Part 3 out of 7
"Amen!" to this, and, at the request of the Elders, killed one of their
few remaining cattle for them, cheering them as they drove on in the
morning in their carriages.
They took up the march with new courage; but then in a few days came a
new danger to threaten them,--the cold. A rule made by Brigham had
limited each cart's outfit of clothing and bedding to seventeen pounds.
This had now become insufficient. As they advanced up the Sweetwater,
the mountains on either side took on snow. Frequent wading of the
streams chilled them. Morning would find them numb, haggard, spiritless,
unfitted for the march of the day.
A week of this cold weather, lack of food, and overwork produced their
effect. The old and the weak became too feeble to walk; then they began
to die, peacefully, smoothly, as a lamp ceases to burn when the oil is
gone. At first the deaths occurred irregularly; then they were frequent;
soon it was rarely that they left a camp-ground without burying one or
more of their number.
Nor was death long confined to the old and the infirm. Young men, strong
at the start, worn out now by the rigours of the march, began to drop. A
father would pull his cart all day, perhaps with his children in it, and
die at night when camp was reached. Each day lessened their number.
But they died full of faith, murmuring little, and having for their
chief regret, apparently, that they must be left on the plains or
mountains, instead of resting in the consecrated ground of Zion--this,
and that they must die without looking upon the face of their prophet,
seer, and revelator.
Their leader cheered them as best he could. He was at first puzzled at
the severity of their hardships in the face of past prophecies. But
light at last came to him. He stopped one day to comfort a wan, weak man
who had halted in dejection by the road.
"You have had trouble?" he asked him, and the man had answered, wearily:
"No, not what you could call trouble. When we left Florence my mother
could walk eighteen or twenty miles a day. She did it for weeks. But
then she wore out, and I had to haul her in my cart; but it was only for
three days. She gave up and died before we started out, the morning of
the fourth day. We buried her by the roadside without a coffin--that was
hard, to put her old, gray head right down into the ground with no
protection. It made us mourn, for she had always been such a good
friend. Then we went on a few days, and my sister gave out. I carried
her in the cart a few days, but she died too. Then my youngest child,
Ephraim, died. Then I fell sick myself, and my wife has pushed the cart
with me in it for two days. She looked so tired to-day that I got out to
rest her. But we don't call it trouble, only for the cold--my wife has a
chill every time she has to wade one of those icy streams. She's not
very used to rough life."
As he listened to the man's tale, the truth came to him in a great
light. Famine not sufficing, the Lord was sending this further
affliction upon them. He was going to goad them into asserting and
maintaining their independence of his enemies, the Gentiles. The
inspiration of this thought nerved him anew. Though they all died, to
the last child, he would live to carry back to Zion the message that now
burned within him. They had temporised with the Gentile and had grown
lax among themselves. They must be aroused to repentance, and God would
save him to do the work.
So, when the snow came at last, the final touch of hardship, driving
furiously about the unprotected women and children, putting wild fear
into the heart of every man, he remained calm and sure and defiant. The
next morning the snow lay heavily about them, and they had to dig
through it to bury five of their number in one grave. The morning
before, they had issued their last ration of flour. Now he divided
among the company a little hard bread they had kept, and waited in the
snow, for they could travel no further without food.
One of their number was sent ahead to bring aid. After a day in which
they ate nothing, supplies reached them from the valley; but now they
were so weakened that food could not fortify them against the extreme
cold that had set in. They wrapped themselves in their few poor quilts,
and struggled bravely on into a white, stinging fog of snow. Each
morning there were more and more of them to bury. And even the burial
was a mockery, for wolves were digging at the graves almost before the
last debilitated straggler had left the camping-place. The heavy snows
continued, but movement was necessary. Into the white jaws of the
beautiful, merciless demon they went.
Among the papers of a man he helped to bury, Joel Rae found a journal
that the dead man had kept until within a few days of his death. By the
light of his last candle he read it until late into the night.
* * * * *
"The weather grew colder each day; and many got their feet so badly
frozen that they could not walk and had to be lifted from place to
place. Some got their fingers frozen; others their ears; and one woman
lost her sight by the frost. These severities of the weather also
increased our number of deaths, so that we buried several each day.
"The day we crossed the Rocky Ridge it was snowing a little--the wind
hard from the northwest, and blowing so keenly that it almost pierced us
through. We had to wrap ourselves closely in blankets, quilts, or
whatever else we could get, to keep from freezing. Elder Rae this day
appointed me to bring up the rear. My duty was to stay behind everything
and see that nobody was left along the road. I had to bury a man who had
died in my hundred, and I finished doing so after the company had
started. In about half an hour I set out on foot alone to do my duty as
rear-guard to the camp. The ascent of the ridge commenced soon after
leaving camp, and I had not gone far up it before I overtook the carts
that the folks could not pull through the snow, here about knee-deep. I
helped them along, and we soon overtook another. By all hands getting to
one cart we could travel; so we moved one of the carts a few rods, and
then went back and brought up the others. After moving in this way for
awhile, we overtook other carts at different points of the hill, until
we had six carts, not one of which could be moved by the parties owning
it. I put our collective strength to three carts at a time, took them a
short distance, and then brought up the other three. Thus by travelling
over the hill three times--twice forward and once back--I succeeded
after hours of toil in bringing my little company to the summit. The
carts were then trotted on gaily down-hill, the intense cold stirring us
"One or two parties who were with these carts gave up entirely, and but
for the fact that we overtook one of our ox-teams that had been detained
on the road, they must have perished on the Rocky Ridge. One old man
named James, a farmer from Gloucestershire, who had a large family, and
who had worked very hard all the way, I found sitting by the roadside
unable to pull his cart any farther. I could not get him into the wagon,
as it was already overcrowded. He had a shotgun, which he had brought
from England, and which had been a great blessing to him and his family,
for he was a good shot, and often had a mess of sage-hens or rabbits for
his family. I took the gun from his cart, put a bundle on the end of it,
placed it on his shoulder, and started him out with his little boy,
twelve years old. His wife and two daughters, older than the boy, took
the cart along finely after reaching the summit.
"We travelled along with the ox-team and overtook others, all so laden
with the sick and helpless that they moved very slowly. The oxen had
almost given out. Some of our folks with carts went ahead of the team,
for where the roads were good they could out-travel oxen; but we
constantly overtook stragglers, some with carts, some without, who had
been unable to keep pace with the body of the company. We struggled
along in this weary way until after dark, and by this time our rear
numbered three wagons, eight hand-carts, and nearly forty persons.
"With the wagons were Millen Atwood, Levi Savage, and William Woodward,
captains of hundreds, faithful men who had worked all the way. We
finally came to a stream of water which was frozen over. We could not
see where the company had crossed. If at the point where we struck the
creek, then it had frozen over since they passed it. We started one team
across, but the oxen broke through the ice, and would not go over. No
amount of shouting and whipping could induce them to stir an inch. We
were afraid to try the other teams, for even could they cross, we could
not leave the one in the creek and go on.
"There was no wood in the vicinity, so we could make no fire, and we
were uncertain what to do. We did not know the distance to the camp, but
supposed it to be three or four miles. After consulting about it, we
resolved that some one should go on foot to the camp to inform the
captain of our situation. I was selected to perform the duty, and I set
out with all speed. In crossing the creek I slipped through the ice and
got my feet wet, my boots being nearly worn out. I had not gone far when
I saw some one sitting by the roadside. I stopped to see who it was, and
discovered the old man, James, and his little boy. The poor old man was
quite worn out.
"I got him to his feet and had him lean on me, and he walked a little
distance, but not very far. I partly dragged, partly carried, him a
short distance farther, but he was quite helpless, and my strength
failed me. Being obliged to leave him to go forward on my own errand, I
put down a quilt I had wrapped around me, rolled him in it, and told the
little boy to walk up and down by his father, and on no account to sit
down, or he would be frozen to death. He asked me very bravely why God
or Brigham Young had not sent us some food or blankets.
"I again set out for the camp, running all the way and frequently
falling down, for there were many obstructions and holes in the road. My
boots were frozen stiff, so that I had not the free use of my feet, and
it was only by rapid motion that I kept them from being badly frozen. As
it was, both feet have been nipped.
"After some time, I came in sight of the camp-fires, which encouraged
me. As I neared the camp, I frequently overtook stragglers on foot, all
pressing forward slowly. I stopped to speak to each one, cautioning them
all against resting, as they would surely freeze to death. Finally,
about eleven P.M., I reached the camp almost exhausted. I had exerted
myself very much during the day, and had not eaten anything since
breakfast. I reported to Elder Rae the situation of the folks behind. He
immediately got up some horses, and the boys from the valley started
back about midnight to help the ox-teams in. The night was very severe,
and many of the animals were frozen. It was five A.M. before the last
team reached the camp.
"I told my companions about the old man James and his little boy. They
found the little fellow keeping faithful watch over his father, who lay
sleeping in my quilt just as I left him. They lifted him into a wagon,
still alive, but in a sort of stupor, and he died just as they got him
up by the fire. His last words were an inquiry as to the safety of his
"There were so many dead and dying that it was decided to lay by for the
day. In the forenoon I was appointed to go around the camp and collect
the dead. I took with me two young men to assist me in the sad task, and
we collected together, of all ages and both sexes, thirteen corpses, all
stiffly frozen. We had a large square hole dug, in which we buried these
thirteen people, three or four abreast and three deep. When they did not
fit in, we put one or two crosswise at the head or feet of the others.
We covered them with willows and then with the earth. When we buried
these thirteen people, some of their relatives refused to attend the
services. They manifested an utter indifference about it. The numbness
and cold in their physical natures seemed to have reached the soul, and
to have crushed out natural feeling and affection. Had I not myself
witnessed it, I could not have believed that suffering could produce
such terrible results. But so it was. Two others died during the day,
and we buried them in the same big grave, making fifteen in all. Even so
it has been better for them than to stay where their souls would have
been among the rejected at the day of resurrection.
"But for Elder Rae, our leader, we should all have perished by now. He
is at times severe and stern with those who falter, but only for their
good. He is all along the line, helping the women, who well-nigh worship
him, and urging on the men. He cheers us by prophesying that we shall
soon prevail over all conditions and all our enemies. I think he must
never sleep and never eat. At all hours of the night he is awake. As to
eating, a girl in our hundred, Fidelia, daughter of Jabez Merrismith,
who has been much attracted by him and stays near him when she can,
called him aside the other day, so she has told me, and gave him a
biscuit--_soaked, perfectly soaked, with bacon grease_. She had saved it
for many days. He took it and thanked her, but later she saw him giving
it to the wife of Henry Glines, who is hauling Henry and the two babies
in the cart. She taxed him with not eating it himself; but he told her
that she had given him more than bread, which was the power to _give_
bread. The _giving_ happiness, he told her, is always a little more than
the _taking_ happiness, even when we are starving. He says the one kind
of happiness always keeps a little ahead of the other."
