The Peace Commission

Governor Cumming's report of May 2 did not reach Washington until

June 9, but the President's volte-face had begun before that

date, and when the situation in Utah was precisely as it was when

he had assured Colonel Kane that he would send no agent to the

Mormons while they continued their defiant attitude. Under date

of April 6 he issued a proclamation, in which he recited the

outrages on the federal officers in Utah, the warlike attitude

and acts of the Mormon force, which, he pointed out, constituted

rebellion and treason; declared that it was a grave mistake to

suppose that the government would fail to bring them into

submission; stated that the land occupied by the Mormons belonged

to the United States; and disavowed any intention to interfere

with their religion; and then, to save bloodshed and avoid

indiscriminate punishment where all were not equally guilty, he

offered "a free and full pardon to all who will submit themselves

to the just authority of the federal government."

This proclamation was intrusted to two peace commissioners, L. W.

Powell of Kentucky and Major Ben. McCullough of Texas. Powell had

been governor of his state, and was then United States senator-

elect. McCullough had seen service in Texas before the war with

Mexico, and been a daring scout under Scott in the latter war. He

was killed at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in 1862, in

command of a Confederate corps.

These commissioners were instructed by the Secretary of War to

give the President's proclamation extensive circulation in Utah.

Without entering into any treaty or engagements with the Mormons,

they were to "bring those misguided people to their senses" by

convincing them of the uselessness of resistance, and how much

submission was to their interest. They might, in so doing, place

themselves in communication with the Mormon leaders, and assure

them that the movement of the army had no reference to their

religious tenets. The determination was expressed to see that the

federal officers appointed for the territory were received and

installed, and that the laws were obeyed, and Colonel Kane was

commended to them as likely to be of essential service.

The commissioners set out from Fort Leavenworth on April 25,

travelling in ambulances, their party consisting of themselves,

five soldiers, five armed teamsters, and a wagon master. They

arrived at Camp Scott on May 29, the reenforcements for the

troops following them. The publication of the President's

proclamation was a great surprise to the military. "There was

none of the bloodthirsty excitement in the camp which was

reported in the States to have prevailed there," says Colonel

Brown, "but there was a feeling of infinite chagrin, a

consciousness that the expedition was only a pawn on Mr.

Buchanan's political chessboard; and reproaches against his folly

were as frequent as they were vehement."*

* Atlantic Monthly, April, 1859.

The commissioners were not long in discovering the untrustworthy

character of any advices they might receive from Governor

Cumming. In their report of June 1 to the Secretary of War, they

mentioned his opinion that almost all the military organizations

of the territory had been disbanded, adding, "We fear that the

leaders of the Mormon people have not given the governor correct

information of affairs in the valley." They also declared it to

be of the first importance that the army should advance into the

valley before the Mormons could burn the grass or crops, and they

gave General Johnston the warmest praise.

The commissioners set out for Salt Lake City on June 2, Governor

Cumming who had returned to Camp Scott with Colonel Kane

following them. On reaching the city they found that Young and

the other leaders were with the refugees at Provo. A committee of

three Mormons expressed to the commissioners the wish of the

people that they would have a conference with Young, and on the

l0th Young, Kimball, Wells, and several of the Twelve arrived,

and a meeting was arranged for the following day.

There are two accounts of the ensuing conferences, the official

reports of the commissioners,* which are largely statements of

results, and a Mormon report in the journal kept by Wilford

Woodruff.** At the first conference, the commissioners made a

statement in line with the President's proclamation and with

their instructions, offering pardon on submission, and declaring

the purpose of the government to enforce submission by the

employment of the whole military force of the nation, if

necessary. Woodruff's "reflection" on this proposition was that

the President found that Congress would not sustain him, and so

was seeking a way of retreat. While the conference was in

session, O.P. Rockwell entered and whispered to Young. The

latter, addressing Governor Cumming, asked, "Are you aware that

those troops are on the move toward the city?" The compliant

governor replied, "It cannot be."*** What followed Woodruff thus


* Sen. Doc., 2d Session, 35th Congress, Vol. II, p. 167.

