Volume 7 Chapter 40


Discontinuance of Daily Quotations from the Manuscript History of Brigham Young—Sundry Events in the Marching Encampment from the Close of February to Mid-June.


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With the close of February, 1846, I shall discontinue following the daily Journal known as the History of Brigham Young, Ms., because of the inadequacy of the space in this volume to continue daily entries from that Journal, to the close of the period designed—October 8, 1848. The last hundred pages or so from the daily entries of that Journal up to now have been added to this volume at the suggestion of a committee of the Twelve Apostles to whom the manuscript was submitted, because they felt the desire to have the narrative of President Young continued throughout the crucial period of the exodus from Nauvoo; the importance of the official documents connected with the last days of Nauvoo being considered by them of such historical value that they ought not to be omitted from this volume. But these daily entries may not now be further continued if volume 7 of the History is to be kept somewhat uniform in size with the previous six volumes, and hence I cover the period from the close of February, 1846, to the arrival at Council Bluffs in elliptical narrative with occasional verbatim brief quotations from the Journal at crucial points.

Breaking up of the Camp on Sugar Creek.

The first of March witnessed the breaking up of the encampment at Sugar Creek where some of the saints had been stationed for several weeks. Thence this encampment and others which followed on from Nauvoo continued marching intermittently westward amid renewing storms of the early spring months which with the breaking up of the frost in the mellow soil of the territory of Iowa made the roads well-nigh impassable and the discomfort of the westward moving wagons of the really one encampment extremely slow and wearisome.

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Incompleteness of Preparations for the Westward Trek.

The hastened departure from Nauvoo of these early companies had enforced upon them an incompleted preparation, all which was unnecessarily enforced upon them by the constantly outbreaking hostility of their enemies, and Governor Ford repeatedly harassing the leaders of the church with manufactured statements about the likely intentions of the general government to hinder the departure of the people westward, and the arrest of the leading authorities of the church. This also prevented the perfect organization of the camps that had been projected for the departure from Nauvoo, resulting in some confusion in the organization projected, which in reality was not perfected until about half the journey between Nauvoo and Council Bluffs was accomplished. After that the organization as designed in the first place was carried into effect. Of course with the weather improvements which came in the latter part of March, and of April and May, many of the discomforts and distresses of the month of February and early part of March disappeared; and the great encampment, swelled into thousands both of people and wagons with large herds of ox teams, loose cattle and horses and mules, as it approached the Missouri frontiers.

Development of Methods of Travel en Marche.

With the first sections of the moving camps a company of Pioneers was organized to forge ahead of the oncoming companies selecting the route, bridging some sloughs and streams, including the Chariton river. As springtime advanced selections of lands were made at different places, the prairie broken up and sown to early crops, which were left to be harvested by later companies as they arrived at these sections.

Meantime in the march individuals and small companies were sent to the north and south of the route to exchange household goods, excess bedding, crockery ware, etc., for corn, oats and other provisions for men and animals. Occasionally contracts for plowing, rail-splitting, building houses, etc., were secured from the settlers in this new country, for which compensation was had in provisions, corn and hay for the struggling teams, more especially in the time when spring had not brought forth the prairie grass for grazing the stock,

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Thus the line of encampments resembled in many respects an industrial column, that had to be largely self-sustaining en march.

A brass band led by Captain William Pitt to enliven the march of the camp segments was sometimes invited to give concerts at villages near to the line of march, which did much to change the feelings of hostility which occasionally was manifested in such places. Thus this band proved a very great benefit to the marching column, besides cheering the spirits of the pilgrims.

“Camp of Israel.”

“Camp of Israel” was the name given to sections of the moving caravans, but more especially to the part of the encampment graced by the presence of President Brigham Young and his associate Apostles; from which headquarters instructions and orders were issued to the encampments along the whole line of march.

Prominent Encampments.

Principal and somewhat permanent encampments were formed at Richardson’s Point, about 55 miles west of Nauvoo. Here President Young remained from the 7th of March to the 19th of that month, as heavy rains made the roads and swollen streams impassable. A similar encampment was formed on the Chariton river where the leader established his headquarters on the 27th of March and remained until the first of April. Thence he moved to an encampment on Locust river, reached on the 6th of April. Garden Grove, named by the marching saints, was headquarters of the camp on the 25th of April—150 miles from Nauvoo. Here extensive crops were planted; and again at Mount Pisgah some distance westward. This somewhat permanent encampment was located and named by Elder Parley P. Pratt. His description of arriving at the place and naming it is given in his Autobiography as follows:

