Acting upon this order, Captain Allen proceeded to Mount Pisgah, one of the camps of the Saints, and explained the object of his visit by issuing the following:
Circular to the Mormons
“I have come among you, instructed by Colonel S. F. Kearney, of the U. S. Army, now commanding the Army of the West, to visit the Mormon camps, and to accept the service, for twelve months, of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged.
“They will receive pay and rations, and other allowances, such as volunteers or regular soldiers receive, from the day they shall be mustered into the service, and will be entitled to all comforts and benefits of regular soldiers of the army, and when discharged, as contemplated, at California, they will be given, gratis, their arms and accoutrements, with which they will be fully equipped at Fort Leavenworth. This is offered to the Mormon people now.
“This gives an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States, and this advanced party can thus pave the way and look out the land for their brethren to come after them. Those of the Mormons who are desirous of serving their country, on the conditions here enumerated, are requested to meet me without delay at their principal camp at Council Bluffs, whither I am now going to consult with their principal men, and to receive and organize the force contemplated to be raised.
“I will receive all healthy, able-bodied men of from eighteen to forty-five years of age.
“J. ALLEN, Captain 1st Dragoons.
“Camp of the Mormons, at Mount Pisgah,
“one hundred and thirty-eight miles east
“of Council Bluffs, June 26, 1846.
“NOTE.-I hope to complete the organization of this battalion in six days after my reaching Council Bluffs, or within nine days from this time.”
A meeting of the High Council of Mount Pisgah was called, before which the foregoing circular was read, but the only thing the council felt authorized to do was to treat the government agent with courtesy and respect, and give him a letter of introduction to President Brigham Young and other authorities at Council Bluffs, which they did.
Elder Wilford Woodruff, of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was at the time in Mount Pisgah, dispatched a special messenger to inform President Young of the arrival of Captain Allen, and the object of his mission.
On the 1st of July, Captain Allen having arrived at Council Bluffs, a council, composed of President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith and Levi Richards, was called. Before this council, Captain Allen made known his errand.
It may well be imagined that many of the Saints hesitated about responding to this call. It was not from lack of courage either. The danger of such an expedition would never have caused them to shrink or falter; but they had been deceived so many times by those who held authority in the nation that they looked upon this new requisition with distrust.
The Saints were in peculiar circumstances. They were scattered all the way from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, and even west of there, for some had crossed the Missouri. They were destitute, having been forced to part with nearly every available thing to procure bredstuffs. The poor and sick and helpless who had been left in Nauvoo were looking to those in the advance camps to help them, and many of the latter were under promise to do so. They had hostile Indians in advance of them, and still more hostile Missouri and Illinois mobocrats in their rear. Responding to the call would prevent the pioneer company, which for several days previous had been making preparations to start, from pushing forward to the mountains that year. How were their families to exist in that wilderness when winter came on? How would the helpless women and children do if the fathers and brothers, upon whom they had depended for support and protection, were taken away? These were questions that were bound to arise.
Assistance in emigrating with their families westward, would have been hailed with joy. Work of any kind and at any price, on the route of their proposed journey, by which they could earn a subsistence, would have been considered a God-send. But joining the army and leaving their families in such a condition was repugnant to their feelings. Such a thing had never been thought of, much less asked for, by the Saints. The assertion which has been made by their enemies: that they desired and solicited the privilege of joining the army to go against Mexieo, leaving their wives and children homeless and destitute wanderers on the banks of the Missouri, is a base libel on the character of the Saints. They were loyal citizens, but they never expected such a sacrifice would be required of them to prove their loyalty to the government. Though Captain Allen represented the call as an act of benovelence on the part of the government, and assured the Saints that here were hundreds of thousands of volunteers in the States ready to enlist, it is doubtful whether he would have got one of the Saints to join him if it had been left to his own influence. Indeed, it is said that he admitted afterwards that he could not have blamed the people if they had refused to respond. He would not have enlisted under such circumstances himself, even to save the government.
The condition of the people as Captain Allen passed their camps and the kind treatment he everywhere met, including that of the High Council at Mount. Pisgah, had touched a tender chord in the brave officer’s manly heart. His manner was pleasing, and he gained the good will of the people quite readily; but it required something else than his influence to raise the Mormon Battalion.
On receiving the call, President Young and those associated with him in council decided almost instantly that the Battalion should be raised. There is much, however, to prove that they did not regard it simply as an invitation which they could accept or decline with impunity. President Young said, “we want to conform to the requisition made upon us, and we will do nothing else till we have accomplished this thing. If we want the privilege of going where we can worship God according to the dictates of our consciences, we must raise the Battalion.”
President Geo. Q. Cannon, writing upon this subject, says, “Captain Allen did not inform the people-for the reason, probably, that he knew nothing about it-what the design was in case the Battalion was not raised. The secret history of the transaction is, as President Young was afterwards informed on the best of authority, that Thomas H. Benton, United States Senator from the State of Missouri, got a pledge from President Polk, that if the Mormons did not raise the Battalion of five hundred, he might have the privilege of raising volunteers in the upper counties of Missouri, to fall upon them and use them up.”
To say the least of it, it was a very severe test of their loyalty. President Young “asked the people to make a distinction between this action of the general government, in calling upon them for volunteers, and their former oppressions in Missouri and Illinois,” and with a full sense of the sacrifice required, the people responded.
Presidents Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards rode back to Mount Pisgah, visiting all the intermediate camps by the way, as recruiting sergeants, and sent epistles to Garden Grove and Nauvoo explaining what was required, and urging an immediate response. At the same time others were busy in the vicinity of Council Bluffs, raising all the volunteers they could.
President Young encouraged the men by assuring them that their families should be cared for, that they should fare as well as his did, and that he would see that they were helped along. He also predicted that not one of those who might enlist would fall by the hands of the nation’s foe, that their only fighting would be with wild beasts; that there would not be as many bullets whistle around their ears as did around Dr. Willard Richards’ in Carthage jail, etc.
These predictions were repeated in President Young’s farewell address to the command at Council Bluffs. The sequel will show, improbable as it naturally looked at the time and during the travels of the Battalion, that these predictions were literally fulfilled.
On the 16th day of July, 1846, four companies of over four hundred men, all told, and part of the fifth, were mustered into the service of the United States, at Council Bluffs, Iowa Territory. Our pay and rations dated from this period. The fifth company was soon afterwards filled.