Alexander William Doniphan
(Mathew Brady's studio)
(Library of Congress collection)
|Born||July 9, 1808|
Mason County, Kentucky
|Died||August 8, 1887 79) (aged|
|Resting place||Fairview Cemetery, Liberty, Missouri|
|Alma mater||Augusta College (1824)|
|Known for||Sparing Joseph Smith's life|
Author Kearny code
|Home town||Liberty, Missouri|
|Height||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
Elizabeth Jane Thornton(m. 1838–1873)(her death)
Alexander William Jr.
|Parent(s)||Joseph and Anne Fowke (née Smith) Doniphan|
|Nickname(s)||"The American Xenophon"|
|Years of service||1836–1848|
|Unit||1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers|
|Battles/wars|| Heatherly War |
1838 Mormon War
Alexander William Doniphan (July 9, 1808 – August 8, 1887) was a 19th-century American attorney, soldier and politician from Missouri who is best known today as the man who prevented the summary execution of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the close of the 1838 Mormon War in that state. He also achieved renown as a leader of American troops during the Mexican–American War, as the author of a legal code that still forms the basis of New Mexico's Bill of Rights, and as a successful defense attorney in the Missouri towns of Liberty, Richmond and Independence.
Doniphan was born near the town of Maysville, Kentucky, near the Ohio River.He was the youngest of the ten children of Joseph and Anne Fowke (née Smith) Doniphan, both natives of Virginia. His father had been a friend of Daniel Boone, and both of his grandfathers had fought in the American Revolution.
Doniphan graduated from Augusta College in 1824, and was admitted to the bar in 1830. He began his law practice in Lexington, Missouri, but soon moved to Liberty, where he was a successful lawyer. Doniphan always served as a defense attorney, never as a prosecutor, and was noted for his oratorical skills. He served in the state legislature in 1836, 1840, and 1854, representing the Whig Party.
Doniphan's friend and partner, David Rice Atchison, was a member of the Liberty Blues, a volunteer militia company. In June 1836 he persuaded Doniphan to join them. Doniphan took part in the so-called Heatherly War as an aide to Colonel Samuel C. Allen. As the Liberty Blues moved toward the Missouri border, Stephen Watts Kearny, then a lieutenant colonel, joined them from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Kearney discovered that the Heatherly brothers had sold whiskey to a hunting party of Potawatomi Indians, then stole their horses. The Potawatomis pursued the brothers and killed three of them. The brothers' mother sought revenge by claiming that the Potawatomis had gone on the war path, while the remaining Heatherly brothers robbed and murdered two white men, trying to place the blame on the Potawatomis. The "war" ended with the Heatherly family being arrested, tried, and convicted.
Starting in 1831, Jackson County, Missouri, had become home to several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,a religious organization founded by Joseph Smith in upstate New York a year earlier. By 1833, approximately 1200 Mormons lived in Jackson County, where they aroused the ire of many earlier settlers by their belief that American Indians, whom they called "Lamanites", were the descendants of ancient Israelites who had migrated to the New World centuries earlier (see Book of Mormon). Other fundamental differences between Mormons and non-Mormons exacerbated the situation, especially a belief that the Mormons were abolitionists, who planned to foment uprisings among Missouri slaves. Denunciations of abolitionism in the church press did nothing to allay their neighbors' fears, and matters came to a head in late 1833, when the Mormons were forcibly expelled from the county.
Following these events, Joseph Smith and other church leaders petitioned the governor of Missouri for protection, but were largely ignored. This led them to hire Doniphan and Atchison, among others, to defend their rights in court.Doniphan assisted in the creation of a special county in northwestern Missouri for the Mormons, but continued friction between Mormons and non-Mormon settlers in that region ultimately led to the outbreak of the 1838 Mormon War. Following a clash between Mormons and state militia at the Battle of Crooked River, governor Lilburn Boggs issued his infamous "Extermination Order", directing that the Mormons be "exterminated, or driven from the state".
As a brigadier general in the Missouri Militia, Doniphan was ordered into the field with other forces to operate against the Mormons, even though he had worked diligently to avoid the conflict, and believed that the Mormons were largely acting in self-defense. After the surrender of Far West, General Samuel Lucas took custody of Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders, and instituted a drumhead court martial (Kangaroo Court), which declared Smith and the others guilty of treason, and ordered Doniphan to execute them. Doniphan indignantly refused, saying: "It is cold blooded murder. I will not obey your order. . . . [I]f you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God".The Mormon leaders were accordingly sent to Liberty Jail during the winter, to await trial during the following spring of 1839, at which trial Doniphan was appointed as their defense attorney and energetically defended them at the risk of his good reputation and, in all probability, his life. Ultimately, the church leaders were permitted to escape from custody, and they subsequently made their way to the new Mormon settlement in Hancock County, Illinois, where Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. In Doniphan's honor, Joseph and Emma Hale Smith named a son Alexander Hale Smith.
