The Mormon War

The government at Washington and the people of the Eastern states

knew a good deal more about Mormonism in 1856 than they did when

Fillmore gave the appointment of governor to Young in 1850. The

return of one federal officer after another from Utah with a

report that his office was untenable, even if his life was not in

danger, the practical nullification of federal law, and the light

that was beginning to be shed on Mormon social life by

correspondents of Eastern newspapers had aroused enough public

interest in the matter to lead the politicians to deem it worthy

of their attention. Accordingly, the Republican National

Convention, in June, 1856, inserted in its platform a plank

declaring that the constitution gave Congress sovereign power

over the territories, and that "it is both the right and the duty

of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of

barbarism--polygamy and slavery."

A still more striking proof of the growing political importance

of the Mormon question was afforded by the attention paid to it

by Stephen A. Douglas in a speech in Springfield, Illinois, on

June 12, 1856, when he was hoping to secure the Democratic

nomination for President. This former friend of the Mormons,

their spokesman in the Senate, now declared that reports from the

territory seemed to justify the belief that nine-tenths of its

inhabitants were aliens; that all were bound by horrid oaths and

penalties to recognize and maintain the authority of Brigham

Young; and that the Mormon government was forming alliances with

the Indians, and organizing Danite bands to rob and murder

American citizens. "Under this view of the subject," said he, "I

think it is the duty of the President, as I have no doubt it is

his fixed purpose, to remove Brigham Young and all his followers

from office, and to fill their places with bold, able, and true

men; and to cause a thorough and searching investigation into all

the crimes and enormities which are alleged to be perpetrated

daily in that territory under the direction of Brigham Young and

his confederates; and to use all the military force necessary to

protect the officers in discharge of their duties and to enforce

the laws of the land. When the authentic evidence shall arrive,

if it shall establish the facts which are believed to exist, it

will become the duty of Congress to apply the knife, and cut out

this loathsome, disgusting ulcer."*

* Text of the speech in New York Times of June 23, 1856.

This, of course, caused the Mormons to pour out on Judge Douglas

the vials of their wrath, and, when he failed to secure the

presidential nomination, they found in his defeat the

verification of one of Smith's prophecies.

The Mormons, on their part, had never ceased their demands for

statehood, and another of their efforts had been made in the

preceding spring, when a new constitution of the State of Deseret

was adopted by a convention over which the notorious Jedediah M.

Grant presided, and sent to Washington with a memorial pleading

for admission to the Union, "that another star, shedding mild

radiance from the tops of the mountains, midway between the

borders of the Eastern and Western civilization, may add its

effulgence to that bright light now so broadly illumining the

governmental pathway of nations"; and declaring that "the loyalty

of Utah has been variously and most thoroughly tested." Congress

treated this application with practical contempt, the Senate

laying the memorial on the table, and the chairman of the House

Committee on Territories, Galusha A. Grow, refusing to present

the constitution to the House.

Alarmed at the manifestations of public feeling in the East, and

the demand that President Buchanan should do something to

vindicate at least the dignity of the government, the Mormon

leaders and press renewed their attacks on the character of all

the federal officers who had criticized them, and the Deseret

News urged the President to send to Utah "one or more civilians

on a short visit to look about them and see what they can see,

and return and report." The value of observations by such "short

visitors" on such occasions need not be discussed.

President Buchanan, instead of following any Mormon advice, soon

after his inauguration directed the organization of a body of

troops to march to Utah to uphold the federal authorities, and in

July, after several persons had declined the office, appointed as

governor of Utah Alfred Cumming of Georgia. The appointee was a

brother of Colonel William Cumming, who won renown as a soldier

in the War of 1812, who was a Union party leader in the

nullification contest in Jackson's time, and who was a

participant in a duel with G. McDuffie that occupied a good deal

of attention. Alfred Cumming had filled no more important

positions than those of mayor of Augusta, Georgia, sutler in the

Mexican War, and superintendent of Indian affairs on the upper

Missouri. A much more commendable appointment made at the same

time was that of D. R. Eckles, a Kentuckian by birth, but then a

resident of Indiana, to be chief justice of the territory. John

Cradlebaugh and C. E. Sinclair were appointed associate justices,

with John Hartnett as secretary, and Peter K. Dotson as marshal.

The new governor gave the first illustration of his conception of

his duties by remaining in the East, while the troops were

moving, asking for an increase of his salary, a secret service

fund, and for transportation to Utah. Only the last of these

requests was complied with.

