Charge of Francis M. Higbee
June 11, 1844, Francis M. Higbee made complaint before Thomas Morrison, a justice of the peace at Carthage, charging Joseph Smith and the members of the Nauvoo city council with riot committed in destroying the press of the Expositor. The warrant was served by Constable David Bettisworth the following day. It required that the accused should go before the justice issuing the warrant, “or some other justice of the peace, for trial.” The Prophet expressed his willingness to go before some other justice, as he had lawful right to do, but was not willing to be taken to Carthage to be tried before his mobocratic enemies. Bettisworth, in anger, declared that he would take him to Carthage. His attention was called to the nature of the warrant and that his actions were contrary to law, and with righteous indignation Joseph Smith obtained a writ of habeas corpus and was legally tried before the municipal court of Nauvoo and discharged. Each of the members of the city council did the same, and were likewise discharged.
Anger of the Mob
When Bettisworth returned to Carthage without his prisoners, the disappointment of the mobocrats was intense, and they threatened to go against Nauvoo in force. Indignation meetings were held in Warsaw and Carthage, and inflammatory speeches were made against the Saints. The assembled mobbers in each place adopted resolutions in which they said, “We hold ourselves at all times in readiness to co-operate with our fellow-citizens in this state, Missouri and Iowa, to exterminate, utterly exterminate, the wicked and abominable ‘Mormon’ leaders, the authors of our troubles.” All members of the Church, or sympathizers with Joseph Smith, were warned to leave these townships on pain of instant vengeance. A deputation was sent by them to the governor, stating that Joseph Smith and others had refused to obey the mandate of the writ, and with other falsehoods they attempted to prejudice him in their favor. The minutes of these unlawful and wicked proceedings were published in the Warsaw Signal and other papers of the state.
The Saints Threatened
The Saints also sent messengers to the governor with full and correct accounts of the proceedings at Nauvoo, and asking for protection. In the meantime, without waiting for the governor’s reply, the mob forces commenced their brutal attacks upon the Saints residing outside of Nauvoo, threatening them with destruction unless they immediately accepted one of the following propositions: Deny Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God and join the mob in securing his arrest; gather up their effects and move to Nauvoo; or give up their arms and remain quiet until the affair was over. Runners were dispatched to Missouri for aid from the mobbers there, and the whole country was inflamed by the spread of diabolical falsehoods.
Advice of Judge Thomas
The Prophet did everything in his power to allay excitement and kept the governor posted with numerous affidavits and documents regarding the state of affairs. Judge Jesse B. Thomas, of the circuit court, advised the Prophet to go before some justice of the peace in the county and have an examination on the writ issued by Morrison, which action would take away all excuse of the mob, and then he could take steps to have them bound to keep the peace. For his pains, Judge Thomas was threatened by the mob with a coat of tar and feathers. The Prophet accepted his advice and was tried before Justice Daniel H. Wells, a non-“Mormon,” and after a full investigation was discharged. His enemies knew that this trial was lawful, as the previous one had been; but they were determined not to be thwarted in their wicked purpose. They thirsted for the blood of the Prophet and were determined to drag him to Carthage, with or without process of law, there to slay him. A mass meeting was held in Nauvoo, pacific resolutions were adopted, and messengers chosen to go forth in the surrounding country to declare the truth and allay excitement; but the prejudice was too great and little was accomplished.
Nauvoo Under Martial Law
Because of threats of mob vengeance from both Missouri and Illinois information was sent to President Tyler of the United States, acquainting him with the danger and asking for protection. Nauvoo was placed under martial law, and the legion mustered into service in self-defense. The Prophet stood before them in his uniform as lieutenant-general and addressed them at length, in defense of their liberties. In the course of his remarks he said:
“It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied by my destruction, but I tell you as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fulness of the Gospel. The opposition of these men is moved by the spirit of the adversary of all righteousness. It is not only to destroy me, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach to this generation.”
