LAST CONFESSION AND STATEMENT OF JOHN D. LEE
TAKEN FROM CHAPTER XVII
WRITTEN AT HIS DICTATION AND DELIVERED TO WILLIAM W. BISHOP,
ATTORNEY FOR LEE, WITH A REQUEST THAT THE
SAME BE PUBLISHED.
As a duty to myself, my family, and mankind at large, I propose to give a full and true statement of all that I know and all that I did in that unfortunate affair, which has cursed my existence, and made me a wanderer from place to place for the last nineteen years, and which is known to the world as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
I have no vindictive feeling against any one; no enemies to punish by this statement; and no friends to shield by keeping back, or longer keeping secret, any of the facts connected with the Massacre.
I believe that I must tell all that I do know, and tell everything just as the same transpired. I shall tell the truth and permit the public to judge who is most to blame for the crime that I am accused of committing. I did not act alone; I had many to assist me at the Mountain Meadows. I believe that most of those who were connected with the Massacre, and took part in the lamentable transaction that has blackened the character of all who were aiders or abettors in the same, were acting under the impression that they were performing a religious duty. I know all were acting under the orders and by the command of their Church leaders; and I firmly believe that the most of those who took part in the proceedings, considered it a religious duty to unquestioningly obey the orders which they had received. That they acted from a sense of duty to the Mormon Church, I never doubted. Believing that those with me acted from a sense of religious duty on that occasion, I have faithfully kept the secret of their guilt, and remained silent and true to the oath of secrecy which we took on the bloody field, for many long and bitter years. I have never betrayed those who acted with me and participated in the crime for which I am convicted, and for which I am to suffer death.
My attorneys, especially Wells Spicer and Wm. W. Bishop, have long tried, but tried in vain, to induce me to tell all I knew of the massacre and the causes which led to it. I have heretofore refused to tell the tale. Until the last few days I had intended to die, if die I must, without giving one word to the public concerning those who joined willingly, or unwillingly, in the work of destruction at Mountain Meadows.
To hesitate longer, or to die in silence, would be unjust and cowardly. I will not keep the secret any longer as my own, but will tell all I know.
At the earnest request of a few remaining friends, and by the advice of Mr. Bishop, my counsel, who has defended me thus far with all his ability, notwithstanding my want of money with which to pay even his expenses while attending to my case, I have concluded to write facts as I know them to exist.
I cannot go before the Judge of the quick and the dead with out first revealing all that I know, as to what was done, who ordered me to do what I did do, and the motives that led to the commission of that unnatural and bloody deed.
The immediate orders for the killing of the emigrants came from those in authority at Cedar City. At the time of the massacre, I and those with me, acted by virtue of positive orders from Isaac C. Haight and his associates at Cedar City. Before I started on my mission to the Mountain Meadows, I was told by Isaac C. Haight that his orders to me were the result of full consultation with Colonel William H. Dame and all in authority. It is a new thing to me, if the massacre was not decided on by the head men of the Church, and it is a new thing for Mormons to condemn those who committed the deed.
Being forced to speak from memory alone, without the aid of my memorandum books, and not having time to correct the statements that I make, I will necessarily give many things out of their regular order. The superiority that I claim for my statement is this:
ALL THAT I DO SAY IS TRUE AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
I will begin my statement by saying, I was born on the 6th day of September, A. D. 1812, in the town of Kaskaskia, Randolph County, State of Illinois. I am therefore in the sixty-fifth year of my age.
I joined the Mormon Church at Far West, Mo., about thirty-nine years ago. To be with that Church and people I left my home on Luck Creek, Fayette County, Illinois, and went and joined the Mormons in Missouri, before the troubles at Gallatin, Far West and other points, between the Missourians and Mormons. I shared the fate of my brother Mormons, in being mistreated, arrested, robbed and driven from Missouri in a destitute condition, by a wild and fanatical mob. But of all this I shall speak in my life, which I shall write for publication if I have time to do so.
I took an active part with the leading men at Nauvoo in building up that city. I induced many Saints to move to Nauvoo, for the sake of their souls. I traveled and preached the Mormon doctrine in many States. I was an honored man in the Church, and stood high with the Priesthood, until the last few years. I am now cut off from the Church for obeying the orders of my superiors, and doing so without asking questions–for doing as my religion and my religious teachers had taught me to do. I am now used by the Mormon Church as a scapegoat to carry the sins of that people. My life is to be taken, so that my death may stop further enquiry into the acts of the members who are still in good standing in the Church. Will my death satisfy the nation for all the crimes committed by Mormons, at the command of the Priesthood, who have used and now have deserted me? Time will tell. I believe in a just God, and I know the day will come when others must answer for their acts, as I have had to do.
I first became acquainted with Brigham Young when I went to Far West, Mo., to join the Church, in 1837. I got very intimately acquainted with all the great leaders of the Church. I was adopted by Brigham Young as one of his sons, and for many years I confess I looked upon him as an inspired and holy man. While in Nauvoo I took an active part in all that was done for the Church or the city. I had charge of the building of the “Seventy Hall;” I was 7th Policeman. My duty as a police man was to guard the residence and person of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. After the death of Joseph and Hyrum I was ordered to perform the same duty for Brigham Young. When Joseph Smith was a candidate for the Presidency of the United States I went to Kentucky as the chairman of the Board of Elders, or head of the delegation, to secure the vote of that State for him. When I returned to Nauvoo again I was General Clerk and Recorder for the Quorum of the Seventy. I was also head or Chief Clerk for the Church, and as such took an active part in organizing the Priesthood into the order of Seventy after the death of Joseph Smith.
After the destruction of Nauvoo, when the Mormons were driven from the State of Illinois, I again shared the fate of my brethren, and partook of the hardships and trials that befell them from that day up to the settlement of Salt Lake City, in the then wilderness of the nation. I presented Brigham Young with seventeen ox teams, fully equipped, when he started with the people from Winter Quarters to cross the plains to the new resting place of the Saints. He accepted them and said, “God bless you, John.” But I never received a cent for them–I never wanted pay for them, for in giving property to Brigham Young I thought I was loaning it to the Lord.
After reaching Salt Lake City I stayed there but a short time, when I went to live at Cottonwood, where the mines were afterwards discovered by General Connor and his men during the late war.
I was just getting fixed to live there, when I was ordered to go out into the interior and aid in forming new settlements, and opening up the country. I then had no wish or desire, save that to know and be able to do the will of the Lord’s anointed, Brigham Young, and until within the last few years I have never had a wish for anything else except to do his pleasure, since I became his adopted son. I believed it my duty to obey those in authority. I then believed that Brigham Young spoke by direction of the God of Heaven. I would have suffered death rather than have disobeyed any command of his. I had this feeling until he betrayed and deserted me. At the command of Brigham Young, I took one hundred and twenty-one men, went in a southern direction from Salt Lake City, and laid out and built up Parowan. George A. Smith was the leader and chief man in authority in that settlement. I acted under him as historian and clerk of the Iron County Mission, until January, 1851. I went with Brigham Young, and acted as a committee man, and located Provo, St. George, Fillmore, Parowan and other towns, and managed the location of many of the settlements in Southern Utah.
In 1852, I moved to Harmony, and built up that settlement. I remained there until the Indians declared war against the whites and drove the settlers into Cedar City and Parowan, for protection, in the year 1853.
I removed my then numerous family to Cedar City, where I was appointed a Captain of the militia, and commander of Cedar City Military Post.
I had commanded at Cedar City about one year, when I was ordered to return to Harmony, and build the Harmony Fort. This order, like all other orders, came from Brigham Young. When I returned to Harmony and commenced building the fort there, the orders were given by Brigham Young for the reorganization of the military at Cedar City. The old men were requested to resign their offices, and let younger men be appointed in their place. I resigned my office of Captain, but Isaac C. Haight and John M. Higbee refused to resign, and continued to hold on as Majors in the Iron Militia.
