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June 26: End of the Utah War?

By: William P. MacKinnon - June 26, 2008

The Utah War of 1857-1858 was the nation’s most extensive and expensive military involvement during the period between the Mexican and Civil wars, an armed confrontation between the civil-religious leadership of Utah and the Buchanan administration over power and authority in the territory. Ultimately it pitted nearly one-third of the U.S. Army against Utah’s Nauvoo Legion, arguably the country’s largest, most experienced militia. The historiography and folklore of this conflict is loaded with myths and misunderstandings, not the least of them being the notion that the war ended 150 years ago today – on June 26, 1858 – when Brevet Brig. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston’s Utah Expedition marched into and through a Salt Lake City deserted and ready for the torch.

When did the Utah War end? It depends how one looks at it, much as with the Korean War of 1950-1953, which is still ongoing in the legal sense – complete with episodic exchanges of gunfire across the DMZ, attempts at border-crossings from the sea, and an armistice apparatus at Panmunjon that is a bizarre combination of international minefield and tourist attraction. Wars, like labor-management disputes, are shockingly easy to start but extraordinarily difficult to conclude.

In a sense the Utah War has been “frozen in time” through the widespread belief that the conflict and the significance of the people involved ended on a single day. But for many of the people on both sides, the Utah War was ongoing for decades as a foundational experience, perhaps even an epiphany, which launched them into even more heroic and tragic adventures. In reality, the Utah War forms an exotic but largely unrecognized connection among the rich, colorful, and fascinating personal stories involved with shaping Mormonism, Utah, and the West long after June 26, 1858. Lost in the process is an understanding of the war’s complex, downstream impact on the lives of the participants on both sides following 1858.

Years ago, when I discovered that a very bright Mormon friend from Wisconsin had no idea that Albert Sidney Johnston later became the Confederacy’s leading general and had died a hero in 1862 at Shiloh, I started digging. From such research came the extraordinary, colorful, but neglected stories of hundreds of Utah War veterans – military and civilian – on both sides. Among the federals alone appear such individuals as:

  • Captain John Cleveland Robinson, Fifth U.S. Infantry, who became a Union major general, lost a leg, and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He went on to command the Grand Army of the Republic and to serve as New York’s lieutenant governor.
  • Private John Sobieski, Tenth U.S. Infantry, an immigrant claiming descent from a seventeenth-century Polish king, who served throughout the Civil War and became a colonel in the Mexican army.
  • Second Lieutenant William H.F. (“Rooney”) Lee, Sixth U.S. Infantry, who dropped out of Harvard in the spring of 1857 to serve in Utah against the wishes of his distinguished father, Robert E. Lee, before becoming the Confederacy’s youngest major general.
  • Private John Jerome (“Johnny”) Healy, Second U.S. Dragoons, who became sheriff of Fort Benton, Montana, a co-founder of Alberta’s whiskey-soaked Fort Whoop-Up, coiner of the Canadian Mounties’ unofficial motto (“They always get their man”), an Alaskan gold-rush trading and transportation magnate for Chicago’s Cudahy family, and the model for a central figure in Jack London’s first novel.
  • Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, who served Albert Sidney Johnston as a civilian guide and acting U.S. marshal for Utah before becoming a Pony Express superintendent, a Confederate blockade-runner, and the Civil War owner of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
  • George Sheppard and David Poole, Utah Expedition teamsters, who joined William C. Quantrill’s Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. Sheppard later rode with the Jesse James-Cole younger gang of bank robbers. Quantrill himself was a Utah War teamster and camp cook before becoming the Civil War’s most notorious guerrilla.
  • Corporal Myles Moylan, Second U.S. Dragoons, who was both commissioned and cashiered during the Civil War, reenlisted as a private under an alias, was commissioned again, transferred to the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, and retired as a major in 1893 after surviving the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 and receiving the Medal of Honor for his role in the 1877 campaign against the Nez Perce.
  • Private Ben Clark, Bee’s Battalion of U.S. volunteers, who later became fluent in Cheyenne and served as chief scout and interpreter for Generals George Armstrong Custer, Philip H. Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Nelson A. Miles during the post-war plains campaigns.

It is not surprising to me, then, that a Michigan friend, son of the late Governor George W. Romney and brother of former Governor Mitt Romney was aware that one of his great-grandfathers, Charles H. Wilcken, had deserted from the Utah Expedition’s Fourth U.S. Artillery in 1857, but did not realize that, as a Mormon convert, Wilcken had become coachman, bodyguard, nurse, and pallbearer for LDS Church Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff as well as an adopted son of Apostle George Q. Cannon. What a story!

