The Mormon Purpose

When Colonel Johnston arrived at the Black's Fork camp the

information he received from Colonel Alexander, and certain

correspondence with the Mormon authorities, gave him a

comprehensive view of the situation; and on November 5 he

forwarded a report to army headquarters in the East, declaring

that it was the matured design of the Mormons "to hold and occupy

this territory independent of and irrespective of the authority

of the United States," entertaining "the insane design of

establishing a form of government thoroughly despotic, and

utterly repugnant to our institutions."

The correspondence referred to began with a letter from Brigham

Young to Colonel Alexander, dated October 14. Opening with a

declaration of Young's patriotism, and the brazen assertion that

the people of Utah "had never resisted even the wish of the

President of the United States, nor treated with indignity a

single individual coming to the territory under his authority,"

he went on to say:--

"But when the President of the United States so far degrades his

high position, and prostitutes the highest gift of the people, as

to make use of the military power (only intended for the

protection of the people's rights) to crush the people's

liberties, and compel them to receive officials so lost to

self-respect as to accept appointments against the known and

expressed wish of the people, and so craven and degraded as to

need an army to protect them in their position, we feel that we

should be recreant to every principle of self-respect, honor,

integrity, and patriotism to bow tamely to such high-handed

tyranny, a parallel for which is only found in the attempts of

the British government, in its most corrupt stages, against the

rights, liberties, and lives of our forefathers."

He then appealed to Colonel Alexander, as probably "the unwilling

agent" of the administration, to return East with his force,

saying, "I have yet to learn that United States officers are

implicitly bound to obey the dictum of a despotic President, in

violating the most sacred constitutional rights of American


On October 18 Colonel Alexander, acknowledging the receipt of

Young's letter, said in his reply that no one connected with his

force had any wish to interfere in any way with the religion of

the people of Utah, adding: "I repeat my earnest desire to avoid

violence and bloodshed, and it will require positive resistance

to force me to it. But my troops have the same right of self-

defence that you claim, and it rests entirely with you whether

they are driven to the exercise of it."

Finding that he could not cajole the federal officer, Young threw

off all disguise, and in reply to an earlier letter of Colonel

Alexander, he gave free play to his vituperative powers. After

going over the old Mormon complaints, and declaring that "both we

and the Kingdom of God will be free from all hellish oppressors,

the Lord being our helper," he wrote at great length in the

following tone:--

"If you persist in your attempt to permanently locate an army in

this Territory, contrary to the wishes and constitutional rights

of the people therein, and with a view to aid the administration

in their unhallowed efforts to palm their corrupt officials upon

us, and to protect them and blacklegs, black-hearted scoundrels,

whoremasters, and murderers, as was the sole intention in sending

you and your troops here, you will have to meet a mode of warfare

against which your tactics furnish you no information....

"If George Washington was now living, and at the helm of our

government, he would hang the administration as high as he did

Andre, and that, too, with a far better grace and to a much

greater subserving the best interests of our country....

"By virtue of my office as Governor of the Territory of Utah, I

command you to marshal your troops and leave this territory, for

it can be of no possible benefit to you to wickedly waste

treasures and blood in prosecuting your course upon the side of a

rebellion against the general government by its

administrators.... Were you and your fellow officers as well

acquainted with your soldiers as I am with mine, and did they

understand the work they were now engaged in as well as you may

understand it, you must know that many of them would immediately

revolt from all connection with so ungodly, illegal,

unconstitutional and hellish a crusade against an innocent

people, and if their blood is shed it shall rest upon the heads

of their commanders. With us it is the Kingdom of God or


To this Colonel Alexander replied, on the 19th, that no citizen

of Utah would be harmed through the instrumentality of the army

in the performance of its duties without molestation, and that,

as Young's order to leave the territory was illegal and beyond

his authority, it would not be obeyed.

John Taylor, on October 21, added to this correspondence a letter

to Captain Marcy, in which he ascribed to party necessity the

necessity of something with which to meet the declaration of the

Republicans against polygamy--the order of the President that

troops should accompany the new governor to Utah; declared that

the religion of the Mormons was "a right guaranteed to us by the

constitution"; and reiterated their purpose, if driven to it, "to

burn every house, tree, shrub, rail, every patch of grass and

stack of straw and hay, and flee to the mountains." "How a large

army would fare without resources," he added, "you can picture to


* Text of this letter in House Ex. Doc. No. 71, 1st Session, 35th

Congress, and Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City."