President Buchanan's position as regards Utah at this time was

thus stated in his first annual message to Congress (December 8,


"The people of Utah almost exclusively belong to this [Mormon]

church, and, believing with a fanatical spirit that he [Young] is

Governor of the Territory by divine appointment, they obey his

commands as if these were direct revelations from heaven. If,

therefore, he chooses that his government shall come into

collision with the government of the United States, the members

of the Mormon church will yield implicit obedience to his will.

Unfortunately, existing facts leave but little doubt that such is

his determination. Without entering upon a minute history of

occurrences, it is sufficient to say that all the officers of the

United States, judicial and executive, with the single exception

of two Indian agents, have found it necessary for their own

safety to withdraw from the Territory, and there no longer

remained any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham

Young. This being the condition of affairs in the Territory, I

could not mistake the path of duty. As chief executive

magistrate, I was bound to restore the supremacy of the

constitution and laws within its limits. In order to effect this

purpose, I appointed a new governor and other federal officers

for Utah, and sent with them a military force for their

protection, and to aid as a posse comitatus in case of need in

the execution of the laws.

"With the religious opinions of the Mormons, as long as they

remained mere opinions, however deplorable in themselves and

revolting to the moral and religious sentiments of all

Christendom, I have no right to interfere. Actions alone, when in

violation of the constitution and laws of the United States,

become the legitimate subjects for the jurisdiction of the civil

magistrate. My instructions to Governor Cumming have, therefore,

been framed in strict accordance with these principles."

This statement of the situation of affairs in Utah, and of the

duty of the President in the circumstances, did not admit of

criticism. But the country at that time was in a state of intense

excitement over the slavery question, with the situation in

Kansas the centre of attention; and it was charged that Buchanan

put forward the Mormon issue as a part of his scheme to "gag the

North" and force some question besides slavery to the front; and

that Secretary of War Floyd eagerly seized the opportunity to

remove "the flower of the American army" and a vast amount of

munition and supplies to a distant place, remote from Eastern

connections. The principal newspapers in this country were

intensely partisan in those days, and party organs like the New

York Tribune could be counted on to criticise any important step

taken by the Democratic President. Such Mormon agents as Colonel

Kane and Dr. Bernhisel, the Utah Delegate to Congress, were doing

active work in New York and Washington, and some of it with

effect. Horace Greeley, in his "Overland journey," describing his

call on Brigham Young a few years later, says that he was

introduced by "my friend Dr. Bernhisel." The "Tribune Almanac"

for 1859, in an article on the Utah troubles, quoted as "too

true" Young's declaration that "for the last twenty-five years we

have trusted officials of the government, from constables and

justices to judges, governors, and presidents, only to be

scorned, held in derision, insulted and betrayed."* Ulterior

motives aside, no President ever had a clearer duty than had

Buchanan to maintain the federal authority in Utah, and to secure

to all residents in and travellers through that territory the

rights of life and property. The just ground for criticising him

is, not that he attempted to do this, but that he faltered by the


* Greeley's leaning to the Mormon side was quite persistent,

leading him to support Governor Cumming a little later against

the federal judges. The Mormons never forgot this. A Washington

letter of April 24, 1874, to the New York Times said: "When Mr.

