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The Mormon Battalion of Iowa Volunteers


Mormon Battalion Memorial photo by Ed Fraughton
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Mormon Battallion Monument in Presidio Park, San Diego, California

Published by authority of the General Assembly, under the direction of
Brig. Gen. Guy E. Logan, Adjutant General

A very extended account of experiences of the organization known as Mormons or Latter Day Saints - from the date of their settlement at Nauvoo, Ill., to the time of their leaving that place and moving farther west - is given in Mr. Reid's early history of Iowa. Limitation of space will only permit the compiler to quote such portions of the official orders as relate to the action of the War Department, in authorizing the organization of a battalion of Infantry Volunteers, to be composed exclusively of men belonging to the Mormon Church. This battalion - as will be seen - was to cooperate with and become a part of an expeditionary force, whose ultimate destination was to be some point on the Pacific Coast. The inducement to the Mormons to engage in such service was mainly* the opportunity it would afford them to found a new home for their people at some point in the far west. The following extracts are made from a letter of instructions from W. L. Marcy, Secretary of War, to Brigadier General S. W. Kearny, commanding United States forces at Fort Leavenworth. The letter is dated at the War Department, in Washington, June 3, 1846.

“…It has been decided by the President to be of the greatest importance, in the pending war with Mexico, to take early possession of Upper California. An expedition, with that view, is hereby ordered, and you are designated to command it. To enable you to be in sufficient force to conduct it successfully, an additional force of one thousand mounted men has been provided to follow you in the direction of Santa Fe, to be under your orders, or the officer you may leave in command at Santa Fe...I need not say to you that, in case you conquer Santa Fe, and with it the Department or State of New Mexico, it will be important to provide for retaining safe possession. Should you deem it necessary to have still more troops for the accomplishment of the object herein designated, you will lose no time in communicating your opinion on that point, and all others connected with the enterprise, to this department. Indeed, you are hereby authorized to make direct requisition upon the Governor of Missouri for troops.

"It is known that a large body of Mormon emigrants are enroute to California, for the purpose of settling in that country. You are desired to use all proper means to have a good understanding with them, to the end that the United States may have their co-operation in taking possession of and holding that country. It has been suggested here, that many of these Mormons would willingly enter into the service of the United States, and aid us in our expedition against California. You are hereby authorized to muster into service such as can be induced to volunteer, not, however, to a number exceeding one-third of your entire force. Should they enter the service, they will be paid as other volunteers, and you can allow them to designate, as far as it can properly be done, the persons to act as their officers. It is understood that a considerable number of American citizens are now settled on the Sacramento River, near Suter's establishment, called Nueva Helvetica...Should you, on your arrival in that country, find such to be the case, you are authorized to organize and receive into the service of the United States such portion of these citizens as you may think useful to aid you to hold possession of the country. You will, in that case, allow them, so far as you may deem proper, to select their own officers. A large discretionary power is invested in you in regard to these matters, as well as to all others in relation to the expedition confided to your command..."

General Kearny lost no time in acting upon the suggestion to recruit a battalion from the Mormon emigrants. Captain James Allen, of the First U. S. Dragoons, was detailed for the purpose of organizing the battalion. He received minute instructions, which he carried out to the letter. The additional inducement was offered the Mormons that, upon the expiration of their term of service, they would be allowed to retain as their private property the guns and accoutrements furnished them by the government. The battalion was promptly organized and mustered into the service of the United States. Its service is well described in the official report of Colonel P. St. George Cooke, describing the march from Santa Fe to San Diego, Cal. There were many interesting incidents connected with the march of the battalion to Santa Fe, but it was after leaving that place that its most important and arduous service was performed, as shown in the official report, which is here given in full:


San Luis Rey, California,
February 5, 1847.

Sir: - In obedience to Army of the West Order No. 33, of October 2nd, I returned from La Joya, New Mexico, to Santa Fe, to take command of the Mormon Battalion. I arrived there on the 7th of October.

I found that the paymasters, from whose arrival you anticipated a plentiful resource of money for the quartermaster department, had brought so little specie that no payment of troops could be made. The consequence was tbat Captain Hudson's Company of Volunteers for California, which you had assigned to my command, could not mount themselves; and the quartermaster's department, which scarcely commanded a dollar, could hardly have furnished the transportation. Owing to these difficulties, the Captain's new company was broken up by Colonel Doniphan, commanding.

