In September 1857, a wagon train filled with gold was attacked, and the 140 Arkansas emigrants on their way to California in the wagons were slaughtered as they passed through Mountain Meadows, Utah. After the massacre, the Mormon church began to place the blame on John D. Lee, a discredited Mormon, and on the Paiute Indians. Denton, of Mormon descent, draws on oral histories, diaries, and depositions of the descendants from historical societies in Arkansas; from U.S. government files at the National Archives; Mormon records; newspaper accounts; and other sources. These documents bolster Denton's contention that the Mormon church's leader, Brigham Young, was responsible for the massacre because of what she describes as "the church's financial crises." Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, over the years the church has steadfastly denied any responsibility for the tragedy. Denton's extensively researched account of this atrocity is both convincing and chilling. George Cohen
Superb Investigative Report , August 20, 2003 David R. Bannon, Ph.D., North Carolina See all my reviews
Denton is the rare investigative reporter whose scholarship, compassion, and ability to write with poetic power are in perfect balance. In American Massacre, Denton tips over a religious rock and finds a nest of corruption, deceit, and despair.
She delivers a temperate, detailed investigation of a religious tragedy: The cost of blind obedience and fanaticism that dehumanizes victims and seeks divine approval of even the most heinous crimes against innocents. She carefully details the inevitable corruption of any organization involving fallible humans - often with conflicting agendas - and her research is sound and rigorous. Denton's enthusiasm for the subject lends a subjective, sometimes accusatory, tone to her writing that could perhaps have been tempered by a thorough discussion of the mind-set present in violent confrontations. This is a difficult subject, however, and readers may find Professor Dave Grossman's "On Killing" a suitable companion inunderstanding how large bodies of ordinary men could be guilty of senseless slaughter. Overall, this is an exciting, well-researched and fair-minded narrative and a powerfully written, superb investigative report. David R. Bannon, Ph.D.; author, "Race Against Evil."