Greeley was nominated for President the Mormons heartily hoped

for his election. The church organs and the papers taken in the

territory were all hostile to the administration, and their

clamor deceived for a time people far more enlightened than the

followers of the modern Mohammed. It is said that, while the

canvass was pending, certain representatives of the

Liberal-Democratic alliance bargained with Brigham Young, and

that he contributed a very large sum of money to the treasury of

the Greeley fund, and that, in consideration of this

contribution, he received assurances that, if he should send a

polygamist to Congress, no opposition would be made by the

supporters of the administration that was to be, to his admission

to the House. Brigham therefore sent Cannon instead of returning


** It is curious to notice that the Utah troubles are entirely

ignored in the "Life of James Buchanan " (1883) by George Ticknor

Curtis, who was the counsel for the Mormons in the argument

concerning polygamy before the United States Supreme Court in


Early in 1856 arrangements were entered into with H. C. Kimball

for a contract to carry the mail between Independence, Missouri,

and Salt Lake City. Young saw in this the nucleus of a big

company that would maintain a daily express and mail service to

and from the Mormon centre, and he at once organized the Brigham

Young Express Carrying Company, and had it commended to the

people from the pulpit. But recent disclosures of Mormon methods

and purposes had naturally caused the government to question the

propriety of confiding the Utah and transcontinental mails to

Mormon hands, and on June 10, 1857, Kimball was notified that the

government would not execute the contract with him, "the

unsettled state of things at Salt Lake City rendering the mails

unsafe under present circumstances." Mormon writers make much of

the failure to execute this mail contract as an exciting cause of

the "war." Tullidge attributes the action of the administration

to three documents--a letter from Mail Contractor W. M. F. Magraw

to the President, describing the situation in Utah, Judge

Drummond's letter of resignation, and a letter from Indian Agent

T. S. Twiss, dated July 13, 1856, informing the government that a

large Mormon colony had taken possession of Deer Creek Valley,

only one hundred miles west of Fort Laramie, driving out a

settlement of Sioux whom the agent had induced to plant corn

there, and charging that the Mormon occupation was made with a

view to the occupancy of the country, and "under cover of a

contract of the Mormon church to carry the mails."* Tullidge's

statement could be made with hope of its acceptance only to

persons who either lacked the opportunity or inclination to

ascertain the actual situation in Utah and the President's

sources of information.

* All these may be found in House Ex. Doc. No. 71, 1st Session,

35th Congress.

As to the mails, no autocratic government like that of Brigham

Young would neglect to make what use it pleased of them in its

struggle with the authorities at Washington. As early as

November, 1851, Indian Agent Holman wrote to the Indian

commissioner at Washington from Salt Lake City: "The Gentiles, as

we are called who do not belong to the Mormon church, have no

confidence in the management of the post-office here. It is

believed by many that there is an examination of all letters

coming and going, in order that they may ascertain what is said

of them and by whom it is said. This opinion is so strong that

all communications touching their character or conduct are either

sent to Bridger or Laramie, there to be mailed. I send this

communication through a friend to Laramie, to be there mailed for

the States."

Testimony on this point four years later, from an independent

source, is found in a Salt Lake City letter, of November 3, 1855,

to the New York Herald. The writer said: "From September 5, to

the 27th instant the people of this territory had not received

any news from the States except such as was contained in a few

broken files of California papers.... Letters and papers come up

missing, and in the same mail come papers of very ancient dates;

but letters once missing may be considered as irrevocably lost.

Of all the numerous numbers of Harper's, Gleason's, and other

illustrated periodicals subscribed for by the inhabitants of this

territory, not one, I have been informed, has ever reached here."

The forces selected for the expedition to Utah consisted of the

Second Dragoons, then stationed at Fort Leavenworth in view of

possible trouble in Kansas; the Fifth Infantry, stationed at that

time in Florida; the Tenth Infantry, then in the forts in

Minnesota; and Phelps's Battery of the Fourth Artillery, that had

distinguished itself at Buena Vista--a total of about fifteen

hundred men. Reno's Battery was added later.

General Scott's order provided for two thousand head of cattle to

be driven with the troops, six months' supply of bacon,

desiccated vegetables, 250 Sibley tents, and stoves enough to

supply at least the sick. General Scott himself had advised a

postponement of the expedition until the next year, on account of

the late date at which it would start, but he was overruled. The

commander originally selected for this force was General W. S.

Harney; but the continued troubles in Kansas caused his retention

there (as well as that of the Second Dragoons), and, when the

government found that the Mormons proposed serious resistance,

the chief command was given to Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, a

West Point graduate, who had made a record in the Black Hawk War;

in the service of the state of Texas, first in 1836 under General

Rusk, and eventually as commander-in-chief in the field, and

later as Secretary of War; and in the Mexican War as colonel of

the First Texas Rifles. He was killed at the battle of Shiloh

during the War of the Rebellion.

General Harney's letter of instruction, dated June 29, giving the

views of General Scott and the War Department, stated that the

civil government in Utah was in a state of rebellion; he was to

attack no body of citizens, however, except at the call of the

governor, the judges, or the marshals, the troops to be

considered as a posse comitatus; he was made responsible for "a

jealous, harmonious, and thorough cooperation" with the governor,

accepting his views when not in conflict with military judgment

and prudence. While the general impression, both at Washington

and among the troops, was that no actual resistance to this force

would be made by Young's followers, the general was told that

"prudence requires that you should anticipate resistance,

general, organized, and formidable, at the threshold."

Great activity was shown in forwarding the necessary supplies to

Fort Leavenworth, and in the last two weeks of July most of the

assigned troops were under way. Colonel Johnston arrived at Fort

Leavenworth on September 11, assigned six companies of the Second

Dragoons, under Lieutenant Colonel P. St. George Cooke, as an

escort to Governor Cumming, and followed immediately after them.