* * * * *
December 1st, the remnant of the caravan reached the city of the Saints.
Of six hundred setting out from the Missouri River, over one quarter had
died by the way.
And to Joel Rae had now come another mission,--one that would not let
him wait, for the spirit was moving him strangely and strongly,--a
mission of reformation.
_How the Saints Were Brought to Repentance_
He put his torch to the tinder of irreligion at the first Sunday meeting
after his return. There were no premonitions, no warnings, no signs.
A few of the Elders had preceded him to rejoice at the escape of the
last hand-cart party from death in the mountains; and Brigham, after
giving the newcomers some practical hints about their shelter during the
winter now upon them, had invited Elder Rae to address the congregation.
He arose and came uncertainly forward, apparently weak, able hardly to
stand without leaning upon the desk in front of him; his face waxen and
drawn, hollowed at the cheeks and temples, his long hands thin to
transparency. Life was betrayed in him only by the eyes. These burned
darkly, far back under his brows, and flashed fiercely, as his glance
darted swiftly from side to side.
At first he spoke weakly and slowly, his opening words almost inaudible,
so that the throng of people before him leaned forward in sympathetic
intentness, and silence became absolute in the great hall except for
the high quavering of his tones. But then came a miracle of
reinvigoration. Little by little his voice swelled until it was full,
sonorous, richly warm and compelling, the words pouring from him with a
fluency that enchained. Little by little his leaning, drooping posture
of weakness became one of towering strength, the head flung back, the
gestures free and potent. Little by little his burning eyes seemed to
send their flash and glow through all his body, so that he became a
creature of life and fire.
They heard each word now, but still they leaned forward as when he spoke
at first, inaudibly--caught thrilled and breathless in his spell, even
to the Elders, Priests, and Apostles sitting near him. Nor was his
manner alone impressive. His words were new. He was calling them sinners
and covenant-breakers, guilty of pride, covetousness, contention, lying,
stealing, moral uncleanness--and launching upon them the curse of
Israel's God unless they should repent.
"It has been told you again and again," he thundered, "that if you wish
to be great in the Kingdom of God you must be good. It has been told you
many times, and now I burn the words once more into the bones of your
soul, that in this kingdom which the great Elohim has again set up on
earth, no man, no woman, can become great without being good, without
being true to his integrity, faithful to his trust, full of charity and
"Hear it now: if you do not order your lives to do all the good you
can, if you are false to one trust, you shall be stripped naked before
Jehovah of all your anticipations of greatness. And you have failed in
your work; you have been false to your trust; you have been lax and
wicked, and you have temporised, nay, affiliated with Gentiles. I have
asked myself if this, after all, may not have been the chief cause of
God's present wrath upon us. The flesh is weak. I have had my own hours
of wrestling with Satan. We all know his cunning to take shapes that
most weaken, beguile, and unman us, and small wonder if many of us
succumb. But this other sin is wilful. Not only have Gentile officers,
Federal officers, come among us and been let to insult, abuse,
calumniate, and to trample upon our most sacred ordinances, but we have
consorted, traded, and held relations with the Gentiles that pass by us.
You have the term 'winter Mormons,' a generation of vipers who come
here, marry your daughters in the fall, rest with you during the winter,
and pass on to the gold fields in the spring, never to return. You,
yourselves, coined the Godless phrase. But how can you utter it without
crimson faces? I tell you now, God is to make a short work upon this
earth. His lines are being drawn, and many of you before me will be left
outside. The curtains of Zion have been spread, but you are gone beyond
their folds. You are no longer numbered in the household of faith. For
your weak souls the sealing keys of power have been delivered in vain.
You have become waymarks to the kingdom of folly. This is truth I tell
you. It has been frozen and starved into me, but it will be burned into
you. For your sins, the road between here and the Missouri River is a
road between two lines of graves. For your sins, from the little band I
have just brought in, one hundred and fifty faithful ones fell asleep by
the wayside, and their bodies went to be gnawed by the wolves. How long
shall others die for you? Forever, think you? No! Your last day is come.
Repent, confess your sins in all haste, be buried again in the waters of
baptism, then cast out the Gentile, and throw off his yoke,--and
thereafter walk in trembling all your days,--for your wickedness has
Such was the opening gun in what became known as the "reformation." The
conditions had been ripe for it, and in that very moment a fever of
repentance spread through the two thousand people who had cowered under
his words. Alike with the people below, the leaders about him had been
fired with his spirit, and when he sat down each of them arose in turn
and echoed his words, denouncing the people for their sins and exhorting
them to repentance.
After another hour of this excitement, priests and people became alike
demoralised, and the meeting broke up in a confusion of terror.
As the doors of the tabernacle flew open, and the Saints pushed out of
that stifling atmosphere of denunciation, a cry came to the lips of the
dozen that first escaped:
"To the river--the waters of baptism!"
The words were being taken up by others until the cry had run back
through the crowd to the leaders, still talking in excited groups about
the pulpit. These comprehended when they heard it, and straightway a
line of conscience-stricken Saints was headed toward the river.
There in the icy Jordan, on that chill December afternoon, when the
snows lay thick on the ground, the leaders stood and buried the sinful
ones anew in the cleansing waters. From the sinners themselves came
cries of self-accusation; from the crowd on the banks came the strains
of hymns to fortify them for the icy ordeal and the public confession.
There in the freezing current stood Joel Rae until long after the
December sun had gone below the Oquirrh hills, performing his office of
baptism, and reviving hope in those his words had smitten with fear.
His strength already depleted by the long march with the hand-cart party
and by the exhausting strain of the day, he was early chilled by the
water into which he plunged the repentant sinners. For the last hour
that he stood in the stream, his whole body was numb; he had ceased to
feel life in his feet, and his arms worked with a mechanical stiffness
like the arms of some automaton over which his mind had control.
For there was no numbness as yet in his mind. It was wonderfully clear
and active. He had begun a great work. His words had been words of fire,
and the flames of them had spread so that in a little while every sinner
in Zion should burn in them and be purified. Even the leaders--a great
wave of exultation surged through him at this thought--even Brigham had
felt the glow, and henceforth would be a fiercer Lion of the Lord to
resist the Godless Gentile.
Long after sensation had left his body his thoughts were rushing in this
fever of realisation, while his chilled hands made new in the Kingdom
such sinners as came there repenting.
Not until night fell did the hymns cease and the crowd dwindle away. The
air grew colder, and he began to feel pain again, the water cutting
against his legs like a blade. Little groups were now hurrying off in
the darkness, and the last Saint he had baptised was standing for the
moment, chill and dripping, on the bank.
Seeing there was no one else to come, he staggered out of the stream
where he had stood for three hours, finding his feet curiously clumsy
and uncontrollable. Below him in the stream another Elder still waited
to baptise a man and woman; but those who had been above him in the
river were gone, and his own work was done.
He ascended the bank, and stood looking back at the Elder who remained
in the stream. This man was now coming out of the water, having
performed his office for the last one who waited. He called to Joel
"Don't stand there, Brother Rae. Hurry and get to your fire and your
warm drink and your supper, or you'll be bed-fast with the chills."
"It has been a glorious day, Brother Maltby!"
"Truly, a great work has been begun, thanks to you--but hurry, man! you
are freezing. Get to your fireside. We can't lose you now."
With a parting word he turned and set off down the dark street, walking
unsteadily through the snow, for his feet had to be tossed ahead of him,
and he could not always do it accurately. And the cold, now that he was
out of the water, came more keenly upon him, only it seemed to burn him
through and through with a white heat. He felt his arms stiffening in
his wet sleeves, and his knees grow weak. He staggered on past a row of
cabins, from which the light of fires shone out on the snow. At almost
every step he stumbled out of the narrow path that had been trodden.
"To your own fireside." He recalled the words of Elder Maltby, and
remembered his own lone, dark cabin, himself perhaps without strength to
build a fire or to get food, perhaps without even strength to reach the
place, for he felt weaker now, all at once, and put his hand out to
support himself against the fence.
He had been hearing footsteps behind him, creaking rapidly over the
packed snow-path. He might have to ask for help to reach his home. Even
as the steps came close, he felt himself swaying. He leaned over on the
fence, but to his amazement that swayed, too, and threw him back. Then
he felt himself falling toward the street; but the creaking steps
ceased, now by his side, and he felt under him something soft but
firm--something that did not sway as the fence had unaccountably done.
With his balance thus regained, he discovered the thing that held him to
be a woman's arm. A woman's face looked close into his, and then she
"You are so cold. I knew you would be. And I waited--I wanted to do for
At once there came back to him the vision of a white-faced woman in the
crowd along the river bank, staring at him out of deep, gray eyes under
heavy, black brows.
"Yes, yes--you are so cold!"
"But you must not stand so close--see, I am wet--you will be chilled!"
"But _you_ are already chilled; your clothes are freezing on you; and
you were falling just now. Can you walk?"
"Yes--yes--my house is yonder."
"I know; it's far; it's beyond the square. You must come with me."
"But your house is still farther!"
She had started him now, with a firm grasp of his arm, walking beside
him in the deep snow, and trying to keep him in the narrow path.
"No--I am staying here with Hubert Plimon's two babies, while the
mother has gone to Provo where Hubert lies sick. See--the light there.
Come with me--here's the gate--you shall be warmed."
Slowly and with many stumblings, leaning upon her strong arm, he made
his way to the cabin door. She pushed it open before him and he felt the
great warm breath of the room rush out upon him. Then he was inside,
swaying again uncertainly upon his feet. In the hovering light that came
from the fireplace he saw the bed in the far corner where the two small
children were sleeping, saw Mara with her back to the door, facing him
breathlessly, saw the heavy shadows all about; but he was conscious of
hardly more than the vast heavenly warmth that rolled out from the fire
and enfolded him and made him drunk.
Again he would have fallen, but she steadied him down on to a wide couch
covered with buffalo robes, beside the big fireplace; and here he fell
at once into a stupor. She drew out the couch so that it caught more of
the heat, pulled off the water-soaked boots and the stiffened coat,
wrapped him in a blanket which she warmed before the fire, and covered
him still again with one of the buffalo robes.
She went then to bring food and to make a hot drink, which she
strengthened with brandy poured from a little silver flask.
Presently she aroused him to drink the hot liquor, and then, after
another blank of stupor, she aroused him again, to eat. He could take
but little of the food, but called for more of the drink, and felt the
soul of it thrill along his frozen nerves until they awoke, sharpened,
alert, and eager. He lay so, with closed eyes a little time, floating in
an ecstasy that seemed to be half stupor and half of keenest
sensibility. Then he opened his eyes. She was kneeling by the couch on
which he lay. He felt her soft, quick breathing, and noted the unnatural
shining of her eyes and lips where the firelight fell upon them. All at
once he threw out his arms and drew her to him with such a shuddering
rush of power that she cried aloud in quick alarm--but the cry was
smothered under his kisses.
