The March of Blood

(363AD - 385AD)

by Don R. Hender

In the annals of history there are a number of instances in which a large population of exiles have traveled great distances to flee from persecution. The Mormon Pioneer story is one within our own church's history. The church was founded in New York.

A Comparative History

In the annals of United States Indian History there are a number of such 'migrations' within the borders of our nations where the American Indian is removed, rounded up and placed on 'Indian Lands' and Reservations. One such notable instance is the account known as the Trail of Tears. It is one of the shameful accounts of the treatment of the American Indian by the United States Government of that Era. It is a most sad tell yet it pales in comparison to the Lamanite expulsion and wars of annihilation waged against the Nephites. It tells of the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their homelands, forced to travel under horrid conditions to the government proclaimed 'Indian Country' west of the Mississippi in conjunction with the Indian Removal Act. The worst case of removal abuse came in the winter of 1838-1839 when the last of the Cherokee where removed by force and exported to the Indian Territory. From these last removals came the coined term, 'The Trail of Tears.' The map at the lower left shows the routes of these removals in the harsh conditions of winter. Over all, a population of about 16000 Cherokee where involved in the removal march over a thousand mile distance. As tragic and sad as the story of the 'Trail of Tears' is, there is another history at a different time that makes the Trail of Tears look mild and pale when compared to the scene of horror this history tells. I will call this story the 'March of Blood.'

If you are LDS, you likely have read the account of the last wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites in the Book of Mormon. But what you don't really grasp and understand is that the account given by Mormon of those events is very abbreviated and abridged. For most readers there becomes a tendency for an error of condensation to takes place. Some would teach, given the opportunity, that the last Nephite wars of extinction never ranged more than a couple of 100 miles radius in Mesoamerica, north of the Isthmus Tehuantepec. I will tell you that the last wars of the Nephites against the Lamanites where of epic proportions. Over the last 8-10 years, from 375AD to 385AD, all the battles the Nephites fought were a continual war of retreat over some 3000 miles, from the Isthmus of Darien to the Hills of the Land of Cumorah in the state of New York. It was a military retreat of a nation of millions of people, not just of the armies, but of women and children, for any that were left behind were slaughtered and sacrificed to dumb idols by the pursuing Lamanite army hords. Mormon tells of this retreat, but because he gives only a small abridgement, many lose sight of the magnitude of 'The March of Blood,' that a nation of millions of people where massacred until more of less than a half million where left by the time they had grouped for their last stand at the hills of Cumorah. Mormon had grouped them into 27 commands of ten thousand fighting personnel each.

I will start with where Mormon explains his reasoning behind why he so greatly abridges his accounts of these last years of the battles and wars of extinction.

"And now behold, I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes; but I, knowing that these things must surely be made known, and that all things which are hid must be revealed upon the house-tops—And also that a knowledge of these things must come unto the remnant of these people, and also unto the Gentiles, who the Lord hath said should scatter this people, and this people should be counted as naught among them—therefore I write a small abridgment, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen, because of the commandment which I have received, and also that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people." ~ Mormon 5:8-9

Mormon's account was a sheltered one for our benefit. And I wish not to expound all the bloody details, but to appreciate that this was no localized limited war within such a limited area as Mesoamerica would allow, I feel obligated to expound a little upon this subject. The last years of the Nephites wars of extinction would be too great a sorrow and would harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage if all were told. The women and children of the retreating Nephites were bloodily tortured and sacrificed to the idols of the Lamanites. Innocence and defenselessness were willfully slaughtered, men where paraded and tortured, unspeakable acts were carried out on both sides (see Moroni 9:7-10) against the other. Mormon's record of the 'March of Blood' was not of a 1000 miles over one winter season 'Trail of Tears'. It was not just a removal of one season but a history of a 3000 miles 'March of Blood' and of annihilation of an entire nation of people off the face of the earth from the regions of the Panama or Darien Isthmus to the land of great bodies of waters named Cumorah. It would pale the holocaust with its horrid tells of continual retreat, bloodshed, and carnage. And it lasted over all that extented region for a number of over 10 years which Mormon actually breaks up into two or three segments or phases in his small abridged account. Without getting into the grosser details, it is hard to explain that it just wasn't a polite war that ranged back and forth over a couple of hundred miles and culminated on a little hill less than a week's journey from the narrow neck of land—a distance from that 'narrow neck' which matches the narrow width of the narrow neck itself. It just didn't happen that way. The logic of a polite little 'death wish' war is not to be found in the truth of the matter. The truth is absolutely horrible beyond description. It out strips the defeat of the Inca, the slaughter of the Maya and the removal of the Indians from their lands of all the Americas. It was worse, and it occured over a period of 10 years from 375AD to 385AD over much of the North American continent. It was just really, really, really, really bad!