After returning to Harmony, I was President of the civil and local affairs, and Rufus Allen was President of that Stake of Zion, or head of the Church affairs.
I soon resigned my position as President of civil affairs, and became a private citizen, and was in no office for some time. In fact, I never held any position after that, except the office of Probate Judge of the County (which office I held before and after the massacre), and member of the Territorial Legislature, and Delegate to the Constitutional Convention which met and adopted a constitution for the State of Deseret, after the massacre.
I will here state that Brigham Young honored me in many ways after the affair at Mountain Meadows was fully reported to him by me, as I will more fully state hereafter in the course of what I have to relate concerning that unfortunate transaction.
Klingensmith, at my first trial, and White, at my last trial, swore falsely when they say that they met me near Cedar City, the Sunday before the massacre. They did not meet me as they have sworn, nor did they meet me at all on that occasion or on any similar occasion. I never had the conversations with them that they testify about. They are both perjurers, and bore false testimony against me.
There has never been a witness on the stand against me ‘that has testified to the whole truth. Some have told part truth, while others lied clear through, but all of the witnesses who were at the massacre have tried to throw all the blame on me, and to protect the other men who took part in it.
About the 7th of September, 1857, I went to Cedar City from my home at Harmony, by order of President Haight. I did not know what he wanted of me, but he had ordered me to visit him and I obeyed. If I remember correctly, it was on Sunday evening that I went there. When I got to Cedar City, I met Isaac C. Haight on the public square of the town. Haight was then President of that Stake of Zion, and the highest man in the Mormon priesthood in that country, and next to Wm. H. Dame in all of Southern Utah, and as Lieutenant Colonel he was second to Dame in the command of the Iron Military District. The word and command of Isaac C. Haight were the law in Cedar City, at that time, and to disobey his orders was certain death; be they right or wrong, no Saint was permitted to question them, their duty was obedience or death.
When I met Haight, I asked him what he wanted with me. He said he wanted to have a long talk with me on private and particular business. We took some blankets and went over to the old Iron Works, and lay there that night, so that we could talk in private and in safety. After we got to the Iron Works, Haight told me all about the train of emigrants. He said (and I then believed every word that be spoke, for I believed it was an impossible thing for one so high in the Priesthood as he was, to be guilty of falsehood) that the emigrants were a rough and abusive set of men. That they had, while traveling through Utah, been very abusive to all the Mormons they met. That they had insulted, outraged, and ravished many of the Mormon women. That the abuses heaped upon the people by the emigrants during their trip from Provo to Cedar City, had been constant and shameful; that they had burned fences and destroyed growing crops; that at many points on the road they had poisoned the water, so that all people and stock that drank of the water became sick, and many had died from the effects of poison. That these vile Gentiles publicly proclaimed that they had the very pistol with which the Prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered, and had threatened to kill Brigham Young and all of the Apostles. That when in Cedar City they said they would have friends in Utah who would hang Brigham Young by the neck until he was dead, before snow fell again in the Territory. They also said that Johnston was coming, with his army, from the East, and they were going to return from California with soldiers, as soon as possible, and would then desolate the land, and kill every d–d Mormon man, woman and child that they could find in Utah. That they violated the ordinances of the town of Cedar, and had, by armed force, resisted the officers who tried to arrest them for violating the law. That after leaving Cedar City the emigrants camped by the company, or cooperative field, just below Cedar City, and burned a large portion of the fencing, leaving the crops open to the large herds of stock in the surrounding country. Also that they had given poisoned meat to the Corn Creek tribe of Indians, which had killed several of them, and their Chief, Konosh, was on the trail of the emigrants, and would soon attack them. All of these things, and much more of a like kind, Haight told me as we lay in the dark at the old Iron Works. I believed all that he said, and, thinking that he had full right to do all that he wanted to do, I was easily induced to follow his instructions.
Haight said that unless something was done to prevent it, the emigrants would carry out their threats and rob every one of the outlying settlements in the South, and that the whole Mormon people were liable to be butchered by the troops that the emigrants would bring back with them from California. I was then told that the Council had held a meeting that day, to consider the matter, and that it was decided by the authorities to arm the Indians, give them provisions and ammunition, and send them after the emigrants, and have the Indians give them a brush, and if they killed part or all of them, so much the better.
I said, “Brother Haight, who is your authority for acting in this way?”
He replied, “It is the will of all in authority. The emigrants have no pass from any one to go through the country, and they are liable to be killed as common enemies, for the country is at war now. No man has a right to go through this country without a written pass.”
We lay there and talked much of the night, and during that time Haight gave me very full instructions what to do, and how to proceed in the whole affair. He said he had consulted with Colonel Dame, and every one agreed to let the Indians use up the whole train if they could. Haight then said:
“I expect you to carry out your orders.”
I knew I had to obey or die. I had no wish to disobey, for I then thought that my superiors in the Church were the mouth pieces of Heaven, and that it was an act of godliness for me to obey any and all orders given by them to me, without my asking any questions.
My orders were to go home to Harmony, and see Carl Shirts, my son-in-law, an Indian interpreter, and send him to the Indians in the South, to notify them that the Mormons and Indians were at war with the “Mericats” (as the Indians called all whites that were not Mormons) and bring all the Southern Indians up and have them join with those from the North, so that their force would be sufficient to make a successful attack on the emigrants.
It was agreed that Haight would send Nephi Johnson, another Indian interpreter, to stir up all the other Indians that he could find, in order to have a large enough force of Indians to give the emigrants a good hush. He said, “These are the orders that have been agreed upon by the Council, and it is in accordance with the feelings of the entire people.”
I asked him if it would not have been better to first send to Brigham Young for instructions, and find out what he thought about the matter.
“No,” said Haight, “that is unnecessary, we are acting by orders. Some of the Indians are now on the war-path, and all of them must be sent out; all must go, so as to make the thing a success.
It was then intended that the Indians should kill the emigrants, and make it an Indian massacre, and not have any whites interfere with them. No whites were to be known in the matter, it was to be all done by the Indians, so that it could be laid to them, if any questions were ever asked about it. I said to Haight:
“You know what the Indians are. They will kill all the party, women and children, as well as the men, and you know we are sworn not to shed innocent blood.”
“Oh h–l!” said he, “there will not be one drop of innocent blood shed, if every one of the d–d pack are killed, for they are the worse lot of out-laws and ruffians that I ever saw in my life.”
We agreed upon the whole thing, how each one should act, and then left the iron works, and went to Haight’s house and, got breakfast.
After breakfast I got ready to start, and Haight said to me:
“Go, Brother Lee, and see that the instructions of those in authority are obeyed, and as you are dutiful in this, so shall your reward be in the kingdom of God, for God will bless those who willingly obey counsel, and make all things fit for the people in these last days.”
I left Cedar City for my home at Harmony, to carry out the instructions that I had received from my superior.
I then believed that he acted by the direct order and command of William H. Dame, and others even higher in authority than Colonel Dame. One reason for thinking so was from a talk I had only a few days before, with Apostle George A. Smith, and he had just then seen Haight, and talked with him, and I knew that George A. Smith never talked of things that Brigham Young had not talked over with him before-hand. Then the Mormons were at war with the United States, and the orders to the Mormons had been all the time to kill and waste away our enemies, but lose none of our people. These emigrants were from the section of country most hostile to our people, and I believed then as I do now, that it was the will of every true Mormon in Utah, at that time, that the enemies of the Church should be killed as fast as possible, and that as this lot of people had men amongst them that were supposed to have helped kill the Prophets in the Carthage jail, the killing of all of them would be keeping our oaths and avenging the blood of the Prophets.
In justice to myself I will give the facts of my talk with George A. Smith.
