ACCOUNT FROM NAUVOO OF JOSEPH SMITH'S CAPTURE AND MURDER, WRITTEN BY A BODYGUARD
Extraordinary and historic letter describing the jailing and murder of Mormon prophet and leader Joseph Smith, written by the son-in-law of pioneering church leader Sidney Rigdon. The author of the letter, EDWARD B. "BIG NED" WINGATE, was a devoted Mormon and is believed to have been a Danite bodyguard and peace-keeper in Missouri (although some believe that the Danites also were tasked with ferreting-out treason and heresy in the Mormon ranks). Wingate's 3pp. 8vo. letter was penned in Nauvoo and dated "July 1844", but the date is tied down by the postmark: "Quincy July 10 ", placing the writing of this letter less than two weeks after Joseph Smith's murder at the Carthage jail, about 70 miles away. Edward writes his brother John F. Wingate in Brunswick, Me., in small part [phonetic spelling corrected]: "...We arrived safe to this City the 2nd of June after a journey of 25 days...we had a very pleasant journey...the Canal Boat struck a rock on the side of the River Which stove a hole in her Bottom which caused about 8 inches to come into her hole...Coming up the Mississippi our steam boat broke her shaft and she had to [?]...with one wheel against a 10 knot current...we arrived safe and was glad[?] by the Prophet and all of our old Friends that went from Boston...instead of finding a small town with log houses I found a beautiful city that is five miles square...most pleasantly situated place...I will try to give you a few of the incidents which has happened. Our whole troubles originated from a few Apostates from this Church because Joseph would not uphold them in these Hellish deeds they have said all manner of evil against Joseph they could not say & do enough...But they had to go to work and publish all manner of lies that could be thought of therefore the City Council came together for the purpose of taking into consideration the above named press whether it was a nuisance or not which they had the power to do according to the Charter granted to them by the United States...ordered the Police to go to the Office and take the press and burn it which they did do...they went to Carthage and the surrounding towns and got the Devil in the people and they waged war against us there was at one time about a thousand...passed resolution that they would exterminate all the Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo but thank God they could not raise force enough...General Smith called out Legion which numbered about 5 thousand...they would have fought until the last drop of blood...the Governor ordered out the State troops but could not control them he therefore sent a letter to Joseph stating the circumstances...and issued a writ fro Joseph & his brother Hyrum Smith to Appear at Carthage to answer to the charge of Treason...they complied with all that was put upon and was willing to go to justice...the Governor pledged his word and honor that he would protect them...they therefore started for Carthage with about 30 men and I had the pleasure of being one of [the me]n. Joseph & Hyrum were confined in prison...the Governor with about 50 horse came to Nauvoo for the purpose of making peace...whilst they [were] at Nauvoo those ungodly wretches the Mobercrats came out from their hiding place there was about 200 of them all armed with faces painted they rushed to the jail knocked down the guard at the door 8 in number ...they went up in the jail to the room where Joseph & Hyrum was and killed them both on the spot and wounded two others 4 shots each...We are at peace now and I am satisfied with my lot Let come what will...". Small seal tear hole costs perhaps three letters of text, one or two tiny edge tears, else near fine condition. Wingate's father-in-law, Sidney Rigdon (1793-1876) was a powerful force in the L.D.S. church. Formerly a Baptist pastor, after reading the Book of Mormon (which some purport he authored), he and many of his followers joined the faith. Being a powerful orator, Rigdon was made church spokesman by Smith with whom it is said he also received visions. The pair suffered unending trials and tribulations, including being jailed and tarred and feathered, though Rigdon remained steadfast and ran as Smith's vice presidential candidate. Following Smith's death, a power struggle for control of the church ensued, with Brigham Young succeeding to the leadership and Rigdon being excommunicated. Rigdon formed his own faction of Latter Day Saints called the "Church of Christ" (or "Rigdonites") and forever clung to his belief that he was rightful leader of the Mormons. An historic letter from one of those closest to Joseph Smith in his final hours.