In 1843, Orrin Porter Rockwell, a controversial Mormon figure later known as "the destroying angel of Mormondom", was arrested in St. Louis and accused of carrying out a failed assassination attempt on (now former) governor Boggs. After 9 months of being imprisoned in poor conditions, he was able to hire Doniphan to defend him; Doniphan managed to have the main charge of attempted murder dismissed for lack of evidence, and arranged for Rockwell to serve a five-minute sentence (for a jailbreak attempt during his imprisonment) in the county jail before being released. Rockwell made his way to Illinois, then later to Utah, where he achieved fame as a lawman and Wild West figure.
Forty years after the events of 1838, an aged Doniphan visited Salt Lake City, Utah, which had become the nucleus for the largest body of Mormons following the death of Joseph Smith. He received a hero's welcome, and was feted and thanked by the Latter-day Saints for his role in saving the life of their prophet.
In 1846, at the beginning of the Mexican–American War Doniphan was commissioned as Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers, and served in several campaigns, including General Stephen W. Kearny's capture of Santa Fe and an invasion of northern Mexico (present day northern New Mexico).
After Santa Fe was secure, Kearny left Doniphan in charge in New Mexico, and departed towards California on September 25, 1846.Doniphan's orders were to wait until General Sterling Price arrived with the Second Missouri Mounted Volunteers, who were coming from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; after they arrived he was to lead them to Chihuahua via Ciudad Juarez, then known as Paso del Norte. They were to link up with Brigadier General John E. Wool, who was moving southwest from San Antonio, Texas toward Guerrero and Monclova, Coahuila, to attack Monterrey, Nuevo León from the west. Kearny had known that the Navajo people were going on the war path. With the Spanish gone, the Navajos wanted to test these new American soldiers; hence, as Doniphan waited for Price, the Navajos mounted a raid and kidnapped 20 Mexican families.
Doniphan was eager to start south, but he first had to wait for Price to arrive. Kearny, and then Doniphan had tried to negotiate with the Navajos, together with the Ute tribe and Apaches, but had made little progress. After Price arrived with his force, Kearny, near the present-day border of Arizona and New Mexico, learned that the Navajos had attacked some sheepherders, killed them, and stolen their herd of 2,000 sheep. Kearny dispatched a message to Doniphan to attack the Navajos on October 2, 1846. Doniphan signed a peace treaty with the Utes, and then took three companies and headed west (toward present day Gallup) in pursuit of the Navajos.
Doniphan was unable to find his foe, but they sent a member of their tribe to find him and tell him they wanted to negotiate. At first, Kearny was willing to be amicable with the Navajos, but the following day, October 3, the Navajos attacked the village of Polvadera, stealing the livestock and sending the residents fleeing for their lives. Kearny now called for all citizens of the territory to take up arms and aid the cavalry in finding the Navajos, retrieving the stolen property, and to "make reprisals and obtain redress for the many insults they received from them".Returning to their campaign against the Mexican Army, Doniphan's men won the Battle of El Brazito (outside modern day El Paso, Texas) and then won the Battle of the Sacramento River, enabling the capture of the city of Chihuahua. At the latter battle, Doniphan and his force were outnumbered by more than four to one in troops, and nearly two to one in artillery, but only lost one dead and eleven wounded to the Mexican loss of 320 dead, 560 wounded and 72 prisoners.
Doniphan's men ultimately embarked on ships and returned to Missouri via New Orleans to a hero's welcome. His campaign had taken him and his men on a march of nearly 5,500 miles (8,900 km), considered the longest military campaign since the times of Alexander the Great.
After the Mexican–American War, Doniphan was appointed by General Kearny to write a code of civil laws (known as the "Kearny code") in both English and Spanish. It was to be used in the lands annexed from Mexico, and still forms the basis of New Mexico's Bill of Rights and legal code. He was also instrumental in the establishment of William Jewell College in his home town of Liberty; one of his colleagues on the college's board of trustees was Rev. Robert James, father of Frank and Jesse James. Doniphan also served as the first Clay County superintendent of schools.
Doniphan was a moderate in the events leading up to the American Civil War, opposing secession and favoring neutrality for Missouri. Although a slaveholder, Doniphan advocated the gradual elimination of slavery. This was in response to proposals of the Republican Party to make emancipation immediate, without compensation to the slaveowners or any preparation of the slaves for life as free men.
