Battle of Crooked River
25 October 1838
Compilation of Sources by Ron Romig and Mel Tungate, 11-6-2003
The confrontation began when the Mormons ran into Bogart's picket guards. One of the guards, John Lockhart remembered, “Myself and the other guards were standing at the same tree, near the road, about a quarter of a mile from the camp; and about day-break we discovered men approaching us in the road. When the front of them got within about 15 or 20 steps of us, the other guard raised his gun. I told him not to shoot, but to hail them. He hailed them, and asked, "Who comes there?" They replied, "a friend;" but still moved on. I hailed the second time, and bade them to stand. I asked who was there; they answered, a friend. I asked them if they had any arms, and go off, and leave them; they told me to come and get them. I again told them to lay them down, and leave them; they made a noise with their guns, as if they were laying them down, and again called to us to come and get them. I could see clear enough to perceive that they had not laid down their guns, as they said they had done; but had them on their shoulders. At that time I discovered one of the men strike the ground with his sword, and immediately I heard a percussion cap burst without the gun's firing. I told the other guard to shoot; that they had bursted a cap at us; and immediately I raised my gun and fired—the other did not shoot. We then ran to camp, where, in a few moments, the Mormons arrived, and the action commenced.” [John Lockhart, testimony, Senate Document 189, 35-36].
An official history of the church [the History of the LDS Church] provides the following narrative, “Thursday, 25.—Fifteen of the company were detached from the main body while sixty continued their march till they arrived near the ford of Crooked river, (or creek) where they dismounted, tied their horses, and leaving four or five men to guard them, proceeded towards the ford, not knowing the location of the encampment. It was just at the dawning of light in the east, when they were marching quietly along the road, and near the top of the hill which descends to the river that the report of a gun was heard, and young Patrick O'Banion reeled out of the ranks and fell mortally wounded. Thus the work of death commenced, when Captain Patten ordered a charge and rushed down the hill on a fast trot, and when within about fifty yards of the camp formed a line. The mob formed a line under the bank of the river, below their tents. It was yet so dark that little could be seen by looking at the west, while the mob looking towards the dawning light, could see Patten and his men, when they fired a broadside, and three or four of the brethren fell. [ History of the [LDS] Church , 3, 170-71].
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Joseph Holbrook explained, "As we got near Shoal Creek [Crooked River] one of our men by the name of [Patrick O'Banion] was fired at in the main road, and died in a few hours afterward, the 25th of October, 1838.
"As we still wished if possible to learn their object in coming into Caldwell County in the form of a mob to disturb the quiet citizens and disarming them, etc. The first we knew they commenced a brisk fire upon our whole body [Battle of Crooked River], shooting down many of our best brethren all around us and hollering so that we had no other course to take but to defend ourselves the best way we could, which soon gave us the grounds with the spoils of the camp. Among the dead and wounded was David W. Patten, one of the Twelve, shot through the chest. He died about 4:00 o'clock that day. [Patrick] O Bennion [O'Banion] was shot through the chest and died about the same time and Gideon Carter was left dead on the ground through a mistake, and [James] Hendricks who was shot through the cords of the neck and was entirely helpless. [William] Seeley, one of the young men they took prisoner at Brother Pinkham's the evening before, was shot through the shoulder and one Lilburn Hodges was shot in the hip and one Eli Chase was shot in the knee with a number more slightly wounded. I was wounded in my left elbow with a sword after cutting through five thicknesses of cloth. [It] so fractured the bone that after the doctor had placed back the bones, it was very lame for some four months and so stiff that I could not feed myself with that hand. The battle of Crooked River began October 25, about daybreak, 1838." [Joseph Holbrook, http://www.farwesthistory.com/plumcre.htm].
Washington Averett stated, "At Crooked River... a number of the mob was killed and wounded and several of the Saints was wounded and one noble man of the Saints was killed, David Patten, and one of the twelve apostles, a noble spirit much lamented by all the Saints. One of the Madge family and one of the Henricks family was also shot and badly wounded at that encounter at Crooked River but both recovered after along time suffering." [Autobiography of George Washington Gill Averett, typescript, BYU-S; http://www.carolyar.com/Illinois/Bios/Averett.htm].