For ages the transport seemed to endure, the little world of his senses
whirling madly through an illimitable space of sensuous light, his lips
melting upon hers, his neck bending in the circle of pulsing warmth that
her soft arms wove about it, his own arms crushing to his breast with
frenzied fervour the whole yielding splendour of her womanhood. A moment
so, then he fell back upon the couch, all his body quivering under the
ecstasy from her parted lips, his triumphant senses rioting insolently
through the gray, cold garden of his vows.
She drew a little back, her hands resting on his shoulders, and he saw
again the firelight shining in her eyes and upon her lips. Yet the eyes
were now lighted with a strange, sad reluctance, even while the
mutinous lips opened their inciting welcome.
He was floating--floating midway between a cold, bleak heaven of denial
and a luring hell of consent; floating recklessly, as if careless to
which his soul should go.
His gaze was once more upon her face, and now, in a curiously cool
little second of observation, he saw mirrored there the same conflicting
duality that he knew raged within himself. In her eyes glowed the pure
flame of fear and protest--but on her mad lips was the curl of
provocation. And as the man in him had waited carelessly, in a sensuous
luxury of unconcern, for his soul to go where it might--far up or far
down--so now the woman waited before him in an incurious, unbiassed
calm--the clear eyes with their grave, stern "_No_!"--the parted lips
all but shuddering out their "_Yes_!"
Still he looked and still the leaning woman waited--waited to welcome
with impartial fervour the angel or the devil that might come forth.
And then, as he lay so, there started with electric quickness, from some
sudden coldness of recollection, the image of Prue. Sharp and vivid it
shone from this chill of truth like a glittering star from the clean
winter sky outside. Prue was before him with the tender blue of her eyes
and the fleecy gold of her hair and her joy of a child--her little
figure shrugging and nestling in his arms in happy faith--calling as she
had called to him that morning--"_Joel--Joel--Joel_!"
He shivered in this flood of cold, relentless light, yet unflinchingly
did he keep his face turned full upon the truth it revealed.
And this was now more than the image of the sweetheart he had sworn to
cherish--it was also the image of himself vowed to his great mission. He
knew that upon neither of these could he suffer a blemish to come if he
would not be forever in agony. With appalling clearness the thing was
lined out before him.
The woman at his side stirred and his eyes were again upon her. At once
she saw the truth in them. Her parted lips came together in a straight
line, shutting the red fulness determinedly in. Then there shone from
her eyes a glad, sweet welcome to the angel that had issued.
His arms seemed to sicken, falling limply from her. She arose without
speaking, and busied herself a little apart, her back to him.
He sat up on the couch, looking about the little room curiously, as one
recovering consciousness in strange surroundings. Then he began slowly
to pull on the wet boots that she had placed near the fire.
When he stood up, put on his coat, and reached for his hat, she came up
to him, hesitating, timid.
"You are so cold! If you would only stay here--I am afraid you will be
He answered very gently:
"It is better to go. I am strong again, now."
"I would--I would not be near you--and I am afraid for you to go out
again in the cold."
He smiled a little. "_Nothing_ can hurt me now--I am strong."
He opened the door, breathing his fill of the icy air that rushed in. He
stepped outside, then turned to her. She stood in the doorway, the light
from the room melting the darkness about them.
They looked long at each other. Then in a sudden impulse of gratitude,
of generous feeling toward her, he put out his arm and drew her to him.
She was cold, impassive. He bent over and lightly kissed her closed,
unresponding lips. As he drew away, her hand caught his wrist for a
"I'm _glad_!" she said.
He tried to answer, but could only say, "Good night, Mara!"
Then he turned, drew the wide collar of his coat well up, and went down
the narrow path through the snow. She stood, framed in the light of the
doorway, leaning out to look after him until he was lost in the
As she stepped back and closed the door, a man, who had halted by a tree
in front of the next house when the door first opened, walked on again.
It had been a great day, but, for one cause or another, it came near to
being one of the last days of the man who had made it great.
Late the next afternoon, Joel Rae was found in his cabin by a messenger
from Brigham. He had presumably lain there unattended since the night
before, and now he was delirious and sick unto death; raving of the sins
of the Saints, and of his great work of reformation. So tenderly
sympathetic was his mind, said those who came to care for him, that in
his delirium he ranked himself among the lowest of sinners in Zion,
imploring them to take him out and bury him in the waters of baptism so
that he might again be worthy to preach them the Word of God.
He was at once given every care, and for six weeks was not left alone
night or day; the good mothers in Israel vying with each other in kindly
offices for the sick Elder, and the men praying daily that he might not
be taken so soon after his great work had begun.
The fifth wife of Elder Pixley came once to sit by his bedside, but when
she heard him rave of some great sin that lay black upon his soul,
beseeching forgiveness for it while the tears rained down his fevered
face, she had professed that his suffering sickened her so she could not
stay. Thereafter she had contented herself with inquiring at his door
each day--until the day when they told her that the sickness was broken;
that he was again rational and doubtless would soon be well. After that
she went no more; which was not unnatural, for Elder Pixley was about to
return from his three years' mission abroad, and there was much to do in
the community-house in preparation for the master's coming.
But the long sickness of the young Elder did not in any manner stay the
great movement he had inaugurated. From that first Sunday the
reformation spread until it had reached every corner of the new Zion.
The leaders took up the accusing cry,--the Elders, Bishops, High
Priests, and Counsellors. Missionaries were appointed for the outlying
settlements, and meetings were held daily in every center, with a
general renewing of covenants.
Brigham, who had warmly seconded Joel Rae's opening discourse, was now,
not unnaturally, the leader of the reformation, and in his preaching to
the Saints while Joel Rae lay sick he committed no faults of vagueness.
For profane swearing he rebuked his people: "You Elders in Israel will
go to the canons for wood, get a little brush-whipped, and then curse
and swear--damn and curse your oxen and swear by Him who created you.
You rip and curse as bad as any pirates ever did!"
For the sin of cattle-stealing he denounced them. A fence high enough to
keep out cattle-thieves, he told them, must be high enough to keep out
Sometimes his grievance would have a personal basis, as when he told
them: "I have gone to work and made roads to the canon for wood; and I
have cut wood down and piled it up, and then I have not got it. I wonder
if any of you can say as much about the wood I have left there. I could
tell stories of Elders that found and took my wood that should make
professional thieves blush. And again I have proof to show that Bishops
have taken thousands of pounds of wheat in tithing which they have never
reported to the general tithing-office,--proof that they stole the wheat
to let their friends speculate upon."
Under this very pointed denunciation many of the flock complained
bitterly. But Brigham only increased the flow of his wrath upon them.
"You need," said he, "to have it rain pitchforks, tines downward, from
this pulpit, Sunday after Sunday."
Still there were rebellious Saints to object, and, as Brigham drew the
lines of his wrath tighter, these became more prominent in the
community. When they voiced their discontent, they angered the
priesthood. But when they indicated their purpose to leave the valley,
as many soon did, they gave alarm. An exodus must be prevented at any
cost, and so the priesthood let it be known that migrations from the
valley would be considered as nothing less than apostasy. In Brigham's
own words: "The moment a person decides to leave this people, he is cut
off from every object that is desirable in time or eternity. Every
possession and object of affection will be taken from those who forsake
the truth, and their identity will eventually cease."
But, as the reform wave swept on, it became apparent that these words
had been considered merely figurative by many who were about to seek
homes outside the valley. From every side news came privately that this
family or that was preparing to leave.
And so it came about that the first Sunday Joel Rae was able to walk to
the tabernacle, still weak and wasted and trembling, he heard a sermon
from Brigham which made him question his own soul in an agony of terror.
For, on this day, was boldly preached, for the first time in Zion,
something which had never before been more than whispered among the
highest elect,--the doctrine of blood-atonement--of human sacrifice.
"I am preaching St. Paul, this morning," began Brigham, easily.
"Hebrews, Chapter ix., and Verse 22: 'And almost all things are by the
law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.'
Also, and more especially, first Corinthians, Chapter v., Verse 5: 'To
deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that
the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.' Remember these
words of Paul's. The time has come when justice will be laid to the line
and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broadsword,
and ask, 'Are you for God?' And if you are not heartily on the Lord's
side, you will be hewn down."
There was a rustling movement in the throng before him, and he paused
until it subsided.
"I tell you there are men and women amongst you who ought to come and
ask me to select a place and appoint a committee to shed their blood.
Only in that way can they be saved, for water will not do. Their sins
are too deep for that. I repeat--there are covenant-breakers here, and
we need a place set apart and men designated to shed their blood for
their own salvation. If any of you ask, do I mean you, I answer yes. We
have tried long enough with you, and now I shall let the sword of the
Almighty be unsheathed, not only in words but in deed. I tell you there
are sins for which men cannot otherwise receive forgiveness in this
world nor in the world to come; and if you guilty ones had your eyes
opened to your true condition, you would be willing to have your blood
spilt upon the ground that the smoke thereof might go up to heaven for
your sins. I know when you hear this talk about cutting people off from
the earth you will consider it strong doctrine; but it is to save them,
and not destroy them. Take a person in this congregation who knows the
principles of that kind of life and sees the beauties of eternity before
him compared with the vain and foolish things of the world--and suppose
he is overtaken in a gross fault which he knows will rob him of that
exaltation which he desires and which he now cannot obtain without the
shedding of his blood; and suppose he knows that by having his blood
shed he will atone for that sin and be saved and exalted with the Gods.
Is there a man or woman here but would say, 'Save me--shed my blood,
that I may be exalted.' And how many of you love your neighbour well
enough to save him in that way? That is what Christ meant by loving our
neighbours as ourselves. I could refer you to plenty of instances where
men have been righteously slain to atone for their sin; I have seen
scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance in
the last day if their lives had been taken and their blood spilt upon
the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels
to the Devil because it was not done. The weakness and ignorance of the
nations forbids this law being in full and open force; yet, remember, if
our neighbour needs help we must help him. If his soul is in danger we
must save it.
"Now as to our enemies--apostates and Gentiles--the tree that brings not
forth good fruit shall be hewn down. 'What,' you ask, 'do you believe
that people would do right to put these traitors to death?' Yes! What
does the United States government do with traitors? Examine the doings
of earthly governments on this point and you will find but one practise
universal. A word to the wise is enough; just remember that there are
sins that the blood of a lamb, of a calf, or of a turtle-dove, cannot
Under this discourse Joel Rae sat terrified, with a bloodless face,
cowering as he had made others to cower six weeks before. The words
seemed to carry his own preaching to its rightful conclusion; but now
how changed was his world!--a whirling, sickening chaos of sin and
As he listened to Brigham's words, picturing the blood of the sinner
smoking on the ground, his thoughts fled back to that night, that night
of wondrous light and warmth, the last he could remember before the
great blank came.
