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Chapter 14: Utah campaign.

  • Federal policy toward the Mormons.
  • -- expedition to sustain civil officers. -- General Harney appointed to command it. -- General Johnston succeeds him. -- army orders. -- start. -- celerity. -- journey. -- Mormon hostilities. -- South Pass. -- concentration. -- movements of troops. -- winter. -- efforts to reach winter-quarters. -- in the snow-drifts. -- his defense by Mr. Davis. -- General Johnston's letters detailing the circumstances. -- rescue of the army. -- arrival at Bridger. -- the tests of soldiership. -- in winter-quarters. -- Fort Bridger. -- Major Porter's diary. -- Brigham's Salt embassy. -- Ornithology. -- conflicting Policies. -- Colonel Kane the diplomatist. -- senatorial criticism on General Johnston. -- trouble with Governor Cumming. -- an icy Spring. -- peace commissioners. -- submission of the Mormons. -- General Johnston's reply to peace commissioners. -- his proclamation. -- Governor Cumming's protest. -- army matters and orders. -- Brevet Brigadier-General. -- commendation and criticism. -- General Johnston's review of strictures on himself.

Though the troubles in Utah had been so long brewing, their nature seems to have been imperfectly understood by the people and Government of the United States. The Mormons made occasional public and formal professions of loyalty to the Government and of adhesion to the principles of American liberty; and their complaints were nominally against particular acts and persons. Hence it was not unreasonable to suppose that the remedy of particular grievances and the punishment of particular offenders would insure the peace of the Territory. This inference, though natural, was a mistake; because the grounds of variance were general and radical, and not special, as pretended.

The Mormons alleged national persecution, when, in fact, the religious freedom of the country had allowed them to preach a pagan doctrine and a barbarous code of ethics, to proselytize, and to develop their heresy into a system. Where the strong hand of an arbitrary government would have repressed their extravagances, American faith in the power of truth to triumph over error by moral forces permitted them to occupy an almost impregnable stronghold on the established road across the continent for commerce and immigration, where they were encouraged to levy a peaceful tribute as farmers and traders. But the Government went even beyond this; and, in the spirit of conciliation, aided the union of church and state in the hands of the Prophet by making him Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and by giving him the virtual control of the Territory. This policy had worked badly; Brigham Young and his coadjutors had abused the trust reposed in them; life, liberty, and property, were all made unsafe by his machinations. It was, therefore, found necessary to supersede him; but this was done in no hostile spirit.

The general conduct of our Government toward all dependencies had been fostering; and this could not be otherwise with the Administration of Mr. Buchanan, which, moulded by the character of its chief, was essentially bureaucratic, conservative, and pacific. The Secretary of War, Mr. Floyd, expresses this sentiment in his report for 1857-58: “It has always been the policy and desire of the Federal Government to avoid collision with the Mormon community. It has borne with the insubordination they have exhibited under circumstances where respect for its own authority has frequently counseled harsh measures of discipline.” The Secretary adds that this forbearance might have been [208] prolonged but for their attitude-“a lion in the path” --across the line of commerce and emigration, defying the Federal authority, and exciting the Indians to pillage and massacre.

To sustain the newly-appointed civil functionaries, and protect the line of travel, it was determined to send a small force of troops to Utah and establish a military department there similar to others on the frontier; but every measure was taken to avoid offense to the self-love and prejudices of the people. The force sent was small, and the orders given were strict. Though the intended commander, General Harney, was informed that he must not be unprepared for general, organized, and formidable obstruction, still it was not really expected that the local authorities, or Mormon Church as such, would array themselves in open opposition to the United States; but that embarrassments from popular disorder, mob violence, and secret combinations, fomented by priestcraft, would require management and a show of force. Indeed, the state of affairs in Utah was entirely unforeseen at Washington. The Government expected turbulence — it found armed and open hostility; it provided against sedition, and had to meet a rebellion; it sent a posse comitatus where it needed an army of occupation.

When the expedition to Utah was determined on General Harney was selected to command it. In his orders of May 28th the Fifth and Tenth Regiments of Infantry, the Second Regiment of Dragoons, and Phelps's light artillery, were designated as the force to be sent forward, with supplies for 2,500 men. Reno's battery was afterward added. As no active opposition was expected, and the season was already advanced, the troops and supply-trains marched as soon as they could be put in motion, in July, in a somewhat irregular manner. General Scott suggested to General Harney, on the 26th of June, to send part of his horse in advance to Fort Laramie to recruit in strength before the main body came up; but, unfortunately, this was not done. The Second Dragoons were detained in Kansas in consequence of the political troubles there; and, finally, at the request of Governor Walker, and probably in accordance with his own wishes, General Harney was himself retained in command of that department.

From information received, it began to be feared that the dissension might end in a rupture with the Mormons, and apprehensions were awakened that, owing to the lateness of the season and the desultory character of the movement, some disaster might ensue. As cold weather approached these fears increased, and the public shared with the Government in the most painful surmises as to the result. Finally, General Johnston was selected to succeed General Harney, and, on the 28th of August, received orders to repair to Fort Leavenworth and assume command, governing himself by the orders and instructions already issued to General Harney. The following extract contains the most important [209] points in these, and is inserted to show the scope of the intended movement, and also the nature of General Johnston's duties, which subsequently became matter of controversy between Governor Cumming and himself:

Headquarters of the army, June 29, 1857.
... The community and, in part, the civil government of Utah Territory are in a state of substantial rebellion against the laws and authority of the United States. A new civil Governor is about to be designated, and to be charged with the establishment and maintenance of law and order. Your able and energetic aid, with that of the troops to be placed under your command, is relied upon to insure the success of his mission. The principles by which you should be guided have been already indicated in a somewhat similar case, and are here substantially repeated.

If the Governor of the Territory, finding the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, and the power vested in the United States marshals and other proper officers, inadequate for the preservation of the public peace and the due execution of the laws, should make requisition upon you for a military force to aid him as a posse comitatus in the performance of that official duty, you are hereby directed to employ for that purpose the whole or such part of your command as may be required; or should the Governor, the judges, or marshals of the Territory find it necessary directly to summon a part of your troops to aid either in the performance of his duties, you will take care that the summons be promptly obeyed; and in no case will you, your officers, or men, attack any body of citizens whatever except on such requisition or summons, or in sheer self-defense. In executing this delicate function of the military power of the United States the civil responsibility will be upon the Governor, the judges, and marshals of the Territory. While you are not to be, and cannot be, subjected to the orders, strictly speaking, of the Governor, you will be responsible for a zealous, harmonious, and thorough cooperation with him, on frequent and full consultation, and will conform your action to his request and views in all cases where your military judgment and prudence do not forbid, nor compel you to modify in execution the movements he may suggest. No doubt is entertained that your conduct will fully meet the moral and professional responsibilities of your trust, and justify the high confidence already reposed in you by the Government.

The lateness of the season, the dispersed condition of the troops, and the smallness of the numbers available, have seemed to present elements of difficulty, if not hazard, in this expedition. But it is believed that these may be compensated by unusual care in its outfit and great prudence in its conduct. ...

George W. Lay, Lieutenant-Colonel, Aide-de-Camp to General Scott.

General Johnston arrived at Fort Leavenworth, September 11th, and remained one week to complete arrangements for the expedition. The Second Dragoons were called in, and, such was the diligence of preparation, were on the road to Salt Lake on the 17th. Six companies of this cavalry were assigned as an escort to Governor Cumming and the civil officers of Utah; but General Johnston in person waited on [210] the Governor, and offered him his choice between the escort and accompanying himself to Utah. The Governor chose the former. General Johnston allowed great discretion in the movements of the escort to the commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, whom he mentions as “a cavalry-officer of great experience, and well acquainted with frontier service.”

