Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion

The attitude of the Mormons toward the government at the outbreak

of hostilities with the Southern states was distinctly disloyal.

The Deseret News of January 2, 1861, said, "The indications are

that the breach which has been effected between the North and

South will continue to widen, and that two or more nations will

be formed out of the fragmentary portions of the once glorious

republic." The Mormons in England had before that been told in

the Millennial Star (January 28, 1860) that "the Union is now

virtually destroyed." The sermons in Salt Lake City were of the

same character. "General" Wells told the people on April 6, 1861,

that the general government was responsible for their expulsion

from Missouri and Illinois, adding: "So far as we are concerned,

we should have been better without a government than such a one.

I do not think there is a more corrupt government upon the face

of the earth."* Brigham Young on the same day said: "Our present

President, what is his strength? It is like a rope of sand, or

like a rope made of water. He is as weak as water.... I feel

disgraced in having been born under a government that has so

little power, disposition and influence for truth and right.

Shame, shame on the rulers of this nation. I feel myself

disgraced to hail such men as my countrymen."**

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. VIII, pp. 373-374.

** Ibid., Vol. IX, p. 4.

Elder G. A. Smith, on the same occasion, railing against the non-

Mormon clergy, said, "Mr. Lincoln now is put into power by that

priestly influence; and the presumption is, should he not find

his hands full by the secession of the Southern States, the

spirit of priestly craft would force him, in spite of his good

wishes and intentions, to put to death, if it was in his power,

every man that believes in the divine mission of Joseph Smith."*

On August 31, 1862, Young quoted Smith's prediction of a

rebellion beginning in South Carolina, and declared that "the

nation that has slain the prophet of God will be broken in pieces

like a potter's vessel," boasting that the Mormon government in

Utah was "the best earthly government that was ever framed by


* Journal of Discourses, Vol. IX, p. 18.

Tullidge, discussing in 1876 the attitude of the Mormon church

toward the South, said:--

"With the exception of the slavery question and the policy of

secession, the South stood upon the same ground that Utah had

stood upon just previously.... And here we reach the heart of the

Mormon policy and aims. Secession is not in it. Their issues are

all inside the Union. The Mormon prophecy is that that people are

destined to save the Union and preserve the constitution.... The

North, which had just risen to power through the triumph of the

Republican party, occupied the exact position toward the South

that Buchanan's administration had held toward Utah. And the

salient points of resemblance between the two cases were so

striking that Utah and the South became radically associated in

the Chicago platform that brought the Republican party into

office. Slavery and polygamy--these 'twin relics of barbarism'--

were made the two chief planks of the party platform. Yet neither

of these were the real ground of the contest. It continues still,

and some of the soundest men of the times believe that it will be

ultimately referred in a revolution so general that nearly every

man in America will become involved in the action.... The Mormon

view of the great national controversy, then, is that the

Southern States should have done precisely what Utah did, and

placed themselves on the defensive ground of their rights and

institutions as old as the Union. Had they placed themselves

under the political leadership of Brigham Young, they would have

triumphed, for their cause was fundamentally right; their

secession alone was the national crime."**

** Tullidge's "Life of Brigham Young," Chap. 24.

Knowledge of the spirit which animated the Saints induced the

Secretary of War to place them under military supervision, and in

May, 1862, the Third California Infantry and a part of the Second

California Cavalry were ordered to Utah. The commander of this

force was Colonel P. E. Connor, who had a fine record in the

Mexican War, and who was among the first, at the outbreak of the

Rebellion, to tender his services to the government in

California, where he was then engaged in business. On assuming

command of the military district of Utah, which included Utah and

Nevada, Colonel Connor issued an order directing commanders of

posts, camps, and detachments to arrest and imprison, until they

took the oath of allegiance, "all persons who from this date

shall be guilty of uttering treasonable sentiments against the

government," adding, "Traitors shall not utter treasonable

sentiments in this district with impunity, but must seek some

more genial soil, or receive the punishment they so richly


When Connor's force arrived at Fort Crittenden (the Camp Floyd of

General Johnston), the Mormons supposed that it would make its

camp there. Persons having a pecuniary interest in the

reoccupation of the old site, where they wanted to sell to the

government the buildings they had bought for a song, tried hard

to induce Colonel Connor to accept their view, even warning him

of armed Mormon opposition to his passage through Salt Lake City.