Major (afterward General) Fitz John Porter, who accompanied

Colonel Johnston as assistant adjutant general, describing the

situation in later years, said:--

"So late in the season had the troops started on this march that

fears were entertained that, if they succeeded in reaching their

destination, it would be only by abandoning the greater part of

their supplies, and endangering the lives of many men amid the

snows of the Rocky Mountains. So much was a terrible disaster

feared by those acquainted with the rigors of a winter life in

the Rocky Mountains, that General Harney was said to have

predicted it, and to have induced Walker [of Kansas] to ask his


Meanwhile, the Mormons had received word of what was coming. When

A. O. Smoot reached a point one hundred miles west of

Independence, with the mail for Salt Lake City, he met heavy

freight teams which excited his suspicion, and at Kansas City

obtained sufficient particulars of the federal expedition.

Returning to Fort Laramie, he and O. P. Rockwell started on July

18, in a light wagon drawn by two fast horses, to carry the news

to Brigham Young. They made the 513 miles in five days and three

hours, arriving on the evening of July 23. Undoubtedly they gave

Young this important information immediately. But Young kept it

to himself that night. On the following day occurred the annual

celebration of the arrival of the pioneers in the valley. To the

big gathering of Saints at Big Cottonwood Lake, twenty- four

miles from the city, Young dramatically announced the news of the

coming "invasion." His position was characteristically defiant.

He declared that "he would ask no odds of Uncle Sam or the

devil," and predicted that he would be President of the United

States in twelve years, or would dictate the successful

candidate. Recalling his declaration ten years earlier that,

after ten years of peace, they would ask no odds of the United

States, he declared that that time had passed, and that

thenceforth they would be a free and independent state--the State

of Deseret.

The followers of Young eagerly joined in his defiance of the

government, and in the succeeding weeks the discourses and the

editorials of the Deseret News breathed forth dire threats

against the advancing foe. Thus, the News of August 12 told the

Washington authorities, "If you intend to continue the

appointment of certain officers,"--that is, if you do not intend

to surrender to the church federal jurisdiction in Utah--"we

respectfully suggest that you appoint actually intelligent and

honorable men, who will wisely attend to their own duties, and

send them unaccompanied by troops"--that is, judges who would

acknowledge the supremacy of the Mormon courts, or who, if not,

would have no force to sustain them. This was followed by a

threat that if any other kind of men were sent "they will really

need a far larger bodyguard than twenty-five hundred soldiers."*

The government was, in another editorial, called on to "entirely

clear the track, and accord us the privilege of carrying our own

mails at our own expense," and was accused of "high handedly

taking away our rights and privileges, one by one, under pretext

that the most devilish should blush at."

* An Englishman, in a letter to the New York Observer, dated

London, May 26, 1857, said, "The English Mormons make no secret

of their expectation that a collision will take place with the

American authorities," and he quoted from a Mormon preacher's

words as follows: "As to a collision with the American

Government, there cannot be two opinions on the matter. We shall

have judges, governors, senators and dragoons invading us,

imprisoning and murdering us; but we are prepared, and are

preparing judges, governors, senators and dragoons who will know

how to dispose of their friends. The little stone will come into

collision with the iron and clay and grind them to powder. It

will be in Utah as it was in Nauvoo, with this difference, we are

prepared now for offensive or defensive war; we were not then."

Young in the pulpit was in his element. One example of his

declarations must suffice:--

"I am not going to permit troops here for the protection of the

priests and the rabble in their efforts to drive us from the land

we possess.... You might as well tell me that you can make hell

into a powder house as to tell me that they intend to keep an

army here and have peace.... I have told you that if there is any

man or woman who is not willing to destroy everything of their

property that would be of use to an enemy if left, I would advise

them to leave the territory, and I again say so to-day; for when

the time comes to burn and lay waste our improvements, if any man

undertakes to shield his, he will be treated as a traitor; for

judgment will be laid to the line and righteousness to the


* Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City," p. 160.

The official papers of Governor Young are perhaps the best

illustrations of the spirit with which the federal authorities

had to deal.

Words, however, were not the only weapons which the Mormons

employed against the government at the start. Daniel H. Wells,

"Lieutenant General" and commander of the Nauvoo Legion, which

organization had been kept up in Utah, issued, on August 1, a

despatch to each of twelve commanding officers of the Legion in

the different settlements in the territory, declaring that "when

anarchy takes the place of orderly government, and mobocratic

tyranny usurps the powers of the rulers, they [the people of the

territory] have left the inalienable right to defend themselves

against all aggression upon their constitutional privileges"; and

directing them to hold their commands ready to march to any part

of the territory, with ammunition, wagons, and clothing for a

winter campaign. In the Legion were enrolled all the able-bodied

males between eighteen and forty-five years, under command of a

lieutenant general, four generals, eleven colonels, and six


The first mobilization of this force took place on August 15,

when a company was sent eastward over the usual route to aid

incoming immigrants and learn the strength of the federal force.

