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.