Tag Archives: Ancient wars

Preparing for War

Joseph Knew - Alma 47-8To protect his people from the Lamanites, Captain Moroni ordered fortifications erected. In chapters 48 and 49 of Alma we find descriptions of these forts.

“Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.” (Alma 48:8)

“And behold, the city had been rebuilt, and Moroni had stationed an army by the borders of the city, and they had cast up dirt round about to shield them from the arrows and the stones of the Lamanites; for behold, they fought with stones and with arrows.” (Alma 49:2)

Although we don’t know for sure where Captain Moroni erected these fortifications, the ruins of such cities have been found all along the Great Lakes area of western New York. In his 1850 book, Orasmus Turner describes ancient fortresses found scattered between Rochester and Buffalo, NY. What he describes has many similarities to the forts spoken of in Alma.

Joseph Knew - Earthen wall and ditch Newark“These forts were, generally speaking, erected on the most commanding ground. The walls or breastworks were earthen. The ditches were on the exterior of works. On some of the parapets, oak trees were to be seen, which, from the number of concentric circles, must have been standing 150, 260, and 300 years; and there were evident indications, not only that they had sprung up since the creation of those works, but that they were at the least a second growth. The trenches were in some cases deep and wide, and in others shallow and narrow; and the breastworks varied in altitude from three to eight feet. They sometimes had one, and sometimes two entrances, as was to be inferred from there being no ditch at those places. When the works were protected by a deep ravine or a large stream of water no ditch was to be seen. The areas of these forts varied from two to six acres; and the form was generally an irregular ellipsis; and in some of them fragments of earthenware and pulverized substances, supposed to have been originally human bones, were to be found.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, pages 20-21)

Such fortresses have been discovered throughout the heartland of North America, but the greatest concentration is found in western New York, in the area around Cumorah.

JosephKnew-Land-of-Many-Waters-with-red-dotAgain from Turner’s book:

“Although not peculiar to this region, there is perhaps no portion of the United States where ancient relics are more numerous. Commencing principally near the Oswego River, they extend westwardly over all the western counties of our State, Canada West, the western Lake Region, the vallies of the Ohio and the Mississippi.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 19)

Turner described the land Cumorah as an area favorable for living, because of an abundance of wildlife and because of its agricultural opportunities and access to rivers and lakes.

“The Forest invited to the chase; the Lakes and Rivers to local commerce, —to the use of the net and the angling rod; the soil, to agriculture.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 19)

But the area was not only a desirable place to live, it was also a place well positioned for defense against the enemy.

Joseph Knew - Holland purchase - light“Here and there upon the brows of our hills, at the head of our ravines, are their fortifications; their locations selected with skill, adapted to refuge, subsistence and defense. (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. 1850, page 18)

In an 1843 book, Alexander W. Bradford came to several conclusions about the early inhabitants of western New York.

“The best military judges have observed the skill with which the sites of many of the fortifications have been selected, and the artful combination of natural advantages with artificial means of defense exhibited in their construction. The care taken in their erection must have been necessary for the protection against a powerful external enemy, or from internal wars.

“Upon the whole, we may with justice say of these nations, from a review of their relics and monuments thus far,

  1. That they were all of the same origin, branches of the same race, and possessed of similar customs and institutions.
  2. That they were populous, and occupied a great extent of territory.
  3. That they had arrived at a considerable degree of civilization, were associated in large communities, and lived in extensive cities.
  4. That they possessed the use of many of the metals, such as lead, copper, gold, silver, and probably the art working in them.
  5. That they sculptured in stone, and sometimes used that material in the construction of their edifices.
  6. That they had the knowledge of the arch of receding steps; of the art of pottery, — producing utensils and urns formed with taste, and constructed upon the principles of composition: and of the art of brick-making.
  7. That they worked in salt springs, and manufactured that substance.
  8. That they were an agricultural people, living under the influence and protection of regular forms of government.
  9. That they possessed a decided system of religion, and a mythological connection with astronomy, which with its sister science geometry, was in the hands of the priesthood.
  10. That they were skilled in the art of fortification.
  11. That the epoch of their original settlement, in the United States, is of great antiquity.” (Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities and Research into the Origin and History of the Red Race, 1843, pages 69-71)

In his book, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York, 1849, E. G. Squire documented more than 1,000 such sites in Ontario, Livingston, Genesee and Monroe Counties. Squire researched ancient cities throughout America’s heartland and concluded, “There is not an area of like size in the United States east of the Ohio and south of the Mason and Dixon Line where evidence of aboriginal occupation are so abundant.”

1 And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, * that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.

2 And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.

3 And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high. (Alma 50:1-3) * 72 B.C.

Copyright © 2015 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit: JosephKnew.com

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.


Like Joseph Knew on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening.

Joseph Knew is part of the Mormon Media Network.


Additional information:

For information about the evidence of wars in the Great Lakes area, see the Joseph Knew article “Giants in the Land”.

Check out all previous posts on the Joseph Knew home page

Fortress drawing from the book, Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York by E.G. Squire, 1849

Giants in the Land

Joseph Knew - Willard and Rebecca BeanIn 1915 newlyweds Willard and Rebecca Bean were called by President Joseph F. Smith to leave their home in Richfield, Utah and move into the Joseph Smith home near Palmyra, New York. Their mission, which was to last 5 years, stretched into nearly 25 years.

