The Utah Expedition (Part II)
Its causes and consequences
In the mean while Congress had assembled. The agitation on the subject of Slavery, far from being suppressed, or even overshadowed, burned more fiercely than ever before. The Pro-slavery faction in Kansas, stimulated by the constant support of the National Administration, was engaged in a final effort to maintain a supremacy over the affairs of that Territory which the current of immigration from the Free States had been steadily undermining. Against the will of nine-tenths of the population, it had framed, with a show of technical legality, a Constitution intended to perpetuate Slavery, which the Administration indorsed and presented to Congress with an urgent recommendation for the admission under it of Kansas as a State. In the commotion which these events excited throughout the country, the transient gleam of importance which had attached to the Mormon War was almost extinguished. The people of the States no longer felt a much more vital interest in news from that remote region than in tidings from the rebellion in India or of the wars in China. Their attention, sympathies, and curiosity were all fastened upon the action of Congress with respect to Kansas, — for therein, it was believed, were contained the germs of the political combinations for the Presidential election of 1860. The same listlessness with regard to affairs in Utah pervaded the Cabinet. All its prestige was staked on the result of the impending struggle in the House of Representatives over the Lecompton Constitution, and its energies were abstracted from every other subject, to be concentrated upon that alone.
Just at this time, Mr. Thomas L. Kane, of Pennsylvania, — son of the late Judge of the United States District Court for that State, and brother of the late Dr. Kane, the Arctic explorer, — solicited the Administration for employment as a mediator between the Mormons and the Federal Government. Mr. Kane was one of the few persons of education and social standing who were well acquainted with Mormon history. He had visited them at Winter Quarters, in Iowa, during their exodus from Nauvoo, in the capacity of a commissioner to enlist the Mormon battalion which served in the Mexican War. During an illness which attacked him there, he was treated with an unremitting kindness, for which his gratitude has been proportionate. Belonging to a family whose members have been distinguished by strong traits of individuality, not to say eccentricity, from that moment forward he displayed a practical interest in the welfare of the sect. It is said that he became a convert to the religious doctrines of Mormonism. Whether this be true at all, and, if so, to what extent, it would be profitless at the present time to inquire. For the purposes of this narrative, it is sufficient to assert only, what is unchallenged, that he was a sincere admirer of the Mormons as a people, and for a long series of years had defended them from every reproach with a zeal which many of his friends thought inordinate.
Its experience in Kansas had familiarized the Cabinet with the use of secret agents; but, nevertheless, the proposition of Mr. Kane was coldly received. After a brief correspondence, he started for California, in no capacity a representative of the government, if he himself is to be believed, but bearing letters from Mr. Buchanan indorsing his character as a gentleman, and exhorting Federal officials to render him such courtesies as were within their power. Having arrived at San Francisco, he journeyed southward to the lately abandoned Mormon settlement of San Bernardino, near Los Angeles, travelling under the assumed name of Osborne, and proclaiming his business to be the collection of specimens for an entomological society in Philadelphia. There his real name and purpose were detected, but he succeeded in obtaining transportation to Salt Lake City, where he arrived on the 25th of February, 1858, and was greeted by Young and Kimball, and the rest of the Mormon magnates, as an old and cherished friend.
In the Annual Message of the President to Congress, his disposition to make every other issue subordinate to that of admitting Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution was manifest; and it influenced the tone of those paragraphs which treated of affairs in Utah. Notwithstanding the fact that the Mormons had committed every act of warfare against the United States short of taking life, Mr. Buchanan qualified his language concerning their conduct, stating that, “unless Brigham Young should retrace his steps, the Territory of Utah will be in a state of open rebellion,” but declining to accept the logical inference from his own expression, that the rebellion was at the time open and manifest. He recommended no further legislation concerning the matter than that four regiments should be added to the army, to supply the place of those which had been withdrawn from service in the East.
It was evident that the purpose for which he had originally planned the expedition had failed. Forced, after all, no less by inclination than by circumstances, into such a revival of Slavery agitation as he had never contemplated during the interval between his election and inauguration, the Utah War only incumbered his administration, promoting neither its policy nor its prosperity. However it might result, it would not in the least advance his interests; and it became his opinion, that, the sooner it was quieted, the better for the welfare of the Democratic party, which would be held responsible by the country for all mistakes in its management. After us the deluge, seemed to be adopted as the motto of the entire policy of the Administration.
The only movement in Congress concerning Utah, before the New Year, was the introduction into the House of Representatives, by Mr. Warren of Arkansas, of a badly-worded resolution, prefaced by a worse-worded preamble, looking to the expulsion from the floor of Mr. Bernhisel, the Mormon delegate from the Territory. A lively discussion ensued concerning the question of privilege under which Mr. Warren claimed the right to introduce the resolution, and when it was ruled in order, much hesitation was evinced about adopting it, some members fearing that it would establish a dangerous precedent for emergencies that might arise in the future history of the country. The tone of debate showed that there was little difference of opinion in the House concerning Utah affairs, — the unanimity, however, being due in great part to ignorance and indifference. The issue of Slavery in Kansas was absorbing. Mr. Warren’s resolution was referred to the Committee on Territories, and slumbered upon their table through the whole session. The only other movement in Congress, which deserves mention in this connection, was the introduction, towards the close of January, by Senator Wilson of Massachusetts, of a joint resolution authorizing the appointment of commissioners to examine into the Mormon difficulties, “with a view to their adjustment.” This was referred by the Senate to the Committee on Military Affairs, and was never heard of again.
The recommendation of the President for an increase of the army secured favorable consideration from committees of both Houses, and the discussion which ensued, upon the bills reported for that purpose, was filled with allusions to the Utah question. Mr. Thompson of New York, and Mr. Boyce of South Carolina, both made elaborate speeches on the subject; but neither of them proposed any scheme for its solution. Such a scheme, however, was suggested by Mr. Blair of Missouri, who advised a reorganization of the Territorial government, in order to vest the legislative power in the Governor and the Judges, for which a precedent existed in the instance of the old Northwestern Territory; but no action was had upon this suggestion. Through the entire debate, Mr. Bernhisel remained silent. During the winter, the President conferred upon Colonel Johnston the brevet rank of Brigadier-General, believing that the uniform discretion he had manifested entitled him to promotion; and the nomination was confirmed by the Senate.
