Welcome to the Read Rinaldo Blog. Over the next several weeks this site will analyze different people involved in the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857. This week, MALE VICTIMS.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) began in rural New York, moved to Kirtland, Ohio, then to Nauvoo, Illinois before stopping in Utah Territory. The LDS experienced a great deal of persecution at each location before settling in the distant and unpopulated Utah Territory. The persecution in Illinois included gunfights between locals and the Mormon Militia, eventually named Avenging Angels or Danites. The Mormons stockpiled weapons for these encounters. Having to guess at the cause of these fights from what I know about humans, I suspect the locals and the Mormons share fault for reaching this level of violence. Prophet Joseph Smith, LDS originator and leader, died when a mob of gentiles lynched him (Mormons define gentiles as non-Mormons). Brigham Young filled the void atop the LDS hierarchy and moved the Church to Utah.
During Brigham's leadership, approximately 150 Arkansans were slaughtered during a four day siege of their encampment in 1857. Eerily, though the siege lasted from September 7th to September 11th, nearly all of the emigrants died on September 11th. This ranked as the most deadly killing of Americans by Americans outside of the Civil War until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Local Mormons allegedly committed this atrocity. In 1999 two men digging with a backhoe unearthed bones at Mountain Meadows. Forensic scientists flocked to the area to quickly study the remains. Within days Governor Mike Leavitt ordered the bones reburied. Interestingly, Mike Leavitt is allegedly a direct descendant of one of the killers at Mountain Meadows in 1857. Mormons consider lineage of vital importance, and one's ancestry is something a faithful Mormon would definitely know. Please note that despite Mormons blaming local Paiute Indians for the killings, the scientists definitively concluded that every death they could account for happened with bullets, something the Paiute tribes in the area did not possess. Science, the limited federal investigation in the years following the massacre, and the surviving historical record irrefutably declares that Mormons killed these travelers. In 2007 the LDS officially expressed regret that the local Mormons participated in the massacre, but failed to admit sanctioning these murders.
At Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory in September of 1857, Mormons attacked and used the old Roman siege tactic to kill off a wagon train full of Arkansas emigrants. Having lived in Arkansas during the 1850s, the emigrants were accustomed to fighting off Indian attacks. The Arkansans remained calm when the first shot rang out and struck one of their people in the neck. They circled the wagons for defensive position because the attacking Mormons had the hills surrounding the meadow. During this four-day siege, the emigrants had to cross open ground to reach the spring for water. The Mormons who later admitted to their part swore the people going to the spring were the bravest they'd ever seen.
The Mormons feared the ability of these men so much that after having surrounded them for four days, the Mormons, not the Arkansans, asked for a truce. Both sides knew the emigrants had little food and ammunition left, but the Mormons concocted an exceptionally brutal scheme to end the standoff. I find this interesting.
The Arkansans could have made a desperate attempt to punch through the Mormon defensive line, but they didn't. That would've been suicide. Even if they had gotten past the first wave of Mormons, they would've had to cross hundreds of miles before reaching the next non-Mormon settlement. Even being so far from the nearest help and having almost no food or ammunition, these emigrants refused to give up. Imagine the internal fortitude they possessed to remain calm and rational under these conditions.
The "truce", negotiated by Mormon assassin John D. Lee [read more on him below], required the men in this wagon train to have an armed escort as they left Mountain Meadows. The Arkansans assumed they were marching to their deaths, but had no choice. A Mormon commanded, "Do your duty!", and the escorts shot all of the men from the wagon train first. The Mormons played with the captured women and children before killing most of them, too [read more of their stories below].
This siege lasted from September 7th to September 11th. Obviously, September 11th has been a day of tragedy twice for America. The group at Mountain Meadows had the opportunity to fight back, and they did in the most amazing fashion. The victims out-endured the murderers.
You might think about these men at Mountain Meadows the next time you hear yourself say, "I quit." I know I will.