Mormon History, June 27, 1844

-- June 27, 1844
[Joseph Smith] 4:15 P.M. Joseph talks to the guards about Joseph H. Jackson, William Law, Wilson Law, and others.

5:00 P.M. Jailor Stigall returns to the jail and tells the prisoners that Stephen Markham has been run out of town. Stigall suggests that the prisoners would be safer in the cell, and Joseph says that they will go in after supper. About this time a mob of about 150, made up of the disbanded militia and others, begins to march to Carthage chanting:"Where now is the Prophet Joseph?Where now is the Prophet Joseph?Where now is the Prophet Joseph?Safe in Carthage Jail!" (Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church (6 volumes) 2:281.)Joseph asks Willard Richards if he wants to go into the cell with him, and Richards answers, "Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you 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 says, "You cannot
." Richards answers, "I will." The jailer's son brings in some water. The guard sends him for some wine. Soon afterwards, the guard brings in some wine and pipes. Joseph, John Taylor, and Willard Richards taste it and give the bottle back to the guard. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (7 volumes) 6:616.) (1)

[Joseph Smith] 5:16 P.M. The guard is called downstairs, where there is a sudden noise and a cry of surrender, followed by two or three gunshots. Willard Richards looks out the window and sees a hundred men with painted faces. The guards fire at the mob (some say they fired above the mob; others say their guns had blanks). The mob runs up the stairs, opens the door, and begins firing. At the same time shots come through the window. The four prisoners push the door shut, and try to knock down the guns sticking through the door. John Taylor uses Markham's large hickory cane, called "the rascal-beater," and Willard Richards uses Taylor's cane. Joseph grabs his six-shooter, and Hyrum grabs his single barrel. A bullet goes through the door and hits Hyrum on the left side of the nose. He falls back saying, "I am a dead man!" Another ball coming through the window hits him in the back almost simultaneously. Two other balls also hit him as he falls dead. Joseph cries "Oh dear, brothe
r Hyrum!" He fireshis six-shooter down the stairway; two or three shots misfire. The mobbers retreat momentarily and then come back up the stairs and open fire again. John Taylor tries to fight off the rifles and bayonets with his cane, but he is hit time after time. He eventually falls and rolls under a bed for safety, but not until he is hit with five balls. One pierces his stopwatch, stopping it at 5:16. Joseph is also hit with one or two balls. He jumps to the window, pauses for a moment, and cries, "Oh Lord, my God!" and falls. Some reports state that he was still alive when he hit the ground, that he lifted himself up and was shot again. Others state that a man tried to cut off his head but his arm was paralyzed. The cry goes up that "he's leaped the window!"The mob runs down the stairs to see him. During this time, Willard Richards pulls John Taylor's body into the next cell and hides him under a mattress. In all of the shooting, Richards has only been nicked in the e
ar, which, it is said, fulfills a prophecy given by Joseph over a year previously that "balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and left, but . . . there should not be a hole in his garment." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (7 volumes) 6:616-22. Several have argued that Joseph's final words were a Masonic distress signal. See Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church (6 volumes) 2:287; Brigham Young University Studies (various issues), W '68, 213-14; Cecil E. McGavin, Mormonism and Masonry 15-30.)Some go back up into the room but cannot find Willard Richards or John Taylor. The cry goes up that "the Mormons are coming!" and the mob flees to the woods. Most of the town joins them before dawn. Eventually Richards carries Joseph's body back into jail. Ten of the twelve apostles at this time were in various cities in the East. Several of them record that they had definite feelings of depres
sion at a certain time, and later found it to be the same time Joseph had been shot. (1)

-- Jun 27, 1844
(About 5pm) Joseph Smith (38), Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards attacked in Carthage Jail by mob of 250 or more militiamen from Warsaw, IL with faces painted black. Hyrum Smith killed first with a shot to the head. Joseph Smith shoots and kills two of his assailants and wounds a third with a gun (smuggled by Cyrus Wheelock); Joseph Smith makes Masonic sign for distress before shot and killed. Was carrying Jupiter Talisman. John Taylor badly wounded, taking four bullets; Willard Richards only nicked on ear and cheek. (2)

-- Jun 27, 1844, Thursday
[William Clayton Writings] On the afternoon of the 27th, the governor disbanded his troops except his body-guard; and, leaving the brethern in jail under the charge of the Carthage Greys, some of their bitterest enemies, he came out to Nauvoo and made a harsh address to the people.

When he left Carthage a body of men collected from Nauvoo and started for Carthage, and when within a few miles they stopped to black their faces. They proceeded through the woods to the north side of Carthage; then, leaving the woods, they went to the jail, and the doors being open, they rushed up stairs with their rifles and muskets and commenced firing into the room. The brethern defended themselves as well as they could; but, having no arms, they were soon over-powered. Hyrum was shot through the head and fell backwards dead. John Taylor had four balls shot into him. Joseph jumped through the window and was immediately surrounded by the mob. They raised him up and set him against the well-curb; but as yet it appears he had not been hit with a ball. However, four of the mob immediately drew their guns and shot him dead. This was all the work of about two minutes. The mob then fled as fast as possible. A messenger was dispatched to bring the news to Nauvoo, but was met by
the governor and taken back for fear the whole city would rush out and desolate the country. (3)

1 - Conklin, Christopher J., Joseph Smith Chronology
2 - Tidd, N. R., "Mormon Chronology"
3 - Fillerup, Robert C., compiler; William Clayton Nauvoo Diaries and Personal Writings, A chronological compilation of the personal writings of William Clayton while he was a resident of Nauvoo, Illinois.

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