In the latter part of the month of August, 1857, about ten days before the company of Captain Fancher, who met their doom at Mountain Meadows, arrived at that place, General George A. Smith called on me at one of my homes at Washington City, Washington County, Utah Territory, and wished me to take him round by Fort Clara, via Pinto Settlements, to Hamilton Fort, or Cedar City. He said,
“I have been sent down here by the old Boss, Brigham Young, to instruct the brethren of the different settlements not to sell any of their grain to our enemies. And to tell them not to feed it to their animals, for it will all be needed by ourselves. I am also to instruct the brethren to prepare for a big fight, for the enemy is coming in large force to attempt our destruction. But Johnston’s army will not be allowed to approach our settlements from the east. God is on our side and will fight our battles for us, and deliver our enemies into our hands. Brigham Young has received revelations from God, giving him the right and the power to call down the curse of God on all our enemies who attempt to invade our Territory. Our greatest danger lies in the people of California–a class of reckless miners who are strangers to God and his righteousness. They are likely to come upon us from the south and destroy the small settlements. But we will try and outwit them before we suffer much damage. The people of the United States who oppose our Church and people are a mob, from the President down, and as such it is impossible for their armies to prevail against the Saints who have gathered here in the mountains.”
He continued this kind of talk for some hours to me and my friends who were with me.
General George A. Smith held high rank as a military leader. He was one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as such he was considered by me to be an inspired man. His orders were to me sacred commands, which I considered it my duty to obey, without question or hesitation.
I took my horses and carriage and drove with him to either Hamilton Fort or Cedar City, visiting the settlements with him, as he had requested. I did not go to hear him preach at any of our stopping places, nor did I pay attention to what he said to the leaders in the settlements.
The day we left Fort Clara, which was then the headquarters of the Indian missionaries under the presidency of Jacob Hamblin, we stopped to noon at the Clara River. While there the Indians gathered around us in large numbers, and were quite saucy and impudent. Their chiefs asked me where I was going and who I had with me. I told them that he was a big captain.
“Is he, a Mericat Captain?”
“No,” I said, “he is a Mormon.”
The Indians then wanted to know more. They wanted to have a talk.
The General told me to tell the Indians that the Mormons were their friends, and that the Americans were their enemies, and the enemies of the Mormons, too; that he wanted the Indians to remain the fast friends of the Mormons, for the Mormons were all friends to the Indians; that the Americans had a large army just east of the mountains, and intended to come over the mountains into Utah and kill all of the Mormons and Indians in Utah Territory; that the Indians must get ready and keep ready for war against all of the Americans, and keep friendly with the Mormons and obey what the Mormons told them to do–that this was the will of the Great Spirit; that if the Indians were true to the Mormons and would help them against their enemies, then the Mormons would always keep them from want and sickness and give them guns and ammunition to hunt and kill game with, and would also help the Indians against their enemies when they went into war.
This talk pleased the Indians, and they agreed to all that I asked them to do.
I saw that my friend Smith was a little nervous and fearful of the Indians, notwithstanding their promises of friendship. To relieve him of his anxiety I hitched up and started on our way, as soon as I could do so without rousing the suspicions of the Indians.
We had ridden along about a mile or so when General Smith said,
“Those are savage looking fellows. I think they would make it lively for an emigrant train if one should come this way.”
I said I thought they would attack any train that would come in their way. Then the General was in a deep study for some time, when he said,
“Suppose an emigrant train should come along through this southern country, making threats against our people and bragging of the part they took in helping kill our Prophets, what do you think the brethren would do with them? Would they be permitted to go their way, or would the brethren pitch into them and give them a good drubbing?”
I reflected a few moments, and then said,
“You know the brethren are now under the influence of the late reformation, and are still red-hot for the gospel. The brethren believe the government wishes to destroy them. I really believe that any train of emigrants that may come through here will be attacked, and. probably all destroyed. I am sure they would be wiped out if they had been making threats again our people. Unless emigrants have a pass from Brigham Young, or some one in authority, they will certainly never get safely through this country.”
My reply pleased him very much, and he laughed heartily, and then said,
“Do you really believe the brethren would make it lively for such a train?”
I said, “Yes, sir, I know they will, unless they are protected by a pass, and I wish to inform you that unless you want every train captured that comes through here, you must inform Governor Young that if he wants emigrants to pass, without being molested, he must send orders to that effect to Colonel Wm. H. Dame or Major Isaac C. Haight, so that they can give passes to the emigrants, for their passes will insure safety, but nothing else will, except the positive orders of Governor Young, as the people are all bitter against the Gentiles, and full of religious zeal, and anxious to avenge the blood of the Prophets.”
The only reply he made was to the effect that on his way down from Salt Lake City he had had a long talk with Major Haight on the same subject, and that Haight had assured him, and given him to understand, that emigrants who came along without a pass from Governor Young could not escape from the Territory.
We then rode along in silence for some distance, when he again turned to me and said,
“Brother Lee, I am satisfied that the brethren are under the full influence of the reformation, and I believe they will do just as you say they will with the wicked emigrants that come through the country making threats and abusing our people.”
I repeated my views to him, but at much greater length, giving my reasons in full for thinking that Governor Young should give orders to protect all the emigrants that he did not wish destroyed. I went into a full statement of the wrongs of our people, and told him that the people were under the blaze of the reformation, full of wild fire and fanaticism, and that to shed the blood of those who would dare to speak against the Mormon Church or its leaders, they would consider doing the will of God, and that the people would do it as willingly and cheerfully as they would any other duty. That the apostle Paul, when he started forth to persecute the followers of Christ, was not any more sincere than every Mormon was then, who lived in Southern Utah.
My words served to cheer up the General very much; he was greatly delighted, and said,
“I am glad to hear so good an account of our people. God will bless them for all that they do to build up His Kingdom in the last days.”
General Smith did not say one word to me or intimate to me, that he wished any emigrants to pass in safety through the Territory. But he led me to believe then, as I believe now, that he did want, and expected every emigrant to be killed that undertook to pass through the Territory while we were at war with the Government. I thought it was his mission to prepare the people for the bloody work.
I have always believed, since that day, that General George A. Smith was then visiting Southern Utah to prepare the people for the work of exterminating Captain Fancher’s train of emigrants, and I now believe that he was sent for that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.
I have been told by Joseph Wood, Thomas T. Willis, and many others, that they heard George A. Smith preach at Cedar City during that trip, and that he told the people of Cedar City that the emigrant’s were coming, and he told them that they must not sell that company any grain or provisions of any kind, for they were a mob of villains and outlaws, and the enemies of God and the Mormon people.
Sidney Littlefield, of Panguitch, has told me that he was knowing to the fact of Colonel Wm. H. Dame sending orders from Parowan to Maj. Haight, at Cedar City, to exterminate the Fancher outfit, and to kill every emigrant without fail. Littlefield then lived at Parowan, and Dame was the Presiding Bishop. Dame still has all the wives he wants, and is a great friend of Brigham Young.
The knowledge of how George A. Smith felt toward the emigrants, and his telling me that he had a long talk with Haight on the subject, made me certain that it was the wish of the Church authorities that Fancher and his train should be wiped out, and knowing all this, I did not doubt then, and I do not doubt it now, either, that Haight was acting by full authority from the Church leaders, and that the orders he gave to me were just the orders that he had been directed to give, when he ordered me to raise the Indians and have them attack the emigrants.
I acted through the whole matter in a way that I considered it my religious duty to act, and if what I did was a crime, it was a crime of the Mormon Church, and not a crime for which I feel individually responsible.
I must here state that Klingensmith was not in Cedar City that Sunday night. Haight said he had sent Klingensmith and others over towards Pinto, and around there, to stir up the Indians and force them to attack the emigrants.
On my way from Cedar City to my home at Harmony, I came up with a large band of Indians under Moquetas and Big Bill, two Cedar City Chiefs; they were in their war paint, and fully equipped for battle. They halted when I came up and said they had had a big talk with Haight, Higby and Klingensmith, and had got orders from them to follow up the emigrants and kill them all, and take their property as the spoil of their enemies.
These Indians wanted me to go with them and command their forces. I told them that I could not go with them that evening, that I had orders from Haight, the big Captain, to send other Indians on the war-path to help them kill the emigrants, and that I must attend to that first; that I wanted them to go on near where the emigrants were and camp until the other Indians joined them; that I would meet them the next day and lead them.