A portion of the battalion of Mormons arrived the evening of the 9th of October, under First Lieutenant A. J. Smith, First Dragoons, who had, in the capacity of Acting Lieutenant Colonel, directed its march from Council Grove. The rear of the battalion arrived the evening of the 12th. On the 13th, I assuned command, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, by virtue of your appointment. Its aggregate present was four hundred forty-eight. I found that their mules were entirely broken down, and that as many as sixty men had, from sickness and other causes, been transported in wagons much of the march; and that there were twenty-five women, besides many children. The Assistant Surgeon of the battalion, Doctor Sanderson, and a senior officer of the department, Doctor DeCamp, reported on the cases of a very large number as subjects for discharge for disability. But the Colonel commanding determined, under all the circumstances, to retain them in service, and ordered them to be sent to winter at "Pueblo," on the Arkansas River, above Bent's Fort. There the Mormons have a temporary settlement, and there Mr. Smith had sent, from the crossing of the Arkansas, a party of ten, commanded by Captain Higgins, in charge of a large number of families, which had theretofore been attached to the Mormon Battalion. This detachment had orders to join the battalion at Santa Fe. (They arrived after its march, and, I learned, obtained permission to return to the Pueblo.) About this time, I learned that you had left your wagons, in consequence of difficulties of the country; and was anxious, for the benefit of all, to disencumber the expedition of the twenty laundresses. Learning that the most of them wished to go with the detachment to the Arkansas, I ordered them all to be sent there. With a sufficient number of ablebodied men (husbands of the women) to take care of it, the detachment amounted to eighty-six, and was placed under the command of Captain Brown.

I urged every preparation for the march, but it was impossible to complete them before the 19th of October; the battalion was paid, with treasury drafts, on the 16th and 17th. There was no salt pork in Santa Fe; a sufficiency did not arrive until the evening of the 16th. Beef cattle, furnished under previous contract to the battalion, were received on the night of the 17th; and a quantity of pack saddles the same evening. On the 19th of October, I marched out of Santa Fe, and encamped at Agua Frio. At the earnest request of two captains and three sergeants, their wives were permitted to accompany the expedition; having their own wagons and mules and provisions.

The rations had been issued to the companies, and each had three mule wagons, and one was drawn by oxen (these last were to be sent back on leaving the river). The rations were sixty days flour and salt, sugar and coffee; thirty days of pickled pork, and twenty of soap.

The mules furnished me were mostly poor and worked down; the half of them were utterly unfit to commence an ordinary march. A number, as well as of oxen, were left behind, unable to walk, in the first forty miles. Thus, I was obliged to exchange them two for one, and to purchase many others. For the first one hundred fifty miles, on the Rio Grande, there was, at that season, no grass deserving the name. I purchased, when I could, corn and fodder, but in very small quantities. I had three hundred eighty sheep purchased, near Socorro, and beeves, to make up the sixty days' rations. About seventy-five miles below that point, I became convinced that the march must fail, unless some improvement was made. I was marching about eight miles a day, in as many hours, through the deep sand; the mules, overworked, growing poorer, giving out, dying and left behind each day.

From the opinions of the guides, there was also reason to apprehend that the supply of provisions was inadequate; and the ox wagons were then to go back. There were twenty-two men on the sick report, who, with the arms and knapsacks of others, encumbered the wagons. I called on the Assistant Surgeon and company commanders for lists of those they believed worthless for the march; fifty-eight names were soon given to me. Captain Burgwin's camp was fifty-eight miles above. I resolved, then, to send back those fifty-eight men, with twenty-six days' rations, with one ox wagon, and to leave the other two there, to be sent for, retaining the teams, and to make another reduction of baggage. Many tents and campkettles were left in the wagons, and all the upright poles, for which muskets were used as substitutes. (The backs of the tents were opened, and a piece inserted, so as thus to become very large and nearly circular, in which ten men were accommodated.) The oxen I used in mule wagons; packed those unfit for draught, and also, though very lightly, the poor extra mules. The detachment went in command of a lieutenant, who received orders to report, for ultimate instructions, to the officer commanding in the territory. A calculation showed that, by these measures, with increased means of transportation, the loads were reduced twenty per cent: and also that the rations (or half rations) of the battalion were increased by eight days. Then, and only then, could I begin to see my way to the end, with confidence. After these two weedings of the old, the feeble and sickly, from the battalion, lads and old grey-headed men still remained.