While such were the transactions in Congress, the Mormons, in December, had organized a government like that under which they had hitherto subsisted. Their legislature—the same which had been elected under the Organic Act of the Territory—met at Salt Lake City on the second Monday of that month, in the hall of the Council House, and organized by the choice of Heber C. Kimball as President of the Council and John Taylor as Speaker of the House. Brigham Young retained the title and authority of Governor, and addressed to the legislature the customary annual message, reviewing the condition of the Territory. This document was prepared in reality by Taylor, and was worded with considerable ingenuity. Not the slightest allusion was made to the declarations of independence that had been reiterated throughout the summer and autumn, but the relations of Utah to the United States were discussed as those of a Territory to the Union. The President was himself charged with treason in his action towards the Mormons, the Governor and Judges whom he had appointed were reviled as depraved and abandoned men, and the army was again proclaimed a mob, — while Utah was lauded as the “most loyal Territory known since the days of the Revolution.” The theory of Squatter-Sovereignty was the basis of the argument, and Mr. Buchanan was accused, and with some reason, of inconsistency in his application of that doctrine.
In response to this message, the legislature passed a series of resolutions, pledging itself to sustain “His Excellency Governor Young” in every act he might perform or dictate “for the protection of the lives, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Territory,” — asserting that the President had incurred the contempt and decided opposition of all good men, on account of the “act of usurped authority and oppression” of which he was guilty, in “forcing profane, drunken, and otherwise corrupt officials upon Utah at the point of the bayonet,” — expressing a determination to “continue to resist any attempt on the part of the Administration to bring the people into a state of vassalage by appointing, contrary to the Constitution, officers whom the people have neither voice nor vote in electing,” — avowing the purpose not to suffer “any persons appointed to office for Utah by the Administration either to qualify for, or assume, or discharge, within the limits of the Territory, the functions of the offices to which they have been appointed, so long as the Territory is menaced by an invading army,” — and declaring that the people of Utah would have their voice in the selection of their officers. These were sweet-scented blossoms to blow so early on the tree of Squatter-Sovereignty, at that time scarcely four years old!
The only acts of the legislature were one disorganizing the County of Green River, in which the army was encamped, and attaching it for legislative and judicial purposes to Great Salt Lake County; another divesting the Governor of power to license the manufacture of ardent spirits, and conferring that authority upon the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; and several others in pursuance of the system of granting away large tracts of public domain to private persons, in direct contravention of a clause in the Organic Act of the Territory, which provides that “no law shall be passed interfering with the primary disposal of the soil.” To these acts Brigham Young attached his signature as Governor, and affixed the Territorial seal.
A Memorial to Congress was adopted also, which was transmitted to Washington, and received there and laid before the two Houses on the 16th of March. This document charged that the action of the National Government towards Utah was based upon the statements of “lying officials and anonymous letter-writers”; it rehearsed the history of the Mormons, their persecutions in Missouri and Illinois, — and declared that the object of the Utah expedition was to inflict similar outrages. “Give us our constitutional rights,” it said; “they are all we ask; and them we have a right to expect. For them we contend, and feel justified in so doing. We claim that we should have the privilege, as we have the constitutional right, to choose our own rulers and make our own laws without let or hindrance.” Although this Memorial was nothing more than an infuriated tirade it was honored in both Houses by reference to the Committees on Territories, from which it received all the consideration it deserved.
Indifferent and inactive as this review shows Congress and the President to have been concerning Utah, a similar apathy was impossible in the War Department. Not only the welfare, but the lives even, of the troops at Fort Bridger, depended on its action. Transactions of such magnitude had not been incumbent on its bureaus since the Mexican War. The chief anxiety of General Johnston was for the transmission of supplies from the East as early as possible in the spring. The contractors for their transportation during the year 1857 had wintered several trains at Fort Laramie, together with oxen and teamsters. The General entertained a fear that so great a proportion of their stock might perish during the winter as to cripple their advance until fresh animals could be obtained from the States. Combined with this fear was an apprehension for the safety of Captain Marcy. A prisoner, whom the Mormons had captured in October on Ham’s Fork, escaped from Salt Lake City at the close of December, and brought news to Camp Scott that they intended to fit out an expedition to intercept the command and stampede the herds with which that officer would move from New Mexico. The dispatches in which these anxieties were communicated to General Scott, together with suggestions for their relief, were intrusted in midwinter to a small party for conveyance to the States. The journey taught them what must have been the sufferings of the expedition which Captain Marcy led to Taos. Reduced at one time to buffalo-tallow and coffee for sustenance, there was not a day during the transit across the mountains when any stronger barrier than the lives of a few half-starved mules interposed between them and death by famine. All along the route lay memorials of the march of the army, and especially of Colonel Cooke’s battalion, — a trail of skeletons a thousand miles in length, gnawed hare by the wolves and bleaching in the snow, visible at every undulation in the drifts.
But before the arrival of these dispatches at New York, the arrangements of the War Department to forward supplies to Utah had been completed. The representations of the contractors’ agents with regard to the condition of the cattle at Fort Laramie were received without question, and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Hoffmann, of the Sixth Infantry, was dispatched to that post to superintend the advance of the trains. Additional contracts, of an unprecedented character, were entered into for furnishing and transporting all the supplies which would he needed during the year 1858, both for the troops already in the Territory and for the reinforcements which were ordered to concentrate at Fort Leavenworth and march to Utah as soon as the roads should be passable. These reinforcements were about three thousand strong, comprising the First Cavalry, the Sixth and Seventh Infantry, and two artillery-batteries. The trains necessary for so large a force, in addition to that at Fort Bridger, it was estimated would comprise at least forty-five hundred wagons, requiring more than fifty thousand oxen, four thousand mules, and five thousand teamsters, wagon-masters, and other employés. To the shame of the Administration, these gigantic contracts, involving an amount of more than six million dollars, were distributed with a view to influence votes in the House of Representatives upon the Lecompton Bill. Some of the lesser ones, such as those for furnishing mules, dragoon-horses, and forage, were granted arbitrarily to relatives or friends of members who were wavering upon that question. The principal contract, that for the transportation of all the supplies, involving, for the year 1858, the amount of four millions and a half, was granted, without advertisement or subdivision, to a firm in Western Missouri, whose members had distinguished themselves in the effort to make Kansas a Slave State, and now contributed liberally to defray the election-expenses of the Democratic party.