Now the voice of Brigham came to him again: "And almost all things are
by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no
Then the service ended, and he saw Bishop Wright pushing toward him
through the crowd.
"Well, well, Brother Rae you do look peaked, for sure! But you'll pick
up fast enough, and just in time, too. Lord! what won't Brother Brigham
do when the Holy Ghost gets a strangle-holt on him? Now, then," he
added, in a lower tone, "if I ain't mistaken, there's going to be some
work for the Sons of Dan!"
_How the Souls of Apostates Were Saved_
The Wild Ram of the Mountains had spoken truly; there was work at hand
for the Sons of Dan. When his Witness at last came to Joel Rae, he tried
vainly to recall the working of his mind at this time; to remember where
he had made the great turn--where he had faced about. For, once, he
knew, he had been headed the way he wished to go, a long, plain road,
reaching straight toward the point whither all the aspirations of his
soul urged him.
And then, all in a day or in a night, though he had seen never a turn in
the road, though he had gone a true and straight course, suddenly he had
looked up to find he was headed the opposite way. After facing his goal
so long, he was now going from it--and never a turn! It was the wretched
paradox of a dream.
The day after Brigham's sermon on blood-atonement, there had been a
meeting in the Historian's office, presided over by Brigham. And here
for the first time Joel Rae found he was no longer looked upon as one
too radical. Somewhat dazedly, too, he realised at this close range the
severely practical aspects of much that he had taught in theory. It was
strange, almost unnerving, to behold his own teachings naked of their
pulpit rhetoric; to find his long-cherished ideals materialised by
literal-minded, practiced men.
He heard again the oath he had sworn, back on the river-flat: "_I will
assist in executing all the decrees of the First President, Patriarch,
or President of the Twelve, and I will cause all who speak evil of the
Presidency or Heads of the Church to die the death of dissenters or
apostates_--" And then he had heard the business of the meeting
discussed. Decisions were reached swiftly, and orders given in words
that were few and plain. Even had these orders been repugnant to him,
they were not to be questioned; they came from an infallible priesthood,
obedience to which was the first essential to his soul's salvation; and
they came again from the head of an organisation to which he was bound
by every oath he had been taught to hold sacred. But, while they left
him dazed, disconcerted, and puzzled, he was by no means certain that
they were repugnant. They were but the legitimate extension of his
teachings since childhood, and of his own preaching.
In custody at Kayesville, twenty-five miles north of Salt Lake City,
were six men who had been arrested by church authority while on their
way east from California. They were suspected of being federal spies.
The night following the meeting which Joel Rae had attended, these
prisoners were attacked while they slept. Two were killed at once; two
more after a brief struggle; and the remaining two the following day,
after they had been pursued through the night. The capable Bishop Wright
declared in confidence to Joel Rae that it reminded him of old days at
The same week was saved Rosmas Anderson, who had incurred rejection from
Israel and eternal wrath by his misbehaviour. Becoming submissive to the
decree of the Church, when it was made known to him by certain men who
came in the night, it was believed that his atonement would suffice to
place him once more in the household of faith. He had asked but half a
day to prepare for the solemn ceremony. His wife, regretful but firm in
the faith, had provided clean garments for her sinful husband, and the
appointed executioners dug his grave. They went for him at midnight. By
the side of the grave they had let him kneel and pray. His throat had
then been cut by a deft hand, and he was held so that his blood ran into
the grave, thus consummating the sacrifice to the God of Israel. The
widow, obeying priestly instructions, announced that her husband had
gone to California.
Then the soul of William Parrish at Springville was saved to eternal
glory; also the soul of his son, Beason. For both of these sinful ones
were on the verge of apostasy; had plotted, indeed, and made secret
preparations to leave the valley, all of which were discovered by
church emissaries, fortunately for the eternal welfare of the two most
concerned. Yet a few years later, when the hated Gentiles had gained
some shadow of authority in the new Zion, their minions were especially
bitter as to this feat of mercy, seeking, indeed, to indict the
performers of it.
As to various persons who met death while leaving the valley, opinion
was divided on the question of their ultimate salvation. For it was
announced concerning these, as their bodies were discovered from time to
time, that the Indians had killed them. This being true, they had died
in apostasy, and their rejection from the Kingdom was assured. Yet after
awhile the Saints at large took hope touching the souls of these; for
Bishop Wright, the excellent and able Wild Ram of the Mountains, took
occasion to remark one Sabbath in the course of an address delivered in
the tabernacle: "And it amazes me, brethren, to note how the spirit has
been poured out on the Lamanites. It really does seem as if an Injun
jest naturally hates an apostate, and it beats me how they can tell 'em
the minute they try to sneak out of this valley of the Lord. They must
lie out in them hills jest a-waiting for apostates; and they won't have
anything else; they never touch the faithful. You wouldn't think they
had so much fine feeling to look at 'em. You wouldn't suspect they was
so sensitive, and almost bigoted, you might say. But there it is--and I
don't believe the critters will let many of these vile apostates get
beyond the rocky walls of Zion." Those who could listen between the
words began to suspect that the souls of such apostates had been duly
Yet one apostate the very next day was rash enough to controvert the
Bishop's views. To a group of men in the public street at high noon and
in a loud voice he declared his intention of leaving for California, and
he spoke evil of the Church.
"I tell you," he said, in tones of some excitement, "men are murdered
here. Their murder is planned by Bishops, Priests, Elders, and Apostles,
by the President and his Counsellors, and then it is done by men they
send to do it. Their laying it on to the Indians don't fool me a minute.
That's the kind of a church this is, and you don't ketch me staying in
it any longer!"
Trees had been early planted in the new settlement, and owing to the
care bestowed upon them by the thrifty colonists, many were now matured.
From a stout limb of one of these the speaker was found hanging the
following morning. A coroner's jury hastily summoned from among the
Saints found that he had committed suicide.
Another whose soul was irrevocably lost was Frederick Loba, who had
refused to take more than one wife in spite of the most explicit advice
from his superiors that he could attain to but little glory either in
this world or that to come with less than three. He crowned his offense
by speaking disrespectfully of Brigham Young. Orders were issued to save
his soul; but before his tabernacle could be seized by those who would
have saved him, the wretched man had taken his one wife and fled to the
mountains. There they wandered many days in the most inclement weather,
lost, famished, and several times but narrowly escaping the little band
that had been sent in pursuit of them; whose members would, had they
been permitted, not only have terminated their bodily suffering, but
saved their souls to a worthy place in the life to come. As it was, they
wandered a distance of three hundred miles, and three days after their
last food was eaten, the man carrying the woman in his arms the last six
miles, they reached a camp of the Snake Indians. These, not sharing with
their Utah brethren the prejudice against apostates, gave them a
friendly welcome, and guided them to Fort Laramie, thereby destroying
for the unhappy man and his wife their last chance of coming forth in
the final resurrection. But few at this time were so unlucky as this
pair; for judgment had begun at the house of the Lord, and Israel was
attentively at work.
It was now that Joel Rae became conscious that he was facing directly
away from the glory he had so long sought and suffered for. Though as
yet no blood for Israel had been shed in his actual presence, he had
attended the meetings of the Sons of Dan, and was kept aware of their
operations. It seemed to him in after years that his faculties had at
this time been in trance.
He was seized at length with an impulse to be away from it all. As the
days went by with their tragedies, he became half wild with restlessness
and a strange fear of himself. In spite of his lifelong training, he
knew there was wrong in the air. He could not question the decrees of
the priesthood, but this much became clear to him,--that only one thing
could carry with it more possibilities of evil than this course of the
Church toward dissenters--and that was to doubt that Brigham Young's
voice was as the voice of God. Not yet could he bring himself to this.
But the unreasoning desire to be away became so strong that he knew he
must yield to it.
Turning this in his mind one day he met a brother Elder, a man full of
zeal who had lately returned from a mission abroad. There had been, he
said, a great outpouring of the spirit in Wales.
"And what a glorious day has dawned here," he continued. "Thank God,
there is a way to save the souls of the blind! That reminds me--have you
heard of the saving work Brother Pixley was obliged to do?"
"Brother Pixley?--no." He heard his own voice tremble, in spite of his
effort at self-control. The other became more confidential, stepping
closer and speaking low.
"Of course, it ain't to be talked of freely, but you have a right to
know, for was it not your own preaching that led to this glorious
reformation? You see, Brother Pixley came back with me, after doing
great works abroad. Naturally, he came full of love for his wives. But
he had been here only a few days when he became convinced that one of
them had forgotten him; something in her manner made him suspect it, for
she was a woman of singularly open, almost recklessly open, nature. Then
a good neighbour came and told him that one night, while on his way for
the doctor, he had seen this woman take leave of her lover--had seen the
man, whom he could not recognise, embrace her at parting. He taxed her
with this, and she at once confessed, though protesting that she had not
sinned, save in spirit. You can imagine his grief, Brother Rae, for he
had loved the woman. Well, after taking counsel from Brigham, he talked
the matter over with her very calmly, telling her that unless her blood
smoked upon the ground, she would be cast aside in eternity. She really
had spiritual aspirations, it seems, for she consented to meet the
ordeal. Then, of course, it was necessary to learn from her the name of
the man--and when all was ready for the sacrifice, Brother Pixley
commanded her to make it known."
"Tell me which of Brother Pixley's wives it was." He could feel the
little cool beads of sweat upon his forehead.
"The fifth, did I not say? But to his amazement and chagrin, she refused
to give him the name of the man, and he had no way of learning it
otherwise, since there was no one he could suspect. He pointed out to
her that not even her blood could save her should she die shielding him.
But she declared that he was a good man, and that rather than bring
disgrace upon him she would die--would even lose her soul; that in truth
she did not care to live, since she loved him so that living away from
him was worse than death. I have said she was a woman of a large nature,
somewhat reckless and generous, and her mistaken notion of loyalty led
her to persist in spite of all the threats and entreaties of her
distressed husband. She even smiled when she told him that she would
rather die than live away from this unknown man, smiled in a way that
must have enraged him--since he had never won that kind of love from her
for himself--for then he let her meet the sacrifice without further
talk. He drew her on to his knee, kissed her for the last time, then
held her head back--and the thing was done. How sad it is that she did
not make a full confession. Then, by her willing sacrifice, she would
have gone direct to the circle of the Gods and Goddesses; but now, dying
as she did, her soul must be lost--"
"Which wife did you say--"
"The fifth--she that was Mara Cavan--but, dear me, Brother Rae! you
should not be out so soon! Why, man, you're weak as a cat! Come, I'll
walk with you as far as your house, and you must lie abed again until
you are stronger. I can understand how you wished to be up as soon as
possible; how proud you must feel that your preaching has led to this
glorious awakening and made it possible to save the souls of many sinful
ones--but you must be careful not to overtax yourself."