So much was General Johnston impressed with the necessity of celerity that, leaving Fort Leavenworth on the 18th of September, with an escort of forty dragoons, he made the journey to camp, near South Pass, 920 miles, over bad and muddy roads in twenty-seven days, arriving there October 15th. But this speed was not at the expense of any important interest, as he availed himself of every opportunity on the route to further the ends of the expedition, by providing for the safe and rapid movement of mails, trains, and troops. Learning that the grass ahead was bad, he arranged to have thirty-one extra wagons of corn with strong teams waiting for Colonel Cooke at Fort Kearny, and attended to many details not necessary to specify here. The journey across the Plains has been so often and so well described that its incidents are familiar to all who take an interest in the subject. There was nothing unusual in General Johnston's progress, except its speed, which was great, considering the absence of relays, and the condition of the roads, softened by the fall rains.

General Fitz-John Porter, then major and assistant-adjutant-general, who accompanied General Johnston on this expedition, rendering him valuable aid, has placed the writer under great obligations by memoranda, of which he has freely availed himself. General Porter says:

Colonel Johnston entered upon no ordinary task. His command and their subsistence, clothing, and means of erecting shelter, were stretched over nearly 1,000 miles of almost desert road between Fort Kearny and Salt Lake. So late in the season had the troops started on their march that fears were entertained that, if they succeeded in reaching their destination, it would be only by abandoning the greater part of their supplies and endangering the lives of many men amid the snows of the Rocky Mountains. Colonel Johnston felt and accepted the responsibility, determined, if possible, to reach his destination and to secure the expedition against disaster and perhaps destruction, which the rapidly-approaching winter threatened. So much was a terrible disaster feared by those well acquainted with the rigors of a winter life in the Rocky Mountains, that General Harney was said to have predicted it, and to have induced Governor Walker (of Kansas) to ask for his retention. The route was not then, as now, lined with settlements and ranches, which would afford some comfort to man and beast.

The narrow valleys, already grazed over by thousands of animals, yielded a scanty subsistence for his horses; yet he pushed on at the rate of from thirty to sixty miles a day, stopping at Forts Kearny and Laramie only time enough to rest his teams — a day at each. [211]

On the 29th of September, on the South Fork of the Platte, General Johnston received Captain Van Vliet's report of his journey to Salt Lake City, which was his first authentic information that actual organized resistance by the Mormons might be expected. General Johnston gathered some 200 mounted men on the route, with whom he reinforced Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Smith, and gave support to the supply-trains. General Porter says:

Beyond Fort Laramie, rumors of trains destroyed and troops attacked reached Colonel Johnston. Van Vliet's return with ill reports only tended to increase the alarm along the route. Conductors of trains hesitated, and teamsters shirked duty and delayed progress. Colonel Johnston's anxiety increased, yet his speed could be no greater; but, experienced on the Plains and of established reputation for energy, courage, and resources, his presence restored confidence at all points, and encouraged the weak-hearted and panic-stricken multitude. The long chain of wagons, kinked, tangled, and hard to move, uncoiled and went forward smoothly. Near the Rocky Mountains snow-storms began to overtake us, but Bridger, the faithful and experienced guide, ever on the alert, would point in time to the “snow-boats,” which, like balloons, sailing from the snowcapped mountains, warned us of storms, and would hasten to a good and early camp in time for shelter before the tempest broke upon us. At the South Pass a cold and driving snow-storm barred progress for a few days, but permitted the gathering of trains, which, assured of protection and of intelligent control, and encouraged by the cheerful words and bearing of our commander, moved on with renewed life.

When General Johnston arrived in the neighborhood of the South Pass, October 15th, his first endeavor was to concentrate his trains at Pacific Springs, five miles beyond, and to assemble and organize a sufficient force for their protection. To this end he hastened the march of Lieutenant Smith and Colonel Cooke by all means possible, and enrolled in military companies all unemployed teamsters and camp-followers. He also interdicted all communication with the Mormons, and took measures for the arrest of spies and unknown persons approaching the camps. On the 2d of October the Mormons had moved to the rear of Colonel Alexander's command and burned three trains, including seventy-five wagons loaded with provisions and quartermaster's stores, and driven off the draught-animals to Salt Lake Valley. This occurred on Green River, near the Sandy, before General Johnston arrived at Laramie. They were greatly elated with this successful stroke; but it is evidence of great want of enterprise, or of intelligence, that they did not pursue their advantage and burn all the trains, which they might easily have done without risk, as they were well mounted, and the infantry too far off to interfere, while the cavalry was 700 miles in the rear.

The infantry and artillery of the expedition, about 1,100 men, were assembled on October 4th, on Ham's Fork, at a camp some thirty miles [212] from Fort Bridger and 130 miles from South Pass. Next day Colonel Alexander, having assumed command, determined, after counsel with his senior officers, that the Fort Bridger route to Salt Lake Valley was impracticable on account of the defenses in Echo Cafon, and that the more circuitous route by the most northern bend of Bear River Valley offered the best chance of safely wintering the troops. This movement was begun without knowledge of the mishap to the supply-trains in his rear.

General Johnston, having satisfied himself by those mental processes so much like intuition to the observer that Bear River Valley was impracticable, and Fort Bridger the only point of concentration where the army could be wintered, acted with his usual decision. He took every means to this end, and ordered Colonel Alexander to withdraw his command, so as to effect a junction, and “to treat as enemies all who might appear in arms or in any way annoy him.” In the mean time he advanced the trains as fast as he could under escort.

But General Johnston found his efforts to concentrate opposed by a foe more potent than the Mormons. Winter fell suddenly upon his unprepared men and animals. On the night of the 17th there was a snowstorm, and the thermometer fell to 16°. Colonel Smith lost eleven mules by cold, and as many more in the next few days, and the trains suffered severely. General Johnston had passed about 200 wagons, belonging to contractors and merchant-trains, near the Three Crossings of the Sweetwater, on the 13th. It was nine days before the rear of these trains came up with Lieutenant Smith's command, so much were the draught-animals reduced by want of grass. These trains were necessary to the march of the troops, as they contained the winter clothing and Sibley tents, besides subsistence, ordnance, and medical stores, to a large amount, indispensable to the comfort and efficiency of the men. Without them no advance could be made, except with great suffering, and perhaps loss of life. Still, go forward they must, in order to effect the junction with Colonel Alexander on Ham's Fork, ninety miles distant. Colonel Alexander in the mean time, on account of the heavy snows and to secure supplies, had fortunately begun to retrace his steps before receiving General Johnston's orders. A few days of delay would have rendered a junction impossible. General Johnston, convinced by the destruction of the army-trains, and by their hostile language and attitude, of the warlike purpose of the Mormon leaders and people, wrote to the adjutant-general on November 5th, reciting the facts. He adds:

The state of things now existing has not been brought about by the movement of troops in this direction, for these people understand the relation of the military to the civil power of the Government as well as any other portion of the inhabitants of the Union, and that the arms of our soldiers are designed for [213] the preservation of the peaceful condition of society, and not for its disturbance. Their conduct, as I have before stated as my opinion, results from a settled determination on their part not to submit to the authority of the United States, or any other outside of their church.

These views of General Johnston, though sustained theoretically by the Administration, Congress, and the country, were the subject of severe animadversion by some members of Congress, who perhaps misunderstood and certainly misapplied his language, representing him as breathing slaughter and vengeance against the Saints. The following is from a reply made to these strictures, in the Senate, by the Hon. Jefferson Davis:

Moreover, I would say, as the question of the expedition to Utah has been touched, that I hold that the country is indebted to the Administration for having selected the man who is at the head of the expedition; who, as a soldier, has not his superior in the army nor out of it, and whose judgment, whose art, whose knowledge are equal to this or any other emergency; a man of such decision, such resolution, that his country's honor can never be tarnished in his hands; a man of such calmness, such kindness, that a deluded people can never suffer by harshness from him.

