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THE OUTRAGES IN ILLINOIS.
CARTHAGE, HANCOCK COUNTY, ILLINOIS,
SEPTEMBER 27, 1845.
Messrs. GALES & SEATON : Permit me, through the col-umns of your paper, to apprize the public at a distance of the deplorable condition of this county.
It is generally known that this is the gathering place of those deluded people called Mormons, or Latter-day Saints. Six years ago, having been driven for their crimes from Mis-souri, they were permitted to settle at Nauvoo, in this coun-ty, and have ever since been collecting their proselytes here from all parts of the United States, from Canada, and from Europe. At the time of their first settlement among us, the population of the county was about seven thousand, and ra-pidly increasing. It was one of the best and most prosperous counties in the State. Since that time all emigration to it, except of Mormons, has ceased; and the numbers of the old citizens, as the early settlers are usually termed, by way of distinction, have constantly diminished. There are now about four thousand of them in the county, and twelve or fifteen thousand Mormons. About ten thousand of the latter live in Nauvoo; the rest are scattered about in little villages and settlements through the county.
The Mormons have from the first directed their chief atten-tion to military organization and preparations ; and have at this time not less than three thousand drilled soldiers, horse and foot, armed each with his rifle, pistols, and bowie-knife. The rifles and pistols are many of them revolvers. The knives are of their own manufacture, with blades from twelve to fif-teen inches long, and weighing about three pounds. They carry their arms always about them. Whether at home, or walking in the streets, or travelling upon the public roads, pistols may be seen sticking in their pockets and the bowie-knife in their bosoms, or strapped to the waist. They even attend the courts of the county and their meetings upon the Sabbath armed in the same manner.
They have been deluded into the belief that they are the peculiar favorites of Heaven ; that all religion but theirs is a mockery, and that all those who do not unite with them are to be exterminated through their agency. Most of them firm-ly believe that they shall in a few years be strong enough to overrun the earth, and destroy all disbelievers in Mormonism, and that it will then become their duty so to do. The conse-quence of this delusion is, that they look upon us as occupy-ing the earth in the mean time without warrant or rights, and that it is no wrong in the sight of God to plunder and steal from us. Their depredations, therefore, have become intoler-able ; and we are utterly without remedy. When stolen pro-perty is traced to Nauvoo, neither the owner nor officers of the law can recover it. Those who go in pursuit are often robbed of their horses and driven with insults from the city. Small parties have in some instances gone to the residences of farmers through the county, armed to the teeth, and taken their horses from the stables and driven off their cattle before their eyes. It is vain to appeal to the law for redress. The law and its officers are set at defiance ; and our courts, through perjury of Mormon witnesses and jurymen, are made but a mockery of justice.
Harassed and worn out by such continual annoyances, as many of our citizens as could have within the last two or three years removed from the county. The remainder would have gone long ago but that their all consists in their farms and im-provements, which they cannot sell, but would be obliged to abandon to the Mormons, and go away beggars.
I have given the above sketch in order to the better under-standing of the account which follows.
In the southwest part of the county, about twenty-five miles from this place, there was a settlement of Mormons called the "Morley Settlement," composed of something like a hundred families, scattered about in a piece of timbered land. They were most of them mere squatters upon the soil, living in mis-erable cabins or huts, which were built of stolen timber, and not worth, upon the average, more than ten or fifteen dollars each. This settlement was little else than a nest of thieves, living upon what they could pilfer and plunder from the old settlers in that vicinity. The latter, annoyed till they could endure it no longer, held a meeting on the evening of the 10th instant to consult upon measures to protect themselves against such depredations. The house they were occupying was fired upon by some persons who fled and were not seen, but who were supposed to be Mormons. Provoked by this outrage, they at once resolved to drive the Mormons from their neighborhood; and, going to the cabins of some of the most notorious villains, ordered them to take their families and goods and leave the place. The cabins were burnt, after every thing was removed from them, to prevent their occupants from re-turning to them again. This was done by ten persons only. The next day a larger number assembled, and, on that and the three following days, burnt out the remainder of the set-tlement in the same manner ; the Mormons, as fast as they were turned out of their cabins, removing with their house-hold stuff into Nauvoo. The party of burners having in the mean time become exasperated by the murder of one of our most valuable citizens, who was waylaid and shot at midday by a gang of Mormons, on the road between this town and Warsaw, then proceeded to another similar settlement about seven miles from the first, and commenced removing the fami-lies and burning their huts in the same way.