It was said to have been contemplated, for a while, during the winter, to operate against the Mormons from California, and to send General Scott to San Francisco to direct arrangements for the purpose; but the project, if ever seriously entertained, was soon abandoned, it being evident that for the speedy subjugation of Utah the Missouri frontier furnished the only practicable base-line of operations.
At Camp Scott, the winter dragged along wearily. Between November and March only two mails arrived there, and the great monetary crisis in the United States was unknown till months after it had subsided. The Mormons were constantly in possession of later intelligence from the States than the army; for, by a strange inconsistency, their mails to and from California were not interfered with. A brigade-guard was mounted daily at the camp larger than that of the whole American army on the eve of the battles before Mexico, and scouting parties were continually dispatched to scour the country in a circuit of thirty miles around Fort Bridger; for there was constant apprehension of an attempt by the Mormons to stampede the herds on Henry’s Fork, if not to attack the regiment which guarded them. No tidings arrived from Captain Marcy, and a most painful apprehension prevailed as to his fate. At the close of January, Dr. Hurt, the Indian Agent, after consultation with General Johnston, started from the camp, accompanied only by four Pah-Utahs, and crossed the Uinta Mountains, through snow drifted twenty feet deep, to the villages of the tribe of Uinta-Utahs, on the river of the same name. It was his intention, in case of need, to employ these Indians to warn Captain Marcy of danger and afford him relief. It proved to be unnecessary to do so, and Dr. Hurt returned in April; but the hardships he endured in the undertaking resulted in an illness which threatened his life for weeks. On the 13th of March, an express had come in from New Mexico, bringing news of the safe arrival of Captain Marcy at Taos on the 22d of January. The sufferings of his whole party from cold and hunger had been severe. Their provisions failed them, and they had recourse to mule-meat. Many of the men were badly frost-bitten, but only one perished on the journey.
On the previous evening, — March 12th, — the monotony of the camp had been unexpectedly disturbed by the arrival, from the direction of Salt Lake City, of a horseman completely exhausted by fatigue and cold, who proved to be no other than Mr. Kane, whose mission to the Mormons by way of California was at that time totally unknown to the army. The next morning he introduced himself to the Governor, was received as his guest, and remained in conference with him throughout the day. What was the character of their communication is unknown, except by inference from its results. When presented to Judge Eckels, on the following day, Mr. Kane exhibited to him the letters he bore from the President, and other letters, also, from Brigham Young, accrediting him as a negotiator in the existing difficulties. To General Johnston he showed nothing; nor did the Governor, to the knowledge of the camp, acquaint either that officer or any other person with the purport of his business. It was evident to everybody, however, that the Mormon leaders, conscious of their inability to resist the force by which they would be assailed so soon as the snow should melt upon the mountains, were engaged in an effort, of which Mr. Kane was the agent, to secure through the Governor, if possible, indemnity for their past offences, in consideration of acknowledgment of his authority.
The domestic condition of the people of the Valley confirmed the belief that this was the purpose of Mr. Kane’s mission. Dependent as they had always been, since their settlement in Utah, upon Eastern merchants for an annual supply of groceries, dry goods, wearing-apparel of all descriptions, and every article of luxury, their stock of some of even the necessaries of life—such as coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco, calicoes, boots and shoes, stationery—was at this time nearly exhausted. Many of the poorer families were actually half naked, and, to supply them with covering, an ecclesiastical mandate had been issued, directing all persons who had spare clothing of any description to deposit it at the tithing-office in Salt Lake City, to be there exchanged for grain and cattle with those who were in need.
At the commencement of the rebellion, the Mormon settlements in Southern California had been broken up, and all the missionaries of the Church were summoned to return from foreign lands. The influx of population from these sources, though slight, yet increased the destitution. Almost all the people, too, had been withdrawn from productive employments throughout the autumn and winter. Although the number of militia kept under arms, after the formation of the camp at Fort Bridger, probably at no time reached fifteen hundred, while in October and November it had exceeded three thousand, still the fever of excitement which raged through the community distracted its members from any hearty labor. Great quantities of winter-wheat, to be sure, had been sown, and the fields were prepared for cultivation during the coming summer; but no public improvements were prosecuted, and. everybody was prepared for such an exodus as had been predicted to Captain Van Vliet.
The complete subserviency of the people to the hierarchy was never more strikingly manifest than in a financial scheme which Brigham Young devised at this time. Among the Mormons there had always been a quantity of gold coin in circulation, much exceeding, in proportion to their number, the amount circulating in any other portion of America. This was owing to the fact, that the Church had unconstitutionally arrogated to itself the prerogative of coining and regulating the value of money. The Mormon battalion which had been enlisted at Winter Quarters in Iowa was disbanded in California at the close of the Mexican War, and most of its members went to the gold-diggings. The treasures they there accumulated were conveyed to Utah, where the Church established a mint and coined gold pieces of $2.50, $5, $10, and $20. The device on the obverse was two hands clasped in one of the grips of the Endowment; on the reverse, a figure from the Book of Mormon, with the motto, “Holiness to the Lord.” The intrinsic value of these coins being more than ten per cent. less than their denominations, they were all retained within the Territory. Young now prevailed upon his people to surrender whatever gold and silver they possessed, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars, and accept in return the notes of a banking association of which he himself was president and one of his numerous sons-in-law cashier. These notes were redeemable, in amounts of not less than one hundred dollars, in live stock, the appraisement of the value of which rested with the officers of the association. So absolute was the degradation and ignorance of the population, that they submitted to this extortion without a murmur.
Mr. Kane had remained in Salt Lake City eight days before starting towards Fort Bridger, — a period quite long enough for a trusted friend of the Mormon leaders to ascertain the extremities to which the people were reduced. To secure the safety of those leaders who were under indictment for treason, there was no choice except between flight and inducing the Federal authorities to temporize. Both he and they were conscious that the advance of the army could not be successfully resisted, when the snow should cease to bar its way. In case of the flight of the leaders, or of a general exodus of the population, only two courses lay open to them, — northward toward the British Possessions, southward toward the provinces of Upper Mexico.