Lost along with an appreciation of these heroes, rogues, and solid citizens has been an understanding of the multiple societal forces – political, economic, geographic, and cultural – set in motion by the conflict, some of them unresolved to this day. Among such societal forces are a boom-bust volatility in Utah’s economy, Russia’s decision to sell Alaska, the English decision to form the province of British Columbia, the Anglo rediscovery of the Grand Canyon, the near-dismemberment of Utah politically in six territorial “bites,” and a pervasive anti-federalism known in today’s West as the Sagebrush Rebellion. Although few people realize it, the Utah War had individual, economic, political, geographic, and cultural consequences long after Albert Sidney Johnston marched through Salt Lake City.

In many ways, then, this conflict is still with us. It helps to explain the western anti-federal phenomenon that I just called the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” it helps to explain some of the issues that arose during George Romney’s presidential run in 1968 and that of his son Mitt this year. It helps to explain the rage in southern Utah during the 1990s over President Clinton’s unilateral, surprise creation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, a federal intervention likened by one Utah congressman (Chris Cannon) to the Utah War of the prior century. It even explains a somewhat pointed editorial cartoon by Pat Bagley run by the Salt Lake Tribune when Pres. Clinton visited the Park City ski slopes at the height of the Monica Lewinsky flap. In the cartoon a Secret Service agent, depicted as driving Clinton along I-80, explains to the dismayed president the text of hostile roadside placards wielded by Utah citizens. In the cartoon, the agent says: “Don’t worry, Mr. President. ‘Hide the women’ is a traditional Mormon greeting.” As recently as last March the LDS Church and the descendants of the Mountain Meadows Massacre victims came to an historic agreement about the status of the atrocity site that had been a bone of contention and source of animosity for decades, and in June a highly publicized attempt commenced near Van Buren, Arkansas to exhume the remains of Apostle Parley P. Pratt, another Romney ancestor and the Mormon leader assassinated on the eve of the Utah War. The beat goes on, and the past of our ancestors as well as the Romneys’ continues to be part of our own present.

In less than three years the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War will be upon us. All the more reason to understand the fraternal conflict that immediately preceded it – one that pitted Americans wearing the same uniform against one another in the American West.

Note: For more extensive discussion of this topic, see: MacKinnon, “Epilogue to the Utah War: Impact and Legacy,” Journal of Mormon History 29 (Fall 2003): 186-248; and At Sword’s Point, Part 1: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858 (Norman, Okla: the Arthur H. Clark Company, 2008).



31 Comments »

  1. All of this is why we study history. Because what happened then really does have bearing on what is happening now.

    btw, my great great grandfather joined the church and emigrated to the US in 1855. He stayed in NYC for 4 years, apparently earning money for the trip to Utah. While there he was contracted to make saddles and harnesses to outfit Johnson’s army. Family folklore says that he regularly bantered with the Lieutenant who was assigned to check on his progress, telling him on at least one occasion that they “were going out to Utah to get whipped.”

    Comment by BruceC — June 26, 2008 @ 9:42 am

  2. BruceC, what a great family story! Would that your ancestor had left a letter or diary entry chronicling this dialogue with Lieut. “X.” The saddle that he was making in NYC was undoubtedly the McClellan pattern, designed by U.S. Army Capt. George B. McClellan after he returned from an assignment as an observer during the Crimean War. By the time of the Utah War, McClellan was out of the army and working in Chicago as VP-Engineering for the Illinois Central R.R., although his saddle was being used by the Utah Expedition’s Second Dragoons and his future father-in-law (Capt. Randolph B. Marcy) was serving as a company commander with the expedition’s Fifth U.S. Infantry. McClellan was bored to death in his civilian job and petitioned the army to re-enter the service for the Big Show in Utah. In this he was unsuccessful as was William Tecumseh Sherman, also a temporary civilian plotting to go to Utah from his perch as a failed banker in California and New York.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  3. Sherman was pushing for the command of the Utah expeditionary force?! Yikes, that could have gone poorly for the Mormons. Though he probably hadn’t developed his theory of total war yet.

