History Mormon Battalion Chapter 17 Section A
Journey Commenced-Meeting With a. M. Lyman and Others From Council Bluffs-Emotions At Meeting-a Perilous and Severe Journey By Tippetts and Woolsey-Arrival of the Detachment At Fort Laramie-Follow the Pioneer Trail-Arrival in Salt Lake Valley-Disbanded
On the 26th the company laid by, waiting for the provision wagons from Bent’s Fort, and the following day Captain Higgins went back to Pueblo for the loose cattle.
On the 29th travel was resumed towards California by way of Fort Laramie, on the Platte river. The Platte river was reached on the 3rd of June, and from that time the course of travel lay down the stream.
On the 5th the South Fork of the Platte river was crossed, and owing to the great depth of the water, the wagon boxes had to be raised and blocks of wood put under them to keep the loading dry.
On the afternoon of the 11th of June, while on Pole Creek, to the great joy of the detachments, they were met by Elder Amasa M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was accompanied by Brothers Thomas Woolsey, Roswell Stevens and John H. Tippetts, from Winter Quarters, bringing letters from the families and friends of the soldiers, as well as counsel from President Brigham Young; also news of the travels and probable destination of the Church.
Kind reader, if you can fancy yourself banished from civilization, ostracized, your Government failing to redress your wrongs; your best friends and leading citizens murdered in cold blood, when held as prisoners, under the plighted faith of your State for their protection; yourselves and families fleeing before ruthless mobs during one of the coldest winters ever known in the Western States; many sick, and all short of provisions, living to a considerable extent on short rations of parched corn or corn meal. Imagine that no luxuries or palatable food for the sick were to be had except a quantity of quails sent by Divine Providence into your camp, nay more, into your tents and seeking to conceal themselves under the very bedding where your sick wife or child or even your aged father lay (and him perhaps a revolutionary soldier who had fought many a hard battle to gain his and your liberty,) and perhaps under the couch of that mother who had given you life and cared for your tender years, whose emaciated face and sinking and tottering limbs you had fondly hoped to make happy and comfortable in her declining years. Then picture your beloved wife and little ones, not now in the cold February storms, but in an almost tropical July sun, without house or home, perhaps living in a tent and perhaps only a mere wagon with one yoke of oxen, and in an Indian country. Fancy the penalty of returning to civilization to be death, of remaining on the Indian lands of Nebraska to be incurring the displeasure of and threatened ejectment by Government officials. Then suppose you had petitioned every officer, from the justice of the peace to the chief executive of the nation, to redress your wrongs, and that the only satisfaction given was, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.” Suppose your patriotism had induced you to leave-not home, being without a home to leave-but your family, in an Indian country, without food, and, at the call of your country, had enlisted to aid in the suppression of the common enemy, and served for months without news from your family. Then suppose some portions of your family, and for aught you knew every member, had succumbed either to the inclemency of the weather, starvation or the tomahawk!
If you can imagine all of these facts as your own experience, you may have a faint idea of the feelings and emotions of this loyal band of soldiers.
This picture, so far from being overdrawn, is but a faint synopsis of the existing facts. But we will leave the painful past and explain how John H. Tippetts and Thomas Woolsey, two members of the detachments that wintered at Pueblo, happened to be at Winter Quarters when Elder Amasa M. Lyman left there, as it has been stated that they accompanied him to meet the detachments, and yet no mention was previously made of their having left the Battalion.
On the 23rd day of December, 1846, these fearless soldiers left Pueblo, on the head waters of the Arkansas river, alone and without a guide, to take money to their families and friends, whom they had not heard from since John D. Lee and Howard Egan overtook the Battalion as previously noted.
The second day they passed Pike’s Peak. When they awoke in the morning they found themselves ensconced under about six inches of snow. The fourth night they camped on Cherry Creek, near where Denver City now stands. On arriving at the South Fork of the Platte river, they followed down it, passing an old deserted Indian village. A severe east wind arose, which forced them to take shelter under the bank of the river during the night, where they slept on the ice. Brother Tippetts avers that the weather was so cold that six inches of the tail of one of the mules was frozen. Another day’s travel took them to where they could get wood. Here they remained for three days, owing to the severity of the weather. They killed a buffalo, which gave them a supply of meat. After one day’s travel from this point, one of the men went for water and was driven back by a buffalo sentinel. They followed the river down to Grand Island, where some Pawnee Indians took them prisoners and detained them one day and night.
They crossed the river below the island on the ice, then continued eastward to the Elk Horn River. Here they packed sand in their blankets to keep the mules from slipping on the ice, which was rather thin and weak, but they succeeded in crossing in safety.
The same day they were stopped by a band of Omaha Indians. Among them was a white man. Brother Tippetts asked him if he could speak English. He answered “Yes.” Then he exclaimed, “For God’s sake, tell us where we are!” They found themselves within sixteen miles of Winter Quarters, where they arrived at dark, on the 15th of February, 1847, at the house of President Brigham Young, where a picnic party was gathered. Being invited, they freely partook of the supper, which was to them a great treat, as they had been three days without food. Brother Tippetts had previously dreamed of partaking of just such a feast. They were out fifty-two days, traveling like Abraham, not knowing whither they went.
After the meeting with Brother Lyman and the friends who accompanied him, the journey was resumed, and on the 13th of June, while resting, during the afternoon, the detachment was addressed by Apostle Amasa M. Lyman, who imparted such instructions as he had received from President Young and the quorum of the Twelve, for the Battalion, Prominently among which was an exhortation to live as Saints and followers of Jesus Christ, and forsake all of their sins and evil deeds.
It was then supposed the detachment would have to march to California to be discharged.
On the night of the 16th, the command camped within one mile of Fort Laramie, about five hundred and forty miles west of Council Bluffs, where they were mustered into service eleven months before.
President Young, with a company of pioneers, making their way westward, had passed Laramie twelve days previously, and with a view to overtaking them, the command made an early start on the morning of the 17th and followed up their trail.
The road was bad, almost impassable in places, so that travel was necessarily slow and tedious; but they gradually gained on the Pioneers, whose journeying they occasionally learned of by finding a post set up at a camping place, with writing on it, showing when the Pioneers had passed there.
On arriving at the ferry on the Platte, the command learned that the Pioneers were one day’s travel in advance. Finding a blacksmith working at this point, a halt was made for one day, in order to get animals shod. Many emigrants on their way to Oregon or California were crossing the ferry, and among them many of the old enemies of the Saints, the Missouri mobocrats. All the way from this point to where the pioneer trail branched off from the Oregon route, many emigrants were seen making their way to the western coast by the northern route.
Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of the journey to Salt Lake Valley. The command failed to overtake the Pioneers, but arrived on July 27, 1847, three days after the company of Pioneers entered the valley. Here they were formally disbanded, without having to proceed on to California as expected.