The first two days of Mr. Kane’s sojourn in camp satisfied him of the coöperation of Governor Cumming in a plan for temporizing, as well as of the impossibility of enlisting General Johnston or Judge Eckels in any such scheme. An imaginary affront, to which he believed himself at this time to have been subjected by the General, led him into a course of action which, had it been followed out, might have terminated his mission abruptly. Considering the fact that he was within the guard-lines of a military encampment, in a country where a state of warfare existed, it was perhaps too great forbearance on the part of the General not to have required to be informed of his business, since he himself volunteered no explanation. An invitation to dinner being dispatched to him from head-quarters, — and such an invitation was no slight compliment in a camp where the rations were so abridged, — the orderly to whom it was intrusted for delivery, whether maliciously or not it does not appear, pretended to have mistaken his directions, and proceeded to place him under arrest. The mistake, when discovered, was of course immediately rectified; but Mr. Kane became so excited in consequence, that, with the assent of the Governor, he indited a challenge to the General, and applied to a gentleman from Virginia to act as his second. Having received a decided rebuff in that quarter, he was induced to abandon the design by the interposition of Judge Eckels, who became acquainted with what was passing, and informed the Governor that he had ordered the United States Marshal to arrest all the parties concerned, in case another step should be taken in the affair. It was not till some time afterwards that these transactions came to the knowledge of General Johnston.
Mr. Kane remained with the Governor until April, absenting himself once, however, for a day, in order to hold a secret interview with a party of Mormons who had come into the vicinity of the camp. Notwithstanding his presence, no precaution to protect the herds was neglected, nor was the guard-duty at all relaxed. On the 18th of March, although a furious snow-storm raged all day long, the encampment was moved down Blacks Fork to the immediate neighborhood of Fort Bridger, — a spot less sheltered, but far more secure from attack. On the 3d of April, an event occurred for which everybody was prepared. The Governor announced to General Johnston his intention to proceed to Salt Lake City in company with Mr. Kane; and on the 5th, they started upon the journey.
The District Court commenced its spring term at Fort Bridger the same day. In his charge to the grand jury, Judge Eckels was explicit on the subject of polygamy, instructing them substantially as follows: — That among the Territorial statutes there was no act legalizing polygamy, nor any act affixing a definite punishment to that practice as such that, consequently, whether the old Spanish law or the Common Law constituted the basis of jurisprudence in the Territory, the definition of marriage recognized by both was to be received there, which limited that institution to the union of one man with one woman, and also the definition of adultery common to both, by which that crime consisted in the cohabitation of either the man or the woman with a third party; that among the Territorial statutes there was an act affixing a definite punishment to adultery, and accordingly that it was the duty of the grand jury to inquire whether that act had been infringed by parties liable to their inquisition.1 No indictment, however, was returned for the offence; neither were any proceedings had upon the indictments for treason. The business of the court was restricted to such crimes as larceny, and assault and battery, among the heterogeneous mass of camp-followers.
At the distance of a few miles from Fort Bridger, the Governor and Mr. Kane were received by a Mormon guard. At various points on their journey squads of militia were encountered, and in Echo Cañon there was a command of several hundred. The Big Mountain, which the road crosses twenty miles from Salt Lake City, was covered so deep with snow, that the party was obliged to follow the cañons of the Weber River into the Valley. Upon arriving at the city, on the 12th of April, the Governor was installed in the house of a Mr. Staines, one of the adopted sons of Brigham Young, and was soon after waited upon by Young himself, in company with numerous ecclesiastical dignitaries. The Territorial seal was tendered to him, and he was recognized to his full satisfaction in his official capacity. He remained more than three weeks. Except fugitive statements in newspapers, the only connected account of his proceedings is from his own pen, and consists of two official letters, — one addressed to General Johnston, under date of April 15th, the other to the Secretary of State at Washington, dated May 2d. The former merely announces his arrival, reception, and recognition, transmits charges against Dr. Hurt, of having excited the Uinta Indians to acts of hostility against, the Mormons, and suggests that he should desire a detachment of the army to be dispatched to chastise that tribe, — but a requisition for that purpose was made neither then nor subsequently. The letter to Secretary Cass states that his time was devoted to examining the public property of the United States which was in the city, — the records of the courts, the Territorial library, the maps and minutes of the Surveyor General, — and exculpates the Mormons, in great part, from the charge of having injured or embezzled it.
During his stay, information was communicated to him, that there was a number of persons who were desirous of leaving the Territory, but unable to do so, considering themselves restrained of their liberty. Accordingly, on the following Sunday, he caused notice to be given from the platform in the Tabernacle, that he assumed the protection of all such persons, and desired them to communicate to him their names and residences. During the ensuing week, nearly two hundred persons registered themselves in the manner he proposed, and a greater number would undoubtedly have been glad to follow their example, but were deterred by the surveillance to which they were subjected by certain functionaries of the Church before being admitted to his presence. Those who were registered were organized into trains, with the little movable property they possessed, and dispatched towards Fort Bridger. They arrived there in the course of May, — as motley, ragged, and destitute a crowd as ever descended from the deck of an Irish emigrant-ship at New York or Boston. The only garments which some possessed were made of the canvas of their wagon-covers. Many were on foot. For provisions, they had nothing except flour and some fresh meat. It is a fact creditable to humanity, that private soldiers, by the score, shared their own abridged rations and scanty stock of clothing with these poor wretches, and in less than a day after their arrival they were provided with much to make them comfortable.
On that same Sunday, the Governor made a speech to the congregation, being introduced by Brigham Young. He reviewed the relations of the Mormons to the Federal government; assumed that General Johnston and the army were under his control; pledged his word that they should not be stationed in immediate contact with the settlements; and gave assurances, also, that no military posse should be employed to arrest a Mormon until every other means had been tried and had failed. At the close, he invited any of their number to respond. Various persons immediately addressed the audience in almost frantic speeches, concerning the murder of Joseph and Hiram Smith at Carthage, the persecution of the Saints in Missouri and Illinois, the services rendered by the Mormon Battalion to an ungrateful country during the Mexican War, the toils and perils of the migration to Utah, and the character of the Federal officers who had been sent to rule the Territory. Personal insults were heaped upon the Governor, and a scene of the wildest confusion was the result, which was quieted with great difficulty by Young himself. It was manifest that the mass of the people, over-confident of their capacity to resist the troops, were not fully prepared for the capitulation the leaders were willing to make to save their own necks from the halter; and, at a second meeting during the afternoon, Young yielded somewhat to the popular clamor.