General Johnston, writing February 5, 1858, from Fort Bridger, to Captain N. J. Eaton, of St. Louis, gives an account of the progress and extrication of the army, as follows:

The country over the distance to be traversed, and, in fact, to this place-125 miles-presents the appearance of a great desert, including the whole space between the Rocky Mountains and the range in front of us. There is neither tree nor bush anywhere, except in the water-courses. They are sparsely fringed with stunted willows, cottonwood, and aspen. The upland is everywhere covered with wild-sage and its varieties and with grass in bunches in season. Grass is found on all the water-courses in abundance in summer. The bad condition of our animals, and the country before us almost destitute of subsistence, offered but little encouragement to the hope of reaching our destination this winter, and I had already had under consideration the most suitable position to pass the winter. On our march from the South Pass we had fine roads and fine weather, and effected the march in eight days, uniting the troops and supplies on the 3d of November, with the exception of Cooke's command. Two days were occupied in distributing clothing and making arrangements to resume our march.

On the 6th of November it was resumed, and then commenced the storm and wintry cold, racking the bones of our men and starving our oxen, and mules, and horses, already half starved. They died on the road and at our camps by hundreds, and so diminished were their numbers that from camp to camp, only four or five miles, as many days were required to bring them all up, as it was necessary to give time to rest the animals, now incapable of protracted efforts, and to hunt for food. In this way fifteen days were consumed in making thirty-five miles to this place, the nearest and best place for shelter and fuel for the troops, and for shelter and grass for the animals. The struggle then amid snow [214] and arctic cold (the thermometer 16° below zero) was for a place of safety. If any doubt existed before this storm of the propriety of risking the troops on the mountains before us before spring, or of the ability to accomplish the march, the destruction among our draught-animals, the necessity of saving all the oxen left for food, even if capable of further exertion, now dispelled that doubt and solved the question.

Colonel Cooke's command arrived here with the rear of the main body on the 19th of November. The storm which he encountered on the Sweetwater, and on through the South Pass, destroyed more than half of his horses and a large number of his mules, although he had corn for them. In that high region, much higher than where we were, the cold must have been much more intense than experienced by us, and his animals, I presume, perished mainly from cold. I have the satisfaction to say that the privations of the march were endured by officers and men without complaint, or, perhaps, I might more justly say, with cheerfulness. The troops are in fine health and condition. The winter, thus far, has not been so rigorous as to prevent often the daily instruction of the troops. They have proved themselves to be hardy enough for any service; a few only — as many as thirty or less — have been frost-bitten, but now our scouts bivouac, when necessary, in the passes without suffering.

The horses and mules, and the cattle left, after slaughtering as many as would serve until April, have been distributed on Smith's and Henry's Forks, and most of them will get through the winter. We have, of course, a large number yet, and hope many of them will be fit for service after they have the spring grass a while. I have not, however, trusted to that, but, soon after I established my camp here, I dispatched Captain Marcy to New Mexico for draught-mules, and a remount for dragoons and batteries, and expect him to return before the 1st of May. If I get the spring supplies from Laramie in time I will be able to advance as soon as the route is practicable, in May, with an effective force, much improved by drilling the recruits.

The Mormons have declared, as fully as words and actions can manifest intentions, that they will no longer submit to the Government, or to any government but their own. The people of the Union must now submit to a usurpation of their territory — to have a government erected in their midst, not loyal to, or rather not acknowledging any dependence upon, or allegiance to the Federal Government-and what is not less impolitic and entirely incompatible with our institutions, must allow them to ingraft their social organization upon ours and make it a part of our system, or they must act with the vigor and force to compel them to submit. This is due to the dignity and honor of the Government.

In a subsequent explanatory letter, he says:

The march was resumed on the 6th of November, amid snow, intense cold, and every circumstance of privation to men and animals, and with enormous mortality to the latter, as long as it was possible to take another step, and long after any one believed a passage of the mountains at all possible for an army, encumbered with a train. This continued effort to advance was a struggle for fuel, and grass, and shelter, which we knew were near Fort Bridger. The army under my command took the last possible step forward at Bridger, in the condition of the animals then alive. These dying and half-dead animals were my [215] only dependence for meat six days out of seven; and every day's work reduced fearfully the probability of my being able to feed the troops — a terrible risk with a six months winter before us. The country being covered with snow, there was no subsistence for animals to be found in the mountains. I do not, of course, speak of small parties; a few men can go anywhere generally.

Describing this march, General Porter says:

That night (November 5th) a great storm covered the ground with six inches of snow, and the next day the march was for thirteen miles against a driving snow, threatening every hour to arrest the march. Many trains did not break camp for several days, and some, whose animals had been killed by intense cold and starvation, were not moved for weeks. Maintaining a cheerful and confident bearing, Colonel Johnston footed along at the head of the command, setting an example of endurance that checked complaint, and turned these trials into matter for jest and good-humor. The following day (November 7th) was one of a series of stormy days for nearly a month, and few can appreciate it who have not experienced a Rocky Mountain winter. All remained in the temporary shelter obtained the previous night. A driving snow-storm and intense cold prevailed all day. Sage-brush and “grease-wood” were the only fuel, and that very scarce. The burden was to be borne; the question was one of self-preservation; there must be no confusion, no grumbling, no demoralization. Officers and men were accommodated alike, and the former, taking their cue from the bearing of their commander, maintained a cheerful tone and assured their men. The snow covered the ground to about a foot in depth; there was no food for animals, and the streams were frozen by cold 16° below zero. Unshod, the oxen slipped to rise no more; hundreds died, and the mules would cluster around the abandoned night-fires to waste away with hunger and cold. Whenever the weather would permit, the troops would march, going three to five miles a day, till they reached Fort Bridger, near which camp was pitched for the winter. The trains were about twenty days making the last fifteen miles. The great loss and weakened condition of the animals required many trips to bring up each train.

Colonel Cooke, in his report, says:

The assurances you gave me of confidence in my commander have been more than realized, and he now has, I believe, the unbounded confidence of the army. You will see from his letters and orders how he grappled with the difficulties in his path, and I hope the spring will see him the conqueror. This little army is in fine health and cheerful spirits. The men have borne their trials without a murmur. Duty is severe upon the men, but not a word of complaint have I heard. We have all endured alike, and the fact that Colonel Johnston has on the march “footed it,” as did the men, suffers the same exposure, and will not permit the officer to receive more than the soldier, has endeared him to all.

The arrival at Fort Bridger marked one distinct phase of the expedition. It was rescue from sudden and impending death under the pitiless pelting of the winter storms. It was present safety. [216]

It is hardly necessary to point out the severe tests of soldiership to which General Johnston was subjected in this extraordinary march. He had, in the face of an unexpected enemy and of an unprecedented season, gathered the disjointed fragments of his army into a compact body, and, in the midst of the snow-clad and mountain-girdled desert, had secured it in a place of shelter and safety. In a Moscow campaign he had won a victory over the elements; and his little command rose from its frozen couch in the desert, not only without demoralization, but fully inspired with confidence in themselves and their commander. A great result had been achieved; but the arrival at Fort Bridger was but the beginning of new cares and responsibilities. If, in carrying out his plans, he was untrammeled by Government, he was likewise unassisted. He did not receive one word of orders or advice from headquarters from the middle of September to the middle of March. The problem was so to apply existing resources as to maintain the army without suffering until the next May, when belated trains at Fort Laramie could bring up supplies, and then have it in condition to force the passes to Salt Lake City. This hope and intention he expressed in decided terms to the Government; but, at the same time, he pointed out that, in case of vigorous resistance by the Mormons, a cooperating force sent from the side of California would prove the most effective means of crushing resistance with the least delay, expense, and loss of life. Arrangements were made to carry this plan into effect, but were subsequently abandoned.

General Johnston mustered into service for nine months, at Fort Bridger, a battalion of four full companies of volunteers, 325 men, the discharged employes of army contractors and others, of whom he says: “They are young, active, and hardy men, generally good shots; and, with such instruction as they will receive, will make most excellent light troops.” These auxiliaries, with the cavalry, raised the force to about 2,000 men.