Four days later, a white-faced young Elder applied to Brigham for
permission to go to the settlements on the south. He professed to be
sick, to have suffered a relapse owing to incautious exposure so soon
after his long illness. He seemed, indeed, not only to be weak, but to
be much distressed and torn in his mind.
Brigham was gracious enough to accord the desired permission, adding
that the young Elder could preach the revived gospel and rebaptise on
his way south, thus combining work with recreation. He was also good
enough to volunteer some advice.
"What ails you mostly, Brother Joel, is your single state. What you need
is wives. You've been here ten years now, and it's high time. You're
given to brooding over things that are other people's to brood on, and
then, you're naturally soul-proud. Now, a few wives will humble you and
make you more reasonable, like the rest of us. I don't want to be too
downright with you, like I am with some of the others, because I've
always had a special kind of feeling for you, and so I've let you go on.
But you think it over, and talk to me about it when you come back. It's
high time you was building up your thrones and dominions in the
He started south the next day, riding down between the two mountain
ranges that bordered the valley, stopping at each settlement, breathing
more freely, resting more easily, as each day took him farther away.
Yet, when he closed his eyes, there, like an echo, was the vision of a
woman's face with shining eyes and lips,--a vision that after a few
seconds was washed away by a great wave of blood.
But after a few days, certain bits of news caught up with him that
happily drove this thing from his sight for a time by stirring within
him all his old dread of Gentile persecution.
First he heard that Parley Pratt, the Archer of Paradise and one of the
Twelve Apostles, had been foully murdered back in Arkansas while seeking
to carry to their mother the children of his ninth wife. The father of
these children, so his informant reported, had waylaid and shot him.
Then came rumours of a large wagon-train going south through Utah on its
way to California. Reports said it was composed chiefly of Missourians,
some of whom were said to be boasting that they had helped to expel the
Saints from Jackson County in that State. Also in this train were
reported to be several men from Arkansas who had been implicated in the
assassination of Apostle Pratt.
But news of the crowning infamy reached him the following day,--news
that had put out all thought of his great sin and his bloody secret,
news of a thing so monstrous that he was unable to give it credence
until it had been confirmed by other comers from the north. President
Buchanan, inspired by tales that had reached him of various deeds
growing out of the reformation, and by the treatment which various
Federal officers were said to have received, had decided that rebellion
existed in the Territory of Utah. He had appointed a successor to
Brigham Young as governor, so the report ran, and ordered an army to
march to Salt Lake City for the alleged purpose of installing the new
Three days later all doubt of the truth of this story was banished. Word
then came that Brigham was about to declare martial law, and that he had
promised that Buchanan's army should never enter the valley.
Now his heart beat high again, with something of the old swift fervour.
The Gentile yoke was at last to be thrown off. War would come, and the
Lord would surely hold them safe while they melted away the Gentile
He reached the settlement of Parowan that night, and when they told him
there that the wagon-train coming south--their ancient enemies who had
plundered and butchered them in Jackson County--was to be cut off before
it left the basin, it seemed but right to him, the just vengeance of
Heaven upon their one-time despoilers, and a fitting first act in the
war-drama that was now to be played.
Once more the mob was marching upon them to despoil and murder and put
them into the wilderness. But now God had nerved and strengthened them
to defend the walls of Zion, even against a mighty nation. And as a
token of His favour and His wish, here was a company of their bitterest
foes delivered into their hands. Beside the picture was another; he saw
his sister, the slight, fair girl, in the grasp of the fiends at Haun's
Mill; the face of his father tossing on the muddy current and sucked
under to the river-bottom; and the rough bark cylinder, festooned with
black cloth, holding the worn form of the mother whose breast had nursed
When he started he had felt that he could never again preach while that
secret lay upon him,--that he could no longer rebuke sinners
honestly,--but this matter of war was different.
He preached a moving sermon that day from a text of Samuel: "As thy
sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among
women." And when he was done the congregation had made the little dimly
lighted meeting-house at Parowan ring with a favourite hymn:--
"Up, awake, ye defenders of Zion!
The foe's at the door of your homes;
Let each heart be the heart of a lion,
Unyielding and proud as he roams.
Remember the wrongs of Missouri,
Remember the fate of Nauvoo!
When the God-hating foe is before ye,
Stand firm and be faithful and true."
_The Order from Headquarters_
He left Parowan the next morning to preach at one of the little
settlements to the east. He was gone three days. When he came back they
told him that the train of Missourians had passed through Parowan and on
to the south. He attended a military council held that evening in the
meeting-house. Three days of reflection, while it had not cooled the
anger he felt toward these members of the mob that had so brutally
wronged his people, had slightly cooled his ardour for aggressive
It was rather a relief to know that he was not in a position of military
authority; to feel that this matter of cutting off a wagon-train was in
the hands of men who could do no wrong. The men who composed the council
he knew to be under the immediate guidance of the Lord. Their names and
offices made this certain. There was George A. Smith, First Counsellor
to Brigham, representing as such the second person of the Trinity, and
also one of the Twelve Apostles. There was Isaac Haight, President of
the Cedar City Stake of Zion and High Priest of Southern Utah; there
were Colonel Dame, President of the Parowan Stake of Zion, Philip
Klingensmith, Bishop from Cedar City, and John Doyle Lee, Brigham's most
trusted lieutenant in the south, a major of militia, probate judge,
member of the Legislature, President of Civil Affairs at Harmony, and
farmer to the Indians under Brigham.
When a call to arms came as a result of this council, and an official
decree was made known that the obnoxious emigrant train was to be cut
off, he could not but feel that the deed had heavenly sanction. As to
worldly regularity, the proceeding seemed to be equally faultless. The
call was a regular military call by the superior officers to the
subordinate officers and privates of the regiment, commanding them to
muster, armed and equipped as directed by law, and prepared for field
operations. Back of the local militia officers was his Excellency,
Brigham Young, not only the vicar of God on earth but governor of Utah
and commander-in-chief of the militia. It seemed, indeed, a foretaste of
those glorious campaigns long promised them, when they should go through
the land of the Gentiles "like a lion among the flocks of sheep, cutting
down, breaking in pieces, with none to deliver, leaving the land
The following Tuesday he continued south to Cedar City, the most
populous of the southern settlements. Here he learned of the campaign's
progress. Brigham's courier had preceded the train on its way south,
bearing written orders to the faithful to hold no dealings with its
people; to sell them neither forage for their stock nor food for
themselves. They had, it was reported, been much distressed as a result
of this order, and their stock was greatly weakened. At Cedar City, it
being feared that they might for want of supplies be forced to halt
permanently so near the settlement that it would be inconvenient to
destroy them, they were permitted to buy fifty bushels of wheat and to
have it and some corn the Indians had sold them ground at the mill of
As Joel's informant, the fiery Bishop Klingensmith, remarked, this was
not so generous as it seemed, since, while it would serve to decoy them
on their way toward San Bernardino, they would never get out of the
valley with it. The train had started on, but the animals were so weak
that three days had been required to reach Iron Creek, twenty miles
beyond, and two more days to reach Mountain Meadows, fifteen miles
Here at daybreak the morning before, Klingensmith told him, a band of
Piede Indians, under Lee's direction, had attacked the train, killing
and wounding a number of the men. It had been hoped, explained
Klingensmith, that the train would be destroyed at once by the Indians,
thus avoiding any call upon the militia; but the emigrants had behaved
with such effectiveness that the Indians were unable to complete the
task. They had corralled their wagons, dug a rifle-pit in the center,
and returned the fire, killing one Indian and wounding two of the
chiefs. The siege was being continued.
The misgiving that this tale caused Joel Rae he put down to unmanly
weakness--and to an unfamiliarity with military affairs. A sight of the
order in Brigham's writing for the train's extermination would have set
his mind wholly at rest; but though he had not been granted this, he was
assured that such an order existed, and with this he was obliged to be
content. He knew, indeed, that an order from Brigham, either oral or
written, must have come; otherwise the local authorities would never
have dared to proceed. They were not the men to act without orders in a
matter so grave after the years in which Brigham had preached his right
to dictate, direct, and control the affairs of his people from the
building of the temple "down to the ribbons a woman should wear, or the
setting up of a stocking."
Late on the following day, Wednesday, while they were anxiously waiting
for news, a messenger from Lee came with a call for reinforcements. The
Indians, although there were three hundred of them, had been unable to
prevail over the little entrenched band of Gentiles. Ten minutes after
the messenger's arrival, the militia, which had been waiting under arms,
set out for the scene in wagons. From Cedar City went every able-bodied
man but two.
Joel Rae was with them, wondering why he went. He wanted not to go. He
preferred that news of the approaching victory should be brought to
him; yet invisible hands had forced him, even while it seemed that
frenzied voices--voices without sound--warned him back.
The ride was long, but not long enough for his mind to clear. It was
still clouded with doubts and questionings and fears when they at last
saw the flaring of many fires with figures loitering or moving busily
about them. As they came nearer, a strange, rhythmic throbbing crept to
his ears; nearer still, he resolved it into the slow, regular beatings
of a flat-toned drum. The measure, deliberate, incessant,
changeless,--the same tones, the same intervals,--worked upon his
strained nerves, at first soothingly and then as a pleasant stimulant.
The wagons now pulled up near the largest camp fire, and the arrivals
were greeted by a dozen or so of the Saints, who, with Major Lee, had
been directing and helping the Indians in their assaults upon the enemy.
Several of these had disguised themselves as Indians for the better
deception of the besieged.
At the right of their camp went the long line of the Indians' fires.
From far down this line came a low ringing chant and the strangely
"They're mourning old Chief Moqueetus," explained Lee. "He fell asleep
before the fire just about dark, while his corn and potatoes were
cooking, and he had a bad nightmare. The old fellow woke up screaming
that he had his double-hands full of blood, and he grabbed his gun and
was up on top of the hill firing down before he was really awake, I
guess. Anyway, one of the cusses got him--like as not the same one that
did this to-day while I was peeking at them," and he showed them a
bullet-hole in his hat.
At fires near by the Indians were broiling beef cut from animals they
had slaughtered belonging to the wagon-train. Still others were cutting
the hides into strips to be made into lariats. As far down as the line
could be seen, there were dusky figures darting in and out of the
A council was at once called of the Presidents, Bishops, Elders, High
Priests, and the officers of the militia who were present. Bishop
Klingensmith bared his massive head in the firelight and opened the
council with prayer, invoking the aid of God to guide them aright. Then
Major Higbee, presiding as chairman, announced the orders under which
they were assembled and under which the train had been attacked.
