First General Festival of the Mormon Battalion in Salt Lake Valley-Speeches By Father Pettegrew Presidents Young Kimball and Grant Sergeant Hyde Captain Brown Lieutenants Clark and Thompson and Brothers Huntington Williams Wilkin King Garner Durphy Hess and Hawk
Some items connected with the first general festival of the Battalion, which was held in the Social Hall, in Salt Lake City, on the 6th and 7th of February, 1855, will be interesting as a part of this history.
On this occasion, all the members of the Battalion who were in the Territory, who could possibly attend, with the First Presidency of the Church and a number of other friends, met together to enjoy a social reunion. The Social Hall was tastefully decorated, the best of music was in attendance and a number of tables were spread with all the delicacies and luxuries which the country afforded in the shape of edibles, to tempt the appetites of the assembled guests.
During the course of the proceedings, a number of speeches were delivered, which were replete with interesting reminiscences of days of service, and fatherly counsel from the First Presidency of the Church and others.
Father Pettegrew being called upon by the committee, came to the front of the stage, and said:
“Fellow-soldiers of the Mormon Battalion, and ladies-the wives and daughters of those men who were offered a sacrifice for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: When the time had arrived for the Church to take its flight into the wilderness, according to the predictions of the Prophets, a demand was made by the Government of the United States for five hundred able-bodied men to go and fight for the rights of the people before whom they were fleeing. I say it was at the time when we were fleeing from the persecution, oppression and tyranny exercised against us in our own country, the land in which we were born. This order came at the very time we were escaping into the wilderness to seek protection and liberty among the mountains of the western wilds. It was not long after the order came before we were on the march for the West, to help the United States against Mexico, and I can assure you, brethren and sisters, that when I look upon this lively assemblage and contrast it with the scenes I have passed through in twenty-three years’ experience in this Church, and think of what has taken place, things past come to mind with great vividness, as though they were still before my eyes, and I have indeed cause to rejoice in the present scenery before me, and also in the anticipations of the future.
“My father was a soldier and fought under General Washington, and when a boy I heard nothing else, scarcely, but the accounts of the war, and my father’s views respecting the prosperity, success, and triumph of those early warriors, and the liberty that was gained for all. I for years enjoyed many of the benefits of that liberty, until truth sprang out of the earth, and the light of revelation dawned; then the liberty and freedom purchased by our forefathers were taken from me and my brethren. Hundreds and thousands of acres of good land, that we paid our money for, has been taken away from us by the wicked, while we, only some of the vast number of the robbed and plundered, escaped with our lives and but little else. I rejoice when I think of the scenes through which I have passed, and then behold so many of those men who were sick through fatigue, (for many of our noble band were sick on their way to Santa Fe,) when upon a long march, and for two or three days and nights without water, and suffering from fatigue such as is only known to these, my fellow soldiers. Although their hardships were numerous, I think there were only two of our brave men fell victims to the monster death before reaching Santa Fe. When I think of this, I feel truly grateful to our God this day for His many blessings, and to see so many of those generous-hearted men who have offered their lives for the cause of Christ.”
President H. C. Kimball, then addressed the audience as follows:
“Brethren, keep as still as you can, I suppose you ain’t in a hurry are you? (The congregation all replied to the question in the negative.) I motion you stick to it till you get satisfied, if it takes the whole week; this world was not made in a day, neither will our victory be obtained in one day, but it will take many years, for it is a great work. Brethren, these are some of my feelings respecting you. You know I was one of the recruiting officers; President Young and myself went round recruiting, so I consider myself one of the superior officers of this company; and I feel that I have considerable of a right here; in fact I felt that I could not stay away.
“You all know my feelings about you; I have not anything in my heart but the very best of feelings toward you; and there is not anything in the world causes my feelings to be aroused sooner than to see any one take a course to put a stop to the influence of this people, either in one shape or another. I want to see you all honor yourselves, and make your Priesthood honorable in the sight of high heaven. I wish to see you honor God and your calling as you did in the campaign when you went to California. I verily believe and know, that you did then, generally speaking, and I know that resulted in the salvation of this people, and had you not done this, we should not have been here.