Doniphan attended a Peace Conference at Washington D. C. in February 1861, but returned home frustrated at its inability to solve the crisis. He was appointed Brigadier General and commander of the Fifth Division of the Missouri State Guard, but declined.Doniphan was also offered high rank in the Union Army, but refused to fight against the South. In 1863 he moved to St. Louis and remained there for the rest of the war. During a meeting with Doniphan, President Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have remarked: "Doniphan, you are the only man I've ever met whose appearance came up to my expectations". During the war, Doniphan worked in St. Louis with the Missouri Claims Commission, handling pension applications.
In the late 1860s, Doniphan re-opened his law office in Richmond, Missouri, where he died at the age of 79. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Liberty under an obelisk.
Doniphan married Elizabeth Jane Thornton (December 21, 1820–July 19, 1873) on December 21, 1837, in Liberty, Missouri. Her father was a colleague of Doniphan's in the state legislature. Their wedding was on her 17th birthday, and it was a double-wedding ceremony, with Elizabeth's sister Caroline and Oliver P. Moss being married at the same time. Elizabeth became sickly in the 1850s, and during the burial of her son John she suffered a stroke, which left her a semi-invalid for the remainder of her life. Elizabeth Doniphan died in New York City of pulmonary hemorrhage.
The couple had two sons, John Thornton (September 18, 1838–May 9, 1853) and Alexander William, Jr. (September 10, 1840–May 11, 1858), neither of whom lived to age 18. John Thornton Doniphan died from accidental poisoning: while visiting his uncle James Baldwin, he sought relief for a toothache in the middle of the night but mistakenly took corrosive sublimate (mercury chloride), thinking that it was Epsom salts. Alexander William Doniphan, Jr. died while attending Bethany College, in Bethany, West Virginia, when he drowned in a flood-swollen river.
David Rice Atchison was a mid-19th century Democratic United States Senator from Missouri. He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate for six years. Atchison served as a major general in the Missouri State Militia in 1838 during Missouri's Mormon War and as a Confederate brigadier general during the American Civil War under Major General Sterling Price in the Missouri Home Guard. He is best known for the claim that for 24 hours—Sunday, March 4, 1849 through noon on Monday—he may have been Acting President of the United States. This belief, however, is dismissed by nearly all historians, scholars, and biographers.
Liberty is a city in Clay County, Missouri, United States and is a suburb of Kansas City, located in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 United States Census the population was 29,149. Liberty is the county seat of Clay County. Liberty is home to William Jewell College.
Lilburn Williams Boggs was the sixth Governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840. He is now most widely remembered for his interactions with Joseph Smith and Porter Rockwell, and Missouri Executive Order 44, known by Mormons as the "Extermination Order", issued in response to the ongoing conflict between members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and other settlers of Missouri. Boggs was also a key player in the Honey War of 1837.
Orrin Porter Rockwell was a figure of the Wild West period of American history. A lawman in the Utah Territory, he was nicknamed Old Port and The Destroying Angel of Mormondom. He was as famous and controversial during his lifetime as Wyatt Earp and Pat Garrett.
The Danites were a fraternal organization founded by Latter Day Saint members in June 1838, in the town of Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. During their period of organization in Missouri, the Danites operated as a vigilante group and took a central role in the events of the 1838 Mormon War. There is no evidence that the Danites existed after 1838. However, they remained an important part of Mormon and non-Mormon folklore, polemics, and propaganda for the remainder of the 19th century, waning in ideological prominence after Utah gained statehood. Notwithstanding public excommunications of Danite leaders by the Church and both public and private statements from Joseph Smith referring to the band as being both evil in nature and a "secret combination", the nature and scope of the organization and the degree to which it was officially connected to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are a matter of some dispute among historians. Earlier in the band's existence, Joseph Smith appeared to endorse the group's actions, but later turned against them as violence increased and the actions of the Danites inspired a hysteria in Missouri that eventually led to the Extermination Order. According to an essay on the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, "Historians generally concur that Joseph Smith approved of the Danites but that he probably was not briefed on all their plans and likely did not sanction the full range of their activities."
Stephen Watts Kearny was one of the foremost antebellum frontier officers of the United States Army. He is remembered for his significant contributions in the Mexican–American War, especially the conquest of California. The Kearny code, proclaimed on September 22, 1846 in Santa Fe, established the law and government of the newly acquired territory of New Mexico, and was named after him. His nephew was Major General Philip Kearny of American Civil War fame.
The Mormon Battalion, the only religion-based unit in United States military history, served from July 1846 – July 1847 during the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848. The battalion was a volunteer unit of between 534 and 559 Latter-day Saint men, led by Mormon company officers commanded by regular U.S. Army officers. During its service, the battalion made a grueling march of nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California.
