Book Review | BYU Studies

Book Review

History May Be Searched in Vain: A Military History of the Mormon Battalion
September 13, 2018
Book Review
History May Be Searched in Vain: A Military History of the Mormon Battalion
Reviewer Stephen B. Sorensen,

Basically, the Mexican War is an unknown conflict in American history. Most people do not know when it was fought, why it was fought, and, despite the name, who was involved. Yet from this war, the United States gained most of its western territory, including President James K. Polk's prize of California. In addition to ceding land to the United States, the war served as a training ground for an up–and–coming generation of American military officers who would achieve their own historical immortality in the American Civil War. Within the larger conflict are many interesting stories of personal and unit action that inspire and remind us of heroism, determination, and struggle despite seemingly impossible odds. It is in the context of this war that the Mormon Battalion was organized.

Many published and unpublished histories document the personal stories of those involved, but no one, until now, has made a serious scholarly attempt to explore the Battalion on a military basis. It is difficult to approach another work on the Mormon Battalion because the subject is tied to the family lore and spiritual history of so many people. It is part of the heritage that still gilds many perceptions today. None of this appears to ruffle author Sherman Fleek. Using his military and academically trained history background, he has made a lasting and very readable contribution to the scholarship on the unit by exploring what it truly was: a government–mustered collection of Mormon companies, formed into a battalion with a military objective in a time of war.