All this while, a movement of a most extraordinary character was being carried on, which had commenced before the Governor entered the Valley. The people of the northern settlements, along the base of the Wahsatch Mountains, including Salt Lake City, were deserting their homes, abandoning houses, crops, and their heavier furniture, and migrating southward. Long wagon-trains were sweeping through the city every day, accompanied by hundreds of families, and droves of horses and cattle. A fair estimate of the entire Mormon population of Utah is about forty-five thousand. Of this number, ten thousand is the proportion of the towns north of Salt Lake City, and upward of fifteen thousand that of the city itself and the settlements in its immediate neighborhood. Considerably more than half the people of the Territory, therefore, shared in this emigration. What was its object and what its destination are still mysteries; but it was probably directed toward the mountain-ranges in the southwestern portion of the Great Basin, of the topography of which region—hitherto unvisited by Federal explorers—the Mormons undoubtedly possess accurate information. At any rate, it was initiated and conducted under the direction of the Church, and Young and Kimball were among the first to lead the way. Commencing late in March, it continued until June, and before the beginning of May more than thirty-five thousand people were concentrated on the western shore of Lake Utah, chiefly in the neighborhood of Provo, fifty miles south of Salt Lake City. Such a scene of squalid misery, such a spectacle of want and distress, was never before witnessed in America. More than half this multitude could not be accommodated in the towns, and lodged in board-shanties, wigwams, mud-huts, log-cabins, bowers of willow-branches covered with wagon-sheets, and even in holes dug into the hill-sides. The most common quarters, however, were made by removing a wagon-body from its wheels, placing it upon the ground, and erecting in front of it a bower of cedars. It is needless to dwell on the exasperation which animated all who submitted to these sacrifices. In the history of the Albigenses hunted through Languedoc, or of the Jews writhing under the Spanish Inquisition, a record of similar bitterness of feeling may be found, but its parallel does not exist outside the annals of religious persecution.
Governor Cumming returned to Fort Bridger during the second week in May, still accompanied by Mr. Kane, and also by a party of Mormons who intended to escort the latter to Missouri. Upon his arrival, he addressed a letter to General Johnston, stating, officially, that the people of Utah had acknowledged his authority, and that the roads between the camp and Salt Lake City were free for the transit of mails and passengers, the Mormon forces having withdrawn from the cañons, and none of the Territorial militia remaining under arms except with his consent and approbation. A day or two later, Mr. Kane bade him farewell and started toward the States, his mission having been completed.
It may be well to pause here and estimate its precise results. It had secured delay. The herds on Henry’s Fork had thriven better than was expected, and toward the close of April the number of mules in working condition was sufficient to have dragged a train of two hundred wagons. The dragoon-horses which survived could have been assigned to the artillery-batteries, and the regiment have served as infantry. With this equipment, slight though it may appear, a rapid movement upon the Valley was possible; and whatever may have been the opinion during the previous autumn, it was the universal opinion in the spring that the force at Camp Scott could have routed any body of militia that might have opposed its advance, although, perhaps, it was not sufficient to subjugate the Territory, in case the Mormons should flee to the mountains. Provisions, also, were running low in the camp. The ration of flour had been further reduced. All the cattle had been slaughtered, and there was every prospect of recourse to mule-meat before the first of June. Everything, therefore, favored the plan of an early march toward the city; and it is certain that it would have been commenced without awaiting reinforcements from the States, had not the Governor’s scheme for pacification intervened. Distrustful of its expediency or propriety though General Johnston might have been, he deemed it his duty to await its result. Neither he nor the Governor being supreme in the direction of affairs, it was the duty of each to defer so far as might be to the action of the other.
In the next place, Mr. Kane’s interposition had produced an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the civil and the military authority. This is evident from what has already been stated, and there is no need to confirm the fact by argument. The Governor returned to Fort Bridger in May, believing the Mormons to be an injured people, whose cause was in the main just. But his position was full of difficulties. He had been recognized in his official character, it is true; but he was conscious that every Mormon acknowledged a political influence superior to his own, which was directing the emigration southward, and leaving him Governor of empty villages and deserted fields. The only hope he entertained of checking this exodus was by quashing the indictments for treason which had been found against the Mormon leaders, and by insuring them against contact with the troops. The first he was powerless to effect; it was a matter beyond his control, — solely within the cognizance of the courts. The second he had assumed to be within his power, and had so assured the Mormons; but there he was at variance with General Johnston, who denied his claim to absolute authority over the movements of the army.
Unknown, however, to the parties who were agitating these perplexing questions, a superior power had already intervened and solved the difficulty. On the 6th of April, the President had signed a Proclamation, at Washington, rehearsing to the people of Utah Territory, at considerable length, their past offences, and particularly those which immediately preceded and followed the outbreak of the rebellion, and declaring them traitors; but, “in order to save the effusion of blood, and to avoid the indiscriminate punishment of a whole people for crimes of which it is not probable that all are equally guilty,” offering “a free and full pardon to all who will submit themselves to the authority of the Federal Government.” This document was intrusted to two Commissioners for conveyance to the Territory; — one of them, Mr. L. W. Powell, lately Governor, and at the time Senator-elect, of the State of Kentucky the other, Major Ben M’Culloch, of Texas, who had served with distinction in Mexico. In their appointment, Mr. Buchanan imitated the example of President Washington, who designated a similar commission to convey his proclamation to the whiskey-insurgents in Pennsylvania.
The reinforcements and supply-trains for the army were at this time concentrating at Fort Leavenworth, Major-General Persifer F. Smith was assigned to the command-in-chief, and it was intended that the whole force, after concentration in Utah, should he divided into two brigades, one to be commanded by General Harney, the other by General Johnston. Leaving the columns preparing to advance over the Plains, the Commissioners started from the Fort on the 25th of April. On the same day, Lieutenant-Colonel Hoffmann advanced from Fort Laramie with several companies of infantry and cavalry, escorting the supply-trains which were parked there through the winter, and on the speedy arrival of which at Camp Scott the subsistence of General Johnston’s command depended, unless it should force its way into the Valley. On the 1st of May, he had reached La Bonté, a tributary of the North Platte, fifty miles from the Fort. There he encountered the severest storm that had occurred in that region for many years. The snow fell breast-deep, and was followed by a pelting rain which killed his mules by scores. He was forced to remain stationary more than a week, and when he renewed the march the trains were clogged by mud foot-deep.
