Latter-day Saint Emigration during the Civil War

William G. Hartley

William G. Hartley, Latter-day Saint Emigration during the Civil War,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 237–65.

William G. Hartley is a retired Brigham Young University history professor and founding president of the Mormon Trails Association.

When the Civil War erupted, Latter-day Saints’ gathering to Zion had been flowing annually across America to Utah for fourteen years. By then, approximately forty thousand people had crossed the plains in more than two hundred wagon companies and ten handcart companies. As of 1860, the Church had in place a sail-rail-trail operation that resembled a rolling snowball. European converts crossed the Atlantic to New York or another eastern port. There, Eastern Seaboard Saints joined them for train rides to Chicago and on to Quincy, Illinois.[1] Riverboats took them down the Mississippi River twenty miles to Hannibal, Missouri. Aboard the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, they crossed the width of the state of Missouri to St. Joseph, from where Missouri River steamers carried them upriver about 150 miles to wagon train outfitting camps at Florence, Nebraska Territory, near Omaha. Joining them there were emigrants from various parts of America and Canada.

At Florence, designated agents created the outfitting camp, rounded up wagons, usually from wagon makers in Chicago or St. Louis, stockpiled food and equipment, and organized and sent off wagon trains. Those rolled across the plains in about ten weeks, mostly on the north side of the Platte River to Fort Laramie, then on the well-worn Oregon-California-Mormon Trail to Fort Bridger and on into the Great Salt Lake Valley. Thus, by the time Fort Sumter fell in April 1861, the Church had a workable transportation network in place. For the system to work well, everything depended on scheduling, and the scheduling of ships, trains, and riverboats depended on their availability, costs, and the weather. But after that, the system’s success hinged on what course the Civil War took.

How did the four-year-long war impact the Mormon emigration system? Did numbers shrink? Did they increase because of Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy? Were ships available? Did departure and arrival ports change? How available were railroad cars? Did routes across the States change? Did war conditions in Missouri disrupt rail travel there? Were emigrants considered secessionists because of perceived Mormon disloyalty that caused the Utah War? Given needs the armies had, how available were wagons and teams for emigrants at the outfitting camps? What encounters did Mormon emigrants have, if any, with Union or Confederate soldiers? The following yearly histories of Latter-day Saint emigration during the Civil War years provide answers to those questions.[2]

1861: War Anxiety Boosts the Emigration Flow

Church emigration plans for 1861 were drawn independent of whether or not war might break out.[3] Readers of the November 24, 1860, issue of the Church newspaper Millennial Star found therein a letter from Brigham Young dated September 13. “After baptism, comes the gathering as rapidly as wisdom and circumstances will permit,” the prophet counseled, and then hinted that a new system to boost emigration was forthcoming.[4] In January 1861, the European Mission presidency, headquartered in Liverpool, consisted of Apostles Amasa Lyman, Charles C. Rich, and George Q. Cannon. That month, with the emigration season “close at hand again,” they called for names, orders, and deposits without delay “to enable us to make timely arrangements on the other side of the water for the purchase of the outfit needed for the Plains.” The Star provided cost estimates for oxen, wagons, handcarts, railroad fare, and baggage. “We trust that those of the Saints who have means will not delay their departure in the hope of by so doing of bettering their conditions for another season. Nothing can be gained by this.” This was a typical annual admonition.[5] In January, the mission presidency sent Elders Nathaniel V. Jones and Jacob Gates to New York to make preparations for receiving the year’s European emigration.[6] Thus, early in 1861, planners in Europe had in mind a repeat of the previous year’s operations.

By March 1861, missionaries near Council Bluffs, Iowa, had “resurrected” over two hundred “old saints.” Members “asleep for years” were “waking up” and exhibiting “a great desire” to head to Utah, stimulated by rising concerns about America becoming a war zone.[7]

In Utah, meanwhile, a revolutionary wagon train system was being launched.[8] During 1860, two handcart companies had crossed the plains, the last of ten created since 1856 to help the poor reach Utah. Because thousands of European Saints still needed low-cost transportation, Church leaders replaced handcarts with a new program: it would send wagon trains down from Utah to Florence to load up emigrants and haul them back to Utah. That way, hundreds would not need to buy wagon-and-team outfits but could ride in “down-and-back” wagons by promising to later repay a transportation fee. President Young announced this plan to Utah bishops in January 1861. It took time for news of it to reach England. Communication between Utah and Liverpool went east by Pony Express, then by telegraph across the States, and then by steamship to Liverpool—a month or two each way.

At the same time, in England, news of America’s civil strife was worsening. On February 16 the Star published an article titled “Division of the United States—causes which have hastened it.” It bluntly observed that “War—bloody, fratricidal war seems to be inevitable.” The article reprinted Joseph Smith’s 1832 revelation about war, reminding readers that it had been published “to the world” a number of years before and had widely circulated in the United States and Great Britain. Now, the prophesied rebellion in South Carolina and division of Southern and Northern states was happening. “How marvellously the prophecy uttered twenty-eight years ago is being fulfilled!” America’s troubles, the report continued, “convey this warning—‘Stand ye in holy places.’” For European Saints, war in America gave cause for increasing, not decreasing, emigration.

In Denmark, Scandinavian Mission president John Van Cott urged hopeful emigrants to collect at Copenhagen’s docks by late April. That month he learned that war had started. He booked the Baltic Sea steamer Waldemar and ushered more than 550 Saints aboard on May 9, bound for Kiel, on Germany’s north shore. He chartered for them a train from Kiel to Hamburg. There, he arranged for two North Sea steamers to transport them to Hull and Grimsby, on England’s east coast. Trains next took them to Liverpool, where they joined other European Saints poised to cross the Atlantic.

In Liverpool, the world’s busiest seaport, the European Mission presidency chartered three ships, filled them with supplies, supervised the emigrants’ boarding, and appointed Mormon officers for each ship. On April 16, some 379 Saints set sail aboard the Manchester. One week later, 624 members followed on the Underwriter. Three weeks later, President Van Cott’s Scandinavian company became part of the largest company yet to sail, 955 Saints, on the Monarch of the Sea. In total, about 2,000 European Saints made the five- to seven-week voyages to New York on the three ships.[9]

In New York City, agents prepared for the ships. Elders Jones and Gates arrived in the city on February 1 and found that Apostles Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow also had just arrived there.[10] With war clouds ready to burst, the two Apostles were finding cold Saints suddenly warming up:

Many of those who once had a standing in the Church, but had fallen away, have been awakened to a sense of their position by the preaching of the Elders and the events now transpiring, which so strictly verify the truth of the prophecy and the near approach of those calamities they have been taught to expect when they first received the Gospel, and are coming back, repenting of their sins and being baptized for their remission. New members are also being added. Every exertion is being made by the Saints . . . to get away to Zion this season; and it is altogether likely that the migration to the Valley from the Eastern and Western States will be very large.[11]

By early 1861, missionary Bernhard Schettler had raised up a branch of German converts in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) New York, anxious to head for Zion.[12] In Philadelphia, Elder John D. T. McAllister warmed up several hundred Pennsylvania Saints. Elder Snow called the shots fired at Fort Sumter a “loud sermon” warning Saints to flee to Zion.[13] After war broke out, missionary Lucius Scovil, laboring in New York and New Jersey, mailed copies of Joseph Smith’s 1832 prophecy to several of his non–Latter-day Saint relatives. President Lincoln’s urgent call for troops, Scovil said, upset the citizenry: “War! War and blood! is the cry.” He advised eastern Saints “to wind up their business and leave Babylon” that spring. By April 26, an anonymous letter with anti-Mormon threats prompted Elders Pratt and Snow to cancel public Church meetings in the New York City area. Pro-South mobs tore up railroad tracks in Baltimore, making elders worry that war might prevent the Saints’ departures.[14] Early in May, Elder Pratt spent several weeks in Philadelphia. “The Saints through these lands are using great exertions to emigrate,” he reported, not so much from war fears, but because “it is very difficult for the poor to find employment.”[15]

In New York City the two Apostles and agents Jones, Gates, and Thomas Williams awaited the Mormon ship companies. On April 19, one week after the war started, the bark Race Horse arrived in Boston from South Africa with thirty-three Saints on board. Told by telegraph of their arrival, agent Jones in New York said for them to stay in Boston until the first Mormon shipload from Liverpool reached New York. While they waited in Boston, Eli Wiggill said, “All was commotion with the bands of music fife and drum and recruiting parties and flags flying in every direction.”[16]

The ships from Liverpool arrived in New York on May 14 (Manchester), May 21 (Underwriter), and June 19 (Monarch of the Sea). On May 21, agent Jones wrote to Elder George Q. Cannon of the Mormon emigrant situation in New York. After the Manchester’s arrival, he said, part of the company, with twenty-two Saints from the New York branch, boarded a train and left. A small company of about two dozen Saints had arrived from the Cape of Good Hope and were waiting to join the next group going by train. “The New York, Philadelphia, and Boston Saints, consisting of from three to four hundred, will start for the frontiers about the 12th of June.”[17] The eastern company, including teenager Thomas Griggs (who later composed the hymn “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain”) and sixty Saints from Boston (via a steamer from Connecticut), and Elder Schettler’s German flock, left on June 11. A day later, President McAllister and three hundred Pennsylvania Saints joined that train. Finally, on June 20, the Monarch passengers sailed into port.