The numerous guides and hirelings you sent to me, I found at the lowest village; they had been idle for weeks, and I found I was to venture, with my wagons, into a wide region, unknown to any of them. The river route improved greatly, and, opposite, was apparently a practicable gap in the mountain barrier, between mine and the Chihuahua Road (the fine but badly watered stretch known as the Jornada del Muerto). About thirty miles lower, and in the vicinity of a point called San Diego, the mountains which, so far, had confined the road to the river, break off, and then I turned short to the right, on the arid table land of Mexico, which I found studded with the profusion of isolated mountains of volcanic origin. My method, now, was this: Leroux (guide) with five, six or seven others, would get a day in advance, exploring for water, in the best practicable direction; finding a spring or a puddle (sometimes a hole) in nearly inaccessible rocks, he would send a man back, who would meet me and be the guide. This operation would be repeated until his number was unsafely reduced, when he would await me, or return to take a fresh departure. This was the plan, but ever varying and uncertain, attended, of course, with much anxiety; and sometimes, the inconvenience of neglect or tardiness, on the part of the guides, making the road once or twice, to vary from the better course, which a more thorough examination, in the first instance, would have discovered. Such, with some vicissitudes of risk and suffering, and the accidental aid of a little confused information from a trading party we encountered, was the manner of my progress for about two hundred fifty miles from the Rio Grande to the San Pedro, a tributary of the Gila. But I anticipate.

Thus I reached the Ojo de Vaca, about twenty-six miles south from the copper mines, on an old road to Yanos, used for transporting the ore. To the west appeared a vast prairie opening, between the mountains; it was the course; but the principal guides had each his dread of it, founded upon vague information, from Indians, of its destitution of water; and watering places might exist and not be found by us. They had explored about twenty-five miles of it, finding an out of the way and insufficient hole of water ten miles distant.

I ascended a high peak, and there, taking the bearings of distant land marks, which they professed to know, earnestly consulted with them and the interpreter, who had lately passed through Sonora, as to the best course to be taken. They were deceived, themselves, as I believe, and so deceived me, as to the direction of Yanos; and gave a decided opinion as to the unsafety of venturing into the prairie; and also, that it would be best to take the Yanos road, and thence, by an old trail, a road formerly used to connect the presidios or frontier garrisons, Yanos, Fronteras, Fruson, etc.

The next morning, having reluctantly assented, I took the Yanos road. A mile or two convinced me (and them) that its general direction was very different from their representations; and east of south. I then took the responsibility of turning short to the right, and ordered them to guide me to the water hole. I had some confused information of water to be found in the direction of San Bernadino. Mr. Leroux had been very decided that it would be necessary to go by this southern point, even if I ventured that far on the unknown prairie. I then marched forty miles without water, except a drink for part of the men, where I had hoped to find enough for encamping. The battalion was not prepared for it and suffered much. These were anxious circumstances and the responsibility I had taken weighed heavily upon me; their safety and my success seemed both doubtful. Fortunately, a large spring was reached on the second night, after a continuous march of thirteen hours; and when men and mules were at the point of exhaustion, for the weather was quite warm.

I was joined here by a party of New Mexicans, who had been trading with the Apaches. I purchased twenty-one mules of them, giving a check on the Assistant Quartermaster at Santa Fe. I also hired one of them to conduct Leroux to the mountain valley, where they had left the Apaches, and sent him to seek an Indian guide. A day or two after, we found a trail leading toward San Bernadino; and the fourth day, early, just after Chabonnaux, the only guide then present, had very unwarrantedly gone off hunting, we fell into what was believed to be the trail or road from Yanos, to Fronteras; and it led us to a precipitous and rocky descent of perhaps a thousand feet, amongst broken, wild and confused peaks, which extended as far as could be seen from our great height. I soon found the trail could not be made passable for the wagons; and I hunted myself for a more promising descent, and, in fact, saw a part of the proper one, but very inaccessible from the mountain height on which I then was. My next care was to seek the nearest ground suitable for a camp; fortunately I found water about a mile off. All pronounced the country before us impassable for wagons; I, nevertheless, organized a large working party, under Lieutenant Stoneman, and sent him to make a passage. That night Leroux arrived, bringing an Apache chief, whom he had got hold of with difficulty, and probably great address, so shy were they found. Next morning it was owing to Leroux's decided assertions and arguments that there could be, and was, no other known pass but the horse trail, that I did not insist on his thorough examination. He even asserted, but was mistaken, that he had examined the opening I had seen and described, and believed might be a wagon road. Meanwhile, the party continued the second day hard at work, with crow bar, pick, etc.; whilst I sent one company and about half the baggage, packed on mules, to the first water on the trail, in a deep ravine below. It was about six miles, and the mules were brought back in the evening. Next morning they took the rest of the loading, and I succeeded that day, with much labor and difficulty, breaking one, in getting the wagons to the new camp. Doctor Foster accidentally found the outlet of an old wagon road, (into mine) and, following back, it led him to the verge of the plain, about a mile from our point of descent. He says this is called the pass of Guadalupe; and that it is the only one, for many hundreds of miles to the south, by which the broken descent from the great table land of Mexico can be made by wagons, and rarely by pack mules. I hold it to be a question whether the same difficult formation does not extend north, at least to the Gila. If it is so, my road is probably the nearest and the best route. But, if the prairie to the north is open to the San Pedro, and water can be found, that improvement will make my road not only a good but a direct one from the Rio Grande to the Pacific.