The Mormon authorities meant just what they said from the start.

Young was as determined to be the head of the civil government of

the territory as he was to be the head of the church. He had

founded a practical dictatorship, with power over life and

property, and had discovered that such a dictatorship was

necessary to the regulation of the flock that he had gathered

around him and to the schemes that he had in mind. To permit a

federal governor to take charge of the territory, backed up by

troops who would sustain him in his authority, meant an end to

Young's absolute rule. Rather than submit to this, he stood ready

to make the experiment of fighting the government force,

separated as that force was from its Eastern base of supplies; to

lay waste the Mormon settlements, if it became necessary to use

this method of causing a federal retreat by starvation; and, if

this failed, to withdraw his flock to some new Zion farther


In accordance with this view, as soon as news of the approach of

the troops reached Salt Lake Valley, all the church industries

stopped; war supplies weapons and clothing were manufactured and

accumulated; all the elders in Europe were ordered home, and the

outlying colonies in Carson Valley and in southern California

were directed to hasten to Salt Lake City. A correspondent of the

San Francisco Bulletin at San Bernardino, California, reported

that in the last six months the Mormons there had sent four or

five tons of gunpowder and many weapons to Utah, and that, when

the order to "gather" at the Mormon metropolis came, they

sacrificed everything to obey it, selling real estate at a

reduction of from 20 to 50 per cent, and furniture for any price

that it would bring. The same sacrifices were made in Carson

Valley, where 150 wagons were required to accommodate the movers.

In Salt Lake City the people were kept wrought up to the highest

pitch by the teachings of their leaders. Thus, Amasa W. Lyman

told them, on October 8, that they would not be driven away,

because "the time has come when the Kingdom of God should be

built up."* Young told them the same day, "If we will stand up as

men and women of God, the yoke shall never be placed upon our

necks again, and all hell cannot overthrow us, even with the

United States troops to help them."** Kimball told the people in

the Tabernacle, on October 18: "They [the United States] will

have to make peace with us, and we never again shall make peace

with them. If they come here, they have got to give up their

arms." Describing his plan of campaign, at the same service,

after the reading of the correspondence between Young and Colonel

Alexander, Young said: "Do you want to know what is going to be

done with the enemies now on our border? As soon as they start to

come into our settlements, let sleep depart from their eyes and

slumber from their eyelids until they sleep in death. Men shall

be secreted here and there, and shall waste away our enemies in

the name of Israel's God."***

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. V, p. 319.

** Ibid., Vol. V, p. 332

*** Ibid., Vol. V, p. 338.

Young was equally explicit in telling members of his own flock

what they might expect if they tried to depart at that time. In a

discourse in the Tabernacle, on October 25, he said:--

"If any man or woman in Utah wants to leave this community, come

to me and I will treat you kindly, as I always have, and will

assist you to leave; but after you have left our settlements you

must not then depend upon me any longer, nor upon the God I

serve. You must meet the doom you have labored for.... After this

season, when this ignorant army has passed off, I shall never

again say to a man, 'Stay your rifle ball,' when our enemies

assail us, but shall say, 'Slay them where you find them."'*

* Ibid, Vol. V, p. 352.

Kimball, on November 8, spoke with equal plainness on this


"When it is necessary that blood should be shed, we should be as

ready to do that as to eat an apple. That is my religion, and I

feel that our platter is pretty near clean of some things, and we

calculate to keep it clean from this time henceforth and forever

.... And if men and women will not live their religion, but take

a course to pervert the hearts of the righteous, we will 'lay

judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet,' and we

will let you know that the earth can swallow you up as did Koran

with his hosts; and, as Brother Taylor says, you may dig your

graves, and we will slay you and you may crawl into them."*

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. VI, p. 34.

The Mormon songs of the day breathed the same spirit of defiance

to the United States authorities. A popular one at the Tabernacle

services began:--

"Old Uncle Sam has sent, I understand,

Du dah,

A Missouri ass to rule our land,

Du dah! Du dah day.

But if he comes we'll have some fun,

Du dah,

To see him and his juries run,

Du dah! Du dah day.

Chorus: Then let us be on hand,

By Brigham Young to stand,

And if our enemies do appear,

We'll sweep them from the land."

