Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

Judge King was also petitioned to afford us some  assistance: He sent a company of about 100 men  but instead of affording us any relief we were told  by General [Hiram] Parks that he could afford none in conse quence of the greater part of his Company under their  officers Capt. Saml Bogard [Bogart] having mutinized  about 70 waggons left Duet for Caldwell and duri[n]g  their Journey were continually insulted by the mob  who threatened to destroy us: <and shot at us> in our Journey  several of our Friends died and had to be interred withou[t]  a Coffin & under such Circumstances which were extreem ly distressing: Immediately on my arrival at of  Caldwell we were I was informed that General Donaphan [Alexander Doniphan]  from Clay County that a company of about 800  were marching towards a settlement of our Breth[r]en  in Daviess County and he advised <one of the office to cal> that we should  immediately go to protect our Bretheren in Daviess  County (in what he called Whites town) untill he  should get the malitia to put them down immedi ately a company a company of malitia <to the number of sixty> who were  going on their rout to that place he ordered back be leiving <as he said> that they were not to be depended upon and  to use his own language were “damned” rotten hearted”  <Lieu> Colonel Hinckle<Henks> aggreable to the advice of General  Doniphan a number of our Brethren volunteered  to go to Daviess to render what assistance they could  <My labors having been principally expended in Davies county w[h]ere I  intended to take up my residence & having a house in Building & having  [illegible] there I hastened up to that place &>  While I was there a number of the Brethrens Houses  were burnt and depredations were continually  committed such as driving off Horses, Cattle Sheep &c &c  Being deprived of shelter & <others> having no safety in  their Houses which were scattering and continualy <being alarmed>  at the approach of the mobs: they had to flock togeth[er]  their sufferings were very great in consequence  of their defenceless situation being exposed to the [p. 3]
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.