But he was not a man to be thus deterred. Among the rumors that

reached him was one that Bill Hickman, the Danite chief, was

offering to bet $500 in Salt Lake City that the colonel could not

cross the river Jordan. Colonel Connor is said to have sent back

the reply that he "would cross the river Jordan if hell yawned

below him."

On Saturday, October 18, Connor marched twenty miles toward the

Mormon capital, and the next day crossed the Jordan at 2 P.M.,

without finding a person in sight on the eastern shore. The

command, knowing that the Nauvoo Legion outnumbered them vastly,

and ignorant of the real intention of the Mormon leaders,

advanced with every preparation to meet resistance. They were, as

an accompanying correspondent expressed it, "six hundred miles of

sand from reinforcements." The conciliatory policy of so many

federal officers in Utah would have induced Colonel Connor to

march quietly around the city, and select some place for his camp

where it would not offend Mormon eyes. What he did do was to halt

his command when the city was two miles distant, form his column

with an advance guard of cavalry and a light battery, the

infantry and commissary wagons coming next, and in this order, to

the bewilderment of the Mormon authorities, march into the

principal street, with his two bands playing, to Emigrants'

Square, and so to Governor Harding's residence.

The only United States flag displayed on any building that day

was the governor's. The sidewalks were packed with men, women,

and children, but not a cheer was heard. In front of the

governor's residence the battalion was formed in two lines, and

the governor, standing in the buggy in which he had ridden out to

meet them, addressed them, saying that their mission was one of

peace and security, and urging them to maintain the strictest

discipline. The troops, Colonel Connor leading, gave three cheers

for the country and the flag, and three for Governor Harding, and

then took up their march to the slope at the base of Wahsatch

Mountain, where the Camp Douglas of to-day is situated. This camp

was in sight of the Mormon city, and Young's residence was in

range of its guns. Thus did Brigham's will bend before the quiet

determination of a government officer who respected his

government's dignity.

But the Mormon spirit was to be still further tested. On December

8 Governor Harding read his first message to the territorial

legislature. It began with a tribute to the industry and

enterprise of the people; spoke of the progress of the war, and

of the application of the territory for statehood, and in this

connection said, "I am sorry to say that since my sojourn amongst

you I have heard no sentiments, either publicly or privately

expressed, that would lead me to believe that much sympathy is

felt by any considerable number of your people in favor of the

government of the United States, now struggling for its very

existence." He declared that the demand for statehood should not

be entertained unless it was "clearly shown that there is a

sufficient population" and "that the people are loyal to the

federal government and the laws." He recommended the taking of a

correct census to settle the question of population. All these

utterances were gall and wormwood to a body of Mormon lawmakers,

but worse was to come. Congress having passed an act "to prevent

and punish the practice of polygamy in the territories," the

governor naturally considered it his duty to call attention to

the matter. Prevising that he desired to do so "in no offensive

manner or unkind spirit," he pointed out that the practice was

founded on no territorial law, resting merely on custom; and

laid, down the principle that "no community can happily exist

with an institution so important as that of marriage wanting in

all those qualities that make it homogeneal with institutions and

laws of neighboring civilized countries having the same spirit."

He spoke of the marriage of a mother and her daughter to the same

man as "no less a marvel in morals than in matters of taste," and

warned them against following the recommendation of high church

authorities that the federal law be disregarded. This message,

according to the Mormon historian, was "an insult offered to

their representatives."*

* Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City," p. 305.

These representatives resented the "insult " by making no

reference in the journal to the reading of the message, and by

failing to have it printed. When this was made known in

Washington, the Senate, on January 16, 1863, called for a report

by the Committee on Territories concerning the suppression of the

message, and they got one from its chairman, Benjamin Wade,

pointing out that Utah Territory was in the control of "a sort of

Jewish theocracy," affording "the first exhibition, within the

limits of the United States, of a church ruling the state," and

declaring that the governor's message contained "nothing that

should give offence to any legislature willing to be governed by

the laws of morality," closing with a recommendation that the

message be printed by Congress. The territorial legislature

adjourned on January 16 without sending to Governor Harding for

his approval a single appropriation bill, and the next day the

so-called legislature of the State of Deseret met and received a

message from the state governor, Brigham Young.

