20 Acts of Treason in American History

20 Acts of Treason in American History

Larry Holzwarth - January 7, 2019

20 Acts of Treason in American History
Joseph Smith was charged with treason in two neighboring states and was killed awaiting trial in Illinois. Library of Congress

19. Joseph Smith was killed while in jail under a charge of treason

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was serving as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois when he ordered the destruction of the printing facilities of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper which lasted for a single issue. When it was released on June 7, 1844, among its reporting was an article which exposed Smith and his followers as polygamists. The non-Mormon public was shocked and the city council passed an ordinance, with Smith’s urging, to force the paper to cease publication. Smith then ordered the city marshal to seize the printing press and type. According to the marshal the seizure was accomplished peacefully; the paper’s publisher claimed that a mob had destroyed the press and seriously damaged the building in which it had been housed.

Smith then, in resistance to court orders from outside Nauvoo, called out the city militia and declared martial law. The governor of Illinois offered a trial in Carthage, before a non-Mormon jury, for Smith and his brother Hyrum, under the charge of treason against the state of Illinois, for the act of inciting riots across the state. The brothers and the rest of the city council surrendered to Illinois officials and were jailed in Carthage. It was while in jail awaiting trial for treason that Joseph Smith and his brother, armed with pistols smuggled into them by associates, and several other men being held were killed when a mob stormed the jail. Several differing accounts of the violent end of Joseph Smith emerged in the aftermath, many of which ignore the charges of treason against him. Smith had earlier been charged with treason in Missouri in 1838, which precipitated his flight to Illinois.

20 Acts of Treason in American History
Kaltenbach admired the Hitler Youth and created a similar organization in Iowa before returning to Germany. Bundesarchiv

20. Frederick Kaltenbach was indicted by the Americans for treason, but died in Soviet custody

Frederick Wilhelm Kaltenbach was an Iowa-born son of a naturalized German, raised in Waterloo (coincidentally the home of the five Sullivan brothers of World War II fame). In 1933 the graduate of Iowa State Teacher’s College and the University of Chicago won a scholarship at the University of Berlin, and became a devoted adherent of Nazism. When he returned to Iowa in 1935 he started a boy’s club modeled on the Hitler Youth, with similar uniforms. The support of Nazism led to him losing his teaching certificate in 1936 and he returned to Germany and in 1939 began broadcasting German propaganda to the United States via short-wave radio, long before the United States formally entered the war.

Kaltenbach harangued against Franklin Roosevelt and Lend-lease attempted to prevent FDR’s election to a third term, and referred to himself whimsically as Lord Hee-Haw. After the United States entered the war he attacked the morale of troops and citizens at home. As the war went on and it became evident how it would end, he shifted to covering his tracks as an ardent Nazi by attempting to align himself with anti-Nazi elements, though he continued to broadcast Nazi propaganda as late as the spring of 1945. He was indicted for treason in the United States in 1943 and was arrested at his home by the Soviets in Berlin in 1945. The Soviets sent him to their Special Camp Two in Buchenwald and when the American authorities requested he be surrendered for trial the Soviets refused. They later informed the State Department that he had died of natural causes, and in 1948 the indictment was dismissed.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising”. Leland D. Baldwin. 1968

“Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and the American Way of Treason”. Jonathan W. White, Smithsonian.com. March 17, 2017

“James Wilkinson: The Man Who Double-Crossed the Founders of America”. Robert Walsh, The Archive. August 14, 2018

“Those Dirty Rotten Taxes: The Tax Revolts that Built America”. Charles Adams. 1998

“The Trial of John Brown”. Thomas Fleming, American Heritage Magazine. August, 1967

“Thomas Wilson Dorr”. Biographic entry at the Dorr Rebellion Museum website. Online

“He Was Hanged For Helping Slaves Rebel. Now Norwich Officials Are Asking Virginia For A Pardon”. Alison Kuznitz, Hartford Courant. August 3, 2018

“Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant”. Ulysses S. Grant. 1885 (2006)

“Jefferson Davis: Unconquerable Heart”. Felicity Allen. 1999

“Mountaintop Rescue”. Samir S. Patel, Archaeology Magazine. January/February 2012

“Ex-Flier Confesses 21 Acts of Treason”. The New York Times, January 18, 1949

“‘Axis Sally’ Brought Hot Jazz to the Nazi Propaganda Machine”. Jackie Mansky, Smithsonian.com. September 25, 2018

“POW Camp Atrocities Led to Treason Trial”. David Rosenzweig, Los Angeles Times. September 20, 2002

“Best Sentenced to Life as Traitor In His War Broadcasts for Nazis”. The New York Times, July 1, 1948

“The Nazi Who Infiltrated National Geographic”. Nina Strochlic, National Geographic. April 27, 2017

“George John Dasch and the Nazi Saboteurs”. Naval History and Heritage Command

“Carthage Conspiracy Reconsidered: A Second Look at the Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith”. Marvin S. Hill, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Summer, 2004

“Goebbels’ Iowan: Frederick W. Kaltenbach and Nazi Short-Wave Radio Broadcasts to America, 1939-1945”. Clayton D. Laurie, Annals of Iowa. Summer, 1994