Whistling & Whittling Brigade
“In the meantime the mob element exercised such an influence on the governor and legislature that they repealed the city charter of Nauvoo, and left us without any city government, or any means of controlling the rougher element, hence the town was soon over-run with all manner of ruffians from the mob camps around about.
As we had no authority to arrest or protect the town, the boys resorted to whistling! That is, every boy generally could whistle and most of them had knives from ten to fourteen inches long, in scabbards, “al-la-buoy”, and when any of those fellows became boisterous, or showed any signs of meddling the boy discovered would draw his knife and commence whittling and whistling soon a crowd of his pals gathered, then they would surround the obnoxious element, be he large or small, many or few, and whistle and whittle in his direction and stick by him until he was out of town.
This lasted but a few weeks when it became apparent that to “go into Nauvoo men must mind their own business and not meddle with the people” or they would get whistled out. This was rather an amusing process not a word was said but an unearthly whistle (and generally everyone had his own favorite tune) and an incessant whittling with those large knives was enough to strike terror to the hearts of the victims and he got out of town as quick as his legs could carry him. Remember the city charter was taken away and there was no law against whistling or whittling and when fifty or a hundred boys got after a victim there was no protection and he had to git.” Pace, William Bryan Autobiography (1832-1847)