By the employment of similar scouts the Mormons were thus kept

informed of every step of the army's advance. A scouting party

camped within half a mile of the foremost company near Devil's

Gate on September 22, and did not lose sight of it again until it

went into camp at Harris's Fort, where supplies had been

forwarded in advance.

Captain Stewart Van Vliet, of General Harney's staff, was sent

ahead of the troops, leaving Fort Leavenworth on July 28, to

visit Salt Lake City, ascertain the disposition of the church

authorities and the people toward the government, and obtain any

other information that would be of use. Arriving in Salt Lake

City in thirty three and a half days, he was received with

affability by Young, and there was a frank interchange of views

between them. Young recited the past trials of the Mormons

farther east, and said that "therefore he and the people of Utah

had determined to resist all persecution at the commencement, and


GREAT SALT LAKE VALLEY. As he uttered these words, all those

present concurred most heartily."* Young said they had an

abundance of everything required by the federal troops, but that

nothing would be sold to the government. When told that, even if

they did succeed in preventing the present military force from

entering the valley the coming winter, they would have to yield

to a larger force the following year, the reply was that that

larger force would find Utah a desert; they would burn every

house, cut down every tree, lay waste every field. "We have three

years' provisions on hand," Young added, "which we will cache,

and then take to the mountains and bid defiance to all the powers

of the government."

* The quotations are from Captain Van Vliet's official report in

House Ex. Doc. No. 71, previously referred to. Tullidge's

"History of Salt Lake City" (p. 16l) gives extracts from Apostle

Woodruff's private journal of notes on the interview between

Young and Captain Van Vliet, on September 12 and 13, in which

Young is reported as saying: "We do not want to fight the United

States, but if they drive us to it we shall do the best we can.

God will overthrow them. We are the supporters of the

constitution of the United States. If they dare to force the

issue, I shall not hold the Indians by the wrist any longer for

white men to shoot at them; they shall go ahead and do as they


When Young called for a vote on that proposition by an audience

of four thousand persons in the Tabernacle, every hand was raised

to vote yes. Captain Van Vliet summed up his view of the

situation thus: that it would not be difficult for the Mormons to

prevent the entrance of the approaching force that season; that

they would not resort to actual hostilities until the last

moment, but would burn the grass, stampede the animals, and cause

delay in every manner.

The day after Captain Van Vliet left Salt Lake City, Governor

Young gave official expression to his defiance of the federal

government by issuing the following proclamation:--

"Citizens of Utah: We are invaded by a hostile force, who are

evidently assailing us to accomplish our overthrow and


"For the last twenty-five years we have trusted officials of the

government, from constables and justices to judges, governors,

and Presidents, only to be scorned, held in derision, insulted,

and betrayed. Our houses have been plundered and then burned, our

fields laid waste, our principal men butchered, while under the

pledged faith of the government for their safety, and our

families driven from their homes to find that shelter in the

barren wilderness and that protection among hostile savages,

which were denied them in the boasted abodes of Christianity and


"The constitution of our common country guarantees unto us all

that we do now or have ever claimed. If the constitutional rights

which pertain unto us as American citizens were extended to Utah,

according to the spirit and meaning thereof, and fairly and

impartially administered, it is all that we can ask, all that we

have ever asked.