Late in the evening of the 15th, ten or twelve of this party came into Carthage, which is the county-seat, and, calling at the house of J. B. Backenstos, sheriff of the county and a Mormon, notified him to remove from the county. They gave similar notice to two or three other individuals, who, with Backenstos, had become obnoxious to the old citizens by act-ing as spies for the Mormons, and secretly aiding and encour-aging them in their encroachments and oppression. Backen-stos then went to Nauvoo, and, putting himself at the head of about five hundred Mormon troops, proceeded to the disturbed district, and fired upon a small party of the burners before his approach was perceived by them. Two men were wounded by the shot. All made their escape, however, except one of those wounded, by the name of McBrattan, who fell from his horse, and, while sitting upon the ground begging for his life, was twice run through with a bayonet, his throat cut, and otherwise horribly mangled. Backenstos then returned with his forces to Nauvoo, leaving the body of the murdered man upon the ground, and issued a proclamation, boasting of his exploits, giving a flagrantly false account of the conduct of the old citizens of the county, and vauntingly threatening what he would and could do. He then went back with the same troops and about four hundred infantry to the same neighborhood, and, finding nobody there to attack, left the infantry encamp-ed, and came with the troops to Carthage.
We had anticipated, from the time the troops first left Nau-voo, that they would overrun the county, and many had has-tily fled, through fear that outrages would be committed by them. When Backenstos and his troops came to Carthage, more than half of its citizens were gone. They entered town on Friday, the 19th, a little after sunset, at the full speed of their horses. Their approach was not known till they were seen entering into the town, when many of the inhabitants fled in consternation to the prairie and to the fields. They were pursued, however, and brought back, and a guard was stationed around the town to prevent any person from escap-ing. Parties were sent out to the nearest surrounding settle-ments, and the men taken from their terrified families and driven into town at the point of the bayonet. Orders were then passed round to bring the prisoners to headquarters; when we were all driven to the court-house in such haste that some who were standing without their hats were not permit-ted to get them, and a strong guard left at our houses, with a ruffian-like display of bowie-knives, swords, and pistols in sight of our families. There we were detained more than an hour, huddled together and surrounded by five times our num-ber, who brandished, with menacing gestures, their instruments of human butchery. Backenstos at length came in, and, after making a ranting speech, in which he lauded the bravery of his tried soldiers, said he was raking the county for a great number of scoundrels, whom he would pursue till he caught them, without limits as to time or space ; he came round and discharged most of us one by one, and sent us home under an escort. Some, however, were detained until the next day, as he was not certain, he said, whether he had warrants for them or not, and had not time then to ex-amine his papers to see. In the morning he discharged all but one, who is still kept under guard without examination. It was his intention to arrest, or rather to seize, and carry to Nauvoo, (for he had no warrants, and no legal offence to charge against them,) some ten or twelve of our citizens, against whom he entertained personal ill will, or who were known as prominent Anti-Mormons. For such he and his band of ruffians searched houses and questioned children, shaking their swords over their heads to make them tell where they were. As it happened, those individuals were gone from the county, and so escaped falling a sacrifice to Mormon ven-geance and lust of blood. Going around among the troops, we could hear them speaking of some of our friends, and fiendishly exulting in the anticipation of carving and hewing them in pieces when taken. A crowd of them collected at one of our hotels, and in the presence of the family, who dared not express their horror, made themselves merry by imitating the groans of the dying McBrattan.
In the morning Backenstos said he had an order from the Governor for the public arms which had been distributed un-der a law of the State to volunteer companies. He showed no order, but, resistance being vain, the arms were at once given up to him. Not satisfied with this, he pretended to be-lieve that some were withheld and concealed, and gave orders to his soldiers to search the houses of the citizens. They went about in gangs of from five to ten, loaded with arms of every description, and searched nearly every house in town, even breaking open trunks and drawers, and rummaging and throwing things about in a most inhuman manner. They broke into the houses of those who had fled, and left doors and gates open and the household goods strewed about the floors. They took private arms, where the families were ab-sent or did not dare to protest against it. A part of them, however, were restored on complaint. Some of the families which were absent have since returned, and find that their valuable clothing and other articles were taken and carried away.
Backenstos went away a little before noon with the main body of his forces, leaving about fifty garrisoned in the court-house, to keep military possession of the town. It is now more than a week since this murderous band have been patrol-ing the street, spying about our hsuses, and coming up to listen whenever two or three of us are seen conversing toge-ther. They affect to believe that we meditate harm against our postmaster ; and when we go into the post office some one of them will follow close at our heels with a drawn sword in his hand. They seem to be seeking an occasion to plunder and destroy us, and trying to provoke or draw us into some imprudent act or speech for that purpose. They have our names, with authority from Backenstos to force us into their ranks, put guns into our hands, and make us fight against our friends, if any such should come to rescue the town. Orders have also been given to put us to the sword if found firing our houses or committing other offences, which they say the Missourians committed when they lived among them and then charged on the Mormons.
