A newer edition of this article was published as a chapter in Sustaining the Law. Follow this link to view the chapter.
On November 1, 1838, the Mormon settlement at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, was surrounded by state militia troops commanded by Generals Samuel D. Lucas and Robert Wilson. Mormon leaders Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, Lyman Wight, George Robinson, and Amasa Lyman were taken prisoner, and a court-martial was promptly conducted. General Lucas pronounced a sentence of death on all prisoners, to be carried out the following morning, November 2, in the Far West town square. General Lucas contended that the infamous order of Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, issued to drive the Mormons from the state or, in the alternative, to "exterminate them," granted him such authority. Brigadier General Alexander W. Doniphan (fig. 2), to whom the order pronouncing sentence was directed and who was an attorney by profession, refused the order, calling it "cold-blooded murder," and threatened to hold Major General Lucas personally responsible if it were carried out. It was not. Instead, Lucas and Wilson transported their prisoners first to Independence, Jackson County, and then to Richmond, Ray County.