Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forget Mountain Meadows: The Other 9/11

Everyone remembers the sad day back on September 11, 2001. It was the day that America was attacked by muslim extremists, and led to the instigation of two mostly ridiculous wars that still haven't been totally resolved. But few still remember the original 9/11 tragedy known as the mountain meadows massacre, the day our great nation was attacked by another group of religious fanatics... the mormons.

On this day in 1857 a large group of emigrants bound by wagon train to the prosperous lands of California from Arkansas were attacked in southern Utah. They had just traveled through Salt Lake City where they apparently drew some unwelcome attention from the local mormons, who planned a deceptive seige attack while dressed as native americans. The mormon raiders were surprised by the resolve of the wagon train, who fought back the savage attacks for a full five days before wearing down the raiders.

At this time the mormon militia, led by commander Wiliiam H. Dame, decided to abandon their native garb and approach the weary wagon train as friends. They convinced the group that they had nothing but good mormony intentions and claimed to have some nearby food and water to help sustain them, but when they led the group away from their fortifications they sprung their trap. Attacking from all sides, the bloodthirsty militia laid some LDS-style smackdown and murdered 120 men, women, and children.

Not wanting any more unflattering press after widespread mormon persecution, the militia buried their unfortunate victims in a mass grave, then auctioned off their valuables. But they made one mistake: they spared a small group of seventeen children which they assimilated into their society. Not surprisingly, these children remembered these people that shot, stabbed, and burned their mothers and fathers, and word got out about the crime. The federal government stepped in and prosecuted the only confirmed mormon murderer, a man named John D. Lee, who was promptly executed.

In the years since the incident, the mormon church has strongly denied any connection to the attacks despite claims that Brigham Young himself issued the orders to the militia, and they even maintain a monument to those who died at the site of the mass grave. But in 1999, while restoring the monument at mountain meadows, the church renewed interest in the issue when they accidentally dug up 29 of the 120 buried bodies. The federal government stepped in and gave a proper burial to the remains, but all further excavation was sealed and the curch quickly finished restoration and quietly slinked away.

But the massacre was a big deal back in civil-war era America, even warranting a mention by esteemed author Mark Twain in his book, Roughing It:

"The whole United States rang with it's horrors. A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrent wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses of their wagons, and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the sort of scurvy apologies for "Indians" which the southern part of Utah affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them. At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They retired to the upper end of the 'Meadows,' resumed civilized apparel, washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to the beleagured emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with cheer after cheer...."
So on this solemn anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, let's put a little perspective into the persecution and warmongering against muslim countries worldwide. The christian right and hawks in the republican party might want to keep the notion that islam is an evil religion alive, and may be keen to remind all of us that we live in a world surrounded by those that would attack us because they "hate freedom", or some other nonsense. But our country once had these same claims about mormons. And now they are trying to elect one president... NEVER FORGET!


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