History Mormon Battalion Chapter 01 Section O

Against the season, when ordinary emigration passes the Missouri, they were already through the South Pass; and a couple of short days’ travel beyond it, entered upon the more arduous portion of their journey. It lay in earnest through the Rocky Mountains. They turned Fremont’s Peak, Long’s Peak, the Twins, and other king summits, but had to force their way over other mountains of the rugged Utah range, sometimes following the stony bed of torrents, the head waters of some of the mightiest rivers of our continent, and sometimes literally cutting their road through heavy and ragged timber. They arrived at the grand basin of the Great Salt Lake, much exhausted, but without losing a man, and in time to plant for a partial autumn harvest.

Another party started after these pioneers, from the Omaha winter quarters, in the summer. They had 566 wagons, and carried large quantities of grain, which they were able to put in the ground before it froze.

The same season also these were joined by a part of the Battalion and other members of the Church, who came eastward from California and the Sandwich Islands. Together, they fortified themselves strongly with sun-brick walls and block-houses, and living safely through the winter, were able to tend crops that yielded ample provision for the ensuing year.

In 1848, nearly all the remaining members of the Church left the Missouri country in a succession of powerful bands, invigorated and enriched by their abundant harvests there; and that year saw fully established their commonwealth of the New Covenant, the future


I may not undertake to describe to you in a single lecture the geography of Deseret, and its great basin. Were I to consider the face of the country, its military position, or its climate and its natural productions, each head, I am confident, would claim more time than you have now to spare me. For Deseret is emphatically a new country; new in its own characteristic features, newer still in its bringing together within its limits the most inconsistent peculiarities of other countries. I cannot aptly compare it to any. Descend from the mountains where you have the scenery and climate of Switzerland, to seek the sky of your choice among the many climates of Italy, and you may find, welling out of the same hills, the freezing springs of Mexico, and the hot springs of Iceland, both together coursing their way to the salt sea of Palestine in the plain below. The pages of Malte Brun provide me with a less truthful parallel to it than those which describe the happy valley of Rasselas or the continent of Balnibarbi.

Let me then press on with my history, during the few minutes that remain for me.

Only two events have occurred to menace seriously the establishment at Deseret; the first threatened to destroy its crops, the other to break it up altogether.

The shores of the Salt Lake are infested by a sort of insect pest which claims a vile resemblance to the locust of the Syrian Dead Sea. Wingless, dumpy, black, swollen-headed, with bulging eyes, in cases like goggles, mounted upon legs of steel wire and clock spring, and with a general personal appearance that justified the Mormons in comparing him to a cross of the spider on the buffalo, the Deseret cricket comes down from the mountains at a certain season of the year, in voracious and desolating myriads. It was just at this season, that the first crops of the new settlers were in the full glory of their youthful green. The assailants could not be repulsed. The Mormons, after their fashion, prayed and fought, and fought and prayed, but to no purpose. The “Black Philistines” mowed their way, even with the ground, leaving it as if touched with an acid or burnt by fire.
But an unlooked for ally came to the rescue. Vast armies of bright birds, before strangers to the valley, hastened across the lake from some unknown quarter, and gorged themselves upon the well-fatted enemy. They were snow white, with little head and clear dark eyes, and little feet, and long wings, that arched in flight “like an angel’s.” At first the Mormons thought they were new enemies to plague them; but when they found them hostile only to the locusts, they were careful not to molest them in their friendly office, and to this end declared a heavy fine against all who should kill or annoy them with fire-arms. The gulls soon grew to be tame as the poultry, and the delighted little children learned to call them their pigeons. They disappeared every evening beyond the lake; but returning with sunrise, continued their welcome visiting till the crickets were all exterminated.

This curious incident recurred the following year, with this variation, that in 1849 the gulls came earlier and saved the wheat crops from all harm whatever.

A severer trial than the visit of the cricket-locusts threatened Deseret in the discovery of the gold of California. It was due to a party of the Mormon Battalion recruited on the Missouri, who on their way home found employment at New Helvetia. They were digging a mill race there, and threw up the gold dust with their shovels. You all know the crazy fever that broke out as soon as this was announced. It infected every one through California. Where the gold was discovered, at Sutter’s and around, the standing grain was left uncut; whites, Indians, and mustees, all set them to gathering gold, every other labor forsaken, as if the first comers could rob the casket of all it contained. The disbanded soldiers came to the Valley; they showed their poor companion’s pieces of the yellow treasure they had gained; and the cry was raised, “To California-To the Gold of Ophir our brethren have discovered! To California!”

Some of you have perhaps come across the half-ironic instruction of the heads of the Church to the faithful outside the Valley: “THE TRUE USE OF GOLD is for paving streets, covering houses, and making culinary dishes; and, when the Saints shall have preached the gospel, raised grain, and built up cities enough, the Lord will open up the way for a supply of gold to the perfect satisfaction of His people. Until then let them not be over anxious, for the treasures of the earth are in the Lord’s storehouse, and He will open the doors thereof when and where he pleases.” General Epistle, 14.

The enlightened virtue of their rulers saved the people and the fortunes of Deseret. A few only went away and they were asked in kindness never to return. The rest remained to be healthy and happy, to “raise grain and build up cities.”

