From Publishers Weekly
On September 11, 1857, more than 120 men, women and children traveling from Arkansas to California were butchered by Mormon militiamen and Paiute Indians at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. This study of the tragedy, by three LDS historians, utilizes previously unavailable archival documents to answer the question, How could basically good people commit such a terrible atrocity? The authors find responsibility almost everywhere: in the escalating tensions between the federal government and Mormon authorities, in the 19th-century American culture of violence, in the barbarism of the emigrants and in the unchecked hunger for vengeance the Mormon militiamen felt toward Americans who had opposed their faith. John D. Lee, a fanatical militia leader, receives much of the blame, while church president Brigham Young gets a pass. This first volume covers the massacre itself, not the coverup that some historians have alleged was masterminded by the LDS Church; the authors leave the door open for a possible sequel. But the book's evocative portrayal of the moments leading to the massacre and its careful reconstruction of the lives of the victims makes an important contribution. This is an absorbing, if unsettling, read. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* Coauthors Walker, Turley, and Leonard provide the fullest account yet of the darkest chapter in Mormon history: the massacre of a wagon train of California-bound immigrants passing through southern Utah in 1857. Readers relive the grim days when local Mormon leaders besieged the immigrants with a force of white militiamen and Paiute warriors and then brutally butchered all but a few young children. To account for the barbarism of attackers who professed a religion of love, Walker, Turley, and Leonard recount the Mormons’ turbulent history in Missouri and Illinois, where government officials allowed mobs to kill unarmed Mormons and drive others from their homes. Determined to protect their new communities, Utah Mormons seethed with passion when, in 1857, President Buchanan announced plans to send troops to quell a supposed Mormon insurrection. Those passions surged when some immigrants boasted of involvement in earlier depredations against Mormon settlements—and threatened worse. The drama leading up to the massacre brings to view a score of memorable personalities. But the most famous—namely, Brigham Young—plays a role of surprising impotence, as his urgent letter directing the militia to let the immigrants pass in peace leaves a Mormon captain lamenting, “too late, too late.” An essential acquisition for any western history collection. --Bryce Christensen
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