The Commissioners reached Camp Scott on the 29th of May. The President’s Proclamation had been received the day before. With the exception of a few persons who were prepared for such a document by reflection on Mr. Kane’s mission, everybody was astonished at its purport. It seemed incredible that a lenity should have been extended to the Mormon rebels which was refused to the Free-State men in Kansas, who were once indicted for treason and sedition, — and equally incredible that all the advantages for the solution of the Utah problem which had been gained by the rising of the Mormons in arms should be thrown away. There was none of the blood-thirsty excitement in the camp which was reported in the States to have prevailed there, but there was a feeling of infinite chagrin, a consciousness that the expedition was only a pawn on Mr. Buchanan’s political chess-board and reproaches against his folly were as frequent as they were vehement. Had he excepted from the amnesty the Mormon leaders, who alone had been indicted, the Proclamation might have been considered an act of judicious clemency; for that exception would have accomplished every object that could be desired. As it was, it annihilated all that had been gained by the enormous expenditures and the toils and sufferings of the past year, and it sentenced the army to an indefinite term of imprisonment in an American Siberia. For the sake of ridding the Administration of immediate trouble, it turned the Church leaders loose again upon the community, purged of all offence, and postponed to a future day a horrible issue, the ultimate avoidance of which is impossible. “After us the deluge,” was still the motto of the President and his Cabinet.
At the camp the Commissioners remained only three days, which they employed in obtaining accurate information concerning the transactions of the last three months for when they started from Missouri, no news of the result of Mr. Kane’s mission had reached the frontier. On the 2d of June, they started for the Valley, intending to summon the leading Mormons to an interview, and receive their formal acceptance of the terms of the Proclamation, — of which, of course, there could he no doubt. They were accompanied by the postmaster of Salt Lake City, with the mails for the Mormons, which had been detained at the camp since the commencement of the rebellion. The Governor and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs followed them the next day. The rest of the Federal officers refused to join the party, or to make any movement based on a supposed capitulation of the Mormons, until their submission should be perfected. There were many circumstances attending the departure of the Governor which showed that he was doubtful of the stability of the positions he had been led by Mr. Kane to assume. He expressed himself distrustful of the coöperation of the Commissioners in his plan for pacifying the Territory; and he protested vehemently against allowing persons to accompany the party in order to report for the press the proceedings at the expected conferences. Every day made it more and more evident that he had committed himself to the Mormons farther than he cared to acknowledge.
Before the Commissioners left the camp, they urged General Johnston not to delay the advance of the army one moment beyond the time when he should be ready and desire to march. On the 8th of June, Captain Marcy arrived at the Fort with a herd of nearly fifteen hundred mules and horses, and an escort of five companies of infantry and mounted riflemen. He left the village of Rayado, on the Canadian River, in New Mexico, on the 17th of March, and, instead of retracing the route pursued on his winter journey, which had led him near the sources of Grand River, one of the great forks of the Colorado, he returned along the eastern base of the Rocky Mountain range past Long’s and Pike’s Peaks. When he had reached Fontaine-qui-bouille Creek, an express overtook him from General Garland, who commanded the Department of New Mexico, enjoining him to halt and await reinforcements. There he camped more than three weeks. Renewing his progress, he was overtaken, on the 29th of April, by the same snow-storm which was so disastrous to Lieutenant-Colonel Hoffmann on La Bonté. It was accompanied by a furious wind, the force of which there was nothing to break. Snow fell to the depth of three feet, and, at the very height of the storm, a part of the mule herd stampeded and ran fifty miles before the wind, for shelter. When the march was resumed, after an interval of several days, hundreds of antelopes were found frozen and buried in the drifts, — a circumstance almost unparalled among the mountains. With this exception, nothing occurred to obstruct the march. Captain Marcy brought with him specimens of sand from many of the tributaries of the South Platte, which were found, on analysis, to contain particles of gold; and within two months after he gathered them, the same discovery, confirmed by others, originated the emigration to that region, the progress of which now promises the speedy birth of another Free State in the very heart of the continent. On the 9th and 10th, Colonel Hoffmann reached the camp with all his supply-trains; and on the following day, General Johnston issued the welcome order to prepare for the march to Salt Lake City. A strong detachment of infantry and artillery was detailed to garrison Fort Bridger.
On the 13th of June, the long camp was broken up, and the army moved forward in three columns on the route through the cañons. Although the season was so far advanced, snow had fallen at the Fort only three days before. The streams were swollen and turbulent with spring floods, and difficulty was anticipated in crossing the Bear and Weber Rivers. Material for bridging had, therefore, been prepared, and accompanied the first column. Southwest of the Fort, at the distance of four or five miles, a singular butte, the top of which is as level as the floor of a ball-room, rises to the height of eight hundred feet above the valley of Black’s Fork, and commands a view of the entire broad plateau between the Wind River and the Uinta and Wahsatch Ranges. Little parties of horsemen could be seen spurring up the gullies on its almost precipitous sides, to witness from its summit the departure of the army. The scene was in the highest degree picturesque. Almost at their feet lay the camp, the few tents which remained unstruck glittering like bright dots on the wing of an insect, the whitewashed wall of the Fort reflecting the sunshine, while stacks of turf chimneys, lodge-poles, and rubbish marked the spots where the encampment had been abandoned. The whole valley was in commotion. Along the strips of road were winding clumsy baggage-trains; the regiment of dragoons was trailing in advance; the gleam of the musket-barrels of the infantry was visible on all sides; and every puff of the breeze that blew over the bluff was freighted with the rumble of artillery-carriages and caissons. here and there were groups of half-naked Indians galloping to and fro, with fluttering blankets, gazing at the show with the curiosity and delight of children.