Appeal to the Governor for Protection
On June 16, Joseph wrote Governor Ford, calling his attention to the mob meetings at Carthage and Warsaw, and the threats made to exterminate the Saints. He requested the governor to come to Nauvoo to make further investigation, and to quell insurrection. Instead of going to Nauvoo, Governor Ford went to Carthage, and sent word to Nauvoo that he was there in the interest of peace, and asked that well-informed and discreet persons be sent to him. Elders John Taylor and Dr. John M. Bernhisel were immediately sent to Carthage; but to their surprise and disappointment they found the governor surrounded by some of the worst element in Illinois. The Laws, Fosters and Higbees, with Joseph H. Jackson, an adventurer and murderer, the publishers of the Expositor, had his ear. Elders Taylor and Bernhisel could not get an interview with the governor except in the presence of these vicious enemies who had pledged themselves to bring to pass the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. As they told their side of the story they were constantly interrupted by this rabble with, “that’s a — — lie,” and other unseemly epithets of like character. The governor treated them very rudely, showing that he was under the influence of the mob. He stated that Joseph Smith and the members of the city council should come to Carthage to be tried on the original writ as nothing short of that would satisfy the people. When the messengers protested because of the murderous spirit of the mob, the governor strenuously advised that they come without arms and pledged his faith that they should be protected. He also sent a written communication to Joseph Smith, in which he said the city council, in destroying the Expositor press, had committed a gross outrage upon the laws and liberty of the people. He ignored the trial before the municipal court and also that before Daniel H. Wells, justice of the peace, demanding that all who were accused should submit themselves “to be arrested by the same constable, by virtue of the same warrant, and be tried before the same magistrate whose authority has heretofore been resisted. Nothing short of this can vindicate the dignity of violated law and allay the just excitement of the people.” Governor Ford must have blushed with shame when he penned these lines, for he knew he was violating his oath of office and declaring an untruth, for the sake of finding favor with the mob. If his demand was not complied with he threatened to come with sufficient force to execute his order. “You know the excitement of the public mind,” he said. “Do not tempt it too far. A very little matter may do a very great injury; and if you are disposed to continue the causes of excitement and render a force necessary to coerce submission, I would say that your city was built, as it were, upon a keg of powder which a very little spark may explode.” “And I will,” he continued, “also guarantee the safety of all such persons as may thus be brought to this place from Nauvoo either for trial or as witnesses for the accused.”
The same day (June 22) the Prophet respectfully replied to this cravenly penned communication, defending his course and denying the false accusations contained in the governor’s letter. He called attention to the promises made in Missouri, but when witnesses came they were cast into prison, and since “a burnt child dreads the fire,” they were not to be blamed if they refused to place themselves in the hands of a blood-thirsty mob openly making threats to take their lives. The Prophet expressed a willingness to go before any other justice in the state, except at Carthage, or before the circuit court, but did not feel legally bound to go to Carthage to be butchered.
The governor’s letter to Joseph Smith caused no small surprise among the Saints. It was evident that they could not look to him for help, for he had joined himself entirely with their enemies. He had ignored the law; refused to recognize the legality of the courts, and the right of a fair and impartial trial before an unprejudiced judge and jury.
Hyrum Refuses to Leave his Brother
So serious had the matter become that a letter was sent to President Brigham Young and the apostles who were in the mission field, instructing them to return to Nauvoo at once. The Prophet had previously (June 20) advised his brother Hyrum to take his family and go at once by steamboat to Cincinnati. Hyrum replied: “Joseph, I can’t leave you,” whereupon Joseph remarked to his brethren, “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.”
The Proposed Journey to the West
In the afternoon of June 22, Joseph was in consultation with Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, Willard Richards and Dr. John M. Bernhisel, when it was decided that he should go to Washington and lay the whole difficulty before President Tyler. At dusk another consultation was held, when the Prophet called these same brethren and William W. Phelps, Abraham C. Hodge, John L. Butler, Alpheus Cutler and William Marks, to his office in his upper room. The governor’s letter was read and the Prophet said, “There is no mercy—no mercy here.” Hyrum said, “No; just as sure as we fall into their hands we are dead men.” Joseph replied, “Yes: what shall we do, Brother Hyrum?” Hyrum replied, “I don’t know.” All at once the Prophet’s countenance brightened up and he said, “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.” On this date Joseph wrote: “I told Stephen Markham that if Hyrum and I were ever taken again we should be massacred, or I was not a prophet of God. I want Hyrum to live to avenge my blood, but he is determined not to leave me.”
