Efficiency of the Battalion-John Allen Excommunicated-Colonel Cooke Orders the Horses Purchased By Soldiers Sold At Auction-Fort Erected-War Imminent-Detachments All Called in-Dragoons Our Champions-Privilege to Re-Enlist Declined-Death of Captain Hunter’s Wife-Colonel Stevenson Appointed to Supersede in Command-Letters From Families-News of a Battle-Arrival of General Kearny-He Compliments the Battalion-Skirmish With Indians-a Barbarous Practice Abolished-General Kearney’s Address to the Battalion-Detachment to Accompany Him to Fort Leavenworth
From the daily practice in which the Battalion engaged while in garrison, the most of the officers and men became very proficient in military tactics. Colonel Mason, of the 1st dragoons, an experienced officer, gave the Battalion the credit of excelling any volunteers he had ever seen in going through the manual of arms.
On the 18th of April, the members of the various quorums of Seventies, stationed at Los Angeles, assembled about one mile from camp and organized into a mass quorum, with Stephen M. St. John as president, and, among other business, unanimously excommunicated John Allen from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the hunter mentioned as being lost near the summit of the Rocky Mountains, who joined the Church to get to California as a soldier. His conduct did not entitle him to a place in respectable society of the world, much less in the Church of the Saints.
The labors required of the detachment stationed at Cajon Pass being essential, and the services of company C required at Los Angeles, the following was issued:
“(Orders No. 8.)
“HEAD QUARTERS, SOUTHERN MILITARY DISTRICT,
“LOS ANGELES, April 22nd, 1847.
“(1) 1st Lieutenant Pace, of Mormon Battalion, will march to-morrow morning with twenty-seven non-commissioned officers and men, with rations for thirty days, to the Cajon Pass, where he will relieve Company C, Mormon Battalion, and occupy the same position and perform the same duties of defending the pass from the passage of hostile Indians. He will detach on his arrival a non-commisioned officer and six men, mounted on the horses now at that post, at Mr. Williams’ rancho, where they will operate under the guidance of Mr. Williams, on the occasion of hostile Indians showing on the ranchos in the vicinity. This party will take with them their rations and will be supplied with beef by Mr. Williams.
`(2) Lieutenant Rosecrans, commanding Company C, having turned over to Lieutenant Pace the horses, saddles and his instructions, will march with his company the morning after the arrival of the detachment, with all diligence to this post.
“P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
“LIEUT. COL. Commanding.”
A few of Lieutenant Pace’s detachment having purchased horses to ride upon the expedition to the Cajon Pass, the Colonel ordered the animals taken from them and sold to the highest bidder. The journals kept by the men which mention this circumstance do not say whether the avails of the sale were given to the owners of the horses or not. The order, although admissible under the military regulations, was looked upon as arbitrary.
Company A was paid off on the 23rd as was also the detachment of Lieutenant Pace, which started the same day to relieve company C. The next day the following was issued:
(Orders No. 9.)
“HEAD QUARTERS S. M. DISTRICT,
April 24, 1847.
The Mormon Battalion will erect a small fort on the eminence which commands the town of Los Angeles. Company A will encamp on the ground to-morrow forenoon. The whole company will be employed in the diligent prosecution of the labors for one week, but there will be a daily detail of a non-commissioned officer and six privates for the camp guard, which, with the cooks absolutely necessary, will not labor during their detail. The hours of labor will be from half past six o’clock until 12 o’clock, and from 1 o’clock until 6 o’clock. The guard will mount at half past 5 o’clock.
(2) Lieutenant Davidson, First Dragoons, will trace to-morrow on the sight selected, his plan, which has been approved of, a fort with one small bastion, front for at least six guns in barbette, assisted by the company officers. He will have the direction, as superintendent, which pertains to an officer of engineers. As assistant quartermaster, he will procure the necessary tools.
P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
LT. COL. Commanding.”
The 25th of April being Sunday, the Colonel’s ever lucky day, or general day to commence marches, company A moved on to the hill, in obedience to the Colonel’s order. There were various rumors afloat about an expected attack from the Spaniards and Indians that night. Colonel Cooke directed our officers, especially Captain Hunt, to have the Battalion ready to form a line of battle, at a moment’s notice, with loaded guns and fixed bayonets.
We were up most of the following night, owing to the Colonel believing we would be attacked. The enemy did not appear, however, and the remaining portions of the Battalion were ordered to remove to the hill as fast as the companies received their pay.
Company C arrived from the Cajon Pass, having received orders from Colonel Cooke, by express through a dragoon Corporal, stating that another war seemed imminent. The detachment under Lieutenant Pace also arrived, having been ordered back by an express, the Colonel very properly withdrawing all protection until he had assurance that the conditions of the armistice, already detailed, would be kept by the Californians, and until they and Fremont’s men ceased their threats. They were also given to understand that in case they came upon us no prisoners would be taken. They, of course, understood what that meant. The instructions to the Battalion were to the same effect: “Take no prisoners-show no quarter, nor ask any.”
