Mountain Meadows Massacre Historical Accounts

These, with the remains of two others gotten in a ravine to the east of the spring, where they had been interred at but little depth, 34 in all, I buried in a grave on the northern side of the ditch. Around and above this grave I caused to be built of loose granite stones, hauled from the neighboring hills, a rude monument, conical in form and fifty feet in circumference at the base, and twelve feet in height. This is surmounted by a cross hewn from red cedarwood. From the ground to top of cross is twenty-four feet. On the transverse part of the cross, facing towards the north is an inscription carved in the wood. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” And on a rude slab of granite set in the earth and leaning against the northern base of the monument there are cut the following words: “Here 120 men, women, and children were massacred in cold blood early in September 1857. They were from Arkansas.”

I observed that nearly every skull I saw had been shot through with rifle or revolver bullets. I did not see one that had been “broken in with stones.” Dr. Brewer showed me one, that probably of a boy of eighteen, which had been fractured and slit, doubtless by two blows of a bowie knife or other instrument of that character.

I saw several bones of what must have been very small children. Dr. Brewer says from what he saw he thinks some infants were butchered. The mothers doubtless had these in their arms, and the same shot or blow may have deprived both of life.

The scene of the massacre, even at this late day, was horrible to look upon. Women’s hair, in detached locks and masses, hung to the sage bushes and was strewn over the ground in many places. Parts of little children’s dresses and of female costume dangled from the shrubbery or lay scattered about; and among these, here and there, on every hand, for at least a mile in the direction of the road, by two miles east and west, there gleamed, bleached white by the weather, the skulls and other bones of those who had suffered. A glance into the wagon when all these had been collected revealed a sight which can never be forgotten.

The idea of the melancholy procession of that great number of women and children, followed at a distance by their husbands and brothers, after all their suffering, their watching, their anxiety and grief, for so many gloomy days and dismal nights at the corral, thus moving slowly and sadly up to the point where the Mormons and Indians lay in wait to murder them; these doomed and unhappy people literally going to their own funeral; the chill shadows of night closing darkly around them, sad precursors of the approaching shadows of a deeper night, brings to the mind a picture of human suffering and wretchedness on the one hand, and of human treachery and ferocity upon the other, that cannot possibly be excelled by any other scene that ever before occurred in real life.

I caused the distance to be measured from point to point on the scene of the massacre. From the ditch near the spring to the point upon the road where the men attacked and destroyed, and where their bones were mostly found, is one mile 565 yards. Here there is a grave where Captain Campbell’s command buried some of the remains. To the next point, also marked by a similar grave made by Captain Campbell, and where the women and children were butchered; a point identified from their bones and clothing have been found near it, it is one mile, 1,135 yards. To the swell across the valley called the Rim of the Basin, is one mile 1,334 yards. To Hamblin’s house four miles, 1,049 yards.

Major Henry Prince, United States Army, drew a map of the ground about the spring where the entrenchment was dug, and embracing the neighboring hill behind which the Mormons had cover. On the crests of these hills are still traces of some rude little parapets made of loose stones and loop holed for rifles. Marks of bullets shot from the corral are seen upon these stones. I enclose this map and also a drawing of the valley as it appears looking northward from a point below the spring and another drawing giving a near view of the monument. These latter are not so good as I could wish for, but they will serve to give a tolerably correct idea of what they are intended to represent. They were made by Mr. Moeller, who has lived many years among the Mormons.

In pursuing the bloody thread which runs throughout this picture of sad realities, the question how this crime, that for hellish atrocity has no parallel in our history, can be adequately punished often comes up and seeks in vain for an answer. Judge Cradlebaugh says that with Mormon juries the attempt to administer justice in their Territory is simply a ridiculous farce. He believes the Territory ought at once to be put under martial law. This may be the only practical way in which even a partial punishment can be meted out to these Latter-Day devils.

But how inadequate would be the punishment of a few, even by death, for this crime for which nearly the whole Mormon population, from Brigham Young down, were more or less instrumental in perpetrating.

There are other heinous crimes to be punished besides this. Martial law would at best be but a temporary expedient. Crime is found in the footsteps of the Mormons wherever they go, and so the evil must always exist as long as the Mormons themselves exist. What is their history? What their antecedents? Perhaps the future may be judged by the past.

In their infancy as a religious community, they settled in Jackson County, Missouri. There, in a short time, from the crimes and depredations they committed, they became intolerable to the inhabitants, whose self-preservation compelled them to ride and drive the Mormons out by force of arms. At Nauvoo, again another experiment was tried with them. The people of Illinois exercised forbearance toward them until it literally “ceased to be a virtue.” They were driven thence as they had been from Missouri, but fortunately this time with the loss on their part of those two shallow imposters, but errant miscreants, the brothers Smith.

The United States took no wholesome heed of these lessons taught by Missouri and Illinois. The Mormons were permitted to settle amid the fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, with a desert on each side, and upon the great thoroughfare between the two oceans. Over this thoroughfare, our Citizens have hitherto not been able to travel without peril to their lives and property, except, forsooth, Brigham Young pleased to grant them his permission and give them his protection. “He would turn the Indians loose upon them.”

The expenses of the army in Utah, past and to come (figure that), the massacre at the Mountain Meadows, the unnumbered other crimes, which have been and will yet be committed by this community, are but preliminary gusts of the whirlwind our Government has reaped and is yet to reap for the wind it had sowed in permitting the Mormons ever to gain a foothold within our borders.

They are an ulcer upon the body politic. An ulcer which it needs more than cutlery to cure. It must have excision, complete and thorough extirpation before we can ever hope for safety or tranquility. This is no rhetorical phrase made by a flourish of the pen, but is really what will prove to be an earnest and stubborn fact. This brotherhood may be contemplated from any point of view, and but one conclusion can be arrived at concerning it. The Thugs of India were an inoffensive, moral, law-abiding people in comparison.

I have made this a special report, because the information here given, however crude, I thought to be of such grave importance it ought to be put permanently on record and deserved to be kept separate and distinct from a report on the ordinary occurrences of a march. Some of the details might, perhaps, have been omitted, but there has been a great and fearful crime perpetrated, and many of the circumstances connected with it have long been kept most artfully concealed. But few direct rays even now shine in upon the subject. So that however indistinct and unimportant they may at present appear to be, even the faint side lights given by these details may yet lend assistance in exploring some obscure recess of the matter where the great truths, that should be diligently and persistently sought for, may yet happily be discovered.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

James Henry Carleton, Brevet Major, U.S.A., Captain in the First Dragoons.

Major W. W. Mackall, Ass’t. Adjutant-General, U.S.A., San Francisco, California.