"It is ordered from headquarters that this party must be used up, except
such as are too young to tell tales. We got to do it. They been acting
terrible mean ever since we wouldn't sell them anything. If we let them
go on now, they been making their brag that they'll raise a force in
California and come back and wipe us out--and Johnston's army already
marching on us from the east. Are we going to submit again to what we
got in Missouri and in Illinois? No! Everybody is agreed about that.
Now the Indians have failed to do it like we thought they would, so we
got to finish it up, that's all."
Joel Rae spoke for the first time.
"You say except such as are too young to tell tales, Brother Higbee;
what does that mean?"
"Why, all but the very smallest children, of course."
"Are there children here?"
"Oh, a fair sprinkling--about what you'd look for in a train of a
hundred and thirty people. The boys got two of the kids yesterday; the
fools had dressed them up in white dresses and sent them out with a
bucket for water. You can see their bodies lying over there this side of
"And there are women?" he asked, feeling a great sickness come upon him.
"Plenty of them," answered Klingensmith, "some mighty fine women, too; I
could see one yesterday, a monstrous fine figure and hair shiny like a
crow's wing, and a little one, powerful pretty, and one kind of between
the two--it's a shame we can't keep some of them, but orders is orders!"
"These women must be killed, too?"
"That's the orders from headquarters, Brother Rae."
"From the military headquarters at Parowan, or from the spiritual
headquarters at Salt Lake?"
"Better not inquire how far back that order started, Brother Rae--not of
"But women and children--"
"The great Elohim has spoken from the heavens, Brother Rae--that's
enough for me. I can't put my human standards against the revealed will
"But women and children--" He repeated the words as if he sought to
comprehend them. He seemed like a man with defective sight who has come
suddenly against a wall that he had thought far off. Higbee now
"Brother Rae, in religion you have to eat the bran along with the flour.
Did you suppose we were going to milk the Gentiles and not ever shed any
"But innocent blood--"
"There ain't a drop of innocent blood in the whole damned train. And
what are you, to be questioning this way about orders from on high? I've
heard you preach many a time about the sin of such doings as that. You
preach in the pulpit about stubborn clay in the hands of the potter
having to be put through the mill again, and now that you're out here in
the field, seems to me you get limber like a tallowed rag when an order
"Defenseless women and little children--" He was still trying to regain
his lost equilibrium. Lee now interposed.
"Yes, Brother Rae, as defenseless as that pretty sister of yours was in
the woods there, that afternoon at Haun's Mill."
The reminder silenced him for the moment. When he could listen again, he
heard them canvassing a plan of attack that should succeed without
endangering any of their own numbers. He walked away from the group to
see if alone, out of the tumult and torrent of lies and half-truths, he
could not fetch some one great unmistakable truth which he felt
instinctively was there.
And then his ears responded again to the slow chant and the constant
measured beat of the flat-toned, vibrant drum. Something in its rhythm
searched and penetrated and swayed and seemed to overwhelm him. It came
as the measured, insistent beat of fate itself, relentless, inexorable;
and all the time it was stirring in him vague, latent instincts of
savagery. He wished it would stop, so that he might reason, yet dreaded
that it might stop at any moment. Fascinated by the weird rhythm and the
hollow beat, he could not summon the will to go beyond its sway.
He walked about the fires or lingered by the groups in consultation
until the first signs of dawn. Then he climbed the low, rocky hill to
the east and peered over the top, the drum-beats still pulsing through
him, still coercing him. As the light grew, he could make out the
details of the scene below. He was looking down into a narrow valley
running north and south, formed by two ranges of rugged, rocky hills
five hundred yards or so apart. To the north this valley widened; to the
south it narrowed until it became a mere gap leading out into the
Directly below him, half-way between the ranges of hills, was a circle
of covered wagons wheel to wheel. In the center of this a pit had been
dug, and here the besieged were finding such protection as they could
from the rifle-fire that came down from the hills on either side. Even
now he could see Indians lying in watch for any who might attempt to
escape. The camp had been attacked on Monday morning after the wagons
had moved a hundred yards away from the spring. It was now Friday. For
four days, therefore, with only what water they could bring by dashes to
the spring under fire, they had held their own in the pit.
When it grew still lighter he descried, out on his left near the spring,
two spots of white close together, and remembered Lee's tale the night
before of the two little girls sent for water.
At that instant, the chanting and the beat of the drum stopped, and in
the silence a flood of light seemed to shine in upon his mind, showing
him in something of its true aspect the thing they were about to do. Not
clearly did he see it, for he was still torn and dazed--and not in its
real proportions, moreover; for he saw it against the background of his
teaching from the cradle; the murder of their Prophet, the persecution
of the Saints, the outrages put upon his own family, the fate of his
sister, the murder of his father, and the death of his mother; the
coming of an army upon them now to repeat these persecutions; the
reported offenses of this particular lot of Gentiles. And then, too, he
saw it against his own flawless faith in the authority of the
priesthood, his implicit belief that whatsoever they ordered was to be
obeyed as the literal command of God, his unshaken conviction that to
disobey the priesthood was to commit the unforgivable sin of blasphemy
against the Holy Ghost. "If you trifle with the commands of any of the
priesthood," he himself had preached but a few days before, "you are
trifling with Brigham; if you trifle with Brigham, you are trifling with
God; and if you do that, you will trifle yourselves down to hell."
Yet as he looked upon the doomed camp, lying still and quiet in the gray
light,--in spite of breeding, training, habit of thought, and passionate
belief, he felt the horror of it, and a hope came to him out of that
horror. He hurried down the hill and searched among the groups of
Indians until he found Lee.
"Major, isn't there a chance that Brother Brigham didn't order this?"
"Brother Rae, no one has said he did--it wouldn't be just wise."
"But _did_ he--has any one seen the written order or heard who brought
the oral order?"
"Brother Rae, look here, now--you know Brother Brigham. You know his
authority, and you know Dame and Haight. You know they wouldn't either
of them dare do as much as take another wife without asking Brigham
first. Well, then, do you reckon they'd dare order this militia around
in this reckless way to cut off a hundred and thirty people unless they
had mighty good reason to know he wanted it?"
He stood before Lee with bent head; the hope had died. Lee went on:
"And look here, Elder, just as a friendly hint, I wouldn't do any more
of this sentimental talk. Why, in the last six months I've known men to
get blood-atoned for less than you've said."
He saw they were holding another council. Bishop Klingensmith again led
in prayer. He prayed for revelation, for the gifts of the spirit for
each of them, and for every order of the priesthood; that they might
prevail over the army marching against them; that Israel might grow and
multiply and cover the earth with cities and become a people so great
that no man could number them; and that the especial favour of Heaven
might attend them on their righteous smiting of the Gentile host now
delivered over to them by an all-wise Jehovah.
The plan of assault was now again rehearsed, and its details
communicated to their Indian allies. By ten o'clock all was ready.
_The Meadow Shambles_
They chose William Bateman to go forward with a flag of truce. He was
short and plump, with a full, round, ingenuous face. He was chosen, so
said Klingensmith, for his plausible ways. He could look right at you
when he said anything; and the moment needed a man of this talent. He
was to enter the camp and say to the people that the Mormons had come to
save them; that on giving up their arms they would be safely conducted
to Cedar City, there to await a proper time for continuing their
From the hill to the west of the besieged camp they watched the
plausible Bateman with his flag of truce meet one of the emigrants who
came out, also with a white flag, and saw them stand talking a little
time. Bateman then came back around the end of the hill that separated
the two camps. His proposal had been gratefully accepted. The besieged
emigrants were in desperate straits; their dead were unburied in the
narrow enclosure, and they were suffering greatly for want of water.
Major Higbee, in command of the militia, now directed Lee to enter the
camp and see that the plan was carried out. With him went two men with
wagons. Lee was to have them load their weapons into one wagon, to
separate the adults from the children and wounded, who were to be put
into the other, and then march the party out.
As Lee approached the corral its occupants swarmed out to meet
him,--gaunt men, unkempt women and children, with the look of hunted
animals in their eyes. Some of the men cheered feebly; some were silent
and plainly distrustful. But the women laughed and wept for joy as they
crowded about their deliverer; and wide-eyed children stared at him in a
friendly way, understanding but little of it all except that the
newcomer was a desirable person.
It took Lee but a little time to overcome the hesitation of the few
suspicious ones. The plan he proposed was too plainly their only way of
escape from a terrible death. Their animals had been shot down or run
off so that they could neither advance nor retreat. Their ammunition was
almost gone, so that they could not give battle. And, lastly, their
provisions were low, with no chance to replenish them; for on the south
was the most to be dreaded of all American deserts, while on the north
they had for some reason unknown to themselves been unable to buy of the
abundance through which they passed.
Arrangements for the departure were quickly completed under Lee's
supervision. In one wagon were piled the guns and pistols of the
emigrants, together with half a dozen men who had been wounded in the
four days' fighting. In the other wagon a score of the smaller children
were placed, some with tear-stained faces, some crying, and some gravely
apprehensive. At Lee's command the two wagons moved forward. After these
the women followed, marching singly or in pairs; some with little
bundles of their most precious belongings; some carrying babes too young
to be sent ahead in the wagon. A few had kept even their older children
to walk beside them, fearing some evil--they knew not what.
One such, a young woman near the last of the line, was leading by the
hand a little girl of three or four, while on her left there marched a
sturdy, pink-faced boy of seven or eight, whose almost white hair and
eyebrows gave him a look of fright which his demeanour belied. The
woman, looking anxiously back over her shoulder to the line of men,
spoke warningly to the boy as the line moved slowly forward.
"Take her other hand, and stay close. I'm afraid something will
happen-that man who came is not an honest man. I tried to tell them, but
they wouldn't believe me. Keep her hand in yours, and if anything does
happen, run right back there and try to find her father. Remember now,
just as if she were your own little sister."
The boy answered stoutly, with shrewd glances about for possible
"Of course I'll stay by her. I wouldn't run away. If I'd only had a
gun," he continued, in tones of regretful enthusiasm, "I know I could
have shot some of those Indians--but these, what do you call
them?--Mormons--they'll keep the Indians away now."
"But remember--don't leave my child, for I'm afraid--something warns
Farther back the others had now fallen in, so that the whole company was
in motion. The two wagons were in the lead; then came the women; and
some distance back of these trailed the line of men.
When the latter reached the place where the column of militia stood
drawn up in line by the roadside, they swung their hats and cheered
their deliverers; again and again the cheers rang in tones that were
full of gratitude. As they passed on, an armed Mormon stepped to the
side of each man and walked with him, thus convincing the last doubter
of their sincerity in wishing to guard them from any unexpected attack
by the Indians.
In such fashion marched the long, loosely extended line until the rear
had gone some two hundred yards away from the circle of wagons. At the
head, the two wagons containing the children and wounded had now fallen
out of sight over a gentle rise to the north. The women also were well
ahead, passing at that moment through a lane of low cedars that grew
close to the road on either side. The men were now stepping briskly,
sure at last of the honesty of their rescuers.