Mount Pisgah

“Riding about three or four miles through beautiful prairies I came suddenly to some round and sloping hills, grassy, and crowned with beautiful groves of timber; while alternate open groves and forests seemed blended in all the beauty and harmony of an English park. While beneath and beyond, on the west, rolled a main branch of Grand river, with its rich bottoms of alternate forest and prairie. As I approached this lovely scenery, several deer and wolves, being startled at the sight of me, abandoned the place and bounded away till lost from my sight amid the groves. Being pleased and excited at the varied beauty before me, I cried out, ‘this is Mount Pisgah.’ ”

When he reported the place that evening in camp, the name was adopted by the council, and Mount Pisgah thereafter became a permanent encampment to the marching hosts of Israel. Also extensive crops were planted there that spring.

Arrival at Council Bluffs.

The march under constantly improving weather conditions was continued until Council Bluffs on the Missouri river was reached in mid-June from which point it was proposed to send out into the western wilderness, beyond the Rocky Mountains, a company of one hundred Pioneers to search out a place where crops could be planted and a resting place, as an objective, be established for the saints until perhaps more permanent locations could be determined upon.

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Irregularities en Marche.

It could not be otherwise in such a mixed company of people drawn together by the proclamation of the New Dispensation from so many sections of the United States, Great Britain and Canada, then that there would crop out in the great encampments some irregularities that bespoke uncertain training in righteousness and the outcropping of defective human nature. However, for the most part, the great leader of the expedition from Nauvoo could justly speak in high praise of the general character of the people whom he was leading into a distant wilderness.

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On Sunday, April 12, he (President Young) met with the saints attended by his usual associates of the Council of the Twelve together with Bishops Whitney and Miller, Elder Charles C. Rich and about thirty of the brethren at the encampment of Elder Heber C. Kimball. Following is the report of Brigham Young of the services held that day:

President Young’s High Praise of the Camps.

“I told them that I was satisfied that we were taking a course that would prove to be salvation, not only to this camp, but to the saints that were still behind. I did not think there had ever been a body of people since the days of Enoch placed under the same unpleasant circumstances that this people have been, where there was so little grumbling; and I was satisfied that the Lord was pleased with the majority of the ‘Camp of Israel’. But there had been some things done which were wrong. There were among us those who were passing counterfeit money and had done it all the time since we left Nauvoo. There were men among us who would steal; some pleaded our suffering from persecution, and said they were justified in stealing from our enemies because they had robbed us; but such a course tends to destroy the kingdom of God.

I propose that we proceed to the purchase [of lands] on Grand river, Iowa, and fence in a field of two miles square, build about twenty log cabins, plow some land and put in spring crops and thus spend our time until the weather settles; select men and families to take care of our improvements and the rest proceed westward. We will also send men back from Grand river to look out a new and better road to pilot the next company so that they may avoid the creeks, bad roads and settlements through which we have passed. Then those who follow can tarry on Grand river or go on to the Missouri bottoms and other places, where there will be plenty of feed for their cattle and tarry through the winter, and come on another season as soon as they can make their way through. I also propose that we select a number of men out of each company and send them tomorrow to Judge [i. e. Bishop] Miller’s in the neighborhood of Grand river to work and get corn and other provisions for the camp. Also that we select a company to start about Tuesday and go on the northern route to Grand river, find the best road and good location and let the camp follow at short stages. One hundred wagons will be sufficient to cross the mountains this season.

Heber C. Kimball moved and it was voted that my views be carried out. I moved and the council voted to proceed direct to Council Bluffs. Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, John Taylor Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, Joshua H. Holman, Henry G. Sherwood, William L. Cutler and myself were selected to proceed to Grand river.”

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In this brief account of that meeting on Sunday, April 12, 1846, is given a picture of the spirit and nature of the many events that make up the history of that strange march. 1

Bogus Again.

The matter of counterfeit money spoken of in the above remarks, is again referred to in the Manuscript History of Brigham Young. 2 It appears that the man who had the counterfeit money in his possession had let another brother have some of it on shares, which he was to exchange among the settlers north and south of the line of march in exchange for goods, etc. This man had not shared the profits with the man who gave him the bogus and hence a quarrel between them. President Young being brought to the scene of the quarrel reproved them for dealing in base coin and told the originator of the trouble that he could not govern himself, his family or a company; and unless he repented and forsook such dishonesty the hand of the Lord would be against him and all those who partook of such corruption. 3

Challenge to a Duel.

