“The brethren who went with the Battalion went with as good hearts and spirits, according to the extent of their understanding, as ever men went upon missions to the world, and they manifested a readiness to do anything required of them.
“I will say to you, that, according to the best knowledge I have of you, the course and conduct of many were not justifiable before the Lord, and a knowledge of these facts caused me to weep. But you went upon your journey, were faithful to your officers, and faithful to the Government; and perhaps no other set of men, under the same circumstances, would have done better; and the character that you bear, among the officers whose opinion is of any value, is good.
“I will briefly allude to Colonel Doniphan. After his return, and in a party made by his friends, in St. Louis, at which Mr. Benton was present, he made a speech, and in his remarks, said: `I can take one thousand MORMON BOYS, and do more efficient service against Mexico, than you can with the whole American army.’ This I have been told by those who heard him make the assertion. That was his testimony, and I presume he gave it openly and publicly. I suppose he felt like giving Benton a challenge, for he was always opposed to him in politics; but Benton was not disposed to say anything in reply to it, at least I have heard of no reply.
“The Battalion went on and performed their duties, and fulfilled their mission; and every person who has the spirit of revelation, can see that to all human appearance this people must have perished, had not these men gone into the service of their country. So far as human nature can discern, I say that these men now before me, were the saviors of this people, and did save them from carnage and death. I have always felt an interest in their welfare, and the Lord knows it; and my feelings towards them have always been good, and I do not know that I ever thought of them, but that the feeling burst into my heart `God bless them!’ I bless you now, and pray every good being to bless you, for I have always felt to bless you from morning till evening, and from evening till morning.
“I see your motto there, `The Mormon Battalion-a ram in the thicket!’ Yes, and well caught too. This Battalion made every sacrifice required-they offered their lives to save this people from the evils designed by their enemies. They did everything that was required by the Government of the United States, and I am sorry to say, that some few of them lost their lives in the service. I will tell you one thing, brethren and sisters, which is as true as the Lord Almighty lives; if that Battalion had done as I told them in every particular, there would not a single man have fallen while in that service; I know that such would have been the result. Most of them did live and acted well; but they had the world, the flesh, and the devil, to contend with, and their circumstances were of a very peculiar nature. Some of the most heartrending and cutting scenes that men could pass through, this Battalion was called to endure, and hence it is no wonder to me that they should manifest their weaknesses in those trying times. On the contrary it would have been unprecedented if they had not in some shape or other, manifested the weakness and frailty of human nature. Many of them are with us, some are in California, and some scattered to the nations of the earth to preach the gospel, and a few have died and gone to another sphere; but we ought to be thankful that so many are here to-day, to participate in the enjoyments of this festivity.
“Brethren, you will be blessed, if you will live for those blessings which you have been taught to live for. The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defense of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion. These are my feelings, in brief, respecting the company of men known as the Mormon Battalion. When you consider the blessings that are laid upon you, will you not live for them? As the Lord lives, if you will but live up to your privileges, you will never be forgotten, worlds without end, but you will be had in honorable remembrance, for ever and ever.
“We were accused of being of all people the most dangerous. We were said to be aliens from our Government, and from the pure institutions of our country. But what are the facts? It has been currently stated that while the volunteers under Colonel Stevenson, and other troops from different parts of the Union, were in California, United States Army officers had to seek protection at the hands of these my brethren, against other United States Army officers who proved treacherous, and the Battalion continued steadfast to their trust, and saved that region of the country to the United States. These things they did most faithfully, and to the great benefit of our common country.
“What is said about the treacherous? They could go back, mingle in society, drink and carouse, and it was all right. But the poor Mormon Battalion, the true friends of the country-the true patriots of liberty, had to seek a home in the mountains, and their services were but little thought of. Does this make you feel badly? No, their praise would be a shame, and their presence a disgrace to these `Mormon’ boys.
“I have watched with interest the whole movements of this Mormon Battalion from the beginning, and I will now ask where is there in the whole United States, a more loyal and patriotic band of men? Where is there another set of men like them, anywhere outside of this Church? Others do not know what the principles of a free government are, or should be; but this people do comprehend them, and know what they are, or what they ought to be, therefore, I shall not blame them so much as I should you were you to go astray.
“I thank the Lord that you are here under such favorable circumstances as the present. I do not wish to detain you, and hope you will enjoy yourselves, though I am sorry to see you so crowded, but pleased to see you so good-natured about it.