San Barnadio [San Bernadino] is a ruined ranch, with buildings enclosed by a wall, with regular bastions. It overlooks a wide, flat and rich valley, watered by a noble spring, which runs into one of the upper branches of the Huaqui River, which is but a few miles distant. Here I succeeded in meeting a few of the Apaches, and obtained a guide, who went about twenty miles, and described the rest of the route to the San Pedro. He was afraid to venture further, and return alone over the plain; the point where he turned back was within fourteen miles of the presidio of Fronteras. It was in the mountain pass that we first saw the wild bulls, from which the command obtained their exclusive supply of meat for about two weeks. They are the increase from those abandoned, when the two ranches of San Bernadio [San Bernadino] and San Pedro (on the river of the same name) were broken up in consequence of incessant Indian attacks. They have spread and increased, so as to cover the country; they were as wild and more dangerous than buffalo.

I made the next sixty-two miles to the San Pedro River with little more difficulty than cutting my way through dense thickets of mesquite and many other varieties of bushes, all excessively thorny. It was but twenty-seven mJles without water over the last divide; there was snow one day, and for about two weeks, at that time, we suffered with cold. I descended the San Pedro fifty-five miles, to a point whence a trail goes to Tucson. [FOOTNOTE: In the copy furnished by Mr. Reid, this word is first spelled Tucson and afterwards Tueson. We have followed the first spelling, althougii the original, printed Report of Colonel Cooke (since found) gives the spelling "Tucson" in every case.] The guides represented that it was eighty-five miles of very difficult, if practicable, ground, to the mouth of the San Pedro, and one hundred from there to the Pimos; also very bad, and little or no grass: and, on the other hand, that it was only about ninety miles of good road, with grass, by Tucson to the same point. I reflected that I was in no condition to go an unnecessary one hundred miles, good or bad; and that, if their statements were true, the future road must go by the town. I had previously sent Leroux, Foster and others to examine if there was water on the thirty miles, which was the estimated distance to Tucson. Leroux had just returned; he had found water at a "still house," twenty miles from the river; and had encountered there a Sergeant's party of dragoons. He had made up a story to get off; but, to give it color, Doctor Foster fancied it necessary to go on to the town. Leroux was told by Indians that two hundred soldiers, with artillery, had been there concentrated.  I reached the water next day, and probably surprised the Sergeant's party. I found them cutting grass; but the Sergeant, as if the bearer of a flag, delivered me a singular message from the commander, which amounted to a request that I should not pass his post. Next morning I made prisoners of four others, who had come, probably, with provisions; and, as Doctor Foster's long stay had made me uneasy for him, I dismissed one of them with a note stating that I should hold the others as hostages for his safety; and promised to release the prisoners if he was sent to me that evening. Deceived as to the distance, but expecting to encamp without water, I marched late; and, having made twelve miles on road very difficult in places, I encamped at sundown on the high prairie. At midnight, Foster reached me; with him came two officers, one as a "commissioner," with written instructions to offer a kind of truce, by the terms of which I was to pass the town by a certain point, and to hold no communication with the people. I rejected them, and demanded a capitulation; which the commissioner, with great form, wrote, after his own fashion, in Spanish, and I signed it. The terms bound the garrison not to serve against the United States during the present war; and, as the only further tokens of surrender, to deliver to me two carbines and three lances; my men to enter freely and trade with the inhabitants of the town. After a tedious conference of two hours, in which we had been very friendly, but very cold, the officers departed, assuring me my terms could not be accepted. Believing I was eight or nine miles from town, I took measures to march at daylight; but unfortunately, the raules, being herded in mesquite bushes, and without water, the half of them, in the darkness of night, escaped the guard; and I could not possibly march, with any prudence, before eight o'clock.