The traveller who terminates his westward journey at Fort Bridger has entered only the portal of the Rocky Mountains. Along the interval between there and the Valley of the Great Lake, there is a panorama of mountain-scenery that cannot be surpassed in the Tyrol. For miles and miles in the gorges, at the season of the year when they were traversed by the army, the road winds through thickets of alders and willows and hawthorn-bushes, whose branches interlace and hang so low, under their load of leaves and blossoms, as to sweep the backs of horsemen. Through the interstices of the foliage, the sandstone cliffs that bound the cañons are seen surrounded by flocks of twittering birds which build their nests in the crevices of the rock. The ridges which the road sur mounts between cañon and cañon are covered with fields of luxuriant grass and flowers, in the midst of which patches of snow still linger. From them, in the clear noon sunshine, the broken line of the Wahsatch and Uinta Ranges is visible along the horizon; but through the morning and evening haze, only the tracery of their white crests can be discerned. The valleys of the Bear and Weber Rivers are peculiarly beautiful, the latter almost realizing the dream of the Valley of Rasselas. Corrugated and snow-capped ridges slope backward from the spectator, on whichever side he turns, until he wonders how and where the swift river, rushing under its canopy of rustling cotton-woods, finds a pathway through them.
It was into scenery like this that the troops advanced, speculating, along each day’s march, upon what obstacles they would have encountered, bad they attempted to reach the Valley during the winter. On the 14th, an express from the Commissioners arrived at the camp on Bear River, announcing that no resistance would be made by the Mormons, who pledged themselves to submit to Federal authority. It was suggested, at the same time, to General Johnston, that they apprehended ill-treatment from the army, which might feel an exasperation natural after the privations to which it had been subjected during the winter. To reassure them, the General immediately issued and forwarded to Salt Lake City a proclamation, informing them that no one should he “molested in his person or rights, or in the peaceful pursuit of his avocations.” On the same day, Governor Cumming issued a proclamation announcing the “restoration of peace to the Territory.”
The Commissioners had reached the city on the 7th. They were received there by the Mormon officers who commanded the few companies of militia which constituted the garrison, and were conducted to a restaurant, where meals were provided for them, but no lodgings; and accordingly they slept in their ambulances. The place was deserted by everybody except the garrison and a few individuals who were busily removing their property. Besides these, the only beings visible in the streets were here and there groups of half-naked Indian boys paddling in the gutters. Almost the only sound audible was the gurgling of the City Creek. Through the chinks of the heavy wooden portal of the Temple square, workmen were to be seen engaged in demolishing the roofs of the buildings within the inclosure. Over the windows of all the houses hoards were nailed; the doors were locked; the gates closed; and in many of the gardens, crops of weeds were beginning to choke the flower-beds. From some of the houses of the more enthusiastic Saints all the wood-work was removed, leaving nothing standing except the bare adobe walls, while a few had been burned to the ground. In front of the tithing-office, a train of wagons was loading with grain for removal to Provo.
The Governor arrived on the 8th, and was conducted at once to the quarters he had occupied on his previous visit. The next day, he, together with the Commissioners, held an interview with the two messengers who had been sent up from Provo by Brigham Young. They returned to Lake Utah that same night, and on the 10th, about noon, Young, Kimball, and Wells together with the Twelve Apostles, and twenty or thirty Bishops, High Priests, and Elders, embracing almost all the influential characters in the Church, rode into the city. Brigham’s mansion was thrown open and the party dined there. They called afterwards in a body upon the Governor and the Commissioners, and made arrangements for a conference on the following day.
The President’s pardon bad reached the Mormon settlements along Lake Utah on the 6th, and the manner in which it was received by the populace showed that they were not satisfied with the position of their leaders. It was read from the steps of the tithing-offices, and at the street-corners, to crowds who denounced in the fiercest language the recital of facts set forth in its preamble. The excitement, which had been steadily fostered by Young and Kimball ever since the commencement of the rebellion, had amounted to a frenzy which no authority less potent thin such a hierarchy as theirs could possibly have controlled. Nevertheless, the morning Brigham rode into Salt Lake City, the capitulation had been preordained.
The conferences lasted through the 11th and 12th, the inflexibility of the Commissioners securing decency of language from the Mormons, if not decency of demeanor. All the participants, including Young himself, expressed their sentiments in turn. The opening speech was made by one of the Apostles, named Erastus Snow, who forgot for the moment that he was not addressing a congregation of his brethren on a Sunday morning, and indulged in a strain of obscene and profane remark which was checked at once by Senator Powell. Some of the speakers broke into savage tirades like those with which Governor Cumming was once greeted in the Tabernacle; but these were checked by Young. There were two subjects on which the Mormon leaders were particularly anxious, all fear of their own trial for treason being removed. They dreaded that the army should be quartered upon their settlements, and that the policy inaugurated by Judge Eckels in his recent charge to the grand jury at Fort Bridger should be pursued against polygamy. No assurances were given by the Commissioners upon either of these subjects. They limited their action to tendering the President’s pardon, and exhorting the Mormons to accept it. Outside the conferences, however, without the knowledge of the Commissioners, assurances were given on both these subjects by the Governor and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, which proved satisfactory to Brigham Young. The exact nature of their pledges will, perhaps, never be disclosed; but from subsequent confessions volunteered by the Superintendent, who appears to have acted as a tool of the Governor through the whole affair, it seems probable that they promised explicitly to exert their influence to quarter the army in Cache Valley, nearly a hundred miles north of Salt Lake City, and also to procure the removal of Judge Eckels. The news of the issue of the order for the advance of the army reached the city on the 12th, and accelerated the result of the conferences, which concluded that evening with a pledge on the part of Young and his associates to submit unconditionally to the Federal authority. During the next few days, the Commissioners, accompanied by the Governor, travelled southward, and addressed large audiences at Provo and Lehi, specially exhorting the people to return to their homes in the northern settlements, assuring them that the troubles were ended, and that they need fear no molestation of person or property.
Whether all these proceedings—which were legitimate results of Mr. Buchanan’s policy—were consistent with the honor of the country, the public can judge for themselves. The Commissioners certainly conducted themselves with dignity and credit; but it is doubtful whether they ever would have accepted their appointment, had they anticipated the nature of the duties they would be required to perform.