This high-handed outrage upon our liberty and dearest rights is without the least shadow of pretext or apology. The citizens of Carthage had no connexion with the disturbances in the south part of the county, nor with the notifying of Backenstos and others to remove from the place.
Backenstos went with his troops from Carthage to Warsaw, but found the town deserted, the citizens having anticipated his coming, and crossed the river into Missouri. He then returned to Nauvoo, leaving no garrison at Warsaw, it being liable to be cut off by an attack from Missouri before he could go from Nauvo to its assistance. Since that time parties of troops have, by his direction, been scouring the country in quest of such persons as are obnoxious to him or any of the leading Mormons. About one-fourth of the old citizens of the coun-ty have fled from Mormon vengeance, and cannot return home with safety to their lives. Other parties are out plun-dering night and day. They have driven all the cattle from some of the prairies into Nauvoo, where they are slaughtered and put up by the city authorities. In many instances, with-in the last few days, they have taken whole stocks of cattle and horses from the stables and yards of their owners before their eyes. One gentleman, who resides near Warsaw, went in pursuit of his to Nauvoo, to try to recover them ; there he was insulted and ordered to leave the city forthwith. He did so, but was pursued by three assassins, who happened to overtake him just as he had fallen in with a Mormon neigh-bor who was friendly to him, and by whose means he escaped their knives, but with the significant warning not to be caught again within five miles of Nauvoo, or he would get it. There are gangs of them besetting the public roads and robbing travellers and moving families of all that is worth carrying off. They have also entered houses in the day-time, driven out the families, and rifled them of every thing of value.
The county, and particularly the villages, are nearly abandoned by the old citizens : a few of us, however, who were not conscious of being personally objects of malice, have remained and watched over our homes, spending anxious days and sleepless nights in the midst of murderers, at the sa-crifice of all comfort and constant risk of life, in the belief that the State would arouse at length and put down the reign of this stupendous banditti. Nor are we, as it appears, to be disappointed : Governor Ford has called out a portion of the militia of the State, and given the command, with discretion-ary power to settle our difficulties as circumstances may re-quire, to General J. J. Hardin, of Jacksonville, formerly member of Congress, who is one of the best military officers and most talented and esteemed men of the West. He is now on the march to this county with a detachment of troops from beyond the Illinois river, and is expected to reach Car-thage to-morrow. The military force of the surrounding counties is held in readiness to be brought here on short notice, if needed. What measures Gen. Hardin will adopt when he arrives, is of course not known ; but we trust there will now be a final settlement and winding up of Mormon troubles in this State. This will probably be effected without bloodshed, though Backenstos has just issued another procla-mation, in which he represents the Governor's call of the militia as a "forgery and fraud ;” characterizes Gen. Hardin and his troops as "a mob," and declares his determination to treat them accordingly. Of this the latter are apprized.
SEPTEMBER 28—1 O'CLOCK P. M.
Gen. Hardin has just arrived with his detachment. Judge Douglass, member of Congress, and Mr. McDougall, Attor-ney General of the State, are of his staff. Our Mormon garri-son were immediately summoned out of the court-house, de-prived of the public arms in their possession, and directed to leave town within fifteen minutes. They did not overstay the time.
From information which has just been received, there is no doubt that several persons have been murdered upon the roads in this county within a few days.
At the latest accounts, Gen. HARDIN was at Nauvoo, with a body of troops under his command, and order reigned there, as well as in other parts of the county.
The proceedings of the second meeting at Quincy recom-mend to the people to accept the proposition made by the Mor-mons, to remove from the State next spring ; but to accept it as an unconditional proposition to remove, not implying any obli-gation to purchase the Mormon property, or to find purchasers for it. They declare that it is now too late to attempt the settle-ment of the difficulties upon any other terms than the removal of the Mormons from the State. They recommend to the peo-ple of the surrounding counties to wait with patience the time appointed for removal. They express the opinion that the peace of Hancock county cannot be restored while BACKEN-STOS remains Sheriff, and that he ought to resign that office. They propose that the people of Nauvoo shall appoint com-missioners, to whom application for the purchase of real estate may be made ; and suggest that all legal prosecutions for al-leged offences, during the present excitement, shall be sus-pended. They recommend that no court be held in Hancock the present fall, and that a small military force be kept up in the county to preserve property from depredation.
The proceedings of meetings of the citizens of Henderson county and of Warren county speak in equally decided lan-guage against the continued residence of the Mormons in the State.
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