Our position on the hill commanded Los Angeles, upon which our artillery would have played to good advantage, and the city would doubtless have been destroyed; but with the prospect of the Mexicans again rising and the low murmurings of civil war hardly ceasing to salute our ears, what the end would have been is difficult to say.
What few dragoons there were, were true to their country and to the Battalion, and none of the latter could be insulted with impunity in the hearing of the former. When bullies came into the town and began to impose upon the “Mormon boys,” the dragoons would not allow them to take their own part if they could avoid it, but would say: “Stand back; you are religious men, and we are not; we will take all of your fights into our hands,” and with an oath would say: “You shall not be imposed upon by them.” Several instances of the kind might be named, but it is not deemed necessary.
Company A commenced work immediately upon their arrival at the new camping place, at excavating the ground for the fort, and the work was afterwards prosecuted by twenty-eight men from each company, who were relieved every fourth day.
On the 29th, twenty-eight volunteers came in from Santa Barbara, bringing us some ammunition.
On the 4th of May, an order was read from Colonel Cooke, giving the Battalion the privilege of being discharged on condition of enlisting for five years as U. S. dragoons; but under the circumstances, the generous proposition could not consistently be accepted.
On the 5th, news arrived of the death of the wife of Captain Jesse D. Hunter, at San Diego, which sad event occurred on the 27th ult. The funeral discourse was preached by Elder Wm. Hyde. She was a very estimable lady and faithful Latter-day Saint. She left a male child about two weeks old.
An order was read the same day from General Kearny, appointing Colonel Stevenson, of the New York volunteers, to the command of the southern district of California, thus relieving Colonel Cooke, that he might return to the United States with General Kearny. We also learned that two companies of Stevenson’s command were ordered to Los Angeles.
On the 8th, an express arrived from Santa Fe and the United States, bringing some letters to the Battalion from Nauvoo and Council Bluffs; also news of a severe battle between United States dragoons and Navajo Indians, which lasted three days. Twenty-eight dragoons were reported killed. Governor Bent, of Santa Fe, was also reported killed. The Indians were defeated with heavy loss.
This day we received the following order, which was promptly executed:
(Orders No. 3.)
“HEAD QUARTERS, LOS ANGELES,
May 8, 1847.
Lieutenant Thompson, with twenty men of the Mormon Battalion, rationed for three days, will march immediately to a rancho, within six miles of the foot of the mountain and use every effort to destroy the hostile Indians reported to be in the vicinity. A guide will be furnished.
P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
LT. COL. Commanding.”
On the 9th, General Kearny arrived at Los Angeles from Monterey. A salute of twenty-one guns was fired. Colonel Stevenson and other officers of note accompanied him. The General came to our camp and gave some good advice to those with whom he conversed.
He remarked to an officer, that history might be searched in vain for an infantry march equal to that performed by the Battalion, all circumstances considered, and added: “Bonaparte crossed the Alps, but these men have crossed a continent.”
The following order explains itself:
(Order No. 10.)
SOUTHERN MILITARY DISTRICT,
May 9, 1847.
The commanding officer at San Diego will employ a physician for attendance on that garrison. Assistant Surgeon I. S. Griffin, U. S. A., will report himself for duty at this post, without unnecessary delay.
P. ST. GEORGE COOKE,
LT. COL. Commanding.”
Lieutenant Samuel Thompson, of company C, and party, who had proceeded to rout the Indians, according to the Colonel’s order, surprised a small band in a cove in the mountains, killing six of them. F. T. Mayfield and George Chapin, two of his men, were slightly wounded-Mayfield in the groin, Chapin under the eye, both with arrows. One Spaniard, who accompanied them, was also slightly wounded. The Spaniard ran, unobserved, and scalped and took off the ears of the dead Indians. Under the California rule, a premium was given for wild Indians’ scalps. This barbarous custom, however, was there and then abolished, and the Alcalda forbidden to pay any bounty on those referred to, or any others in the future. The Lieutenant commanding, as well as the men, were horrified and disgusted at the Spaniard’s atrocity.
On the 10th, the Battalion was addressed by General Kearny. He dwelt at some length upon our arduous journey, our patriotism to the Government, obedience to orders, etc. In short, no commander ever did or could eulogize or give a greater meed of praise to any corps of veterans than was given this little band by the commander of the Army of the West. He sympathized with us in the unsettled condition of our people, but thought, as their final destination was not definitely settled, we had better re-enlist for another year, by which time the war would doubtless be ended and our families settled in some permanent location. In conclusion, he said he would take pleasure in representing our patriotism to the President and in the halls of Congress, and give us the justice our praiseworthy conduct had merited.
Three men were detailed from each company as an escort, to accompany the General to Fort Leavenworth, the names of whom, it is to be regretted, are not available, and cannot, therefore, be here given.