History Mormon Battalion Chapter 36 Section A
Discharged Soldiers At Los Angeles-Their Morality Etc. -Organize for the Return Trip-Journey Commenced-a Remarkable Dream and Its Fulfillment-Difficult Mountain Trail-Animals Lost-Beef Cattle Slaughtered-a Memorial of a Mountaineer’s Death-the Hottest Day-Vain Search for Walker’s Pass-Ecstatic Dance of An Indian-Sacramento Valley-News of the Pioneers-Some of the Men Decide to Remain and Work in California
Let us now return to the discharged Battalion left in that center of sedition and profligacy-Los Angeles, a town which could boast, perhaps, of more lewdness than any other upon the coast. Though stationed for such a length of time in that sink of iniquity, the character of the Battalion for sobriety and virtue was maintained. As a proof that the men did not partake of the immorality of the place, it may be remarked that a hospital surgeon was heard to say that among over seventy soldiers which he treated at Los Angeles for a loathsome disease, only one was a “Mormon.” And if it be any palliation of the sin in the case of that one, it may be said that he was led to pollute himself while intoxicated. That same surgeon gave it as his opinion that, for virtue, the Mormon Battalion were without a parallel among soldiers.
On the 20th of July, the majority of those who did not reenlist were organized into companies for traveling, after the ancient and modern Israelitish custom, with captains of hundreds, fifties and tens, as follows: Lieutenants Andrew Lytle and James Pace, of company E, captains of hundreds; Sergeants William Hyde, Daniel Tyler and Redick N. Allred, respectively, captains of fifties. Elisha Averett, musician, was appointed captain of ten pioneers.
It is to be regretted that the names of the other captains of tens are unknown to the author. None of the diaries to which he has had access in compiling this history furnish them, and during the lapse of thirty-five years they have escaped from his memory.
This fact may be accepted as one of the many evidences that the compilation of the history of this arduous and highly important campaign was not commenced any too soon. Many exceedingly interesting events have doubtless been buried with the departed veterans.
On the 21st, the pioneers advanced, scarcely knowing whither they went, only that they had been told that by traveling northward, mainly under the base of the mountains, Sutter’s Fort, on Sacramento river, might be reached in about 600 miles, while the sea-shore route would be 700 miles.
Captain Allred’s fifty took up the line of march on the 23rd, and traveled twenty miles to General Pico’s rancho, which seemed to have been an old deserted Catholic Mission. There were two large gardens, including vineyards. One of these covered about 200 acres of ground. There was no grain in these enclosures, but fruit in abundance, such as grapes, figs, pears, apricots, cherries, plums, peaches, apples, olives, dates, etc.
The next day, after eighteen miles travel, over a rugged, steep and high mountain, where two pack-animals lost their footing and rolled twenty or thirty feet before they could regain it, Francisco’s rancho was reached. Here this company remained some four days, awaiting the arrival of the other two fifties, who had tarried to complete their outfit of animals, provisions, etc.
Beef cattle were purchased at this place for all the members of the Battalion who purposed returning to their families that year.
On the 27th, the other companies arrived at Francisco’s rancho. When within four or five miles, the author recognized the place and surrounding country, having seen it in a dream prior to the Battalion’s discharge. At the time of this remarkable dream, the intention of the Battalion was to take the southern route via Cajon Pass, reaching the Great Salt Lake from the South. It may not be entirely uninteresting to relate a portion of the dream.
First, I thought a man clothed in white came to my tent door, having a bottle in his hand, filled with a liquid resembling olive oil. Reaching it to me he said: “take this and drink of it; it is the pure love of God, that casteth out all fear and causeth men to draw nigh unto God.” I drank two swallows, and returned the bottle. The eyes of my understanding were then opened and I was filled with the glory of God throughout my whole system. I saw that we traveled northward and subsequently eastward, instead of south and east as anticipated. On arriving at this rancho, I thought we had passed all of the wild animals that sought to destroy us or impede our progress, which it appeared were numerous and strong, the last being a lion, which I instructed the company to pass without halting or seeming to notice.
On arriving at the creek, I dismounted and drank of the water, and received strength to pursue my journey, which many feared I would be unable to do. I was then caught away in the spirit to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and saw myself with many others in a holy Temple, where the Twelve Apostles presided. The house was filled with the glory of God, and in a room adjoining the main one in which I sat was Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. I did not see Him, but knew He was there. Lucifer also appeared, claiming to be the Christ, and offering free salvation to all who would accept him as their ruler without any church obligations. He was finely dressed, in black, and very genteel, until he discovered that no one paid any attention to his sophistry, when he became enraged and threatened to “tear down the Temple and destroy the kingdom of God,” when, as commanded, he left the house. All was calm as a summer’s morning and no one seemed to fear any of the threats made or to believe he would have power to do any harm. I awoke and the main features of my dream were repeated in open vision, especially as relates to the Temple. From that time I never doubted but Salt Lake Valley would be the final destination of the outcast Saints.
When I awoke and found that it was only a dream, the reality of facts did not seem to lessen, but I found my whole being filled with joy and rejoicing, a thrill of gladness pervading my soul from my crown to the ends of my fingers and toes. As to the wild beasts, they represented the many obstacles thrown in our way to hedge up our departure, prominently among them being the Californians selling us animals stolen from their fellows, who claimed, proved and took them from us, or, perhaps, the parties divided the spoils. When the officers saw so few re-enlist we were also threatened with being pressed into the service; at least it was rumored that such a move was under serious consideration.