Between nine and ten o’clock Hyrum Smith came out of the Mansion House and gave his hand to Reynolds Cahoon, saying, “A company of men are seeking to kill my brother Joseph, and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life. Good-bye, Brother Cahoon, we shall see you again.” A few minutes later, as Joseph, Hyrum and Willard Richards were waiting on the river bank, William W. Phelps was instructed to take the families of the Prophet and Patriarch to Cincinnati. About midnight the three brethren were rowed across the river by Orrin P. Rockwell, who returned with instructions to obtain horses and pass them over the river the next night secretly, and be ready to start for the Great Basin in the Rocky Mountains.
The Governor’s Threat
At ten o’clock on the morning of the 23rd the governor’s posse arrived in Nauvoo to arrest the Prophet, but not finding him they returned, leaving one of their number to watch for him. This posse said that if Joseph and Hyrum Smith were not given up the governor was determined to send his troops into the city and guard it until they were found, if it took three years.
Joseph Smith Accused of Cowardice
At one p.m. Emma Smith sent Orrin P. Rockwell to entreat the Prophet to come back. Reynolds Cahoon accompanied him with a letter to the same effect. Reynolds Cahoon, Lorenzo D. Wasson and Hiram Kimball accused Joseph of cowardice for wishing to leave the people, saying that their property would be destroyed, and they would be left without house or home. Like the fable, when the wolves came the shepherd ran from the flock.
The Return to Nauvoo
The persecutions of enemies were easy to bear, but when he was thus accused by those who should have been his dearest friends, the Prophet was stung to the quick. It was not for himself he sought safety, but for his people. If this was all they cared, he would not seek to save himself. He replied: “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself.” Turning to Rockwell he said, “What shall I do?” Rockwell answered: “You are the oldest and ought to know best; and as you make your bed, I will lie with you.” Joseph then turned to Hyrum and said: “Brother Hyrum, you are the oldest, what shall we do?” Hyrum said, “Let us go back and give ourselves up, and see the thing out.” The Prophet remained in deep reflection for some time, and then remarked: “If you go back I will 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.”
They then returned, and the first thing the Prophet did was to notify Governor Ford, by the hands of Theodore Turley and Jedediah M. Grant, that he would be ready to go to Carthage on the morrow. The governor promised to send a posse to protect him on the way, but through the influence of the Nauvoo conspirators, he changed his mind and ordered the Prophet and Patriarch to come to Carthage without escort.
The Start for Carthage
Early on the morning of the 24th of June, Joseph and Hyrum with the accused members of the city council and a few tried friends, left Nauvoo for Carthage. On the way the Prophet hesitated, and looked back with admiration upon the city, the temple, and his farm. “This is the loveliest place, and the best people under the heavens,” he said; “little do they know the trials that await them!” They passed the home of Esq. Daniel H. Wells, who was unwell. The Prophet stopped and called on him, and as he parted, he said: “Squire Wells, I wish you to cherish my memory, and not think me the worst man in the world either.”
The Governor’s Demand for Arms
About four miles from Carthage, they met Captain Dunn with a company of about sixty mounted militia, who presented the Prophet with an order from the governor for delivery of all the state arms in possession of the Nauvoo Legion, which Joseph promptly countersigned. It was not enough for the governor to demand the presence of the Prophet and Patriarch at Carthage to be murdered, but the people in Nauvoo were to be left defenseless against their enemies. This order for the delivery of the state arms was evidently intended to exasperate the Saints to commit some overt act, which might be construed as treason. Fearing that the inhabitants of Nauvoo would show resistance, Captain Dunn requested that the whole company return with him to Nauvoo, and pledged to protect them even with his life. A messenger was sent to the governor explaining the reason for the return to Nauvoo. Notwithstanding the many threats, which the governor constantly had heard against the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, no action was taken to disarm the mob, who were mustered into the governor’s service. It appeared very much like a repetition of the Missouri scenes, in making the Saints defenseless while in a peaceful attitude, and arming their murderous enemies with state arms.