“I want to tell you, gentlemen, that we’ll have times and seasons yet, and you will be brought into closer quarters than you were on those occasions. I feel to warn you, and forewarn you of these things. Don’t sell your guns, but if you have not good ones, see and get them, and rub up your swords and be ready; but fear not, for the Lord will prepare a ram in the thicket, and he will save his people and overthrow the wicked, if it takes every one of those boys who were in Zion’s Camp and this Battalion to do it. Brother Grant was in Zion’s Camp, and it was said in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph, that we then offered a sacrifice equal to that of Abraham offering up Isaac, and Isaac’s blessing shall be upon you, brethren.
“I hope you will stay together till you are satisfied with your enjoyments, and myself and Brother Grant will sustain you; and do not for a moment get it into your hearts that we are anything but your friends, for we have the best of feelings towards you all. Our prayers are lifted up by day and by night in your behalf, and you will be blessed indeed, every man and every woman. But every man that lifts his hand against you shall fall, and every nation, and president, and king that lift their hands against you and this people, cannot prosper; but the curse of the Almighty will rest upon them. These are my views and feelings upon that subject. May God bless you forever and ever. Amen.”
President J. M. Grant came to the front of the stage, and made the following remarks:
“I see before me men, and I believe the principal part, if not all of you whom I now behold, were in the renowned Mormon Battalion.
“I have read many narratives of the valor of men, and the service they had rendered to their country; but I here see a set of men that rendered service to their country-not such service as was rendered by the men who first raised the ax to break up the wild timber and clear the ground for cultivation; neither do I see that class of men who labored and fought to remove the obstacles that once existed in the United States; but I see men who have stood in defense of their country, under the most heartrending circumstances that human beings could be placed in; men having families and friends to leave on the open prairie; and, as our forefathers fought under General Washington and saved the country from the enemy, so did this Mormon Battalion save a large tract of land from being taken by the enemy, and they saved this people from being pounced upon by the militia of several States; for heartless villains had concocted plans to have all this people murdered while upon the western frontiers.
“You will all remember that I went to Washington, and I know from what I there learned, that the Hon. Thomas H. Benton advocated the necessity of raising troops and cutting off all the `Mormons’ from the face of the earth. Notwithstanding you had rendered your services, and offered your names to go and serve your country in the war with Mexico, yet, while you were doing this, one of the senators, and one of the principal men in the Senate, too, did endeavor to induce the Senate, the Cabinet, and the House of Representatives, to raise a force sufficiently strong to go out against the poor defenseless `Mormon’ women and children who were left upon the wild prairie unprotected. Yes, Mr. Thos. H. Benton wanted to take troops and pounce upon your wives and children when upon the banks of the Missouri River, and sweep them out of existence. And when the case was argued, the question was asked: `Supposing you cut off the men, what shall be done with the women and children?’ `O,’ said Benton, `if you argue the case, and wish to know what shall be done with the women, I say wipe them off, too.’ `Well, then,’ was asked, `what shall be done with the children?’ `Why,’ said Benton, `cut them off, men, women and children, for the earth ought to drink their blood;’ and the feeling was so strong upon the question that it came within a little of magnetizing the whole nation. What should we have done if we could not have argued that we had five hundred men upon the plains, engaged in the service of their country, and their wives and their children left without protection? What, I say, would have been the consequence if we had not had this plea? Israel must have been put upon the altar. And if we could not have raised the complement of men, what would have been the fate of this people? Israel must have been put in the tomb, unless by the interference of high heaven a ram had been found in the thicket. Yes, brethren, had it not been for this Battalion, a horrible massacre would have taken place upon the banks of the Missouri River. Then, I say, notwithstanding your hardships and the difficulties you passed through, you rendered service to the people of God that will ever be remembered, and such service as will bring blessings upon your heads in time and in eternity. And if your friends fell by the wayside; and if any of you lost your families, your wives or your children, and you sustain the people of God, you can depend upon a reward for all that you suffered, for you are the sons of God. This is the real relationship of this Battalion to the Lord Almighty. Our motto is, to sustain the constitution of the United States, and not abuse it; and we intend to live by it, and this is no chimera as some of our enemies might be pleased to call it. You have done a good work, and I say, may God bless you all, and may you honor God as you have honored your country, and all will go well with you from this time henceforth.