The distance proved to be sixteen miles. About five miles from town I was met by a dragoon, or lancer, who delivered me a letter, simply refusing my terms. I told him there was no answer, and he rode off. I then ordered the arms to be loaded. Immediately afterwards, two citizens rode up and reported the place had been evacuated. I arrived at one o'clock, and, having passed through the fort, encamped in the edge of the town. Two small field pieces had been taken off, and all public property of value, except a large store of wheat.

The garrisons of Tubac, Santa Cruz and Fronteras had been concentrated, and, I understood Doctor Foster, there were altogether about two hundred thirty men; but I have lately learned he only estimated them at one hundred thirty. I remained in camp the next day, December 16th. There was very little grass, and I fed my mules, cattle and sheep on the wheat, and brought off enough for two more days in the adjoining desert. That day, to cover some small parties of mule hunters, I made a reconnaissance, with about sixty men, marching half-way to an Indian village, about ten miles off, where the enemy were stationed. (I intended attacking him under favorable circumstances, but the path led me through a dense mesquite forest, very favorable to an ambush; I learned, however, that this demonstration caused him to continue his retreat.)

The garrison attempted to force all the inhabitants to leave the town with them. Some of them returned whilst I lay there, and I took pains that all should be treated with kindness. The day that I arrived there, a detachment of twenty-five men, who had been posted at the Pimos, to observe or harass my march, having been sent for by express, passed unobserved around a mountain, near town, and joined the main body. (I afterwards learned that they had made a threatening demand for the mules and goods left for me with the Indian chief. He refused, and expressed his determination to resist, by force, any attempt to take them.) On leaving T., I sent to its late commander. Captain Commaduran, by a citizen messenger, a letter for the governor of Sonora, and I afterwards received an answer that it would be transmitted. It is appended. All things considered I thought it the proper course to take toward a reputed popular governor of a state, believed to be disgusted and disaffected to the imbecile central government. It was intimated to me, whilst in Tucson, that, if I would march toward the capital of the department, I would be joined by sufficient numbers to effect a revolution.

0n the 17th, I marched late, as I did not expect to find water. At eight o'clock P. M., I encamped twenty-four miles from Tucson, with no water or grass. Ten or fifteen miles further there is a little water, in a mountain, close to the road, but it could not be found; and I marched the second day thirty miles, and, at nine P. M., again encamped without water; but the men, about sundown, had a drink from a small puddle, too shallow for the water to be dipped with a cup. On the third day, I marched early, eight or nine miles, and encamped at rain water pools. The next day I found it ten miles to the Gila, at a small grass bottom, above the Pimo villages. The mules were forty-eight miles without water; the men marched twenty-six of thirty-six consecutive hours, and sixty-two miles in rather more than two days, in one of which no meat rations were issued.

Thus the ninety miles of the guides turned out to be one hundred twenty-eight to the village; fifty-seven miles nearer than the reputed distance by the San Pedro. Excepting four or five miles, the road was excellent, but over a true desert. There is, however, a better watered road from Tucson, which strikes the Gila higher up. I believe this route can be well taken for six months in the year, and that, like much of the road on this side, it is impassable in summer, unless for travelers. It is a great gold district; rich mines have been discovered in many of the mountains in view, but it is so barren and destitute of water that even a mining population can scarcely occupy it.

I halted one day near the villages of this friendly, guileless and singularly innocent and cheerful people, the Pimos. There Francisco met me with your letter from Warner's ranch; he brought with him seven mules found on the Gila, and, altogether, I obtained at the villages twenty which had belonged to the dragoons. They were not sufficiently recruited to be of much service. I traded the Indian goods and every spare article for corn. After feeding it several days, I brought away twelve quarts for each public animal, which was fed in very small quantities.

With the aid of a compass, and closely estimating the distances, I had made a rude sketch of my route from the point on the Rio Grande, where our roads diverged, to their junction, near the villages. It is herewith submitted. I have good reason to believe that even with pack mules better time can be made on my route than on yours; and the mules keep in good order, for mine improved on the greater part of it. On the 27th of December, (after making the forced march, without water, across the bend of the Gila,) in consequence of the information received in your letter, I determined to send my useless guides, express, to give you information of my approach, etc.; hoping thus, as I said, to meet orders at Warner's ranch on the 21st of January, and to be of service to your active operations. I also sent for assistance in mules, understanding that you had placed a number of them in that vicinity.