Then, while all promised fair, a call came from the head of the line of
men,--a clear, high call of command that rang to the very rear of the
_"Israel, do your duty!"_
Before the faces of the marching men had even shown surprise or
questioning, each Mormon had turned and shot the man who walked beside
him. The same instant brought piercing screams from the column of women
ahead; for the signal had been given while they were in the lane of
cedars where the Indian allies of the Saints had been ambushed. Shots
and screams echoed and reechoed across the narrow valley, and clouds of
smoke, pearl gray in the morning sun, floated near the ground.
The plan of attack had been well laid for quick success. Most of the men
had fallen at the first volley, either killed or wounded. Here and there
along the all but prostrate line would be seen a struggling pair, or one
of the emigrants running toward cover under a fire that always brought
him low before he reached it.
On the women, too, the quick attack had been almost instantly
successful. The first great volume of mad shrieks had quickly died low
as if the victims were being smothered; and now could be heard only the
single scream of some woman caught in flight,--short, despairing
screams, and others that seemed to be cut short--strangled at their
Joel Rae found himself on the line after the first volley, drawn by
some dread power he could not resist. Yet one look had been enough. He
shut his eyes to the writhing forms, the jets of flame spitting through
the fog of smoke, and turned to flee.
Then in an instant--how it had come about he never knew--he was
struggling with a man who shouted his name and cursed him,--a dark man
with blood streaming from a wound in his throat. He defended himself
easily, feeling his assailant's strength already waning. Time after time
the man called him by name and cursed him, now in low tones, as they
swayed. Then the Saint whose allotted victim this man had been, having
reloaded his pistol, ran up, held it close to his head, fired, and ran
back to the line.
He felt the man's grasp of his shoulders relax, and his body grow
suddenly limp, as if boneless. He let it down to the ground, looking at
last full upon the face. At first glance it told him nothing. Then a
faint sense of its familiarity pushed up through many old memories.
Sometime, somewhere, he had known the face.
The dying man opened his eyes wide, not seeing, but convulsively, and
then he felt himself enlightened by something in their dark
colour,--something in the line of the brow under the black hair;--a face
was brought back to him, the handsome face of the jaunty militia captain
at Nauvoo, the man who had helped expel his people, who had patronised
them with his airs of protector,--the man who had--
It did not come to him until that instant--this man was Girnway. In the
flash of awful comprehension he dropped, a sickened and nerveless heap,
beside the dead man, turning his head on the ground, and feeling for any
sign of life at his heart.
Forward there, where the yells of the Indians had all but replaced the
screams of frantic women--butchered already perhaps, subjected to he
knew not what infamy at the hands of savage or Saint--was the
yellow-haired, pink-faced girl he had loved and kept so long imaged in
his heart; yet she might have escaped, she might still live--she might
even not have been in the party.
He sprang up and found himself facing a white-haired boy, who held a
little crying girl by a tight grasp of her arm, and who eyed him
"What did you hurt Prudence's father for? He was a good man. Did you
He seized the boy roughly by the shoulder.
"Prudence--Prudence--where is she?"
He looked down at the little girl, who still cried. Even in that glance
he saw her mother's prettiness, her pink and white daintiness, and the
yellow shine of her hair.
"Her mother, then,--quick!"
The boy pointed ahead.
"Up there--she told me to take care of Prudence, and when the Indians
came out she made me run back here to look for him." He pointed to the
still figure on the ground before them. And then, making a brave effort
to keep back the tears:
"If I had a gun I'd shoot some Indians;--I'd shoot you, too--you killed
him. When I grow up to be a man, I'll have a gun and come here--"
He had the child in his arms, and called to the boy:
"Come, fast now! Go as near as you can to where you left her."
They ran forward through the gray smoke, stepping over and around bodies
as they went. When they reached the first of the women he would have
stopped to search, but the boy led him on, pointing. And then, half-way
up the line, a little to the right of the road, at the edge of the
cedars, his eye caught the glimpse of a great mass of yellow hair on the
ground. She seemed to have been only wounded, for, as he looked, she was
up on her knees striving to stand.
He ran faster, leaving the boy behind now, but while he was still far
off, he saw an Indian, knife in hand, run to her and strike her down.
Then before he had divined the intent, the savage had gathered the long
hair into his left hand, made a swift circling of the knife with his
right,--and the thing was done before his eyes. He screamed in terror as
he ran, and now he was near enough to be heard. The Indian at his cry
arose and for one long second shook, almost in his face as he came
running up, the long, shining, yellow hair with the gory patch at the
end. Before his staring eyes, the hair was twisting, writhing, and
undulating,--like a golden flame licking the bronzed arm that held it.
And then, as he reached the spot, the Indian, with a long yell of
delight and a final flourish of his trophy, ran off to other prizes.
He stood a moment, breathless and faint, looking with fearful eyes down
at the little, limp, still figure at his feet. One slender, bare arm was
flung out as if she had grasped at the whole big earth in her last
The spell of fear was broken by the boy, who came trotting up. He had
given way to his tears now, and was crying loudly from fright. Joel made
him take the little girl and sit under a cedar out of sight of the spot.
_In the Dark of the Aftermath_
He was never able to recall the events of that day, or of the months
following, in anything like their proper sequence. The effort to do so
brought a pain shooting through his head. Up to the moment when the
yellow hair had waved in his face, everything had kept a ghastly
distinctness. He remembered each instant and each emotion. After that
all was dark confusion, with only here and there a detached,
inconsequent memory of appalling vividness.
He could remember that he had buried her on the other side of the hill
where a gnarled cedar grew at the foot of a ledge of sandstone, using a
spade that an Indian had brought him from the deserted camp. By her side
he had found the scattered contents of the little bundle she had
carried,--a small Bible, a locket, a worn gold bracelet, and a picture
of herself as he had known her, a half-faded daguerreotype set in a gilt
oval, in a square rubber case that shut with a snap. The little
limp-backed Bible had lain flung open on the ground in the midst of the
other trinkets. He remembered picking these things up and retying them
in the blue silk handkerchief, and then he had twice driven away an
Indian who, finding no other life, came up to kill the two children
huddled at the foot of the cedar.
He recalled that he had at some time passed the two wagons; one of them
was full of children, some crying, some strangely quiet and observant.
The other contained the wounded men whom Lee and the two drivers had
dispatched where they lay.
He remembered the scene close about him where many of the women and
older children had fallen under knife and tomahawk. At intervals had
come a long-drawn scream, terrifying in its shrillness, from some woman
struggling with Saint or savage.
Later he remembered becoming aware that the bodies were being stripped
and plundered; of seeing Lee holding his big white hat for valuables,
while half a dozen men searched pockets and stripped off clothing. The
picture of the naked bodies of a dozen well-grown children tangled in
one heap stayed with him.
Still later, when the last body had been stripped and the smaller
treasures collected, he had known that these and the stock and wagons
were being divided between the Mormons and the Indians; a conflict with
these allies being barely averted, the Indians accusing the Saints of
withholding more than their share of the plunder.
After the division was made he knew that the Saints had all been called
together to take an oath that the thing should be kept secret. He knew,
too, that he had gone over the spot that night, the moon lighting the
naked forms strewn about. Many of them lay in attitudes strangely
lifelike,--here one resting its head upon its arm, there a white face
falling easily back as if it looked up at the stars. He could not recall
why he had gone back, unless to be sure that he had made the grave under
the cedar secure from the wolves.
Some of the men had camped on the spot. Others had gone to Hamblin's
ranch, near the Meadows, where the children were taken. He had sent the
boy there with them, and he could recall distinctly the struggle he had
with the little fellow; for the boy had wished not to be taken from the
girl, and had fought valiantly with fists and feet and his sharp little
teeth. The little girl with her mother's bundle he had taken to another
ranch farther south in the Pine Mountains. He told the woman the child
was his own, and that she was to be kept until he came again.
Where he slept that night, or whether he slept at all, he never knew.
But he had been back on the ground in the morning with the others who
came to bury the naked bodies. He had seen heaps of them piled in little
depressions and the dirt thrown loosely over them, and he remembered
that the wolves were at them all a day later.
Then Dame and Haight and others of high standing in the Church had come
to look over the spot and there another oath of secrecy was taken. Any
informer was to be "sent over the rim of the basin"--except that one of
their number was to make a full report to the President at Salt Lake
City. Klingensmith was then chosen by vote to take charge of the goods
for the benefit of the Church. Klingensmith, Haight, and Higbee, he
recalled, had later driven two hundred head of the cattle to Salt Lake
City and sold them. Klingensmith, too, had put the clothing taken from
the bodies, blood-stained, shredded by bullets and knives, into the
cellar of the tithing office at Cedar City. Here there had been, a few
weeks later, a public auction of the property taken, the Bishop, who
presided as auctioneer, facetiously styling it "plunder taken at the
siege of Sebastopol." The clothing, however, with the telltale marks
upon it, was reserved from the auction and sold privately from the
tithing office. Many stout wagons and valuable pieces of equipment had
thus been cheaply secured by the Saints round about Cedar City.
He knew that the surviving children, seventeen in number, had been "sold
out" to Saints in and about Cedar City, Harmony, and Painter's Creek,
who would later present bills for their keep.
He knew that Lee, whom the Bishops had promised a crown of glory for his
work that day, had gone to Salt Lake City and made a confidential report
to Brigham; that Brigham had at first professed to regard the occurrence
as unfortunate for the Church, though admitting that no innocent blood
had been shed; that he had sworn Lee never to tell the story again to
any person, instructing him to make a written report of the affair to
himself, as Indian agent, charging the deed to the Indians. He was said
to have added on this point, after a period of reflection, "Only
Indians, John, don't save even the little children." He was reported to
have told Lee further, on the following day, that he had asked God to
take the vision from his sight if the killing had been a righteous
thing, and that God had done so, thus proving the deed in the sight of
heaven to have been a just vengeance upon those who had once made war
upon the Saints in Missouri.
With these and with many another disjointed memory of the day Joel Rae
was cursed; of how Hamblin the following spring had gathered a hundred
and twenty skulls on the ground where the wolves had left them, and
buried them again; of how an officer from Camp Floyd had built a cairn
on the spot and erected a huge cross to the memory of the slain; of how
the thing became so dire in the minds of those who had done it, that
more than one man lost his reason, and two were known to have killed
themselves to be rid of the death-cries of women.
But the clearest of all among the memories of the day itself was the
prayer offered up as they stood amid the heaps of fresh earth, after
they had sworn the oath of secrecy; how God had been thanked for
delivering the enemy into their hands, and how new faith and better
works were promised to Him for this proof of His favour.