For your benefit, I will attempt to reconstruct 'The March of Blood' over 3000 miles and 8-10 years for you as well as I can from Mormon's condensed account. The condensation of the picture portrayed by the limited battle field of Cumorah being only a few days distance for a Nephite from the narrow neck of land in the Mesoamerica theory of the geography of the Book of Mormon, almost makes the Nephite and Lamanite battles seem kind like sweet little things, This is not the case and the limited Mesoamerica theories of the geography of the Book of Mormon lands portray this falsely, as the 'March of Blood' will attempt to show. And it is for the reason to shed light on the truth that I feel I must present a more unabridged panorama of the reality of the scene of the battles of extinction of the Nephites. And these battles are also reflective of those of the Jaredites some 600 B.C. as well.

Yet many prefer the limited battle fields within a radius of a hundred miles. Epic battles are never fought on such limited space. A naive American people soon learned that at the sweet little parade battle that became the American Civil War which spread over hundreds and thousands of miles. And that battle was not a battle of annihilation, as horrible as many of its scenes where. I would suppose that the nearest scene of annihilation in the Civil War was the scenes we have recorded of the siege against Charleston. Yet that is pale when compared to utter destruction of lands, and towns, and villages, and cities where all the people where slaughtered including women and children without mercy by the advancing hoards of the Lamanites that were executed upon the Nephites.

I will divide my panorama of the 'March of Blood' into five segments or sections of presentation in the table below. The first segment will be the Preliminary Seesaw Battles dated 363AD to about 375AD. The second segment of presentation will be the first phase portion of the actual 'March of Blood' which takes in consideration the first 1000 miles or so of continual retreat that occurs from the narrow neck of the Isthmus of Darien or Panama to the narrows of Jordan or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This first phase of the 'March of Blood' retreat occurs from 375AD to 379AD. The third segment will be the short reprieve centered about the Land of Jordan. Then the fourth segment will cover the second phase of the march which Mormon abbreviates the most from 380AD to about 384AD. This second phase of the 'March of Blood' was the worst part of the story which Mormon almost utterly refuses to tell us the details of because they have become so terrible. But the Nephites' retreat 'March of Blood' covers some 2000 miles from the Narrows of Jordan or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to nigh unto the land of Cumorah in the state of New York. Cumorah being the last major land of the Nephites which had not yet been over ran by the Lamanites. Then the fifth and last segment of the story of the 'March of Blood' will be the scene and story of the last battles at Cumorah. I will now proceed.



The See-Saw Battles of the Isthmus of Darien and Land of Desolation

Mormon 4:1-6 Desolation Falls
Nephites' last offensive fails—They attempt to go up out of the Land of Desolation to give battle to the Lamanites but they are driven back to the land of Desolation and yet while the Nephites where still weary, a fresh army of Lamanites came against them and took possession of the city of Desolation—Nephites retreat to City of Teancum by the seashore near the city Desolation.
364 AD
Mormon 4:7-9
Desolation Regained
Thousands slain on both sides but Nephites retake City of Desolation, in see-saw fight for the first major land of the Nephites north of the Narrow neck.
366 AD
Mormon 4:10-14
Desolation and
Teancum fall
Mormon won't write of the horrible scene of blood and carnage going on—Lamanites far out number the Nephits—They take many Nephite prisoners and offer numbers of them as sacrifices to Lamanite gods.
367 AD
Mormon 4:15
Nephites Regains
Their Lands
Nephites spurred by anger over their women and children being sacrificed by the Lamanites—They drive them out of their lands [that is thier lands as defined by the treaty north of the narrow neck]—The Lamanites do not come again for 7-8 years 367-375 AD.


First 4 Years of Continual Retreat - 375 to 379 AD

375 AD
Mormon 4:16-18
Lamanites Come
Down in their

In 375 AD the Lamanites come down so numerous that they are not able to be numbered—'FROM THIS TIME ON' (375AD) the Nephites began to be 'SWEPT OFF AS DEW BEFORE THE SUN'
Mormon 4:19-23
March of Blood

(19)Entire Land of
Desolation Falls

(20-21)Boaz Falls

(22-23)Nephites Flee Their Lands

From '375AD' the MARCH OF BLOOD begins.