"Our opponents have availed themselves of prejudice existing

against us, because of our religious faith, to send out a

formidable host to accomplish our destruction. We have had no

privilege or opportunity of defending ourselves from the false,

foul, and unjust aspersions against us before the nation. The

government has not condescended to cause an investigating

committee, or other persons, to be sent to inquire into and

ascertain the truth, as is customary in such cases. We know those

aspersions to be false; but that avails us nothing. We are

condemned unheard, and forced to an issue with an armed mercenary

mob, which has been sent against us at the instigation of

anonymous letter writers, ashamed to father the base, slanderous

falsehoods which they have given to the public; of corrupt

officials, who have brought false accusations against us to

screen themselves in their own infamy; and of hireling priests

and howling editors, who prostitute the truth for filthy lucre's


"The issue which has thus been forced upon us compels us to

resort to the great first law of self-preservation, and stand in

our own defence, a right guaranteed to us by the genius of the

institutions of our country, and upon which the government is

based. Our duty to ourselves, to our families, requires us not to

tamely submit to be driven and slain, without an attempt to

preserve ourselves; our duty to our country, our holy religion,

our God, to freedom and liberty, requires that we should not

quietly stand still and see those fetters forging around us which

were calculated to enslave and bring us in subjection to an

unlawful, military despotism, such as can only emanate, in a

country of constitutional law, from usurpation, tyranny, and


"Therefore, I, Brigham Young, Governor and Superintendent of

Indian Affairs for the Territory of Utah, in the name of the

people of the United States in the Territory of Utah, forbid:

"First. All armed forces of every description from coming into

this Territory, under any pretence whatever.

"Second. That all forces in said Territory hold themselves in

readiness to march at a moment's notice to repel any and all such


"Third. Martial law is hereby declared to exist in this Territory

from and after the publication of this proclamation, and no

person shall be allowed to pass or repass into or through or from

this Territory without a permit from the proper officer.

"Given under my hand and seal, at Great Salt Lake City, Territory

of Utah, this 15th day of September, A.D. 1857, and of the

independence of the United States of America the eighty-second.


The advancing troops received from Captain Van Vliet as he passed

eastward their first information concerning the attitude of the

Mormons toward them, and Colonel Alexander, in command of the

foremost companies, accepted his opinion that the Mormons would

not attack them if the army did not advance beyond Fort Bridger

or Fort Supply, this idea being strengthened by the fact that one

hundred wagon loads of stores, undefended, had remained

unmolested on Ham's Fork for three weeks. The first division of

the federal troops marched across Greene River on September 27,

and hurried on thirty five miles to what was named Camp Winfield,

on Ham's Fork, a confluent of Black Fork, which emptied into

Greene River. Phelps's and Reno's batteries and the Fifth

Infantry reached there about the same time, but there was no

cavalry, the kind of force most needed, because of the detention

of the Dragoons in Kansas.

On September 30 General Wells forwarded to Colonel Alexander,

from Fort Bridger, Brigham Young's proclamation of September 15,

a copy of the laws of Utah, and the following letter addressed to

"the officer commanding the forces now invading Utah Territory":


GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, September 29, 1857.

"Sir: By reference to the act of Congress passed September 9,

1850, organizing the Territory of Utah, published in a copy of

the laws of Utah, herewith forwarded, pp. 146-147, you will find

the following:--

'Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, that the executive power and

authority in and over said Territory of Utah shall be vested in a

Governor, who shall hold his office for four years, and until his

successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed

by the President of the United States. The Governor shall reside

within said Territory, shall be Commander-in-chief of the militia

thereof', etc., etc.

"I am still the Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for

this Territory, no successor having been appointed and qualified,

as provided by law; nor have I been removed by the President of

the United States.

"By virtue of the authority thus vested in me, I have issued, and

forwarded you a copy of, my proclamation forbidding the entrance

of armed forces into this Territory. This you have disregarded. I

now further direct that you retire forthwith from the Territory,

by the same route you entered. Should you deem this

impracticable, and prefer to remain until spring in the vicinity

of your present encampment, Black's Fork or Greene River, you can

do so in peace and unmolested, on condition that you deposit your

arms and ammunition with Lewis Robinson, Quartermaster General of

the Territory, and leave in the spring, as soon as the condition

of the roads will permit you to march; and, should you fall short

of provisions, they can be furnished you, upon making the proper

applications therefor. General D. H. Wells will forward this, and

receive any communications you may have to make.

Very respectfully,


"Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Utah Territory."

General Wells's communication added to this impudent announcement

the declaration, "It may be proper to add that I am here to aid

in carrying out the instructions of Governor Young."

On October 2 Colonel Alexander, in a note to Governor Young,

acknowledged the receipt of his enclosures, said that he would

submit Young's letter to the general commanding as soon as he

arrived, and added, "In the meantime I have only to say that

these troops are here by the orders of the President of the

United States, and their future movements and operations will

depend entirely upon orders issued by competent military


Two Mormon officers, General Robinson and Major Lot Smith, had

been sent to deliver Young's letter and proclamation to the

federal officer in command, but they did not deem it prudent to

perform this office in person, sending a Mexican with them into

Colonel Alexander's camp.* In the same way they received Colonel

Alexander's reply.

* Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City," p. 171.