** Quoted in Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City," p. 214.

*** Governor Cumming on June 15 despatched a letter to General

Johnston saying that he had denied the report of the advance of

the army, and that the general was pledged not to advance until

he had received communications from the peace commissioners and

the governor. The general replied on the 19th that he did say he

would not advance until he heard from the governor, but that this

was not a pledge; that his orders from the President were to

occupy the territory; that his supplies had arrived earlier than

anticipated, and that circumstances required an advance at once.

"'Is Brother Dunbar present?' enquired Brigham.

"'Yes, sir,' responded someone. What was coming now?

"'Brother Dunbar, sing Zion.' The Scotch songster came forward

and sang the soul-stirring lines by C. W. Penrose."*

* See p. 498, ante.

Interpreted, this meant, "Stop that army or our peace conference

is ended." Woodruff adds:--

"After the meeting, McCullough and Gov. Cumming took a stroll

together. 'What will you do with such a people?' asked the

governor, with a mixture of admiration and concern. 'D--n them, I

would fight them if I had my way,' answered McCullough. "'Fight

them, would you? You might fight them, but you would never whip

them. They would never know when they were whipped.'"

At the second day's conference Brigham Young uttered his final

defiance and then surrendered. Declaring that he had done nothing

for which he desired the President's forgiveness, he satisfied

the pride of his followers with such declarations as these:--

"I can take a few of the boys here, and, with the help of the

Lord, can whip the whole of the United States. Boys, how do you

feel? Are you afraid of the United States? (Great demonstration

among the brethren.) No. No. We are not afraid of man, nor of

what he can do."

"The United States are going to destruction as fast as they can

go. If you do not believe it, gentlemen, you will soon see it to

your sorrow."

But here was the really important part of his remarks: "Now, let

me say to you peace commissioners, we are willing those troops

should come into our country, but not to stay in our city. They

may pass through it, if needs be, but must not quarter less than

forty miles from us."

Impudent as was this declaration to the representatives of the

government, it marked the end of the "war". The commissioners at

once notified General Johnston that the Mormon leaders had agreed

not to resist the execution of the laws in the territory, and to

consent that the military and civil officers should discharge

their duties. They suggested that the general issue a

proclamation, assuring the people that the army would not

trespass on the rights or property of peaceable citizens, and

this the general did at once.

The Mormon leaders, being relieved of the danger of a trial for

treason, now stood in dread of two things, the quartering of the

army among them, and a vigorous assault on the practice of

polygamy. Judge Eckles's District Court had begun its spring term

at Fort Bridger on April 5, and the judge had charged the grand

jury very plainly in regard to plural marriages. On this subject

he said:--

"It cannot be concealed, gentlemen, that certain domestic

arrangements exist in this territory destructive of the peace,

good order, and morals of society--arrangements at variance with

those of all enlightened and Christian communities in the world;

and, sapping as they do the very foundation of all virtue,

honesty, and morality, it is an imperative duty falling upon you

as grand jurors diligently to inquire into this evil and make

every effort to check its growth.

There is no law in this territory punishing polygamy, but there

is one, however, for the punishment of adultery; and all illegal

intercourse between the sexes, if either party have a husband or

wife living at the time, is adulterous and punishable by

indictment. The law was made to punish the lawless and

disobedient, and society is entitled to the salutary effects of

its execution."

No indictments were found that spring for this offence, but the

Mormons stood in great dread of continued efforts by the judge to

enforce the law as he interpreted it. Of the nature of the real

terms made with the Mormons, Colonel Brown says:--

"No assurances were given by the commissioners upon either of

these subjects. They limited their action to tendering the

President's pardon, and exhorting the Mormons to accept it.

