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 conflict might 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.