The Mormon plan of campaign was already mapped out, and it was

thus stated in an order of their commanding general, D. H. Wells,

a copy of which was found on a Mormon major, Joseph Taylor, to

whom it was addressed:--

"You will proceed, with all possible despatch, without injuring

your animals, to the Oregon road, near the bend of Bear River,

north by east of this place. Take close and correct observations

of the country on your route. When you approach the road, send

scouts ahead to ascertain if the invading troops have passed that

way. Should they have passed, take a concealed route and get

ahead of them, express to Colonel Benton, who is now on that road

and in the vicinity of the troops, and effect a junction with

him, so as to operate in concert. On ascertaining the locality or

route of the troops, proceed at once to annoy them in every

possible way. Use every exertion to stampede their animals and

set fire to their trains. Burn the whole country before them and

on their flanks. Keep them from sleeping by night surprises;

blockade the road by felling trees or destroying river fords,

where you can. Watch for opportunities to set fire to the grass

on their windward, so as if possible to envelop their trains.

Leave no grass before them that can be burned. Keep your men

concealed as much as possible, and guard against surprise. Keep

scouts out at all times, and communications open with Colonel

Benton, Major McAllster and O. P. Rockwell, who are operating in

the same way. Keep me advised daily of your movements, and every

step the troops take, and in which direction.

"God bless you and give you success. Your brother in Christ."

The first man selected to carry out this order was Major Lot

Smith. Setting out at 4 P.M., on October 3, with forty-four men,

after an all night's ride, he came up with a federal supply train

drawn by oxen. The captain of this train was ordered to "go the

other way till he reached the States." As he persistently

retraced his steps as often as the Mormons moved away, the latter

relieved his wagons of their load and left him. Sending one of

his captains with twenty men to capture or stampede the mules of

the Tenth Regiment, Smith, with the remainder of his force,

started for Sandy Fork to intercept army trains.

Scouts sent ahead to investigate a distant cloud of dust reported

that it was made by a freight train of twenty-six wagons. Smith

allowed this train to proceed until dark, and then approached it

undiscovered. Finding the drivers drunk, as he afterward

explained, and fearing that they would be belligerent and thus

compel him to disobey his instruction "not to hurt any one except

in self-defence," he lay concealed until after midnight. His

scouts meanwhile had reported to him that the train was drawn up

for the night in two lines.

Allowing the usual number of men to each wagon, Smith decided

that his force of twenty-four was sufficient to capture the

outfit, and, mounting his command, he ordered an advance on the

camp. But a surprise was in store for him. His scouts had failed

to discover that a second train had joined the first, and that

twice the force anticipated confronted them. When this discovery

was made, the Mormons were too close to escape observation.

Members of Smith's party expected that their leader would now

make some casual inquiry and then ride on, as if his destination

were elsewhere. Smith, however, decided differently. As his force

approached the camp-fire that was burning close to the wagons, he

noticed that the rear of his column was not distinguishable in

the darkness, and that thus the smallness of their number could

not be immediately discovered. He, therefore, asked at once for

the captain of the train, and one Dawson stepped forward. Smith

directed him to have his men collect their private property at

once, as he intended to "put a little fire" into the wagons. "For

God's sake, don't burn the trains," was the reply. Dawson was

curtly told where his men were to stack their arms, and where

they were themselves to stand under guard. Then, making a torch,

Smith ordered one of the government drivers to apply it, in order

that "the Gentiles might spoil the Gentiles," as he afterward

expressed it. The destruction of the supplies was complete. Smith

allowed an Indian to take two wagon covers for a lodge, and some

flour and soap, and compelled Dawson to get out some provisions

for his own men. Nothing else was spared.

The official list of rations thus destroyed included 2720 pounds

of ham, 92,700 of bacon, 167,900 of flour, 8910 of coffee, 1400

of sugar, 1333 of soap, 800 of sperm candles, 765 of tea, 7781 of

hard bread, and 68,832 rations of desiccated vegetables. Another

train was destroyed by the same party the next day on the Big

Sandy, besides a few sutlers' wagons that were straggling behind.

On October 5 Colonel Alexander assumed command of all the troops

in the camp. He found his position a trying one. In a report

dated October 8, he said that his forage would last only fourteen

days, that no information of the position or intentions of the

commanding officer had reached him, and that, strange as it may

appear, he was "in utter ignorance of the objects of the

government in sending troops here, or the instructions given for

their conduct after reaching here." In these circumstances, he

called a council of his officers and decided to advance without

waiting for Colonel Johnston and the other companies, as he

believed that delay would endanger the entire force. He selected

as his route to a wintering place, not the most direct one to

Salt Lake City, inasmuch as the canons could be easily defended,

but one twice as long (three hundred miles), by way of Soda

Springs, and thence either down Bear River Valley or northeast

toward the Wind River Mountains, according to the resistance he

might encounter.