The Mormons, before retiring, had burned the buildings at Fort Bridger and Fort Supply, twelve miles distant, and had destroyed the grain and crops round about. Fort Bridger was situated on Black's Fork of Green River, near the foot of the Uintah Mountains, in latitude 41° 20‘, and longitude 110° 30‘, at an altitude said to be 7,254 feet above the sea. The basin, in the southwest corner of which it is placed, is bounded far away to the east by the Black Hills and other flanking ranges of the Rocky Mountains, on the northeast by the Wind River Mountains, on the south by the Uintah Mountains, and on the west by the mighty Wahsatch range. These mountain-ranges tower with a crest-line of from 10,000 to 12,000 feet in height, broken by peaks that are often over 13,000 feet high, sometimes snow-clad in August. In the valleys and canions, whose narrow bottoms are threaded by Alpine [217] torrents, the precipitous walls rise from 800 to 1,000 feet perpendicular; and here gather the winter snows to the depth, sometimes, of fifty feet, forming, too, in favorable sites, avalanches and land-slides of great extent. The Uintah Mountains break down in terraces to the foot-hills; and they, to the wide, arid, sterile plateau, over which the troops had toiled from the South Pass. The soil of this table-land, like that of many other deserts, contains the elements of fertility, but is unproductive from want of water.

From the ravines of the mountains pour down the streams that form Henry's, Black's, Smith's, Muddy, and Sandy Fork, and other tributaries of Green River. These small rivers, bordered by sunken valleys, rich, alluvial, and teeming, traverse the Desert Basin. The valley of Henry's Fork is from one to five miles wide, and thirty miles long, abounding in luxuriant grass; that of Black's Fork is nearly a mile wide, and composed of rich, black mould; and others have similar characteristics. These valleys were, in the summer-time, oases, where wood, water, and fine pasturage, invited and rejoiced the first pioneers. But it was only by comparison with the surrounding region that such a nook as Fort Bridger could be considered a favored spot. In their dire need, however, the storm-pressed wayfarers looked toward it as a city of refuge in a solitude of snow.

Fort Bridger itself was only the ruins of a trading-post, belonging to the adventurous and large-hearted James Bridger. “MajorBridger, as he was called, was a fine specimen of his class, the early pioneer, who was at once hunter, trapper, herdsman, and trader. It was located in the comparatively warm, wooded, and well-watered valley of Black's Fork, and consisted of a high, well-built, strong stone-wall, inclosing a square of 100 feet. General Johnston fortified it by the addition of two lunettes, which made it defensible by a small force, and a safe place for the storage of supplies and for a guarded depot when the army should advance. The army was put into winter quarters close by, at Camp Scott.

The diary of Major Porter, assistant adjutant-general, kindly put at the disposal of the writer, has this entry: November 17th.-Marched and camped on Black's Fork, about one mile and three-quarters above Fort Bridger, and established winter-quarters. The arrangements for a permanent camp were entered upon immediately. Nothing seems to have been neglected by our chief for the health and comfort of our men, the security of the camp, provisions, animals for the winter, and to insure movement as early as spring will permit.

General Porter, in a letter to the writer, says:

Horses and mules, followed by such oxen as would survive the trip, were sent to the neighboring valleys where the grazing was ample. The starving [218] oxen, now almost skeletons, were butchered to prevent dying, and their meat smoked, or dried, or packed in ice. The provision was carefully estimated, and the ration so proportioned that there should be no suffering. Officers and men fared alike, and there was no deviation from the rule for any one's benefit. The bulk of the ration was poor beef six days in the week, and bacon one day, and thirteen ounces of flour daily, made into bread; but the other component parts of the ration were served out in quantity sufficient for health.

General Porter continues:

No idleness was permitted in camp. There was no time or mercy for gamblers. The hundreds of citizen teamsters were not permitted to become an element of trouble. They had either to enroll as volunteers in the United States service, or return to the States. No permission to remain would be given them otherwise. Every one had an occupation; and an effective police, under a provost-marshal, responsible to the colonel, was established.

Captain Randolph B. Marcy, an accomplished, energetic officer and experienced explorer, was selected, with a small body of volunteering soldiers, to make their way across the Uintah Mountains into New Mexico, make known to General Garland our dangers and wants, and bring relief by way of Bridger's Pass early in the spring. Dispatches via Fort Laramie went to the Government, and an expedition through Bridger's Pass and along Lodge-Pole Creek was also sent with letters, with the view of testing the practicability and utility of this route, which was some seventy miles shorter. An expedition was also sent into the Snake Indian country to quiet the Indians, and prevent their employment by the Mormons, and to induce traders to bring cattle and horses to camp. These expeditions were all fruitful in good results. Captain Marcy's command, deemed a forlorn hope when it started, after many struggles against storms and starvation in the mountains, finally reached Fort Union, New Mexico, safe, but greatly weakened. Early in the spring Captain Marcy returned with numerous head of sheep and horses, escorted by cavalry under Colonel Loring, to guard against a threatened movement of the Mormons. The success of these expeditions through Bridger's Pass led in the spring to the opening by the Sixth Infantry of the route up Lodge-Pole Creek, through Bridger's Pass and down Bitter Creek; and that summer, as the road was shorter, easier, and better for grass, the Overland Stage Line and Pony Express were transferred to it from the Laramie route. Thus was opened the route afterward adopted by the Union Pacific Railroad. General Johnston made constant representations and strenuous efforts to have this route opened, feeling sure that it must be the route for a railroad, if one was ever made through the Salt Lake region.

As the army was bound to Salt Lake Valley, the Government regarded sending salt for rations as unnecessary-“coals to Newcastle.” General Johnston took prompt steps to get a supply from Laramie; but, when none was to be had at Fort Bridger, grumbling began at the insipid food, and maledictions were hurled on the Subsistence Department at Washington. In the midst of one of the heaviest snow-storms of the season the picket-guard brought in three men bearing letters from Mormon officials to General Johnston. When admitted to his presence they stated that they bore letters from Adjutant-General Wells and were messengers from Governor Young, bringing several mule-loads of salt, which “he understood the army had none of, and that there was enough to last [219] until spring, when the army should retrace its steps to the United States, as enter the Mormon settlement it should not.”

After carefully reading the letter, and reexamining parts of it, General Johnston, in an impressive manner, said:

I will not accept of this salt sent by Brigham Young, not for the reason hinted in his letter, but I can accept of nothing from him so long as he and his people maintain a hostile position to my Government. I regret he has insinuated the probability of its refusal on account of its deleterious property. There is no portion of the American people who would be guilty of so base an act, and none to suspect it. So far as poison is concerned, I would freely partake of Brigham Young's hospitality, but I can accept of no present, nor interchange courtesies so long as he continues his present course. I have no answer to send. I can hold no intercourse with Brigham Young and his people. I have nothing to do with him or them. The Governor of the Territory is here, and his proclamation you have seen. To him Brigham Young must send his communications. When he returns to his allegiance I will be happy to interchange courtesies with him. I have been sent here by my Government, and I shall advance. His insinuation of this army returning in the spring, I assure you, is not to be relied upon; an American army never retrogrades, and I intend to advance in the spring. If he and his people oppose me with an army, I shall meet it and offer the same resistance. Peace or war is in their hands, and if they have war it will be of their own making.

Your people must know that an army entering this Territory comes to it in the same manner as to any other, and I tell you I have no more to do with your people than I would with the inhabitants of New York if going there. All persons who stay at home, when I advance, and mind their own business, will be undisturbed; but all who oppose my march I shall treat as enemies. Those who have been molesting my trains and cattle I shall regard and treat as robbers; and I wish Brigham Young, if he has anything to send to me (but I cannot imagine the occasion), I wish him to send it by a flag, that I may know who to treat as messengers as distinct from robbers. I wish to hold no intercourse with him now, but when he and his people express their willingness to return to their allegiance-and that must be done through the proper channel — I will be pleased to acknowledge his courtesies. Till then I must treat them as enemies if they offer resistance to my advance. I hope you will remember what I have said. I have no written answer to this letter. It requires none from my hands, as I tell you I cannot recognize him in any manner. Your salt you will take back with you; not, as I tell you, because I suspect its purity, but I will not accept a present from an enemy of my Government.