This satisfied them, but they wanted me to send my little Indian boy, Clem, with them. After some time I consented to let Clem go with them, and I returned home.
When I got home I told Carl Shirts what the orders were that Haight had sent to him. Carl was naturally cowardly and was not willing to go, but I told him the orders must be obeyed. He then started off that night, or early next morning, to stir up the Indians of the South, and lead them against the emigrants. The emigrants were then camped at Mountain Meadows.
The Indians did not obey my instructions. They met, several hundred strong, at the Meadows, and attacked the emigrants Tuesday morning, just before daylight, and at the first fire, as I afterwards learned, they killed seven and wounded sixteen of the emigrants. The latter fought bravely, and repulsed the Indians, killing some of them and breaking the knees of two war chiefs, who afterwards died.
The news of the battle was carried all over the country by Indian runners, and the excitement was great in all the small settlements. I was notified of what had taken place, early Tuesday morning, by an Indian who came to my house and gave me a full account of all that had been done. The Indian said it was the wish of all the Indians that I should lead them, and that I must go back with him to the camp.
I started at once, and by taking the Indian trail over the mountain, I reached the camp in about twelve miles from Harmony. To go round by the wagon road it would have been between forty and fifty miles.
When I reached the camp I found the Indians in a frenzy of excitement. They threatened to kill me unless I agreed to lead them against the emigrants, and help them kill them. They also said they had been told that they could kill the emigrants without danger to themselves, but they had lost some of their braves, and others were wounded, and unless they could kill all the “Mericats,” as they called them, they would declare war against the Mormons and kill every one in the settlements.
I did as well as I could under the circumstances. I was the only white man there, with a wild and excited band of several hundred Indians. I tried to persuade them that all would be well, that I was their friend and would see that they bad their revenge, if I found out that they were entitled to revenge.
My talk only served to increase their excitement, and being afraid that they would kill me if I undertook to leave them, and I would not lead them against the emigrants, so I told them that I would go south and meet their friends, and hurry them up to help them. I intended to put a stop to the carnage if I had the power, for I believed that the emigrants had been sufficiently punished for what they had done, and I felt then, and always have felt that such wholesale murdering was wrong.
At first the Indians would not consent for me to leave them, but they finally said I might go and meet their friends.
I then got on my horse and left the Meadows, and went south.
I had gone about sixteen miles, when I met Carl Shirts with about one hundred Indians, and a number of Mormons from the southern settlements. They were going to the scene of the conflict. How they learned of the emigrants being at the Meadows I never knew, but they did know it, and were there fully armed, and determined to obey orders.
Amongst those that I remember to have met there, were Samuel Knight, Oscar Hamblin, William Young, Carl Shirts, Harrison Pearce, James Pearce, John W. Clark, William Slade, Sr., James Matthews, Dudley Leavitt, William Hawley, (now a resident of Fillmore, Utah Territory,) William Slade, Jr., and two others whose names I have forgotten. I think they were George W. Adair and John Hawley. I know they were at the Meadows at the time of the massacre, and I think I met them that night south of the Meadows, with Samuel Knight and the others.
The whites camped there that night with me, but most of the Indians rushed on to their friends at the camp on the Meadows.
I reported to the whites all that had taken place at the Meadows, but none of them were surprised in the least. They all seemed to know that the attack was to be made, and all about it. I spent one of the most miserable nights there that I ever passed in my life. I spent much of the night in tears and at prayer. I wrestled with God for wisdom to guide me. I asked for some sign, some evidence that would satisfy me that my mission was of Heaven, but I got no satisfaction from my God.
In the morning we all agreed to go on together to Mountain Meadows, and camp there, and then send a messenger to Haight, giving him full instructions of what had been done, and to ask him for further instructions. We knew that the original plan was for the Indians to do all the work, and the whites to do nothing, only to stay back and plan for them, and encourage them to do the work. Now we knew the Indians could not do the work, and we were in a sad fix.
I did not then know that a messenger had been sent to Brigham Young for instructions. Haight had not mentioned it to me. I now think that James Haslem was sent to Brigham Young, as a sharp play on the part of the authorities to protect themselves, if trouble ever grew out of the matter.
We went to the Meadows and camped at the springs, about half a mile from the emigrant camp. There was a larger number of Indians there then, fully three hundred, and I think as many as four hundred of them. The two Chiefs who were shot in the knee were in a bad fix. The Indians had killed a number of the emigrants’ horses, and about sixty or seventy head of cattle were lying dead on the Meadows, which the Indians bad killed for spite and revenge.
Our company killed a small beef for dinner, and after eating a hearty meal of it we held a council and decided to send a messenger to Haight. I said to the messenger, who was either Edwards or Adair, (I cannot now remember which it was), “Tell Haight, for my sake, for the people’s sake, for God’s sake, send me help to protect and save these emigrants, and pacify the Indians.”
The messenger started for Cedar City, from our camp on the Meadows, about 2 o’clock P. M.
We all staid on the field, and I tried to quiet and pacify the Indians, by telling them that I had sent to Haight, the Big Captain, for orders, and when he sent his order I would know what to do. This appeared to satisfy the Indians, for said they,
“The Big Captain will send you word to kill all the Mericats.”
Along toward evening the Indians again attacked the emigrants. This was Wednesday. I heard the report of their guns, and the screams of the women and children in the corral.
This was more than I could stand. So I ran with William Young and John Mangum, to where the Indians were, to stop the fight. While on the way to them they fired a volley, and three balls from their guns cut my clothing. One ball went through my hat and cut my hair on the side of my head. One ball went through my shirt and leaded my shoulder, the other cut my pants across my bowels. I thought this was rather warm work, but I kept on until I reached the place where the Indians were in force. When I got to them, I told them the Great Spirit would be mad at them if they killed the women and children. I talked to them some time, and cried with sorrow when I saw that I could not pacify the savages.
When the Indians saw me in tears, they called me “Yaw Guts,” which in the Indian language means “cry baby,” and to this day they call me by that name, and consider me a coward.
Oscar Hamblin was a fine interpreter, and he came to my aid and helped me to induce the Indians to stop the attack. By his help we got the Indians to agree to be quiet until word was returned from Haight. (I do not know now but what the messenger started for Cedar City, after this night attack, but I was so worried and perplexed at that time, and so much has happened to distract my thoughts since then, that my mind is not clear on that subject.)
On Thursday, about noon, several men came to us from Cedar City. I cannot remember the order in which all of the people came to the Meadows, but I do recollect that at this time and in this company Joel White, William C. Stewart, Benjamin Arthur, Alexander Wilden, Charles Hopkins and —- Tate, came to us at the camp at the Springs. These men said but little, but every man seemed to know just what he was there for. As our messenger had gone for further orders, we moved our camp about, four hundred yards further up the valley on to a hill, where we made camp as long as we staid there.
I soon learned that the whites were as wicked at heart as the Indians, for every little while during that day I saw white men taking aim and shooting at the emigrants’ wagons. They said they were doing it to keep in practice and to help pass off the time.
I remember one man that was shooting, that rather amused me, for he was shooting at a mark over a quarter of a mile off, and his gun would not carry a ball two hundred yards. That man was Alexander Wilden. He took pains to fix up a seat under the shade of a tree, where he continued to load and shoot until he got tired. Many of the others acted just as wild and foolish as Wilden did.
The wagons were corralled after the Indians had made the first attack. On the second day after our arrival the emigrants drew their wagons near each other and chained the wheels one to the other. While they were doing this there was no shooting going on. Their camp was about one hundred yards above and north of the spring. They generally got their water from the spring at night.
Thursday morning I saw two men start from the corral with buckets, and run to the spring and fill their buckets with water, and go back again. The bullets flew around them thick and fast, but they got into their corral in safety.
