On September 11, 1857, 120 men, women and also children—pioneers native Arkansas headed because that California—were massacred after being promised safe passage v a southern Utah valley well-known as hill Meadows.

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They to be murdered through a tiny Mormon militia and also its Indian allies in a dreadful ploy: after ~ a four-day gun battle with their attackers, the pioneers accepted a truce the turned out to be a fatal lie. They to be clubbed, stabbed or shot at point-blank range, then stripped and also left to be scavenged by wolves and buzzards. The only ones spared to be 17 youngsters under the age of eight, that were take away in by regional Mormon families, and also would later on testify they witnessed their parents’ clothes and jewels gift worn by locals.

The country was and also remains horrified by what taken place at hill Meadows. The Church the Jesus Christ that Latter-day Saints has actually steadfastly refuse responsibility. In ~ first, that blamed Indians; later, it claimed a rogue church main was responsible—and after 2 trials, Mormon militia leader man Lee was hanged in 1877 for the killings.

But now, a brand-new book, which has actually been a bestseller in Utah because it appeared last summer, cases the massacre was ordered by Mormon Prophet Brigham Young. Anxiously awaited is a publication due to be released in 2004 by 3 Mormon church chroniclers that will certainly exonerate Young.

True West inquiry the writer of both books to lay the end their claims. Will Bagley, a background columnist because that the Salt Lake Tribune, is the author of Blood that the Prophets: Brigham Young and also the Massacre at hill Meadows released by the university of Oklahoma Press. Ron Walker is among the three Mormon historians writing the upcoming rebuttal to be published by Oxford university Press.

Their face-off begins.

Brigham Young walk It.

By will certainly Bagley

There room two methods to analyze the evidence around who ordered the brutal killing of 120 men, women and also children in ~ a remote Utah oasis ~ above the road to California top top September 11, 1857. Fifty-three years back Juanita Brooks’ classic study, The hill Meadows Massacre, finish the crime to be the result of one unfortunate circumstance after another. (She also established “from the many impeccable Mormon sources” that Brigham Young had actually obstructed a murder examination for 18 years, i beg your pardon made him guilty of felony murder.)

The second explanation is the the massacre to be a calculated plot of vengeance.

After five years researching and writing around this horrific atrocity, I questioned I’d ever uncover a definitive answer to the question, “Did Brigham Young order the killing at mountain Meadows?”

I to be wrong.

To my surprise, I uncovered evidence that convinced me past a shadow of a doubt the Brigham Young issued order (probably verbal) to death everyone in the Fancher party except those of “innocent blood”—children under eight years of age—to satisfy his spiritual vow to “avenge the blood the the prophets” Joseph and also Hyrum Smith, and more specifically, Apostle Parley P. Pratt. As one of John D. Lee’s wives put it, “The Mormons were so insulted and indignant end the death or killing of Pratt that they Raked untold Vengeance ~ above the poor Emigrants.”

When I started writing about the massacre, ns realized trying to “prove” anything about this appalling crime would prove only that i was one idiot. The proof has been so corrupted—suppressed, destroyed, and fabricated—it’s hard to determine the day the murders took place, permit alone map all the ins and outs that the conspiracy behind the crime. Composing a polemic trying to blame Brigham Young would certainly be self-defeating, simply as creating an apologia to clear his skirts would eventually have to justification murder. Instead I tried to tell the story as honestly and accurately as feasible and allow readers make up their very own minds about who notified the slaughter of more than 80 women and children—and why.

Apparently i succeeded, since critics in the employ of the LDS Church case I don’t “prove” Brigham Young notified the murders. People make what they want of the facts in my book, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at mountain Meadows, yet for many readers, the evidence about who ordered the massacre is overwhelming.

As any kind of attorney knows, the difficulty with a guilty client is he acts guilty, and after the massacre Brigham Young never behaved like an chaste man. Young’s fiery discourses calling for blood and also vengeance, his encouragement of Indian strikes on wagon trains and also the lies he told to cover increase the crime all show he to be intimately involved in fomenting a vicious plot of vengeance.

He stated he go it.

Shortly ~ the outbreak that the civil War, Brigham Young and his entourage visited hill Meadows because that the an initial time since 1857. He quit at the cairn the U.S. Army’s first Dragoons had actually raised in 1859 over the dig of the emigrants whose scattered bones they had built up and buried. Young review the Bible verse the soldiers had actually inscribed top top a cedar overcome atop the monument: “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”

“It have to read,” the said, “‘Vengeance is mine, and also I have actually taken a little.’” Young then directed the desecration the the grave. “Within five minutes,” recalled massacre participant Dudley Leavitt, “not one rock stood upon another.”