The army moved slowly forward during the progress of these negotiations. In Echo Cañon, it had an opportunity to inspect the bugbear of the previous autumn, — the Mormon fortifications. As the cañon—which is more than twenty miles long—approaches the Weber River, it dwindles in width from five or six hundred yards to as many feet. Its northern side becomes a perfect wall of rock, which rises perpendicularly to the height of several hundred feet above the road. The southern side retains the character of a steep mountain-slope covered with grass and stunted bushes. Echo Creek, a narrow streamlet, with its dense fringe of willows, fills the whole bottom between the road and the bluffs. The first indication of approach to the fortifications was the sight of piles of stones heaped into walls four or five feet high, pierced with loopholes, and visible on every projecting point of the cliffs along the northern side, from most of which a pebble could be snapped down upon the road. Just beyond, after turning a bend in the cañon, all the willows along the creek had been cut away, and through the cleared space a ditch five or six feet wide and ten feet deep was dug across the bottom. The dirt thrown from it was packed so as to form an embankment, on which logs were so arranged that it would answer for a breastwork, behind which riflemen could be posted under cover. At intervals of about a hundred yards were two similar lines of ditch and breastwork, by the first of which the road was forced to skirt the very base of a cliff which had probably been mined. The other line was constructed just above the mouths of two narrow gorges which enter the cañon, nearly opposite one another, from the north and south. By the aid of these dams the cañon might possibly have been overflowed for half a mile to the depth of several feet, but the water would have accumulated slowly on account of the insignificant size of the creek. Several dirt walls stretched also across the gorges, commanding the whole of the fortifications below. This whole system of defences possessed as little strength as merit. It served only to confirm the impression, which by this time had become general, that the capacity of the Mormons to resist the army had been greatly overrated, and that a vigorous effort to penetrate to the Valley early in the spring would inevitably have succeeded.
For nearly a mile beyond the two gorges, a chain of low hills, over which the road runs, extends below the loftier summits on the southern side of the cañon. The northern side becomes, in consequence, a deep glen, as the cliffs which form its wall rise abruptly from the level of the creek. This glen is filled with bushes, and in it, thus protected from the wind, the Mormon militia had their winter-quarters. The huts they occupied had been constructed by digging circular holes in the ground, over which were piled boughs in the same manner as the poles of an Indian lodge. Around these boughs willow-twigs were plaited, and the entire hut was finally thatched with straw, grass, or bark. Many of them had chimneys built of sod and stones, like those which had been improvised at Camp Scott. An open spot, a few hundred feet below the beginning of the glen, was the site of the head-quarters of the command. Here the huts were built around a square, in the centre of which was planted a tall pine flag-pole. The scenery at this point is exceedingly picturesque. Out of a tangle of willows, alders, hawthorn, and wild cherry-trees spring the bold sandstone cliffs, in every crevice of which cedars and fir-trees cling to the jagged points of rock. On the other side of the cañon a sheet of rich verdure, all summer long, rolls up the mountain to its very summit. Down the glen ripples the little creek underneath an arch of fragrant shrubs twined with the slender tendrils of wild hop-vines. The whole number of huts was about one hundred and fifty, and they could accommodate, on an average, fifteen men apiece.
The troops did not emerge from Emigration Cañon into the Salt Lake Valley until the morning of the 26th. In the mean while, thirty or forty civilians had reached the city from the camp, and were quartered, like the Commissioners, in their own vehicles. The Mormons favored no one, except the Governor and his intimate associates, with any species of accommodation. Their demeanor was in every respect like that of a conquered people toward foreign invaders. During the week preceding the 26th, two or three hundred of those on Lake Utah received permission to go up to the city, and they alone, of the whole Mormon community, witnessed the ingress of the army.
It was one of the most extraordinary scenes that have occurred in American history. All day long, from dawn till after sunset, the troops and trains poured through the city, the utter silence of the streets being broken only by the music of the military bands, the monotonous tramp of the regiments, and the rattle of the baggage-wagons. Early in the morning, the Mormon guard had forced all their fellow-religionists into the houses, and ordered them not to make their appearance during the day. The numerous flags, which had been flying from staffs on the public buildings during the previous week, were all struck. The only visible groups of spectators were on the corners near Brigham Young’s residence, and consisted almost entirely of Gentile civilians. The stillness was so profound, that, during the intervals between the passage of the columns, the monotonous gurgle of the city-creek struck on every ear. The Commissioners rode with the General’s staff. The troops crossed the Jordan and encamped two miles from the city on a dusty meadow by the river-bank.
The orders under which General Johnston was acting directed him to establish not more than three military posts within the Territory. One of these was already fixed at Fort Bridger, and the question where the others should be located was now no less important to the Mormons than to the army. The secret of the success of Mormonism is its exclusiveness, and of this fact the leaders of the sect are fully aware. Accordingly, they now put forth most strenuous efforts to secure the removal of the troops to as great a distance as possible from their settlements. But, wholly without regard to any understanding which they might have had with the Governor, General Johnston, after a careful reconnaissance, selected Cedar Valley, on the western rim of Lake Utah, separated from it only by a range of bluffs, — about equi-distant from Salt Lake City and Provo, — for his permanent camp. The army moved southward from the city on the 29th, but so slowly that it did not reach the Valley till the 6th of July. Not a field was encroached upon, nor a house molested, not a person harmed or insulted, by troops that had been so harassed and vituperated by a people now entirely at their mercy. By their strict subordination they entitled themselves to the respect of the country as well as to the gratitude of the Mormons.
- As this charge has become of great importance in the affairs of the Territory, we subjoin the precise language of that portion of it which refers to polygamy: —
“It cannot be concealed, gentlemen, that certain domestic arrangements exist in this Territory destructive of the peace, good order, and morals of society, — arrangements at variance with those of all enlightened and Christian communities in the world; and sapping as they do the very foundation of all virtue, honesty, and morality, it is an imperative duty falling upon you as grand jurors diligently to inquire into this evil and make every effort to check its growth. It is well known that all of the inhabited portion of this Territory was acquired by treaty from Mexico. By the law of Mexico polygamy was prohibited in this country, and the municipal law in this respect remained unaltered by its cession to the United States. Has it been altered since we acquired it? After a most diligent search and inquiry, I have not been able to find that any such change has been made; and presuming that this law remains unchanged by legislation, all marriages after the first are by this law illegal and void. If you are then satisfied that such is the fact, your next duty is to inquire by what law in force in this Territory are such practices punishable. There is no law in this Territory punishing polygamy, but there is one, however, for the punishment of adultery; and all illegal intercourse between the sexes, if either party have a husband or wife living at the time, is adulterous and punishable by indictment. No consequences in which a large proportion of this people may be involved in consequence of this criminal practice will deter you from a fearless discharge of your duty. It is yours to find the facts and to return indictments, without fear, favor, affection, reward, or any hope thereof. The law was made to punish the lawless and disobedient, and society is entitled to the salutary effects of its execution.” ↩