During his time on the farm Willard researched what he called Cumorahland. Much of his research was compiled in the book “Geography of the Book of Mormon” (republished as “Willard’s Cumorahland”). He documented climate changes, artifacts, terrain, distances, and geography and found parallels with the Book of Mormon.

Willard and Rebecca’s son Alvin (1918 – 2007) remembered plowing a field with his father and uncovering a skeleton. The person they uncovered stood approximately 8 feet tall and in the word’s of Alvin, “had a skull the size of a basketball”. Buried with that skeleton was a sword that was so large Willard, a professional athlete, could not hold it up with one hand.

Joseph Knew - Bean childrenAlvin and his brothers Dawn and Kelvin used skulls as helmets while playing war. The skulls were so large they fit over the boys’ heads “like football helmets”.

Such human remains have been found all along Lakes Ontario and Erie. In 1883 newspaper publisher and reporter Harvey Rice wrote about an ancient burial mound near Conneaut, Ohio (about 200 miles from Palmyra, NY).

“Human bones of gigantic proportions were discovered in such a state of preservation as to be accurately described and measured. The cavities of the skulls were large enough in their dimensions to receive the entire head of a man of modern times, and could be put on one’s head with as much ease as a hat or cap. The jaw-bones were sufficiently large to admit of being placed so as to match or fit the outside of a modern man’s face. The other bones, so far as discovered, appeared to be of equal proportions with the skulls and jaw-bones, several of which have been preserved as relics in the cabinets of antiquarians, where they may still be seen.” (Harvey Rice, Pioneers of the Western Reserve, pp. 172-173)Joseph Knew - Harvey Rice

The book of Ether in the Book of Mormon describes the Jaredite warriors as “Large and mighty men.” (Ether 15:26) When Limhi’s scouts in the Book of Mosiah found the ruins of the Jaradites, they found “large breastplates” of brass and copper. (Mosiah 8:10)

Joseph Knew - Holland purchase - lightIn an 1850 book, Orsamus Turner describes the same type of skeletal remains found by the Bean family and Limhi’s scouts. Turner describes what was found in an ancient fort in Orleans County, NY. “Some skeletons, almost entire have been exhumed, many of giant size, not less than seven to eight feet in length.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. Pp. 36)

In the ruins of this fortress near Lake Ontario, Turner describes a “depository of the dead”.

“Nearly in the centre of the area was a depository of the dead. It was a pit excavated to the depth of four or five feet, filled with human bones, over which were slabs of sand stone. Hundreds seem to have been thrown in promiscuously, of both sexes and all ages. Extreme old age was distinctly identified by toothless jaws, and the complete absorption of the aveola processes; and extreme infancy, by the small skulls and incomplete ossification. Numerous barbs or arrow points were found among the bones, and in the vicinity. One skull retained the arrow that, had pierced it, the aperture it had made on entering being distinctly visible. In the position of the skeletons, there was none of the signs of ordinary Indian burial; but evidences that the bodies were thrown in promiscuously, and at the same time. The conjecture might well be indulged that it had been the theatre of a sanguinary battle, terminating in favor of the assailants, and a general massacre.” (O. Turner, Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New York. Pp. 27)

Throughout Turner’s book he writes about the great number of skulls found which had been broken by clubs, stones or other weapons of war.

In 1925, while Willard Bean was living there, a farmer in Palmyra was digging a well and uncovered several large skeletons. The age of the skeletons was determined to be approximately 3,000 years old. This would fit in the time frame of the Jaradite Nation. Of this discovery the “Rochester Herald” reported:

“In this pit were found an axe of peculiar shape, wide bit and other implements that bore signs of ancient warfare. There are dozens of similar ruins near Rochester. [ ] Upon these steep heights invading armies may have pressed a desperate assault, while all along the brow of the hills behind the rude fortifications of the great forest, stood the defenders of camp and home.”

Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Orson Pratt and others believed that two great nations fought their final battle in Western New York, one at Ramah and the other at Cumorah. There was never any question in their minds that the Hill Ramah and the Hill Cumorah were one and the same.

Joseph-Knew-Book-of-Ether25 And when the night came there were thirty and two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and seven of the people of Coriantumr.

26 And it came to pass that they ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow. And they were large and mighty men as to the strength of men.

27 And it came to pass that they fought for the space of three hours, and they fainted with the loss of blood.

28 And it came to pass that when the men of Coriantumr had received sufficient strength that they could walk, they were about to flee for their lives; but behold, Shiz arose, and also his men, and he swore in his wrath that he would slay Coriantumr or he would perish by the sword.

29 Wherefore, he did pursue them, and on the morrow he did overtake them; and they fought again with the sword. And it came to pass that when they had all fallen by the sword, save it were Coriantumr and Shiz, behold Shiz had fainted with the loss of blood.

30 And it came to pass that when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little, he smote off the head of Shiz.

31 And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised up on his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.

32 And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life. (Ether 15:25-32)

Copyright © 2014 by Energy Media Works LLC

When using portions of this article, please credit: JosephKnew.com

If you have comments or questions, we would like to hear them. Just click on leave a comment below.


Like Joseph Knew on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening.


Additional Information:

Information about Rebecca Bean.

Information about Willard Bean’s boxing career.

How the Church gained ownership of the Hill Cumorah.

The Bean family reforests the Hill Cumorah.

Find all of our previous posts on our home page.


Some of the information in this article comes from the personal writings of Willard Bean and Alvin Bean, which are in the possession of the Willard and Rebecca Bean family.

Skull Photo: wikimedia commons, Xerto