    Comment by Doug Hudson — June 26, 2008 @ 11:41 am

  4. Doug Hudson,
    William Tecumseh Sherman wasn’t pushing for “command” of the Utah Expedition, he would have been happy to have gotten back into the army in almost any capacity for the campaign in 1858. Based on his correspondence with his family, what he had his eye on was one of the new regiments to be raised for the Utah War as recommended by President Buchanan to Congress in December 1857. With his banking venture bankrupt, Sherman was then unemployed and dead broke. He was so desperate that in 1858 he went out to Fort Leavenworth and threw in with his brother-in-law ( an attorney) after applying for a law license from the Territory of Kansas. (In his memoirs, Sherman described how easy this process was and how unqualified he was to prctice law.) He also picked up a little money by virtue of surveying a section of military road near Leavenworth — this assignment courtesy of a former brother-officer who took pity on him. If you are woried about what might have happened if W.T. Sherman had been part of the Utah Expedition, consider the fact that at one point Lieut.Col. Robert E. Lee was under orders to bring the Second Cavalry north from Texas for the campaign to reinforce his commander in the Second, Albert Sidney Johnston.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  5. If ever I had a tendency toward schizophrenia, it would be today. Here I sit in the church history library watching a dozen or more people going about their perfectly routine business, oblivious to the anniversary — yet I can’t help seeing the shadowy columns of a phantom army in the streets only half a block from where I sit, being watched by a few equally shadowy men in and around some of the very buildings I can see from this window, torches lit, ready to set fire to the city. More than one person in this room will commute home to Provo this afternoon, never thinking of the thousands of Mormons camped there on this date in 1858, waiting to know when or if they could return to their abandoned homes. I’m surrounded by ghosts, and nobody here knows it!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 26, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  6. Dear Ghost-Surrounded (#5) — If you’re awatchin all those troops marching by (along with the “shadowy men”), better bring your lunch. Because of the enormity of the Utah Expedition, including the troops, loose animals in remudas, army wagons, contractor supply trains, sutlers’ wagons, and miscellaneous campfollowers, you would have spent 11-1/2 hours seeing all this unfold before the last one crossed over the Jordan River to the expedition’s first bivouac in the Salt Lake City area. Whew, no wonder the Utah Expedition cost an amount estimated as high as $40 million. When Abraham Lincoln took office less than three years later, the biggest army garrison in the country was at Camp Floyd, forty miles S.W. of SLC and the U.S. Treasury was empty — literally.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  7. The comment about Sherman reflects a lack of understanding of Tecumseh Sherman in particular if not American history in general. After the Civil War Sherman was in fact in overall command of military forces in the West, including Utah. In 1866, he told Mormon agent T.B.H. Stenhouse he had informed Gen. P. E. Connor “that the Vedette [the army paper at Fort Douglas] had got to change its tone, that it was none of Connor’s business to meddle with the Mormons.”

    But Sherman also had advice for Brigham Young:

    William T. Sherman to Brigham Young, Telegram, 10 April 1866, MS 1234, Brigham Young Papers, LDS Archives.
    Transcribed by Will Bagley, 17 December 1996

    Pacific Telegraph Company
    To: Brigham Young Apr 10 1866
    By Telegraph from St. Louis 10

    Sir. A telegraph [sic] comes to me from responsible officers that four 4 men styled Gentiles have been murdered by Mormons & that there is an apprehension of further danger to this class by [the term] Gentiles I understand american citizens not of your religious creed. I am bound to give protection to all citizens regardless of religious faith & shall do so. Those murderers must be punished & if your people resort to measures of intimidation those also must cease all of our people must enjoy equal rights within the limits of our national domain. I know little or nothing of the causes of local trouble in Utah but it is well for you to know that our country is now full of tried and experienced soldiers who would be pleased at a fair opportunity to avenge any wrongs you may commit against our citizens even in that remote region I will soon have regular troops in Utah & on the road leading there when I hope we shall receive reports on which to base accurate opinions and I send you this message not as a threat but as a caution that a sensible man should heed.

    W. T. Sherman
    Maj. Genl

    I find Young’s reply– “neither I, nor the community at large, know any more about it than an inhabitant of St. Louis”– about as credible as his other expressions of cluelessness regarding affairs in Utah. Young apparently asked or thought about asking Sherman for the names of those who sent him the information.

    Despite whatever mistaken notions an overdrawn persuction complex might conjure up about the military and the Mormons, Sherman did not want to fight the Mormons. But if they acted out again and he had to, he wanted to wait until the railroad was finished.

    When did the Utah War end? August 29, 1877.

    Will Bagley

    Comment by Will Bagley — June 26, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  8. Bill MacKinnon – Thank you. This is why I love reading (and posting) on blogs. I am reviewing and fleshing out the amateurly written biographies of my ancestors. There is no way I can know enough to put together such a variety of new information. Your additions are appreciated.

    There is more around that particular story. I may even have a first hand version of the encounter. But I haven’t had the chance to collect it all and post it on my site yet. So much to write and so little time.