In another case two brethren had a disagreement over some wrongs sustained, fancied or real, and a challenge was issued by James M. Hemmic to Wilbur J. Earl to fight a duel. The matter coming to the ears of President Young, a council was called and an immediate judgment pronounced in this language—’That James M. Hemmic be discharged from the service of this camp forthwith by order of the council.” This was signed by Willard Richards, clerk.

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After entering the Pottawattomie Indian country a piece of bogus money was passed upon an Indian; making the discovery, the red man and his friends took an ox from the next passing company and killed it. When the matter was reported to President Young he declared “the Indian had done just right”.

Desire to Return to Nauvoo For Families.

Many of the brethren in the first companies leaving Nauvoo had left their families behind until the advanced companies could be well under way, and President Young and the council were quite severely tried by a number of these brethren constantly bringing up the request that they be allowed to return to Nauvoo to bring back their families. A number indeed did so return without the consent of the leaders. However, by the time the companies had reached Richardson’s Point, quite a list of these men in the Pioneer Companies and those in charge of the artillery with other special detachments were formally released by official action to go back for their families, and gradually the number who were desiring to return to Nauvoo fell off until the annoyance ceased to exist.

Improvised Mail Service.

Those returning to Nauvoo, however, were able to be of service by carrying letters from the camp segments back to their friends, and letters also were forwarded from Nauvoo to the headquarters of the Camp of Israel, and thus was maintained a sort of postal service, the tent of Willard Richards being known as the General Post Office, both for outgoing and incoming mail. Sometimes this service was kept up by the appointment of men to go back and forth along the line of movement.

Prayers Well-nigh Constant.

Letters from Nauvoo brought the acceptable news that companies of brethren—high priests, seventies, and elders—met in groups, almost daily, in the Temple to engage in prayer in behalf of the saints everywhere in the church. Especial prayer service was also frequently celebrated in the camps by appointment. Indeed, if one notices the frequency of prayer both in the camps and in the Temple, he is led to exclaim—If prayer can really serve its high purpose, then there was never a time like this in the church where the service of prayer was so constantly used, or more fervent appeals made to God for the deliverance of the saints!

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J.C. Little at Washington.

Meantime, during this march of the saints from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, two important things happened which had an effect upon the intended movements of the exiles. The first was the activity of Jesse C. Little at Washington, D. C., who had been appointed to preside over the Eastern States Mission with instructions to visit Washington and if possible secure the assignment for the saints in assisting the general government to settle California in anticipation of a conquest of that country by the United States then entering upon a war with Mexico. Elder Little contacted the federal administration and upon his representing the condition of the Latter-day Saint community at Nauvoo, and their westward traveling encampments, obtained the promise of President James K. Polk that an opportunity would be given for a company of at least 500 men to march with the “Army of the West” to California. They would be employed for one year, receive the usual compensation allowed to soldiers of the army of the United States, and be allowed to keep their arms and all their army equipment at the end of that time. Elder Little had proposed to raise 1000 settlers for California in the eastern branches of the church and 1000 men from their encampments on the Missouri, but the administration decided to take into service only 500 men.

Raising the Mormon Battalion.

The second thing was the order sent to General Stephen W. Kearny at Ft. Leavenworth to take the necessary steps to raise this Battalion of 500 men. The carrier of the dispatches to General Kearny was Thomas L. Kane who had cooperated with Elder Little in presenting the cause of the Church of the Latter-day Saints to the administration and other friends in Washington.

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The first knowledge of this opportunity of service with the “Army of the West” reached the Camp of Israel at Mount Pisgah, where on the 26th of June Captain James Allen of the United States army arrived, accompanied by three dragoons. The camp at Mount Pisgah was momentarily thrown into great confusion and excitement by this event, since the rumors, first set on foot at Nauvoo, that the United States would intercept the removal of the saints from the United States, was remembered, and the cry was echoed from tent to tent—”The United States troops are upon us !” “The United States troops are upon us!!” But as Captain Allen soon presented the intention of his visit, the excitement subsided, and Elder Wilford Woodruff of the Twelve Apostles, who at the time was at the encampment, referred Captain Allen’s request for the enlistment of volunteers to President Young, then at Council Bluffs, and Captain Allen proceeded on his journey westward to make known his mission to the leader. Upon the proposition being submitted to President Young to raise a company of 500 volunteers the subject was referred to the council and a favorable decision rendered. Whereupon for several weeks the different sections of the encampment were visited as far east as Mount Pisgah—and word was sent on by letter to Garden Grove—150 miles west of Nauvoo, it will be remembered. These sectors of the camp were canvassed and men gathered together at Council Bluffs to enlist in the service of the United States.

