History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

History of Missouri

Chapter 9: Early Military Record of the State

Black Hawk War — Mormon Difficulties — Florida War — Mexican War.

On the fourteenth day of May, 1832, a bloody engagement took place between the regular forces of the United States, and a part of the Sacs, Foxes, and Winnebago Indians, commanded by Black Hawk and Keokuk, near Dixon's Ferry in Illinois.

The Governor (John Miller) of Missouri, fearing these savages would invade the soil of his State, ordered Major-General Richard Gentry to raise one thousand volunteers for the defence of the frontier. Five companies were at once raised in Boone county, and in Callaway, Montgomery, St. Charles, Lincoln, Pike, Marion, Ralls, Clay and Monroe other companies were raised.

Two of these companies, commanded respectively by Captain John Jamison of Callaway, and Captain David M. Hickman of Boone county, were mustered into service in July for thirty days, and put under command of Major Thomas W. Conyers.

This detachment, accompanied by General Gentry, arrived at Fort Pike on the 15th of July, 1882. Finding that the Indians had not crossed the Mississippi into Missouri, General Gentry returned to Columbia, leaving the fort in charge of Major Conyers. Thirty days having expired, the command under Major Conyers was relieved by two other companies under Captains Sinclair Kirtley, of Boone, and Patrick Ewing, of Callaway. This detachment was marched to Fort Pike by Col. Austin A. King, who conducted the two companies under Major Conyers home. Major Conyers was left in charge of the fort, where he remained till September following, at which time the Indian troubles, so far as Missouri was concerned, having all subsided, the frontier forces were mustered out of service.

Black Hawk continued the war in Iowa and Illinois, and was finally defeated and captured in 1833.


In 1832, Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormons, and the chosen prophet and apostle, as he claimed, of the Most High, came with many followers to Jackson county, Missouri, where they located and entered several thousand acres of land.

The object of his coming so far West—upon the very outskirts of civilization at that time—was to more securely establish his church, and the more effectively to instruct his followers in its peculiar tenets and practices.

Upon the present town site of Independence the Mormons located their "Zion," and gave it the name of "The New Jerusalem." They published here the Evening Star, and made themselves generally obnoxious to the Gentiles, who were then in a minority, by their denunciatory articles through their paper, their clannishness and their polygamous practices.

Dreading the demoralizing influence of a paper which seemed to be inspired only with hatred and malice toward them, the Gentiles threw the press and type into the Missouri River, tarred and feathered one of their bishops, and otherwise gave the Mormons and their leads to understand that they must conduct themselves in an entirely different manner if they wished to be let alone.

After the destruction of their paper and press, they became furiously incensed, and sought many opportunities for retaliation. Matters continued in an uncertain condition until the 31st of October, 1833, when a deadly conflict occurred near Westport, in which two Gentiles and one Mormon were killed.

On the 2d of October following the Mormons were overpowered, and compelled to lay down their arms and agree to leave the county with their families by January 1st on the condition that the owner would be paid for his printing press. [54]

Leaving Jackson county, they crossed the Missouri and located in Clay, Carroll, Caldwell and other counties, and selected, in Caldwell county a town site, which they called "Far West," and where they entered more land for their future homes.

Through the influence of their missionaries, who were exerting themselves in the East and in different portions of Europe, converts had constantly flocked to their standard, and "Far West," and other Mormon settlements, rapidly prospered.

In 1837 they commenced the erection of a magnificent temple, but never finished it. As their settlements increased in numbers they became holder in their practices and deeds of lawlessness.

During the summer of 1838 two of their leaders settled in the town of De Witt, on the Missouri River, having purchased the land from an Illinois merchant. De Witt was in Carroll county, and a good point from which to forward goods and immigrants to their town—Far West.

Upon its being ascertained that these parties were Mormon leaders, the Gentiles called a public meeting, which was addressed by some of the prominent citizens of the county. Nothing, however, was done at this meeting, but at a subsequent meeting, which was held a few days afterward, committee of citizens was appointed to notify Col. Hinkle (one of the Mormon leaders at De Witt), what they intended to do.

Col. Hinkle upon being notified by this committee became indignant, and threatened extermination to all who should attempt to molest him or the Saints.

In anticipation of trouble, and believing that the Gentiles would attempt to force them from De Witt, Mormon recruits flocked to the town from every direction, and pitched their tents in and around the town in great numbers.

The Gentiles, nothing daunted, planned an attack upon this encampment, to take place on the 21st day of September, 1838, and, accordingly, one hundred and fifty men bivouacked near the town on that day. A conflict ensued, but nothing serious occurred.

The Mormons evacuated their works and fled to some log houses, where they could the more successfully resist the Gentiles, who had in the meantime returned to their camp to await reinforcements. Troops from Saline, Ray and other counties came to their assistance, and increased their number to five hundred men. [55]

Congreve Jackson was chosen Brigadier-General; Ebenezer Price, Colonel; Singleton Vaughan, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Sarshel Woods, Major. After some days of discipline, this brigade prepared for an assault, but before the attack was commenced Judge James Earickson and William F. Dunnica, influential citizens of Howard county, asked permission of General Jackson to let them try and adjust the difficulties without any bloodshed.

It was finally agreed that Judge Earickson should propose to the Mormons, that if they would pay for all the cattle they had killed belonging to the citizens, and load their wagons during the night and be ready to move by ten o'clock next morning, and make no further attempt to settle in Carroll county, the citizens would purchase at first cost their lots in De Witt and one or two adjoining tracts of land.

Col. Hinkle, the leader of the Mormons, at first refused all attempts to settle the difficulties in this way, but finally agreed to the proposition.

In accordance therewith, the Mormons without further delay, loaded up their wagons for the town of Far West, in Caldwell county. Whether the terms of the agreement were ever carried out, on the part of the citizens, is not known.

The Mormons had doubtless suffered much and in many ways— the result of their own acts—but their trials and sufferings were not at an end.

In 1838 the discord between the citizens and Mormons became so great that Governor Boggs issued a proclamation ordering Major-General David E. Atchison to call the militia of his division to enforce the laws. He called out a part of the first brigade of the Missouri State Militia, under command of Gen. A. W. Doniphan, who proceeded to the seat of war. Gen. John B. Clark, of Howard county, was placed in command of the militia.

The Mormon forces numbered about 1,000 men, and were led by G. W. Hinkle. The first engagement occurred at Crooked river, where one Mormon was killed. The principal fight took place at Haughn's Mills, where eighteen Mormons were killed and the balance captured, some of them being killed after they had surrendered. Only one militiaman was wounded.

In the month of October, 1838, Joe Smith surrendered the town of Far West to Gen. Doniphan, agreeing to his conditions, viz.: That they should deliver up their arms, surrender their prominent leaders for trial, and the remainder of the Mormons should, with their families, leave the State. Indictments were found against a number of these leaders, including Joe Smith, who, while being taken to Boone county for trial, made his escape, and was afterward, in 1844, killed at Carthage, Illinois, with his brother Hiram.


In September, 1837, the Secretary of War issued a requisition on, Governor Boggs, of Missouri, for six hundred volunteers for service in Florida against the Seminole Indians, with whom the Creek nation had made common cause under Osceola.

The first regiment was chiefly raised in Boone county by Colonel Richard Gentry, of which he was elected Colonel; John W. Price, of Howard county, Lieutenant-Colonel; Harrison M. Hughes, also of Howard, Major. Four companies of the second regiment were raised and attached to the first. Two of these companies were composed of Delaware and Osage Indians.

October 6, 1837, Col. Gentry's regiment left Columbia for the seat of war, stopping on the way at Jefferson barracks, where they were mustered into service.

Arriving at Jackson barracks, New Orleans, they were from thence transported in brigs across the Gulf to Tampa Bay, Florida. General Zachary Taylor, who then commanded in Florida, ordered Col. Gentry to march to Okee-cho-bee Lake, one hundred and thirty-five miles inland by the route traveled. Having reached the Kissemmee river, seventy miles distant, a bloody battle ensued, in which Col. Gentry was killed. The Missourians, though losing their gallant leader, continued the fight until the Indians were totally routed, leaving many of their dead and wounded on the field. There being no further service required of the Missourians, they returned to their homes in 1838.


Soon after Mexico declared war, against the United States, on the 8th and 9th of May, 1846, the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma were fought. Great excitement prevailed throughout the country. In none of her sister States, however, did the fires of patriotism burn more intensely than in Missouri. Not waiting for the call for volunteers, the "St. Louis Legion" hastened to the field of conflict. The "Legion" was commanded by Colonel A. R. Easton. During the month of May, 1846, Governor Edwards, of Missouri, called for volunteers to join the "Army of the West," an expedition to Sante Fe—under command of General Stephen W. Kearney. [57]

Fort Leavenworth was the appointed rendezvous for the volunteers. By the 18th of June, the full complement of companies to compose the first regiment had arrived from Jackson, Lafayette, Clay, Saline, Franklin, Cole, Howard and Callaway counties. Of this regiment, A. W. Doniphan was made Colonel; C. F. Ruff, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Wm. Gilpin, Major. The battalion of light artillery from St. Louis was commanded by Captains R. A. Weightman and A. W. Fischer, with Major M. L. Clark as field officer; battalions of infantry from Platte and Cole counties commanded by Captains Murphy and W. Z. Augney respectively, and the "Laclede Rangers," from St. Louis, by Captain Thomas B. Hudson, aggregating all told, from Missouri, 1,658 men. In the summer of 1846 Hon. Sterling Price resigned his seat in Congress and raised one mounted regiment, one mounted extra battalion, and one extra battalion of Mormon infantry to reinforce the "Army of the West." Mr. Price was made Colonel, and D. D. Mitchell Lieutenant-Colonel.

In August, 1847, Governor Edwards made another requisition for one thousand men, to consist of infantry. The regiment was raised at once. John Dougherty, of Clay county, was chosen Colonel, but before the regiment marched the President countermanded the order.

A company of mounted volunteers was raised in Ralls county, commanded by Captain Wm. T. Lafland. Conspicuous among the engagements in which the Missouri volunteers participated in Mexico were the battles of Bracito, Sacramento, Cañada, El Embudo, Taos and Santa Cruz de Rosales. The forces from Missouri were mustered out in 1848, and will ever be remembered in the history of the Mexican war, for

"A thousand glorious actions that might claim
Triumphant laurels and immortal fame."


Next Chapter | Table of Contents | Keyword Search

History of Greene County Home | Local History Home

Springfield-Greene County Library