In the previous post we examined the initial reaction of the Mormons when Army recruiters entered their camps. Did their feelings change when they learned that the leadership of the Church was encouraging enlistment?
This is summed up well by Michael Landon and Brandon Metcalf: “To the rank and file, the U.S. government’s request that hundreds abandon their families in the name of a country that had repeatedly failed to defend and uphold their fundamental rights despite desperate pleadings seemed reprehensible. Yet they heeded the call of Brigham Young and became the only known military unit in American history mustered into service based on religious affiliation.”1
Brigham Young and other church leaders immediately saw the benefits that up-front cash would provide for the beleaguered Saints. In a council with Church leaders, Brigham Young said that if “we want the privilege of going where we can worship God according to the dictates of our consciences, we must raise the Battalion.”2 It was so important that Brigham Young and other Church leaders went personally to the various settlements and encouraged recruitment. It is a testament to the faith that the Mormons had in their leaders as inspired men of God that 500 recruits enlisted within 2 weeks of the initial call for volunteers.
It helped that the Mormons were granted their request to allow the Saints to winter over at Council Bluffs another year and Brigham Young promised that their families would be cared for, and that they would not see battle.
Zadock Judd, an 18 year old volunteer, probably summed up best the conflicted feelings the men experienced as they enlisted. He wrote “This was quite a hard pill to swallow–to leave wives and children on the wild prairies, destitute and almost helpless, having nothing to rely on only the kindness of neighbors, and go to fight the battles of a government that had allowed some of its citizens to drive us from our homes, but the word comes from the right source and seemed to bring the spirit of conviction of its truth with it.3 The feelings against the government had not changed. What had changed was that the Mormons were being asked not by the Army, but by their church leaders, to enlist to bless the church membership as a whole.
What did Levi feel? We don’t know. He and his family had only joined up with the Mormons a month or two earlier. They hadn’t experienced the privations and persecution that those who were expelled from Navuoo experienced. He wasn’t married and had no children. Given his youth and the fact that his background was so different from many of the men who enlisted, it is quite possible that he did not share their hesitation to enlist. He may have seen it as an adventure.
1. Landon, Michael N. and Brandon J. Metcalf. History of the Saints: The Remarkable Journey of the Mormon Battalion, (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc., 2012), 8.
2. Tyler, Daniel. A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War 1846-1847, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1996), 117.
3. Ricketts, Norma Baldwin. The Mormon Battalion U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848, (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 6.