A Lamb to the Slaughter
When the company met Captain Dunn, the Prophet said:
“I am going like a lamb to the slaughter, but I am as calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward all men. If they take my life I shall die an innocent man, and my blood shall cry from the ground for vengeance, and it shall be said of me, ‘He was murdered in cold blood!’”
When the work of Captain Dunn was accomplished, he thanked the people for their peaceful compliance and promised them protection. Late that afternoon the journey to Carthage was commenced again. It was midnight when the company arrived at that town, and while passing the public square many of the troops of the Carthage Greys made murderous threats. “Stand away, you McDonough boys,” they yelled, “and let us shoot the damned ‘Mormons’” “—— you, old Joe, we’ve got you now. Clear the way and let us have a view of Joe Smith, the prophet of God. He has seen the last of Nauvoo. We’ll use him up now, and kill all the damned Mormons.”
Governor Ford’s Promise to the Mob-Militia
On hearing these threats Governor Ford put his head out of a window and said, “I know your great anxiety to see Mr. Smith, which is natural enough, but it is quite too late tonight for you to have the opportunity; but I assure you, gentlemen, you shall have that privilege tomorrow morning, as I will cause him to pass before the troops upon the square, and I now wish you, with this assurance, quietly and peaceably to return to your quarters.” With a faint “Hurrah for Tom Ford,” they complied with his wish.
The Charge of Treason
Early on the morning of the 25th the prisoners voluntarily surrendered themselves to Constable Bettisworth. Shortly afterwards Joseph and Hyrum were again arrested by Bettisworth on the charge of “treason” against the state of Illinois, on complaint of Augustine Spencer and Henry O. Norton.
The Governor’s Inflammatory Speech
Shortly after eight o’clock Governor Ford called all the troops together and formed them in a hollow square. He then addressed them in a most inflammatory manner against the Prophet Joseph and the Patriarch Hyrum Smith. They needed little encouragement, as he well knew, for they even then were inflamed to a murderous degree. At the close of his speech he fulfilled his promise to the troops as they were drawn up in file, by taking Joseph and Hyrum Smith before them, and introduced them as Generals Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The Carthage Greys refused to receive them by such title, and made threats against their lives, to which the governor paid little heed.
His Lack of Sincerity
When Joseph Smith reported to Governor Ford that he had been before Daniel H. Wells, a justice of the peace, and had been tried, the governor replied that no other justice would do to try the case but the one who had issued the writ, therefore they must be tried before Justice Morrison. His lack of sincerity is shown in the fact that they were now taken before Justice Robert F. Smith, captain of the Carthage Greys and a most bitter mobocrat. The governor’s object was to drag them to Carthage to their enemies, and there was no thought of justice or right in making his demand. The accused brethren were bound over to appear at the next term of the circuit court. It was evident that the magistrate intended to place their bail at a figure which could not be met, in order to cast them into jail, but the bond was given, and Justice Smith left the court house without calling on the two prisoners, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, to answer to the charge of treason.
About eight p.m. Constable Bettisworth appeared at their lodgings at the Hamilton House and insisted on Joseph and Hyrum going to jail. They demanded to see the copy of the mittimus, which was refused. Their counsel, Messrs. H. T. Reid and J. W. Woods, informed the constable that they were entitled to a hearing before a justice, whereupon the constable produced a mittimus which falsely stated that they had been brought before Justice Robert F. Smith and the trial had been postponed by reason of the absence of material witnesses. They vigorously protested against such false and outrageous proceedings. Justice Smith asked the governor for advice, since his mittimus was illegal, and therefore this was a false committal, when Governor Ford replied, “You have the Carthage Greys at your command!” The hint was sufficient, and Captain Robert F. Smith thereupon commanded his “Greys” to execute the illegal action of Justice Robert F. Smith, and the Prophet Joseph and Patriarch Hyrum Smith were thrust into jail in defiance of all law. Elder John Taylor protested to the governor, but was answered by that craven individual that he had no power to interfere, and the law must take its course.