The mission of these men was soon known in camp, and much rejoicing was expressed at the prospect of a little salt; so that the disappointment was grievous when it became known that they were to return with their burden. When the stand the general lad taken and his reply were also learned, they were not merely approved, but applauded. The course he had taken gave the army an insight into the character of the man, whose every step increased their confidence and respect. The salt soon arrived from Fort Laramie.

General Johnston found in the rigors and necessities of the situation the means to enforce a more exact instead of laxer discipline. The [220] volunteers, instead of constituting a disorderly element, when organized vied with the regulars in all the duties of the soldier. Drill and instruction brought the troops to a high state of military efficiency, and the monotony of camp-life was relieved and the health of the men improved by the character of the tasks imposed. The vigilance requisite for an active campaign in the presence of an enemy was observed by pickets and outposts; and, owing to the weakness of the draught-animals, the men had to haul by hand from the mountains all the fire-wood used. These toilsome tasks were cheerfully performed, because the men knew that they were necessary to safety and comfort, and not imposed simply to occupy time. Very few and slight punishments were inflicted, and there has rarely been a military force where less harshness was exercised toward the soldier.

Nor did the pressure of large cares and heavy responsibilities prevent him from forwarding those scientific researches to which he attached so much importance. Mr. C. Drexler, the ornithologist, who started in 1857 with Magraw's wagon-train, but did not reach Fort Bridger before March, was enabled, through the assistance afforded him by General Johnston, to catalogue 106 species of birds near Fort Bridger in the next three months, as is mentioned in his report published in the Pacific Railroad explorations. If space allowed, it could be shown from the order-books that in the minutest details the safety and comfort of the soldier were provided for by the same mind which, grasping the important features of the campaign in its large strategic generalizations, waited calmly and sternly the proper moment to close with the enemy. General Johnston's view of the policy to be pursued toward the Mormons, as already shown, was to hold no terms with armed resistance, and to do all for law and obedience to the Federal authority, nothing for vengeance.

In a letter to army headquarters, January 20, 1858, General Johnston says:

Major: I have nothing material to report since my last communication. Accompanying that I sent a file of the Deseret News, containing the message of Brigham Young to the Legislature of Utah. You have in that message and the resolutions of the Legislature a full confirmation of the charge of their disloyalty to the Union heretofore made against this people. My information respecting their conduct since is that their troops are organized to resist the establishment of a Territorial government by the United States, and, in furtherance of that object, they have erected works of defense in the mountain-passes and near Salt Lake City.

I The reader who desires to know in fuller and more detailed form the interesting particulars of this winter's work will find the most of them in “Executive documents,” first session, Thirty-fifth Congress, vol. II., part II., and in second session, Thirty-fifth Congress, vol. II., part II. [221]

Knowing how repugnant it would be to the policy and interest of the Government to do any act that would force these people into unpleasant relations with the Federal Government, I would, in conformity with the views also of the commanding general, on all proper occasions have manifested in my intercourse with them a spirit of conciliation; but I do not believe that such consideration for them would be properly appreciated now, or rather it would be wrongly interpreted: and, in view of the treasonable temper and feeling now pervading the leaders and a great portion of the Mormons, I think that neither the honor nor the dignity of the Government will allow of the slightest concession being made to them. They should be made to submit to the constitutional and legal demands of the Government unconditionally. An adjustment of existing differences on any other basis would be nugatory.

Their threat to oppose the march of the troops in the spring will not have the slightest influence in delaying it; and, if they desire to join issue, I believe that it is for the interest of the Government that they should have the opportunity.

President Buchanan, by temperament and education, and from all his habits of life and thought, a diplomatist, naturally took a different view of the situation. The prospect of civil strife and a large budget for war expenditure during his chief magistracy was utterly repugnant to his notions of a successful Administration, and he cast about to postpone the present trouble. There is a wisdom in avoiding dangers, and a wisdom in meeting them; no general rule can be established to fit every case, and the result alone can decide where lay the true line of action. The decided policy proposed by General Johnston would have definitively settled the Mormon question, which remains unsettled to the present day. Brigham Young must have submitted unconditionally, with a loss of prestige and power among his people; or he must have fought and been subdued, with the disorganization and new arrangements consequent upon reconstruction; or he must have fled the country with his followers, and thus relieved the United States from further consideration of the embarrassing question. Mr. Buchanan, on the contrary, finding that the mere show of force had irritated instead of subduing the Mormons, was quite willing to return to the status quo, nominal submission and real independence, in which the Federal Government should be represented by an array of civil and military functionaries with hands tied — a pageant not unlike that Byzantine supremacy which commanded and trembled before its Gothic vassals.

Most opportunely for the inauguration of this policy, an agent presented himself in every way fitted for the office of such negotiation. Colonel Thomas L. Kane was a son of Judge Kane, of Philadelphia, and a brother of the arctic explorer — of a family connected with the President by ties of friendship. He was a man of talents and restless energy, but of an intriguing and erratic temper. He was supposed to have been baptized into the Mormon Church; but, however that may [222] be, he always manifested the deepest interest in carrying out their policy. When they were expelled from Nauvoo he had delivered lectures to excite popular sympathy on their behalf; he is said to have procured Brigham Young's first appointment as Governor from Mr. Fillmore on the representation that he was not a polygamist, and he now offered himself as a volunteer agent to secure the submission of the Mormons. The President gave him a guarded letter of recommendation, sufficient, however, to accredit him unofficially to both Brigham Young and the United States officers. Armed with this he started about New Year, and made his way through California to Salt Lake City, where he arrived early in March.

When Colonel Kane arrived, Brigham Young was already virtually conquered. The army, which his prophecies had doomed to certain destruction, had neither been overwhelmed by avalanches, nor starved with hunger and cold, nor entrapped in the cafions and scattered by the sword of Gideon. On the contrary, it lay in its mountain-lair silent, stern, and collected. The enthusiasm of the saints had cooled, and their courage had waned in the long season of inaction, and in the presence of a power that made no mistakes. Brigham Young, for the first time, felt himself opposed by moral forces with which he could not cope. He was already suggesting flight as a possible contingency. Colonel Kane's arrival, therefore, was a godsend to him as a means to abate his high pretensions, and to avail himself of some decent pretext for submission. So far it may have been fortunate for both the Government and the Mormons; but it was not a happy conception in Mr. Buchanan to intrust, in any manner, the interests or honor of the United States to the hands of a person so closely identified with the enemy.

Colonel Kane, after receiving the inspiration for his mission in a full consultation with the Prophet, appeared suddenly in camp. He affected a certain mystery in his movements, and left his escort of Mormons in such an equivocal position that he was under apprehensions, unfounded but not unreasonable, that they had been fired on by the picket.

Brigham Young, whether as a measure of diplomacy and conciliation or as an act of insolence, having “just learned,” as he said, “through the southern Indians that the troops are very destitute of provisions,” offered through Colonel Kane to send in 200 head of cattle and 15,000 or 20,000 pounds of flour, “to which they will be made perfectly welcome, or pay for, just as they choose.” General Johnston replied to Colonel Kane, March 15th:

sir: President Young is not correctly informed with regard to the state of the supply of provisions of this army. There has been no deficiency, nor is there any now. We have abundance to last until the Government can renew [223] the supply. Whatever might be the need of the army under my command for food, we would neither ask nor receive from President Young and his confederates any supplies while they continue to be the enemies of the Government. ..