“You are welcome to the use of this hall; I do not know when the next party wish to occupy it; but if you are not through by the time that others want it, I will tell them to wait, therefore, take your time; and when you get through, you cannot get one cent into my hands for its use. If you have any money that you do not know what to do with, give it to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund to help the poor.”
Elder William Hyde was invited to make some remarks. He came forward and said:
“I am truly happy, brethren, sisters, and fellow soldiers, to meet with you in this capacity. These are the best days of my life; I feel that we are a happy people. I have not language to express my feelings on this occasion.
“My brethren around me feel that I, with them, have made a free-will offering of all that was earthly, and of all that was near and dear unto us, and this offering for the salvation of the aged fathers, mothers, wives, and children of the Latter-day Saints; and in a temporal light, it seemed that we sacrificed all.
“At the time we were called upon to enlist in the service of our country, I was in a feeble state of health, and every natural feeling would say, brother William, you are not fit to undertake such a task; and yet the spirit would say, you must not withhold. We passed through it; the scenes were trying; and what emotions of gratitude would come up in our minds when reflecting upon the goodness of our heavenly Father! And ever since the day of our discharge, I have looked for a time like this-a day of enjoyment.
“I have been separated from my brethren in Zion for a long time, thousands of miles of sea and land have lain between us, and I have never forgotten you. You will be in my mind, and I shall be in yours, and we shall reflect and speak of each other in the gratitude of our souls in a time to come, for then, having overcome and proven valiant to the cause of God, (for I feel we shall be valiant, and be saved in the kingdom of God,) we shall think of past times, and the day of trouble and hardships.
“I say I have been looking for a day of this kind ever since we left the service, but it has seemed as though we never should have a chance of meeting all together again. Sometimes a few have met, but now a large majority have the privilege of meeting to join in the dance, in the music, the feast, the song, and to mix and mingle our joy and rejoicing all together, and have a good time. I cannot express the joy of my heart on this ever-to-be remembered day; it is a glorious day to me.
“It has been my lot to travel many thousand miles, and I have been ready to give up many times, but the Battalion would come into my mind, and the thought would give me fresh courage, and my faith would increase, and the Almighty would bless and strengthen me, so that I would soon recover. And I know, brethren, we were accepted in the course we pursued; I feel to rejoice in having the approbation of my brethren who stand at the head of affairs.
“I have been thinking of a toast to-day, which I will here give:-President Young and all others who offered their assistance in the day of trouble-the recruiting officers of the Mormon Battalion: May they never want for a ram in the thicket. And if we should not live may we have children to live and be as ready as we were at Council Bluffs to go forth in the defense of our country and our religion.
“May God bless us and save us, and may we live to His glory while upon earth, and throughout eternity. Amen.”
Captain James Brown came to the front of the Orchestra and said:
“Brethren, sisters, and fellow-soldiers; as has been remarked by Brother William Hyde, this is one of the happiest days I have had since I enlisted in the Mormon Battalion; and I have not language to express the feelings of my mind, in meeting with the Battalion on this occasion. When I look at this happy company and contrast the present scenes with those we witnessed when we left Council Bluffs, Fort Leavenworth, Santa Fe, and from there to California, and to this city, it fills my heart with gratitude to God. And I can say that the time has come, notwithstanding the trials and scenery around looked gloomy then, for the Lord to favor Zion.
“We have in a measure extricated ourselves from our enemies, and thank God for it. When we were in trouble, the Lord extended his mercies to us, and we had cause to rejoice; and we now are free from the claws of those who were our oppressors; and this is through obedience to those whom God has set in his kingdom to govern and regulate all things for our eternal welfare. Let us rejoice, and officers and all be ready to go forth in defense of the principles of righteousness; for, as we stated yesterday, we have been the means of redeeming our brethren; and our sacrifice is tantamount to that of Abraham offering Isaac. The members of the Battalion left their wives and children, their friends and everything that was near and dear to them upon the earth, excepting only the counsel received from the authorities of the Church, and that they went to fulfill.
“I do not suppose there is an individual in the Battalion, who, had he been left to his own thoughts and feelings, independent of counsel, would have enlisted. I would have felt very reluctant under the circumstances had it not been for the counsel of my brethren whom God authorized to dictate the affairs of His kingdom.
“We have accomplished the work required of us, redeemed our brethren, and helped to place the Church in the valleys of the mountains, where the kingdom of God will roll forth with mighty power, and it shall fill the whole earth.