    Comment by BruceC — June 26, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  9. BruceC(#8) — Thanks for your kind thoughts. Glad some of this serves a useful purpose other than capturing my interest for fifty years. I’m excited about the prospect of your having a first-hand account of your ancestor’s encounter/repartee with that army contracting lieutenant. If you find it, please let me know! That’s the stuff from which great stories emerge, disappear or get expanded.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

  10. Thanks Bill (and Ardis). Great reading!

    Comment by Just me — June 26, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

  11. Will (#7)– As much as I know you like to dislike B.Y., I’m pretty sure you’d agree with me that the “end” of the Utah War — as I’ve used the term here — didn’t coincide with the date of his death (August 29, 1877) but was a process that took place long afterward. One of my favorite examples is Chris Cannon’s 1996 run for the U.S. House of Representatives, a campaign that included a TV commercial in which Cannon compared Bill Clinton’s creation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to the arrival of the Utah Expedition of 1857-1858. At about the same time a resident of Kane County, UT — an ironic place name — told a “NYTimes” reporter that the creation of Grand Staircase was “the Utah War all over again.” As for the Brigham Young-General Sherman relationship, I’d just note that about ten years after the date of the telegram you quote, the Sherman family (“Cump,” Mrs. Sherman, and their daughter) visited Salt Lake. Soon thereafter B.Y. wrote to his son, Willard, a recent graduate of West Point serving as an engineering officer at Fort Totten, NY, to note Miss Sherman’s unattached status and to suggest that attention paid to her on 2d Lieut. Young’s part might not hurt his budding army career. Willard, his own man, responded by paying attention to neither Miss Sherman nor her general-father and, I suppose, his own Pop.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  12. Bill, I just wanted to thank you for sharing this glimpse into your larger work with us. It’s quite fascinating.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — June 26, 2008 @ 6:22 pm

  13. Kevin (#12)– Im glad that you think so, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I only wish that those interested in the history of the United States, the LDS Church, the West, Utah, the coming of the Civil War, and the U.S. Army had a slightly better understanding of this subject. Last night my wife and I met a couple in their late 60s/early 70s visiting California — he from Minnesota (from which the Tenth U.S. Infantry was reassigned to the Utah Expedition) and she from Pennsylvania (James Buchanan’s stompon’ grounds) –who had no idea what the Utah War was when that subject came up. Yet last week I received a letter from one of my personal heroes, David McCullough, who said some nice things about “At Sword’s Point, Part 1″ (he liked the epigram from Harry Truman’s diary about the White House and the ghost of James Buchanan at the beginning of Chapter 5) and went on to write: “I appreciate the book especially as I’ve long believed the Mormon story — the Mormon epic [underscore] — is of much greater importance than most Americans seem to have any idea; and what an American [underscore] epic!” I know that McCullough was serious about a fascination with Mormon history, because as he, Elder Marlin Jensen, Rick Turley, and I strolled down a New Haven, CT street on the way to dinner one October evening in 2005 he asked Elder Jensen what he thought about Richard L. Bushman’s new biography of Joseph Smith and then noted that he was about to read it. Time to turn off the TV or to switch from eBay to Keepapitchinin…heh, heh.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  14. OK, just got back from meetings and am catching up. Haven’t read any comments and very little of the post, but . . .

    “Wars, like labor-management disputes, are shockingly easy to start but extraordinarily difficult to conclude.”

    Perhaps one of the best statements ever, Ardis.

    Comment by Ray — June 26, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

  15. “Thanks, Bill! You da bomb!”

    [slight shudder, followed by full cognizance after realizing I had drifted off so late at night until awakening with your post before me]

    – er, that is to say, wonderful job as always, Mr. MacKinnon. Thanks so much for your splendid contribution to all which is PitchedIn to Ardis’ most excellent site. And isn’t it marvelous that one can devote half a century to a subject, and still find new data and sources as in Bruce’s Comment #1. Of the making of books, there is no end.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 26, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  16. RickBook (#15) — I’ve lived in Detroit long enough to know that there’s a huge difference between “Da Man” and what you call “Da Bomb.” I’m trying to avoid “Da Bomb” status (I think). Sigh…But to your point, there is indeed NO end to the unexploited materials and new stories about this subject, as I discovered in first visiting your antiquarian books/manuscripts sanctum sanctorum near Syracuse decades ago. What gems came out of the RickBook Vault (second only to the famous green FP Vault in SLC): B.Y.’s heretofore unknown June 30, 1857 letter to Horace S. Eldredge asking him to ship kegs of gunpowder from St. Louis to Salt Lake City in sealed, unmarked metal boxes BEFORE the Utah War started (all yours, folks, for $15,000); an extensive array of back issues of “The Vermont Watchman” for 1857-58, etc., etc. And then,deep in the innermost recesses of the magic RickBook Vault, was that surprising McClellan-pattern U.S. dragoon saddle studded with silver mountings arrayed so as to spell a dedicatory inscription: “Lot Smith, I Love You”!

