Was the creation of the Mormon Battalion a blessing in disguise?

The previous post used government documents to explore the reasons behind the actions of President Polk and the Army in the creation of the Mormon Battalion. Due to unclear orders, recruitment with pay occurred several months, if not a full year, earlier than Polk had planned. The Saints were in a desperate situation and the cash was much needed. But did they see this as a blessing in disguise?

On June 26, 1846, Captain Allen, under the orders of Colonel Kearney visited one of the Mormon camps with a circular to explain his intentions. “I have come…to accept the service, for twelve months, or four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico…They will receive pay and rations, and other allowances…from the day they shall be mustered into the service..and when discharged…they will be given, gratis, their arms and accoutrements…This gives an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States.”1

Norma Ricketts uses the word “disbelief” to describe the reaction of the Saints when Army recruiters appeared in their camps. About 20,000 Mormons were scattered over 400 miles from the Mississippi River to Council, Bluffs, Iowa. They had left to avoid armed mobs and persecution in the dead of winter and many had died of exposure. Their previous interaction with the government had not given them any reason to trust the government. In addition, if the men left their families in the wilderness, their wives and children would have to cross hundreds of miles of Indian territory without their husband and father.2

Hosea Stout, whose son died in his arms as they were fleeing Nauvoo, responded “I was glad to hear of war against the United States and was in hopes it might never end until they were entirely destroyed for they had driven us into the wilderness.”3 Henry Bigler wrote “here were the Saints with their wives and children in an Indian country, surrounded by savages, without a house, and a scanty supply of provisions…to leave them thus to go at the call of our country, to say the least, was rather trying.”4

What these men did not know was that Brigham Young had asked for help and this was the government response. Did their reactions change when that became known? We will examine that in the next post.

1. Tyler, Daniel. A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War 1846-1847, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1996), 114.
2. Ricketts, Norma Baldwin.  The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848,(Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 1.
2. Ricketts, U.S. Army of the West, 2.
4. Ricketts, U.S. Army of the West, 2.


About bridgingthepast

Welcome to Bridging the Past. We help genealogists connect to their colonial New England ancestors by sharing with them information about the lives of their ancestors. What did they eat? What did they wear? What was a typical day like? Did my ancestor fight in a war? What was life like for that ancestor, and for the loved ones he left at home? Why did they move? Was it part of a larger movement? By answering these questions, and many more, you can bring your ancestors to life and feel closer to them. We design lectures to answer these questions and give genealogists the tools and resources to personally connect with their ancestors by fleshing out the lives of their ancestors so they are more than names, dates and places on a piece of paper.
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