However unfortunate the position now occupied by that portion of the citizens of Utah belonging to the sect of Mormons, it is of their own seeking, and it is one from which they can be relieved by the mere act of obedience to the proclamation of Governor Cumming. Having the question of peace or war under his own control, President Young would, should he choose the latter, be responsible for all the consequences.

Colonel Kane tried to induce General Johnston to change this action. He wrote:

sir: At the request of his Excellency Governor Cumming, I consent to bear the reply which you request me to communicate to President Brigham Young. I fear it must greatly prejudice the public interest to refuse Mr. Young's proposal in such a manner at the present time. Permit me, therefore, to entreat you, most respectfully, to reconsider it.

This diplomatic trick failed. Had any part of the provisions been received, it would have been claimed by the Mormons that the army was rescued by them from starvation, and yet was ready to smite the hand that fed it.

Colonel Kane, having asked an interview, had a conference with General Johnston, in which he urged a modification of General Johnston's reply to him. He said his object was peace; that in Utah there was a war party and a peace party, and that Brigham Young belonged to the latter. General Johnston then said to him:

I have nothing whatever to do with the political question between the Government and the Mormons. I am here in the fullfillment of special instructions from the Government, and I have on another occasion informed Brigham Young of that fact, and that peace or war is in his hands. I told Mr. Earle (the man who brought the salt) to inform him that I had nothing to do with him or his people, and that when I advance, if the people stay at home and behave themselves, and do not molest me, they will not be troubled. The army is to protect, not oppress; but if my advance is opposed with force I shall meet it with force. It becomes Brigham Young to consider before he so acts as to bring on the horrors of war. The officers under me do not want war, but fear not its results if forced upon them. Brigham Young should consider the calamities he is bringing upon his people in pursuing a course of open opposition.

No new result was arrived at, nor was Brigham Young without friends and allies at Washington. While General Johnston lay hemmed in by the avalanches of the Rocky Mountains, and nearly all Americans were anxious as to his fate, the ancient animosity of General Houston [224] still pursued him. That veteran politician, from his place in the United States Senate, on the 25th of February,1 made the following remarks in allusion to the “salt” embassy, declaring at the same time that the Mormons expected extermination at the hands of the army.

An act of civility was tendered by Brigham Young, and you might, if you please, construe it under the circumstances rather as an act of submission. He sent salt to the troops, understanding it was scarce there, and was selling at seven dollars a pint. As an act of humanity, thinking at least that it could not be regarded as discourteous, he sent a supply of salt for the relief of the encampment, intimating to the commander that he could pay for it, if he would not accept it as a present. What was the message the military officer sent him back? I believe that the substance of it was, that he would have no intercourse with a rebel, and that when they met they would fight. They will fight; and, if they fight, he will get miserably whipped.

That was a time to make peace with Brigham Young; because there is something potent in salt. With the Turk, who has similar habits and religion with the Mormons, it is the sacrament of perpetual friendship. Why may not the Mormons have incorporated that into their creed? But, instead of that, he sent him a taunt and a defiance.

But this fine spurt of senatorial rhetoric, for a wonder, culminated in cabals that merely hampered without overthrowing the officer assailed.

Brigham Young renewed his effort to patronize the army by making his offer anew through Governor Cumming, after a month's interval, but without effect. Though unsuccessful in his diplomacy with General Johnston, the Prophet accomplished more through his friend Colonel Kane with Governor Cumming than he had a right to hope.

But let General Porter tell the story, of which he had personal knowledge in all its details:

The presence of Governor Cumming and some of the judiciary in camp relieved Colonel Johnston of all concern in regard to civil affairs. His command was, of course, independent of the civil authorities, except to fill a requisition to suppress insurrection, and to support the United States marshal in executing the decrees of the court.

Governor Cumming was a guest in his camp, and dependent for everything upon the courtesy of Colonel Johnston, who made him as independent and comfortable as was possible under the forlorn circumstances, without the slightest indication of obligation. His dependence, however, seemed to annoy him; and being a Governor without anything to govern, he showed a continual irritation and petulance, which Colonel Johnston forbore to notice.

The arrival of Colonel Kane, a self-imposed embassador, caused a slight breach in the intercourse between the Governor and the colonel. Kane's antecedents, [225] his mode of proceeding, and his uncivil behavior on entering camp, confirmed the belief that he was connected with the Mormons. Yet he was at once taken to his heart by Governor Cumming, and no emissary to foment trouble and stir up Governor Cumming against Colonel Johnston could have been better chosen. Fortunately, Colonel Johnston was above petty quarrels; and such were his dignity and bearing in all matters as to force Governor Cumming and every one else to respect him and his position. His staff entered into his feelings, and bore themselves so as not to compromise him by act or word.

Colonel Johnston's orderly, happening to be in personal attendance upon Colonel Kane for a short time, said, of his own motion, to another sent to relieve him, to “keep an eye on the d—d Mormon.” Colonel Kane, though in-doors, and the orderly outside, overheard the remark, and fired Governor Cumming's heart. The Governor chose to construe it as an intentional insult by Colonel Johnston to his guest, and hence to himself, and proposed to resort to a challenge. As Colonel Johnston had nothing to do with the instructions given the orderly, his adjutant-general assumed whatever responsibility existed, and the absurdity of the Governor's position was finally made plain to him, and the matter ended.

Conduct so captious, however, put Colonel Johnston on his guard, and destroyed all possibility of any cordial or confidential relations between himself and the Governor. While it did not diminish the courtesy that he practised as due the Executive of the Territory, yet the Governor, on his part, retained and exhibited a rankling irritation and jealousy that proved injurious to the public interests.

The army was well drilled and thoroughly disciplined during the winter, at Fort Bridger, and was prepared in every respect to carry out whatever might be required to secure an entrance into Salt Lake Valley. The idea of open resistance by the Mormons now became absurd. The chief anxiety was so to maintain discipline that it should not be broken by the insults of an ignorant community, excited by its leaders to acts and expressions of hostility.

The advance of spring in this ice-bound desert was very slow. Major Porter's diary says, on March 19th:

Stormed all day severely. This is the worst storm we have had since we have been here; snowing and blowing hard; no wood, no fire, except for the cooks, and very cold.

  • April 1st.-Clear and warm. Thermometer 64° at 12 M.
  • 2d.-About 3 A. M. a violent storm of wind arose, threatening to carry away tents and all habitations. So violent a storm I never felt. At reveille, snow mixed with hail in large quantities fell, covering the ground till noon. Squalls of snow were passing over all day. The storm is severe upon the animals; but the moisture is good for the grass. If our animals do not improve shortly, I fear we will have to resort to mule-meat, though the ration of beef is diminished to avoid such a contingency.
  • 3d.-Still blowing, and very cold. Streams were frozen last night. Thermometer, at sunrise, 20°.
  • 7th and 8th.-Snow and hail, and very cold.
  • 9th.-Snow about two inches deep fell last night. [226]
  • 18th.-Stormed again last night, covering the mountains with as white a mantle as as they have had the past winter.
  • 29th.-Commenced snowing after dark.
  • 30th.-(old and severe storm of snow from the east.
  • May 1st.-Cold and storming.

These extracts are sufficient to show why no earlier advance could be made in these mountains, as well as to illustrate the hardships of the command. It is difficult for the resident of a city or favored rural community to appreciate the intense interest of the frontiersman in the phases of the weather. General Johnston used to praise his rather frail cabin in Brazoria to the writer. “Civilization,” he would say, “destroys our habits of observation. What does a man care for the weather who has brick walls and a tight shelter overhead? Your true meteorologist is the man with a leaky roof.”