The memory of this prayer stayed with him many years: "Bless Brother
Brigham--bless him; may the heavens be opened unto him, and angels visit
and instruct him. Clothe him with power to defend Thy people and to
overthrow all who may rise against us. Bless him in his basket and in
his store; multiply and increase him in wives, children, flocks and
herds, houses and lands. Make him very great to be a lawgiver and God to
Thy people, and to command them in all things whatsoever in the future
as in the past."
Nor did he forget that, soon after he had listened to this prayer, and
the forces had dispersed, he had made two discoveries;--first, that his
hair was whitening; second, that he could not be alone at night and keep
_The Host of Israel Goes forth to Battle_
He went north in answer to the call for soldiers. He went gladly. It
promised activity--and company.
A score of them left Cedar City with much warlike talk, with many
ringing prophecies of confusion to the army now marching against them,
and to the man who had sent it. They cited Fremont, Presidential
candidate of the newly organised Republican party the year before, with
his catch phrase, "The abolition of slavery and polygamy, the twin
relics of barbarism." Fremont had been defeated. And there was Stephen
A. Douglas, once their staunch friend and advocate in Illinois; but the
year before he had turned against them, styling polygamy "the loathsome
ulcer of the body politic," asserting that the people of Utah were bound
by oath to recognise only the authority of Brigham Young; that they were
forming alliances with Indians and organising Danite bands to rob and
murder American citizens; and urging a rigid investigation into these
enormities. For this slander Brigham had hurled upon him the anathema
of the priesthood, in consequence of which Douglas had failed to secure
even a nomination for the high office which he sought.
And now Buchanan was in a way to draw upon himself that retribution
which must ever descend upon the foes of Israel. Brigham was at last to
unleash the dogs of war. They recalled his saying when they came into
the valley, "If they will let us alone for ten years, we will ask no
odds of Uncle Sam or the Devil." The ten years had passed and the Devil
was taking them at their word. One of them recalled the prophecy of
another inspired leader, Parley Pratt, the Archer of Paradise: "Within
ten years from now the people of this country who are not Mormons will
be entirely subdued by the Latter-day Saints or swept from the face of
the earth; and if this prophecy fails, then you may know the Book of
Mormon is not true."
Their great day was surely at hand. Their God of Battles reigned. All
through the Territory the leaders preached, prayed, and taught nothing
but war; the poets made songs only of war; and the people sang only
these. Public works and private were alike suspended, save the
manufacture of new arms, the repairing of old, and the sharpening of
sabers and bayonets.
On the way, to fire their ardour, they were met by Brigham's
proclamation. It recited that "for the last twenty-five years we have
trusted officials of the government from constables and justices to
judges, governors, and presidents, only to be scorned, held in
derision, insulted, and betrayed. Our houses have been plundered and
burned, our fields laid waste, our chief men butchered while under the
pledged faith of the government for their safety; and our families
driven from their homes to find that shelter in the wilderness and that
protection among hostile savages which were denied them in the boasted
abodes of Christianity and civilisation." It concluded by forbidding all
armed forces of every description to enter the Territory under any
pretence whatever, and declaring martial law to exist until further
notice. The little band hurried on, eager to be at the front.
The day he reached Salt Lake City, Joel Rae was made major of militia.
The following day, he attended the meeting at the tabernacle. He needed,
for reasons he did not fully explain to himself, to receive fresh
assurance of Brigham's infallibility, of his touch with the Holy Ghost,
of his goodness as well as his might; to be caught once more by the
compelling magnetism of his presence, the flash of his eye, and the
inciting tones of his voice. All this he found.
"Is there," asked Brigham, "a collision between us and the United
States? No, we have not collashed--that is the word that sounds nearest
to what I mean. But the thread is cut between us and we will never gybe
again, no, never--worlds without end. I am not going to have their
troops here to protect the priests and rabble in their efforts to drive
us from the land we possess. The Lord does not want us to be driven. He
has said to me, 'If you will assert your rights and keep my
commandments, you shall never again be brought into bondage by your
enemies.' The United States says that their army is legal, but I say
that such a statement is false as hell, and that those States are as
rotten as an old pumpkin that has been frozen seven times over and then
thawed in a harvest sun. We can't have that army here and have
peace--you might as well tell me you could make hell into a
powder-house. And so we shall melt those troops away. I promise you our
enemies shall never 'slip the bow on old Bright's neck again.'"
Joel Rae was again under the sway of his old warlike feelings. Brigham
had revived his fainting faith. He went out into the noise and hurry of
war preparations in a sort of intoxication. Underneath he never ceased
to be conscious of the dreadful specter that would not be gone--that
stood impassive and immovable as one of the mountains about him, waiting
for him to come to it and face it and live his day of reckoning,--the
day of his own judgment upon himself. But he drank thirstily of the
martial draught and lived the time in a fever of tumultuous drunkenness
to the awful truth.
He saw to it that he was never alone by day or night. Once a new thought
and a sudden hope came to him, and he had been about to pray that in the
campaign he was entering he might be killed. But a second thought
stayed him; he had no right to die until he had faced his own judgment.
The army of Israel was now well organised. It had taken all able-bodied
males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. There were a
lieutenant-general, four generals, eleven colonels, and six majors. In
addition to the Saints' own forces there were the Indians, for Brigham
had told a messenger who came to ascertain his disposition toward the
approaching army that he would "no longer hold the Indians by the
wrist." This messenger had suggested that, while the army might be kept
from entering the valley that winter, it would assuredly march in, the
following spring. Brigham's reply had not lacked the point that
sharpened most of his words.
"Before we shall suffer what we have in times gone by we will burn and
lay waste our improvements, and you will find the desert here again.
There will not be left one building, nor one foot of lumber, nor a stick
or tree or particle of grass or hay that will burn. I will lay this
valley utterly waste in the name of Israel's God. We have three years'
provisions, which we will cache, and then take to the mountains." The
messenger had returned to Fort Bridger and the measures of defense went
forward in the valley.
Forces were sent into Echo Canon, the narrow defile between the
mountains through which an army would have to pass. On the east side men
were put to building stone ramparts as a protection for riflemen. On
the west, where the side was sloping, they dug pits for the same
purpose. They also built dams to throw large bodies of water along the
west side of the canon so that an army would be forced to the east side;
and here at the top of the cliff, great quantities of boulders were
placed so that a slight leverage would suffice to hail them down upon
the army as it marched below.
When word came that the invaders had crossed the Utah line, Brigham sent
forward a copy of his proclamation and a friendly note of warning to the
officer in command. In this he directed that officer to retire from the
Territory by the same route he had entered it; adding, however, "should
you deem this impracticable and prefer to remain until spring in the
vicinity of your present position at Black's Fork or Green River, you
can do so in peace and unmolested on condition that you deposit your
arms and ammunition with Lewis Robinson, Quartermaster-General of the
Territory, and leave as soon in the spring as the roads will permit you
to march. And should you fall short of provisions they will be furnished
you upon making the proper application." The officer who received this
note had replied somewhat curtly that the forces he commanded were in
Utah by order of the President of the United States and that their
future movements would depend wholly upon orders issued by competent
military authority. Thus the issue was forced.
In addition to the defense of Echo Canon, certain aggressive moves were
made. To Joel Rae was allotted command of one of these. His orders
promised all he could wish of action. He read them and felt something
like his old truculent enthusiasm.
"You will proceed with all possible dispatch, without injuring your
animals, to the Oregon Road near the bend of Bear River, north by east
of this place. When you approach the road, send scouts ahead to
ascertain if the invading troops have passed that way. Should they have
passed, take a concealed route and get ahead of them. On ascertaining
the locality of the troops, proceed at once to annoy them in every
possible way. Use every exertion to stampede their animals and set fire
to their trains. Burn the whole country before them and on their flanks.
Keep them from sleeping, by night surprises; blockade the road by
felling trees, or destroying river fords where you can. Watch for
opportunities to set fire to the grass on their windward, so as to
envelope their trains if possible. Leave no grass before them that can
be burned. Keep your men concealed as much as possible, and guard
against surprise. God bless you and give you success.
"YOUR BROTHER IN CHRIST."
Forty-four men were placed under his command to perform this work, and
all of them were soon impressed, even to alarm, by the very evident
reliance of their leader upon the God of Israel rather than upon any
merely human wisdom of his own.
The first capture was not difficult. After an all-night ride they came
up with a supply-train of twenty-five wagons drawn by oxen. The captain
of this train was ordered to "go the other way" until he reached the
States. He started; but as he retraced his steps as often as they moved
away, they at length burned his train and left him.
And then the recklessness of the new-fledged major became manifest. He
sent one of his captains with twenty men to capture or stampede the
mules of the Tenth Regiment, while he with the remainder of his force
set off toward Sandy Fork in search of more wagon-trains. When his
scouts late in the day reported a train of twenty-six wagons, he was
advised by them that he ought not to attack it with so small a force;
but to this advice he was deaf, rebuking the men for their little faith.
He allowed the train to proceed until after dark, and then drew
cautiously near. Learning, however, that the drivers were drunk, he had
his force lie concealed for a time, fearing that they might prove
belligerent and thus compel him to shed blood, which he wished not to
At midnight the scouts reported that the train was drawn up in two lines
for the night and that all was quiet. He mounted his command and ordered
an advance. Approaching the camp, they discovered a fact that the scouts
had failed to note; a second train had joined the first, and the little
host of Israel was now confronted by twice the anticipated force. This
discovery was made too late for them to retire unobserved. The men,
however, expected their leader to make some inquiry concerning the road
and then ride on. But they had not plumbed the depth of his faith.
As the force neared the camp-fire close to the wagons, the rear of the
column was lost in the darkness. What the teamsters about the fire saw
was an apparently endless column of men advancing upon them. Their
leader halted the column, called for the captain of the train, ordered
him to have his men stack their arms, collect their property, and stand
by under guard. Dismounting from his horse, he fashioned a torch and
directed one of the drivers to apply it to the wagons, in order that
"the Gentiles might spoil the Gentiles." By the time the teamsters had
secured their personal belongings and a little stock of provisions for
immediate necessity the fifty wagons were ablaze. The following day, on
the Big Sandy, they destroyed another train and a few straggling
And so the campaign went forward. As the winter came on colder, the
scouts brought in moving tales of the enemy's discomfiture. Colonel
Alexander of the Federal forces, deciding that the canons could be
defended by the Saints, planned to approach Salt Lake City over a
roundabout route to the north. He started in heavy snow, cutting a road
through the greasewood and sage-brush. Often his men made but three
miles a day, and his supply-train was so long that sometimes half of it
would be camped for the night before the rear wagons had moved. As there
was no cavalry in the force the hosts of Israel harassed them sorely on
this march, on one day consecrating eight hundred head of their oxen and
driving them to Salt Lake.
Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the expedition, had also suffered
greatly with his forces. The early snows deprived his stock of forage,
and the unusual cold froze many oxen and mules.