“When Isaac went to the altar, he was called a lad, and was twenty-five years old (and some of you are not much older than that now), he went cheerfully, because he knew it to be right; but he had no more of a task to perform than this Battalion, for you had to live upon what you could get; eat hides, blood and all; and you had to eat your mules, and walk over the scorching plains, and be days and nights without water. I would as soon have carried Isaac’s burthen as yours. These things are remembered by all those who see and feel in the kingdom of God; but I am fully aware that many of those who are rather careless and wild do not realize the important service that you rendered on that memorable occasion. The burthen laid upon you was hard to bear, and it was harder than there was any need for it to be.
“We are friendly to our country, and when we speak of the flag of our Union, we love it, and we love the rights the Constitution guarantees to every citizen. What did the Prophet Joseph say? When the Constitution shall be tottering we shall be the people to save it from the hand of the foe.
“I have as much love and respect for the Constitution of `76, as any other man, and I have as much right to the liberty and privileges it guarantees as any other man. Do I think as much of a federal government as I ought? I believe I have as much respect, and am as loyal as any other man, and I believe in giving the rights that are guaranteed by that Constitution to all, not excepting the degenerate children of our forefathers.
“Brethren, you have been called upon to defend not only the Church of God, but your country; and you have many times been called upon to defend your leaders, and it is possible that you may be called upon again. You say that you had but little fighting to do, but that does not prove you never will have it to do. You may yet see the day when the interests of the Church of God will call you into the field of battle, and hence I say, brethren, be ready for whatever may come.
“I have not come here to dance, nor feast, but I have come to mingle my voice with yours, and to say God bless you; and also to say, you are a good set of men-servants of the people of God. I came here to say, you deserve credit, and to offer you my thanks for your services in that Battalion.”
“After dinner, President Brigham Young came upon the stage, and beholding the company full of life and merriment, he exclaimed: “Well, I declare, this beats all the parties I have ever seen here.” He stood and watched the company then upon the floor go through a few figures, after which the house was called to order by the committee, when President Brigham Young made the following
“I intend to occupy your attention but a very short time.
“I now behold a part of the men who left their wives, children, fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers, cattle, horses, and wagons, upon the prairie, in a wild and savage country, and took up their arms and marched forth to the defense, I would be glad to say, of our beloved and happy Republic. The men now before me, (for I presume there are but few here who do not belong to the Battalion,) are men who have constantly had a goodly share of my faith, prayers, and sympathies from the time they volunteered to go into the service of the United States, at least as much as any other set of men who do, or ever did belong to this kingdom.
“Some have imagined, as I have been informed, that the Battalion was not looked upon with sufficient favor, by the balance of the community. Owing to this misunderstanding, I take the liberty of expressing my feelings in part. Perhaps, in a few instances, there may have been remarks made about some members of the Battalion, from which it may be inferred that there might be persons who rather lightly esteemed those who went into the service of the United States. I presume that some of those now present have this idea, and do not wish to be looked upon lightly by their brethren, but wish to be favorably considered by the Saints.
“At the departure of the Mormon Battalion, I am sure that no set of men, or people, ever had more faith exercised for them than this people then had. Perhaps, also, there have been no people on the face of the earth, who, according to their knowledge, possessed more faith than did those very men, when they left their families at the Bluffs.
“What gave rise to the brethren being called upon to go into the United States service? I will tell you some things about it. Suppose it had been shown to you, that there were men in Washington, and influential, too, men who held control of the affairs of the nation, to a great degree, who had plotted to massacre this people, while on the frontiers in an Indian country, you would doubtless have gone to work to circumvent their plans; consequently, all we had to do was to beat them at their own game, which we did most successfully. I was, and am fully persuaded that a senator from Missouri did actually apply for, and receive permission from President Polk, to call upon the militia of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, and if he wished more he had also authority to go to Kentucky and raise a force strong enough to wipe this people out of existence, provided that those men who had been driven from their homes should refuse to comply with the unjust demand upon us for troops. This circumstance you are all well acquainted with, and I need not speak more about it. It was most thoroughly and incontrovertibly proven that we were on hand, and that our loyalty was beyond question.
“Doubtless the spirits who surrounded the senator alluded to, said that this people were hostile to the government; and the President gave him permission to call upon the governors of the States I have mentioned (if we did not fill the tyrannical requisition for five hundred of our men) and get troops enough to march against us, and massacre us all. Without doubt, this was decreed in Washington, and I was moved upon to forestall it. As quick as this idea entered my mind it came to me, I will beat them at their own game. Did we not do it? I think we did.