Nephites begin continual 4 year retreat the Lamanites year. Mormon does not give a full account but a 'small abridged' only. Thus he spares us the horrors of the blood and carnage.
The city and the entire land of Desolation falls (City Teancum not even being mentioned) in an exceedingly sore battle.

The city of Boaz falls after the Lamanites come against it a second time, slaughter the Nephites is a sea of blood, sacrificing their women and children to their pagan gods.

Nephites flee taking inhabitants with them from towns and villages. Morman has to retrieve records from the land Antum of the Hill Shim before it is over ran by the Lamanities.


4 Years of Continual Retreat - 375 to 379 AD

Mormon 5:1-4
Temporary Reprieve

(3-4)Last Narrows of Jordan Defense Temporary

After his retrival of the records from Shim and securing their safety likely with Moroni in a distant land north of Antum, Mormon seeing the Nephite nation being over ran, 'repents of his oath' and once again takes upon himself the leadership of Nephite armies. With a strategy but 'without hope', Mormon proceeds with a planed defense in the 'Narrows of Jordan'.

(3-4)Mormon and Nephites flee (treat further north from Antum) to land of Jordan, where they set up strongholds in the land such as in Sherrizah, Moriantum and others strategically located cities (Moroni 9:7-9), thus temporarily detaining the Lamanite advance and protecting such lands even further north where Moroni was relatively removed from the battle front and administering in his office of the church as called by God. [NOTE: Mormon had already secured the bulk of the Nephite records north of Jordon into the hands of Moroni, and yet Mormon still continued to write (engrave) as he states to Moroni from Jordan that he expects to see him again as he has these 'few' other sacred records he is currently writing to deliver into the hands of Moroni, presumably to be added to the bulk of the Nephite records already secured and in Moroni's hands far to the north at the 'northern church headquarters' (Moroni 9:27).]

Mormon 5:5
Repreve Reflection

Holding Pause in Flight at Narrow Isthmus

Lands Destroyed - Cities Burned -Inhabitants Killed

The Jordan defense allows Mormon a time to reflect upon the last four years of the Nephite RETREAT and MARCH OF BLOOD, its FIRST PHASE.

While the defenses hold temporarily in the last narrows of the land of Jordan either the Isthmus of Tehuantepec or Bay of Honduras. Mormon takes time to write and reflect in the records a very brief and abridged account of the last 4 years flight.

Mormon's summary account simply says lands, plural, were passed by. If the inhabitants were not gathered in by the retreat, they were killed. The towns, villages, and cities were burned and destroyed. Mormon's small abridgement spares the horrible details of the last four years - PHASE ONE - MARCH OF BLOOD - FOUR YEARS OF RETREAT.


Just too horrid to tell of the blood and carnage.

Mormon 5:6
Last Retreat Begins

Nephites Fight Boldly but Are Overran

The Nephite's Last Line of maintained Defense was defended boldly, but it only held for a short time. In 380AD the Lamanites regrouped and attached in mass in overwhelming numbers. The Jordan narrows line of defense fails and the people of Nephite are literally tread down under the feet of the advancing Lamanites. While engaged in this 'Jordan line of defense', Mormon writes a letter to his son Moroni which Moroni publishes in his record the book of Moroni chapter 9. That single letter gives but a snapshot peek into what gross events that where occuring that Mormon refused to include in his own record.
Mormon 5:7
4 Years - 2000 Miles - One Verse - Extremely Small Abridgement

True to his word. Mormon gives not just an abridgement which is short already but a very small one verse statement which is intentionally non-revealing of the last four years of blood and carnage of the second phase of the 'March of Blood.' He simply reports that from 380AD on to the end they where in 'flight' before the advancing Lamanite Army, giving little resistance. And those Nephites that could not be gathered into the 'flight' and who's 'flight' was not swifter than the Lamanite advance where swept down and destroyed.

True to his word, Mormon does not include in his abridged book of Mormon we have in the Book of Mormon today any further details until about 384 AD. Such events as Mormon's further retreat and meeting up with Moroni and the body of the church headquarted further north than the likes of Jordan, Sherrizah and Moriantum, are just not given. The joined continued retreat from that point north for the next 3 - 4 years including the Zelph story never makes it into the record. The only word Mormon will add are those relative to the final arrangements made to end the conflict in the land of Cumorah.


