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Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows [Paperback]

Will Bagley
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2004
The massacre at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857, was the single most violent attack on a wagon train in the thirty-year history of the Oregon and California trails. Yet it has been all but forgotten. Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets is an award-winning, riveting account of the attack on the Baker-Fancher wagon train by Mormons in the local militia and a few Paiute Indians. Based on extensive investigation of the events surrounding the murder of over 120 men, women, and children, and drawing from a wealth of primary sources, Bagley explains how the murders occurred, reveals the involvement of territorial governor Brigham Young, and explores the subsequent suppression and distortion of events related to the massacre by the Mormon Church and others.

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From Library Journal

In 1857, over 100 men, women, and children in a wagon train from Arkansas were murdered in southern Utah by local settlers aided by Southern Paiute warriors. For 50 years, Mormon historian Juanita Brooks's The Mountain Meadows Massacre has been the standard work on the subject. Here, independent historian and Salt Lake Tribune columnist Bagley claims only to extend Brooks's work. But by using documents not available to Brooks and by following her example in pursuing the truth wherever it led him while not going beyond the available evidence, he confirms her private opinion that territorial Mormon leader and governor Brigham Young was heavily involved in both the massacre and its cover-up. In the process, Bagley has produced the new standard work on the massacre. This well-written and well-thought-out analysis is essential for all libraries with collections on the West or the Mormons.
Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Will Bagley is an independent historian who has written about overland emigration, frontier violence, railroads, mining, and the Mormons. Bagley has published extensively over the years and is the author and editor of many books, articles, and reviews in professional journals. Bagley is the series editor of Arthur H. Clark Company's documentary history series, KINGDOM IN THE WEST: The Mormons and the American Frontier. Bagley has been a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah and the Archibald Hannah, Jr. Fellow in American History at Yale University's Beinecke Library. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows has won numerous awards including a Spur Award from Western Writers of America, the Bancroft History Prize from the Denver Public Library, Westerners International Best Book, and the Western History Association Caughey Book Prize for the most distinguished book on the history of the American West. So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812-1848 is the first of four volumes of Overland West: The Story of the Oregon and California Trails Series.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I liked Bagley's work as the product of years of effort and the assembly of some new material. However, the book is very weak in the assessment of official documents, probably its greatest defect.
When Blood of the Prophets concludes that the LDS Church reached a "deal" in September 1876 with the Justice Department which would require the government to cease any further investigation of the massacre in exchange for the scapegoating of John D. Lee, Bagley misses two important things. First, he ignores federal case law which would have made any such deal a nullity and unenforceable. A federal prosecutor cannot offer a deal like the one Bagley describes without the approval of a judge or a president.
Second, he ignores official correspondence from 1876 to 1884. In that correspondence, government lawyers express the feeling that it would be wise not to make their investigation public, as it would alert possible suspects. The investigation, in the end, proved ineffectual. Nonetheless, the government pursued it for years. A president, a secretary of war, three attorneys general, several marshals, and a federal judge all weighed in on the prosecutorial effort from 1876 to 1884. A presidential pardon was secretly offered Lee to turn against Brigham Young in 1877 -- months after the date Bagley tells us a deal was made to ignore the prosecution of Brigham Young and others. A reward was offered by the Department of Justice in 1884 for the apprehension of massacre perpetrators who were fugitives.
Bagley's theory of a "deal," however, is the central theme of the book.
There really is, not yet, any definitive treatise on the massacre which adequately handles the official documents.
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5.0 out of 5 stars When ordinary people did terrible things Jan. 23 2004
Recently I've read Jon Krakauer's book which deals partly with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and Sally Denton's book which focuses entirely on it. Will Bagley's "Blood of the Prophets" is the definitive source, to date (and until the Mormon Church makes all its archives available to scholars), on this shocking, almost incomprehensible event.
I've given it 5 stars because of the throughness of its documentation, but I do believe serious inquirers should consult other sources for a fuller description of the oppression which the Mormons had experienced, culminating in the lynching of Joseph Smith and his brother. Such knowledge makes the Mountain Meadows Massacre of a large wagon train, largely by the Mormons, no less horrifying and no less indefensible, but at least slightly explicable.