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 26, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

  17. Thanks Bill. As always, it was very interesting. As I read the essay and your thoughts on the impact that is felt even today, I was reminded of a meeting of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War held back in about 1997. The meeting was a combined meeting of the “camp” from Denver, Colorado and the Utah “camp” which was appropriately named the Lot Smith Camp.

    As we sat there eating lunch, one of the men from Colorado commented with evident distaste that Lot Smith was a traitor to the country given the fact that he had led raids against supply trains during the Utah War. I set my fork down, looked him squarely in the eye and said, “As proud as I am of my four ancestors who fought in the Civil War, I am even more proud of my great-grandfather who helped Lot Smith burn those government supply wagons!”

    And I am still proud to this day and again have to agree with your assessment that the effects of the war continue to the present.

    Comment by Craig L. Foster — June 27, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  18. Bill- Unfortuanatley the only account I could find of my great great grandfather’s encounter/repartee so far was one written by one of his sons years after the fact. But I’ll keep looking. I rewrote the events with a more accurate quote on my website. Thanks again for your “two cents.” And to Ardis for making it possible. Always appreciated.

    Comment by BruceC — June 27, 2008 @ 11:22 am

  19. A wonderful post and the responses are quite interesting. I agree with Bruce on many levels. History helps us understand, explain and one would hope avoid the same pitfalls in the present. Bill, you have made an incredible contribution to Mormon studies and western history by writing “At Sword’s Point”, thank you.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — June 27, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  20. Thanks, Joe, for commenting on the “incredible contribution” Bill’s book has made to Western, ante-bellum Army, and Mormon studies: more importantly, it’s a VERY credible contribution to a subject so encrusted with the barnacles of mythology that it’s a wonder it doesn’t (to complete mixing metaphors) turn turtle and sink.

    When Bob Clark and I launched the series 12 years ago, our hope was to introduce great Mormon-related documents to American historians and, conversely, expand Mormon historical understanding of Western history. But to learn that David McCullough is now reading Volume 10 is more than vindication of all that work–it proves how wise we were to get the best living expert on the Utah War to handle it (and remember, Hal Schindler was still alive and, well, well).

    But finally, Bill, my personal feelings about Brigham Young are neither here nor there: iconoclast or not, my duty was a historian requires me to be as fair as possible, and just last night I ran into a fan at the Arts Festival who commented, without any solicitation, that he thought “Blood of the Prophets” was eminently fair. And yes, I would seriously date the end of the Utah War to 29 August 1877–and I strongly recommend that Volume 2 carry its summary of subsequent events, including Young’s dreams of moving the Mormon kingdom south of the border, and his plans and actions to do just that, to 29 August 1877.

    Why that date? Because on August 30, 1877, the nature of the struggle between Mormon theocracy and the American republic transformed itself into the war for and against Utah polygamy.

    Will

    Comment by Will Bagley — June 27, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  21. Great post, Bill. It sounds then like you would consider Col. Connor’s command at Fort Douglas during the Civil War to be an extension of the Utah War. I heard that he had bragged in some letters about having SLC under the muzzles of his cannons. From what I’ve read, it also sounded like he was terribly disappointed to have his California Volunteers assigned to Utah rather than the Civil War, and that he was hoping for a confrontation with the Mormons. Instead, he settled for his long distance winter campaign against the Indians at Franklin, ID.

    Comment by kevinf — June 27, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  22. Craig (#17) — Was your great-grandfather one of the men on the Utah War’s Lot Smith raid listed by James Parshall Terry (see p. 348 of “At Sword’s Point, Part 1″), or was he one of those whose name Terry couldn’t remember when he recalled the raid in the 1890s? Were your Civil War ancestors men who got into the war before moving to Utah, did they never move to Utah, or were they in Utah when the Civil War started and went east to get into it? There’s a pretty good awareness of who served from Utah during the Civil War in Capt. Lot Smith’s Union Army cavalry company for 90 days and in Col. Robert Taylor Burton’s unfederalized Nauvoo Legion cavalry company, but no organized understanding of other Mormon troops (Utahns and non-Utahns) who were in either the Union or Confederate service for one reason or another. I’m just curious as to which of this complex series of possibilities your ancestors were part of. One last comment: your discussion while part of the encampment with the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War sounds a bit like the conflict that occurred soon after the Civil War ended involving the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). When it came time to form a GAR post in Salt Lake City, at least three categories of Union Army vets set about to join: non-Mormons who had served in the Union Army and who had moved to Utah after the war; Mormons who had served under Lot Smith in both the Utah War and Civil War; and Mormons who had served under Smith during the Civil War but not during the Utah War. The initial move was to name the GAR post after Lot Smith, but this was barred because of Smith’s Utah War involvement — this cat was then skinned indirectly when the post’s Ladies Auxiliary took Smith’s name, which they were apparently able to do outside the control of the GAR. (Why does Eliza R. Snow and the Relief Society somehow come to mind?…heh, heh)Then the next problem was that the vets who had served under Smith in both wars were barred from joining the post because of their Utah War service. This bone of contention was not solved as easily as the Ladies Auxiliary gambit and required a “court proceeding” within the GAR and ultimately a decision by the national commander of the GAR that the Utah petitioners were indeed eligible to join. I wasn’t aware that the “Sons” organization of which you’re a member is still fighting that one, but why am I not surprised? Thanks for the info.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 27, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

