A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

The "Utah War"


The president of the United States appoints the leading officers of a territory. Many of the officers sent to Utah by the president were good men and did justice to "Mormon" and Gentile alike; but some were men who could see no good in the Saints, and were therefore always trying to oppress them. Such men were Judges Stiles and Drummond, and Secretary Ferris, who were in Utah in 1856. At last they left the territory and sent in a report to the president. In it Judge Drummond said that the "Mormons" were traitors to the United States, and would not obey its laws; that they had a secret organization whose duty it was to murder all who opposed them; that the court records had been burned; that the government officials were in danger of their lives, etc. Like reports were made by other persons, and the result was that a strong feeling was created in the East against the people of Utah.

On the 24th of July, 1857, the people of Salt Lake City were having a grand celebration in Big Cottonwood canyon. They were having a happy time. The band played, the choirs sang, the cannon roared, while the Stars and Stripes waved from trees and mountain peaks. Suddenly four dusty travelers rode into the camp. They brought news from the East, and startling news it was: the president of the United States had sent an army to Utah to establish law and order among the "Mormons!"

In the evening the Saints were called together, and the news was told them. President Young spoke with power. "We have transgressed no law, neither do we intend to," said he; "but as for any nation coming to destroy this people, God Almighty being my helper, it shall not be."

Two thousand five hundred soldiers were on the march to Utah. General Harney was appointed commander, but he was succeeded by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston. With the army came the new set of officers which the president had appointed for the territory.

In the commander's orders it was stated that the people of Utah were in rebellion against the United States, and that it was the duty of the army to restore the authority of the government and aid and protect the new officers in the discharge of their duties. On the 8th of September Captain Van Vliet arrived in Salt Lake City from the army. He told President Young that their intentions were not to harm the people in any way. President Young replied that he had had experience with military bodies in Missouri and Illinois, and he knew what the "Mormons" could expect. The captain tried to show President Young how useless it would be for a few "Mormons" to resist a nation like the United States. Even if they prevented the army from entering the valley that year, more soldiers would be sent in the spring.

"We are aware that such will be the case," replied the president; "but when those troops arrive they will find Utah a desert; every house will be burned to the ground, every tree cut down, and every field laid waste."

The captain was deeply impressed, but such were really the intentions of the Saints. They could not trust the troops, and they did not intend to submit tamely to such scenes as they had passed through in Far West and Nauvoo. They were not in rebellion, and if the president had simply sent some one to investigate, he would have found out that truth; but he had acted on the spur of the moment, and the troops were already far on the way. If they could be checked for a time until the truth could be learned, the danger of a conflictmight be averted; but if not, then, said President Young, and the people were with him, their homes, fields, and gardens would be destroyed by fire and the Saints would flee to the mountains.

The army continued its march towards Utah. Col. R.T. Burton was now ordered by Gen. Daniel H. Wells, commander of the Utah militia, to take a small body of men and guard the emigrant trains that were coming in. The militia to the number of 2,500 men was called into service, and in September, 1857, Gen. Wells and staff went to Echo canyon and there made their headquarters. Active preparations were now made to stop the enemy. Echo canyon, through which the troops would have to pass, was fortified by trenches and the loosening of rocks on the hill sides.

By this time the army was in what is now Wyoming, and was making for Echo canyon. Small companies of Utah men were sent out to meet them. They were instructed to annoy the invaders as much as possible, to burn the grass, drive off their cattle, etc., but they were to shed no blood if it were possible to prevent it. These orders were followed, and many exciting encounters and narrow escapes took place. Major Lot Smith, with a small company of men, at one time rode up to a large wagon train carrying supplies for the army. After capturing the drivers, they set fire to and destroy the whole train. Herds of cattle were driven off to Salt Lake valley, where they were kept during the winter and taken back to the soldiers in the spring.

Winter came early that year, and in the mountains where the armies were, the weather became very cold, with snow and sleet. The government troops made but little progress. They tried hard to reach the valley; but at last they were compelled to stop for the winter in the mountains of western Wyoming.

This was all the Utah leaders wanted. Now there would be time for finding out the truth. Most of the militia returned home, leaving fifty men as a guard in Echo canyon.

When the government at Washington heard the news from the seat of the "war" there was considerable excitement, and Congress voted to send another army to aid the first one. Meanwhile the people of Utah were anxiously waiting for spring and preparing for the conflict which they thought must then come.

Topics.1. Character of some territorial officials. 2. The army for Utah. 3. What the "Mormons" thought of the army. 4. How the army was stopped.

Questions and Review.—1. Who was Judge Drummond? 2. What report did he make to the government about Utah affairs? 3. What led President Buchanan to send an army to Utah? 4. What was the object of sending this army? 5. When did the Saints first hear of it? 6. What did the "Mormons" resolve to do? 7. Why could they not trust the army? 8. What did the Utah militia do? 9. What was the object in annoying the troops? 10. What hindered the troops from entering Salt Lake valley that year?