Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

weather which was extreemly cold a large Snow Storm  having just fallen: In this state of affairs General  Parks arrived at Daviess and was at the House of  Colonel [Lyman] Wight went [when] the intelligence was brought that  the mob were burning Houses &c and also when  women and childrren were flocking into the village  for safety: Colonel Wight <who held a commission 59th Regiment under his command> asked him what steps  should be taken He told him that he must im mediately call out his men and go and put them  down: Immediately preparations were made to  raise a force to Quell the mob, and ascertaining that  we were determined to bear such treatment no longer,  but to make a vigourous effort to subdue them and  likewise being informed of the orders of General  Parks, broke up their encampment and fled some  of the inhabitants in the immediate neighbourhood  who seeing no prospect of driving us by force resorted  to stratagem and actually set fire to their own Houses  after having removed their property and effects and  then sent sent information to Governor stating  that our Brethren were committing depredations  and destroying their property burning houses &c &
On the retreat of the mob from Daviess County I return  home to Caldwell on my arrival there I understood  that a mob had commenced hostilities in the Borders  of Caldwell had taken some of our People prisoners  burnt some houses and had done considerable damage—  Immediately Captain [David W.] Patten was ordered out by  <leutenant> Colonel Hinckle [George M. Hinkle] to go against them and about day  light next morning came up with them: upon the  approach of our people they fired upon them and  after discharging their pieces fled with great precip itation. In this affray Capt Patten fell a victim  to that spirit of mobocracy which has prevailed to  <Donophan " " 1st " " " ">
<Parks Brigadier General 2nd Brigade 3 Division of the Missouri Malitia> [p. 4]
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.