  23. BruceC (#18) — Thanks for the additional information. At least you’ve got the son’s recollections to work with.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 27, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  24. Joe Geisner (#19) — Thanks for your typically kind comments.

    kevinf (#21) — You’ve got Gen. Connor pretty well pegged. He and his California troops were terribly disappointed at having to serve in Utah, which they viewed as a backwater; they wanted to go to Virginia and get into the Big Show. His relationship with Brigham Young was terrible and both leaders were to blame. B.Y. referred to him mockingly as “Pat,” playing to anti-Irish prejudices of the time and Connor reciprocated in spades. (It was a far different relationship than the one between B.Y. and Albert Sidney Johnston, which was largely distant and civil.) One of the little known incidents involving the Connor-Young hatred is around today in plain sight — the name of Fort Douglas. It wasn’t just a matter of Connor building a fort on the bench over the city which his artillery could hit at will, but he rubbed salt in the wound by naming the post “Camp Douglas” after the late U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, a man who B.Y. hated perhaps above all others because of his June 12, 1857 speech in Springfield. Connor wasn’t told by the War Dept. or the army’s Dept. of the Pacific to establish a post there and to call it that, in fact Connor’s superior was surprised to learn of the new post’s establishment as he had assumed that Connor would re-occupy the old Camp Floyd, which had been deactivated in 1861 under the name Camp Crittenden. For Connor to have used Douglas’s name was an extraordinary act, since the sitting president at the time was Abraham Lincoln, arch political rival of Douglas in 1858 and 1860. It’s a little bit as though general Tommy Franks had named the biggest post in Iraq “Camp Al Gore,” thereby insulting President G.W. Bush. I’m convinced that Connor did this solely to infuriate B.Y. The Idaho Indian campaign to which you refer was the battle/massacre at Bear River, in which more blood was shed than in any of the other Indian conflicts. The troops involved were army regulars, but some of the guides were Mormon civilians, like Porter Rockwell.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 27, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  25. Will (#20) — I see your point, but if I tried to include the relevant documents between 1858 and 1877 (in addition to the ones that will be necessary to carry the action through 1858),there’s no way that “At Sword’s Point” could be held to two volumes. As you know as well as I do, our original concept back in 1996 was for a single-volume documentary history of the Utah War. As time passed and it became more apparent how complex the story was and how enormous the trove of unexploited material turned out to be, you went to bat for/with me to petition Bob Clark for a second volume and a bigger than usual first volume at that. Beyond that, alas, we can’t go, so “At Sword’s Point, Part 2″ will pick up the action from Part 1 with Thomas L. Kane’s January 5, 1858 departure for Utah from New York and will take it through the fall of that year with enough selected docs. and epilogue to indicate that Albert Sidney Johnston’s march through Salt Lake City wasn’t the end — it’s ongoing in many respects as your favorite quote from William Faulkner’s “Requiem for a Nun” says so aptly: “The past is never dead. In fact it’s not even past.” Your pride in the “KINGDOM IN THE WEST” series is not only understandable but wholly justified. Without the creativity and hard work of you and Bob Clark, the series and my part of it would not have unfolded as they have. I tried to say that at some length in my Spring 2007 “Dialogue” article (“Loose in the Stacks: A Half-Century with the Utah War and Its Legacy”) and the 11-page Acknowledgements section of “ASP1.” Bravo to you and Bob! I just wish that Arthur H. Clark and Art Clark were here to see what you two and your band of author-editors have brought about.

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 27, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  26. I completely agree with Will that having David McCullough interested in “At Sword’s Point” is more than vindication. I would suggest that Bill’s goodwill has long legs. I know that every Mormon interested in history I have talked with about the book is proud to have Bill show interest and then dedicate a great deal of his life telling “our” story when it comes to the Utah War. Bill’s language and tone have been respectfull and fair when it comes to both sides of the story. My guess is Will and Bob are both very proud of this goodwill and honest scholarship.

