Academic journal article Military Review

The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War 1857-1858

Academic journal article Military Review

The Mormon Rebellion: America's First Civil War 1857-1858

Article excerpt

THE MORMON REBELLION: America's First Civil War 1857-1858, David L. Bigler and Will Bagley, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 2011, 392 pages, $34.95.

In 1857, President James Buchanan ordered 2,500 soldiers to escort Brigham Young's replacement as territorial governor to Utah, and restore order and federal control in the mountain west. Brigham Young and his followers saw this as a violation of their constitutional liberties and their right to self-government, and they resisted.

The Mormon Rebellion, David Bigler and Will Bagley's study of the resultant Utah War begins unambiguously. The Mormons "meant to supersede Buchanan and the government he stood for." Worse, the Mormons could not "tolerate peaceful coexistence with any beliefs but their own." Bigler and Bagley score points for clarity, not objectivity. They argue that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), as led by Brigham Young, was a militant anti-republican millenarian movement, making conflict between the Mormons and the United States inevitable.

Bigler and Bagley trace the LDS Church's history back to its founder Joseph Smith, accusing him and his followers of picking fights with their neighbors, counterfeiting, committing random acts of violence, and punishing dissenters even before Smith was murdered and Brigham Young led the Mormons westward. Much of the book focuses on Brigham Young's policy toward Native Americans. Bigler and Bagley accuse Young and his followers of killing uncooperative Native Americans "often execution style" or with poison, and yet somehow allying with them against the U.S. government. (Complaints from Indian agents helped to spur Buchanan to dispatch troops. …

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