Interlude : Fallout from the Mountain Meadows

Please read the email for details

Thoughts on what really Happened

First off, the players should feel very proud. In the real world, there were about a dozen children reunited by 1859 – but no one was arrested until 1874, and only one person was ever convicted. Your efforts accelerated the process, and the (first) convictions and executions happened within two years of the incident.

IRL the first published report is made by Major Carleton in spring 1859. The territorial government conducts follow-up interviews of several dozen militiamen (mostly anonymously). A federal judge publishes summaries of the interviews in late 1859 and names seven people as the “most guilty”. But the territory government and Buchanan’s administration are unsteady and weak, and nothing is done about it.

The incident lies dormant for over 10 years. Media attention and newspaper interest in the case picks back up in 1872. The incident is included in several popular books of western history, including ones by Mark Twain and T.B.H. Steinhouse.

The Utah state government reopens the case in 1874. Indictments are put out for nine people – five are arrested. $500 rewards are put out for the other four, but they are never arrested.

Four of the arrested militiamen are quickly released. Klingsmen turns state’s evidence. The prosecution elects not to proceed against Colonel Dame, Eliott Wilden & George Adair due to insufficient evidence.

Only John Lee goes to trial. His first trial in 1875 leads to a hung jury, and a second trial starts a year later in September 1876. He goes against the advice of counsel and makes only minimal attempts to defend himself – including allowing prior statements into testimony, minimal cross-examination of the witnesses, and presenting no defense of his own. He is convicted and sentenced to death.

While waiting for his execution, he publishes a book “The Confessions of John Lee”. He acknowledges his role in the assault on the camp, but complains that he is being scapegoated and the real masterminds are escaping justice. Most provocatively, he claims that George Smith (one of the “twelve apostles”, the governing body of the church) was sent from Salt Lake to Iron County specifically to engineer and direct the massacre.
Lee is the only person punished for his part in the massacre. The others (including the fourteen so-called “Self-Confessed” who made public confessions of their crimes) live quiet lives, many into the 1880s and a few into the early 1900s.


Rewards & Consequences

Read the letter for your choices – here is what people have picked.

Garrett Matthews (Kevin) : “Secret” – H. Hazard
Gilbert Warfield (John) : Colt Special Revolver
Jess Connor (Dave) : “Secret” – Michael Donahue (brother of Peter)
Jane Wilson (Judi) : none
John Jost Althaus (Greg) : none
Samuel Davis (Daniel) : none


The Report

Major James Carleton presented his findings on the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Salt Lake in early November during closed session of the military judge advocates and federal territory administration.

Following the report, Indian Superintendent Jacob Forney presented a summary statement naming Major John Higbee, Major John Lee, Major Isaac Haight and four other members of the Mountain Iron County Battalion (Ira Hatch, Philip Klingensmith, David Tullis, William Davies) as “most guilty” in the massacre.

Conspicuous by their absence from Forney’s statement are Col William Dame (commander of the district) and Jacob Hamblin (owner of Mountain Meadows) as well as anyone from outside of Iron County.

Federal judge John Cradlebaugh issues arrest warrants for all seven men, and Governor Alfred Cummings authorizes the U.S. Army to arrest the men. Gen A.S. Johnston names Lt Alfred Cumming (nephew of the governor) to head the round up.


Crime & Punishment

John Lee – commander 4th battalion. Turns himself in to Cumming personally, and makes a full confession including the fact that he personally led the last negotiation that convinced the women and children to separate from the men. He does not deny his guilt – but says that Davies is innocent, and everything he is accused of was actually Klingensmith. He is hanged by March.

John Higbee – commander 3rd battalion. Flees the county, leaving his wives (Mary and Eunice) and children abandoned in Cedar City. Four weeks later, he is found unconscious outside the Cedar City sheriff’s office. He is has been repeatedly beaten, his trigger finger cutoff, his eyes gouged and scalped. He dies three days later, never having regained consciousness.