Next the new federal judges came under Mormon displeasure. We

have seen the conflict of jurisdiction existing between the

federal and the so-called probate courts and their officers.

Judge Waite perceived the difficulties thus caused as soon as he

entered upon his duties, and he sent to Washington an act giving

the United States marshal authority to select juries for the

federal courts, taking from the probate courts jurisdiction in

civil actions, and leaving them a limited criminal jurisdiction

subject to appeal to the federal court, and providing for a

reorganization of the militia under the federal governor.

Bernhisel and Hooper sent home immediate notice of the arrival of

this bill in Washington.

Now, indeed, it was time for Brigham to "bend his finger." If a

governor could openly criticise polygamy, and a judge seek to

undermine Young's legal and military authority, without a

protest, his days of power were certainly drawing to a close.

Accordingly, a big mass-meeting was held in Salt Lake City on

March 3, 1863, "for the purpose of investigating certain acts of

several of the United States officials in the territory."

Speeches were made by John Taylor and Young, in which the

governor and judges were denounced.* A committee was appointed to

ask the governor and two judges to resign and leave the

territory, and a petition was signed requesting President Lincoln

to remove them, the first reason stated being that "they are

strenuously endeavoring to create mischief, and stir up strife

between the people of the territory and the troops in Camp

Douglas." The meeting then adjourned, the band playing the


* Reported in Mrs. Waite's "Mormon Prophet," pp. 98-102.

The committee, consisting of John Taylor, J. Clinton, and Orson

Pratt, called on the governor and the judges the next morning,

and met with a flat refusal to pay any attention to the mandate

of the meeting. "You may go back and tell your constituents,"

said Governor Harding, "that I will not resign my office, and

will not leave this territory, until it shall please the

President to recall me. I will not be driven away. I may be in

danger in staying, but my purpose is fixed." Judge Drake told the

committee that he had a right to ask Congress to pass or amend

any law, and that it was a special insult for him, a citizen, to

be asked by Taylor, a foreigner, to leave any part of the

Republic. "Go back to Brigham Young, your master," said he, "that

embodiment of sin, shame, and disgust, and tell him that I

neither fear him, nor love him, nor hate him--that I utterly

despise him. Tell him, whose tools and tricksters you are, that I

did not come here by his permission, and that I will not go away

at his desire nor by his direction.... A horse thief or a

murderer has, when arrested, a right to speak in court; and,

unless in such capacity or under such circumstances, don't you

even dare to speak to me again." Judge Waite simply declined to

resign because to do so would imply "either that I was sensible

of having done something wrong, or that I was afraid to remain at

my post and perform my duty."**

* Text of replies in Mrs. Waite's "Mormon Prophet," pp. 107-109.

As soon as the action of the Mormon mass-meeting became known at

Camp Douglas, all the commissioned officers there signed a

counter petition to President Lincoln, "as an act of duty we owe

our government," declaring that the charge of inciting trouble

between the people and the troops was "a base and unqualified

falsehood," that the accused officers had been "true and faithful

to the government," and that there was no good reason for their


Excitement in Salt Lake City now ran high. Young, in a violent

harangue in the Tabernacle on March 8, after declaring his

loyalty to the government, said, "Is there anything that could be

asked that we would not do? Yes. Let the present administration

ask us for a thousand men, or even five hundred, and I'd see them

d--d first, and then they could not have them. What do you think

of that?' (Loud cries of 'Good, Good,' and great applause.)"*

* Correspondence of the Chicago Tribune.

Young expected arrest, and had a signal arranged by which the

citizens would rush to his support if this was attempted. A false

alarm of this kind was given on March 9, and in an hour two

thousand armed men were assembled around his house.* Steptoe, who

in an earlier year had declined the governorship of the territory

and petitioned for Young's reappointment, took credit for what

followed in an article in the Overland Monthly for December,

1896. Being at Salt Lake City at the time, he suggested to Wells

and other leaders that they charge Young with the crime of

polygamy before one of the magistrates, and have him arraigned

and admitted to bail, in order to place him beyond the reach of

the military officers. The affidavit was sworn to before the

compliant Chief Justice Kinney by Young's private secretary, was

served by the territorial marshal, and Young was released in

$5000 bail. Colonel Connor was informed of this arrest before he

arrived in the city, and retraced his steps; the citizens

dispersed to their homes; the grand jury found no indictment

against Young, and in due time he was discharged from his


* "On the inside of the high walls surrounding Brigham's premises

scaffolding was hastily erected in order to enable the militia to

fire down upon the passing volunteers. The houses on the route

which occupied a commanding position where an attack could be

made upon the troops were taken possession of, and the small

cannon brought out."--"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 604.

