Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11th. This day has been bad since 1857, not just 2001.

SEPTEMBER 11, 1856, The Mountain Meadows Massacre

“On September 11, 1857, a group of emigrants bound for California was butchered in what was to become known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.” – Chapter 4, The Lincoln County War, by Frederick Nolan.

The emigrants were the Francher party from Arkansas. They’d traveled west through Kansas and Nebraska territories before entering Utah. When they hit Cedar City, UT, they ran into trouble with the local Mormons who would not sell/trade supplies with them. So they left and headed southwest through the mountain pass called Mountain Meadows. Here’s what the link online that I found had to say:
“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.”

You may be asking if any survived, well, the article goes on to say this:

“While most of the Fancher party was killed (about 120 people), there were 17 young children who survived. These 17 children were adopted by local families. Two years later in 1859, the U.S. government reunited the children with their extended families in Arkansas.”

HERE is the link if you’d like to read the whole thing.

I came across this information while studying the history before the Lincoln County War (LCW) and obviously the date struck me.

You might ask me how this affects or relates to The Curse of Billy the Kid? Well, the title of Chapter Four is, “The Rise of the House of Murphy.” Lawrence Murphy (of the Murphy-Dolan side of the war) was a member of the Fifth Infantry at this time and they, along with the Tenth Infantry, the Second Calvary, and two artillery battalions, were also attacked by the Mormons of Utah as they headed toward Salt Lake City on what was known as the Utah Expedition.

Anyway…here’s what Frederick Nolan had to say in Chapter Four:

“Colonel E.B. Alexander’s cavalry (which Murphy was a part of) left Fort Leavenworth on September 16th, 1857, and arrived at Fort Laramie around the beginning of October. That is where Mormon Major Lot Smith led an attack on the expedition that resulted in the destruction of seventy-four army wagons containing several months of troop provisions. As you can imagine, this crippled the troops for the winter. Horses, mules, oxen, and men died of cold and disease as they struggled to reach winter quarters at Fort Bridger, Utah (now Wyoming), only to find that the angry Mormons had already destroyed it.

Captain Randolph B. Marcy and forty enlisted men trekked a thousand miles over land to Fort Massachusetts, NM, to obtain supplies. They journey took them fifty-one days: when they arrived, they were so emaciated and ailing that the troops at that station had difficulty recognizing them as fellow soldiers. The plight of the men at Fort Bridger was scarcely less parlous, but fortunately for all of them, a mediator, Thomas L. Kane, son of Philadelphia judge, made his way to Salt Lake City, conferred with Brigham Young, and found a solution satisfactory to both sides. Although the military men were spoiling for a confrontation, no fighting ever took place.”

You are likely asking WHY the Mormons attacked the military. Well, they though the military had come to force Mormon obedience to national laws. If you don’t know, the Mormons were chased from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois and then finally to Utah. So they’d had enough…I would have too. But for a religious group who are about peace, this was a horrible act.

Yes, they do not condone the behavior and wish it never happened…and obviously 120 dead to not compare to the number of those who died on this date in 2001, but I find it interesting that on the same day there was senseless acts of violence in the name of religion.

With concern to the book…its details like this that shape how I write a character…such as Murphy. We may not see him much in our story because we follow William Bonney, but what he does will affect our reluctant hero a lot. So it’s important I know all I can.

And now you know too.

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