Isaac Haight – commander 2nd battalion. Flees with half the Iron County sheriff’s department. He’s rumored to be hiding out in the Mexican territory under aliases with the two junior officers (Bill Stewart & Joel White) who were in charge of “sweeping the field” to take care of anyone missed by the fusillade and likely to escape the meadow. They are believed to be living off money they looted from the bodies.

Ira Hatch – Indian interpreter. Interviews and further evidence confirms that he was the main communications conduit between the Mormon and Paiute groups during the planning, and likely served as their actual paymaster. Unfortunately Hatch left Iron County in the spring of 1858 on a missionary trip to convert the Lamanites along the Colorado River. He’s believed to be working and living among the Hopi mesas.

Philip Klingensmith – bishop, private & provocateur. Holes up with his family on his ranch. After a three-day standoff, fire erupts in the middle of the night – one of his wives and three children die, two are severely burned but live. Klingensmith is arrested and turns state’s evidence. His testimony leads to reuniting 11 children (the only survivors) and the recovery of $5,000 in livestock and property. He also names several additional men who lead the charge and were responsible for the especially grisly parts. He’s sentenced to five years hard labor, and shipped back east to Leavenworth.

David Tullis – Indian interpreter. He is arrested, but further investigation shows that his main part was watching Mountain Meadow and informing Lee when the emigrants had reached the meadow. He was “ill” during the following few days, and did not participate in the final days of the massacre. He is acquitted – though rumor has it that one of the recovered children (5-year old Rebecca Dunlap) tells everyone that “an Englishman named Tullis” killed her parents.

William Davies – bishop & adjutant to Lee. The 52-year-old Davies is arrested quietly in his home. At trial he presents evidence that he was at Fort Harmony during the attack. Davies and Lee both claim his innocence, saying that he was only fulfilling his routine responsibilities for tracking immigrant traffic and Indian movements, and had no knowledge of any other plans. Klingensmith testifies that he was not only aware of the attack but responsible for the planning and operational logistics of each phase, and that he worked as paymaster for the Indians. Lt Cumming provides documents with Davies signature supporting the testimony. Davies is convicted and executed shortly after Lee.


The U.S. Army

Spring 1859 sees several major realignments in military forces in the west.

The 70-year-old Newman Clarke (commander, Dept of California) suffers a stroke, and is persuaded to retire by Gen Scott. He is convalescing at the army hospital in the Presidio in San Francisco.

Gen Scott names A.S. Johnston for promotion to full Brigadier General, and as commander Dept of California. Johnston makes several changes.

• He brings his “Texian Rifles Battalion” with him to the Presidio at San Francisco. These are scout/sniper light infantry, with an officer & non-com core that date back to his time in the Texas Revolution.
• James Carleton is promoted to full Major (from brevet). His commission expands to include the protection of traffic on the southern end of the El Camino Viejo (from Buena Vista Lake to the Tejon Pass and south to Los Angeles & San Pedro Bay) and the southernwestern end of the Los Angeles/Salt Lake road from Vegas Valley to Los Angeles. He establishes two camps in the Mojave in 1859 – Camp Cady along the Mojave River, and Camp Bitter Springs to the northeast to support extended patrols in the deep desert.
• Capt William Hoffman is detached from Fort Harmony and reassigned to California. He is instructed to build “Fort Mojave” at the junction of Beale’s Crossing and the Colorado River and scout and survey an improved trail through the desert from the crossing to a junction with the LA/SLT road at Camp Cady.

Charles Ferguson Smith, Johnston’s 2nd in command, is breveted to brigadier, and named as commander Dept of Utah. Camp Floyd has a draw down in troops, from three thousand down to a permanent force of 500. 500 travel to California with Johnston, 500 return to Leavenworth, two hundred move south to reinforce Carleton & Hoffman, and the remaining thirteen hundred are mustered out and settle in the west.