Church agents funneled the four companies, three thousand Saints total, onto harbor barges that chugged them to the Jersey City railroad depot. From there, they traveled by train northwest to Dunkirk, New York, west along Lake Erie and to Chicago, and southwest to the Mississippi River at Quincy. From Quincy the Saints traveled the normal boat-train-boat route to Florence. This tiring, dirty, uncomfortable ten-day journey from New York required a half-dozen train changes and two riverboat transfers.

While crossing the States, the emigrants saw clear evidence of war. At the Jersey City train depot, the Boston Saints met and were harassed by “a regiment of New York soldiers on their way to war.” Because of “the call of government for means of transporting the troops,” Church agents had difficulty lining up enough railroad cars.[18] In Elmira, New York, George Ottinger, one of the Pennsylvania Saints (later a famous Utah artist), “had a row with a soldier” who was bothering two Latter-day Saint women.[19] Near Chicago the train passed “a gallows furnished with a noose and an inscription that read ‘Death to traitors.’”[20] At Chicago, while the South African Saints waited to transfer, some “colored men” saw an African boy they had brought with them, Gobo Fango. “They accusing us of taking him away into Slavery and they thought to liberate him and caused great disturbance,” Eli Wiggill said. But a lady in the company “hid him under her crinoline,” so searchers never found him. After that, they kept the boy concealed as much as possible.[21]

Although the state of Missouri sided with the Union, it suffered its own private civil war. To harass Union forces, pro-Southern raiders tore up railroad tracks and occasionally fired on trains and riverboats.[22] When the eastern Saints reached Hannibal, they saw the “Home Guards protecting a cannon captured from secessionists, and learned that a rebel officer was imprisoned in the train depot.” Nearly every town and bridge they passed was under guard. Thomas Griggs wrote that Chillicothe, Missouri, “presented the appearance of a captured city, all business being entirely suspended and the streets patrolled by armed men of every conceivable character of drunkenness.”[23] He found “the spirit of secession was prevalent” and American and rebel flags were alternately run up and down the town’s flagpole.[24] By mid-July, when Lucius Scovil and Orson Pratt were hurrying to Florence to catch up with the last Mormon wagon companies, they found that no trains were running in Missouri because secessionists had burned railroad bridges and torn up tracks. So, the two elders rode by stagecoach to Florence. If the Mormon emigrant groups had reached Missouri a month behind schedule, it might have been impossible for that many people to find ways to reach Florence in time to cross the plains.[25]

War reduced Missouri River traffic, forcing emigrants to overload whatever steamboats going upriver were available. On George Ottinger’s boat “the people piled in endways, sideways, crossings and every way all as thick as hops.”[26]

In Utah on April 23, three days after Pony Express riders brought news of Fort Sumter’s fall, about 200 wagons and 1,700 oxen, in four wagon trains loaded with flour, left the Salt Lake Valley for Florence to pick up needy emigrants. Assembling these “down-and-back” companies had taken three months of recruiting. In February, Brigham Young had asked Utah ecclesiastical wards for loans of wagons and teams for the six-month round trip in exchange for tithing credits. Seventy-five wards, nearly every ward in Utah, each donated one or more fully outfitted wagons and yokes of oxen. Mormon Trail veterans Joseph W. Young, John R. Murdock, Joseph Horne, and Ira Eldredge captained the four wagon trains. At four stations along the trail, the companies deposited tons of flour for use during the return trip.[27]

At Florence, between May and July, about 3,900 emigrants and 200 “down and back” wagons converged to form a massive, complex, busy outfitting campground centered around a provisions store, warehouse, corrals, weighing machines, and a bowery.[28] Agent Jacob Gates had set up the camp. He had arrived in New York City from England in February. There, he had made preliminary railroad bookings for the May and June European emigrants. In Chicago, Gates bought 111 unassembled wagons from the Peter Schuttler wagon company for $7,300, to be delivered at Florence in June.[29]

Just after Gates reached Florence to set the campsite up, he heard about the fall of Fort Sumter. On April 24 he saw soldiers from Fort Kearny, Nebraska, heading east. “The war spirit is up,” he wrote, “and fear seems to creep over the nation and a dread of something to come.” On May 5 he learned how many Utah wagons were coming. Then, without knowing how many emigrants to expect, or if the war might cause delays, he opened a warehouse and stockpiled provisions and trail equipment.[30]

The first group of emigrants, mostly Manchester passengers, arrived in Florence on May 24. Elder Gates helped them obtain wagons, form into an independent train, and start west on May 29. The second emigrant company, Underwriter passengers, arrived on June 3, followed by Eastern States people on June 20. The Utah wagons rolled into Florence between June 16 and June 30, on schedule. The last emigrant company, those from the Monarch, showed up on July 2. While awaiting wagon assignments, emigrants assembled the prefab Schuttler wagons, built a public bowery, and sewed together wagon covers and tents. Elder Gates’s agents procured bulk supplies from stores in the area, including 13,000 pounds of sugar, 3,000 pounds of apples, 3,300 pounds of ham, and 15,000 pounds of bacon.[31]

On July 2 the Florence outfitting camp contained more than 2,500 waiting emigrants, including Germans, Swiss, Italians, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Scots, Welsh, English, Irish, and Canadians. Saints unable to buy their own outfits signed up to travel in the down-and-back companies. For the four Church trains, Captain Joseph W. Young supervised the ticket sales and loading, freeing up Elder Gates to organize the independent trains. People in Church trains received wagon assignments, with six to twelve people per wagon. Fares were fourteen dollars for adults and seven for children under age eight. Each passenger was allowed fifty free pounds of baggage and was charged twenty cents for each pound over fifty. On Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company ledgers, agents issued loans and credits for food, supplies, and wagon fares to passengers in the Church trains, including more than 600 heads of households.

During late June and early July, six more independent trains and the four down-and-back trains fitted out. Jacob Gates closed the campground and left it on July 17. By then, twelve main emigrant wagon trains with 624 wagons had left Florence, carrying 3,900 emigrants—1,000 from the Eastern states, 1,900 from Europe, and 1,000 “independents” who had reached Florence on their own.[32]

Mid-journey, the wagons passed U.S. army troops once stationed in Utah heading east for Civil War duty. During August, September, and October, the Mormon trains reached Salt Lake City. The borrowed wagons and teams were returned to their Utah owners, who received more than $200,000 in tithing credits as pay. In practice, Church down-and-back companies averaged ten to twelve weeks to return to Utah.[33] They transported approximately 1,700 emigrants. Although the emigrants experienced some problems, the majority arrived healthy and in good spirits. “All in all it was a nice trip for the healthy and strong,” English emigrant James H. Linford said; “all of the able-bodied emigrants walked.” The new system had worked so well that Brigham Young increased the number of down-and-back wagons the next year.[34]

1862: More Ships, More Wagons, More Emigrants

As a result of the 1857–58 Utah War, some people in the States put Mormons on a par with Southern rebels. A Mormon elder working in Pennsylvania in September 1861 found “but little opportunity” for public preaching, “neither is it safe. Our enemies charge us with being Secessionists,” which label became “a license for violence.” Such hostility might have convinced some local Mormons to head for friendlier climes in Utah the next spring.[35]

In January 1862, Congress authorized President Lincoln to seize control of the railroads and telegraph for military use. In practice, the War Department restricted its authority to southern rail lines captured during the war. The military, needing the Northern railroad companies’ expertise, counted on cooperation rather than coercion, and the railroads fell in line and cooperated, not wanting their lines seized.[36]

After news reached Europe in April 1861 of the war’s outbreak, mission leaders preached with increased vigor the “warning voice” for the next year’s emigrants. The Star’s May 11, 1861, issue reminded readers that the revelation warned that war would “spread until all nations were involved in it,” which meant that European nations “cannot escape from it, if they continue as they are.” Therefore, “now is the time for the Saints” to exercise faith to emigrate. Prospects looked good “for a heavier emigration next year than we have had this,” the Star editorialized on May 25. By mid-June, European members learned, belatedly, about the two hundred wagons sent from Utah to help the 1861 emigrants.[37] That news instilled hope for poorer Saints, if such trains would be available the next year. And poor there were. That month the Star bemoaned that the “division of the United States” was closing the American market, which “has had a depressing effect upon almost every branch of trade throughout the country [England]. There is no manufacturing district that does not groan under the loss of trade.”[38]

