Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860

By Anne F. Hyde | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Unintended Consequences
Families, Nations, and the Mexican War

Mary Parker Richards tried to soothe her sister-in-law Jane. But in the misery of the Mormon Winter Quarters in Nebraska she couldn’t find much that might be comforting. Jane’s sick three-year-old, Wealthy Lovisa, coughed weakly in her mother’s arms, and Jane had just learned that her young brother-in-law, Joseph Richards, had “volunteered” to join the U.S. Army to fight in the Mexican War. Neither Mary nor Jane could make sense of this latest scheme. Both Mary’s and Jane’s husbands, Samuel and Franklin Richards, had been ordered to go to Scotland to recruit new Saints, leaving them just as the Saints prepared to move to an isolated spot in the West where they would rebuild the Mormon kingdom. Joseph Richards had intended to help the women and children move, but instead he would serve in the army for the United States. Military recruiting agents had come into their rough settlements on the Potawatomi reserves and asked for volunteers. They got no takers until Brother Brigham made it known volunteering was required; it would pay the way to the West for five hundred men and some families, and it would buy gratitude and safety for everyone else. The Richards family, who had given lives in sacrifice to the Mormon cause already, tithed again—-this time with young Joseph, who would march to a war the Mormons didn’t support. Jane had a larger family who would care for her, but the burden of losing family members to this war was immense. Would she or the children die in this camp from hunger or typhus, or would young Joseph die in Mexico from a bullet or from sickness? It seemed too much to bear, but she would.2


WHAT IF GUADALUPE BOGGS MARRIED TERESINA CARSON?

The connections that families and businesses form became especially important in the context of war. The families we have traced developed new associations and deepened old ones to get through periods of uncertainty.

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