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Doc. 31.-Brig.-General Conner's report

Of operations in the District of Utah.

headquarters of the District of Utah, camp Douglas, U. T., June 2, 1863.
Colonel: I have the honor to report to the General commanding the department that, on the fifth of May ultimo, company H, Third infantry, California volunteers, Captain Black, left this post, pursuant to my orders, en route, via Box Elder, Bear River, Cache and Marsh Valleys, for a point at or near the Great Bend or Bear River, known as Soda Springs, Idaho Territory, for the purpose of establishing a new post in that region for the protection of the overland emigration to Oregon, California, and the Bannock City mines.

Accompanying this expedition, and under its protection, were a large number of persons, heretofore residents of this territory, seceders (under the name of Morrisites) from the Mormon Church..

Many, if not all of them, having been reduced by the long-continued persecutions of the Mormons to the most abject poverty, have for some time past claimed and received the protection of the forces under my command.

Prudential reasons, applying as well to this command as to the Morrisites themselves, rendered it advisable that they should be removed from the vicinity of this camp, and beyond the evil influences and powers of the Mormon hierarchy.

Regarding the expedition to Soda Springs, Idaho Territory, as presenting a favorable opportunity for this purpose, I ordered transportation to be, provided for the most indigent, and the distribution of provisions, both en route and after arrival at the new post, until such time as, by industry and well-directed effort, these impoverished and persecuted people should be able to support themselves.

Some of them were able to furnish their own teams and wagons; most of them gathered up their household goods and provided themselves with a scanty supply of provisions for their sustenance. They numbered in all one hundred and sixty souls, composed of fifty-three families, seven single men, and four widows. On the next day, May sixth, I followed with company H, Second cavalry, California volunteers, Lieut. Clark commanding, and overtook the main train and infantry twenty-five miles north of this city.

Proceeding thence by easy marches of from ten to eighteen miles per day, along the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake, the entire command arrived at Brigham City, (or Boxelder,) sixty miles north, May eighth. Here leaving the infantry and train to proceed by the old beaten road through Cache and Marsh Valleys, and across the mountains, viaSublett's cut-off,” I took the cavalry to a less frequented road, crossing Bear River at the lowest ferry, thence up the plateau lying between the Malade and Bear Rivers, over the mountains dividing the waters of the Great Basin from those of Snake and Columbia Rivers; thence down the westerly side of the north valley, crossing Fort Noeuff River north of Sublett's Cut-off, and down the east and right bank of that river to Snake River ferry, a distance of two hundred miles from this post, arriving at this point May thirteenth. Our general course to the ferry was a little east of due north, passing through a series of valleys well watered and with light timber along the streams and on the mountain-sides.

The luxuriant vegetation at this early season of the year, furnishing good grass for the animals, as well as the evidences of last year's growth, bespoke the fertility of the soil, and its adaptation to agriculture.

This remark more especially applies to Marsh Valley, lying due north of and adjoining Cache Valley; the latter being already thickly settled by Mormons, whose most northerly settlements extend within fifteen or twenty miles of the first-mentioned valley, the Bear River and a low ridge dividing the two valleys.

After leaving Brigham City the command performed two night-marches, the first of twelve and the second of thirty-five miles, as I had reason to believe that wandering bands of hostile savages, remnants of the Shoshones engaged or connected with those who took part in the battle of Bear River, (January twenty-ninth last,) were in the neighborhood, and might be surprised and punished for repeated and recent outrages on emigrants and settlers.

In this expectation, however, I was disappointed, [182] few if any traces of Indians being found, and thenceforward the command proceeded by daily marches. In Fort Noeuff Valley we came across two lodges of Indians, (Shoshones,) who came unhesitatingly into camp with their squaws, satisfactorily answered all questions propounded, and gave evidence of friendly disposition toward the whites.

Giving them to understand the determination of the Government to punish summarily all bad Indians, and receiving assurances of future good conduct on their part, I passed on without molesting these Indians. At Snake River ferry were several large trains of emigrants bound north to the mines, and here recruiting their animals. Here also was an encampment of several lodges of Shoshones (or Snake) Indians, numbering in all, including those who came in the next day, two hundred and fifty or three hundred. They were well mounted, and had grazing in the vicinity a considerable quantity of stock. These Indians were reliably represented to me as friendly and peaceable, and have been living at the ferry during the past winter.

Being accompanied by Judge Doty, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Utah, a conference was held with the Indians on the night of our arrival, attended by the chiefs, old and young men, and squaws. Through an interpreter many questions were asked as to the locality of hostile chiefs and their bands, and the power of Government duly impressed upon them. They were informed that the troops had been sent to this region to protect good Indians and whites, and equally to punish bad Indians and bad white men. That it was my determination to visit the most summary punishment, even to extermination, on Indians who committed depredations upon the lives and property of emigrants or settlers.

They were also assured that if bad whites trespassed upon their rights, the report of the facts to me or my officers would be followed by punishment on the malefactors, and a prompt remedy of all grievances to the extent of my power.

After the customary smoking with the chiefs, and a grand dance by men and squaws, I ordered the distribution among them of a small quantity of bacon, flour, and sugar. The conference was satisfactory, and the exhibition of the force at my command in that far-off region, as well as our safe march through a country rarely travelled by whites, had a good effect. I learned from them that Pocotello, the great chief of the hostile Shoshones, had gone a large distance off on the Lower Snake, probably in the vicinity of the Humboldt, and that Sagnitch, one of the leaders, who escaped wounded from the battle of Bear River, was somewhere in the south, near the Mormon settlements of Cache Valley, and San Pitch was still further east.

