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Extermination Order

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The Extermination Order was a military order signed by Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs on October 27, 1838, directing that the Mormons be driven from the state or exterminated. It read:

"Headquarters of the Militia,"
City of Jefferson, Oct. 27, 1838.
General John B. Clark:
Sir Since the order of this morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Reese, Esq., of Ray county, and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids, information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace--their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Willock, of Marion county to raise five hundred men, and to march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with five hundred men to proceed to the same point for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the north. They have been directed to communicate with you by express, you can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead therefore of proceeding as at first directed to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.
I am very respectfully,
your ob't serv't,
"L. W. Boggs,
Commander in Chief."

The governor's action was a reaction to information relayed to him that day by two men from Richmond, Missouri. The information concerned conflicts between Mormons and Missourians in northwest Missouri and falsely alleged that Mormon militias had murdered a number of men and were pillaging and burning Missouri towns. The Saints had already been driven out of Jackson County in 1833, Clay County in 1836, and Carroll County two weeks before the Extermination Order (Hartley, p. 6). Carroll County had already issued its own extermination order against the Saints, threatening to "exterminate them without regard to age or sex" if they did not leave the county by October (Anderson, 27 - 83). Jealousies of the Missourians had been aroused by the anti-slavery stance of the Church, the Church's avowed goal to establish Zion in Missouri, the Saints' tendency to gather in groups and trade mostly among themselves, the Church population's continuing growth, and religious bigotry fanned by Protestant leaders. Recent inflammatory talks by Mormon leaders, especially those given by expert orator Sidney Rigdon, had proclaimed that the Mormons were finally determined to defend themselves. What was called by Missourians the "Mormon War" had broken out in the summer of 1838. The Mormon War entailed "shooting, house burning, pillaging of crops and livestock, and a skirmish called the Battle of Crooked River on 24 October in which a handful lost their lives, and the Haun's Mill Massacre on 30 October [probably before the news of the Extermination Order had reached Missourians] in which some seventeen innocent Mormons were brutally shot to death and fourteen others wounded by more than two hundred Missouri vigilantes" (Hartley, p. 6).

Governor Boggs, acting in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Missouri militia, ordered General John B. Clark to march to Ray County with a division of militia to carry out operations against armed Mormons. A copy of the order reached General Samuel D. Lucas by the time he encamped outside the LDS town of Far West, in Caldwell County, on October 31, with 3,500 soldiers of the state militia. There were only about 200 men in Far West, but they had determined to try to defend themselves. Joseph Smith sent representatives into the camp of the state militia to plead with General Alexander W. Doniphan, who had a reputation for fairness towards the Saints. Lucas gave a copy of the Extermination Order to the LDS Colonel George M. Hinkle and other Church representatives, to whom he dictated terms of surrender, and they showed it to Joseph Smith. The terms of surrender were four—1) The leaders of the Mormons were to be taken into custody; 2) the personal property of the Saints was to be confiscated to pay costs, damages, debts suffered by citizens of the state of Missouri; 3) all arms belonging to the Saints were to be confiscated; and 4) all Mormons had to leave the state.

"Joseph was interested in preventing bloodshed, but probably was not ready for the series of dangers, depredations and betrayals that awaited him. He agreed to meet with militia leaders to avoid bloodshed, but was imprisoned and condemned to be shot without a trial" (Jeff He and other leaders were rounded up and left outside overnight in inclement weather, bearing the taunts of their captors. The following short discourse was carried on between Generals Lucas and Doniphan:

"To Brigadier-General Doniphan: Sir: You will take Joseph Smith and the other prisoners into the public square of Far West and shoot them at 9 o'clock tomorrow morning. Samuel D. Lucas, Major-General Commanding."
To this, Doniphan promptly replied, "It is cold-blooded murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God. A. W. Doniphan, Brigadier General" (Hill, p. 241).

Joseph Smith and several others spent five months in jail awaiting trial for alleged murder, treason, arson, and other charges. This was a dark time for the Prophet, but would be accompanied with powerful revelations from heaven and renewed strength (see Doctrine and Covenants 121-123). A trial was never held. On April 15, 1839, while being moved for a change of venue, and after the nearly leaderless Saints had been driven and exposed to the ravages of a forced winter migration, Joseph and Hyrum were quietly allowed to escape, apparently to help the State of Missouri save face (Jeff

Before Joseph was released, a vendetta against the Latter-day Saints had been unleashed. Even after military activities were ended (since the Mormons had agreed to leave), the citizens of Missouri continued to wreak pogroms against the Mormons, looting and burning their homes, intimidating women, killing animals, and ruining crops, culminating in the forcible removal from Missouri of virtually all members of the Church during the winter and early spring of 1838-1839. The Saints fled from Missouri under the most dire of circumstances. Many impoverished Mormons had no shoes, no supplies, no shelter, no wagons, and no horses—all had been taken by the Missourians. The winter was bitter, and many camped in the snow, hoping for deliverance. Hundreds of sick and freezing refugees clustered in Far West and nearby. Brigham Young and others made a pact with each other to help the most impoverished Saints. Eventually, they succeeded. (The difficult enterprise surely helped prepare Brigham Young to organize the later exodus to Utah, and to set up systems to enable poor Mormons to come west in later years.) Most Latter-day Saints leaving Missouri went to Illinois, especially to Quincy, where the citizens offered much charity to help them. The Saints could not decide whether to gather again, and some leaders thought they should disperse into smaller populations. Far flung Saints had to be reassured that the Church was still functioning. But Joseph Smith regathered the Saints to Commerce, Illinois, later named Nauvoo.

This forced exile of over 10,000 Latter-day Saints had short-term and long-term consequences:

The Mormons suffered severe property losses and received no compensation.
The Mormons suffered physically from deprivation, exposure, stress, illness, and trauma. Thus, many who were exposed to the malarial swamps of Nauvoo were already weakened by their experiences in Missouri.
The Mormons had suffered so much injustice and mental trauma by the time they settled in Nauvoo, they had a sort of "never again" mentality. In Nauvoo, they established a militia and laws that would uphold their self-defense.

Rescinding the Extermination Order

The legality and propriety of Boggs' order were vigorously debated in the Missouri legislature during its 1839 session. The order was supported by most northwest Missouri citizens, but was questioned or denounced by others. However, no determination of the order's legality was ever made.

On June 25, 1976, Governor Christopher S. Bond issued an executive order rescinding the Extermination Order, recognizing its legal invalidity and formally apologizing in behalf of the state of Missouri for the suffering it had caused the Latter-day Saints:

WHEREAS, on October 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, issued an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Governor Boggs' order clearly contravened the right to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, in this Bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation's heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows:
Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by this 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44 dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs.

References and Links

pt:Ordem de Exterminio

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