Joseph Smith III was the eldest surviving son of Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, and Emma Hale Smith. Joseph Smith III was the Prophet-President of what became known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now called the Community of Christ, which considers itself a continuation of the church established by Smith's father in 1830. For fifty-four years until his own death, Smith presided over the church. Smith's moderate ideas and nature set much of the tone for the church's development, earning him the sobriquet of "the pragmatic prophet".
The 1838 Mormon War, also known as the Missouri Mormon War, was a conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri from August to November 1838, the first of the three "Mormon Wars".
Liberty Jail is a former jail in Liberty, Missouri, United States, where Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, and other associates were imprisoned from December 1, 1838, to April 6, 1839, during the 1838 Mormon War. Joseph Smith received revelations during his imprisonment there, which are now recorded as sections 121, 122, and 123 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, and encapsulated more fully in the Restoration Edition.
Lyman Wight was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement. He was the leader of the Latter Day Saints in Daviess County, Missouri, in 1838. In 1841, he was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. After the death of Joseph Smith resulted in a succession crisis, Wight led his own break-off group of Latter Day Saints to Texas, where they created a settlement. While in Texas, Wight broke with the main body of the group led by Brigham Young. Wight was ordained president of his own church, but he later sided with the claims of William Smith, and eventually of Joseph Smith III. After his death, most of the "Wightites" joined with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Lot Smith was a Mormon pioneer, soldier, lawman and American frontiersman. He became known as "The Horseman" for his exceptional skills on horseback as well as for his help in rounding up wild mustangs on Utah's Antelope Island. He is most famous for his exploits during the 1857 Utah War.
Alexander Hale Smith was the third surviving son of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith. Smith was born in Far West, Missouri, and was named after Alexander Doniphan, who had once refused an extermination order to execute Joseph Smith, then had acted as Joseph's defense attorney during Joseph's incarceration at Liberty Jail. Alexander eventually became a senior leader of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Smith served as an apostle and as Presiding Patriarch of the church. He became religiously inclined after the April 1862 death of his older brother Frederick G. W. Smith, who had not been baptized, and was baptized on May 25, 1862, in Nauvoo, Illinois, by another older brother, Joseph Smith III.
Zion's Camp was an expedition of Latter Day Saints, led by Joseph Smith, from Kirtland, Ohio to Clay County, Missouri during May and June 1834 in an unsuccessful attempt to regain land from which the Saints had been expelled by non-Mormon settlers. In Latter Day Saint belief, this land is destined to become a city of Zion, the center of the Millennial kingdom; and Smith dictated a command from God ordering him to lead his church like a modern Moses to redeem Zion "by power, and with a stretched-out arm."
John Corrill was an early member and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and an elected representative in the Missouri State Legislature. He was prominently involved in the Mormon conflicts in Missouri before leaving the church in 1839 and publishing A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints .
The history of Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, covers a period of approximately 200 years. The church's early history traces to the "grove experience" of Joseph Smith, who prayed in the woods near his home in Palmyra, New York, in the early-19th century. Several accounts of this experience have surfaced over the years. Most of the accounts share a common narrative indicating that when he went to the woods to pray, he experienced a period of encountering evil or despair, but then experienced an epiphany or vision in which he came to know and understand God's goodness. Later, as an adult, Smith founded the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830.
The life of Joseph Smith from 1838 to 1839, when he was 33–34 years old, covers a period beginning when Smith left Ohio in January 1838 until he left Missouri and moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839.
The Temple Lot, located in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, is the first site to be dedicated for the construction of a temple in the Latter Day Saint movement. The area was dedicated on Wednesday, August 3, 1831 by the movement's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., and purchased on December 19, 1831 by his colleague Edward Partridge to be the center of the New Jerusalem or "City of Zion" after he received a revelation stating that it would be the gathering spot of the Saints during the Last Days.
The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite) is part of the Latter Day Saint movement. When Joseph Smith, the founder of the movement, died there was a dispute regarding who should lead the church as his successor. The Quorum of the Twelve, led by Brigham Young, argued that they should have the right to lead the church while one of the church leaders, Sidney Rigdon, argued that he should act as protector of the church until a permanent leader was chosen. Those who followed Rigdon formed the "Church of Christ" with its center being Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After an attempt to start a communitarian society, Church of Christ broke apart by 1847. William Bickerton associated himself for two years with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and later left them behind refusing to accept some of their beliefs, including polygamy. In the 1850s Bickerton's preaching led to the formation of a new church in Eastern Pennsylvania. Over the following years Bickerton's church faced two schisms related to doctrinal issues. Its current official name, The Church of Jesus Christ, was adopted by 1941.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the life and influence of Joseph Smith: