*Note–This was posted this morning. Due to a technical glitch, it was erased. Some comments may have been erased from this morning as well. I am re-posting it this evening.
As you search across the bloggernacle, sometimes you’ll find antagonists who take great issue with the fact that a gun was smuggled to Joseph Smith at the Carthage Jail. These antagonists often act as if the church is covering up this fact. For years I’ve known a gun was smuggled to Joseph from personal visits to the Carthage Jail in Illinois. Tour guides do not try to hide this fact. Some antagonists love to quote that John Taylor believed that Joseph may have killed one or two of the assailants with this gun. However, this is inaccurate. Elder Dallin Oaks wrote a book called Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith which goes into great detail about the events surrounding Joseph Smith, as well as the trial of Joseph’s accused assassins.
Joseph did wound 3 men. What antagonists won’t tell you is that these men had very incriminating wounds to prove they were at the jail during the mob riot. These men were indicted by a grand jury on charges of murder, but fled to avoid criminal prosecution for murder. While some may be surprised to learn that Joseph had a gun, I just don’t think there is a cover up of this fact, as evidenced by Elder Oaks book which came out more than 30 years ago.
I highly recommend Carthage Conspiracy. Some may wonder whether Elder Oaks is qualified to write a book such as this. Dallin Oaks clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958. After his clerkship he practiced at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Oaks left Kirkland & Ellis to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. During part of his time on the faculty of the Law School, Oaks served as interim dean. Oaks left the Law School upon being appointed President at Brigham Young University. Oaks served as president of Brigham Young University from 1971–1980. In 1976, Oaks was listed by U.S. attorney general Edward H. Levi among potential Gerald Ford Supreme Court candidates. In 1981, he was closely considered by the Ronald Reagan administration as a Supreme Court nominee. Oaks served on the Utah Supreme Court from 1980 to 1984, when he resigned to accept a call by the LDS Church to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Currently, Elder Oaks is fourth in line to become the next prophet, behind Packer, Perry, and Nelson.
The book was first published in 1975 by the University of Illinois Press, and Oaks goes into great detail of the trial of the accused assassins. There are plenty of details in there that aren’t well known or discussed. You can find it for as cheap as $5.29 plus shipping at Amazon. Page 20 discusses the actual events of the mob at the jail. I am including most of his footnotes below.
In the Carthage jail on the morning of June 27 Joseph Smith wrote a letter to his wife, reassuring her that, if there was an attack, some of the militia would remain loyal. Later he and Hyrum entertained several visitors, including Cyrus H. Wheelock, who, fearing an attack on the jail, slipped a pistol into Joseph’s pocket.
Further down on the page (pages 20-21), (I’ve created additional paragraphs for readability.)
“While there were guards around the jail,” eyewitness William Hamilton recalled later, “they were guards that did not guard and in fact I think understood the whole matter.” [Quoted in Berry, “The Mormon Settlement in Illinois”, 88, 89] The guards fired directly into the attackers from a distance of twenty feet, but no one fell. Scuffling briefly with the guards, the mob tossed them aside and stormed up the stairs toward the room where the prisoners were held.Upon hearing the guns firing below, Joseph and Hyrum seized their pistols and ran to the door to hold it shut against the attackers. Some of the mob fired shots through the wooden door, hitting Hyrum in the face. He fell upon his back, dead, his head toward an open window on the east. Joseph, seeing his fallen brother at his feet, stepped up beside the door and began firing his pistol at the men in the hallway. After attempting to fire all six barrels (three misfired) he ran to the window.Outside were more of the mob, who fired at him from below as bullets struck him from behind. [This account is based on the recollections of eyewitnesses Willard Richard, John Taylor, and John H. Sherman. Joseph Smith’s Journal kept by Willard Richards, June 27, 1844; Times and Seasons 5 (August 1, 1844), 598; Smith, History of the Church, VII, 102-4; VI, 617,19; Scofield, History of Hancock County, 846-47.]He teetered on the sill, with one leg and an arm out the window, and then fell to the ground, landing on his left side. [Hamilton and Sherman agree on this. See also testimony of Thomas Dixon in “Minutes of Trial,” 60] An examination of his body showed he had been hit four times, once in the right collar bone, once in the breast, and twice in the back.Accounts differ as to whether he was dead before he hit the ground, [See Willard Richards to Brigham Young, June 30, 1844, Richards Papers, Church Archives] but Thomas Dixon, who was standing near the jail, said that while there was blood on his pants when he came to the window, “he was not dead when he fell–he raised himself up against the well curb.” [Cf. Ford, History of Illinois, 354, and Marsh, “Mormons in Hancock County,” 53, with the recollection of William H. Hamilton in Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845.] He then “drew up one leg and stretched out the other and died immediately.” [This recollection is attributed to Thomas Dixon in “Documents relating to the Mormon Troubles,” 26, handwritten notes on the trial testimony, Chicago Historical Society.] William R. Hamilton confirmed Dixon’s statement that the body was not molested after it hit the ground.[Scofield, History of Hancock County, 845; “Minutes of Trial,” 60. Another eyewitness states that Joseph was stabbed with a bayonet while on the ground. Samuel Otho Williams to John A. Prickett, July 10, 1844.]
A Hancock County historian has stated that the grand jury was presented with the names of about sixty persons for indictment. They voted first on the entire sixty, but the evidence was so inconclusive that the number of grand jurors who voted to indict was less that the required twelve. The grand jury then struck off the ten names with the least evidence and voted once more, but again failed to secure the minimum votes. They continued in this manner until the list of potential defendants contained only the nine persons with the strongest evidence against them. In this last instance the requisite twelve votes were finally obtained, and the nine defendants were accordingly indicted or formally charged with the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.[Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 301-2. The Warsaw Signal, October 30, 1844, maintains that no indictment could be obtained from Tuesday through Friday, but that on Saturday the Mormons “smuggled” in two additional witnesses who provided the basis for the indictment.]There were separate indictments for the two murders. Each charged the same nine defendents: John Wills,[A Mormon Source gives this as “John Patrick Wells.” Smith, History of the Church, VII, 162] William Voras,[So in indictment. Other sources often show it as “Voorhees.”] William N. Grover, Jacob C. Davis, Mark Aldrich, Thomas C. Sharp, Levi Williams, and two men named Gallaher and Allen, whose first names were not given.[There were three Gallahers in the Warsaw militia units: Charles, Patrick, and William. “Muster Roll of the Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers, Musicians and Privates belonging to the 59th Regiment 4th Brigade and 5th Division, Illinois Militia, under the command of Levi Williams,” Chicago Historical Society.]
From page 52, please note the 3 wounded:
Wills, Voras, and Gallaher were probably named in the indictment because their wounds, which testimony showed were received at the jail, were irrefutable evidence that they had participated in the mob. They undoubtedly recognized their vulnerability and fled the county. A contemporary witness reported these three as saying that they were the first men at the jail, that one of them shot through the door killing Hyrum, that Joseph wounded all three with his pistol, and that Gallaher shot Joseph as he ran to the window.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 675] According to Hay, Wills, whom the Mormon prophet had shot in the arm, was an Irishman who had joined the mob from “his congenital love of a brawl.”[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844, Brigham Young correspondence, Church Archives.]Gallaher was a young man from Mississippi who was shot in the face.[Hay, “The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” 669, 675. Another source says Wills was a former Mormon elder who had left the Church. Davis, An Authentic Account, 24.] Hay described Voras (Voorhees) as a “half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek” whom Joseph shot in the shoulder. The citizens of Green Plains were said to have given Gallaher and Voras new suits of clothes for their parts in the killing.[Statement of Jeremiah Willey, August 13, 1844]