Sixty or seventy miles above the mouth of the Gila, having more wagons than necessary, and scarcely able to get them on, I tried the experiment, with very flattering assurance of success, of boating with two pontoon wagon beds and a raft for the running gear. I embarked a portion of the rations, some road tools, and corn. The experiment signally failed, owing to the shallowness of the water on the bars; the river was very low. In consequence of the difficulty of approaching the river, orders mistaken, etc., the flour only was saved from the loading, and the pontoons were floated empty to the crossing of the Rio Colorado, where they were used as a ferry boat. I passed that river on the 10th and 11th of January. On the first day and night, the loading of the wagons and many men were boated over. On the morning of the 11th, the mules were driven two miles, from grass; then drew the wagons through the long ford of a mile, nearly swimming. The wagons were then loaded in the willow thicket, and I marched nearly fifteen miles over the sandy road, to the first well, the same day; a great effort and labor. But, as there was no food for the mules on this side, I deemed it so necessary that I forced it, against every obstacle; marching, in fact, when one company's wagon was in a hole in the middle of the river, the sheep and rear guard on the opposite bank. In the well I found no water; and, when obtained by digging deeper, it was in quick sand, and quite insufficient for the men. I had another well dug, and, against hope almost, when considerably below the water level of the old one, that of the river water suddenly boiled up.

I viewed this, as in other instances, a Providential deliverance. It was the most trying hour of my long military service. That water failing, the next well would also; and all the circumstances well considered, it will be found that on obtaining it not only depended my military success, but the lives of very many, who justly could hold me responsible.

When of no real use to me, some wagons, which were broken on the march, were left, in order to save the mules. At this first well I left three, because the mules were unequal to drawing them. I had then remaining one for each company and two others. I sent forward a strong party to the next well, to prepare it, and dig another. I arrived there the second day, soon after noon; and, during my stay, until eleven A. M. the following morning, I could not obtain enough water. There I left two more wagons (arrangements were made for sending for all these wagons the moment that I arrived at the first ranch).

I then took the direction of the 'pozo hondo' - the deep well; sending a party through the first day. and arriving before noon, the second. Although a second deep well had been dug, the water was insufficient even for the men to drink. I had spent the night without water, and thirty miles of desert were still before me; the men wayworn and exhausted, half fed, and many shoeless. But I met there a relief of mules and some beeves. Mr. Leroux had sent back fifty-seven mules, which were chiefly young, unbroken, and wild as deer, and the cattle, in one body, (and by poor hands) so a day's time had been lost, and twenty of the mules.

I immediately had a beef killed for a meal; a drink of water issued to the men, the wild mules caught by their Indian drivers, with the lasso, thrown, haltered and harnessed; the poor animals, which then had not drank for thirty-six hours, struggling desperately during the whole process, which lasted above two hours under a hot sun. Then I marched until an hour after dark, and halted to rest until two o'clock in the morning. I had chosen a spot where there was some large bunch grass, which was cut for the mules. There was no moon, but at two o'clock the battalion marched again; and, at midday, having come eighteen miles more, after long ascending its dry bed, met the running waters of the Carizita. The most of the animals had been without water for about fifty hours. Here there was but little grass, and I marched next day fifteen miles, through the sands, to the Bajiocito, the poor men staggering, utterly exhausted, into camp. At this time there should have been half rations of flour for nine days; but owing, probably, to inevitable wastage, the last of it was eaten here. I rested a day, and received at evening a letter from Commander Montgomery. It advised me of your march to Pueblo; of the tardy arrival of my express, and of communication with you being cut off. Next day I encountered extraordinary obstacles to a wagon road, and actually hewed a passage with axes through a chasm of solid rock, which lacked a foot of being as wide as the wagons. Two of them were taken through in pieces, whilst the work was going on. So much was I retarded that I encamped at dark on the mountain slope, making but seven miles, without water, and without being prepared for it. San Philippi was six miles on this side, but there was a ridge between, so rough with rocks that, after much labor, it took extreme care to get the wagons over in daylight. At San Philippi I met one of my express men, who had returned, according to instructions, to guide me. Though direct from San Diego, he brought neither orders nor news. I encamped that night near the summit of the beautiful pass, overlooking the valley of Agua Calienta. On the 21st day of January I arrived and encamped at Warner's ranch, the very day, as it happened, I had promised in my letter of December 27th.