The region immediately about the Snake River, at this ferry (which is about ten miles east of old Fort Hall) is a dry, barren, sand plain, the road to the ferry being exceedingly heavy and difficult to travel. Grass, of tolerable quality and quantity, is to be found several miles to the eastward, on the Blackfoot Creek, which here empties into the Snake, after running, perhaps, thirty miles parallel with and not far from the river. The Snake here is a rapid stream, two hundred and fifty yards in width, and at this season is twenty feet in depth, and is seldom or never fordable at this point.

Beyond and to the northward the plain of sage and greasewood extends some fifty miles to a high range of mountains, three high buttes in the midst of the plain, forming a prominent landmark.

The distance from Soda Springs to this ferry via Fort Bridger and Fort Hall emigrant road, is upward of seventy miles, pursuing a north-westerly course. Emigrants from the East via this road for the new mines, leaving the ferry, travel up the Snake River in nearly an easterly direction about seventy miles to a point nearly due north of Soda Springs along two sides of a triangle, either of which is seventy miles along, and a distance of one hundred and forty miles.

The infantry, with the settlers, not having yet arrived, detachments under Lieutenants Bradley and Ustick were despatched north and south to explore the country, and find a route for a direct and practicable wagon-road to the settlement in Cache Valley, and to report on the character of the country explored.

On the twentieth, company H, Third infantry, arrived, after a long and tedious trip, accompanied by their charge, the settlers for the new town. A suitable spot was selected on the north bank of the Bear River, near the Great Bend, and four miles east of where the Soda Springs Valley opens into old Crater Valley, and striking Snake River seventy miles above and east of the present ferry.

At this point a ferry has been established, and in a short time a good boat will be in running order. With the main body of the cavalry, train, etc., I left the Blackfoot about fifteen miles east of the ferry, and pursuing a south-easterly course across the divide, on a good natural road, arrived at Soda Springs on the seventeenth of May, passing through large and fertile valleys, lying along Ross's fork of Snake River and the North branch of the Fort Noeuff.

With the design of finding a practicable route for a wagon-road through some pass in the mountains, whereby a more direct course could be made, I sent Lieutenant Clark with a detachment of twenty-five men, with five days rations, and orders to cross the Blackfoot near its source at the base of the Foot Hills, and proceeding up the Snake River for sixty or seventy-five miles, turn to the south, seek out such pass, and join the command at Soda Springs.

His expedition was eminently successful, finding a good pass for a road along the base of the triangle before mentioned ; the latter is some fifty miles in length and twenty in breadth,

The site was surveyed immediately east of the Springs, as was, also, one square mile for a military reservation, adjoining on the east the town site, in latitude about forty-two and a half degrees [183] north, and longitude one degree eleven and a half minutes west. The water is good and abundant, as well from the river as from numerous mountain streams, easily directed for purposes of irrigation.

Back of the town, and north, wood for fuel is abundant, while on the opposite side of the river timber of large growth, suitable for building purposes, is found at a distance of less than two miles.

The soil, judging from the growth of the native grasses, and the appearance of the ground, is susceptible of cultivation and the raising of valuable crops.

The shortness of the season and the altitude of the place alone renders this at all doubtful. The settlers were allotted building lots of fair size, and proceeded immediately to the erection of shelters for themselves and families.

After remaining at this point for six days, and establishing the infantry at the new post, and looking to the present and immediate future wants of the settlers, on the thirtieth of May I returned to this post via the Mormon settlements in Cache Valley.

The explorations above referred to satisfied me of the fertility of the country surrounding Soda Springs, and of the entire practicability of making, at a small expense of labor, a good wagon-road from the northern settlements of Cache Valley, crossing Bear River at or near the battleground, through a gap in the mountains, and thence northerly along the western bank of Bear River to Soda Springs.

The road will be much more direct than the old road traversed by the infantry company, and the distance can be reduced from two hundred miles, as at present, to about one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty miles. This road connecting with the new road explored by Lieutenant Clark, north from Soda Springs to Bannock City, will render the distance from the latter place to this point not more than three hundred and fifty miles.

The new road north from Soda Springs to Snake River will shorten the route of emigrants from the East via Fort Bridger, not less than seventy miles, as well as present a route well watered and furnishing good feed for animals, with an abundance of game.

The expedition has travelled in a direct line about five hundred miles, and has carefully explored a region of country over one thousand miles in extent, heretofore little known, and concerning which only the most vague and crude ideas were held.

Before leaving Soda Springs I sent a detachment of twenty men over the mountains to pass through Bear Lake Valley, in hopes of finding the band of Sagnitch supposed to be roaming in that direction.

The detachment was unsuccessful in its object, and it joined the command a few days after at Franklin, the most northern settlement in Cache Valley, having thoroughly searched the region through which it passed. In this connection, I may add that, having occasion to send an empty train to Carson for quartermaster's stores, I furnished to one hundred and fifty Morrisites transportation to that point, and they have already arrived safe at their destination.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

P. Edw. Conner, Brigadier-General U. S. Vols., Commanding District, Lieutenant-Colonel R. C. Drum, Assistant Adjutant-General U. S. A., Department of Pacific, San Francisco, Cal.

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