    I have one additional comment that speaks to KITW series. Having a wide group of scholars write the series was a master stroke on Will’s part. To have scholars like Bill, Ken Owens, Michael Homer, David Bigler, Carmon Hardy and Will not only allows for each author to focus on what they enjoy, but gives a wide range of ideas and perspectives.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — June 27, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  27. Joe Geisner (#26) — Again, I have to tell you how overwhelming it is to read these thoughts from a guy who is as knowledgeable on this subject as you have been over a very long time. Thank you. I would expand on some of what you say in three little ways. First, I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression from your use of the word “vindication” that the “KINGDOM IN THE WEST: The Mormons and the American Frontier” series is under siege or attack in some way. Sure there are people who may not agree with everything in every volume, but my take is that the series is very well regarded like every one of The Clark Co. series that have preceded it. That’s why the University of Oklahoma Press went out of its way to bring Bob and his company into their constellation in 2006, why the Mormon History Association gave them a special citation at the 2006 annual meeting in Casper, WY, and why Westerners International dubbed Bob its Prez several years ago. I suspect you may have meant “validate” rather than “vindicate.” Secondly, I wouldn’t want to create the impression that David McCullough’s interest in “At Sword’s Point” came about because he plucked it off the internet and started reading it. He and I serve on a library board at Yale that I chaired in the first half of this decade. I wrote to him to express regrets over missing a lecture that he gave last month and to thank him for his immense contribution to the writing and teaching of American history and his support for the libraries that do so much to aid these essential activities. I also sent him a copy of the book, noting the excerpt that I used from Harry Truman’s recently discovered (and unpublished) diary for 1947 and the fact that “At Sword’s Point” used in Chapter 12 (“Lonely Bones”)a portion of his “Mornings on Horseback” to contrast the gross differences in the way Teddy Roosevelt personally dealt with thieves on the frontier of 1880s Dakota Territory (relentless pursuit, trial, and imprisonment) vs. Brigham Young’s advocacy at General Conference in 1853 that summary exceution was the route to go. It was all that that prompted his fascinating comments on Mormon history as an epic and an American one at that. Thirdly, I couldn’t agree more with your comments about the group of author-editors assembled for the “KITW” series. Reminds me of Claude Rains’ closing comment in the film “Casablanca” about rounding up what has come to be the “Usual Suspects”! Our cup runneth over…

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — June 27, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  28. Bill,

    You are correct, I should have written validate. You are equally correct that the series is “well regarded”. As I think about it, what series on Mormon history is as solid and filled with valuable material as KITW? I can think of none. I once told Will that I was amazed with “Army of Israel”. It answered every question I had about the Mormon Battalion. A few strengths (not inclusive by any means)of the series include woman’s voices, thinking beyond the Great Basin in analysis, documents that were nearly impossible to locate or had never been made available before, and inclusion of Gentiles and Indians in the narrative. This series will be used by historians for decades if not centuries.

    Comment by Joe Geisner — June 28, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  29. Thank you for the fun reading. And, on the heels of the the ghosts of the 28th of June, is March 6th,1859 and may 28th. The former is the date of the first Masonic Lodge(under dispensation) from the Grand Lodge of Misouri,Rocky Mountain #205; the later, the day Special Order #140 was issued at Camp Floyd, U.T. authorizing a Masonic Lodge building on the Camp. From Mar59-Mar60, 162 men joined the lodge(the high water mark to this day) The first Master of the Lodge, John C. Robinson, later union gen. and MOH winner. The last Sr. Warden of the Lodge,Harry Heth. Both will meet again in a small town in Penna. in 63, the first day. Along with some pards from Utah days, John Reynolds, and John Buford I love this stuff. Hollywood could not make this up,this is the greatest wild west story ever.