This was seven miles off the road to San Diego; but I had resolved, the night before, to march for the Pueblo de los Angeles, where the enemy had concentrated, unless I met orders or fresh information. That which I had, placed your forces approaching it on the south, and Lieutenant Colonel Fremont's from the north. Thus, I should advance from the east, and from the only pass leading to Sonora. I halted at Warner's the 22nd, to rest and refresh my men, before commencing, as I hoped, active operations. The day was required, in fact, to obtain beef cattle, and to collect the new mules, many of which had escaped to their wonted pastures in that vicinity.

On the 23rd, I marched eighteen miles on the road to Pueblo. That night we were exposed to a drenching rain, and a wind storm which prostrated every tent. The storm continued the next day; I, however, marched, over a very bad road, three or four miles, to more sheltered ground, and better grass for the animals. (A mountain torrent in front would have forbidden further progress.)

On the 25th, I marched into the Temecala valley, and encamped four days' march from Pueblo. There I received a letter, written by your orders, which had followed me by Warner's. From this letter I could infer that hostilities were suspended, and that I was expected at San Diego. Accordingly, next morning, I left the valley by a very difficult outlet, and, descending into that of the San Luis, fell into the road leading from Pueblo de los Angeles.

At San Luis Rey I received your instructions, by express, to marcli to San Diego Mission, and there take post. I arrived there, by a very bad cross road, on the 29th of January, and the same evening reported to you, in person, at San Diego.

This march from Santa Pe has extended, by my daily estimate, to eleven hundred twenty-five miles. It has been made in one hundred two days, in fourteen. of which no march was made; so that the marching days average slightly less than thirteen miles. The rest days have been very nearly one in seven. It is believed, by many who have had experience, that the weekly day of rest is advisable on a long march, even for speed. In looking back, I find that the half of mine were unavoidable detentions. I made, also, some twelve marches of less than nine miles, in consequence of extraordinary bad road, or the delays of road making, over difficult ground, and also the necessity, at times, of accommodating the marches and camps to inconvenient watering places. If I had continued on the most direct route to San Diego, the distance would have been rather under eleven hundred miles - about eighteen hundred miles from Independence, Mo., by Santa Fe.

The constant tenor of your letters of instruction made it almost a point of honor to bring wagons through to the Pacific; and so I was retarded in making and finding a road for them. From this road, any that may follow will have various advantages. The breaking the track, often through thickets of mesquite and other thorny bushes, although worked on by pioneers, was so laborious that I habitually relieved the front wagons about every hour; but a team on a firm open prairie labors much less, if on a beaten track. Much of the difficult ground on the Gila, consisting of light porous clay, becomes a good beaten road. My journal and sketch indicate some points where the road may be shortened; but, between the Ojo de Vaca and the point of leaving the San Pedro River, it is probable that between eighty and one hundred miles may be saved, and some bad road be avoided. It is only necessary for a small, experienced party, well provided with water, (with Indian guides, if practicable,) to explore the prairie, and discover the water places. The direct distance is about one hundred sixty miles.

The worse road is on the Rio Grande, opposite the upper and middle part of the Jornada del Muerto. It may probably be avoided by coming the Jornada road half way down or more, and then crossing to the west side. I have reason to believe that there are gaps in the mountains, and opposite where my road becomes good. This assumes that the great highway will pass as far north as Santa Fe - which may not be the case. The country from the Rio Grande to Tucson is covered with grama-grass, on which animals, moderately worked, will fatten in winter.

An emigrant company may leave Independence, Mo., from June 10th to late in August, or Van Buren, Ark., later. It will subsist a short time on buffaloes, and be able to lay up much of the meat, dried or salted. In New Mexico, it may rest, make repairs, and obtain supplies - particularly of mules, sheep and cattle - which, in that grazing country, will be found cheap; it may pass through settlements for two hundred fifty miles; and they will be much extended in the rich river bottoms to the south, when the Indians shall be subdued.

I brought to California both beeves and sheep; the latter did, perhaps, the best, requiring little water; they gave no trouble; two or three men can drive and guard a thousand. At Tucson, or at the Pimo villages, fresh supplies may be obtained. The Pimos and Maracopas, fifteen or twenty thousand in number, wonderfully honest and friendly to strangers, raise corn and wheat, which they grind and sell cheaply for bleached domestics, summer clothing of all sorts, showy cotton handkerchiefs, and white beads. They also have a few mules and cattle. I gave them some breeding sheep. Oxen will not do well for draught; their feet become tender; and, west of the Pimos, their food is not found sufficient or suitable. Mules require no shoes; I cached a large quantity on the Gila, having used none. Undoubtedly, the fine bottom land of the Colorado, if not of the Gila, will soon be settled; then all difficulty will be removed. The crossing is about one hundred miles from the mouth, and about sixty above the tide. For six months in the year, the river is said to be navigable by steamboats for three hundred fifty miles; its bottoms are wide and rich; and sugar, undoubtedly, may be grown. In winter, it is fordable at the crossing; but I think it has at least as much water as the Missouri at the same season, and may be navigable by steamers at the mouth of the Gila at all seasons.