The arrival of Governor Powell and Colonel McCulloch, as embassadors of peace from Mr. Buchanan, with power to declare a general amnesty for all offenses, etc., soon led to a semblance of peace. In all their deliberations for the settlement of troubles with Brigham, General Johnston was fully consulted, and the decisions were generally founded on his counsel. General Johnston,. feeling that any check or delay to the army after it was ready to move would diminish its future utility, insisted that no promise or agreement should be made that would in the slightest trammel his movements. It is true that Governor Cumming tried in his correspondence to produce an opposite impression; but the commissioners sustained General Johnston in his view that he was left free to move when and where he chose. General Porter says:

Governor Cumming was placed in his chair, and became Governor without power and without the respect or obedience of the community he presided over. The semblance of peace thus restored was really due not to negotiation, but to the moral effect of the presence of the army, commanded by an honest, brave, and accomplished soldier and statesman.

Colonel Kane had in some manner satisfied Governor Cumming that not only would he be personally welcomed, as the Executive of the Territory, at Salt Lake, but that such submission would satisfy every requirement of the situation, without the advance of the army into Salt Lake Valley. Governor Cumming left camp on the 5th of April, and arrived at Salt Lake City on the 12th, after having been fully impressed with the formidable nature of the warlike preparations on the route, and also of the respect felt for himself. He seemed to fall at once into the views of the Mormon leaders; and, although the populace were dangerously excited, and could scarcely be restrained by the leaders who had aroused them, he regarded his reception as the “auspicious issue of our [227] difficulties.” The Mormon troops, in the mean time, continued to occupy the approaches to the valley, and it was not until the 21st of May that General Johnston was notified that they were disbanded. In accordance with the command of Brigham Young, the people of Utah, most of them reluctantly, abandoned their homes, and began another exodus, destined, it was said, to Sonora. After the people had been congregated at Provo, they were allowed to return to their homes. Neither the motives for the removal, nor for the return, have been satisfactorily explained.

The commissioners from the President arrived in camp June 2d, and in Salt Lake City on the 7th. They accepted the submission of Brigham and the Mormons, and issued the President's proclamation of pardon. The army, having received its reinforcements and supplies, advanced June 13th, and arrived without opposition, June 26th, near Salt Lake City. The commissioners suggested that a proclamation would relieve the inhabitants from fear of injury by the army. General Johnston's reply and proclamation were as follows:

General Johnston's reply to the peace commissioners.

headquarters Department of Utah, Camp on Bear River, June 14, 1858.
gentlemen: Your communication from Salt Lake City was received to-day. The accomplishment of the object of your mission entirely in accordance with the instructions of the President, and the wisdom and forbearance which you have so ably displayed to the people of the Territory, will, I hope, lead to a more just appreciation of their relations to the General Government and the establishment of the supremacy of the laws. I learn with surprise that uneasiness is felt by the people as to the treatment that they may receive from the army. Acting under the twofold obligations of citizens and soldiers, we may be supposed to comprehend the rights of the people and to be sufficiently mindful of the obligations of our oaths not to disregard the laws which govern us as a military body. A reference to them will show with what jealous care the General Government has guarded the rights of citizens against any encroachment. The army has duties to perform here in execution of orders of the Department of War, which, from the nature of them, cannot lead to interference with the people in their various pursuits; and, if no obstruction is presented to the discharge of those duties, there need not be the slightest apprehension that any person whatever will have cause of complaint against it.

The army will continue its march from this position on Thursday, 17th inst., and reach the valley in five days. I desire to encamp beyond the Jordan on the day of arrival in the valley.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

A. S. Johnston, Colonel Second Cavalry and Brevet Brigadier-General United States Army, commanding. To the Ho, L. W. Powell and Major Ben McCULLOCH, United States Commissioners to Utah.


General Johnston's proclamation to the people of Utah.

The commissioners of the United States, deputed by the President to urge upon the people of this Territory the necessity of obedience to the Constitution and laws, as enjoined by his proclamation, have this day informed me that there will be no obstruction to the administration and execution of the laws of the Federal Government, nor any opposition on the part of the people of this Territory to the military force of the Government in the execution of their orders. I therefore feel it incumbent on me, and have great satisfaction in doing so, to assure those citizens of the Territory who, I learn, apprehend from the army ill-treatment, that no person whatever will be in anywise interfered with or molested in his person or rights, or in the peaceful pursuit of his avocation; and, should protection be needed, that they will find the army (always faithful to the obligations of duty) as ready now to assist and protect them as it was to oppose them while it was believed they were resisting the laws of their Government.

A. S. Johnston, Colonel Second Cavalry and Brevet Brigadier-General, commanding.

Such utterances from a calm, intelligent, and patriotic soldier would, in these days of loose construction, form a better guide to the young officer than more recent precedents drawn from Cossack rule in Poland and the dragonnades of Louis XIV. Nor were they mere words; such was the rule of conduct for officers and men, and no people ever had less right to complain of injuries to person and property.

The commissioners in all their reports to the Secretary of War mention General Johnston's hearty aid in furtherance of their mission, and in their letter of July 3d say: “Brevet Brigadier-General Johnston has continued cordially to cooperate with us in carrying out the wishes of the President. He has discharged the important and delicate duties intrusted to him with eminent prudence and distinguished ability.”

It may be remembered that Ben McCulloch, one of the commissioners, had been disappointed in not receiving the colonelcy of the Second Cavalry when General Johnston was appointed to it. His magnanimity was evinced not only in his correspondence with General Johnston, but in his conversation with others. Colonel Love, writing to General Johnston from Washington City, June 11, 1860, says:

Ben McCulloch told me yesterday that he was rejoiced that you had been appointed, instead of himself, colonel of the regiment, as, from close observation in Utah, he believed you were the best man that could have been sent there, and that he yielded to you in everything in the line of your duty, as you had nobly performed it.

As the army approached Salt Lake City, Governor Cumming wrote to General Johnston, June 17th:

The present excited condition of the public mind demands the utmost caution on your part. . . . It is my duty to protest against your occupancy of positions [229] in the immediate vicinity of this city or other dense settlements of the population. Should you resolve to act in opposition to my solemn protest, you may rest assured that it will result in disastrous consequences, such as cannot be approved by our Government.

General Johnston had no intention of fixing his headquarters in any such location; and, for the obvious advantages of commanding situation, isolation, grass, water, wood, and shelter, had selected the north end of Cedar Valley as a proper site. Nevertheless, it was evident that the Mormons ought to feel that the Federal authority extended everywhere; and, therefore, General Johnston marched his command in perfect order through the chief streets of the sacred city. After thus formally asserting the Federal authority, he moved his troops to Cedar Valley, and made his headquarters at Camp Floyd.

Early in January, while the Government and the country alike were in suspense and anxiety as to the fate of the expedition, it was determined that reinforcements to the number of 4,000 soldiers should be sent to the aid of the little command of 1,700 regulars, buried in the snows of the Wahsatch range. General Scott at first intended to proceed to the Pacific coast to direct the movements of the cooperating force, but gave up that part of the movement in February. When the public mind had been relieved in regard to the safety of the army, General Johnston's conduct was the subject of general commendation, and the military authorities gave him every assurance of approval. General Scott wrote, on the 23d of January:

Your conduct in command, as set forth in the reports, meets with full and hearty approval, united with sympathy for those difficulties you have so manfully conquered, and which it is clearly perceived no act or omission of yours had any part in creating.

Early in April General Scott sent renewed assurances of his confidence, and on the 10th of April General Johnston was notified by the adjutant-general of his appointment as brevet brigadier-general. A few days later, April 15th, it was announced, in General Orders No. 8, that Brevet Major-General Persifer F. Smith and Brevet Brigadier-General William S. Harney were assigned to the Department of Utah, thus superseding General Johnston and placing him third in command. Notwithstanding the compliments paid him, this was a practical way of saying that, though he was good enough for a winter campaign, the Government preferred some one else to do its summer fighting.

General Johnston, on the 8th of July, having placed the army in a commanding position at Camp Floyd, addressed a communication to headquarters, which closes thus, without any allusion to what he might naturally have considered a grievance: [230]

On the arrival of General Harney or Colonel Sumner I desire to be ordered to join my regiment. If that cannot be granted, I request that the general will grant me a furlough for four months, with leave to apply for an extension. I have had no relaxation from duty — not for a day — for more than nine years.

