Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

we then got a change of venue to Boone County and  were on our way to that place on second evening  after our departure our Guards getting intoxicated  & I thought it a favourable time to effect our escape  from a state such men whose aim was only to  destroy our lifes, and to abuse us in every manner  that wicked men could invent accordingly we  took advantage of their situation and made  our escape and after enduring considerable  Fatigue & suffering hunger & weariness expecting  that our enemies would be in persuit we arrived  in the Town of Quincy Illinois amidst the con gratulations of our Friends & the Joy of our Familys.  I have been here for several weeks as it is known  to people in the State of Missoura but they knows  they had no Justice in their Crusade against  us me have not to my knowledge taken the first  step to have me arrested——
The Loss of Property which I have sustained  is as follows—
Lossess sustained in Jackson County  Davies County: Caldwell County  including Lands: <Houses> Horses: Harnesses  Hogs Cattle Hogs & Books & store Goods$100,000
Expences while in Bonds: of moneys  paid out Expences of moving out of  the State & damages sustained by  <False imprisonment>
threatenings: intimidation Exposure  &c &c &c &c &c
[p. 8]
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.