A couple of days later Young justified the massacre together a vital act that righteous vengeance. “The agency that was provided up in ~ the mountain Meadowes” included the fathers, mothers, brothers, sister “& connections” that the guys who murdered the prophets, that told john D. Lee, and also “they Merited their fate.” The just thing that ever before troubled Young “was the lives of the females & children, yet that under the scenarios might not it is in avoided.”

“But,” I have the right to hear Mormon historians object, “this is completely circumstantial proof Young actually ordered the killings.” can be, yet it’s no much more circumstantial than the evidence O.J. Simpson murdered his wife.

Why did Brigham Young allegedly send a blog post telling southern Utahns no to kill the emigrants uneven he to be countermanding vault orders? Why didn’t he usage his powers together territorial branch to hunt down the guys who cursed this despicable crime? Why walk he perform nothing to return the stolen home of the 17 surviving orphans? Why did the threaten moral men who referred to as for righteousness in the matter? Why did that shield the murderers and enable the church’s newspaper come blame the crime ~ above the Paiutes because that a dozen year after Jacob Hamblin told him Mormons to be involved? and also why go the Deseret News proceed lying about Mountain grasslands to this day?

Finally, why has actually so much proof been ruined or purged from Mormon archives, and why has actually so much proof been suppressed?

There’s one answer to all these questions: Brigham Young bespeak the murders as a righteous plot of vengeance.

Learning just how Eleanor McLean Pratt gained to Salt Lake City encouraged me Brigham Young “did it.” The 12th Mrs. Pratt had hidden her polygamous husband Parley in Arkansas the previous May, and she to be obsessed with exacting vengeance native his murderers. She thought God’s “legions” would certainly “hunt them down in every land & place.” With assist from Mormon apostles in Missouri, Eleanor arrived in Utah on July 23, 1857, whereby she allegedly charged that males in the Fancher party had actually helped her very first husband murder Apostle Pratt. She inquiry Mormon authorities hear to “the cry the his blood” and take swift vengeance versus the Fancher train, which had left Arkansas long before Pratt was killed.

How go the widow Pratt overcome 1,500 dusty mile in a only 21 days?

That question stumped me because that years, and like many other Mormon mysteries the ideas have been very closely purged indigenous the documents of Utah’s past. Once I learned that Orrin Porter Rockwell, the well known Mormon lawman and “Danite,” had actually rushed Mrs. Pratt throughout the plains in document time, i knew what taken place at hill Meadows.

Why? The great historian Harold Schindler spent 40 years learning everything there to be to know about Orrin Porter Rockwell, guy of God/Son of Thunder (the location of his definitive biography). Hiding Rockwell’s duty in to express Eleanor come Utah from my late girlfriend Hal was proof that had been closely suppressed. And also “the suppressing of evidence,” Andrew Hamilton said in 1735, “ought constantly be taken because that the best evidence.”

Brigham Young did it.

No the Didn’t.

By Ron Walker

Americans enjoy a great mystery, and they prefer conspiracies. Castle are likewise fascinated by stories of murder and especially killing on a cool scale. It’s no coincidence, then, that pulp fiction and also Hollywood have used these ingredients—mystery, conspiracy and mass murder—for years. So carry out some writer who’ve written around the hill Meadows Massacre.

There is a logic to this. It creates a sensation and sells books. However it’s no a formula for good history.

Good history must be based upon facts. Stubborn facts. No theories. Not circumstantial evidence. Not historical conspiracies created by writer speculating about the past.

The following are a few facts crucial for an expertise of this devastating event in Western and Mormon history.

Brigham Young do the efforts to protect against the massacre.

“In regard to migration trains arriving and passing through our settlements,” he created in a letter designed to gain back calm in southern Utah, “We must not interfere v them.” these clear and also difficult-to-misread words to be rushed come Cedar City ~ Young received an refer from neighborhood setters there informing him the pending trouble. Tragically, Young’s letter arrived 2 days ~ the massacre, in spite of one of the epos rides in western history. James Haslam, who rode the 500-mile circuit in 6 days, recalled, Young “told me . . . Not to preventive horseflesh.” he didn’t.

Copies the Young’s letter exist both in stormy draft and also final draft form. The last is filed in sequential stimulate in Young’s well-preserved and also bound letter books. Witnesses later on testified about Haslam’s dramatic arrival in Salt Lake City, the composing of the letter and its dispatch South. In short, Young’s letter need to be take away at challenge value: It to be a determined, virtually frantic, effort to avoid the massacre.