The Indians had agreed to keep quiet until orders returned from Haight, but they did not keep their word. They made a determined attack on the train on Thursday morning about daylight. At this attack the Clara Indians had one brave killed and three wounded. This so enraged that band that they left for home that day and drove off quite a number of cattle with them. During the day I said to John Mangum,
“I will cross over the valley and go up on the other side, on the hills to the west of the corral, and take a look at the situation.”
I did go. As I was crossing the valley I was seen by the emigrants, and as soon as they saw that I was a white man they ran up a white flag in the middle of their corral, or camp. They ‘then sent two little boys from the camp to talk to me, but I could not talk to them at that time, for I did not know what orders Haight would send back to me, and until I did know his orders I did not know how to act. I hid, to keep away from the children. They came to the place where they had last seen me and hunted all around for me, but being unable to find me, they turned and went back to the camp in safety.
While the boys were looking for me several Indians came to me and asked for ammunition with which to kill them. I told them they must not hurt the children–that if they did I would kill the first one that made the attempt to injure them. By this act I was able to save the boys.
It is all false that has been told about little girls being dressed in white and sent out to me. There never was anything of the kind done.
I staid on the west side of the valley for about two hours, looking down into the emigrant camp, and feeling all the torture of mind that it is possible for a man to suffer who feels merciful, and yet knows, as I then knew, what was in store for that unfortunate company if the Indians were successful in their bloody designs.
While I was standing on the hill looking down into the corral, I saw two men leave the corral and go outside to cut some wood; the Indians and whites kept up a steady fire on them all the time, but they paid no attention to danger, and kept right along at their work until they had it done, and then they went back into camp. The men all acted so bravely that it was impossible to keep from respecting them.
After staying there and looking down into the camp until I was nearly dead from grief, I returned to the company at camp. I was worn out with trouble and grief; I was nearly wild waiting for word from the authorities at Cedar City. I prayed for word to come that would enable me to save that band of suffering people, but no such word came. It never was to come.
On Thursday evening, John M. Higbee, Major of the Iron Militia, and Philip K. Smith, as he is called generally, but whose name is Klingensmith, Bishop of Cedar City, came to our camp with two or three wagons, and a number of men all well armed. I can remember the following as a portion of the men who came to take part in the work of death which was so soon to follow, viz.: John M. Higbee, Major and commander of the Iron Militia, and also first counselor to Isaac C. Haight; Philip Klingensmith, Bishop of Cedar City; Ira Allen, of the High Council; Robert Wiley, of the High Council; Richard Harrison, of Pinto, also a member of the High Council; Samuel McMurdy, one of the Counselors of Klingensmith; Charles Hopkins, of the City Council of Cedar City; Samuel Pollock; Daniel McFarland, a son-in-law of Isaac C. Haight, and acting as Adjutant under Major Higbee; John Ure, of the City Council; George Hunter, of the City Council; and I honestly believe that John McFarland, now an attorney-at-law at St. George, Utah, was there–I am not positive that he was, but my best impression is that he was there: Samuel Jukes; Nephi Johnson, with a number of Indians under his command; Irvin Jacobs; John Jacobs; E. Curtis, a Captain of Ten; Thomas Cartwright of the City Council and High Council; William Bateman, who afterwards carried the flag of truce to the emigrant camp; Anthony Stratton; A. Loveridge; Joseph Clews; Jabez Durfey; Columbus Freeman, and some others whose names I cannot remember. I know that our total force was fifty-four whites and over three hundred Indians.
As soon as these persons gathered around the camp, I demanded of Major Higbee what orders he had brought. I then stated fully all that had happened at the Meadows, so that every person might understand the situation.
Major Higbee reported as follows: “It is the orders of the President, that all the emigrants must be put out of the way. President Haight has counseled with Colonel Dame, or has had orders from him to put all of the emigrants out of the way; none who are old enough to talk are to be spared.”
He then went on and said substantially that the emigrants had come through the country as our enemies, and as the enemies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That they had no pass from any one in authority to permit them to leave the Territory. That none but friends were permitted to leave the Territory, and that as these were our sworn enemies, they must be killed. That they were nothing but a portion of Johnston’s army. That if they were allowed to go on to California, they would raise the war cloud in the West, and bring certain destruction upon all the settlements in Utah. That the only safety for the people was in the utter destruction of the whole rascally lot.
I then told them that God would have to change my heart before I could consent to such a wicked thing as the wholesale killing of that people. I attempted to reason with Higbee and the brethren. I told them how strongly the emigrants were fortified, and how wicked it was to kill the women and children. I was ordered to be silent. Higbee said I was resisting authority.
He then said, “Brother Lee is afraid of shedding innocent blood. Why, brethren, there is not a drop of innocent blood in that entire camp of Gentile outlaws; they are set of cut-throats, robbers and assassins; they are a part of the people who drove the Saints from Missouri, and who aided to shed the blood of our Prophets, Joseph and Hyrum, and it is our orders from all in authority, to get the emigrants from their stronghold, and help the Indians kill them.”
I then said that Joseph Smith had told us never to betray any one. That we could not get the emigrants out of their corral unless we used treachery, and I was opposed to that.
I was interrupted by Higbee, Klingensmith and Hopkins, who said it was the orders of President Isaac C. Haight to us, and that Haight had his orders from Colonel Dame and the authorities at Parowan, and that all in authority were of one mind, and that they had been sent by the Council at Cedar City to the Meadows to counsel and direct the way and manner that the company of emigrants should be disposed of.
The men then in council, I must here state, now knelt down in a prayer circle and prayed, invoking the Spirit of God to direct them how to act in the matter.
After prayer, Major Higbee said, “Here are the orders,” and handed me a paper from Haight. It was in substance that it was the orders of Haight to decoy the emigrants from their position, and kill all of them that could talk. This order was in writing. Higbee handed it to me and I read it, and dropped it on the ground, saying,
“I cannot do this.”
The substance of the orders were that the emigrants should be decoyed from their strong-hold, and all exterminated, so that no one would be left to tell the tale, and then the authorities could say it was done by the Indians.
The words decoy and exterminate were used in that message or order, and these orders came to us as the orders from the Council at Cedar City, and as the orders of our military superior, that we were bound to obey. The order was signed by Haight, as commander of the troops at Cedar City.
Haight told me the next day after the massacre, while on the Meadows, that he got his orders from Colonel Dame.
I then left the Council, and went away to myself, and bowed myself in prayer before God, and asked Him to overrule the decision of that Council. I shed many bitter tears, and my tortured soul was wrung nearly from the body by my great suffering. I will here say, calling upon Heaven, angels, and the spirits of just men to witness what I say, that if I could then have had a thousand worlds to command, I would have given them freely to save that company from death.
While in bitter anguish, lamenting the sad condition of myself and others, Charles Hopkins, a man that I had great confidence in, came to me from the Council, and tried to comfort me by saying that he believed it was all right, for the brethren in the Priesthood were all united in the thing, and it would not be well for me to oppose them.
I told him the Lord must change my heart before I could ever do such an act willingly. I will further state that there was a reign of terror in Utah, at that time, and many a man had been put out of the way, on short notice, for disobedience, and I had made some narrow escapes.
At the earnest solicitation of Brother Hopkins, I returned with him to the Council. When I got back, the Council again prayed for aid. The Council was called The City Counselors, the Church or High Counselors; and all in authority, together with the private citizens, then formed a circle, and kneeling down, so that elbows would touch each other, several of the brethren prayed for Divine instructions.
After prayer, Major Higbee said, “I have the evidence of God’s approval of our mission. It is God’s will that we carry out our instructions to the letter.”
I said, “My God! this is more than I can do. I must and do refuse to take part in this matter.”
Higbee then said to me, “Brother Lee, I am ordered by President Haight to inform you that you shall receive a crown of Celestial glory for your faithfulness, and your eternal joy shall be complete.” I was much shaken by this offer, for I had full faith in the power of the Priesthood to bestow such rewards and blessings, but I was anxious to save the people. I then proposed that we give the Indians all of the stock of the emigrants, except sufficient to haul their wagons, and let them go. To this proposition all the leading men objected. No man there raised his voice or hand to favor the saving of life, except myself.
The meeting was then addressed by some one in authority, I do not remember who it was. He spoke in about this language: “Brethren, we have been sent here to perform a duty. It is a duty that we owe to God, and to our Church and people. The orders of those in authority are that all the emigrants must die. Our leaders speak with inspired tongues, and their orders come from the God of Heaven. We have no right to question what they have commanded us to do; it is our duty to obey. If we wished to act as some of our weak-kneed brethren desire us to do, it would be impossible; the thing has gone too far to allow us to stop now. The emigrants know that we have aided the Indians, and if we let them go they will bring certain destruction upon us. It is a fact that on Wednesday night, two of the emigrants got out of camp and started back to Cedar City for assistance to withstand the Indian attacks; they had reached Richards’ Springs when they met William C. Stewart, Joel White and Benjamin Arthur, three of our brethren from Cedar City. The men stated their business to the brethren, and as their horses were drinking at the Spring, Brother Stewart, feeling unusually full of zeal for the glory of God and the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God on earth, shot and killed one of the emigrants, a young man by the name of Aden. When Aden fell from his horse, Joel White shot and wounded the other Gentile; but he unfortunately got away, and returned to his camp and reported that the Mormons were helping the Indians in all that they were doing against the emigrants. Now the emigrants will report these facts in California if we let them go. We must kill them all, and our orders are to get them out by treachery if no other thing can be done to get them into our power.”
Many of the brethren spoke in the same way, all arguing that the orders must be carried out.
I was then told the plan of action had been agreed upon, and it was this: The emigrants were to be decoyed from their stronghold under a promise of protection. Brother William Bateman was to carry a flag of truce and demand a parley, and then I was to go and arrange the terms of the surrender. I was to demand that all the children who were so young they could not talk should be put into a wagon, and the wounded were also to be put into a wagon. Then all the arms and ammunition of the emigrants should be put into a wagon, and I was to agree that the Mormons would protect the emigrants from the Indians and conduct them to Cedar City in safety, where they should be protected until an opportunity came for sending them to California.
It was agreed that when I had made the full agreement and treaty, as the brethren called it, the wagons should start for Hamblin’s Ranch with the arms, the wounded and the children. The women were to march on foot and follow the wagons in single file; the men were to follow behind the women, they also to march in single file. Major John M. Higbee was to stand with his militia company about two hundred yards from the camp, and stand in double file, open order, with about twenty feet space between the files, so that the wagons could pass between them. The drivers were to keep right along, and not stop at the troops. The women were not to stop there, but to follow the wagons. The troops were to halt the men for a few minutes, until the women were some distance ahead, out into the cedars, where the Indians were hid in ambush. Then the march was to be resumed, the troops to form in single file, each soldier to walk by an emigrant, and on the right-hand side of his man, and the soldier was to carry his gun on his left arm, ready for instant use. The march was to continue until the wagons had passed beyond the ambush of the Indians, and until the women were right in the midst of the Indians. Higbee was then to give the orders and words, “Do Your Duty.” At this the troops were to shoot down the men; the Indians were to kill all of the women and larger children, and the drivers of the wagons and I were to kill the wounded and sick men that were in the wagons. Two men were to be placed on horses nearby, to overtake and kill any of the emigrants that might escape from the first assault. The Indians were to kill the women and large children, so that it would be certain that no Mormon would be guilty of shedding innocent blood–if it should happen that there was any innocent blood in the company that were to die. Our leading men said that there was no innocent blood in the whole company.
The Council broke up a little after daylight on Friday morning. All the horses, except two for the men to ride to overtake those who might escape, and one for Dan McFarland to ride as Adjutant, so that he could carry orders from one part of the field to another, were turned out on the range. Then breakfast was eaten, and the brethren prepared for the work in hand.
I was now satisfied that it was the wish of all of the Mormon priesthood to have the thing done. One reason for thinking so was that it was in keeping with the teachings of the leaders, and as Utah was then at war with the United States we believed all the Gentiles were to be killed as a war measure, and that the Mormons, as God’s chosen people, were to hold and inhabit the earth and rule and govern the globe. Another, and one of my strongest reasons for believing that the leaders wished the thing done, was on account of the talk that I had with George A. Smith, which I have given in full in this statement. I was satisfied that Smith had passed the emigrants while on his way from Salt Lake City, and I then knew this was the train that he meant when he spoke of a train that would make threats and ill treat our people, etc.
The people were in the full blaze of the reformation and anxious to do some act that would add to their reputation as zealous Churchmen.
I therefore, taking all things into consideration, and believing, as I then did, that my superiors were inspired men, who could not go wrong in any matter relating to the Church or the duty of its members, concluded to be obedient to the wishes of those in authority. I took up my cross and prepared to do my duty.
Soon after breakfast Major Higbee ordered the two Indian interpreters, Carl Shirts and Nephi Johnson, to inform the Indians of the plan of operations, and to place the Indians in ambush, so that they could not be seen by the emigrants until the work of death should commence.
This was done in order to make the emigrants believe that we had sent the Indians away, and that we were acting honestly and in good faith, when we agreed to protect them from the savages.
The orders were obeyed, and in five minutes not an Indian could be seen on the. whole Meadows. They secreted themselves and lay still as logs of wood, until the order was given for them to rush out and kill the women.
Major Higbee then called all the people to order, and directed me to explain the whole plan to them. I did so, explaining just how every person was expected to act during the whole performance.
Major Higbee then gave the order for his men to advance. They marched to the spot agreed upon, and halted there. William Bateman was then selected to carry a flag of truce to the emigrants and demand their surrender, and I was ordered to go and make the treaty after some one had replied to our flag of truce. (The emigrants had kept a white flag flying in their camp ever since they saw me cross the valley.)
Bateman took a white flag and started for the emigrant camp. When he got about half way to the corral, he was met by one of the emigrants, that I afterwards learned was named Hamilton. They talked some time, but I never knew what was said between them.
Brother Bateman returned to the command and said that the emigrants would accept our terms, and surrender as we required them to do.
I was then ordered by Major Higbee to go to the corral and negotiate the treaty, and superintend the whole matter. I was again ordered to be certain and get all the arms and ammunition into the wagons. Also to put the children and the sick and wounded in the wagons, as had been agreed upon in council. Then Major Higbee said to me:
“Brother Lee, we expect you to faithfully carry out all the instructions that have been given you by our council.”
Samuel McMurdy and Samuel Knight were then ordered to drive their teams and follow me to the corral to haul off the children, arms, etc.
The troops formed in two lines, as had been agreed upon, and were standing in that way with arms at rest, when I left them.
I walked ahead of the wagons up to the corral. When I reached there I met Mr. Hamilton on the outside of the camp. He loosened the chains from some of their wagons, and moved one wagon out of the way, so that our teams could drive inside of the corral and into their camp. It was then noon, or a little after.
I found that the emigrants were strongly fortified; their wagons were chained to each other in a circle. In the centre was a rifle-pit, large enough to contain the entire company. This had served to shield them from the constant fire of their enemy, which had been poured into them from both sides of the valley, from a rocky range that served as a breastwork for their assailants. The valley at this point was not more than five hundred yards wide, and the emigrants had their camp near the center of the valley. On the east and west there was a low range of rugged, rocky mountains, affording a splendid place for the protection of the Indians and Mormons, and leaving them in comparative safety while they fired upon the emigrants. The valley at this place runs nearly due north and south.
When I entered the corral, I found the emigrants engaged in burying two men of note among them, who had died but a short time before from the effect of wounds received by them from the Indians at the time of the first attack on Tuesday morning. They wrapped the bodies up in buffalo robes, and buried them in a grave inside the corral. I was then told by some of the men that seven men were killed and seventeen others were wounded at the first attack made by the Indians, and that three of the wounded men had since died, making ten of their number killed during the siege.
As I entered the fortifications, men, women and children gathered around me in wild consternation. Some felt that the time of their happy deliverance had come, while others, though in deep distress, and all in tears, looked upon me with doubt, distrust and terror. My feelings at this time may be imagined (but I doubt the power of man being equal to even imagine how wretched I felt.) No language can describe my feelings. My position was painful, trying and awful; my brain seemed to be on fire; my nerves were for a moment unstrung; humanity was overpowered, as I thought of the cruel, unmanly part that I was acting. Tears of bitter anguish fell in streams from my eyes; my tongue refused its office; my faculties were dormant, stupefied and deadened by grief. I wished that the earth would open and swallow me where I stood. God knows my suffering was great. I cannot describe my feelings. I knew that I was acting a cruel part and doing a damnable deed. Yet my faith in the godliness of my leaders was such that it forced me to think that I was not sufficiently spiritual to act the important part I was commanded to perform. My hesitation was only momentary. Then feeling that duty compelled obedience to orders, I laid aside my weakness and my humanity, and became an instrument in the hands of my superiors and my leaders. I delivered my message and told the people that they must put their arms in the wagon, so as not to arouse the animosity of the Indians. I ordered the children and wounded, some clothing and the arms, to be put into the wagons. Their guns were mostly Kentucky rifles of the muzzle-loading style. Their ammunition was about all gone–I do not think there were twenty loads left in their whole camp. If the emigrants had had a good supply of ammunition they never would have surrendered, and I do not think we could have captured them without great loss, for they were brave men and very resolute and determined.
Just as the wagons were loaded, Dan McFarland came riding into the corral and said that Major Higbee had ordered great haste to be made, for he was afraid that the Indians would return and renew the attack before he could get the emigrants to a place of safety.
I hurried up the people and started the wagons off towards Cedar City. As we went out of the corral I ordered the wagons to turn to the left, so as to leave the troops to the right of us. Dan McFarland rode before the women and led them right up to the troops, where they still stood in open order as I left them. The women and larger children were walking ahead, as directed, and the men following them. The foremost man was about fifty yards behind the hindmost woman.
The women and children were hurried right on by the troops. When the men came up they cheered the soldiers as if they believed that they were acting honestly. Higbee then gave the orders for his men to form in single file and take their places as ordered before, that is, at the right of the emigrants.
I saw this much, but about this time our wagons passed out of sight of the troops, over the hill. I had disobeyed orders in part by turning off as I did, for I was anxious to be out of sight of the bloody deed that I knew was to follow. I knew that I had much to do yet that was of a cruel and unnatural character. It was my duty, with the two drivers, to kill the sick and wounded who were in the wagons, and to do so when we heard the guns of the troops fire. I was walking between the wagons; the horses were going in a fast walk, and we were fully half a mile from Major Higbee and his men, when we heard the firing. As we heard the guns, I ordered a halt and we proceeded to do our part.
I here pause in the recital of this horrid story of man’s inhumanity, and ask myself the question, Is it honest in me, and can I clear my conscience before my God, if I screen myself while I accuse others? No, never! Heaven forbid that I should put a burden upon others’ shoulders, that I am unwilling to bear my just portion of. I am not a traitor to my people, nor to my former friends and comrades who were with me on that dark day when the work of death was carried on in God’s name, by a lot of deluded and religious fanatics. It is my duty to tell facts as they exist, and I will do so.
I have said that all of the small children were put into the wagons; that was wrong, for one little child, about six months old, was carried in its father’s arms, and it was killed by the same bullet that entered its father’s breast; it was shot through the head. I was told by Haight afterwards, that the child was killed by accident, but I cannot say whether that is a fact or not. I saw it lying dead when I returned to the place of slaughter.
When we had got out of sight, as I said before, and just as we were coming into the main road, I heard a volley of guns at the place where I knew the troops and emigrants were. Our teams were then going at a fast walk. I first heard one gun, then a volley at once followed.
McMurdy and Knight stopped their teams at once, for they were ordered by Higbee, the same as I was, to help kill all the sick and wounded who were in the wagons, and to do it as soon as they heard the guns of the troops. McMurdy was in front; his wagon was mostly loaded with the arms and small children. McMurdy and Knight got out of their wagons; each one had a rifle. McMurdy went up to Knight’s wagon, where the sick and wounded were, and raising his rifle to his shoulder, said: “0 Lord, my God, receive their spirits, it is for thy Kingdom that I do this.” He then shot a man who was lying with his head on another man’s breast; the ball killed both men.
I also went up to the wagon, intending to do my part of the killing. I drew my pistol and cocked it, but somehow it went off prematurely, and I shot McMurdy across the thigh, my Pistol ball cutting his buck-skin pants. McMurdy turned to me and said:
“Brother Lee, keep cool, you are excited; you came very near killing me. Keep cool, there is no reason for being excited.”
Knight then shot a man with his rifle; he shot the man in the head. Knight also brained a boy that was about fourteen years old. The boy came running up to our wagons, and Knight struck him on the head with the butt end of his gun, and crushed his skull. By this time many Indians reached our wagons, and all of the sick and wounded were killed almost instantly. I saw an Indian from Cedar City, called Joe, run up to the wagon and catch a man by the hair, and raise his head up and look into his face; the man shut his eyes, and Joe shot him in the head. The Indians then examined all of the wounded in the wagons, and all of the bodies, to see if any were alive, and all that showed signs of life were at once shot through the head. I did not kill any one there, but it was an accident that kept me from it, for I fully intended to do my part of the killing, but by the time I got over the excitement of coming so near killing McMurdy, the whole of the killing of the wounded was done. There is no truth in the statement of Nephi Johnson, where he says I cut a man’s throat.
Just after the wounded were all killed I saw a girl, some ten or eleven years old, running towards us, from the direction where the troops had attacked the main body of emigrants; she was covered with blood. An Indian shot her before she got within sixty yards of us. That was the last person that I saw killed on that occasion.
About this time an Indian rushed to the front wagon, and grabbed a little boy, and was going to kill him. The lad got away from the Indian and ran to me, and caught me by the knees; and begged me to save him, and not let the Indian kill him. The Indian had hurt the little fellow’s chin on the wagon bed, when he first caught hold of him. I told the Indian to let the boy alone. I took the child up in my arms, and put him back in the wagon, and saved his life. This little boy said his name was Charley Fancher, and that his father was Captain of the train. He was a bright boy. I afterwards adopted him, and gave him to Caroline. She kept him until Dr. Forney took all the children East. I believe that William Sloan, alias Idaho Bill, is the same boy.
After all the parties were dead, I ordered Knight to drive out on one side, and throw out the dead bodies. He did so, and threw them out of his wagon at a place about one hundred yards from the road, and then came back to where I was standing. I then ordered Knight and McMurdy to take the children that were saved alive, (sixteen was the number, some say seventeen, I say sixteen,) and drive on to Hamblin’s ranch. They did as I ordered them to do. Before the wagons started, Nephi Johnson came up in company with the Indians that were under his command, and Carl Shirts I think came up too, but I know that I then considered that Carl Shirts was a coward, and I afterwards made him suffer for being a coward. Several white men came up too, but I cannot tell their names, as I have forgotten who they were.
Knight lied when he said I went to the ranch and ordered him to go to the field with his team. I never knew anything of his team, or heard of it, until he came with a load of armed men in his wagon, on the evening of Thursday. If any one ordered him to go to the Meadows, it was Higbee. Every witness that claims that he went to the Meadows without knowing what he was going to do, has lied, for they all knew, as well as Haight or any one else did, and they all voted, every man of them, in the Council, on Friday morning, a little before daylight, to kill all the emigrants.
After the wagons, with the children, had started for Hamblin’s ranch, I turned and walked back to where the brethren were. Nephi Johnson lies when he says he was on horse-back, and met me, or that I gave him orders to go to guard the wagons. He is a perjured wretch, and has sworn to every thing he could to injure me. God knows what I did do was bad enough, but he has lied to suit the leaders of the Church, who want me out of the way.
