Thursday, October 18

Yesterday, in my library time , waiting for Katie at her musical composition program, I read the most horrifying article in American Heritage magazine. It was about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The article isn't online yet, but here's a brief account of the event from an issue of the Salt Lake Tribune:

A California-bound wagon train of about 140 Arkansas emigrants led by John Baker and Alexander Fancher camped near the present-day southwestern Utah town of Enterprise in September 1857. Fears the U.S. Army was preparing to forcibly remove Brigham Young as Utah territorial governor and impose martial law were at their height. Spurred by inflammatory sermons of LDS leaders, a siege mentality focused Mormon resentment toward the "gentile" wagon train.

Early on Sept. 7, a group of American Indians and local Mormon "Indian missionaries" attacked the encircled wagon train without warning. After the Arkansas party repelled the offensive, a contingent of Mormon territorial militia, acting on orders from religious leaders, joined the assault, which dragged on four more days as 15 emigrant men were killed while fighting or escaping to summon help.

With their ammunition, food and water almost gone, the emigrants were persuaded by Mormon officials on the afternoon of Sept. 11 to surrender their arms in exchange for a safe escort past the Indians to Cedar City. Segregated into groups of young children, women and teens, and adult males, they were led under heavy guard by more than 50 militiamen and settlers out of the corralled wagons and up the valley.

On a pre-arranged command, the rescuers turned upon the emigrants, joined by Indians who had been lying in wait. Estimates of the death toll include 14 Arkansas men shot in the head, 12 women and 35 youngsters clubbed or knifed to death, with 17 children younger than age 8 surviving the double-cross.

Nine cowhands hired to drive cattle also were murdered, along with at least 35 other unknown victims. In all, 120 people, mostly women and children, were slain.

After two decades of rumors, denials, cover-ups and failed indictments, one of the participating Mormon leaders, John D. Lee -- Young's adopted son -- was tried, convicted and executed by firing squad in 1877 at the scene of the massacre. Lee considered himself a scapegoat.

No one else was ever officially held responsible for the crime.

Here's another brief article about the massacre, which includes a description of it from Roughing It by Mark Twain. The American Heritage article says that section was removed from later editions of the book.

The issue, of course, is culpability. The Mormon Church denies any responsibility for the massacre, although evidence exists linking church leadership, including Brigham Young himself, to the event.

Does theocracy ever work to the ultimate good of human welfare? I don't think so.

Profiles in Courage: Not.

I'm of two minds in regard to the Congressional Anthrax Skeedaddle: This is leadership in times when we're told to "not let the terrorists win" and "lead our normal lives?" But then.... if they're not in session, they can't spend money. Go ahead guys. We'll do fine without you, I do believe.

Whew. If you'd told me at 12:30 am that ten hours later I would be finished with the article I'd barely started writing, I would have laughed. Or cried. In fact, I'd just finished reading the book that was to be the focus of the article: Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life.

But I did it.Thanks to the baby, who took a 90-minute nap this morning, I did it.

So, you're wondering, why is she writing about baseball? Because the editor told me to, that's why. Actually, the piece is a "think piece" on heroes, reflecting on the warts-and-all portrayal of DiMaggio in the book, our changing sense of the heroic, how our media saturated celebrity culture warps our sense of the hero, and, of course, post 9/11 reflections.

It's a interesting book, the DiMaggio biography. It was a controversial piece of work, since it shatters any myths and leaves us with a cold, hard-shelled central figure (a portrayal not helped by the fact that the author wrote the book without any help from DiMaggio himself.) who was miserly, and pretty much totally focussed on how he could trade on his celebrity status to get other people to give him free stuff and lots of money. The portrait of his later years and his machinations with purveyors of baseball collectibles is pretty outrageous.

There's a hospital down in Hollywood, Florida named for him: The Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. DiMaggio never gave the place a dime. Somehow, the naming of the hospital after him worked to help shelter him from some California taxes. He wouldn't even donate autographed memorabilia for fund-raising purposes. They had to buy it on the open market.

One of the most striking images is of DiMaggio, the year before he died, being driven around New York City in a friend's car, a friend whose car was his regular mode of transportation when he was in NYC - it was stocked with his favorite CD's, as well as "a copy of the book, the Old Man and the Sea, with the pages that mentioned the Great DiMaggio dog-eared at the corners, so Joe could find them.”

One thing I didn't know: That DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were scheduled to be remarried (after being divorced for about 4 years) the Wednesday after the Saturday she ended up dead.


Blog Archive