No credible evidence exists the Young want the massacre.

Of course, anti-Young chroniclers say otherwise. Because that motives, they point to the persecution the the Mormon people and also to the previously killing the Mormon leader Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Including fuel come Mormon rage, lock argue, was the killing, a few months prior to the massacre, the Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Pratt had actually been murdered in Arkansas, whereby the Baker-Fancher party had actually its origin. I will not ~ these occasions have kindled Young’s anger and also led the to seek revenge? doubters assume, yes.

But background is not assumption. The facts space these: Young speak out against revenge killings. Justice for his people’s wrongs was heaven’s responsibility, not his, the said. Nor did Pratt’s death stir blood lust. “The seeing of ours faithful Elders slaughtered in cold blood,” he created after his friend’s death, is “at times almost to grevious to it is in borne, yet as the spirit within me whispers, peace be still.” This advice was never ever changed.

Logically, the idea of bespeak a massacre together 2,500 U.S. Troops marched top top Salt Lake City is absurd. Young was as well clever—and also religiously devout—to have ruined the emigrants and thus irreparably injury the call of his people. The situation of the Utah war demanded that he husband moral authority and public opinion.

Young was no complicit in to plan or executing the massacre.

With no added evidence, part historians have pointed to a indigenous American council held in Salt Lake City on September 1, 1857. The council seek to develop a Mormon-Indian alliance, and also to do such an setup attractive come the Indians, Young allegedly told them the he would certainly no longer stop them native stealing emigrant cattle on the California Trail.

While this Indian council is important and requires prolonged scholarly discussion, this much can be said: No evidence argues the council’s emphasis was the Baker-Fancher party, much less its destruction. No proof exists the the ind at the board of directors agreed come attack. Finally, it is additionally a issue of historical record that none that the Indian leader at the Salt Lake the supervisory board were later on at mountain Meadows, except the southerly Ute leader, Ammon, that tried to stop the massacre.

Evidence exculpates Young.

Because the historical past will constantly be opaque, chroniclers must look for the load of evidence, and also in this case, the preponderance suggests Young’s innocence. An especially telling is the testimony that those that did the killing at the Meadows. This men later on insisted that no orders had actually come native Salt Lake City, and this testimony consisted of that given by those that in later life left Utah and also Mormonism. Some testimony come in private interviews as soon as there to be no engine to lie.

Likewise, john D. Lee, the only man convicted that the murders, to be repeatedly available leniency in exchange because that incriminating Young—the last sell was made just moments before his execution. In spite of a farming bitterness toward his former mentor, Lee refused. “Matters have actually & are being delay with style of Cohearce me to make a statement beyond what ns know,” he composed in his diary. However “I am figured out by the help of God never to be affected by each other false witness versus My Neighbour.” Later, the complained that those who doubted him want lies, not truth. Fairly than administer them v what castle wanted, Lee “chose to die favor a man then to live a villain.”

The occasions at hill Meadows do not suggest a conspiracy, and certainly none entailing Young.

While several reasons for this statement may be suggested, most persuasive is the ebb and also flow the the regional decision-making during the weeklong event. In this period, militia leader at Cedar City and also at mountain Meadows readjusted their minds several times whether the killing have to go forward. They were reacting to events as they take it place. Also on the work of the slaughter, couriers were apparently hurrying indigenous Cedar City—30 miles to the east—to speak to it off. In short, the massacre is ideal explained by cascading local occasions in a setup of too much excitement and fear. Once it to be over, guys quarreled end responsibility, and also many vowed the no one should ever before know of their deadly work, including, presumably, Brigham Young.

Young was not a man of violence.

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While the church leader’s temper and solid words in ~ the pulpit earned that a reputation for coercion, in truth, those that knew him finest often spoke of his caution and his abhorrence that bloodshed. Militia orders to the Mormon army carried Young’s indigenous on the reverse: “Shed no blood.”

“When the publications are opened in the job of judgment,” claimed an associate who was at his side in 1857, “these things will be proven come heaven and also earth.”

The hill Meadows Massacre was a horrible atrocity, and also the conduct of some Mormons connected in it to be deplorable: strong words indigenous the Tabernacle pulpit, Saints search vengeance since of their previous persecution, Young’s risky indigenous American alliance, senseless acts by some local Mormon leaders, Utah’s troubling episodes of extralegal violence and most awful, the disastrous killing at mountain Meadows. Yet we just make the tragedy worse by saying that it was something other than what that was—by trying come fit events into a pre-conceived concept of conspiracy. The admonition contains charging Brigham Young through crimes that he did no commit.