Early in 1862, the Star told the Saints that “the condition of affairs in the States should not be any reason for those who have means delaying their departure till another season.” Mission leaders surmised that the “cost of transit” wouldn’t “differ much from that of last year.”[39] However, for several weeks there was fear that Britain might become pulled into the war because of the “Trent Affair.” On November 8, 1861, the USS San Jacinto intercepted the British mail packet Trent and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Great Britain and France to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition. In Britain, the public expressed outrage at this U.S. violation of neutral rights as an insult to their national honor. The British government demanded an apology and the release of the prisoners, while it took steps to strengthen its military forces in Canada and for the Atlantic. English Mormon Thomas Memmott journalized on December 11, 1861, “Much excitement in England through an American ship’s company taking two Southern commissioners . . . off a British Mail Steamer. Should war arise between the two countries I propose to get to Canada.”[40] After weeks of tension and talk of war, the crisis resolved when the Lincoln administration released the envoys and disavowed its ship’s actions. With obvious relief, the Star reported on March 8, “The prospect for an uninterrupted emigration of the Saints has become bright, in consequence of the peaceful settlement of the difficulty.”[41]

That season, Church agents chartered ships to sail not only from Liverpool but also from Hamburg, Germany, and from Le Havre, France. The ships, departure dates and ports, and passenger numbers were as follows:



















John J. Boyd








William Tapscott



Le Havre








Total: 3,589

Ship passengers signed up before they knew for sure what to expect at the outfitting camps in America. Finally, word came late in April that the Church had called for three hundred Utah teams to go “down and back,” so Saints boarding the last four or five of the Church-chartered ships had some assurance of that help.[42]

A May 17 report said “there are as many Saints leaving Great Britain alone this season as were numbered in the entire European emigration of last year, while the total emigration from Europe this year will, it is quite probable, outnumber last years.’” In fact, the numbers almost doubled those in 1861. “Has there been a stronger desire, if as strong, manifested by the Saints to gather to Zion, than is exhibited the present season?” a Star editorial wondered. It then identified three causes for the enthusiasm: first, “the partial fulfillment of the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph;” second, the “hard times and misery” pervasive in England; and third, “the prospect they have of being able, with a small amount of means, to reach the place where they can be met by the oxen and waggons sent down from Zion to assist them in crossing the Plains. The amount being so small that they need to enable them to gather to Zion, and the prospects in these lands being so gloomy” naturally made Saints try to go.[43] Nothing in the Star’s pages during 1862 indicated worry about the Civil War interfering with the cross-America journeys.

For Scandinavians, a new departure port was picked, Hamburg. Four chartered ships left from there, possibly because Liverpool lacked a good supply of ships due to the Civil War, but also to help Scandinavians avoid the three transfers if going to Liverpool. “There were a larger number of Saints emigrating from Denmark that season than has ever been before or since,” one said.[44] One of the German ships was the full-rigged, three-masted Franklin, which sailed on April 15 carrying 413 Latter-day Saint Danes. Tragically, 48 died during the Atlantic crossing, nearly all children, from measles. In New York City, officials quarantined and kept the Saints from disembarking for two days. The Athena’s crossing also saw measles break out, which contributed to 35 deaths. The clipper ship Electric had little sickness.[45] One ship sailed from Le Havre, France, the Windermere, an old freighter. On board were Saints from Switzerland and France with such surnames as Hafen, Staeheli, Albrecht, and Zollinger. They sailed a long, fifty-four-day loop south past Portugal and then across the Atlantic to New York.[46]

At Liverpool docks and “just behind our ship,” said Joseph C. Rich on the John Jay Boyd, “lay a Confederate clipper of a fine appearance which had just a short time before came in. She was captured while at sea by the Federals who placed sixteen men on her with 5 prisoners. . . . But the prisoners got loose, captured the sixteen federals, turned the ship” and docked her in Liverpool.[47] Four Latter-day Saint companies sailed from Liverpool.

Between May 20 and July 8, the nine ship companies sailed separately into New York harbor. When the measles-plagued Franklin docked, eighteen passengers with measles were taken to a hospital, and when the rest of the company cleared quarantine, Elders Charles C. Rich and John Van Cott met them. For those lacking means to go on, the two leaders raised donations, and then the company left on May 31.

During 1862, the emigrants’ land route differed from that taken in 1861. Rather than diagonal across New York State, they first went to Albany, by train or by boat, and then went by train across New York to Niagara Falls. There, because of better rates and train schedules, the companies passed over a suspension bridge into Canada to reach Windsor. They took a steam ferry to Detroit, then resumed the usual train trip route via Chicago and Quincy, ferried across the Mississippi, and boarded the Hannibal and St. Joe train cars. In war-damaged Missouri, a Franklin passenger said, they “drove across flat, fertile and almost uninhabited plains where we saw American soldiers who had raised their tents, partly at the towns and partly at the bridges to prevent the Southern people to break up the railroad or the bridges.” At St. Joseph his company transferred to the Westwind, a riverboat that deposited them at Florence on June 9.[48]

Passengers from the Electric and Athena left New York on June 9. “We boarded the train and rolled westward. This was during the Civil War and the railroad companies were not very particular what kind of cars they furnished. All kind of rolling stock was used for passengers. . . . There were no upholstered seats for our use.”[49] Electric passenger Ola Stohl said that many soldiers came up to them at whistle stops when crossing Missouri but did them no harm.[50] When the John Jay Boyd docked in New York, horse cars took the passengers to the Hudson River, where a steamboat transported them to Albany. “There we were shut up in a railroad roundhouse,” William Lindsay said, “until a train came to take us farther on our journey.”[51] Regarding the Missouri war zone, William Ajax, a passenger from the Antarctic, noted that “there were quite a number of U.S. soldiers here, as well as every bridge on the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad. The companies in each place numbered from about fifty to one hundred, and the majority of them were cavalry. Our company was divided into two at Hannibal (for the first time) and some of us packed in cattle cars as though we were but beasts.”[52] Across Missouri, “in many places houses were burned down, fences destroyed, and crops unattended,” one traveler said.[53]

One after another, the Mormon emigrants companies reached Florence. On June 10, for example, former Franklin passengers pitched their tents and then remained camped for several weeks, waiting for cattle and wagons.[54] Scandinavians who had means were organized into two independent companies, both with forty wagons, captained by Christian Madsen and Ola N. Liljenquist, with Elder John Van Cott as general leader. They pulled out on July 14.[55]

Three main differences marked the outfitting camp in 1862 compared to 1861. First, while emigrants waited, a tornado struck, causing damage and death and nearly killing agent-in-charge Joseph W. Young. Second, three hundred down-and-back wagons arrived, compared to two hundred. Third, the Church trains arrived very late. Florence and vicinity were visited by a terrible tornado, accompanied by rain and thunder. Lightning killed two men, and Joseph W. Young received severe wounds when a wagon box blew on top of him. He was knocked unconscious but recovered. Tents and wagon covers were torn and shattered.[56] “The volume of water washed gullies from ten to fifteen feet deep and in some instances washed away boxes and bags and buried them in the sand,” William Wood said, “some of which were never found.”[57]

Church trains pulled in well behind schedule because heavy winter snows and spring rains had swollen rivers, causing teamsters long waits while water levels lowered. About July 15 the companies reached Florence, one by one. “There was a string of sixty or seventy wagons, each drawn by three of four yoke of oxen,” emigrant Olaf Larson wrote. The Utah teamsters “were ragged and dirty with broad brimmed slouchy hats, many wearing one shoe and one boot of which were often ragged. They had a brace of two or three pistols and a large bowie knife strapped to their waist and carried a 15 or 20 foot whip in their hands. Thus they came in a cloud of dust. This was a terrorizing sight for those who never before had seen such a thing,” Larson said. Young girls, expecting to meet some nice young men from Zion, were “sadly disappointed.”[58]

Campground officials partly loaded the Utah wagons with iron and heavy merchandise, and then a dozen or so people were assigned to each, luggage was weighed, excess discarded, and the wagons packed. Mormon Trail traffic in 1862 was heavier than in 1861. Down-and-back wagons totaled 262. The passenger company names and their departure dates are given below:[59]

Lewis Brunson

June 14

Joseph Horne

July 27

James Wareham

ca. July 8

James S. Brown

July 28

Ola N. Liljenquist

July 14

Isaac A. Canfield

July 30

Christian A. Madsen

July 14

Ansil P. Harmon

August 1

Homer Duncan

July 22

Henry W. Miller

August 5 or 8

Arba L. Lambson

July 23

Horton D. Haight

August 10

John R. Murdock

July 24

William H. Dame

August 14

William Lindsay, in the Homer Duncan train, said that “flour and bacon was furnished to everybody but of course every family had to do their own cooking.” Bake skillets, frying pans, and camp kettles were provided. “In the evening with ox yokes for seats we sat around the camp fires & sang songs or told stories. . . . Some had violins, Accordions, Concertina’s or other musical instruments so we had all kinds of entertainments,” Lindsay said, “and forgot the hard traveling in the dust thru the day.”[60] In the Ansel Harmon Train, measles killed a dozen. The Henry W. Miller company suffered a “devastating toll” from measles that killed twenty-eight children under age five. The Haight train had measles casualties, too.[61]

Construction crews had completed the overland telegraph the previous fall, so this was the first emigration season when wagon trains could send and receive telegrams. In Jens Weibye’s diary he noted many telegraph stations that the Christian Madsen train passed. At the Sweetwater River telegraph station near Independence Rock he found “two houses and many soldiers; they stood and looked at us.” On September 6, at a telegraph station where soldiers also were, John Van Cott sent a telegram to Brigham Young, reporting on Captain Madsen’s and Captain Liljenquist’s companies’ progress. On September 9, Weibye’s company continued to follow the telegraph line as they neared the Green River. Reaching Ham’s Fork on the 13th, they found a telegraph station, and just beyond Fort Bridger they sometimes followed the telegraph road. Also, he noted, they were passed by mail stagecoaches driving east and west.[62]

The 1862 emigration season was a success. Looking ahead to 1863, European Mission leaders argued that terrible events taking place in America with “fearful rapidity” could close the way to Zion, so Saints should make “every effort” to go to Utah “before the storm overtakes them.” The 1862 companies, they underscored, safely reached Utah, where “peace prevails.”[63]

1863: Encountering Realities of the War

During 1863, Latter-day Saint emigration had increased contact with Civil War realities. It dodged the New York draft riots. In Missouri the emigrants saw many soldiers and much war damage. On the plains, federal troops stopped some Mormon companies and required oaths of allegiance. At sea, Mormon-chartered ships faced interception by Confederate naval units. That year, Horace S. Eldredge, William C. Staines, and John W. Young oversaw the shipping of European and Eastern States emigrants to the frontier. In Florence, Feramorz Little and Jacob Bigler directed the outfittings.[64] Migrations to the west, other than by Mormons, were large-scale that year due to mining booms in California, Nevada, and Idaho.[65]

Millennial Star readers began in 1863 digesting “Seasonable Advice” for intending emigrants. The article lauded that “there never has been a time . . . when the spirit of emigration has rested more mightily upon the Saints” than at present. Events and working-class distress produced anxieties to gather.[66] By late March, emigrants needed to sign up and place deposits so ships could be booked.[67] That year’s ships, ports and dates of departure, arrival dates in New York City, and Latter-day Saint passenger numbers are shown below:


Port Elizabeth, S. Africa

March 14

May 22


Henry Ellis

Port Elizabeth, S. Africa

March 31

May 28


John J. Boyd


April 30

May 29


B. S. Kimball


May 8

June 15




May 8

June 20




May 23

July 10




May 30

July 19




June 4

July 18


Those aboard the B. S. Kimball, except for thirteen English, came from Scandinavia, who had trans-shipped to England from the port of Hamburg. Some thirty-eight Scandinavians couldn’t fit aboard the B. S. Kimball, so they sailed the same day on the Consignment. The Antarctic’s Mormon company came from thirteen different countries: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, America, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. During its voyage, passenger Thomas Henry White said that “the sailors were kept busy several hours each day, pumping water out of this ship, which leaked badly” and that “the drinking water was bad and we couldn’t drink it without boiling it.”[68]

No sailing ship carrying Mormons is better known now than the Amazon, which Charles Dickens immortalized in his Commercial Traveler account of his visit aboard it before it sailed from London. He termed the Mormon emigrants “the pick and flower of England.” His long word-portrait contains no concern that, at journey’s end, these people might be in danger in America because of the Civil War.[69] Latter-day Saint Atlantic crossings that year were judged “in every respect, satisfactory,” even though some vessels sailed “at a much later date than has been customary” or desirable. The reason for such lateness was “the scarcity of ships.”[70] After the ships had all sailed, mission leaders praised the results: “A larger number of Saints have left Europe this season . . . than have ever before sailed in any single years.” The tally: within five weeks, they said, 3,650 had shipped through the Liverpool office.[71] (Our totals show 3,618.)

In New York City, Church agents had hands full processing the ship passengers. Fortunately, the ships’ arrival times dodged the terrible July 13–16 New York City Draft Riots, when the city suffered “the largest civil insurrection in American history” other than the Civil War itself. That March, a federal act had authorized states to meet their assigned quotas of soldiers by conscription. But anyone drafted could avoid service by paying a commutation fee or finding a substitute, options the working classes couldn’t tap. Violent antidraft riots exploded, causing arson, murder, and destruction of property. More than 120 civilians were killed (some estimates say 2,000) and 2,000 injured. The military suppressed the mob, using artillery and fixed bayonets.[72]

Fortunately, the last of the Church-chartered ships arrived in New York City just before and just after the riots: the Antarctic on July 10, the Amazon on July 18, and the Cynosure on July 19. Cynosure passenger David Stuart noted that “New York City was all upset upon our arrival. Ten thousand soldiers were there from the front to enforce the draft.”[73] A B. S. Kimball passenger said that, once ashore, “some of our pockets were picked,” some trunks robbed, and some vendors gave them “bogus money.”[74]

Travel to Florence had its problems. Mary E. Fretwell, from the Amazon, said that “we rode three days shut up in cattle cars with nothing but straw to sit on.” She and her female traveling companion “only had one dozen eggs to eat; that was all we could get. What little bread that there was to be got, the men got it for their wives and children.” While their train was in Upper Canada, using the same routing as the 1862 companies used, “one of the luggage cars got on fire,” passenger Elijah Larkin said; “it was soon uncoupled & the engine ran on ahead with it about a mile to where there was water, & the fire was soon put out & the luggage was got out about thirty bags & boxes were burned & two or three beds.” The luggage was then put back in the car, which was run back and recoupled to the train.[75]

While passing through the Missouri war zone, William Freshwater, an 1862 William Tapscott emigrant who wintered in New York, said that “the rebels, or bushwhackers, fired two cannon balls through our train, one shot went through the passenger car exactly eight inches above three people’s heads and the other through a baggage car destroying a great amount of baggage.”[76] Thomas White, from the Antarctic, said that Union soldiers earned one dollar for every man or boy they could pin a ribbon on, meaning the recipient of such pinning was then in the army.[77] In St. Joseph, he said, soldiers were looking for recruits. No Mormon emigrants are known to have been pinned. One young boy asked a soldier to let him sit on his horse. “The soldier at once reported that the boy was stealing the horse. The boy was hidden three days or he would have been taken by the army.”[78] At St. Joseph, some Union soldiers were “very drunk and shooting around and swearing about the Mormons.”[79]

Not a part of the emigrant flow from New York, a riverboat carrying Mormons upriver from St. Louis had on board military supplies, a cannon, and five hundred mules and horses. To protect the cargo, soldiers on board created breastworks of grain and tobacco sacks around the deck.[80]

At Florence, thirteen Church-organized wagon trains, not counting freight companies, loaded up about four thousand emigrants for the trip west. Ten of those thirteen were down-and-back companies, containing more than five hundred teams of the nearly seven hundred total.[81] The wagon trains left from Florence later than usual, the first on June 29 and the last on August 16. Rough estimates show that company sizes averaged 54 wagons and 300 people. McArthur’s was the largest, with 75 wagons, Canfield’s the smallest, with 24. The trains reached Salt Lake City in 63 days on average, the fastest (Haight) in 56 days, the slowest (Young), 74 days.[82]

Thomas White, in the Nebeker company, said their wagons were loaded with telegraph wire and roofing for the Salt Lake Tabernacle.[83] Three young girls were walking together when “very bad” lightning struck and killed the middle girl. It also killed seven oxen in the train and flashed along the iron yoke chains. One teamster had skin taken off his nose while he was sitting on his front endgate.[84]

Telegraph stations let trail travelers sometimes hear war news, such as of the Battle of Gettysburg.[85] In Salt Lake City, Camp Douglas received a telegram saying that the Haight company at the Green River had two or three loads of gunpowder. Fears were that Mormons might use that powder to blow up Camp Douglas, so soldiers at Green River visited the company’s camp to confiscate the powder. While Captain Haight served the soldiers dinner in his tent and talked with them for two or three hours, “the wagon with the powder crossed the river and up into the mountains.” Men unloaded the powder into sacks and returned. The next day, soldiers came and searched the train, found no powder, and “told us to go on.”[86]

On August 25, soldiers stopped the Patterson independent company near Fort Bridger. “Every male native or foreign from the age of 18 years and upwards took the Oath of alegiance [sic] to the Government of the U. S. of America.” The troops’ commander “acted very gentlemanly.” Before taking the oath, the camp journal noted, “we gived three cheers for the Constitution of the U. S. of America.”[87] Mary Elizabeth Lightner said the soldiers searched the wagons for powder.[88]

In a September 25 letter, E. L. Sloan described the McArthur company’s encounter with troops. While traveling on the Muddy Road that bypassed Fort Bridger, he said, they were stopped by twenty-one mounted soldiers. These ordered Captain McArthur to move the company to Fort Bridger, where the men age eighteen or older must take an oath of allegiance if citizens, or an oath of neutrality if aliens, and the wagons would be searched for “freighted ammunition.” So the train diverted and rolled nine hours to the fort on a difficult road. Soldiers jeered, made coarse jokes, and abused the Mormons. At Bridger the company had to wait till morning for a commanding officer to return. Finally, in a corral, the oaths were administered.[89]

All the trains arrived safely in Utah. A December report from the Valley termed the year “one of the most pleasant seasons for crossing the plains” on record.[90] With the 1863 emigration season concluded, European leaders noted that the flow had faced and survived three difficulties. First, the challenge to obtain ships and prepare them before the “season was too far advanced.” Second, the South’s rebellion aroused Northerners to a “fearful pitch of anger” that put them in “no mood to hesitate about using the most desperate measures” to punish Mormons for any breach of law or “rebellious symptoms.” Third, through the “changing fortunes of war,” the railroad through Missouri might have been stopped or destroyed. But the obstacles vanished because “the Lord removed the difficulties.”[91]

1864: War Problems, New Outfitting Camp, New Routes

Early in 1864, with a new emigration season upcoming, Saints in England “hailed with joy” news that teams again were being sent from Utah to assist the poor.[92] By early March, word came that Utah trains would be sent, although fewer than before.[93] Joseph A. Young and William C. Staines were assigned to be the emigrant-receiving agents in New York City. While the largest company ever sent by sailing ship was boarding the Monarch of the Sea on April 30, mission leaders reported that “everything seems favorable” for the gathering but that “there is no room to doubt that there are times not far distant ahead, when it will require great faith, combined with wise management, to enable those who wish to escape from difficulty, to effect their purposes.”[94]

In February, war broke out in Europe, pitting Denmark against Prussia and Austria, fighting for control of the Schleswig-Holstein region. Germanic forces drove the Danish army northward into Jutland, which meant that Mormon Danes could not emigrate via Kiel and Hamburg. Fortunately, at Copenhagen, steamers were booked that took the Mormons north around the top of Denmark and then south on to Hull, England. From there they went by train to Liverpool.[95] Swedes and Norwegians, however, still used the usual route through Hamburg, then to England.[96] We lack information about four ships that apparently brought some Mormon emigrants in 1864, but the ships for which there is data regarding number of passengers, departures dates and ports, and arrival dates and ports, are given below:




Port Elizabeth, S. Africa



Susan Pardew



Port Elizabeth, S. Africa



Monarch of the Sea



Liverpool, England



General McClellan



Liverpool, England






London, England



That year’s European and African transatlantic Saints numbered roughly 2,700, making 1864 yet another big emigration season.

Before the Monarch left Liverpool on April 28, weather and war had combined to make it hard for the mission to book ships in that port. “So many ships have been prevented from reaching the port by the strong easterly winds which have prevailed, and the bounty offered by the American navy inducing so many sailors to enter into their service, there has been a real scarcity of that class of men, of late, in this port.”[97] The Monarch’s Mormon company was the largest ever carried by sailing ship. About forty of them died of measles, mostly children. Sailing the Newfoundland Banks, they saw “a number of very large icebergs.”[98]

The General McClellan crossed the Atlantic in a speedy thirty-two days.[99] The Hudson “sailed about seventeen days later than the time we wished to have the last of the emigrating Saints go.” But she had been delayed leaving New York for England. The booked emigrants had no alternative but to wait and sail late, because “ships were so scarce that another could not be obtained that could leave earlier or be affordable.”[100] The Hudson company was organized into fourteen wards. Passenger George Careless (later a Tabernacle Choir director) organized a very proficient choir, which the ship captain let practice in his cabin.[101] On August 8, near America, the Confederate steam gunboat Georgia hailed the Hudson “and brought us to a standstill. After inquiries from our captain we were permitted to move on for they ascertained that eleven hundred British subjects were on board. Consequently, they had no means of handling that many persons and the would-be prize was given up, the gunboat’s band playing a farewell.”[102]

How the year’s South African immigrants traveled from Boston to the plains is not known, but they probably linked up with those who left from New York City. The Europeans, who disembarked in New York, immediately boarded the magnificent Hudson River steamer St. Johns for Albany. There they loaded onto trains.[103] “Though every coach was full to its utmost,” Monarch passenger H. N. Hansen recalled, “we were pleased with the cushioned seats and comfortable arrangements.”[104] But when they changed trains, they next rode in boxcars with “temporary hard seats arranged even without any support for the back.[105] When they reached Missouri, they refused to ride again in box cars, so they had to wait a day, without shelter or access to baggage. However, sleeping in the woods with only shawls and overcoats was, Hansen said, “the most comfortable night spent for a week.”[106]

Likewise, in New York City the ship Hudson passengers boarded the St. Johns, which packed 1,400 people on its lower deck, for an all-night cruise to Albany. From there the Mormons rode in twenty-four cars to Buffalo. During the Canadian stretch, they clattered over “track laid through a wood which was on fire for several miles and the wind carried the flames unpleasantly close to the train.” In Chicago, some army officers boarded their train, looking for deserters. The company left Chicago July 25 on the Illinois Central, suffering “much inconvenience” by frequent changes of cars. After ferrying the Mississippi to West Quincy’s railroad spur, the people were told that a bridge and a station up ahead had been burned by rebels, so no train was available. They camped in the woods until a thunderstorm drove them into the depot for shelter.[107]

After a day’s delay, on July 28 they loaded onto three trains and chugged only to the burned, impassable bridge. They climbed out and “forded the river, and camped again in the woods to wait the removal of the luggage which was carried over 3/4 of a mile, of very rough road mostly on men’s backs, only three wagons available for the heavier boxes.” The next afternoon, “3 trains of goods, cars, and cattle trucks very filthy were crammed to excess by the Saints.”[108] A Union army officer walked through the trains to enlist young men into the army, causing one mother to put a bonnet on her son and disguise him as an old woman.[109] Effects of guerilla raids were “very apparent in the burnt buildings, the excitement of the inhabitants and the number of armed men at the stations who were sent to protect the line.” During this final leg to St. Joseph, which was “dreadful rough,” one engine and several cars went off the track, “the brethren having to get out to push the trains into the sidings.”[110]

Deboarding in St. Joseph, the Saints took cover in a large railway shed. Some harassing soldiers questioned a Dutch girl, who knew but little English. Then they claimed the Mormons were forcing her to Utah against her will. When sent for, a provost marshal determined that the soldiers misunderstood her and ordered them to leave the grounds. “The rabble then declared they would have her if they burnt the building, but by disguising her she was got safely on board the steamer ‘Colorado.’” That steamer took the Saints upriver, stopping for each night at a wood yard on shore. On August 2, after “rubbing over sandbars and snags, feeling our way from bank to bank,” the steamboat docked at the Church’s new outfitting camp in Wyoming, Nebraska.[111]

Only one Mormon wagon company in 1864 did not outfit there. The William D. Pritchett company of Southerners left from the Florence-Omaha area. In the group was David H. Perry, a daughter, and some of his in-laws, all from Virginia. Perry had been a Confederate commissary officer serving in Kentucky. During the war he converted to his beloved deceased wife’s Mormon religion. He then resigned from the army and took his family across Kentucky to the Ohio River. From there, steamboats took them to Florence. They headed west in a small wagon company headed by Captain Prichett, a Virginian and a Mormon. Some Missourians bound for Oregon joined them at Fort Kearny, at which point the train contained twenty wagons. But the Missourians broke off when Pritchett was elected captain over both groups, not wanting a Mormon captain. Some weeks later, the Pritchett company came upon the Missourians, who had lost their livestock during an Indian raid. Captain Pritchett’s company gave them enough oxen to pull their wagons to Green River, where they could obtain more stock.[112]

All the other 1864 Mormon wagon trains outfitted at and left from the new outfitting site. Six were Church trains from Utah, containing 170 teams; three were independent companies. The Wyoming, Nebraska Territory, site, located on a bluff three hundred feet above the river, was forty-five miles downriver from Florence and seven above Nebraska City. A good location, it reduced the steamboat time from St. Joseph, provided ample space, was not hounded by apostate and criminal elements like Florence was, was near Nebraska City for supplies, and had access to overland trails on the Platte’s south side, including the overland mail’s stagecoach route to Salt Lake City, which opened in 1862.[113] As the following campground chronology shows, agent John W. Young dealt with busy comings and goings. Church trains are in boldface. Asterisks mark companies that chose to follow a new route, the Overland–Bridger Pass Trail.[114]




John D. Chase company


June 26

John R. Murdock company

June 6

June 29

Monarch passengers


June 15–16

*William B. Preston company

June 21

July 8

Joseph S. Rawlins company

June 26

July 15

*William S. Warren company

July 2

July 21

John Smith company


by July 15

Isaac A. Canfield company

by July 3

July 27

McClellan passengers


July 3

*William Hyde company

July 3

Aug 9

Hudson passengers


Aug 1

*Warren S. Snow company


Aug 17

Some emigrants had long waits at Wyoming. “We camped in some brush there for 3 wks. in the hot weather while we were waiting for the church teams to come,” a young girl in the Monarch company recalled; “it was so hot the ground would burn our feet.”[115] A few emigrants had tents, but most built huts of poles and brush, which gave shade but leaked rain.[116] The first train to leave, the John D. Chase independent company of twenty-eight mule-team wagons, included 102 people and much freight.[117] On July 3, just as William Hyde’s final Church train arrived in camp, so did about eight hundred Saints from the General McClellan company. Agent Joseph W. Young (not to be confused with Joseph A. Young, the agent in New York) sent off wagon trains as fast as he could load them.[118] By July 27 all the down-and-back trains were on the trail. But, on August 2, two steamboats unloaded more than eight hundred Hudson emigrants. Young sent the Hyde company off with 350 passengers and freight and then purchased more wagons and teams for a new train. He assigned returning missionary Warren S. Snow to captain it. The company left very late, about the same time as many wagon trains in the past were arriving in Salt Lake City. Four days after Snow’s company pulled out, a weary Young and his assistants closed up the Wyoming buildings and left.

Traveling south of the Platte, the companies followed the Nebraska City Cut-off most of the way to Fort Kearny, then joined the Oregon Trail. Their route included Fort Kearny, Plumb Creek, Fremont Springs, O’Fallon Bluffs, “the Old California Crossing,” and Julesburg.[119] That year the trail between Fort Kearny and Julesburg was unsafe because of what later was popularly termed the “Indian War of 1864.”[120] After passing Fort Kearny, the Hyde company learned that “many of the people from Towns & Mail Stations in advance had been driven in by Indians & were now at Fort Kearney.” Through this danger zone, he said, they traveled double file.[121] “Trains ahead and behind us were burned,” a Preston company passenger noted.[122]

At Julesburg, half of the Mormon companies crossed the South Platte and headed north to join the main Oregon-California Trail at Fort Laramie. In the chart above, the four companies marked with an asterisk chose a different route, following the stagecoach mail route, called the Overland–Bridger Pass Trail.[123] The Hyde and Snow companies crossed the South Platte just below Julesburg, reached Pole Creek and followed it west about 180 miles to its head (the “Pole Creek route”[124]), passed over the Black Hills one hundred miles south of Fort Laramie, struck the head of Bitter Creek and followed it a few days, and moved on to Fort Bridger. “This is a new route,” John Gerber wrote; “feed and water is more plentiful than on the old route via Fort Laramie.”[125]

About 2,600 Mormon emigrants crossed the plains in 1864.

1865: Steep Drop in Emigration Numbers

“We should not send teams . . . to Wyoming for the poor next season,” Brigham Young announced in mid-1864, “for we wish to prosecute work upon the Temple, and we are not able to do both at the same time.” The Star’s September 17 issue made that announcement public, saying that because of “great cost and little return,” no Church trains would be provided in 1865. For four years, hundreds of wagons and teams had been thus engaged, receiving tithing credits as compensation. But unpaid debts by the emigrant beneficiaries necessitated belt tightening.[126]

Late in 1864, President Young counseled those intending to emigrate in 1865, who had their “own means” to reach America but not Utah, to plan to lay over in Canada where they could find “the best facilities for obtaining employment.” Don’t stop and work in the States, he said, “for the regions of strife are constantly enlarging.” Sail to New York, he advised, because rates to there were cheaper than to Canadian ports, but then go to Buffalo and cross into Canada by July or August. However, those able to finance the full journey to Utah should go to the Wyoming outfitting site, if war conditions allowed, “where agents will be sent to furnish outfitting supplies as usual.”[127]

The European Mission intended to “carry on the emigrating business as usual, under the same general plan and arrangements” as before. “Lose no opportunity of making your escape,” mission leaders said, for they foresaw “no prospect of bettering or advancing your condition by remaining here.” Despite the war and bloodshed “so rapidly devastating the United States,” a combination of caution, wisdom, and trusting “the Lord and his servants” could provide safety.[128]

When 1865 opened, Northern forces under Generals Grant and Sherman were turning the tide against the Confederacy’s armies, but fierce Civil War battles continued. The European Mission sent Thomas Taylor, assisted by John G. Holman, and Joseph G. Romney, to supervise the 1865 emigrations in America.[129] The known Mormon emigrant ships that sailed that year, the approximate passenger numbers, their departure dates and places, and arrival dates and places were as follows:



April 12

Port Elizabeth, S. Africa

June 18


Belle Wood


April 29


May 31


B. S. Kimball


May 8


June 15


David Hoadley


May 10


June 19




June 7


July 14


“Owing to no Church teams being sent down to Wyoming,” which meant higher emigration costs, “the emigration from the Mission this year has been comparatively small,” a June report said. It totaled 1,224. Unusual for Mormon ship companies, the Belle Wood, with 636 Saints on board, had so many aged, feeble, and sick, that they appointed a Female Sanitary Committee to attend to them, dispensing sago, tapioca, arrowroot, hot tea, coffee, soup, boiled rice, and dried applesauce.[130] The brig Mexicana brought 47 Saints from South Africa.[131] The fine American packet ship B. S. Kimball carried 557, primarily Scandinavians. Passengers received good treatment, including three warm meals each day. Three adults died, as did twenty-five children, of measles and scarlet fever.[132] Details are lacking regarding the voyages of the David Hoadley and the Bridgewater.

On April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Then, on April 15, President Lincoln died after being shot by assassin John Wilkes Booth. When Belle Wood passengers landed at Castle Garden on June 2, they “found the country in deep mourning over the tragic death of Abraham Lincoln. Everywhere we saw soldiers who were returning home from the Civil War.” They looked “ragged, tired and sick as they dragged themselves down the street to their quarters amid the sound of cheers and martial music.”[133] Upsetting Belle Wood emigrants, railroad contractors refused for four days to honor their contract signed with agent Thomas Taylor. Frustrated, he initiated legal action, which quickly produced train space.[134] On June 6, the Mormons boarded a train to Albany. From there, they moved on to Niagara Falls, Chicago, and Quincy, and reached the outfitting camp at Wyoming on June 14.

The Belle Wood’s “English company” of nearly four hundred emigrants arrived at Wyoming on June 15, the Scandinavian company of about 550 on June 26.[135] There the emigrants waited until into July for chief agent Thomas Taylor to arrive. When he did, he still had to buy cattle and some wagons.[136] Three Mormon emigrant wagon trains headed west that season (as did four freight companies). The names, departure dates, and numbers of wagons and passengers were as follows:

Miner G. Atwood

July 31

ca. 60


Henson Walker

August 12



William S. Willis

August 12, 15



All three companies traveled on the south side of the Platte, crossed the South Platte near Julesburg, and joined the Oregon-California Trail near Court House Rock in western Nebraska. Because of Indian dangers, “it has been against the law for any small train to travel on this side of the Platte,” Captain Atwood journalized, “but mine being a large train and having a number of men, we were allowed to cross over [the South Platte] without any trouble.” His company of Scandinavians rolled over Scott’s Bluff, passed by Fort Mitchell, and then, constantly encountering soldiers on patrol against Indians, they ran into trouble just beyond Fort Laramie. While camped for dinner at Cottonwood Creek, Captain Atwood said, “We had just unyoked and the mules and oxen were being driven to water when about fifteen Indians came riding down amongst the cattle from the hills, hooting and yelling. Some of them had fire arms and some arrows. They fired at the herders, trying the while to stampede the cattle but the cattle all ran for the corral, the mules leading the way, and the Indians did not succeed in driving one away. Seven Danish men were wounded and one sister taken away.”[137] The sister was Jensine Christine Hostmark Gruntvig. “We never heard from her any more,” one passenger said; “they also threw a rope on a girl 18 years of age by the name of Stena Kemfy Jenson, but she managed to free herself from the ropes and in doing so she escaped from the Indians.”[138]

Among the Henson Walker company, or English company, was the Kershaw family from South Africa. They had with them “two colored men from Africa, who strenuously objected to being called niggars and said they were Caffairs.”[139] Passengers in the Willis company, also mostly English, had little wagon space for their use because chief agent Thomas Taylor, a merchant, had the wagons loaded with his merchandise. Late in September the Walker and Willis companies camped near each other and visited.[140] But the Willis company, so overloaded with freight, made slow progress. Food ran out, and winter approached. “The Captain had telegraphed to Utah that we were nearly out of provisions,” one passenger recalled; “then one morning we heard whooping and yelling, we thought it was Indians, but it proved to be a train sent from Utah. And we were indeed glad to see them. They told us to hold our aprons and they filled them with potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. They also brought fresh beef and I tell you we had a feast.”[141] That relief train, a mule train captained by Orson Arnold, took the women, children, and elderly to Utah. It reached Salt Lake City on November 15, the Willis wagon train two weeks later.[142]

After the 1865 lull, a heavy flow of emigration resumed in 1866, involving nine ships and ten Church team trains transporting some 3,500 emigrants from the Wyoming outfitting camp.[143]

Assessment of Wartime Emigration

Due to incomplete records, Mormon emigration totals during the Civil War years can only be roughly approximated. The following ship and passenger totals are based on Conway Sonne’s encyclopedia of the ships that Mormon emigrants used. The trail passenger and wagon numbers are current estimates by Mel Bashore, the LDS Church History Library reference specialist whose work generated the Church’s invaluable website Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel.[144]



Ship Emigrants

Trail Emigrants

Emigrant Wagon Companies






































This heavy flow of Mormon emigrants from abroad accords with strong national immigration totals for “Alien passengers arriving” at America’s seaports during those years, as reported in the 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics:[145]











An 1863 explanation for this “great rush” to America said it was “caused chiefly by the great demand for laborers and consequent high prices and the large bounties offered by the Government for volunteers.”[146] By comparison, Mormon emigration from overseas flowed vigorously, except in 1865, for three clearly identified causes: (1) Joseph Smith’s prophecy about civil war in America and war spreading throughout the world made believers move to Zion for safety; (2) terrible employment conditions in Europe and manpower needs in America made people emigrate in order to better themselves; (3) the Church’s down-and-back wagon train system made it possible for those otherwise financially unable to emigrate to do so. Clearly, the 1865 precipitous drop in Mormon emigration numbers correlates with suspensions that season of the Church trains option.

The Church’s basic transportation system to the plains that was in place in 1860 continued through the war years. That is, agents continued to charter sailing ships, the ships arrived safely in New York or Boston, and the agents booked railroad and steamboat passage to Chicago, Quincy, and St. Joseph, and on to Florence, or, after 1862, to Wyoming, Nebraska. That the down-and-back Church train system characterized Mormon emigration during the Civil War years was coincidental. No concern about war engineered the system, which was set in motion before the war broke out. Rather, Church leaders hoped the war would not interfere with it.

War did cause the system difficulties. War demands meant ships were harder to charter and harder to staff. Ships tried to avoid Confederate raiders on the high seas. War drew off railroad cars, hence many Mormon emigrants had to ride in box or cattle cars, change trains more often than normal, and sometimes be routed a short distance into Canada. Missouri was a dangerous war zone, where trains were fired on, tracks were damaged, and bridges wrecked. The war’s demand for goods and services forced prices up, including those for transportation tickets, wagons, oxen, and food. Depreciated dollars hurt agents and emigrants trying to stay within budgets. Emigrants’ encounters with soldiers sometimes were ugly. Soldiers sometimes checked Mormon railroad passengers, looking for deserters. Soldiers stopped some Mormon wagon companies and required men to take oaths of allegiance or loyalty.

During the Civil War years, the Mormon emigration system continued to work very well, moving more than 17,000 Saints to Utah. That five-year total equals nearly half of the total for the previous fourteen years of Mormon Trail travel up to 1861.


[1] Stanley B. Kimball, “Sail and Rail Pioneers before 1869,” BYU Studies 35, no. 2 (1995): 7–42, especially 23–29.

[2] An introductory survey is Fred E. Woods, “East to West through North and South: Mormon Immigration to and through America during the Civil War,” BYU Studies 39, no.1 (2000): 7–29.

[3] This discussion about 1861 emigration is based on my essays, “The Great Florence Fitout of 1861,” BYU Studies 24 (Summer 1984): 341–71; and “Down-and-Back Wagon Trains: Travelers on the Mormon Trail in 1861,” Overland Journal 11, no. 4 (1993): 23–34.

[4] “Instruction to the Saints Throughout the European Mission,” Millennial Star, November 24, 1860, 744.

[5] “Emigration,” Millennial Star, January 5 and 19, 1861.

[6] “Departures,” Millennial Star, February 2, 1861.

[7] “Correspondence,” W. A. Martindale to George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star, April 13, 1861, 238–239.

[8] William G. Hartley, “Brigham Young’s Overland Trails Revolution: The Creation of the ‘Down-and-Back’ Wagon Train System, 1860–61,” Journal of Mormon History 28, no. 1 (2002): 1–30; John K. Hulmston, “Mormon Immigration in the 1860s: The Story of the Church Team Trains,” Utah Historical Quarterly 58 (Winter 1990): 32–48.

[9] Ship passenger totals used in this paper are those presented in Conway B. Sonne, Ships, Saints, and Mariners: A Maritime Encyclopedia of Mormon Migration 1830–1890 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987).

[10] “Correspondence,” N. V. Jones and Jacob Gates to George Q. Cannon, February 8, 1861, Millennial Star, March 23, 1861.

[11] “News from the United States,” Millennial Star, April 6, 1861, 219.

[12] Bernhard Schettler, memorandum book, 1861, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah; “Rosine Wilhelmina Aust Bitter,” and “Traugott Bitter,” life sketches in possession of Constance Brown, Rexburg, Idaho.

[13] Erastus Snow to George A. Smith, June 26, 1861, in Journal History of the Church, that date, Church History Library; John D. T. McAllister to George Q. Cannon, July 30, 1861, in Journal History, that date.

[14] Diary of Lucius Scovil, April 27, 1861, Church History Library.

[15] “Correspondence,” Orson Pratt to George Q. Cannon, May 24, 1861, Millennial Star, June 15, 1861, 395.

[16] Eli Wiggill, Autobiography, MS 8344, Church History Library.

[17] “Correspondence,” N. V. Jones to George Q. Cannon, May 21, 1861, Millennial Star, June 15, 1861, 396.

[18] Thomas Cott Griggs’s summary of Boston Saints’ trip to Florence and of the Joseph Horne wagon train, in Journal History, September 13, 1861.

[19] George M. Ottinger, reminiscences and journal, 12, June 1861, in possession of Susanna Helbling, Salt Lake City.

[20] Griggs, summary.

[21] Eli Wiggill Autobiography; M. Dean Garrett, “The Controversial Death of Gobo Fango,” Utah Historical Quarterly 57 (Summer 1989), 265.

[22] Kimball, “Sail and Rail Pioneers,” 15.

[23] Griggs, summary.

[24] Griggs, summary.

[25] Hartley, “Great Florence Fit out of 1861,” 365–66.

[26] Ottinger Journal, June 18, 1861.

[27] Hartley, “Great Florence Fit out of 1861.”

[28] Hartley, “Great Florence Fit out of 1861.” Unless cited otherwise, the discussion about Florence operations that follows is from that article.

[29] Jacob Gates, reminiscences and diaries, April 24, 1861, Church History Library.

[30] Gates, reminiscences and diaries.

[31] Hartley, “Great Florence Fit out of 1861.”

[32] A thirteenth company led by Ira Reid had forty-five wagons in it but split up and merged into other companies, whose wagon counts probably included their wagons. See “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868,” Church History website,,15773,3966-1,00.html, 1861 Ira Reed or Reid company.

[33] John K. Hulmston, “Transplain Migration: The Church Trains in Mormon Immigration, 1861–1868” (master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1985), 61.

[34] Regarding Church trains during the rest of the 1860s, see Hulmston, “Mormon Immigration in the 1860s: The Story of the Church Trains.”

[35] “New from America,” J. McKnight, letter, September 22, 1861, Millennial Star, October 26, 1861, 693.

[36] Bob Ansler, “Railroads in the Civil War,”

[37]“What the Saints Are Capable of Doing,” Millennial Star, June 15, 1861, 393.

[38] “What the Saints Must Do Who Want to Emigrate,” Millennial Star, June 8, 1861, 361.

[39] “To Presidents and Emigrating Saints,” Millennial Star, February 22, 1862.

[40] H. Kirk Memmott, ed., Thomas Memmott Journal (Provo, UT: J. Grant Stevenson, 1976), 1:31.

[41] “How Many Elders Shall Be Released to Go to Zion,” Millennial Star, March 8, 1862, 155.

[42] “Correspondence,” William Clayton to George Q. Cannon, February 20, 1862, Millennial Star, April 26, 1862, 270.

[43] “The Best Policy for the Saints to Pursue,” Millennial Star, May 17, 1862, 312–14.

[44] Autobiography of Hans Christian. Excerpt posted on the LDS Church’s Mormon Immigration Index, ship Franklin 1862 account. This index is a ship emigration CD database. It is also online at various genealogy database websites.

[45] John Hansen Hougaard, autobiography and journal, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Electra 1862 accounts.

[46] Jacob Zollinger, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Windermere 1862 accounts.

[47] Joseph Coulson Rich, journal, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship John Jay Boyd 1862 accounts.

[48] Jens Christian Andersen Weibye, reminiscences and journals, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Franklin 1862 accounts.

[49] Oluf Christian Larson, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Electric 1862 accounts.

[50] Ola Nelson Stohl, diaries, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Electric 1862 accounts.

[51] William Lindsay, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Antarctic 1862 accounts.

[52] William Ajax, diary, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship John Jay Boyd 1862 accounts.

[53] Joseph Coulson Rich, journal diary, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship John Jay Boyd 1862 accounts.

[54] Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1927), 162–67.

[55] Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission, 162–67.

[56] Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission, 162–67.

[57] William Wood, autobiography, in Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1970), 13:273–77.

[58] Oluf Christian Larson, autobiography.

[59] Hulmston, “Transplain Migration,” 79.

[60] William Lindsay, autobiography.

[61] Hulmston, “Transplain Migration,” 74–75.

[62] Jens Weibye, reminiscences and journal.

