The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848

The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848

The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848

The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848

Synopsis

Mormon Battalion enlistees participated in numerous historic events in the 1846-1848 Far West, from the Mexican War to the discovery of California gold. Ricketts tells the full story of this wide-ranging but little-known army unit's complicated and dramatic experiences.

Excerpt

For many years the historic journey of the Mormon Battalion has been, for me, a story waiting to be told. My interest began in the early 1960s while living in California. the gold rush era was fascinating. I became aware of Mormons in California very early, some as long as two years before Brigham Young and the pioneer company arrived in Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. As I studied the books written on the battalion up to that time, I found accounts incomplete, leaving many questions unanswered. the battalion was five hundred straight-backed soldiers marching in unison with muskets on their shoulders from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego, a group of nameless faces serving a year in the United States Army of the West.

Who were these soldiers, how did they endure months of constant hunger and thirst, inadequate clothing and no shoes? Why did nearly one third never reach California? Seventy-nine men reenlisted for an additional six months, another untold story. Mormon folklore contains numerous stories about the pioneers walking across the plains, the handcart companies that were pushed and pulled along the trail, and the trials of the early settlers in Salt Lake Valley. Yet, few stories could be found that told of the courage, hardships, faith, and perseverance of the battalion soldiers.

This dearth has been corrected recently to a great extent by several excellent publications of individual journals, whose editors have provided readers not only with an understanding of a particular journal, but with invaluable footnotes as well. Two examples are David L. Bigler's The Gold Discovery Journal of Azariah Smith and Will Bagley's Frontiersman: Abner Blackburn's Narrative. However, areas of the battalion experience still remained unknown. As an example, the movement of the men after discharge was lacking. For me, the cycle was incomplete ending the story in California. the men must return to their families and church. Only then would the saga of the Mormon Battalion be finished. the existing overview beginning with enlistment and ending with discharge simply was not enough.

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