Cumorah the final end - to dust only to speak again from the dust.

Mormon 6:1-5
Last Retreat Ends

(1)Nephites Continue March of Flight

(2-3)Mormon Requests Culminating Event To Be Of Warrior's Honor

(4-5)The Last Gathering A March Of Honor

As Mrormon finishes his record of the destruction of the Nephites, having completely abstained from giving the bloody details of the last four years as he had stated, the Nephites are still in their 'March of Blood' flighting retreat before the Lamanites.

Mormon is running out of year round inhabitable land, pushed to the far reaches of the land north on the far frontier of the winter lands and the great lakes. Here he is fenced by these Great Lakes and 'Winter Lands' to the north, the mountains to the west, the ocean to the east, and the Lamanites to the south and west. (See story of Zelph below** as it happens about now)

With the Nephite known and occupied lands of Cumorah still before him, Mormon resorts to one last stratagem. He asks the Lamanite leader to allow him to gather in all his remaining people to this one land, to give the Lamanites 'honorable' battle at this one last battle field. This appeals to the Lamanite leader, who could also likely benefit from a seasonal reprive from the constant vigors of battle and invasionary travel.

Mormon continues to march forth before the Lamanites to Cumorah, gathering his remaining people as he goes, sending the final degree before him that 'the Lamanites are coming' and thus a universal call to the great and final battle in the land of Cumorah.

Mormon 6:6-22
Last Battle Field

(6-7)Conditions Prior to the Final Battle

(8-15)The Battle Rages Hundreds of Thousands Slain

(16-22)Moroni Must Live - Mormon Laments

I reason that Mrormon had gathered nearly a quarter of a million warriors, represnting over a million people (men, women and children) from the surrounding remaining communities of what is today the north eastern United States; and this considering that the 230,000 arrayed for battle were adult male warriors only. This leaves women and children among any others for the Lamanites to hunt down and make to deny Christ and let perhaps live if they did or to kill if they did not. Others reason less. I'd suggest that the population of the Industrialized great cities of the Union North of the civil war may be comparative only in the consideration of an industrial populated civilization of great cities to that of one of farmers and gathers such as the American Indians were with there earthen mound cities and great houses of lesser population capacities (about 22 million northerners to Mormon's 1 million 'Indians'). And a 'mere civil war' compared to a war of extinction hardly compares. One might also attempt to compare the numbers of warriors at each of the civil war battles to the many conflicts of the Nephites and Lamanites over the last four years of Nephite history, but nothing could compare to an army of a quarter million engaed with a likely overwhelming army of Lamanite warriors that one might guess to be ten times the size of the Nephite troops. And the Nephite last battle of Cummorah raged for only a few days before the 230,000 warriors of the Nephites were reduced to a mere 24 surviving men, Mormon and Moroni included.

Mormon had prepared the Hill Cumorah to hide up the records. He would have also set out a planned battle strategy, one which under equal number would have surredly given the Nephites the advantage in the ridge hills, tunnel valleys and finger lakes of western New York. The Nephites with their women and children greatly feared as they beheld the Lamanite hoards of millions advancing and positioning themselves for battle.

And it came to pass after some days of battle most all of the 230,000 Nephite wariors were dead and likely more than that number of the Lamanites. Recall Mormon had strategically positioned and had planned the battle. The Lamanites were just too numerous. There only remained 24 Nephite warriors at battles end.

Among the 24 were Moroni and Mormon. Mormon, who laments are recorded, will live to again fight and die at a later date. Moroni must and does escape with the abridged plates of Mormon to complete his father's record and also add his own record and an abridgement the Jaredites history.

Now my account of the 'March of Blood' is ended. The Lamanites did not merely chase and battle the Nephites in a limited 100 miles radius for over 8-10 years. The mathematics of the distance and time defies that they did that, for a Nephite could travel that distance within a handful of days little alone having 'years and years' to distance the 'March of Blood' within. They would have had to been running around in circles to still be in that limited size of land over 8-10 years, 375-385AD. The Lamanites pursued the Nephites relentlessly over that 10 years time. They destroyed the lands, cities, towns and villages as they went, slaughtering every Nephite that was left behind in their path. Nothing Nephite was to remain. Even the records of the Nephites would they have destroyed. Their hatred and intent was to erase the Nephites from the face of the earth literally. A Cumorah merely 100-200 miles from the narrow neck of land, which narrow neck was not much less than that distance across itself, just does not make any sense. A Nephite travels that distance in a day and a half if you mark the narrow neck at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as do the Mesoamerica theorist of Book of Mormon geography.

