Alexander Doniphan

“One of [Boggs’s] militia commanders in 1838 was Alexander Doniphan. He was a famous jury lawyer, probably the best in all Missouri, and it followed naturally that he commanded six militia regiments. He was a mighty man – and a righteous one. So when General Lucas captured Joseph and other leaders of the Church and, in obedience to Boggs’s Extermination Order, tried them by courtmartial and ordered them to be shot for treason in the public square at Far West, Doniphan took a stand. Called upon to execute the condemned, he refused. “It is cold-blooded murder,” he wrote his general. “I will not obey your order. My brigade shall march for Liberty tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock, and if you execute these men I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God.” His troops marched, the order was not executed, and the chastened general, after holding the condemned prisoners over the winter, finally arranged for them to escape.

“Even before that, Doniphan had tried to deal justly with the Mormons. When they got into trouble at their earliest Missouri settlements, in Jackson County, Doniphan, as a member of the Legislature, had put through the bill which set off two new counties, Davies and Caldwell, in the unoccupied part of the state and arranged for the Mormons to take one of them. He had also represented Joseph in various suits brought against him; during one of them it had been the prophet’s whim to study law under him …. He was very much of Benton’s type, a crammed, insatiable mind, a conspicuous integrity. This is the image of the leader in frontier democracy, the kind of man who was called an empire-builder before the phrase lost its meaning. He also was to go west in ’46.”