The Move South



In spring 1858, Mormons in Salt Lake City anticipated an invasion of U.S. troops sent by President Buchanan. They feared a continuation of previous persecution in Missouri and Illinois, and tensions were high. Inspired by the 1855 Crimean War event in which Russian forces destroyed their military stronghold before surrendering to French and British forces, LDS Church president and political leader Brigham Young called for all citizens of Salt Lake City and outlying settlements to abandon their homes and establish temporary living situations fifty miles to the south, around Provo. This preemptive defense, named the “Sevastopol Policy” after the destroyed Crimean city, encouraged Mormons to relinquish their city rather than submit to the perceived tyranny of the national army. On June 26, 1858, General Albert Sidney Johnston marched U.S. troops into Salt Lake City only to discover a deserted town. By July, residents of Salt Lake returned home. The “Move South” did not materially affect the outcome of the Utah War. The new non-Mormon governor of Utah Territory was installed peacefully, and a military presence was established at Camp Floyd, a good distance from Salt Lake City. Intangible costs of the move were high, as communities were disorganized and work was disrupted.


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