The Governor’s Broken Pledge
On the morning of June 26, Joseph requested an interview with Governor Ford, which had been denied him the day before. This time it was granted and the whole cause of the trouble was reviewed. Governor Ford contemplated going to Nauvoo the following day to investigate certain charges of counterfeiting, and the Prophet said he considered himself unsafe in Carthage and requested to be taken to Nauvoo. The governor gave his word of honor that he would take him when he went, but failed to keep his promise.
The Illegal Summons
In the afternoon, Frank Worrell appeared before the jail with the Carthage Greys and demanded that the prisoners be delivered up to the constable to be taken before Justice R. F. Smith for trial. The jailer, who had been instructed to keep them in custody “until discharged by due course of law,” protested such proceedings; but by threats Worrell compelled the jailer to surrender the prisoners. They were taken before Justice Smith, where their counsel, who had been given no notice of a trial, asked for a continuance that they might obtain witnesses. A continuance was granted until noon the following day. A new mittimus was made out and the prisoners committed again to prison, and without consultation on their part the time of trial was changed until the twenty-ninth.
Threats of the Mob
It was common conversation on the camp ground and at the hotel, in the presence of Governor Ford, that “The law is too short for these men, but they must not be suffered to go at large;” and “if the law will not reach them, powder and ball must.” Previously the governor had said, in order to quiet the impatience of the Carthage Greys, that they should have “full satisfaction.”
The Night in Jail
The evening of the 26th of June was spent by the prisoners and a number of friends, viz., John Taylor, Willard Richards, John S. Fullmer, Stephen Markham and Dan Jones, in conversing on the scriptures, Hyrum Smith occupying most of the time. They all retired to bed late, except Dr. Willard Richards who sat up writing until his last candle burned out. The Prophet and Patriarch occupied the bed, while the other brethren slept on a mattress on the floor. The report of a gun caused Joseph to arise from the bed, and going over to the mattress, he lay down on the floor between Dan Jones and John S. Fullmer. Stretching out his right arm he said to John S. Fullmer, “Lay your head on my arm for a pillow, Brother John.” He then conversed with Brother Fullmer on many topics and gave expression to the presentiment he had from the beginning that he was to die. “I would like to see my family again,” he said, and “I would to God that I could preach to the Saints in Nauvoo once more.” After air was quiet he turned to Dan Jones and whispered, “Are you afraid to die?” Dan said, “Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.” The Prophet replied, “You will yet see Wales and fulfil the mission appointed you before you die.”
The Plotting by the Mob
Early on the morning of the 27th, John P. Greene and William W. Phelps called at the jail, and the Prophet sent Dan Jones out to inquire what the firing of a gun in the night near the jail was for. Frank Worrell, of the Carthage Greys, and officer of the guard, replied, “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.” Dan Jones reported to the Prophet who directed him to go to the governor and tell him what had taken place. On his way he overheard an officer making a speech, in which he said, “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 these men, if we have to tear the jail down.” This was greeted by three cheers from the troops.
The Governor Warned
Jones immediately reported to the governor what he had heard. Governor Ford replied: “You are unnecessarily alarmed for the safety of your friends, sir, the people are not that cruel.” Irritated by this remark, Jones urged the necessity of placing better men to guard the jail, and he 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 continued: “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?” Ford 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 guards drove him away. Going to the hotel he witnessed the discharge of the troops, as the officer had predicted, and shortly afterwards Governor Ford with the McDonough militia, the most friendly to the Saints, departed for Nauvoo, leaving the Carthage Greys, the most blood-thirsty of the troops, to guard the jail. The plot was working admirably without a hitch in the proceedings.
“A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”
John S. Fullmer and Stephen Markham, who had gone forth on errands, were also refused admittance again to the jail, while John Taylor and Willard Richards remained with their leaders. The day passed on, the prisoners and their two friends spent the time in bearing testimony to the truth of the Gospel, the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and in writing to their friends. Almon W. Babbitt called at the jail in the forenoon with a letter from Oliver Cowdery. Shortly after three o’clock there was excitement among the guards.
At this hour Elder John Taylor sang the hymn “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” When he had finished, the Prophet asked him to sing it through once more, which he did. At four o’clock the guard was changed. At five o’clock the jailer, Mr. Stigall, suggested that the prisoners retire to the cell below, where they would be safer.
