Missouri Executive Order 44
Missouri Executive Order 44, also known as the Extermination Order, was a executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the Governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. The order was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Latter Day Saints and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that Latter Day Saints had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri, Governor Boggs directed that "the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description". The militia and other state authorities—General John B. Clark, among them—would used the executive order to expel the Latter Day Saints from their lands in the state following their capitulation, which in turn led to the Latter Day Saint migration to Illinois.
Executive Order 44 was issued during the 1838 Mormon War, which was caused by friction between the Latter Day Saints and their neighbors due to the economic and electoral growth of the Latter Day Saint community, and the Latter Day Saint's vocal opposition to slavery. The 1838 Mormon War ended with the expulsion of nearly all Latter Day Saints from the state of Missouri. Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Extermination Order" due to the phrasing used by Governor Boggs.
The Latter Day Saints had been given a county of their own in 1836, following their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833. However, the increasing influx of new church converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. Other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Latter Day Saints would remain confined to Caldwell County, became angry due to these new settlements.
On the fourth of July in 1838, church leader Sidney Rigdon delivered an oration in Far West, the county seat of Caldwell County. While not desiring or intending to start any trouble with his non-church neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Latter Day Saints would meet any attacks on them—such as had already occurred in Jackson County during the summer and fall of 1833, resulting in their forced expulsion from their homes in that locale—with force:
We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever. For from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity. The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.—Remember it then all MEN.
Far from settling tensions, Rigdon's oration had the opposite effect: it terrified and inflamed the residents of surrounding counties. By the Fall of that same year these tensions escalated into open conflict, culminating in the looting and burning of several Latter Day Saint farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by the "Danites", and the taking of hostages by Cpt. Samuel Bogart and his militia, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When the Latter Day Saint militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River, causing rumors of a planned full-scale invasion of Missouri that ran rampant throughout the summer and aroused terror throughout the western part of the state. These rumors only increased as reports of the Battle of Crooked River reached the capital at Jefferson City, with accounts of Latter Day Saints allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered. Further dispatches spoke of an impending attacks on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated. After hearing these reports Governor Boggs chose to act.
Previously, Governor Boggs had received word that Latter Day Saints had driven several citizens of Daviess County (north of Caldwell) from their homes. He had then appointed General John Bullock Clark to lead the state militia in assisting those citizens to return. But after hearing these reports, Governor Boggs issued new orders directing Clark to commence direct military operations and issued Missouri Executive Order 44
Text of the Order
Missouri Executive Order Number 44, read as follows:
Headquarters of the Militia, City of Jefferson, Oct. 27, 1838.
Gen. John B. Clark:
Sir: Since the order of this morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Reese, Esq., of Ray county, and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids [sic], information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace--their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Willock, of Marion county, to raise five hundred men, and to march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with five hundred men to proceed to the same point for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the north. They have been directed to communicate with you by express, you can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead therefore of proceeding as at first directed to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.
I am very respectfully, yr obt st [your obedient servant],
L. W. Boggs, Commander-in-Chief.
The question of whether anyone was killed as a direct result of it between October 27 (the date of its issuance) and November 1, 1838 (the date of the Latter Day Saint surrender) has been hotly debated among Latter Day Saints and historians. Most Historians state that there is no evidence of any militiamen or other participants used it to justify their behavior during that period; General Clark did cite the order soon after the Latter Day Saints surrendered in November 1838, saying that violence would have been used had they chosen not to surrender. He furthermore stated that he would delay enforcing Order 44 during the coming winter, but if they did not leave in the spring then armed force would be used to compel them to leave. However, the Latter Day Saints had no reason to trust this promise, considering recent activities involving among other members of the state militia. Therefore, they decided to leave for Illinois immediately, despite the harsh winter conditions. This led to an unknown number deaths from hardship and exposure during that exodus.
Many Latter Day Saints have connected Governor Boggs' order directly to the Haun's Mill massacre. At least one firsthand account insists that local Guardsmen referred to an order issued by the governor that sounds similar to Order 44 as justification for the Haun's Mill massacre. The Haun's Mill massacre was launched by Missouri State Guardsmen from Livingston County on the settlement of Haun's Mill, located in eastern Caldwell County near the Livingston County line, which resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys, some of whom were killed after surrendering. The account clamed that the soldiers stated that the governor had ordered their expulsion or extermination if they did not leave at once.
