Thursday, June 26, 2014

Joseph's Pepperbox

This is the week of Joseph's death. (The 27th)

The pepperbox is a multi-barrel repeating firearm that has three or more revolving barrels.
The Pepperbox is one of the few revolvers that can be found in every ammunition system: Matchlock, Wheellock, Flintlock, Percussion, Pinfire, and Centerfire.
Joseph’s was a 6 shot, .32 caliber Allen and Thurber. They were not known for being very accurate or reliable, but the price was right. About $10.00.
In the Church History Museum near Temple Square, located inside a glass case, resides a pair of 19th century pistols and a walking stick. The placard reads, in part, as follows:
“Joseph’s Pepperbox Pistol and Hyrum’s Single Shot Pistol. These guns were used by both men for their defense during the attack at Carthage”
These were the guns that were smuggled into the Carthage Jail while Joseph Smith, Hyrum and their friends awaited their fate. On the morning of June 27, 1844, Cyrus Wheelock visited the jail. The morning being a little rainy, favoured his wearing an overcoat, in the side pocket of which he was enabled to carry a six-shooter, and he passed the guard unmolested. During his visit in the prison he slipped the revolver into Joseph’s pocket. Joseph examined it, and asked Wheelock if he had not better retain it for his own protection.
This was a providential circumstance, as most other persons had been very rigidly searched. Joseph then handed the single barrel pistol, which had been given him by John S. Fullmer, to his brother Hyrum, and said, “You may have use for this.” Brother Hyrum observed, “I hate to use such things, or to see them used.” “So do I,” said Joseph, “but we may have to, to defend ourselves;” upon this Hyrum took the pistol. [i]
Although it was referred to as a “six shooter,” the pepper-box pistol was not a revolver in the normal sense. It incorporated six individual barrels, it was difficult to aim and tended to be unreliable. The June 2013 Ensign features a painting Greater Love Hath No Man, by Casey Childs. [ii] The artwork features all three items in the display case. Joseph, Hyrum and Willard Richards are attempting to hold the door shut as the mob attempts to enter the room. John Taylor is holding his walking stick. In Hyrum’s left pocket is the single shot pistol brought into the jail by Fullmer, and in Joseph’s left pocket, clearly visible, is the pepper-box pistol given to him by Wheelock.
[i] The Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star, Vol. 24, No. 29, (July 19, 1862) 459.
[ii] Casey Childs, Greater Love Hath No Man, Oil on Linen, 60×48″. The artist has documented the meticulous process by which he created a historically accurate representation of the moment just before Hyrum was shot. This included researching the pistols that Joseph and Hyrum were carrying in their pockets.
Early in 1845, with tentative plans for a westward move in mind, the LDS authorities directed Orson Pratt to purchase, with tithing money "six barreled pistols for self-defense, (while journeying in western wilds)." When he returned in November from New York, Pratt brought "four hundred dollars worth of Allen's revolving six-shooting pistols (alias pepperboxes)."14

14 Brigham H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1902-32), History of the Church. 7:509.

As you can see, the pepperbox was used predominantly by LDS Church members including the prophet Joseph Smith.

Brigham Young also wanted the Saints to be armed.

When such a group did depart for the Great Basin in April 1847, each ablebodied man was to carry a rifle or musket and have one pound of powder and four pounds of lead. Of the nine travel orders issued by Brigham Young, two concerned firearms. First, "Every man is to have his gun and pistol in perfect order." Second, "Each man is to travel with his gun on his shoulder, loaded, and each driver have his gun so placed that he can lay hold of it at a moment's warning."22

22 William M. Egan, ed., Pioneering the West 1846 to 1878, Major Howard Fgan's Diary (Richmond, Utah, 1917), 24; Clayton, William Clayton's Journal, 81; Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, 1930). 3:165.

The Pepperbox will always be featured in LDS history because of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. I imagine many Saints defended themselves with this weapon too. It will go down in LDS history as one of the weapons that t help settle the Saints.

Semper Paratus


PS I love this quote from Joseph Smith
“Peace be still, bury the hatchet and the sword, the sound of war is dreadful in my ear. [But] any man who will not fight for his wife and children is a coward and a bastard.” (An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, p. 298.)