"In the meantime," says a Mormon chronicler, "our 'outside'

friends in this city telegraphed to those interested in the mail*

and telegraph lines that they must work for the removal of the

troops, Governor Harding, and Judges Waite and Drake, otherwise

there would be 'difficulty,' and the mail and telegraph lines

would be destroyed. Their moneyed interest has given them great

energy in our behalf."** This "work" told Governor Harding was

removed, leaving the territory on June 11 and, as proof that this

was due to "work" and not to his own incapacity, he was made

Chief Justice of Colorado Territory.*** With him were displaced

Chief Justice Kinney and Secretary Fuller.**** Judges Waite and

Drake wrote to the President that it would take the support of

five thousand men to make the federal courts in Utah effective.

Waite resigned in the summer of 1863. Drake remained, but his

court did practically no business.

* The first Pony Express left Sacramento and St. Joseph,

Missouri, on April 3, 1860. Major General M. B. Hazen in an

official letter dated February, 1807 (House Misc. Doc. No. 75, 2d

Session, 39th Congress), said: "Ben Holiday I believe to be the

only outsider acceptable to those people, and to benefit himself

I believe he would throw the whole weight of his influence in

favor of Mormonism. By the terms of his contract to carry the

mails from the Missouri to Utah, all papers and pamphlets for the

newsdealers, not directed to subscribers, are thrown out. It

looks very much like a scheme to keep light out of that country,

nowhere so much needed."

** D. O. Calder's letter to George Q. Cannon, March 13, 1863, in

Millennial Star.

*** "Every attempt was made to seduce him from the path of duty,

not omitting the same appliances which had been brought to bear

upon Steptoe and Dawson, but all in vain."--"The Mormon Prophet,"

p. 109.

**** Whitney, the Mormon historian, says that while the President

was convinced that Harding was not the right man for the place,

"he doubtless believed that there was more or less truth in the

charges of 'subserviency' to Young made by local anti-Mormons

against Chief Justice Kinney and Secretary Fuller. He therefore

removed them as well."--"History of Utah," Vol. II, p. 103.

Lincoln's policy, as he expressed it then, was, "I will let the

Mormons alone if they will let me alone."* He had war enough on

his hands without seeking any diversion in Utah. J. D. Doty, the

superintendent of Indian affairs, succeeded Harding as governor,

Amos Reed of Wisconsin became secretary, and John Titus of

Philadelphia chief justice.

* Young's letter to Cannon, "History of Salt Lake City," p. 325.

Affairs in Utah now became more quiet. General Connor (he was

made a brigadier general for his service in the Bear River Indian

campaign in 1862-1863) yielded nothing to Mormon threats or

demands. A periodical called the Union Vidette, published by his

force, appeared in November, 1863, and in it was printed a

circular over his name, expressing belief in the existence of

rich veins of gold, silver, copper, and other metals in the

territory, and promising the fullest protection to miners and

prospectors; and the beginning of the mining interests there

dated from the picking up of a piece of ore by a lady member of

the camp while attending a picnic party. Although the Mormons had

discouraged mining as calculated to cause a rush of non-Mormon

residents, they did not show any special resentment to the

general's policy in this respect. With the increasing evidence

that the Union cause would triumph, the church turned its face

toward the federal government. We find, accordingly, a union of

Mormons and Camp Douglas soldiers in the celebration of Union

victories on March 4, 1865, with a procession and speeches, and,

when General Connor left to assume command of the Department of

the Platte, a ball in his honor was given in Salt Lake City; and

at the time of Lincoln's assassination church and government

officers joined in services in the Tabernacle, and the city was

draped in mourning.

After The War Beginning Of Active Hostilities facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail