Wednesday, June 25, 2008


THE 26TH DAY OF JUNE 1858 is a day of significant importance to the history of Utah. Yet, a very small number of Utahns could tell you why it has any importance. A few might guess it was just fourteen years ago that the Prophet Joseph, his brother Hyrum, John Taylor and Willard Richards were in the Carthage Jail and that the next day, Joseph and Hyrum were murdered. Perhaps some of the settlers in the Salt Lake Valley thought about that. But essentially all of them were very nervous because another military group, much larger than the one that attacked the Carthage Jail, was marching into the Valley with apparently malcious intent. The settlers had abandoned their homes, willing for them to be burned rather than let the foe occupy them.
The illustration above is of the troops marching through the streets of Salt Lake City, probably in front of Brigham Young's home. It is captioned: "Triumphal Passage of United States Troops through SaltLake City." It is from an autobiography of Johnston by his son, written in 1879. It is a bit biased as is the caption.

The soldier's feelings differed from thos of the settlers. Most of them had spent a cold winter with substandard rations, indequate clothing, and poor shelter. And the Mormons were to blame, as they saw it. Yet, they were marching into this valley almost as if they were the losers in the campaign just ended. Worse than that, they had been ordered to stay in ranks and do no harm to anything or anyone. That order had come from an officer they respected and also knew he would impose severe punishment on any that violated it. They didn't know that the commander, Bvt. General Albert Sidney Johnston, had said he would give his Texas plantation for the privilege of bombarding the city for just fifteen minutes. Of course, "his" Texas plantation was no longer his. He had sold it to his son as he could not pay off the debts against the property.

Some of the participants and spectators left us their feelings in journals and letters:

CAPTAIN JESSE GOVE, 10TH INFANTRY, letter to his wife: "26th (June). Left camp early. I am rear guard of our own regiment. . . . We found the city evacuated, all had gone to Provo except a few men left to burn the city if ordered. The city is 50 per cent better in structure and situation than I expected. It is beautifully laid out and watered at every street. . . . Brigham’s palace is a magnificent structure. His apartment for his wives is attached so that it is easy of access. It is said that the inside is furnished in the most elaborate style, furniture imported, two or three pianos, etc.."

CAPTAIN ALBERT TRACY, 10TH INFANTRY, Journal: June 26, 1858 (riding down Emigration canyon.) “Opening out from the last rough gorge, we entered upon a broad plateau, or bench, and Salt Lake City lay at our feet. We are surprised and refreshed with its general appearance of neatness and order.”


"Bro. Andrew Moffatt brought information that Col. Johnston and his army passed G. S. L. City, in the strictest order and discipline. They passed over the river Jordan and camped in the Church pasture. A guard was placed at the bridge to keep the gamblers and blacklegs from following them. While the army was passing through the city there was not a lady to be seen. Col. Philip St. George Cooke passed through with his head uncovered as a token of his respect for the Mormon Battalion. The army was supposed to number 1500 rank and file." [The number was actually closer to 2,500.] (History of Brigham Young, 1858: 734.)

"Gen. Robert T. Burton (Nauvoo Legion), on guard in Salt Lake City on this date journalized . . . “At 10 a.m. troops commenced passing through until 12:30 when those in the rear halted. At 2 p.m. again commenced to pass through until 5:30 p.m.. There are reported to be 600 wagons, 6000 head of animals and 3000 men. They camped over Jordan, west of the city."

Andrew’s Journal, June 27, 1858: “The armey came to S.L. Citty marched thro past over Jorden and camped. Jentile merchants came in with there stores Brigham told the brethren to not trade with them till there was some arangements made between us and them.”

When he wrote this, Andrew was at a temporary camp on the west side of Utah Lake as the Saints had moved to be out of the way of the army. He had spent from September 26th 1857 to November 27th in the Fort Bridger area doing all possible to delay the troops until they went into winter camp near Bridger. He had been on general alert all winter in case the army decided to move toward the valley before spring. There were just a few Mormon scouts in the Echo Canyon area watching the troops. One of these was 19-year-old Joseph F. Smith.


As soon as future Church President returned from his mission to Hawaii, he joined the Nauvoo Legion and was sent up to Echo Canyon to help keep watch over the army’s Camp Scott bivouac. He was on hand when Thomas L. Kane escorted the new Governor, Alfred Cumming, to Salt Lake City in April.

When peace had been re-established, young Joseph helped the displaced families move back from Utah County.