Missouri Executive Order 44
Missouri Executive Order 44, also known in Mormon history as the Extermination Order, was a United States executive order issued on October 27, 1838 by the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs. This was issued in the aftermath of the Battle of Crooked River, a clash between Mormons and a unit of the Missouri State Guard in northern Ray County, Missouri, during the 1838 Mormon War. Claiming that Mormons had committed open and avowed defiance of the law and had made war upon the people of Missouri, 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".
Executive Order 44 is often referred to as the "Extermination Order" due to the phrasing used by Boggs. 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 Mormon surrender) has been hotly debated among Latter Day Saints and historians. Some historians state that there is no evidence of any militiamen or other participants using it to justify their behavior during that period; however, at least one firsthand Latter Day Saint account insists that local militia cited an order from the governor for Mormon expulsion or extermination four days prior to the Haun's Mill Massacre. General John B. Clark did cite the Order soon after the Mormon surrender in November 1838, saying that violence would have been used had the Mormons 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 (he specifically said extermination) would be used to compel them to leave.
There is no question that the militia and other state authorities--Clark, among them--used Boggs' decree as a pretext to expel the Mormons from their lands in the state following their capitulation, which in turn led the Mormons to migrate to Illinois. While state officials said that enforcement would be delayed until Spring, the Mormons had obvious reason to be distrustful of this promise, considering recent activities involving, among others, members of the state militia. They determined to leave for Illinois immediately, despite the harsh winter conditions, and an unknown number died from hardship and exposure during that exodus.
Many Latter Day Saints connect this order to the single most violent action of the war: the attack by Livingston County militia on the tiny Mormon settlement of Haun's Mill, in what became known as the Haun's Mill massacre. The Haun's Mill massacre occurred three days after the order was issued, and resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys--some of whom were murdered after surrendering. There is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order, and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Boggs' decree to justify their actions, indicating instead that Mormon dissenters (whom they never named) had told them that the Mormons at Haun's Mill (in Caldwell County) were planning to invade their county (Livingston). However, a firsthand Mormon account does state that Latter Day Saints entering the area were stopped by militia. The soldiers claimed that the governor had already ordered their expulsion or extermination if they did not leave at once. Whatever the case may be, the massacre serves as an example of anti-Mormon persecution in the area, as does Boggs' Executive Order.
Mormons did not begin to return to Missouri until 25 years later, when they found a more welcoming environment and were able to establish homes there once more. In 1976, citing the unconstitutional nature of Boggs' directive, Missouri Governor Kit Bond formally rescinded it.
Executive Order 44 was issued during the 1838 Mormon War, which was caused by friction between the Mormons and their neighbors and ended with the expulsion of nearly all Mormons from the state of Missouri. This friction arose due to tensions resulting from the growing economic and electoral power of the Mormon community, and the Mormons' vocal opposition to slavery. The Mormons had been given a county of their own in 1836, following their expulsion from Jackson County in 1833. However, the increasing influx of new Mormon converts moving to northwestern Missouri led them to begin settling in adjacent counties. This provoked the wrath of other settlers, who had operated under the assumption that the Mormons would remain confined to Caldwell County.
On the fourth of July in 1838, Mormon 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-Mormon neighbors, Rigdon wanted to make clear that the Mormons 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 Mormon farms and homes, the sacking and burning of Gallatin by Mormon "Danites"[according to whom?], and the taking of Mormon hostages by a militia unit commanded by Cpt. Samuel Bogart, operating in northern Ray County (to the south of Caldwell). When Mormon militia from the town of Far West moved south to the militia camp on the Crooked River to rescue their co-religionists, the resulting battle aroused considerable terror throughout the western part of the state. Lurid rumors of a planned full-scale Mormon invasion of Missouri had run rampant throughout the summer, and these only increased as reports of this Battle of Crooked River reached the capital at Jefferson City, with spurious accounts of Mormons allegedly slaughtering Bogart's militia company, including those who had surrendered. Further dispatches spoke of an impending Mormon attack on Richmond, county seat of Ray County, though in fact no such attack was ever contemplated. It was in this environment of fear and misinformation that Boggs chose to act.
Previously, Boggs had received word that renegade Mormons 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 new and lurid reports of alleged Mormon depredations on the Crooked River, Boggs issued new orders directing Clark instead to commence direct military operations against the Mormons themselves--the so-called "Extermination Order."
Text of the Order
Boggs' 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.
Many Latter Day Saints have connected Boggs' order directly to the attack launched by Missouri State Guardsmen from Livingston County on the tiny Mormon settlement of Haun's Mill, located in eastern Caldwell County near the Livingston County line.
The Haun's Mill massacre occurred on the afternoon of October 30, 1838, and resulted in the deaths of eighteen men and boys--some of whom, including a ten-year-old boy named Sardius Smith, were killed after trying to surrender. There is no evidence that the militiamen knew of the Executive Order, and participants in this massacre who spoke of it later never used Boggs' decree to justify their actions, indicating instead that Mormon dissenters (whom they never named) had told them that the Mormons at Haun's Mill (in Caldwell County) were planning to invade their county (Livingston). However, at least one Mormon source insists that local Guardsmen were referring to an order issued by the governor that sounds similar to Order 44:
"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 G-d, you will be."
Although the Mormon 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 unauthorized citizens and renegade militia units. The Mormons in Caldwell County had been forced, as part of their surrender agreement, to sign over all of their property to pay the expenses of the campaign against them; although this act was later held unlawful, it quickly 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 just after the Mormon surrender, General Clark delivered the following speech to the now-captive Mormons, 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 Mormons 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 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 Mormons, he refused to repeal Order #44. The Missouri legislature deferred discussion of an appeal by Mormon leaders to rescind the decree, and nearly all Latter Day Saints—more than 10,000 altogether—had been driven from the state by the spring of 1839.
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 non-Mormon legislator and militia general from western Missouri who had refused to take part in operations against the Mormons, demanded that the Legislature formally state its opinion of 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, Boggs himself saw his once-promising political career destroyed as a result of the Mormon War (and especially due to his Order), to the point that by the time the next election came around, even his own party (the Democratic Party) was reluctant to be associated with him. After surviving an assassination attempt in 1842, Boggs ultimately emigrated to California, where he died in relative obscurity in the Napa Valley in 1860.
Boggs' extermination order, long unenforced and forgotten by nearly everyone outside the Latter Day Saint community, was formally rescinded by Governor Christopher S. Bond on June 25, 1976, 137 years after being signed. 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 Bond to participate in the stake's annual conference as a good-will gesture for the United States Bicentennial. As part of his address at that conference, 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.
- DeVoto 2000, pp. 84–85
- Greene 1839, p. 8
- "The Missouri Mormon War Executive Orders". http://www.sos.mo.gov. Missouri Secretary of State. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
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- Tullidge, Edward, The Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877, pg. 117. This reference specifically states that these words were spoken on the 26th of October, whereas Order 44 was not issued until October 27.
- Hartley, William G. (2001). "Missouri's 1838 Extermination Order and the Mormons' Forced Removal to Illinois" (PDF). Mormon Historical Studies 2 (1): 6.
- LeSueur 1987, p. 163-64
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- 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, Alexander, The Story of the Mormons, From the Date of Their Origin to the Year 1901, Chapter IX.
- General Clark's Speech, pg. 1.
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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.