While going back, to the brethren, I passed the bodies of several women. In one place I saw six or seven bodies near each other; they were stripped perfectly naked, and all of their clothing was torn from their bodies by the Indians.
I walked along the line where the emigrants had been killed, and saw many bodies lying dead and naked on the field, near by where the women lay. I saw ten children; they had been killed close to each other; they were from ten to sixteen years of age. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along the ground for quite a distance before I came to where the men were killed.
I do not know how many were killed, but I thought then that there were some fifteen women, about ten children, and about forty men killed, but the statement of others that I have since talked with about the massacre, makes me think there were fully one hundred and ten killed that day on the Mountain Meadows, and the ten who had died in the corral, and young Aden killed by Stewart at Richards’ Springs, would make the total number one hundred and twenty-one.
When I reached the place where the dead men lay, I was told how the orders had been obeyed. Major Higbee said, “The boys have acted admirably, they took good aim, and all of the d–d Gentiles but two or three fell at the first fire.”
He said that three or four got away some distance, but the men on horses soon overtook them and cut their throats. Higbee said the Indians did their part of the work well, that it did not take over a minute to finish up when they got fairly started. I found that the first orders had been carried out to the letter.
Three of the emigrants did get away, but the Indians were put on their trail and they overtook and killed them before they reached the settlements in California. But it would take more time than I have to spare to give the details of their chase and capture. I may do so in my writings hereafter, but not now.
I found Major Higbee, Klingensmith. and most of the brethren standing near by where the largest number of the dead men lay.
When I went up to the brethren, Major Higbee said,
“We must now examine the bodies for valuables.”
I said I did not wish to do any such work.
Higbee then said, “Well, you hold my hat and I will examine the bodies, and put what valuables I get into the hat.”
The bodies were all searched by Higbee, Klingensmith and Wm. C. Stewart. I did hold the hat a while, but I soon got so sick that I had to give it to some other person, as I was unable to stand for a few minutes. The search resulted in getting a little money and a few watches, but there was not much money. Higbee and Klingensmith kept the property, I suppose, for I never knew what became of it, unless they did keep it. I think they kept it all.
After the dead were searched, as I have just said, the brethren were called up, and Higbee and Klingensmith, as well as myself, made speeches, and ordered the people to keep the matter ,a secret from the entire world. Not to tell their wives, or their most intimate friends, and we pledged ourselves to keep everything relating to the affair a secret during life. We also took the most binding oaths to stand by each other, and to always insist that the massacre was committed by Indians alone. This was the advice of Brigham Young too, as I will show hereafter.
The men were mostly ordered to camp there on the field for that night, but Higbee and Klingensmith went with me to Hamblin’s ranch, where we got something to eat, and staid there all night. I was nearly dead for rest and sleep; in fact I had rested but little since the Saturday night before. I took my saddle-blanket and spread it on the ground soon after I had eaten my supper, and lay down on the saddle-blanket, using my saddle for a pillow, and slept soundly until next morning.
I was awakened in the morning by loud talking between Isaac C. Haight and William H. Dame. They were very much excited, and quarreling with each other. I got up at once, but was unable to hear what they were quarreling about, for they cooled down as soon as they saw that others were paying attention to them.
I soon learned that Col. Dame, Judge Lewis of Parowan, and Isaac C. Haight, with several others, had arrived at the Hamblin ranch in the night, but I do not know what time they got there.
After breakfast we all went back in a body to the Meadows, to bury the dead and take care of the property that was left there.
When we reached the Meadows we all rode up to that part of the field where the women were lying dead. The bodies of men, women and children had been stripped entirely naked, making the scene one of the most loathsome and ghastly that can be imagined.
Knowing that Dame and Haight had quarreled at Hamblin’s that morning, I wanted to know how they would act in sight of the dead, who lay there as the result of their orders. I was greatly interested to know what Dame had to say, so I kept close to them, without appearing to be watching them.
Colonel Dame was silent for some time. He looked all over the field, and was quite pale, and looked uneasy and frightened. I thought then that he was just finding out the difference between giving and executing orders for wholesale killing. He spoke to Haight, and said:
“I must report this matter to the authorities.”
“How will you report it?” said Haight.
Dame said, “I will report it just as it is.”
“Yes, I suppose so, and implicate yourself with the rest?” said Haight.
“No,” said Dame. “I will not implicate myself for I had nothing to do with it.”
Haight then said, “That will not do, for you know a d–d sight better. You ordered it done. Nothing has been done except by your orders, and it is too late in the day for you to order things done and then go back on it, and go back on the men who have carried out your orders. You cannot sow pig on me, and I will be d–d if I will stand it. You are as much to blame as any one, and you know that we have done nothing except what you ordered done. I know that I have obeyed orders, and by G-d I will not be lied on.”
Colonel Dame was much excited. He choked up, and would have gone away, but he knew Haight was a man of determination, and would not stand any foolishness.
As soon as Colonel Dame could collect himself, he said:
“I did not think there were so many of them, or I would not have had anything to do with it.”
I thought it was now time for me to chip in, so I said:
“Brethren, what is the trouble between you? It will not do for our chief men to disagree.”
Haight stepped up to my side, a little in front of me, and facing Colonel Dame. He was very mad, and said:
“The trouble is just this: Colonel Dame counseled and ordered me to do this thing, and now he wants to back out, and go back on me, and by G-d, he shall not do it. He shall not lay it all on me. He cannot do it. He must not try to do it. I will blow him to h–l before he shall lay it all on me. He has got to stand up to what he did, like a little man. He knows he ordered it, done, and I dare him to deny it.”
Colonel Dame was perfectly cowed. He did not offer to deny it again, but said: “Isaac, I did not know there were so many of them.”
“That makes no difference,” said Haight, “you ordered me to do it, and you have got to stand up for your orders.”
I thought it was now time to stop the fuss, for many of the young brethren were coming around. So I said: “Brethren, this is no place to talk over such a matter. You will agree when you get where you can be quiet, and talk it over.”
Haight said, “There is no more to say, for he knows he ordered it done, and he has got to stand by it.”
That ended the trouble between them, and I never heard of Colonel Dame denying the giving of the orders any more, until after the Church authorities concluded to offer me up for the sins of the Church.
We then went along the field, and passed by where the brethren were at work covering up the bodies. They piled the dead bodies up in heaps, in little gullies, and threw dirt over them. The bodies were only lightly covered, for the ground was hard, and the brethren did not have sufficient tools to dig with. I suppose it is true that the first rain washed the bodies all out again, but I never went back to examine whether it did or not.
We then went along the field to where the corral and camp had been, to where the wagons were standing. We found that the Indians had carried off all of the wagon covers, and the clothing, and the provisions, and had emptied the feathers out of the feather-beds, and carried off all the ticks.
After the dead were covered up or buried (but it was not much of a burial,) the brethren were called together, and a council was held at the emigrant camp. All the leading men made speeches; Colonel Dame, President Haight. Klingensmith, John M. Higbee, Hopkins and myself. The speeches were first–Thanks to God for delivering our enemies into our hands; next, thanking the brethren for their zeal in God’s cause; and then the necessity of always saying the Indians did it alone, and that the Mormons had nothing to do with it. The most of the speeches, however, were in the shape of exhortations and commands to keep the whole matter secret from every one but Brigham Young. It was voted unanimously that any man who should divulge the secret, or tell who was present, or do anything that would lead to a discovery of the truth, should suffer death.
The brethren then all took a most solemn oath, binding themselves under the most dreadful and awful penalties, to keep the whole matter secret from every human being, as long as they should live. No man was to know the facts. The brethren were sworn not to talk of it among themselves, and each one swore to help kill all who proved to be traitors to the Church or people in this matter.
It was then agreed that Brigham Young should be informed of the whole matter, by some one to be selected by the Church Council, after the brethren had returned home.
It was also voted to turn all the property over to Klingensmith, as Bishop of the Church at Cedar City, and he was to take care of the property for the benefit of the Church, until Brigham Young was notified, and should give further orders what to do with it.