The history of the Mormons has ever since been the unbroken record of the most wonderful prosperity. It has looked as though the elements of fortune, obedient to a law of natural re-action, were struggling to compensate to them their undue share of suffering. They may be pardoned for deeming it miraculous. But, in truth, the economist accounts for all, who explains to us the speedy recuperation of cities, laid in ruin by flood, fire, and earthquake. During its years of trial, Mormon labor has subsisted on insufficient capital, and under many trials: but it has subsisted, and survives them now, as intelligent and powerful as ever it was at Nauvoo, with this difference, that it has in the meantime been educated to habits of unmatched thrift, energy and endurance, and has been transplanted to a situation where it is in every respect more productive. Moreover, during all the period of their journey, while some have gained by practice in handicraft, and the experience of repeated essays at their various halting-places, the minds of all have been busy framing designs and planning the improvements they have since found opportunity to execute.

I have gone over the work I assigned myself when I accepted your Committee’s invitation, as fully as I could do without trespassing too largely upon your courteous patience. But I should do wrong to conclude my lecture without declaring, in succinct and definite terms, the opinions I have formed and entertain of the Mormon people. The libels of which they have been made the subject, make this a simple act of justice. Perhaps, too, my opinion, even with those who know me as you do, will better answer its end following after the narrative I have given.

I have spoken to you of a people, whose industry had made them rich, and gathered around them all the comforts and not a few of the luxuries, of refined life, expelled by lawless force into the wilderness; seeking an untried home far away from the scenes which their previous life had endeared to them; moving onward, destitute, hunger-sickened, and sinking with disease; bearing along with them their wives and children, the aged, and the poor, and the decrepid; renewing daily on their march the offices of devotion, the ties of family, and friendship, and charity; sharing necessities and braving dangers together; cheerful in the midst of want and trial, and persevering until they triumphed. I have told, or tried to tell, you of men who, when menaced by famine, and in the midst of pestilence, with every energy taxed by the urgency of the hour, were building roads and bridges, laying out villages, and planting corn-fields, for the stranger who might come after them, their kinsman only by a common humanity, and peradventure a common suffering of men who have renewed their prosperity in the homes they have founded in the desert and who, in their new-built city, walled around by mountains like a fortress, are extending pious hospitalities to the destitute emigrants from our frontier lines of men who, far removed from the restraints of law, obeyed it from choice, or found in the recesses of their religion something not inconsistent with human laws, but far more controlling; and who are now soliciting from the government of the United States, not indemnity for the appeal would be hopeless, and they know it not protection, for they now have no need of it but that identity of political institutions, and that community of laws with the rest of us, which was confessedly their birthright when they were driven beyond our borders.

I said I would give you the opinion I formed of the Mormons: you may deduce it for yourselves from these facts. But I will add that I have not yet heard the single charge against them as a community against their habitual purity of life, their integrity of dealing, their toleration of religious differences in opinion, their regard for the laws, or their devotion to the constitutional government under which we live that I do not, from my own observation, or the testimony of others, know to be unfounded.”

The Mormon Battalion and First Wagon Road over the Great American Desert.

By Miss Eliza R. Snow.

When “Mormon” trains were journeying thro’
To Winter Quarters, from Nauvoo,
Five hundred men were called to go
To settle claims with Mexico-
To fight for that same Government
From which, as fugitives we went.
What were their families to do-
Their children, wives, and mothers too,
When fathers, husbands, sons were gone?
Mothers drove teams, and camps moved on.

And on the brave Battalion went,
With Colonel Allen who was sent
As officer of Government.
The noble Colonel Allen knew
His “Mormon boys” were brave and true,
And he was proud of his command,
As he led forth his “Mormon Band.”
He sickened, died, and they were left
Of a loved leader, soon bereft!
And his successors proved to be
The embodiment of cruelty,
Lieutenant Smith the tyrant, led
The Cohort on, in Allen’s stead,
To Santa Fe, where Colonel Cooke,
The charge of the Battalion, took.

‘Twas well the vision of the way,
Was closed before them on the day
They started out from Santa Fe.
‘Tis said no infantry till then,
E’er suffered equal to those men.
Their beeves were famished and their store
Was nigh exhausted long before
They neared the great Pacific shore.
Team’s e’en fell dead upon the road,
While soldiers helped to draw the load.
‘Twas cruel, stern necessity
That prompted such severity;
For General Kearney in command
Of army in the western land,
Expressly ordered Colonel Cooke,
The man who failure could not brook,
To open up a wagon-road
Where wheels, till then, had never trod;
And Colonel Cooke was in command
Across that desert waste and sand:
He, with a staunch and iron will,
The general’s orders to fulfill,
Must every nerve and sinew strain
The expedition’s points to gain.
Tho’ stern, and e’en at times morose,
Strict sense of justice marked his course.
He, as his predecessors, knew
The “Mormon” men were firm and true.

They found road-making worse by far
Than all the horrors of the war:
Tried by the way-when they got thro’
They’d very little more to do:
The opposing party, panic struck,
Dare not compete with “Mormon” pluck,
And off in all direction fled-
No charge was fired-no blood was shed.

Our God who rules in worlds of light,
Controls by wisdom and by might.

If need, His purpose to fulfill,
He moves the nations at His will-
The destinies of men o’errules,
And uses whom He will as tools.
The wise can see and understand,
While fools ignore His guiding hand.

Ere the Battalion started out
Upon that most important route,
‘Twas thus predicted by the tongue
Of the Apostle, Brigham Young,
“If to your God and country true,
You’ll have no fighting there to do.”

Was General Kearney satisfied?
Yes, more-for he with martial pride
Said, “O’er the Alps Napoleon went,
But these men cross’d a continent.”

And thus, with God Almighty’s aid
The conquest and the road were made,
By which a threatening storm was staved,
And lo! the Saints of God were saved.

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