    Comment by Michael Moon — November 3, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  30. Michael Moon (#29), I’m not up on my Masonic lore, so I can’t add much to your comments about Masonic activities in UT after the Utah War except to note that both B.Y. and James Buchanan were members. Following the Utah Expedition’s June 26, 1858 march through GSLC, B.Y.’s compound was guarded night and day by a detail of men that probably included some of his lodge brothers. When Buchanan left the White House to retire to “Wheatland,” his Lancaster, PA mansion, feelings in town ran so high about his responsibnility for the onset of the Civil War that his lodge brothers had to stand watch over the house much as B.Y.’s guarded the Lion House 2,000 miles to the west.
    The two Utah Expedition officers whom you mentioned, Captains John Cleveland Robinson and Henry (Harry) Heth, indeed played colorful roles at Gettysburg — on opposite sides. At Fort Bridger, Robinson had been the officer who carried a frozen, exhausted Thomas L. Kane into his warm tent immediately after his dramatic, unannounced arrival from Salt Lake City in early March 1858, a kindness for which Kane was forever grateful and about which he wrote to President Buchanan. (Whether Generals Kane and Robinson met at Gettysburg, where they both fought on the Union side, I do not know.) Heth was supposedly the only military officer whom Robert E. lee addressed by his given name, a sure sign of his affection for Heth. As a young lieutenant, Heth made a practice of calling on General Winfield Scott to pay his respects whenever he was in New York. In his reminiscences, Heth described being invited to dinner one evening by the Scotts. He recorded that during the meal Mrs. Scott confided to him wryly that the definition of “ennui” was something like “a candle stub, a bowl of potatoes, and an evening of whist with General Scott”

    Comment by Bill MacKinnon — November 3, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  31. Mr. MacKinnon, I come rather late to this conversation, but I have your book. I am writing a biography of the John J. Healy, that you mention in the preamble of this this blog. In fact, I work at the Fort Whoop-Up that you mention in Alberta.

    I have a copy of Healy’s Army record from NARA, and some problems have come up from this. Though the record does confirm enrollment in the 2nd Dragoons, his date of enlistment is March of 1858, which I find makes it impossible for him to have been on the first expedition that encamped at Fort Bridger.

    I will share with you the paragraphs that summarize my assessment of the Record.

    “Barely legal to join the military, archival records confirms that on March 23, 1858, in the upstate town of Buffalo, New York, young “five feet, five inch” John J. Healy, with “ blue eyes, dark hair, dark complexion” stepped up to recruiting Sergeant R.M. Eagle, and enlisted in Company ‘B’ of the 2nd US Dragoons, Regimental Number 94.

    Tappan Adney, the artist and journalist who knew the man personally, and made an honest effort to write an ill-fated biography said: “Captain John J. Healy–I never learned what the initial J. stood for; it never seemed to matter.” The time when Adney first became acquainted “were anxious days and Healy was a difficult man to get to know, and was never the kind of man that one would feel like taking a per-sonal liberty with. So there were other things more important than asking him was the second J. in his name stood for.”

    The official Army record reveal as many questions as answers. Another interesting note is that he signs himself in as “John Joseph Healy”. There is no doubt about his signature, when compared with samples of the same monogram. This seems to be the first (and last) time that ‘Joseph’ pops up as his second name. Popular conception has always given his middle name as ‘Jerome’, though no reference is as close to primary as this Army record. Contact with a descendant has confirmed that the naming ‘John Joseph’ is a familiy tradition that carries on to this day in the Healy family.

    An even more interesting gem comes from the fact he “declare(s), That I am twenty one years and two months of age”. This is the only evidence that hints at his birth year, being anything but 1840, as he attested to in an interview in 1899, and by his 1908 death certificate and daughter Regina Mettler’s recol-lection. Regina confuses things further with a generalization: “at seventeen years of age ‘Johnny’ Healy enlisted in the Second United States Dragoons …” Clearly Healy was eighteen, if barely.

    Perhaps Johnny was too young, yet to attain the age of majority, and became creative with his true age. The frontier army did little to check up on these kinds of facts, and rarely cared. All that was re-quired for a five-year hitch was a willingness to ride and shoot.”

    Essentially my question for you is the details of any subsequent follow-up expedition that would have been made into Bridger and Utah after the enlistment dates.

    Would he have been accompanying Governor Cummings and Kane when they returned to Salt Lake, or with the Peace Commission of Powell and McCulllogh in April 1858?

    Without my benefit of having Part 2 of “At Sword’s Point” at hand, can you provide any insight into this, and do you believe that Healy or any members
    of a relief expedition would have been on the eventual march into Salt Lake City?

    I realize it is nearly impossible to tack the movements of a buck private, but any insight would be appreciated to assist my text.

    I have no doubt that John Healy did end up at Fort Bridger at some point, for he was detailed to the escort Oregon Trail wagon trains through the Bear and Wasatch Mountains, before being discharged in Idaho. Again I quote my own text:

    ”On August 1, 1860, Private John Healy received his discharge from the army at what his records called “Camp on Porte Neuf River, Oregon Route”. Incredibly his discharge was taken after barely completing half of the hitch he had signed up for. His discharge says only “by order A.C.O.” If it was a dishonorable discharge, or even a payment for release, there is nothing to reveal why the assigned 5 year tour was not completed.”

    From there, Healy went about his many adventures, of which you no doubt are aware of.

    Comment by Gord Tolton — November 30, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

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