Mountain Meadows massacre
Who killed the emigrants?
Here are some postings speculating on who did the killing. First, MountainMeadowsMassacre.com:
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
How did the massacre happen?
After the Fancher party left Cedar City, frustrated with the refusal of local Mormons to sell them needed goods, they continued southwest through the mountain pass called Mountain Meadows. There they were attacked by Mormon assailants, some of them killed. The remaining emigrants pulled their wagons into a tight circle for protection. Over the next five days, the emigrants were held at siege in their wagon circle. During this period they were attacked two more times.
On September 11, 1857, John D. Lee entered the wagon circle with a white flag, convincing the emigrants to surrender peacefully. Required to put down their guns, the women and children were escorted out first, then the men and boys. Each man and boy was escorted by an armed militiaman.
They walked about a mile when, upon a predetermined signal, the militiamen turned and fired on each man and boy. Indians who had been convinced to participate in the massacre came out from their hiding places to attack the women and children.
Mountain Meadows massacre
After the massacre, local leaders attempted to portray the killings as solely the act of Indians. This effort began almost immediately, with John D. Lee's report to Brigham Young. It wasn't long, however, before charges started to surface that Indians were not the only participants, but that there were whites involved. Responding to the charges that whites were involved, Brigham Young urged Governor Cumming to investigate the matter fully. However, the governor maintained that if whites were involved, they would be pardoned under the general amnesty granted by the governor to the Mormons in June 1858. This amnesty was issued at the behest of U.S. President James Buchanan, and covered all hostile acts against the United States by any persons in the course of the Utah War.
Sally Denton, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857. This book attempts to show that no Indians had anything to do with the massacre, but that every part of it was carried out exclusively by white men. This also repeats a nineteenth-century theme; Mark Twain in Roughing It implied that the Indian participants in the massacre were really white men "tricked out" as Indians.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
On Friday, September 11, Lee entered the emigrant wagon fort under a white flag and somehow convinced the besieged emigrants to accept desperate terms. He said the militia would safely escort them past the Indians and back to Cedar City, but they must leave their possessions behind and give up their weapons, signaling their peaceful intentions to the Indians. The suspicious emigrants debated what to do but in the end accepted the terms, seeing no better alternative. They had been pinned down for days with little water, the wounded in their midst were dying, and they did not have enough ammunition to fend off even one more attack.
As directed, the youngest children and wounded left the wagon corral first, driven in two wagons, followed by women and children on foot. The men and older boys filed out last, each escorted by an armed militiaman. The procession marched for a mile or so until, at a prearranged signal, each militiaman turned and shot the emigrant next to him, while Indians rushed from their hiding place to attack the terrified women and children. Militiamen with the two front-running wagons murdered the wounded. Despite plans to pin the massacre on the Paiutes—and persistent subsequent efforts to do so—Nephi Johnson later maintained that his fellow militiamen did most of the killing.
The Native viewpoint
Now here's a posting that explains how and why Indians were blamed even though the evidence suggests they weren't killers:
September 11 Significant to Utah Native Americans
By Mike Taylor
Even though the women, men and children were killed by guns and the Paiutes and area Indians didn’t have guns, local Mormons believed their church leaders and hated us for the massacre. For 150 years, they called Indians in the area wagon burners and baby killers. Insults were freely lobbed at us. The history sites, monuments, culture centers, schoolbooks and museums placed the blame for the massacre on local Paiutes.
Official Mormon history said the Paiutes had forced reluctant Mormons into the massacre. However, the Paiutes were hardly warriors; they were a dispersed root-digging people who could not even stop frequent slave raids from Mexicans, Utes and Navajos. Historians agree that the largest war party the Paiutes had ever amassed in history consisted of a mere 12 individuals. Yet the official Mormon account says that hundreds of enraged Paiute warriors had threatened the very existence of the large, well-armed Mormon settlements and had forced Mormon involvement in the massacre.
The consensus among historians is that deception was necessary to protect the direct complicity of Mormon prophet Brigham Young in the massacre and to protect their religion. The Book of Mormon also teaches that Indians are not the original inhabitants of America; rather we are the apostate Lamanites who had wiped off a white race called the Nephites who lived in America before the Indians. The Nephites were, according to the Mormon religion, a cultured, white people who were on God’s side. And the Lamanites are the sinful, dark-skinned Indians who had wiped off this entire white race in America that occupied this land before the Indian Lamanites arrived from Israel.
That didn’t help, and Mountain Meadows didn’t help either. Store owners, cashiers, farmers, ranchers, local employers and others righteously treated us badly. After all, they believed we had massacred innocent white women and children at Mountain Meadows. Just like the Arabs are despised in America for 9/11, we were despised in Southern Utah for the massacre on 9/11 of 1857. For 150 years. Until as recently as 2007.
That’s when the Mormon Church expressed regrets to Indians and admitted that it was the church leaders and members who had committed the massacre and had blamed it on Indians. But this “regret” wasn’t widely disseminated. And in private communication to its members, the church continues to strongly implicate Indians in the massacre. The church concedes that the Mormons killed the men but as of the present insists that Indians clubbed all women and children to death. However, forensic pathologist Shannon Novak and her team found bullet holes in the skulls of women and children, which ran counter to the church’s claim that the Paiutes clubbed them to death.
For more on the Mormon view of Indians, see:
Indians inspired Mormonism
Mormon action figures
View of the Hebrews
Lamanites = "filthy people"
Mormon leaders made a mistake