three hundred armed men to remain encamped about eight miles off on the Warsaw road, 1 apparently under the control of Col. Levi Williams, a notoriously sworn enemy to Joseph, and who had on many occasions threatened the destruction of Nauvoo and the death of Joseph. Moreover it was the duty of the Governor to dismiss the troops into the hands of their several officers in order to be marched home and there disbanded, and not to have disbanded them at a distance from home, and at a time and place when they were predisposed to acts of lawless violence, rapine and murder.

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Wheelock's Remonstrance to Gov. Ford.

Cyrus H. Wheelock, states that previous to leaving Carthage he said to the Governor, "Sir you must be aware by this time that the prisoners have no fears in relation to any lawful demands made against them, but you have heard sufficient to justify you in the belief that their enemies would destroy them if they had them in their power; and now, sir, I am about to leave for Nauvoo, and I fear for those men; they are safe as regards the law, but they are not safe from the hands of traitors, and midnight assassins who thirst for their blood and have determined to spill it; and under these circumstances I leave with a heavy heart."

Ford replied: "I was never in such a dilemma in my life; but your friends shall be protected, and have a fair trial by the law; in this pledge I am not alone; I have obtained the pledge of the whole of the army to sustain me."

Arms Given to the Prisoners.

After receiving these assurances, Wheelock prepared to visit the prison. The morning being a little rainy, favored his wearing an overcoat, in the side pocket of which he was enabled to carry a six shooter, and he passed the guard unmolested. During his visit in the prison he slipped the revolver into Joseph's pocket. Joseph examined it, and asked Wheelock if he had not better retain it for his own protection.

This was a providential circumstance, as most other persons had been very rigidly searched. Joseph then handed the single barrel pistol which had been given him by John S. Fullmer, to his brother Hyrum, and said, "You may have use for this." Brother Hyrum observed, "I hate to use such things or to see them used." "So do I," said Joseph, "but we may have to, to defend ourselves;" upon this Hyrum took the pistol.

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Wheelock was intrusted with a verbal request to the commanders of the Legion to avoid all military display, or any other movement calculated to produce excitement during the Governor's visit. He was especially charged to use all the influence he possessed to have the brethren and friends of Joseph remain perfectly calm and quiet, inasmuch as they respected the feelings and well-being of the Prophet and Patriarch.

Reflections of the Prophet on Exposing Wickedness.

Said Joseph, "Our lives have already become jeopardized by revealing the wicked and bloodthirsty purposes of our enemies; and for the future we must cease to do so. All we have said about them is truth, but it is not always wise to relate all the truth. Even Jesus, the Son of God had to refrain from doing so, and had to restrain His feelings many times for the safety of Himself and His followers, and had to conceal the righteous purposes of His heart in relation to many things pertaining to His Father's kingdom. When still a boy He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person, and was subject to cold, to hunger and to death. So it is with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; we have the revelation of Jesus, and the knowledge within us is sufficient to organize a righteous government upon the earth, and to give universal peace to all mankind, if they would receive it, but we lack the physical strength, as did our Savior when a child, to defend our principles, and we have of necessity to be afflicted, persecuted and smitten, and to bear it patiently until Jacob is of age, then he will take care of himself."

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Wheelock took a list of witnesses' names that were wanted for the expected trial on Saturday. When the list was read over, a number of names were stricken out, among whom were Alpheus Cutler and Reynolds Cahoon, it being deemed by Brother Hyrum unnecessary for them to attend. Brother Joseph asked why they should not come. Hyrum answered, "They may be very good men, but they don't know enough to answer a question properly." Brother Joseph remarked, "That is sufficient reason."

The Prisoner's Messages to Friends in Nauvoo.

The prisoners also sent many verbal messages to their families. They were so numerous that Dr. Richards proposed writing them all down, fearing Wheelock might forget, but Brother Hyrum fastened his eyes upon him, and with a look of penetration said, "Brother Wheelock will remember all that we tell him, and he will never forget the occurrences of this day."

Joseph related the following dream which he had last night:

The Prophet's Dream of his Kirtland Farm

"I was back in Kirtland, Ohio, and thought I would take a walk out by myself, and view my old farm, which I found grown up with weeds and brambles, and altogether bearing evidence of neglect and want of culture. I went into the barn, which I found without floor or doors, with the weather-boarding off, and was altogether in keeping with the farm.

"While I viewed the desolation around me, and was contemplating how it might be recovered from the curse upon it, there came rushing into the barn a company of furious men, who commenced to pick a quarrel with me.

"The leader of the party ordered me to leave the barn and farm, stating it was none of mine, and that I must give up all hope of ever possessing it.

"I told him the farm was given me by the Church, and although I had not had any use of it for some time back, still I had not sold it, and according to righteous principles it belonged to me or the Church.

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"He then grew furious and began to rail upon me, and threaten me, and said it never did belong to me nor to the Church.

"I then told him that I did not think it worth contending about, that I had no desire to live upon it in its present state, and if he thought he had a better right I would not quarrel with him about it but leave; but my assurance that I would not trouble him at present did not seem to satisfy him, as he seemed determined to quarrel with me, and threatened me with the destruction of my body.

"While he was thus engaged, pouring out his bitter words upon me, a rabble rushed in and nearly filled the barn, drew out their knives, and began to quarrel among themselves for the premises, and for a moment forgot me, at which time I took the opportunity to walk out of the barn about up to my ankles in mud.

"When I was a little distance from the barn, I heard them screeching and screaming in a very distressed manner, as it appeared they had engaged in a general fight with their knives. While they were thus engaged, the dream or vision ended."

Testimony of Joseph and Hyrum to the Book of Mormon.

Both Joseph and Hyrum bore a faithful testimony to the Latter-day work, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and prophesied of the triumph of the Gospel over all the earth, exhorting the brethren present to faithfulness and persevering diligence in proclaiming the Gospel, building up the Temple, and performing all the duties connected with our holy religion.

Joseph dictated the following postscript to Emma:

Letter: Postscript.

P. S.—20 minutes to 10.—I just learn that the Governor is about to disband his troops, all but a guard to protect us and the peace, and come himself to Nauvoo and deliver a speech to the people. This is right as I suppose.

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He afterwards wrote a few lines with his own hand, which were not copied.

The letter was sent by Joel S. Mills and Cyrus H. Wheelock.

Gov. Ford Warned of the Conspiracy Against Prisoner's Lives.

John P. Greene, (Nauvoo city marshal) told Governor Ford that if he went to Nauvoo, leaving only the Carthage Greys to guard the jail, that there was a conspiracy on foot to take the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith during his absence, to which the Governor replied, "Marshal Greene, you are too enthusiastic."

Chapter 33.

1. It is the record of the case, however, that Governor Ford did send an order disbanding the regiment from Warsaw which he had ordered to rendezvous at Golden's Point for the purpose of marching with the rest of the Governor's troops into Nauvoo. "The Governor," remarks the late John Hay, who is the authority for the incident of disbanding the Warsaw troops—"the Governor, fearing he could not control the inflammable material he had gathered together, had determined to scatter it again" (Atlantic Monthly, December, 1869). The courier of the Governor to the Warsaw troops was Mr. David Matthews, a well-known citizen of Warsaw. But after receiving the order for disbandment, while most of the troops returned to their homes, about one hundred and fifty volunteered to follow several of the militia captains—leaders on their own responsibility—to Nauvoo; of whom about seventy-five reached that place and participated in the murder of the Brothers Smith.