Shortly after five o’clock there was a rustling at the outer door of the jail and a cry of surrender, and the discharge of three or four firearms. Dr. Richards glanced out of the window and saw about one hundred armed men around the door. Many of them had their faces blackened. It is said the guard elevated their guns and boisterously threatened the mob, but took good care to fire over their heads. The mob encircled the building and some of them rushed past the guard up the flight of stairs, burst open the door and began their work of death, while others fired through the windows. Joseph, Hyrum and Elder Taylor had their coats off. The Prophet sprang for his coat to get a six barreled pistol which Cyrus Wheelock had given him, and Hyrum reached for a single barrel pistol that had been left by John S. Fullmer. They all then braced themselves against the door, Elder Taylor armed with a heavy walking stick of Elder Markham’s and Dr. Richards with Elder Taylor’s cane. In an instant a ball whistled up the stairway, and Joseph Smith, John Taylor and Willard Richards sprang to the left of the door, and tried to knock aside the guns of the ruffians. Hyrum Smith retreated back and in front of the door, snapping his pistol, when a ball struck him on the left side of the nose. He fell on his back saying: “I am a dead man!” As he fell on the floor another ball from the outside entered his left side, and passed through his body with such force that it completely broke to pieces the watch he wore in his vest pocket. At the same instant another ball grazed his breast, entered his throat, and passed into his head, while another was fired into his leg. A shower of bullets was pouring into the room. Joseph reached around the door casing and discharged his six shooter into the passage, some barrels missing fire, while Elders Taylor and Richards continued to parry the muskets which were sticking through the door. When Hyrum fell, the Prophet said: “Oh, dear brother Hyrum!” Seeing there was no safety in the room, and without doubt thinking to spare his other companions, he turned calmly from the door, dropped his pistol on the floor, and sprang into the window. Two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without. He fell outward into the hands of his murderers, exclaiming: “O Lord, my God!” With a cry that he had jumped from the window, the assassins who were in the building rushed down the stairs. Elder Taylor was also severely wounded; four balls piercing his body, one ball struck his watch as he attempted to jump from the window, throwing him back into the room.
When the ruffians left the building, Elder Richards who had miraculously escaped, except that a ball grazed his ear, started for the door. Elder Taylor called to him; he returned and carried the wounded man upstairs into the “dungeon” and stretched him on the floor. Covering him with a bed, he said: “This is a hard case to lay you on the floor, but if your wounds are not fatal, I want you to live to tell the story.” He then returned to the room below, expecting the next moment to be shot.
Terror of the Mob
After accomplishing their deed of blood, terror seized the hearts of the assassins who fled from the scene of their diabolical crime in utmost confusion. Governor Ford, three miles out of Nauvoo, on his way to Carthage, met George D. Grant and Constable Bettisworth hastening to Nauvoo with the news of the martyrdom. With terror on his countenance, he carried them back to Carthage, that they might not spread the awful tale, until he should be at a distance beyond the vengeance which he feared. Arriving at Carthage, he advised the citizens to flee for their lives before the infuriated “Mormons” came to burn their town, and suiting action to his words he fled with his posse towards Quincy. Conscience-stricken and with the blood of prophets on his hands, he did not stop until he arrived at Augusta, eighteen miles away.
Sorrow of the Saints
In the meantime word of the horrible tragedy was sent by Dr. Willard Richards to Nauvoo. He said he had pledged his word to the frightened citizens of Carthage, that no violence or vengeance would be attempted by the Saints, and for the Saints to keep the peace and be prepared for an attack from Missouri. Indeed, there was no thought of summary vengeance by the Saints. With heads bowed down and hearts filled with grief—for the greatest sorrow in all their history had come upon them—they silently wept and prayed, leaving vengeance to Him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay!”
The next day, June 28, 1844, the bodies of the martyred prophets were taken to Nauvoo by Dr. Willard Richards, Samuel H. Smith and a guard of eight soldiers sent by General Deming. On the 29th, they were interred amidst the deep mourning of a stricken people.