As I immersed myself in the bloody events of 1857, I was sadly aware that the willingness of ordinarily decent people to do terrible things in the name of their god is not unique, of course, to some Mormons of the mid-19th century. And it is not unique to Islamic extremists today, as evidenced by Krakauer's book about recent Utah murders-in-the-name-of-god and by the killing of Christians by Christians in Northern Ireland. Religions, which inspire so many good, generous actions, also are the justification used by some people to commit the most terrible acts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brigham Young Tome in Bagley's Future? May 9 2003
This book may deal chiefly with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but researchers and scholars will find no better primer on what life in territorial Utah was really like. I've been trying to understand why my great-great-grandfather's first wife left him to elope with a soldier from the Utah Expedition, and this book is the most helpful source I've found.
Bagley undertook this work knowing that the Massacre and its unflagging aftermath cannot be interpreted without a thorough understanding of Brigham Young. In the third chapter, my eyes popped out when I read, "Brigham Young loved his office as governor of Utah and the salary and power that went with it, but he was never comfortable with his role as prophet." This was the preface to a series of staggering insights into Young's inner workings.
On the 200th anniversary of Young's birth, Bagley published a sagacious appreciation of the prophet's career in the Salt Lake Tribune. Let's hope Bagley is gearing up to produce the definitive biography of Young that for over a century has been crying out to be written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BOTP Is A Marvelous Work Jan. 19 2003
Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows is not for thefaint-hearted, or those who want a popular "read", of this sensational or lurid event of the American West. Rather, it calls mightily to the professional historian and the serious layperson. Its words strike to the heart, and appeal to the gut, of human experience. The author's authentic voice as a great storyteller emerges swiftly in the prologue, "The Mountain Meadow", and continues to inform the book to its end.
Bagley magnificently narrates, interprets, and deconstructs the myth, legend, and lore surrounding the events and subsequent retelling (often false or misinformed) of the massacre. It meets the imperative that good history writing inherits the criteria underpinning good literature. Impeccable, exhaustive research with a clear, fresh narrative and interpretative style makes the book a must read for those truly interested in the tragedy and its subsequent versions of its retelling. All future works must meet the bar that Bagley has set; Blood of the Prophets convinces the objective reader that Brigham Young's words, intent, and actions were clearly revealed on the meadows.
If you truly desire to know the truth about Mountain Meadows, buy this book.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A Biased Treatment By an Intelligent but Prejudiced Author!
I read this book anticipating an honest and unbiased treatment of an important and tragic event in Utah and Mormon history. Read more
Published on July 19 2004 by NanaNeece
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written fiction.
While the book is based on a real tragady in history I felt the book was written to sell books. Having studied this particular event and even visiting the sites I found several... Read more
Published on June 7 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Mental Motives known over 100 years later? Nay..
If people are honestly reading this book, and taking it to heart to be a "true" "solid" book, worth reading, then they are just about as ignorant as Simon was... Read more
Published on Dec 11 2003 by SoloBoshek
1.0 out of 5 stars No new facts
All that the author adds with this book are more conjectures based on arbitrary interpretation of phrases in documents, plus opinions that agree with his own, evident anti-mormon... Read more
Published on Nov. 27 2003 by Carlos A. Gonzalez
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Contribution to Western American History
Will Bagley's "Blood of the Prophets" is a superb example of what real history should be---painstakingly researched, well-written, and capably topped off with original... Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2003 by Jim Scott
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to know....
I find this all interesting, but realistically the researchers could not possibly understand motives or true involvements into the massacre. Read more
Published on June 18 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Brooks Said It All A Long Time Ago
Bagley wants to show that Brigham was involved in Mountain Meadows. He amasses tremendous amounts of evidence but the details and the trivia simply don't add up to convicting... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2003 by Dr. William Brace
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading!
Well, since there are so many excellent reviews already been written, there is little that I can add outside of this, I believed this book and the one by Juanita Brooks will... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by lordhoot
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject matter, boring book
Other reviewers have discussed the subject matter of this book amply and well, so I'll avoid that aspect of the book. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2002
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