John D. Lee was the only person convicted in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Historian Will Bagley tells the awful details of the tragedy.
GT: Okay, so the first attack occurs on September 7. Basically, the Fancher party literally circle the wagons, and then they dig in because they’re trying to defend themselves.
Will: Yes, and they’re fighting back a lot harder than the clowns from Iron County who attacked them, including John D. Lee, who was put in charge of actually running the operation. It’s one blunder after another, and these people are tough. These are frontiers people from the south.
Will: [Lee] cooks up the story saying that he needs to divide them into three parties, the wounded and the youngest children, the women and the older children, and the men and he will put an armed guard at the side of every man. So the Indians don’t spring out of the bushes and kill everybody. Now, this is all fairly suspect, but what does Lee also do? He gives these Arkansans Masonic handshakes which are…
GT: A sign of protection.
Will: A sign. Masons do not betray other Masons, but John D. Lee did without a thought, and the Arkansas agreed to this.
GT: Because by now they’re running out of ammunition. They’re out of water.
Will: There’s no water. They’ve been shooting at them anytime they try to get to water. It’s a complete total mess. But what follows is very arguably the most horrible incident in the history of the American West, where white people kill white people. That’s the basic story of what Mountain Meadows is, and why it horrifies the rest of the United States so much, and why it gets the Mormons in such deep trouble.
Check out our conversation….
Check out our previous conversations with historian Will Bagley.