In conclusion, much credit is due to the battalion for the cheerful and faithful [manner] in which they have accomplished the great labors of this march, and submitted to its exposures and privations. They would much have preferred to lighten and abridge them, by leaving the wagons; but, without previous discipline, all was accomplished with unity and determination of spirit. To enable the mules to endure the extraordinary labor of drawing these wagons without a road, and often without food or water, the duties ot guards were greatly increased to herd them safely, as they did, over tracts sometimes a mile in extent, sometimes two miles from the camp, or beyond a river; and ten times did the battalion encamp without water. I am indebted to Lieutenants Smith and Stoneman, of the First Dragoons, who performed the duties of Assistant Commissary of Subsistence and Assistant Quartermaster, for valuable assistance, particularly in directing the pioneers. Mr. Willard P. Hall, too, was ever ready to give me aid, particularly in the most active and venturous duties.

Thus, General, whilst fortune was conducting you to battles and victories, I was fated to devote my best energies to more humble labors; and all have cause to regret that the real condition of affairs in this territory was so little understood. But it is passed, and I must be content with having done my duty in the task which you assigned to me, if, as I trust, to your satisfaction.

Respectfully submitted,
P. St. George Cooke, Lieutenant Colonel,
Commmanding Mormon Battalion.

Brigadier General S. W. Kearny, Gommanding Army of the West.
Sam Diego, Upper California.

It will thus be seen that the Mormon Battalion had a very remarkable record of service. The subjoined roster of the battalion was transcribed from Mr. Reid's early history without abridgment. The compiler has endeavored to describe the main incidents connecting the State of Iowa with the War with Mexico, and, considering its sparse population, it certainly must be conceded that its citizens made a record in that war unsurpassed by anyother State in the Union.

Mormon Ballion March Map by Brian Cole

Mormon Battalion March Map by Brian Cole
Click Map to Enlarge


The official Muster-out Rolls of the Mormon Battalion were supplied by the Assistant Chief, Records Division of the Auditor of the Treasury for the War Department. We have also a printed list of all the companies of the battalion taken from "A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion," written by Daniel Tyler, a Corporal and Sergeant in Company C. This affords an opportunity for the comparison of the two lists, and, where differences appear in the spelling of names or otherwise, they will be noted. In a few instances some additional accounts of personal history will be given, found in a Church Encyclopedia, printed in the December, 1889, number of the Historical Record, a Church periodical published in Salt Lake City. The detached service noted after the names of several of the soldiers we find explained in the history of the battalion. A guard was detached on September 16, 1846, from a point on the Arkansas River, under Captain Higgins, to take a number of families which had accompanied the battalion to Pueblo, a Mexican town located farther up the Arkansas River - the present city of Pueblo, Colorado. This guard appears on the official record as on detached service, by order of Acting Lieutenant Colonel A. J. Smith.

Again, on October 17th, those incapable, from sickness and debility, were sent from Santa Fe to Pueblo, by order of Colonel Doniphan, Commanding the Army of the West. Again, on November 10th, the twenty-second day after leaving Santa Fe, when about to turn off from the valley of the Rio Grande to cross the mountains and deserts. Colonel Cooke sent back Lieutenant W. W. Willis, with fifty-five sick men, to Santa Fe, and from there they also marched to Pueblo.

These detachments all remained at Pueblo during the winter, and late in May took up their march for Salt Lake City, where they arrived during July, and were there mustered out to date July 16th, the expiration of their term of service.

This explains the note on the official roll. [See also record of Gilbert Hunt, of Company A, for further explanation of muster out.]

The Iowa Mormon Battalion Muster Rolls 
CAPTAIN J. D. HUNTER’s - Company B

[*NOTE: The additional inducement was offered the Mormons that, upon the expiration of their term of service, they would be allowed to retain as their private property the guns and accoutrements furnished them by the government.]

Part extracted by Becke Dawson. Copyright Becke Dawson. All rights reserved except permission granted to reproduce or distribute to not-for-profit individuals or organizations. Remainder extracted by Lynn Diemer.

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