Lieutenant Clark said:
“I wish to relate a circumstance that transpired when the Battalion were about leaving for California. A lady who belonged to the Battalion was in conversation with another lady, and when interrogated about her husband going to California, and asked how she felt, the reply was, that she would rather be a soldier’s widow than a coward’s wife. My toast is, may this spirit be in all the wives of the Mormon Battalion.
“My heart is filled with joy and rejoicing on this festive occasion, and I feel the same spirit that has rested upon me from time to time since we left the service. I have many times looked forth to the day we could meet together and see better times, when we should see our brethren in peace, and of which we have a small sample to-night. My faith is that the time will come when the offspring of this Battalion will become as numerous as the sand upon the sea shore. And I pray that we may ever feel the spirit that will prompt us to act whenever called upon in defense of our country. Brethren, may the Almighty bless us and save us all in His everlasting kingdom. Amen.
Lieutenant Thompson said:
“With peculiar feelings I arise to make a few remarks. I am very grateful for this privilege of meeting with my brethren. I am one of those who helped to lift out the wagons when almost embedded on the sandy plains, and my spirit is glad within me when I think of the privileges we enjoy as a people in this lovely valley, and I hope we may live still further to rejoice together. My prayer is that we may live to see each other’s faces again and enjoy ourselves as we are doing here, and as we did on the plains.”
D. B. Huntington said:
“I feel like saying a word or two, although I am sensible I have not language at command, whereby to express my feelings. It does my heart good to see such an assembly as this, and it seems to me that there never was such a spirit of faith and good feeling among this body as at the present time; and this is only the commencement. This festival will long be remembered in the hearts of this people, and it will be regarded as an item of important history in this kingdom.
“It is, indeed, a pleasing thought with me that there has not been a word of jarring in the whole of our proceedings in this festival.
“I wish to say a few words for the benefit of all, respecting trials. I feel to say every one will have as hard a time of trial as any of these my brethren had when we shook hands with our wives and bid farewell. I and my wife never saw a darker day; she said to me, Dimick, I fear I shall never see you again. I laid my hands on her head and blessed her in the name of the Lord, and told her we would live to see each other again, and spend many happy years together.
“Brother Brigham and Brother Heber asked me to go, and if they had told me that I should not return any more, I do not think I should have felt it any more than I did that trial. Probably you may have to make as great a sacrifice within a few years to come.
“Brethren, read the Book of Mormon, for nothing will make a man feel more deeply than to leave his family under those circumstances, and by reading that book you will get comfort by referring to the trials of the ancients. There is not a man here but will be tried in one way or another, therefore be faithful or not many will stand the trying day; but never let it be said that one of this noble band has fallen through transgression. There are a few that go into error like G. P. Dykes, and who will not do right. Brother Dykes has gone into error and is damned; he has the curse of his brethren upon him for his follies and misdoings.”
Brother Tippets observed:
“I never expect to see a day when I shall feel worse than when I left my family at Winter Quarters. If I had known where I was going, and the trials I would have to pass through and endure, I could not have felt worse.
“My toast is, may every one of the `Mormon’ boys become the father of a great kingdom, and every wife a mother.
Thomas S. Williams said:
“Fellow soldiers, I will take the liberty of detaining you a short time. I have never experienced a happier time in my life than within the last forty-eight hours. I do not know where to begin to unbosom my thoughts and feelings on the present delightful occasion; but brethren, I am one with you, in heart, mind, and soul, and in everything else in this kingdom. I can say with those who have spoken, that a more gloomy day nor time never surrounded me than when we took our line of march. Though I have been in prison and suffered considerably, but never was the day so dark with me as the one before named. I was a mere boy as many others were, from sixteen to twenty-five years of age, when we enlisted in the service of the United States. I started as a private soldier, and when we raised the liberty pole I had but a yoke of oxen, and an old wagon. My wife and children. I left with only about five days’ provisions, and not having the least idea where they would get the next. The day following I ascertained that Brother Higgins was going to fetch his wife and family. I therefore determined that if we could raise means any way I would take my wife with me, and I made up my mind to do it if I had to tramp all the way and carry my knapsack. I was there a private soldier, without a dime in the world, but the blessings of prosperity and peace had been pronounced upon the Mormon Battalion, and I, of course, knew that it was right for me to take care of my family, and hence I determined to take them with me. I am proud to say, that I have my wife and daughters and sons here this evening.