"Captain David Patton, alias Fear Not, one of the twelve apostles, was sent out by the prophet with fifty men, to attack a body of Missourians, who were camping on the Crooked River. Captain Patton's men were nearly all, if not every one of them, Danites. The attack was made just before daylight in the morning. Captain Fear Not wore a white blanket overcoat, and led the attacking party. He was a brave, impulsive man. He rushed into the thickest of the fight, regardless of danger - really seeking it to show his men that God would shield him from all harm. But he counted, without just reason, upon being invincible, for a ball soon entered his body, passing through his hips and cutting his bladder. The wound was fatal; but he kept on his feet, and led his men some time before yielding to the effects of the wound. The Gentiles said afterwards that Captain Patton told his men to charge in the name of Lazarus, '"Charge, Danites, charge!'" and that as soon as he uttered the command, which distinguished him, they gave the Danite Captain a commission with powder and ball, and sent him on a mission to preach to the spirits that were in prison. In this battle several men were killed and wounded on both sides. I do not remember all of the names of the Danites that were killed, but I do remember that a man by the name of [O']Banion was killed, and one by the name of Jas. Holbrook was wounded." [Confessions of John D. Lee].
One account conveys the brutality of the battle as experienced from the perspective of Bogart's forces, "Two Mormons attacked Samuel Tarwater, Crooked River Survivor [Samuel] Tarwater with corn knives and nearly cut him to pieces. He received a terrible gash in the skull, through which his brain was plainly visible, one terrible blow across the face severed the jaw bone and destroyed all the upper teeth, and there was an ugly gash made in his neck. He kept his bed six months and his wounds considerably affected his speech and memory." [History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 130].
"The ground was soon cleared, and the brethren gathered up a wagon or two and making beds therein of tents, etc., took their wounded and retreated towards Far West. Three brethren were wounded in the bowels, one in the neck, one (page 214) in the shoulder, one through the hips, one through both thighs, one in the arms, all by musket shot. One had his arm broken by a sword. Brother Gideon Carter was shot in the head and left dead on the ground, so defaced that the brethren did not know him. Bogart reported that he had lost one man." [History of the RLDS Church, 2, 213-14; http://www.centerplace.org/history/ch/v2ch12.htm].
John Rigdon said, "The Mormons… took their horse[s], blankets and what guns they could find and the clothing they left behind, and took up the bodies of Patten and O'Banion and started for Far West. [They] did not know that Carter had been shot as it was dark." [The Life and Testimony of Sidney Rigdon John Wickliffe Rigdon, Dialogue, 1, No.4, 32].
"We took three of our brethren whom they had prisoners, one of whom was severely wounded by the mob; we gathered up Captain Patten and the others who were wounded and put them in a wagon, and left for Far West; the sun was not yet risen." [Charles Rich, journal, in "History," Millennial Star, 26 (1864):441].
"The three prisoners were released and returned with the brethren to Far West. Captain Patten was carried some of the way in a litter, but it caused so much distress he begged to be left, and was carried into Brother Winchester's, three miles from the city, where he died that night. O'Banion died soon after, and Brother Carter's body was also brought from Crooked River, when it was discovered who he was." History of the RLDS Church, 2, 213-14; http://www.centerplace.org/history/ch/v2ch12.htm].
Peter Burnett a member of the Clay County militia, the "Liberty Blues," happened upon the battle site the next day. Burnett wrote, "John "Estes, one of Bogard's [Bogart's] men, who was in the fight, escaped and came to Liberty the same day, and gave information to General Atchison. The latter at once ordered the Liberty Blues to march to the battleground, and there await further orders. I was a member of this independent militia company.
We made ready, and were off before night, and marched some ten miles that evening, under General Doniphan. The next day we reached the scene of conflict, and encamped in the edge of the open oak-woods next to the prairie that extended from that point to Far West (the town being in the open prairie), and on the road that Patton had traveled to attack Bogard, and about one mile nearer Far West than Bogard's camp. We were joined by some of Bogard's men, so that we numbered about one hundred. The first night after our 'encampment was cold and frosty. I remember it well, for I was on guard that night... The next day was warm and beautiful, and was what is called "Indian summer." I went upon the battle-field and examined it carefully. The dead and wounded had all been removed; but the clots of blood upon the leaves where the men had fallen were fresh and plainly to be seen. It looked like the scene of death. Here lay a wool hat, there a tin cup, here an old blanket; in the top of this little tree hung a wallet of provisions; and saddles and bridles, and various articles of clothing, lay around in confusion. The marks of the bullets were seen all around. I remember that a small linden-tree, three or four inches in diameter, that stood behind Patton's men, seemed to have been a target, from the number of shots that had struck it." [Peter H. Burnett, Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880), 59-60.]
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