Multitudes Gathered to Battle ... Wars and Rumors of Wars

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

The history of man on earth is largely a story of strife, war and bloodshed. The ancient fable has it that Zeus, pitying the earth on account of the multitudes she has to sustain, resolved to send discord among men, and thus cause them to destroy each other. Whatever truth this fable may be intended to convey is applicable to the American aborigines. They certainly have tried to exterminate each other in mortal combats.

Speaking first of North America, explorers point out that the entire area between the Alleghanies and the Rocky Mountains was at one time dotted with entrenched camps and fortifications, generally made of earth. There were ramparts, stockades and trenches. These bear witness of the intelligence of the builders, but also of the conditions of hostility that made such structures necessary. They must have been a race of warriors.

Fort Hill in Ohio furnishes an example of the forts of the ancient Moundbuilders. It rises, according to Marquis de Nadaillac, (Prehistoric America, p. 89), from an eminence overlooking the little river of Paint Creek. The walls enclose an area of 111 acres. Above the stream, which formed a natural defense, they are hardly four feet high, but everywhere else the height is six feet, and there are some thirty-five feet thick. Several openings made entrance easy. One of them leads to a second enclosure, the walls of which have been destroyed, evidently by fire. Squires suggests that the dwellings of the inhabitants were in this square, and that two other enclosures, one circular and one semicircular, may have been used for meetings of the chiefs and for the performance of sacred rites. There are many others. Squires thinks that there was a continuous chain of fortifications, arranged with great intelligence and stretching diagonally across the state of Ohio from the sources of the Alleghany and of the Susquehanna in the State of New York to the Wabash river. Fort Ancien, forty-two miles from Cincinnati, is on the left bank of the Little Miami, and forms a central citadel behind a line of fortifications. It has been estimated that 628,000 cubic yards of earth were used in its construction. Nadaillac mentions that an observation has often been made "that the outline of these walls made a rough sketch of the continents of America." "A purely accidental coincidence," the Marquis exclaims, but to him the very existence of the Indians in America is probably merely an accidental coincidence. Autochthonous? Just like "Topsy."

South of Tehuantepec the Nahuas, of which the Aztecs were the most representative and best known tribe, occupied the Mexican table-land, generally called, Anahuac. Mr. Bancroft considers that their traditions take us back to the sixth century, and that they held sway until the 16th century. He says further:

"During the course of these ten centuries we may follow now definitely now vaguely the social, religious and political convulsions through these aborigines were doomed to pass. From small beginnings we see mighty political powers evolved, and these overturned and thrown into obscurity by other and rival unfoldings. Religious sects we see in like manner succeed each other, coloring their progress with frequent persecutions and reformations, not unworthy of old-world mediaeval fanaticism, as partisans of rival deities shape the popular superstition in conformity with their deeds. Wars long and bloody, are waged for plunder, for territory, and for souls; now to quell the insurrection of tributary princes, now to repel the invasion of outer barbarian hordes. Leaders, political and religious, rising to power with their nation, faction, city, or sect, are driven at their fall into exile, and thereby forced to seek their fortunes and introduce their culture among distant tribes. Outside bands, more or less barbarous, but brave and powerful, come to settle in Anahuac, and to receive, voluntarily or involuntarily, the benefits of its arts and sciences." (Native Races, vol. 2, p. 96)

The same may be said, in general terms, of the Mayas in Yucatan and the Central and South American stocks. The history of all of them is a tale of strife and war.

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1