Thomas L. Kane Meets the Mormons

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Thomas Leiper Kane, a well-born Philadelphia lawyer-diplomat soldier, first became acquainted with Mormonism at a conference of the Church held in Philadelphia on May 13, 1846. After listening to a discourse by Elder Jesse C. Little, a Scotch-Irish convert from Maine who was presiding over the New England and Middle States Missions, Kane requested an introduction. Within two days of their conversation Colonel Kane told Elder Little that he had decided to accompany the Mormons to California, and asked for a letter of introduction to Brigham Young. Kane then traveled to St. Louis and on to Fort Leavenworth.

At Fort Leavenworth Kane delivered messages from Washington to Colonel Kearney concerning the call of a Mormon battalion and then set out alone for the Mormon camp on the Missouri River. The journey from Leavenworth to Council Bluffs included a narrow escape from drowning, a continuing battle with mosquitoes, and a thorough soaking in a Great Plains thunderstorm. As a result of the extreme conditions of this trip, Kane became seriously ill soon after his arrival at the Mormon camp. Yet meeting the Mormons made a greater impression on him than his adventurous journey or his illness. In fact, the suffering of the Mormons affected him so much that he gave up a political career to champion their cause. Much of his life from that time on was spent in aiding the Mormons. This article reproduces a letter written by Colonel Thomas L. Kane to George Bancroft, secretary of the navy, on the same day Kane arrived at Council Bluffs and met the Mormons, July 11, 1846.

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