"Halt! commanded the leader of a well-mounted and well-armed band of mobocrats, who charged down upon them as they journeyed on their way. "If you proceed any further west," said the captain, "you will be instantly shot." "Wherefore?" inquired the pilgrims. "You are d---d[clarification needed] Mormons!" "We are law-abiding Americans, and have given no cause of offense." "You are d---d[clarification needed] Mormons; that's offense enough. Within ten day, every Mormon must be out of Missouri, or men, women and children will be shot down indiscriminately. No mercy will be shown. It is the order of the governor that you should all be exterminated, and by God, you will be."
However, the Haun's Mill massacre occurred only three days after the order was issued, and there is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order, and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Governor Boggs' decree to justify their actions. They instead indicating that unnamed church dissenters had told them that the people of Haun's Mill were planning to invade their Livingston County.
Whatever the case may be, the massacre and Governor Boggs' Executive Order are example of anti-Mormon sentiment in the area.
Although the Latter Day Saint leaders surrendered at Far West on November 1, Latter Day Saints (especially in outlying areas) continued to be subject to harassment and even forced ejection by citizens and renegade militia units. The Latter Day Saints in Caldwell County, as part of their surrender agreement, sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful, it became clear to them that departure from the state was the only option state officials were going to allow.
Upon his arrival at Far West, General Clark delivered the following speech to the now-captive Latter Day Saints, in which he directly invoked Order 44:
|“||...The order of the governor was to me, that you should be exterminated, and not allowed to remain in the state; and had not your leaders been given up, and the terms of this treaty  complied with, your families before this time would have been destroyed, and your houses in ashes. There is a discretionary power vested in my hands, which concerning your circumstances I will exercise for a season... I do not say that you shall go now, but you must not think of staying here another season, or of putting in crops, for the moment you do the citizens will be upon you; and if I am called here again, in case of a non-compliance of a treaty made, do not think that I shall do as I have done now. You need not expect any mercy, but extermination, for I am determined that the governor's order shall be enforced.||”|
Though Clark had offered to allow the Latter Day Saints to remain in Missouri until the following spring, the Saints decided to leave right away; according to one account, most had departed within ten days of Clark's speech. Although Governor Boggs belatedly ordered a militia unit under Colonel Sterling Price (later to achieve fame as a Confederate Civil War general) to northern Missouri to stop ongoing depredations against the Latter Day Saints, he refused to repeal Order #44. The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Latter Day Saint leaders to rescind the decree, Nearly all of the approximately 10,000 Latter Day Saints left Missouri by the spring of 1839. The Latter Day Saints would not begin to return to Missouri until approximately 25 years later.
Governor Boggs himself was excoriated in certain portions of the Missouri press, as well as those of neighboring states, for his action in issuing this order. General David Atchison, a prominent legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of Governor Boggs' order, for "he would not live in any state, where such authority was given". Although his proposal and similar ones by others went down to defeat, Governor Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed to the point that, by the next election, his own party was reluctant to be associated with him. After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Governor Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.
Missouri Executive Order 44 was long unenforced and forgotten by nearly everyone outside the Latter Day Saint community. In late 1975, President Lyman F. Edwards of the Far West stake of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, invited then Missouri Governor Kit Bond to participate in the June 25, 1976 stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial. As part of his address at that conference, 137 years after being signed and citing the unconstitutional nature of Governor Boggs' directive, Governor Bond presented the following Executive Order:
|“||WHEREAS, on October 27, 1838, the Governor of the State of Missouri, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed an order calling for the extermination or expulsion of Mormons from the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Governor Boggs' order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and
WHEREAS, in this bicentennial year as we reflect on our nation's heritage, the exercise of religious freedom is without question one of the basic tenets of our free democratic republic;
Now, THEREFORE, I, CHRISTOPHER S. BOND, Governor of the State of Missouri, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the State of Missouri, do hereby order as follows:
Expressing on behalf of all Missourians our deep regret for the injustice and undue suffering which was caused by the 1838 order, I hereby rescind Executive Order Number 44, dated October 27, 1838, issued by Governor W. Boggs.
In witness I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the State of Missouri, in the city of Jefferson, on this 25 day of June, 1976.
(Signed) Christopher S. Bond, Governor.
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- Tullidge 1877, p. 177 - This reference states that these words were spoken on the 26th of October, whereas Order 44 was not issued until October 27
- LeSueur 1987, pp. 225, 229, 237–38
- This refers to an agreement between the Mormons leaders and General Samuel Lucas, signed under duress, which compelled the Mormons to give up their leaders, their arms and all of their lands and property, and to then leave Missouri. General Clark's Speech, pg. 1.
- Lin 1987
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Mormon War Letters, the battle correspondence leading up to, and including, the Extermination Order - presented by LDS historian Mel Tungate.
- The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders include both the original Executive Order 44 and the rescinding order as PDFs - presented by the Missouri Secretary of State.