Outside the conferences, however, without the knowledge of the

commissioners, assurances were given on both these subjects by

the Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, which proved

satisfactory to Brigham Young. The exact nature of their pledges

will, perhaps, never be disclosed; but from subsequent

confessions volunteered by the superintendent, who appears to

have acted as the tool of the governor through the whole affair,

it seems probable that they promised explicitly to exert their

influence to quarter the army in Cache Valley, nearly one hundred

miles north of Salt Lake City, and also to procure the removal of

Judge Eckles."*

* Atlantic Monthly, April, 1859. Young told the Mormons at Provo

on June 27, 1858: "We have reason to believe that Colonel Kane,

on his arrival at the frontier, telegraphed to Washington, and

that orders were immediately sent to stop the march of the army

for ten days."--Journal of Discourses, Vol. VII, p. 57.

Captain Marcy had reached Camp Scott on June 8, with his herd of

horses and mules, and Colonel Hoffman with the first division of

the supply train which left Fort Laramie on March 18; on the 10th

Captain Hendrickspn arrived with the remainder of the trains; and

on the 13th the long-expected movement from Camp Scott to the

Mormon city began. To the soldiers who had spent the winter

inactive, except as regards their efforts to keep themselves from

freezing, the order to advance was a welcome one. Late as was the

date, there had been a snowfall at Fort Bridger only three days

before, and the streams were full of water. The column was

prepared therefore for bridge-making when necessary. When the

little army was well under way the scene in the valley through

which ran Black's Fork was an interesting one. The white walls of

Bridger's Fort formed a background, with the remnants of the camp

in the shape of sod chimneys, tent poles, and so forth next in

front, and, slowly leaving all this, the moving soldiers, the

long wagon trains, the artillery carriages and caissons, and on

either flank mounted Indians riding here and there, satisfying

their curiosity with this first sight of a white man's army. The

news that the Mormons had abandoned their idea of resistance

reached the troops the second day after they had started, and

they had nothing more exciting to interest them on the way than

the scenery and the Mormon fortifications. Salt Lake City was

reached on the 26th, and the march through it took place that

day. To the soldiers, nothing was visible to indicate any

abandonment of the hostile attitude of the Mormons, much less any


Their leaders had returned to the camp at Provo, and the only

civilians in the city were a few hundred who had, for special

reasons, been granted permission to return. The only woman in the

whole city was Mrs. Cumming. The Mormons had been ordered indoors

early that morning by the guard; every flag on a public building

had been taken down; every window was closed. The regimental

bands and the creaking wagons alone disturbed the utter silence.

The peace commissioners rode with General Johnston, and the whole

force encamped on the river Jordan, just within the city limits.

Two days later, owing to a lack of wood and pasturage there, they

were moved about fifteen miles westward, near the foot of the

mountains. Disregarding Young's expressed wishes, and any

understanding he might have had with Governor Cumming, General

Johnston selected Cedar Valley on Lake Utah for one of the three

posts he was ordered to establish in the territory, and there his

camp was pitched on July 6.

Governor Cumming prepared a proclamation to the inhabitants of

the territory, announcing that all persons were pardoned who

submitted to the law, and that peace was restored, and inviting

the refugees to return to their homes. The governor and the peace

commissioners made a trip to the Mormon camps, and addressed

gatherings at Provo and Lehi. The governor bustled about

everywhere, assuring every one that all the federal officers

would "hold sacred the amnesty and pardon by the President of the

United States, by G-d, sir, yes," and receiving from Young the

sneering reply, "We know all about it, Governor." On July 4., no

northward movement of the people having begun, Cumming told Young

that he intended to publish his proclamation. "Do as YOU please,"

was the contemptuous reply; "to-morrow I shall get upon the

tongue of my wagon, and tell the people that I am going home, and

they can do as THEY please."*

* Tullidge's "History of Salt Lake City," p. 226.

Young did so, and that day the backward march of the people

began. The real governor was the head of the church.

The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail