Available at Barnes and Noble

Available at Barnes and Noble

231 pages of story, 127 pages of end notes.  Yow.

This is a thoroughly documented story of what happened, who the major players were, and who really was responsible for what happened.

The effort put into the story show that this book was a labor of love in memory of the victims of the tragedy.  The book is actually dedicated to them.

Unfortunately, the book paints a much darker portrait of what happened in 1857 than previous works have done.  Such is the result of a comprehensive search for the truth.

The horrible and unflattering picture that was painted lends to the credibility of the story.  It was a joint effort between an independent writer of LDS History (Ronald W. Walker), an assistant LDS Church Historian (Richard E. Turley, Jr.) and a former director of the LDS Museum of Church History and Art (Glen M. Leonard).  For these three people to write this story adds a lot of credibility to the tale because it is not very often that people will admit to the dark parts of their own collective past.  This story is a sad tale for sure.

Juanita Brooks book was reviewed by me earlier this month here, and the new book picks up many of the facts and stories lost to history.  Due to a more complete historical record, the story as it was told has now changed dramatically in the face of recently uncovered facts from the past.

Brooks believed (because there were no documents available to the contrary) that the indians were ispired by Brigham Young’s new policy to attack the wagon train and it did not go well so the local militia was called in to help in order to keep peace with the indians.  Higher authorities prevailed on Lee to do the dastardly deed and Lee took the ultimate blame for it when there were many others also to blame.

The new book shows a much worse picture of what happened.  The traveling wagon train had some troubles with the locals on the way down south and a couple trouble makers made some trouble in Cedar City and had escaped justice in the form of arrest in the city.  They were not representative of the rest of the train, but were traveling with the train.  The Cedar City local leader and John D. Lee planned to incite the local indian population to attack the wagon train as a designated point, kill the men, and take the cattle for use by the southern Mormon settlers.  In short, a conspiracy to commit murder for gain.

As the plan progressed, indians were massed and the intentions were going forward.  After camping north of the wagon train, one of the indian chiefs had a dream where he had blood on his hands and Lee claimed it meant victory was assured and they accelerated the plan for attack.  The original plan was to attack the train farther south in a narrower canyon, but with the dream and the excitement of the moment, Lee organized an attack on the settlers where they were camped.  The newly made plan was to attack before dawn while the settlers were still asleep to take them by surprise and make quick work of it.   Whatever the reasons, the first attack happened too late, too slow, and was very ineffective.  Some of the members of the wagon train were away on other business and were either killed or wounded on their way back to the encampment.  It would be clear to the people under siege that white men were involved in the attack.

The local authorities made the calculated decision that in order to avoid greater responsibility and not cause possible repurcussions from California and the Nation, to kill all of the emigrants using the local militia to avoid witnesses.  They also chose to spare 17 little children.

Parawan was the local militia superior command post, so the Cedar City leader went North to get an order to finish up the business.  There was very little documented evidence about what exactly was decided.  A formal council was held and determined to let the wagon train handle the problem but to help them if they sought help.  [Ironically, the wagon train already sent people out for help who were then shot and killed immediately].  A private meeting after the council was held between the two leaders from Cedar City and Parawan.  The story hints that the leader in Parawan was decieved with regard to the success of the first attack and how many survivors were pinned down in the siege.  It appears that the leader in Parawan gave an order to use the militia to finish cleaning up the mess for the above mentioned reasons, to avoid national repercussions, the known involvement of Mormons in the attack, and (mistakenly) the number of survivors to be disposed of.

After the massacre, the Parawan leader was sickened and said that he had no idea there were so many and the Cedar City leader said that he should not have ordered it then.  There were other whispered words exchanged out of ear shot of others and the two leaders certainly did not want others to know the contents of their private conversations.  There was certainly some anger and frustration expressed between the two.  To me at least, it points to some deceptive reporting by the Cedar City leader to the Parawan leader.

The final massacre happened pretty much as Brooks described it in her book, but more details are provided with regard to the final meetings and process.  The one man charged with issuing the cue to begin the killing delayed his order for almost a quarter mile past the point where the order was supposed to be given.  

The authors of the book did their best to reconstruct exactly who was in the wagon train as well as naming names of who was present for the massacre.  This book is very well documented and an effort to put the whole truth out there regarding what happened.

Instead of mistaken indians and a reluctant John D. Lee and other local authorities, it tells a story of a plotting Lee and local authorities who planned to use the indians for their own ends.  It is sickening, saddening, and a shame to hear.

The book is well documented with many quotes and notes from primary sources.   

I highly suggest reading this book if you want to know a lot more about the truth of what happened at Moutain Meadows in September 1857.

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