The march, in accordance with this decision, began on October 11,

and a weary and profitless one it proved to be. Snow was falling

as the column moved, and the ground was covered with it during

their advance. There was no trail, and a road had to be cut

through the greasewood and sage brush. The progress was so slow--

often only three miles a day--and the supply train so long, that

camp would sometimes be pitched for the night before the rear

wagons would be under way. Wells's men continued to carry out his

orders, and, in the absence of federal cavalry, with little

opposition. One day eight hundred oxen were "cut out" and driven

toward Salt Lake City.

Conditions like these destroyed the morale of both officers and

men, and there were divided counsels among the former, and

complaints among the latter. Finally, after having made only

thirty-five miles in nine days, Colonel Alexander himself became

discouraged, called another council, and, in obedience to its

decision, on October 19 directed his force to retrace their

steps. They moved back in three columns, and on November 2 all of

them had reached a camp on Black's Fork, two miles above Fort


Colonel Johnston had arrived at Fort Laramie on October 5, and,

after a talk with Captain Van Vliet, had retained two additional

companies of infantry that were on the way to Fort Leavenworth.

As he proceeded, rumors of the burning of trains, exaggerated as

is usual in such times, reached him. Having only about three

hundred men to guard a wagon train six miles in length, some of

the drivers showed signs of panic, and the colonel deemed the

situation so serious that he accepted an offer of fifty or sixty

volunteers from the force of the superintendent of the South Pass

wagon road. He was fortunate in having as his guide the well

known James Bridger, to whose knowledge of Rocky Mountain weather

signs they owed escapes from much discomfort, by making camps in

time to avoid coming storms.

But even in camp a winter snowstorm is serious to a moving

column, especially when it deprives the animals of their forage,

as it did now. The forage supply was almost exhausted when South

Pass was reached, and the draught and beef cattle were in a sad

plight. Then came another big snowstorm and a temperature of l6 deg.,

during which eleven mules and a number of oxen were frozen to

death. In this condition of affairs, Colonel Johnston decided

that a winter advance into Salt Lake Valley was impracticable.

Learning of Colonel Alexander's move, which he did not approve,

he sent word for him to join forces with his own command on

Black's Fork, and there the commanding officer arrived on

November 3.

Lieutenant Colonel Cooke, of the Second Dragoons, with whom

Governor Cumming was making the trip, had a harrowing experience.

There was much confusion in organizing his regiment of six

companies at Fort Leavenworth, and he did not begin his march

until September 17, with a miserable lot of mules and

insufficient supplies. He found little grass for the animals, and

after crossing the South Platte on October 15, they began to die

or to drop out. From that point snow and sleet storms were

encountered, and, when Fort Laramie was reached, so many of the

animals had been left behind or were unable to travel, that some

of his men were dismounted, the baggage supply was reduced, and

even the ambulances were used to carry grain. After passing

Devil's Gate, they encountered a snowstorm on November 5. The

best shelter their guide could find was a lofty natural wall at a

point known as Three Crossings. Describing their night there he

says: "Only a part of the regiment could huddle behind the rock

in the deep snow; whilst, the long night through, the storm

continued, and in fearful eddies from above, before, behind,

drove the falling and drifting snow. Thus exposed, for the hope

of grass the poor animals were driven, with great devotion, by

the men once more across the stream and three-quarters of a mile

beyond, to the base of a granite ridge, which almost faced the

storm. There the famished mules, crying piteously, did not seek

to eat, but desperately gathered in a mass, and some horses,

escaping guard, went back to the ford, where the lofty precipice

first gave us so pleasant relief and shelter."

The march westward was continued through deep snow and against a

cold wind. On November 8 twenty-three mules had given out, and

five wagons had to be abandoned. On the night of the 9th, when

the mules were tied to the wagons, "they gnawed and destroyed

four wagon tongues, a number of wagon covers, ate their ropes,

and getting loose, ate the sage fuel collected at the tents." On

November 10 nine horses were left dying on the road, and the

thermometer was estimated to have marked twenty-five degrees

below zero. Their thermometers were all broken, but the freezing

of a bottle of sherry in a trunk gave them a basis of


The command reached a camp three miles below Fort Bridger on

November 19. Of one hundred and forty-four horses with which they

started, only ten reached that camp.

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