MURDER OF DR. G. W. HICKMAN
Special Correspondence of the Cincinnati Inquirer.
CAMP SCOTT, U.T., March 1, 1858.
One who has not been accustomed to this climate could hardly believe the rapid changes which it undergoes. When I wrote you my last letter I had to thaw my ink, and with difficulty only could I keep myself from freezing inside my tent. Now I am writing without fire, and am very comfortable. Were it not for the lack of verdure in our landscape, and the mountains, apparently within a stone’s throw of us, whose tops and sides are groaning under their heavy mantle of snow, and the ice yet bridging over our little stream, I would think I was writing this on a Summer’s day, and under a tropical sun. To-day is really a Spring day—warm, pleasant and lovely without. The thermometer marks 56° above zero. This opens well for March. It is an old saying, that when March "comes in like a lamb it goes out like a lion." If this holds good here, we are yet to be reminded that we are still in the Rocky Mountains. The old mountain men, however, say that the Winter is over. One of them told me that he saw, the other day, grass growing on the sunny side of the elevations. The snow is all gone from the valleys and lower altitudes, where the sun could shine. About two weeks ago the weather changed suddenly from cold to warm, and has continued warm ever since; but the mountain streams have not yet begun to flow.
The beef stored away for our supplies until Spring has commenced to thaw. Fears are entertained that much of it will spoil if this warm spell continues. But efforts are being made to preserve it by surrounding it with ice. If this project fails, we have about 600 head of cattle on the hoof that can be slaughtered at pleasure to supply the demand. Six hundred more can be had from Platte Bridge early in the Spring.
Divers rumors are afloat in camp concerning the attitude of the Mormons in Salt Lake. But we have no reliable information from that quarter. One of these rumors says that the Mormons are all leaving the city and seeking refuge in the mountains. Another states that they are sending only their women and children to the mountains and outside villages for security, while the fighting population are to remain and prepare to give us a hot and hospitable reception in the Spring. These rumors are brought in by Indians, who may be interested in behalf of the Mormons to circulate them.
No tidings have reached us from Capt. Marcy, whose return from Tause, New-Mexico, is expected in April, or sooner. Neither have we heard from the "Rangers," under Ficklin, who left more than two months ago to the "Flat Head" nation for Indian ponies. His return is also expected soon.
The expedition alluded to in my last article as having gone to reenforce Capt. Marcy, has been so fortunate as to reclaim 44 battery horses, which were supposed to have been stolen from the army last Fall. Those horses were brought into camp three days ago by some Utah Indians. On being questioned where the horses were found, these Indians would only reply, "Away off yonder, away off—many heap of sleeps from here." It is supposed they were reclaimed somewhere in the Utah Valley. They are in fine condition.
Two days ago intelligence came to us that the body of a man was found hanging to a tree near Smith’s Fork. Some dragoons found the body thus suspended, cut it down and buried it.
Those who found him report that he had red whiskers and a mark, as if from a cut, on his right cheek. His skull was knocked in behind. This shows that he did not hang himself. The body had the appearance of having been hanging there some months. His eyes were eaten out by the crows, and his face was so picked and mangled that nothing more was observed that would aid in identifying the individual. There are, however, strong reasons for believing the body to be that of Dr. George W. Hickman, who was released from Col. Alexander’s camp last Fall. Dr. Hickman had a red goatee on his chin, and a whitish mustache. He had a scar on his right cheek.
A few days after Dr. Hickman left our camp, it was whispered around among the mountain men here "that he had not been able to make the connection," meaning that he had been cut off before he could join the Mormons then at Fort Bridger. Dr. Hickman, as well as his brother, the notorious "Bill" Hickman, had much to do in the outrages committed against the resident mountain men. His clique, headed by "Bill" Hickman, had driven them from their homes, had stolen their horses and cattle, and had remorsely appropriated to their own use much of their property. It was stated as a fact that the mule Dr. Hickman rode out of our camp when he was released, was stolen by "Bill" H. from one of our guides, now present in our camp.
It is thus rendered highly probable that the dead body is that of Dr. H., who was murdered to gratify the malice, which all the mountaineers bear, not only to the Mormons generally, but particularly to "Bill" Hickman, the doctor and their clan. Some think, on the contrary, that it is the body of some person returning to the States from our camp or California, who was murdered for his money. But, no matter whose body it is, every means will be used to ferret out the perpetrator of the deed, and bring him to condign punishment. By the next mail I shall be able to give you more particulars concerning this inhuman affair. The body will be dissected by a surgeon with a view of identifying it.
It was not known until last week that anything more could be done by the agents of Messers. Russell & Waddle, contractors to freight for the army here, or that another disclosure of the doings of this firm could be made which could surprise anybody here. We all know, and you in the States have heard, of the inefficiency and mismanagement of the agents of this firm; but no one could ever have dreamed that, while freighting for the General Government, and receiving pay from it, they were also freighting for our enemies. It is even so. I doubt if anything else which the future may reveal concerning this firm can now astonish any one. Last week, on examining the wagons that Mr. Rupp, their agent, packed at Fort Bridger, there were found in an interior wagon 1,000 pounds of powder, and other merchandise, directed to Eldridge, the agent for the Mormon Church, with "For X. Y." underneath. "X. Y." means the Church of Mormon! This powder and this merchandise Russell & Waddle, through their agent, Mr. Rupp, carted all the way across the plains for the enemies of the Government, which employed Russell & Waddle to freight provisions for the army it was sent here to put down the Mormon rebellion! Whether Russell & Waddle knew that this powder was coming, and authorized it, I am not able to say. If they did sanction it, they can never outlive the disgrace which must legitimately fall upon them for furnishing powder to a people who are every hour preparing, and awaiting the time, to send their leaden balls through the hearts of our loyal American citizens! Let us hope the gentlemen of the firm knew nothing of this—that it was the act of their agent, Mr. Rupp. We would gladly believe that Russell & Waddle would never become a party to such transaction. But they must, to some extent, be responsible for the acts of their principal agent. However, we think their agent, Mr. Rupp, would not scruple to do such a thing, even on his own sole responsibility. He disappeared from here between two days, and forfeited his bond of $500 to appear as a witness at the next Term of the court, to be held by Chief Justice Ecklee, against some Mormons who were to be indicted for treason. This act, of itself, justifies the prevalent opinion here that he was mysteriously leagued, in some way, with the rebels.
A redeemed Mormon lady, who has sought the protection of the army here, told me the other day that Brigham Young threatens, in case the President does not "back out" from the position he has taken in his message, that he will send his "destroying angels" on a message of incendiarism, to burn St. Louis, Keokuk, Chicago, New York, and even the capital of the United States. These cities, and many others, are to be fired simultaneously. And furthermore, his followers in the States are to volunteer in the new volunteer regiments to be raised this Spring, and are to come out here for the purpose of spying inside of our own camp and inciting the soldiers to mutiny; and in case of a battle, to desert our ranks at a given signal, and to take the side of the enemy. This bravado is in perfect harmony with the sermons and the pulpit spoutings of Kimball.
We are awaiting anxiously the February mail from the States. Unless the President sends positive instructions to Col. Johnston to remain here until reenforcements reach us, this "little" army, as it is styled by our sympathizing friends in the States, will be in Salt Lake City by the middle of June. It will move from here in April, and if a battle is to be fought it will be decided soon. I am assured of one thing, namely, that it is not the intention of Col. Johnston to retrace a step which his army has taken, or is to take.
--New York Daily Tribune, Apr 16 1858, p. 6
LDS Historical Department, 112171-LIBR-88