General Alexander W. Doniphan, Friend of the Saints, Gives Counsel to the Battalion

By Carl V. Larson

On Thursday, November 1, 1838, Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Amasa Lyman and others were brought as prisoners into the camp of the Missouri militia at Far West. The officers of the militia held a court martial and sentenced the “Mormons” to be shot the next day early in the morning.

General Lucas of the Missouri militia gave the execution order to Brigadier-General Alexander W. Doniphan who replied:

“It is [coldblooded] murder. I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning, at 8 o’clock; and if you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God!”

The execution order was not carried out. Joseph, Hyrum and the others were eventually freed.  General Doniphan was assigned to the Army of the West during the Mexican War of 1846-1847.

From the biography of James V. Williams, PVT Company E, dated 12 October 1846, we read:

“I believe that the rear company arrived in Santa Fe on the 12th of [October].

“General Doniphan was much pleased to find many of his old acquaintances among the soldiers, whom he knew to be honest and loyal men, and he being acquainted from personal knowledge of the wrongs, sufferings and hardships the saints passed through in Missouri trials. His sympathetic heart led him to invite a number of the Commissioned Officers of the Battalion to accompany him to the parade ground about 1/2 mile from town, and there instructed the officers in their duty. I can do no better than give it from the private Journal of my Captain, Daniel C. Davis.”

“After General Doniphan had gathered us around him, he said, ‘Gentlemen Officers, I have not invited you here for the purpose of instructing you upon your military duties. But my heart is touched with deep sympathy in behalf of you and your people. In seeing your loyalty in readily responding to your country’s call, to assist her in time of distress, forsaking your families, unprotected from the summer heat and winter storms. Some of you are aware that I was cognizant to some of your troubles in Missouri through mob violence. You have men under your command that were [sufferers] then with you, robbed, beat, plundered of their all.”

‘Gentlemen, will you be kind to them. They look up to you for sympathy. They need to be nourished with milk of kindness. They are your brethren, will you treat them as such?’ The Officers present were brought to tears through his sympathetic exhortations, and promised that they would try and be fathers to their men. After this they marched back to Santa Fe, and heartily thanked the General for his Fatherly counsel.” (Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are retained from Br. Williams’ Journal CVL)

General Doniphan was pleased to see his Mormon friends in Santa Fe. He was ever true to his friendship. A monument has been erected on the courthouse grounds in Richmond, Missouri honoring this great general and friend of the Latter-day Saints.

This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of Pioneer Magazine

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