THE MORMON BATTALION.
During the summer of 1846 the United States was at war with the republic of Mexico. A number of battles had been fought in Texas. What is now California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona belonged to Mexico, and as President Polk desired to get this large district of country for the United States, he sent soldiers westward to the Pacific ocean.
The “Mormon” people traveling from Nauvoo had asked President Polk for assistance in their journey to the west. They said they wanted to remain under the protection of the government, and were willing to aid in holding the western country for the United States.
In the month of June, 1846, Captain James Allen, an officer of the United States army arrived at Mount Pisgah, Iowa. What he wanted was five hundred men with which to form a battalion and march across the continent to California, and take part in the war with Mexico.
This was startling news indeed. The Saints had not expected this kind of “help” in their journeying through the wilderness. Many of the Saints looked upon the call as a plan to destroy them. You can hardly blame them for that, can you, knowing some of their past history?
But President Young and the leading brethren told the officer he should have his men. They thought it was a test to see if they were true to their country. Though it was a pretty hard test, thus to take their best and strongest men away from such a camp as theirs, yet the “Mormon” people would show to the government and to the whole world that they were loyal to their country, even though that country had failed to protect them in their rights to live in peace and worship God.
At a meeting held at Council Bluffs it was decided to raise the men asked for. Brigham Young and the Twelve took an active part in getting volunteers. Word was sent to the different settlements of the Saints. The stars and stripes were hoisted to a tree top, and the work of enrollment began. Within three days the little army was organized and ready for the march. Then they had a grand farewell party, held, not in some beautifully lighted ball room, but in a bowery, where the ground had been packed hard by the tread of many feet. There fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sweethearts said their goodbyes to each other.
And then the long, dreary march began. The story of that march would fill a book, so of course very little of it can be told here. If you would like to read more about it, you will find it in Brother Tyler’s “History of the Mormon Battalion.”
There were five hundred and forty-nine souls in the Battalion. Captain James Allen was the commander. They started on their march July 20, 1846, to Fort Leavenworth, where they received their guns and other things necessary for an army. At this point Captain Allen died, which made the men feel bad, as he was a good, kind officer.