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The Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Matt. 5:10-12. 

Recorded below is the story of his murder in the second story building where he was jailed in Carthage Illinois, in 1844, taken from the Book "The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo."

"Late in the afternoon Mr. Stigall, the jailor, came in and suggested that they would be safer in the cells. Joseph told him they would go in after supper. Turning to Elder Richards the Prophet said; "If we go to the cell will you go in with us?"

Elder Richard. "Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you [referring to the time when they crossed the Mississippi, en route for the Rocky Mountains]-you did not ask me to come to Carthage-you did not ask me to come to jail with you-and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free."

Joseph. "But you cannot."

Richards. "I will, though."

B. H. Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1900], 312.)This conversation took place a little after five o'clock, and very soon afterwards the attack was made on the jail. It appears that a crowd came from the direction of Warsaw that evidently had an understanding with the Carthage Greys and the members of that company on guard at the jail, since the latter, without question, had but blank cartridges in their guns; and the attack was made under the very eyes of the rest of the company encamped but two or three hundred yards away on the public square, and they made no effort whatever to prevent the assaults on the prison.

The guard at the jail played their part well. They fired blank shots at the advancing mob, or discharged their pieces in the air. They were "overpowered"(?), and the prison was in the hands of an infuriated mob. A rush was made for the room where the prisoners were lodged, and a shower of lead was sent in through the door and the windows from those on the outside.

As no account that I could possibly write would equal that given by an eye-witness of the whole transaction, I here quote entire the account of the tragedy by Elder Willard Richards, as it appeared in the Times and Seasons soon after the event, under the caption,


A shower of musket balls was thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps.

While Generals Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Mr. Taylor and myself, who were in the front chamber, closed the door of our room against the entry at the head of the stairs, and placed ourselves against it, there being no lock on the door, and no catch that was unsealable.

The door is a common panel, and as soon as we heard the feet at the stair's head, a ball was sent through the door, which passed between us, and showed that our enemies were desperadoes and we must change our position.

General Joseph Smith, Mr. Taylor and myself sprang back to the front part of the room. General Hyrum Smith retreated two-thirds across the chamber directly in front of and facing the door. A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extending at full length without moving his feet. From the holes in his vest (the day was warm and no one had their coats on but myself) pantaloons, drawers, and shirt, it appeared that a ball must have been thrown from without through the window, which entered the back of his right side, and passing through, lodged against his watch, which was in the right vest pocket, completely pulverizing the crystal and face, tearing off the hands and mashing the whole body of the watch. At the same instant the ball from the door entered his nose.

As he struck the floor he exclaimed emphatically, "I am a dead man." Joseph looked towards him and responded, "Oh dear! Brother Hyrum," and opening the door two or three inches with his left hand, discharged one barrel of a six-shooter (the pistol left him by C. H. Wheelock) at random in the entry, from whence a ball grazed Hyrum's breast, and entering his throat passed into his head, while other muskets were aimed at him as some balls hit him.

Joseph continued snapping his revolver round the casing of the door into the space as before, three barrels of which missed fire, while Mr. Taylor with a walking stick stood by his side and knocked down the bayonets and muskets, which were constantly discharging through the doorway, while I stood by him ready to lend any assistance, with another stick, but could not come within striking distance without going directly in front of the muzzles of the guns.

When the revolver failed, we had no more firearms, and expected an immediate rush of the mob, and the doorway full of muskets half way in the room, and no hope but instant death from within. Mr. Taylor rushed into the window, which is some fifteen or twenty feet from the ground. When his body was nearly on a balance, a ball from the door within entered his leg, and a ball from without struck his watch, a patent lever, in his vest pocket near his left breast, and smashed it into "pie," leaving the hands standing at five o'clock, sixteen minutes, and twenty-six seconds, the force of which ball threw him back on the floor, and he rolled under the bed which stood by his side, where he lay motionless, the mob continuing to fire upon him, cutting away a piece of flesh from his left hip as large as a man's hand, and were hindered only by my knocking down their muzzles with a stick; while they continued to reach their guns into the room, probably left handed, and aimed their discharge so far round as almost to reach us in the corner of the room to where we retreated and dodged, and there I commenced the attack with my stick.

Joseph attempted as a last resort to leap the same window from which Mr. Taylor fell, when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he fell outward exclaiming, "O Lord, my God!" As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all round. He fell on his left side a dead man. At this instant the cry was raised, "He's leaped the window," and the mob on the stairs and in the entry ran out.

I withdrew from the window thinking it no use to leap out on a hundred bayonets, then round Gen. Smith's body. Not satisfied with this, I again reached my head out of the window, and watched some seconds to see if there were any signs of life, regardless of my own, determined to see the end of him I loved. Being fully satisfied that he was dead, with a hundred men near his body and more coming round the corner of the jail, and expecting a return to our room, I rushed toward the prison door at the head of the stairs, and through the entry from whence the firing had proceeded, to learn if the doors into the prison were open. When near the entry Mr. Taylor cried out "Take me!" I pressed my way until I found all doors unbarred, returning instantly, caught Mr. Taylor under my arm, and rushed up the stairs into the dungeon, or inner prison, stretched him on the floor and covered him with a bed in such a manner as not likely to be perceived, expecting an immediate return of the mob. I said to Mr. Taylor, "This is a hard case to lay you on the floor, but if your wounds are not fatal, I want you to live to tell the story." I expected to be shot the next moment, and stood before the doors awaiting the onset.

There was, however, no further onset made on the jail.

Three minutes after the attack was commenced, Hyrum Smith lay stretched out on the floor of the prison dead, Elder Taylor lay not far from him savagely wounded, the Prophet was lying by the side of the well curb, fn just under the window from which he had attempted to leap, the plighted faith of a State was broken, its honor trailed in the dust, and a stain of innocent blood affixed to its escutcheon which shall remain a disgrace forever.

When it was known that the Prophet was killed, consternation seemed to seize the mob and they fled, for the most part, in the direction of Warsaw, in the utmost confusion. Such wild confusion reigned in Carthage that it was nearly midnight before Elder Richards could obtain any help or refreshments for Elder Taylor. At last the wounded man was taken to the Hamilton House and his wounds dressed. The bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were also taken to the same place and laid out."

It was not just a hot headed act of a thoughtless, unruly mob which killed Joseph, it was pre-meditated.   The guards of the prison who were supposed to be defending Joseph were firing blanks into the crowd, and were themselves uninjured.  The mob expressed no fear of the guards, made no attempt to fire back at the guards and simply walked past them on the way to the jail.  The people on the ground had no way of seeing all the action going on in the second story room,  other than to hear all the gun discharges, but they quickly fired from the ground when they first saw Hyrum Smith, then John Taylor, and finally Joseph Smith in the window.




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