His request was refused; but, as there was no longer danger of war in Utah, and a general was not needed there, he was retained to administer the duties of the department nearly two years longer.

The adjutant-general, however, after declining his request, and informing him that he was not to be superseded, writes, August 28, 1858:

I am further instructed to add that General Johnston's measures in the management of affairs in Utah, from time to time reported by him, are fully approved by the War Department.

The commanding general was kind enough to issue the following order, summing up the conduct and character of the expedition:

(General orders no. 19.)

Headquarters of the army, West point, New York, August 10, 1858.
The general-in-chief, learning of the arrival of the troops under Brevet Brigadier-General Johnston at their destination in the Salt Lake country, after their detention in the valley of Green River during the last winter, takes occasion to commend them in general orders — as he has already done through their commander — for their exemplary conduct under the trying circumstances in which they have been placed.

Detained, after a long and wearisome march of over a thousand miles, by causes over which their commander had no control, in a most barren and inhospitable region; subjected-by the rigors of the season, which destroyed or paralyzed their draught-animals — to toils of no ordinary nature; and, on account of the destruction of part of their supplies, obliged to labor with insufficient clothing; indifferent, and often restricted, rations of food-this fine body of men, instead of giving way to insubordination, irregularities, or murmurs even, went on improving in discipline and instruction, and discharging their accumulating duties with the utmost alacrity and cheerfulness; and, at the order of their commander, not showing the inhabitants of Salt Lake Valley, as they passed through their settlements, either by act, word, or gesture, that they had recently stood toward them in a hostile attitude.

The march — in the depths of winter — of Lieutenant-Colonel (now Colonel) P. St. George Cooke, commanding the Second Dragoons, from Fort Laramie through the South Pass to Green River; and that of Captain R. B. Marcy, Fifth Infantry, from Camp Scott over the mountains to New Mexico, deserve, as they have already received, special commendation.

Brevet Brigadier-General Johnston has had the honor to be supported by officers of great intelligence, zeal, and experience. Yet it is not to be doubted that to his own high soldierly qualities, untiring exertions, tact, and sound judgment, the credit for the condition and high tone of his army is preeminently due.

By command of Brevet Lieutenant-General Scott:

Irvin McDowell, Assistant Adjutant-General.


The Secretary of War in his report, December 6, 1858, made the following mention of the conduct of General Johnston, after discussing the causes that led to the expedition:

The conduct of both officers and men has been worthy of all praise. The --commander, Brevet Brigadier-General A. S. Johnston, who joined his command at a time of great trial and embarrassment, with a calm and lofty bearing, with a true and manly sympathy for all around him, infused into his command a spirit of serenity and contentment which amounted to cheerfulness, amid uncommon hardships and privations which were unabated throughout the tedious and inclement season of the winter.

The correspondent of the New York Times, Mr. Simonton, I believe, writing from Camp Scott, under date of May 28th, says:

I called on General Johnston to-day. He is, apparently, something over fifty years of age, and a plain, frank, whole-hearted soldier, equal to any emergency, and always prepared for it. In simple, honest directness of manner, coolness of purpose, readiness of action, and practical common-sense, he reminds me much of the lamented General Taylor. During the time I spent in his tent I had no difficulty in understanding the magnetism which attracts to him the respect and love of his command. I am told that amid all the privations of winter the men never thought of complaining, even among themselves, of their commander, whom they saw sharing equally with themselves in the inconvenience of short rations, and struggling, with the aid of an excellent commissary department, to defeat the Mormon design of starving the army — a design which the destruction of the supply-trains in October last would have rendered easy of accomplishment except for General Johnston's efforts.

It is not to be supposed, however, that in the general applause which greeted General Johnston's conduct of the Utah campaign he altogether escaped criticism. By whatever motive actuated, a writer in the St. Louis Democrat, in August, 1858, made a violent assault upon him, which elicited a full and conclusive answer from the friendly pen of Captain N. J. Eaton. These articles are not here inserted, because it is believed that the events of the campaign as narrated are a sufficient reply to cavil. It is, indeed, alluded to only because it drew from General Johnston a letter to Captain Eaton, already quoted, of October 11, 1858, from which it is thought proper to make further extracts in response to the following charge by his critic:

We propose directing attention to the claims of an individual who has won rank and, perhaps, reputation by the exhibition of unparalleled inactivity. General Johnston has gained his brevet by no deed of heroism or display of generalship, but by obstinate immobility for eight or nine months.

General Johnston contented himself with a simple statement of the circumstances as the best refutation of the strictures of the letterwriter. The rest of his letter is as follows: [232]

my dear Eaton: I received your letter of the 3d inst., and have now the pleasure to acknowledge the great obligations under which you have placed me, and to express my grateful sense of your generous conduct in defending an absent friend from an unjust and unfair attack by a person wholly unknown to him, but I hope not so prejudiced as to condemn upon an ex parte hearing.

Connecting as he does a criticism of my course as a commander with an assault upon the Administration, he evidently imagines that I am the recipient of political favor, and that the patronage of the Government placed me in command of the Utah army. On this point it is easy to disabuse the minds of any who entertain such a notion.

If I were much of a favorite it would very naturally be supposed that I was personally known to the party whose patronage I am supposed to enjoy. It so happens that I have never had the opportunity to be introduced to the President, and of course have never spoken to him, and am personally unknown to him. I was called to the command of this department, I understand, at the request of the commander-in-chief. The command was unsolicited by me, and not desirable on account of the inconvenience to my family and the unprotected situation in which I was obliged to leave them. The notice was sudden and unexpected; and, moreover, I was sick and in need of surgical aid: the notice, however, was promptly responded to. I am sure the service was repugnant to the wishes of every one, as it must always be where it involves the enforcement of the laws upon any portion of our citizens, be they good or bad. No one so employed can escape censure; though to the honor of the army be it said that, with this foreknowledge, there has never been a want of zeal in the execution of such, or any, orders ....

The brevet rank conferred upon me was not at my solicitation; it was voluntarily offered, and of course accepted. I did not consider whether I deserved it or not; and I know I would be unable to determine that question. With regard to the service performed by me, I felt that it was done with a loyal, hearty good-will, and regretted that more could not be done.

It is, of course, painful to any gentleman to speak of himself; but I think I can say without vanity that the brevet rank conferred upon me was the discharge of a debt of twelve years standing, during nearly ten of which, as a public servant, I have not had one day's relaxation from duty, and more than half of which time, from the nature of my duties, I have not slept in a house. I say it was an old debt in this wise. At the storming of Monterey I was a volunteer, acting as inspector-general with the rank of colonel. By reference to official reports you will see that favorable mention was made of my name with others. Those belonging to the regular army were brevetted for this notice. I could not be, but received in lieu, what was very precious to me, the thanks of General Taylor in special orders. This being so, is it too much to say that the brevet was won twelve years since, and for the same grade as that now given?

It is quite ridiculous, especially as connected with a person so obscure, without political influence, and unsustained by the patronage of any party, to attribute a motive of interest to our venerated Chief Magistrate or commander-in-chief, standing, as they do, each in his own sphere the first man of his day.

I am by some pointed out as a novus homo-a person but a short time in the service. My experience in the service runs back more than thirty years. I claim that my life and my means (not small) have been devoted to the service of [233] my country. It is true that I was out of the army for some years, but I was not idle. I was laboring on another field; the benefits, not less than an empire in extent, enured to the Government. To this result I contributed my humble aid. It was not my good fortune to be present at the battle at which was won the independence of Texas by a band of heroic men; but I served long and faithfully, assisting to maintain that independence, and, in so doing, I think, the interest of the United States was well subserved ....

Your friend and obedient servant,

A. S. Johnston.

1 Congressional Globe, vol. XXXVI., part i., p. 874.

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