Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Massacre at Mountain Meadows

Massacre at Mountain Meadows


On September 11, 1857, a band of Mormon militia, under a flag of truce, lured unarmed members of a party of emigrants from their fortified encampment and, with their Paiute allies, killed them. More than 120 men, women, and children perished in the slaughter.
Massacre at Mountain Meadowsoffers the most thoroughly researched account of the massacre ever written. Drawn from documents previously not available to scholars and a careful re-reading of traditional sources, this gripping narrative offers fascinating new insight into why Mormons settlers in isolated southern Utah deceived the emigrant party with a promise of safety and then killed the adults and all but seventeen of the youngest children. The book sheds light on factors contributing to the tragic event, including the war hysteria that overcame the Mormons after President James Buchanan dispatched federal troops to Utah Territory to put down a supposed rebellion, the suspicion and conflicts that polarized the perpetrators and victims, and the reminders of attacks on Mormons in earlier settlements in Missouri and Illinois. It also analyzes the influence of Brigham Young's rhetoric and military strategy during the infamous "Utah War" and the role of local Mormon militia leaders in enticing Paiute Indians to join in the attack. Throughout the book, the authors paint finely drawn portraits of the key players in the drama, their backgrounds, personalities, and roles in the unfolding story of misunderstanding, misinformation, indecision, and personal vendettas.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre stands as one of the darkest events in Mormon history. Neither a whitewash nor an expos ,Massacre at Mountain Meadowsprovides the clearest and most accurate account of a key event in American religious history.


On September 11, 1857, Mormon settlers in southern Utah used a false flag of truce to lull a group of California-bound emigrants from their circled wagons and then slaughter them. When the killing was over, more than one hundred butchered bodies lay strewn across a half-mile stretch of an upland meadow. Most of the victims were women and children.

The perpetrators were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aided by Indians. What did the terrible atrocity say about the killers? What did it say about their church and its leaders? Did early Mormonism possess a violent strain so deep and volcanic that it erupted without warning? and what did the Mountain Meadows Massacre say about religion generally? a modern age wants to know whether people might be better off without their religious beliefs.

While these questions can only be partly answered by any book, they are the themes of our story. the massacre “is a ghost which will not be laid,” said historian Juanita Brooks before publishing her pathbreaking study, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, in 1950. “Again and again, year after year, it stalks abroad to cast its shadow across some history, or to haunt the pages of some novel. Even books to which it is not natural, either from point of time or location, reach out a long arm and draw it in … until it has been made the most important episode in the history of the state [of Utah], eclipsing every achievement and staining every accomplishment.”

Brooks may have exaggerated to make her point, but the stream of articles and books goes on—recently expanded by television programs . . .

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