Another still more popular song, called "Zion," contained these


"Here our voices we'll raise, and will sing to thy praise,

Sacred home of the Prophets of God;

Thy deliverance is nigh, thy oppressors shall die,

And the Gentiles shall bow 'neath thy rod."

When the Mormons found that the federal forces had gone into

winter quarters, the Nauvoo Legion was massed in a camp called

Camp Weber, at the mouth of Echo Canon. This canon they fortified

with ditches and breastworks, and some dams intended to flood the

roadway; but they succeeded in erecting no defences which could

not have been easily overcome by a disciplined force. A watch was

set day and night, so that no movement of "the invaders" could

escape them, and the officer in charge was particularly forbidden

to allow any civil officer appointed by the President to pass.

This careful arrangement was kept up all winter, but Tullidge

says that no spies were necessary, as deserting soldiers and

teamsters from the federal camp kept coming into the valley with


The territorial legislature met in December, and approved

Governor Young's course, every member signing a pledge to

maintain "the rights and liberties" of the territory. The

legislators sent a memorial to Congress, dated January 6, 1858,

demanding to be informed why "a hostile course is pursued toward

an unoffending people," calling the officers who had fled from

the territory liars, declaring that "we shall not again hold

still while fetters are being forged to bind us," etc. This

offensive document reached Washington in March, and was referred

in each House to the Committee on Territories, where it remained.

When the federal forces reached Fort Bridger, they found that the

Mormons had burned the buildings, and it was decided to locate

the winter camp--named Camp Scott--on Black's Fork, two miles

above the fort. The governor and other civil officers spent the

winter in another camp near by, named "Ecklesville," occupying

dugouts, which they covered with an upper story of plastered

logs. There was a careful apportionment of rations, but no

suffering for lack of food.

An incident of the winter was the expedition of Captain Randolph

B. Marcy across the Uinta Mountains to New Mexico, with two

guides and thirty-five volunteer companions, to secure needed

animals. The story of his march is one of the most remarkable on

record, the company pressing on, even after Indian guides refused

to accompany them to what they said was certain death, living for

days only on the meat supplied by half-starved mules, and beating

a path through deep snow. This march continued from November 27

to January 10, when, with the loss of only one man, they reached

the valley of the Rio del Norte, where supplies were obtained

from Fort Massachusetts. Captain Marcy started back on March 17,

selecting a course which took him past Long's and Pike's Peaks.

He reached Camp Scott on June 8, with about fifteen hundred

horses and mules, escorted by five companies of infantry and

mounted riflemen.

During the winter Governor Cumming sent to Brigham Young a

proclamation notifying him of the arrival of the new territorial

officers, and assuring the people that he would resort to the

military posse only in case of necessity. Judge Eckles held a

session of the United States District Court at Camp Scott on

December 30, and the grand jury of that court found indictments

for treason, resting on Young's proclamation and Wells's

instructions, against Young, Kimball, Wells, Taylor, Grant,

Locksmith, Rockwell, Hickman, and many others, but of course no

arrests were made.

Meanwhile, at Washington, preparations were making to sustain the

federal authority in Utah as soon as spring opened.* Congress

made an appropriation, and authorized the enlistment of two

regiments of volunteers; three thousand regular troops and two

batteries were ordered to the territory, and General Scott was

directed to sail for the Pacific coast with large powers. But

General Scott did not sail, the army contracts created a

scandal,** and out of all this preparation for active hostilities

came peace without the firing of a shot; out of all this open

defiance and vilification of the federal administration by the

Mormon church came abject surrender by the administration itself.

* For the correspondence concerning the camp during the winter of

1858, see Sen. Doc., 2d Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II.

** Colonel Albert G. Brown, Jr., in his account of the Utah

Expedition in the Atlantic Monthly for April, 1859, said: "To the

shame of the administration these gigantic contracts, involving

an amount of more than $6,000,000, were distributed with a view

to influence votes in the House of Representatives upon the

Lecompton Bill. Some of the lesser ones, such as those for

furnishing mules, dragoon horses, and forage, were granted

arbitrarily to relatives or friends of members who were wavering

upon that question.

The principal contract, that for the transportation of all the

supplies, involving for the year 1858 the amount of $4,500,000,

was granted, without advertisement or subdivision, to a firm in

Western Missouri, whose members had distinguished themselves in

the effort to make Kansas a slave state, and now contributed

liberally to defray the election expenses of the Democratic


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