Battle of Crooked River — Death of Colonel Patten —­ Defense construed into murder and treason — Muster of state forces against the “Mormons,” with orders for extermination — General Lucas, with four thousand men, menaces Far West.

April 1838–October 31, 1838

In this solemn procession we moved on for some two hours, when it was supposed we were in the neighborhood of danger. We were then ordered to dismount and leave our horses with a guard. This done, we proceeded on foot for a mile or two in search of the enemy. We had not proceeded far when, as we entered the wilderness, we were suddenly fired upon by an unknown enemy in ambush. One of our little number fell at the first fire, being mortally wounded; his name was Obanyon.[1]

At a short distance we could now behold the camp-fires of the enemy. It was now dawn of day in the eastern horizon, but darkness still hovered over the scenes of conflict. Orders were issued to form in the brush, and under cover of the trees, which was instantly done. The fire now became general on both sides, and the whole wilderness seemed one continued echo of the report of the deadly rifle.

After a few rounds of discharges, orders were given to charge the enemy in the camp. As we rushed upon them the strife became deadly, and several fell on both sides. At this instant a ball pierced the brave Colonel, David Patten, who was then at my side, and I saw him fall. [2] Being on the eve of victory, I dared not stop to look after his fate, or that of others, but rushed into the enemy’s camp. This was located on the immediate banks of Crooked River, which was here several rods wide, and not fordable. The enemy, being hard pushed, flung themselves into the stream, and struggled for the other shore. Those who reached it soon disappeared.

The firing now ceased, and the wilderness resounded with the watchword, “God and Liberty.”

Our little band, which had been thrown into some disorder, were instantly formed, and their pieces reloaded. This done, a detachment surveyed the field, to look after the wounded. I turned to Gideon Carter, who was lying on his face, and saw him die. His face was so marred and disfigured with wounds and blood that I did not recognize him then, but learned afterwards that we had mistaken him for one of the enemy, and left him on the ground in mistake. I next found David Patten, whom, a few minutes previously, I had seen fall. He could speak, but was lying on his side, pale and almost dying, a ball having pierced the lower part of his body. Many others were wounded, and some dangerously.

The enemy had left their horses, saddles, camp and baggage, in the confusion of the flight. We harnessed some of their horses and placed them before a wagon, arranged blankets therein, on which we laid those who were not able to mount a horse; this done, our whole troop mounted the horses we had taken and formed in front and rear of the wagon which bore the wounded. We then moved slowly back to the guard and horses we had left. Here we halted and readjusted the wounded. It was an awful sight to see them pale and helpless, and hear their groans. There were about six of our men wounded, and one left dead on the ground. The enemy suffered a similar loss, besides their camp, and many of their arms and military stores.

We ascertained from the prisoners whom we rescued, that the enemy consisted of about sixty marauders, headed by a Methodist preacher, named Bogart. Our posse who were actually engaged, could not have been more than fifty. At the commencement of the engagement there were three of our fellow citizens held as prisoners in their camp; they had been kidnapped from their peaceful homes the day previous. Two of these made their escape at the commencement of the engagement; the third was shot through the body in attempting to run to our lines, but fortunately recovered.

Having now arranged everything to the best advantage for the wounded, we made slowly on towards Far West. When we came within five miles of the city our express had reached there with the news of the battle, and we were met by a surgeon and others for our relief. Among those who met us here was the wife of the pale and dying Patten. Our wounded were now taken into a house, and their wounds dressed. As Mrs. Patten entered the room, and cast her eyes upon the pale and ghastly features of her husband, she burst into tears, exclaiming: “O God! O my husband! How pale you look!”

He was still able to speak, but he died that evening in the triumphs of faith. [3] The young Obanyon also died about the same time. The others recovered of their wounds, but one of them named Hendrix is still a cripple. Patten and Obanyon were buried together, under military honors; a whole people, as it were, followed them to the grave. [4] All wept, whose feelings were not too intense to find vent in tears. He was the only member of the quorum of the Twelve who had as yet found a martyr’s grave. He was a great and good man, and one who chose to lay down his life for the cause of truth and right; for this privilege he had diligently sought and prayed; “for,” said he, “I had rather die than live to see it thus in my country.”

But, to return to the main thread of my narrative: having conveyed the wounded to their place of hospitality, the posse hastened to Far West, and delivered the spoils of the enemy to the colonel of the regiment, who afterwards delivered them to the higher civil or military authorities of the State.

These several defeats of the insurrectionists in Davies County, as well as in Caldwell County, checked for a time their ruinous ravages. They saw that it was impossible to conquer a people who were fighting for their homes, their wives and children, as well as for their country and conscience, unless they could come against them with some show of authority; for it had become an established fact that the people of the Saints never resisted authority, however abused.

The next exertion of the enemy was to spread lies and falsehoods of the most alarming character. All our acts of defense were construed into insurrection, treason, murder and plunder. In short, the public were deceived by bigotry, priestcraft, and a corrupt press, and made to look upon all our acts of defense precisely as they would look upon the same acts performed, without cause or provocation, upon peaceable citizens. Murderous gangs were construed into peaceable militia in the State service, and to resist them was, on the part of the Saints, murder, treason and robbery. And, finally, the whole was treated abroad as the “Mormon insurrection,”“Mormon war,” etc.

And, as if this were not enough, parties set fire to their own houses, or that of their neighbors, and then laid it to the Saints.

Whole neighborhoods were falsely alarmed, or rather really alarmed, by the doings of these bandits; and in their fright they fled to more distant places of security, and clamored loudly to the State authorities for protection from the “Mormons,” whom they represented as burning, plundering, and destroying all before them. While they were simply standing on their own ground and maintaining the defensive, and this, too, in the last extreme, and not till they were abandoned by every department of the State Government.

This flame was greatly assisted by several dissenters from the Church through fear, or for love of power and gain. These dissenters became even more false, hardened, and bloodthirsty than those who had never known the way of righteousness. Many of them joined the enemy, and were the leaders in all manner of lying, murder and plunder. The Governor and ex-mobber, Lilburn W. Boggs, who had long sought some opportunity to destroy us, and drive us from the State, now issued an order for some ten thousand troops to be mustered into service and marched to the field against the “Mormons.” He gave the command of this formidable force to General Clark, who lived, perhaps, a hundred and fifty miles or more from the scene of trouble. The order was expressly to exterminate the “Mormons,” or drive them from the State. [5]

It said nothing of criminals; it made no allusion to punishing crime and protecting innocence; it was sufficient to be called a “Mormon.” A peaceable family just emigrating, or passing through the country; a missionary going or coming on his peaceable errand of mercy; an aged soldier of the American revolution on his death bed, or leaning on his staff in the chimney corner; a widow with her babes; the tender wife, or helpless orphan; all were included in this order of wholesale extermination or banishment. It was enough that they believed as Mormon did; or that they were members of the Church of the Saints.

So did the order read, and so it was construed by the officers and soldiers entrusted with its execution. On the other hand, all the bandits, murderers, robbers, thieves, and house burners who had mobbed our people for the five years previous, were now converted into orderly, loyal, patriotic State militia, and mustered into service under pay, or suffered to murder people of every age and sex, and plunder them on their own hook wherever they chose, provided they were considered “Mormons.”

While General Clark was mustering his forces for this wholesale murder and treason, Major General D. Lucas and Brigadier General Moses Wilson, who were well known as the old leaders of the former outrages in Jackson County, under this same Boggs — being nearer the scene of action, and wishing to share the plunder and immortalize their names — put themselves at the head of all the old mobbers of Jackson County they could muster, and all those bandits who had more lately infested the counties of Carroll, Davies and Caldwell, and such other militia as they could muster, and marched directly for the City of Far West, where they arrived while General Clark and his forces were several days’ journey from the scene of action. The army of Lucas, thus mustered and marched, consisted of some three or four thousand men.

In the meantime the Governor’s orders and these military movements were kept an entire secret from the citizens of Caldwell and Davies, who were suffering all this oppression from lawless outrages; even the mail was withheld from Far West. We had only heard that large bodies of armed men were approaching from the south, and we had sent a hundred and fifty men with a flag of truce to make inquiries. While they were absent on this mission an alarm came to town that the whole county to the south was filled with armed men, who were murdering, plundering, and taking peaceful citizens prisoners in their own houses. On the receipt of this intelligence every man flew to arms for the protection of our city.

It was now towards evening, and we had heard nothing from the reconnoitering company who went south in the morning. While we stood in our armor, gazing to the south in anxious suspense, we beheld an army of cavalry with a long train of baggage wagons advancing over the hills, at two miles distance. At first we conjectured it might be our little troop with the flag of truce; but we soon saw that there were thousands of them. Our next thought was that it might be some friendly troops sent for our protection; and then again we thought it might be a concentration of all the bandit forces combined for our destruction.

At all events, there was no time to be lost; for, although our force then present did not exceed five hundred men, yet we did not intend that they should enter the town without giving some account of themselves. We accordingly marched out upon the plains on the south of the city and formed in order of battle. Our line of infantry extended near half a mile. A small company of horses was posted on our right wing on a commanding eminence, and another small company in the rear of our main body, intended as a kind of reserve.

By this time the sun was near setting, and the advance of the unknown army had come within plain view, at less than one mile distant. On seeing our forces presenting a small but formidable front, they came to a halt, and formed along the borders of a stream called Goose Creek.

Both parties sent out a white flag, which met between the armies. Our messenger demanded to know who they were, and what were their intentions? The reply was: “We want three persons out of the city before we massacre the rest!” This was a very alarming and unexpected answer. But they were soon prevailed on to suspend hostilities till morning, by which time we were in hopes to receive some further and more satisfactory information. The enemy, under the command of Major General D. Lucas, [6] of Jackson County mob memory, then commenced their encampment for the night. Our troops continued under arms during the night. The company of a hundred and fifty soon returned from the south, informing us that they had been hemmed in by the enemy during the day, and only escaped by their superior knowledge of the ground.

We also sent an express to Davies County, and by morning were reinforced by quite a number of troops, under the command of Colonel L. White. [7] In the meantime a noted company of banditti, under the command of Cornelius Gillum, who had long infested our borders, and been notorious for their murders and daring robberies, and who painted themselves as Indian warriors, came pouring in from the West to strengthen the camp of the enemy.

Another company of murderers came in from Carroll County, and were taken into the ranks of Lucas, after murdering some eighteen or twenty of our citizens (men, women and children) at Haun’s Mill, of which particulars will be given hereafter.

[8] Thus both parties were considerably reinforced during the night. The citizens of Far West being determined, if attacked, to defend their homes, wives and children to the last, spent the night in throwing up a temporary breastwork of building timber, logs, rails, floor plank, etc.

In the morning the south side of the city was thus fortified, and also a considerable portion of the east and west sides — the whole line extending a mile and a half.


[1] Patrick O’Banion (Smith, History of the Church, 3:170).

[2] David Patten was killed on October 25, 1838. Gideon Carter, Patrick O’Banion, and one Missourian were killed in this skirmish. Express riders Wiley C. Williams and Amos Reese rode two hundred miles to Jefferson City, delivering exaggerated reports to the office of Governor Boggs. One report stated, “The Mormon armed force had attacked Captain Bogart this morning at daylight, and had cut off his whole company of fifty men … one of the company (Bogart’s) has come in and reported that there were ten of his comrades killed and the remainder were taken prisoners, after many of them had been severely wounded; he stated further that Richmond would be sacked and burned by the Mormon banditti tonight” (Smith, History of the Church, 3:172). Sashel Woods and Joseph Dickson reported to Boggs that they had learned that “Captain Bogart and all his company, amounting to between fifty and sixty men were massacred by the Mormons … This statement you may rely on as being true and last night they expected Richmond to be laid in ashes this morning … We know not the hour or minute we will be laid in ashes—our country is ruined—for God’s sake give us assistance as quick as possible” (Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:477). Boggs received these reports on October 26, 1838. The following day he issued his infamous extermination order. 

[3] The Prophet Joseph recorded: “Brother David Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he had lived, a man of God, and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection, in a world where mobs will have no power or place. One of his last expressions to his wife was — ‘Whatever you do else, O! do not deny the faith!’” (Smith, History of the Church, 3:171).

[4] David Patten, Patrick O’Banion, and Gideon Carter were buried in the Far West Cemetery, located about one mile west of the city. Approximately three hundred Saints were buried in this cemetery, which was subsequently ploughed under as part of a farmer’s field.

[5] It appears from other records and journals that the number of militia, or “the Missouri mob,” as Lucy Mack Smith called them, was more in the range of 3,000 to 3,500 men. Governor Boggs’s executive order was issued to General John B. Clark on October 27, 1838, and stated in part: “I have received by Amos Rees, Esq., and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids, information of the most appalling character, which changes the whole face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made open war upon the people of this state … The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good. Their outrages are beyond all description” (Smith, History of the Church, 3:175).

[6] Samuel D. Lucas was an avowed enemy of the Saints and former mobster in Jackson County.

[7] Lyman Wight was later imprisoned with the Prophet and Hyrum in Liberty Jail.

[8] The Haun’s Mill Massacre took place on October 30, 1838. The Joseph Young account appears in chapter 24.