Misapprehensions of the Motives of the U.S.

Unfortunately there were many misapprehensions concerning the enlistment of this company of volunteers. For a long time it was represented as current traditional history that the opportunity given for enlistment was a “demand” or “requisition” or “draft”—sometimes one, sometimes another—of the United States government, unjust and out of all proportion to the membership of the church, and made from sinister motives of encompassing the destruction of the moving caravans either by scattering or annihilating them. First, in that if they refused to enlist, an excuse for halting their departure from the United States and their utter destruction would be justified; and on the other hand, if they complied and furnished the 500 young men, necessarily it would deplete their fighting force that they would fall victims to the large tribes of war-like Indians upon the plains and through the mountains. Nothing of this kind, of course, could be implied in the action of the administration at Washington, still it was so reported and believed. 4 In the first place, a much larger offer than 500 men was tendered to the administration, and the service was almost piteously pleaded for by a representative of the church—the president of the Eastern States Mission. In addition to that it was utterly impossible for the administration at Washington to make a “demand” or a “draft” for this service from the Mormon people, for at the utmost the president could only call for “volunteers”; since the law authorizing the president to organize an army to make war upon Mexico empowered him only to call for volunteers, 50,000 of them apportioned among the states. The quota in most of the states was over-subscribed by three times the number asked for, and the United States did not really need the service of the Mormon Battalion of 500 men in the sense that there was a lack of volunteers. The war was a very popular one.

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Time Element in Raising the Battalion.

Misapprehension also arose as to the time in which the Battalion was enlisted. It was popularly supposed that three days only were occupied in raising the Battalion. It is true the Battalion was mustered upon the rolls and commanders of companies were chosen from among the volunteers, and the Battalion put in marching order under Captain James Allen to be marched to Ft. Leavenworth in three days. But before these three days of mustering in the Battalion at Council Bluffs, more than three weeks had been used by the principal brethren of the Camp of Israel in going through the various segments of the marching column selecting and deciding upon those who should form the membership of this Battalion. The remarks accredited to Brigham Young that he said to Captain Allen:—”You shall have your Battalion, Sir; and if there are not young men enough we will take old men, and if they are not enough, we will take women!”—was undoubtedly intended for humor; for after several weeks of recruiting throughout the camps from Council Bluffs to Mount Pisgah, President Young must have been well advised that the 500 volunteers were on hand to be registered in the service of the United States.

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Reference to the Comprehensive History of the Church.

For further and full details concerning the calling of the Mormon Battalion, its departure from Council Bluffs and Ft. Leavenworth, its record march of two thousand miles through what is now the states of Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, to San Diego on the Pacific coast, and its record in California, see Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century I, vol. 3, chapters 73, 74, 75, 87. Also the final and cruel expulsion 5 of the remnant of the church members left in Nauvoo, in the latter part of September, 1846, and all their sufferings on the west bank of the Mississippi, their journey through Iowa, and their final union with their fellow exiles at Council Bluffs will be found and given in detail in the Comprehensive History of the Church, Century I, vol. 3, chapters 70, 72 and 76.

The founding of Winter Quarters and the trek during the summer of 1847 of the Pioneer Companies to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, their arrival and settlement there—all this is also treated in sufficient detail in the Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century I, and it will not be necessary to repeat these things in greater detail by following further the Manuscript History of Brigham Young. But the return of the Pioneers to Winter Quarters, late in 1847, and the steps taken to organize again the First Presidency of Three in December of that year, together with acceptance of the action by the various great divisions of the church, as then existing, is of sufficient importance to have the official account of it given from President Young’s Manuscript History and with that account as given, chiefly by himself, we will close this seventh volume.

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1. History of Brigham Young, Ms., 1846, pp. 141-3.

2. P. 171, for 1846.

3. The words of President Young were fulfilled: “The chief actor in the business,” wrote George Q. Cannon, years afterwards, “and his whose family became apostates and very disreputable people, and the hand of the Lord was wisely against him. The man also to whom he gave bogus money to pass eventually lost his standing in the church and went down “(History of the Church, Cannon, Juvenile Instructor, vol. 17, p. 293).

4. See Sergeant Daniel Tyler’s History of the Mormon Battalion, pp. 348-55.

5. It was in this final expulsion of the remnants of the saints from Nauvoo in which Daniel H. Wells figured so prominently, and so bravely, which won for him the title of “Defender of Nauvoo”, (see references above to Comprehensive History).