[63] “Blessings to Be Obtained by Gathering,” Millennial Star, October 4, 1862, 633–35; “Why Are So Many of the Saints Not Gathered?” Millennial Star, October 11, 1862, 649–52; “News from Home,” Millennial Star, November 8, 1862, 714.

[64] “The Immigration to Utah,” Deseret News, July 14, 1863, reprinted in the Millennial Star, September 5, 1863, 564–65.

[65] “Emigration,” Millennial Star, July 25, 1863, 476.

[66] “The Intending Emigrants—Seasonable Advice,” Millennial Star, January 10, 1863, 25.

[67] “To the Saints and Intending Emigrants,” Millennial Star, March 21, 1863, 184.

[68] Thomas Henry White, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Antarctica 1863 accounts.

[69] Charles Dickens, The Uncommercial Traveler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 220–32.

[70] “Emigration—Prosperity of the Past Season—Counsel for the Future,” Millennial Star, August 29, 1863, 552.

[71] “Close of the Emigration Season,” Millennial Star, June 20, 1863, 392.

[72] “New York City Draft Riots,”Wikipedia,; see also “New York City Draft Riots,” Shotgun’s Home of the American Civil War,

[73] David M. Stuart, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Cynosure 1863 accounts.

[74] Daughters of Utah Pioneers, “They Came in 1863,” in Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1964), 7:35.

[75] Elijah Larkin, diaries, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Amazon 1863 accounts.

[76] William H. Freshwater, diary, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship William Tapscott 1862 accounts.

[77] White, autobiography.

[78] White, autobiography.

[79] Thomas Wright Kirby, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Antarctic 1863 accounts.

[80] Kimball, “Sail and Rail Pioneers before 1869,” 16.

[81] Deseret News, April 29, 1863, 1.

[82] Author’s calculations based on Deseret News reports and data for the 1864 wagon companies posted on the “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel” website.

[83] White, autobiography.

[84] White, autobiography.

[85] Mary Charlotte Jacobs Soffe, “The Story of My Life,” excerpt posted on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868,” 1863 John R. Murdock company accounts.

[86] William Richardson, autobiography, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1863 Horton D. Haight company accounts.

[87] Martin A. Zyderlaan, A. H. Patterson camp journal, in Journal History, September 4, 1863, 1–12.

[88] Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner diary, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1863 Alvus H. Patterson company accounts.

[89] E. L. Sloan Letter, September 25, 1863, in Journal History, that date. Also see Elijah Larkin Diary.

[90] “Correspondence,” [E. L. Sloan to George Q. Cannon], December 14, 1863, Millennial Star, February 20, 1864, 122.

[91] “The Past Season’s Emigration–Potency of Faith and Prayer,” Millennial Star, October 31, 1863, 696–98.

[92] “Emigration and the Motives Which Prompt It,” Millennial Star, January 23, 1864, 58.

[93] “Emigration Deposits, Etc.,” Millennial Star, March 13, 1864, 168–69.

[94] “The Emigration of the Scandinavian Saints,” Millennial Star, April 30, 1864, 282.

[95] Andrew Christian Nielson, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Monarch of the Sea 1864 accounts; and “The Emigration of Scandinavian Saints,” Millennial Star, April 30, 1864, 281.

[96] John Johnson [Johan Johanssen], reminiscences, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Monarch of the Sea 1864 accounts.

[97] “Departure,” Millennial Star, May 7, 1864, 298.

[98] John Smith, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Monarch of the Sea 1864 accounts.

[99] Thomas Evans Jeremy to President Cannon, July 2, 1864, Millennial Star, August 13, 1864, 524.

[100] “Departure,” Millennial Star, June 18, 1864, 395.

[101] Mary Ann Ward Webb, autobiography, in “The Year of 1864,” Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1965), 8:39–43.

[102] Charles William Symons, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Hudson 1864 accounts.

[103] John Smith, autobiography.

[104] H. N. Hansen, “An Account of a Mormon Family’s Conversion to the Religion of the Latter-day Saints and their Trip from Denmark to Utah,” Annals of Iowa 41, no. 1 (Summer 1971): 712–26.

[105] Hansen, “Account of a Mormon Family’s Conversion.”

[106] Hansen, “Account of a Mormon Family’s Conversion.”

[107] John Lyman Smith, diaries, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Hudson 1864 accounts; Mary Ann Ward Webb, autobiography. She was on the ship Hudson.

[108] John Lyman Smith, diaries.

[109] Elizabeth Edwards, reminiscences, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1864 William S. Warren company accounts.

[110] John Lyman Smith, diaries.

[111] John Lyman Smith, diaries.

[112] “Life History of Elizabeth Letitia Higginbotham Peery,” “David H. Peery on Honesty and Thrift,” and “Life Story of David Harold Peery,” in Mormon Biographical Sketches Collection, Church History Library; “David H. Peery,” in Andrew Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:756–58; William G. Hartley, “The Confederate Officer and ‘That Mormon Girl,’” Ensign, April 1982, 52–54.

[113] Craig S. Smith, “Wyoming, Nebraska Territory: Joseph W. Young and the Mormon Emigration of 1864,” BYU Studies 39, no. 1 (2000): 31–51; Andrew Jenson, “Latter-day Saint Emigration from Wyoming, Nebraska, 1864–1866,” Nebraska History Magazine 17 (April–June 1936): 113–27; Stanley B. Kimball, “The Nebraska City Cutoff, 1864–66,” in “A Forgotten Trail and Mormon Settlements,” Ensign, February 1980.

[114] Church Emigration Book, 1862–1881, Church History Library.

[115] Matilda Christina Ohlson Sprague, autobiographical sketch, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1864 William B. Preston company accounts.

[116] Hansen, “Account of a Mormon Family’s Conversion.”

[117] John D. Chase Company Summary on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1864 John D. Chase company accounts.

[118] Joseph A. Young was Brigham Young’s son; Joseph W. Young was Brigham Young’s nephew, the son of Lorenzo Dow Young.

[119] Henry Ballard, journal, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Hudson 1864 accounts.

[120] William E. Lass, From the Missouri to the Great Salt Lake: An Account of Overland Freighting (n.p.: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1972), 145. These Indian attacks were not due to opportunities opened by a weakened federal government but stemmed from specific recent army activity against plains Indians (p. 147).

[121] John Lyman Smith, autobiography and journals. He was in the William Hyde wagon company.

[122] John T. Gerber, diary, in Journal History, October 26, 1864.

[123] “The Overland–Bridger Pass Trail” and “The Overland–Bridger Pass Trail Mountain Division Variant in Colorado and Wyoming,” in Stanley B. Kimball, Historic Sites and Markers along the Mormon and Other Great Western Trails (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 153–59, 160–66, and Kimball, “Another Route to Zion: Rediscovering the Overland Trail,” Ensign, June 1984, 34.

[124] “Emigration,” Salt Lake Daily Telegraph, September 7, 1864.

[125] John T. Gerber, diary.

[126] “Emigration and the Temple,” Millennial Star, September 17, 1864, 600–602.

[127] “Emigration,” Millennial Star, January 21, 1865, 40–41.

[128] “Emigration,” Millennial Star, January 21, 1865, 42–43.

[129] “Departure,” Millennial Star, February 25, 1865, 124.

[130] “Correspondence, June 24, 1865, from W. H. Shearman and others to Presidents Wells and Young,” Millennial Star, July 1, 1865, 398. The committee was Sisters Cecelia Campbell, Maria Wixley, and Elisebeth Savage.

[131] “Correspondence,” M. G. Atwood and others to President Wells, June 15, 1865, Millennial Star, July 15, 1865, 443.

[132] Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission, 183–86.

[133] Mary Ann Greenhalgh Mace, autobiography, in Our Pioneer Heritage (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers 1972), 15:125–27.

[134] W. [William] H. Shearman, et al. [Letter], Millennial Star, July 22, 1865, 461–63.

[135] John G. Holman [Letter], Deseret News Weekly, August 2, 1865, 351.

[136] Robert Pixton, autobiography, excerpt on Mormon Immigration Index, ship Belle Wood 1865 accounts.

[137] Miner G. Atwood, journal, in Journal History, November 8, 1865, 8–22.

[138] James P. Anderson, autobiographical sketch, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1865 Miner G. Atwood company accounts.

[139] Thomas Alston, autobiography, excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1865 Henson Walker company accounts. The term “kaffir” was a pejorative term for a South African black person.

[140] Miner G. Atwood, journal, in Journal History, November 8, 1865, 8–22.

[141] “History of Annie Maria Kershaw Thompson,” excerpt on “Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel,” 1865 William S. S. Willis company accounts.

[142] Deseret News, November 23, 1865.

[143] Jenson, “Latter Day Saint Emigration from Wyoming, Nebraska,1864–1866,” 124–25.

[144] Sonne, Ships, Saints, and Mariners, and Melvin L. Bashore files, pioneer companies statistics, electronic file, Church History Library.

[145] Office of Immigration Statistics, 2003 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics,

[146] New York Observer and Chronicle, October 29, 1863.