Further, given the fact that just one of the many lands of the Nephites stretched from sea to sea, namely Bountiful along the marrow neck, not even being Bountiful's widest distance, would contradict the logic of it. That would mean that Bountiful alone, just one land of the Nephites would be the distance from the proposed sight of the Hill Cumorah, 100 miles, and the narrow neck that divided the land south form the land north. Now I repeat, that means that the distance between the narrow neck of land, as the Mesoameria theorist would suggest, is only one land's distance from the Hill Cumorah. That is the distance a Nephite could travel in a day and a half, not ten years!

Even the reading of the record of the pursued Nephites does not permit such, little alone suggest such a run around in circles battle field. In 384AD, Mormon was still leading the retreat 'March of Blood' before or in advance of the pursuing Lamanites, just as he had been during the entire second phase of the 'March of Blood.' And when the Lamanites agreed to meet them in Cumorah, Mormon continued to march forth to Cumorah. He marched forth to a land that had not been touched by the Lamanites in advance of his treating march of withdrawal from before the Lamanites. The Book of Mormon says so. (See Mormon 6:1 & 4.) And there in that land which was foriegn to the Lamanites and which the Nephites had lived in and knew about, Mormon thought that just perhaps he could gain an advantge over the Lamanites desite being vastly out numbered.

"And now I finish my record concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. And it came to pass that we did march forth before the Lamanites. . . . And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah , and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites."

Now I have to consider that without twisting the words, that forth means forward not backward and that before means in advance of. My thesaurus says so. Words that mean the same as before are 'ahead of,' 'prior to,' 'in front of,' 'preceding,' 'in advance,' etc. And forth comes up with 'ahead,' 'forward,' 'further,' 'abroad,' 'out,' 'away,' etc. The Nephite march of flight before the Lamanites had always been a one direction affair. If any were left behind, they where destroyed. There was no backtracking or advancing against the Lamanites for the entire 10 years of 375-385AD. Even when they did march to Cumorah, they marched 'forth' not 'backward' returning to somewhere they had been before. For 10 years in two 4 year phases of the 'March of Blood' the Nephites had retreated, logically north as the Lamanites where south. Surely an objective common sense man of reason can understand that they must have fled for more that a few days running in 8-10 years? And it is purely logical and sensible that they would flee at an average rate of over a mile or two a day in a flight for their very lives? Four years times 365 is 1460 miles, and that is just one mile per day. Add a second 1460 miles to that making 2920 miles in 8 years at a mile per day. That brings Cumorah in the state of New York within very logical reach from Panama in 8 years at a mile a day and way beyond at 2 miles a day. Now I walk at least a mile or two a day just doing life's ordinary things and I'm not fleeing for my life from Lamanites who are bent on destroying me. It almost makes it totally illogical to consider that fleeing Nephites for the sake of their lives would only average over 200 feet a day or even travel the length of a football field just to fit a MeosAmerican model with a Cumorah so close to the narrow neck of land. Now there is the mathematics of the times and distances involved. Objectively consider these figures and you tell me, which is more logical.

* * Story of Zelph * *

While traveling with some of the brethren in Illinois, the Prophets party would visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient Nephite and Lamanite inhabitants of this North American country. On one occasion they found remains of a large person and the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation concerning him. From History of the Church Volume II, we have the following words of the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning this event while encamped along the Illinois River.

"On the top of the mound were stones which presented the appearance of three altars having been erected one above the other, according to the ancient order; and the remains of bones were strewn over the surface of the ground. The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms: and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or, at least, in part--one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites."

It would appear that this occurred at the last stages of the March of Blood. The Illinois River is south of the southern end of Lake Michigan, the largest of the Great Lakes. Speaking by the Spirit of the Almighty or the spirit of revelation, the Prophet here confirms that the last great strugles of the Lamanites and Nephites were occurring right there by the Great Lakes and that the Hill Cumorah was right were it always had been by the eastern sea.