On overtaking Captain Allred’s company, I predicted that we would have no further trouble from those sources, which proved literally true, for no further attempt at claiming animals or other trouble of like nature, came in our way. On arriving at the creek I purposely fulfilled a portion of my dream, by alighting from my horse, lying down and taking a good drink at the very place seen in the dream, and received health and strength in so doing.
Many of my comrades will doubtless recollect the relation of the foregoing dream and vision.
We left Pico’s rancho with our beef cattle in front, passing over a rugged mountain, very high and almost perpendicular. It made our heads swim to look down it. In crossing this and other steep mountains, we lost twelve head of our beef cattle.
The next day we traveled over other rough mountains and lost three more of our beeves, and then concluded to rest and kill our remaining beef cattle and dry the meat.
On the 31st, the pioneers advanced to look out the road, while the company remained in camp and finished curing the meat.
On the first of August, we traveled fourteen miles and encamped in a beautiful valley where we found, cut in the bark of a tree, the name of Peter Lebeck, who was killed by a Grizzly Bear on the 17th day of October, 1837. The skull and other bones of the bear, which was killed by Lebeck’s comrades, were still lying on the ground near by.
The next day, a ride of fifteen miles brought us to Tulare River. Finding it impassable, we traveled five miles up it and encamped.
On the 3rd, Elisha Averett returned from an Indian village, bringing with him several Indians, including a chief. A guide was procured from among them, and we continued twelve miles farther up the river.
The following day, we traveled six miles farther up the stream, where a raft was made to carry over a portion of our goods, while some forded the stream with their luggage on their heads, and still others crossed a half mile below, at a new crossing discovered by an Indian. All were over by about two o’clock.
On the 5th, our new guide left us because we could not hire his entire lodge. We had but little water that night, and it took us all night to water our animals out of a few bog holes we had dug in damp places.
On the 9th, we arrived at a large stream of water in a beautiful valley, and the next day made a raft and took our baggage over the stream, while our animals were forced to swim.
On the 11th, our journey lay across a dry plain. It was pleasant traveling in the forenoon, but in the afternoon the weather was excessively hot, with but little air stirring, and when a little breeze came, it was hot and suffocating. Two men gave out and could not ride or travel; others made but little progress, and it almost seemed that all must perish. Those who reached camp first, drank, filled their canteens and returned to revive their thirsting comrades. All finally revived and reached camp. We had no thermometer, but all agreed that this was the hottest day they ever experienced in any country.
Having no guide, the company remained in camp during the 12th, for the pioneers to explore the route, and, if possible, find Walker’s Pass over the mountains. One of the men had procured an old map at Los Angeles, in the hope of defining the different localities, but it proved of no avail to us, as we could not even tell the names of the streams of water we were traveling on.
On the 13th, we made ten miles up the river, with the hope of finding Walker’s Pass. Our pioneers, however, returned, informing us that there was no pass at that point.
After crossing the river and retracing our journey for a distance of twelve miles, we decided to seek no farther for a pass over the mountains, but continue northward to Sutter’s Fort, on the Sacramento River, situated about one-and-a-half miles from where the great city of Sacramento now stands, but which was then a lone military post in a wilderness. Our aim was to follow Fremont’s trail. Indians came into our camp that night, and had what we took to be a religious dance, one getting the “power” much like what we had seen in Methodist revival meetings. While another Indian beat time with a split stick, he danced, sang and talked, until he swooned away in right old-fashioned Methodist style. However, at this juncture, the nude savages, whose clothing consisted of a breech-clout, exhibited more good sense than many of our civilized Christians would have done under similar circumstances, for a leading spirit among them, instead of allowing the unconscious man to lay in a senseless swoon for hours, lit his cigarette and blew the smoke into his ears and mouth, and slapped the pulse of his wrists sharply, until consciousness was restored.
After traveling twenty-two miles on the 15th, we encamped on what was supposed to be the San Joaquin River. Continuing on, we did not follow any trail for any great distance, but kept near the western base of the California Mountains, and still supposed that we were on the San Joaquin River.
On the 20th, we arrived at the Sacramento River and encamped. There were several small farms in this region, mostly planted to corn, and cultivated by Indians.
On the 22nd, after crossing a beautiful valley and camping on a fine mountain stream, three men were sent ahead to Sutter’s Fort, to engage our supply of provisions.
During our next day’s travel, we passed some Indian wigwams. The men being absent, the women and children fled and hid in the brush, like young partridges; a few of the males having returned, visited our camp at night.
On the 24th, we reached a settlement of white people, and were almost overjoyed to see a colony of Americans, the first we had seen since leaving Fort Leavenworth, about a year previous. But the best of all was, the news brought by a man named Smith, who said he had accompanied Samuel Brannan to meet the Church, and who informed us that the Saints were settling in the Great Salt Lake Valley, and that five hundred wagons were on the way. This was our first intelligence of the movements of the Church since the news brought by Lieutenant Pace and Brothers Lee and Egan, at the Arkansas crossing. One must have our previous sad experience to appreciate our feelings on this occasion.
The following day, we rested and held meeting in the evening, as we had frequently done since our discharge. Some having but a poor fit-out, wished to remain here and labor until spring, wages being good and labor in demand; besides, a settlement of the New York Saints was within a few miles. President Levi W. Hancock made some appropriate remarks on the union that had been and was among us, and thought that a few might remain and labor until spring and all would be right. He then asked the company if, in case any felt to remain, they should have our prayers and blessings. All voted in the affirmative. Good remarks were also made by others on the same subject. A few remained. Wages were said to be from twenty-five to sixty dollars per month, and hands hard to get at any price, as there were so few in the country.