Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

what would befall me from day to day, particularly  when I went from home: on the Latter part of Septer  1838 I went to the lower part of the County of Caldwell  for the purpose of selecting a location for a Town  when on my Journey I was ment [met] by one of our  Friends with a message from Duet in Carrol County  stateing that our Brethren who had settled in that  place were & had for some time been surrounded by  a mob who had threatned their lives and had shot  several times at them: Immediately on hearing  theis strange Intelligence I made preparations to  start in order if possible to all[a]y the feelings of oppos itions if not to make arrangements with those  individuals of whom we had made purchases  and to whom I was responsible and holding for  part of the purchase money: I arrived there on the  [blank] day <Septen> and found the account which I heard  <were> correct: Our people were surrounded by a mob  their provisions nearly exhausted messages  were immediately sent to the Governor requesting  protection but instead of lending any assistance to  the oppressed he stated that the Quarrel was between  the Mormons and the mob and that they must fight  it out: Being now almost entirely destitute of provi sions and having suffered great distress and some  of the Brethren having died in consequence of their  privations & sufferings and I had then the pain of  beholding some of my Fellow creatures perish in a  strange land from the cruelty of of a mobs— seeing  no prospect of relief the Brethren agreed to leave  that place and seek a shelter elsewere; after having  their houses burnt down their cattle driven away  and much of their property destroyed—— [p. 2]
JS’s “Bill of Damages” was drafted as a petition to the federal government for redress following his six-month incarceration in the aftermath of the 1838 Missouri War. The bill includes an account of significant episodes during the Missouri conflict and a record of JS’s personal losses and sufferings. The narrative portion begins with the siege of De Witt and culminated with JS’s escape in Missouri on 16 April 1839 and arrival in Quincy, Illinois, six days later. The bill closes with a broadly itemized account of losses sustained and expenses for which remuneration was sought totaling $100,000.
On 20 March 1839, JS wrote from jail in Liberty, Missouri, to the Saints instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.” (JS et al., Liberty MO, to the church and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839.) Following his own counsel, JS created the record of his Missouri losses on 4 June 1839, just a month and a half after his escape from custody. Robert B. Thompson, JS’s recently appointed clerk, acted as scribe for the document. It became the basis for the “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.,” first published in July 1839 in the Times and Seasons. (“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:2–9.)
Interestingly, the historical narrative recorded in the “Bill of Damages” bridges the chronological gap between JS’s last Missouri journal and his first Illinois journal. The last entry in JS’s September–October 1838 journal is 5 October 1838. On that date, JS left Far West, Missouri, with a detachment to reinforce besieged Saints at De Witt. JS’s “Bill of Damages” begins with the De Witt siege. The narrative portion of the bill ends with JS’s arrival in Quincy, Illinois, on 22 April 1839; the first two entries in JS’s 1839 journal take up his record again at precisely that point. (See JS, Journal, 5 Oct. 1838 and 16 Apr. 1839, in JSP, J1:330, 336.)
The published “Extract,” which was largely based on the “Bill of Damages,” was disseminated to the Saints throughout the nation via newspaper. The document helped shape the Saints’ memory of the persecution in Missouri and their pattern for rehearsing it. As part of JS’s effort to gain sympathy in the court of public opinion, the “Extract” contributed to the church’s campaign seeking redress for grievances suffered in Missouri.