Prelude to Civil War: The Utah War’s Impact and Legacy

William P. MacKinnon

William P. MacKinnon, Prelude to Civil War: The Utah War’s Impact and Legacy,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 1–21.

William P. MacKinnon is an independent historian in Montecito, California.

While you were with us in our Mountain home [during the late 1850s], little did many imagine the signal reversion that has taken place in so brief a period. . . . The threatened war of 1857–8 has thickly canopied its lurid clouds over those who would have destroyed us, while the serene light of Heaven smiles upon our valleys and mountains, and crowns their peaks with its halos.

—Brigham Young to Thomas L. Kane, April 29, 1864

It was a rough winter we spent at Chattanooga [Tennessee]. I had served in the expedition to Utah in 1857–58 and participated in the hardships, privations and starvations of that luckless march, but taking all I saw or felt in the expedition to Utah into consideration I must say that I never beheld so much suffering and misery from want of food and clothing as I saw in the camps of the Federal troops at Chattanooga from the date of my joining [on December 31, 1863] until the opening of February, 1864.

—Major Albert Tracy, commander of First Battalion,

Fifteenth U.S. Infantry, ca. 1890


The Utah War of 1857–58 was the armed struggle for power and authority in Utah Territory between the newly inaugurated administration of President James Buchanan and the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, principally President Brigham Young, who also held federal office as Utah’s governor, superintendent of Indian affairs, and militia commander. It was a struggle ten years in the making that eventually pitted the nation’s most experienced and active militia (although not technically the largest) against nearly one-third of the U.S. Army. The campaign was the nation’s most extensive and expensive military undertaking during the period between the Mexican and Civil Wars. When Abraham Lincoln assumed the presidency, the army’s largest garrison was in Utah, and the U.S. Treasury had been drained to an extent that precluded Lincoln from paying the federal establishment for his first several months in office.[1]

There is a notion among some commentators that the Utah War was essentially an expensive but bloodless, almost cartoonish David-versus-Goliath affair featuring a strategically and tactically brilliant Brigham Young and a bumbling, blundering James Buchanan. The campaign was not bloodless, for like most civil wars or guerrilla conflicts, the Utah War degenerated into a series of sordid atrocities marked for their ferocity. In addition to the fatalities from accidental gunshot wounds on both sides as well as deaths in the federal camps from drunken duels, heart attacks, and a case of lockjaw, there was the September 11, 1857, execution by Mormon militiamen and Indian auxiliaries at Mountain Meadows of 120 emigrant infants, women, and unarmed men—the greatest incident of organized mass murder of civilians in the nation’s history until the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. Also, in October of 1857 there was the lynching at Smiths’ Fork of the Green River of Private George W. Clark, a deserter from the Utah Expedition’s Tenth U.S. Infantry, by unknown parties, and the fatal bludgeoning of Richard E. Yates, a civilian mountaineer and ammunition trader, by Nauvoo Legion officers in Echo Canyon near the legion’s Cache Cave headquarters. In November 1857 the six-member Aiken party, a group of well-heeled, non-Mormon California adventurers of ambiguous intent, were detained by the legion in Salt Lake City while trying to reach the army at Fort Bridger. Five of the Aikens were subsequently assassinated while being compelled to return to California on the southern route. In February 1858, there was further loss of life and injury when Bannock warriors—allegedly accompanied by civilian scouts from the army’s Utah Expedition—raided the Mormon Fort Limhi mission on Oregon Territory’s Salmon River. In total the fatalities on both sides during the Utah War approximated the bloodshed that in the 1850s earned Utah’s eastern neighbor the enduring label “Bleeding Kansas.”[2]

Notwithstanding a recent renewal of interest in the conflict, it would be a mistake to assume that the Utah War is well known either in Utah or elsewhere. Yet obscure as it has been—and quite apart from the mesmerizing, sensational Mountain Meadows Massacre story—the Utah War spawned an exotic military and civilian legacy that remains with us, though largely unrecognized. It is a legacy comprised of rich, colorful, and fascinating personal stories and societal forces that helped to shape not only post-1858 Mormonism but the subsequent history of Utah, the American West, and most immediately the Civil War. For this reason alone the Utah War is a conflict with an impact and aftermath worth understanding.

The Players

At the time, the Utah War was the American West’s biggest show. As such, it was a magnet for the adventuresome and an ordeal for the innocent—a cauldron in which the mettle of all involved was tested.

What happened to all of these people—Latter-day Saints, non-Mormons, Indians, Hispanics, Anglos, women, mountaineers, dandies, illiterates, PhDs, rogues, soldiers, and civilians—after the Utah Expedition marched into and through Salt Lake City on June 26, 1858? For most of the participants, involvement in the Utah War was the most colorful experience of their life. Thereafter they receded into historical anonymity filled with the workaday responsibilities, accomplishments, and disappointments of ordinary life but flavored with a lifetime of personal stories about the Mormon move south, riding with Lot Smith’s Nauvoo Legion raiders, or the Utah Expedition’s brutal march to the charred remains of Fort Bridger and a frustrating winter on short rations at nearby Camp Scott.

But for the members of a smaller group on both sides, the Utah War was a foundational experience, if not an epiphany, from which they sprang into a panoply of even more colorful adventures of both heroic and tragic stripe. At the extremes one finds that among the Nauvoo Legion’s leaders and private soldiers were men destined to be the second through sixth presidents of the LDS Church, while among the Utah Expedition’s officers a captain of artillery and an infantry lieutenant did their duty, oblivious to their presidential candidacies to come.[3] Most cases of post-1858 prominence or notoriety for such people are well known somewhere in Utah, the American West, or Europe. But what has been largely lost is an awareness of the linkage of such adventures to the earlier Utah War and vice versa. Therein lies the definition of a real but unfortunately forgotten legacy.

The Civilian Leaders

For President James Buchanan and his cabinet, the Utah War—together with the simultaneous uproar over “Bleeding Kansas”—was a first confrontation with the unnerving specter of civil disobedience, armed conflict, bloodshed, and the firestorm of public criticism that they spawned. So anxious was Buchanan to extricate himself from the massive expenses and political costs of the Utah War that he, in effect, declared victory and, starting in 1858, permitted himself to be co-opted by both Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane as well as by their alcoholic, four-hundred-pound pawn, Governor Alfred Cumming.

This failure of nerve foreshadowed Buchanan’s lawyerly but disastrous handling of the secession crisis of 1860–61, an ineffective performance that with the onset of the Civil War brought widespread criticism of the president which persists today.[4] During the Civil War, it was necessary for Buchanan’s Masonic lodge brothers to stand guard over his Lancaster, Pennsylvania retirement mansion. Townspeople stopped speaking to him. Dr. Jonathan M. Foltz—the Lancaster physician who nursed Buchanan through the nearly fatal “National Hotel Disease” during the spring of 1857 while he decided Utah’s fate—came to feel so negatively about the president and his handling of secession that he legally changed his firstborn son’s middle name from Buchanan to Steinman.[5] Even decades after the Civil War, hostility to Buchanan was such that it was not until 1930 that Congress was willing to provide and dedicate land for an obscure park in Washington to erect a statue in his honor, although his niece had provided funds to defray the cost of the monument nearly a half century earlier.[6]

Just months before his death in 1868 at age seventy-eight, Buchanan resolved his ambivalent dithering about formal religion—especially the necessity for kneeling in some rites—and joined Lancaster’s Presbyterian church.[7] In 1932 Latter-day Saint temple work on his behalf was performed in the Salt Lake Temple.[8] Today the simple but handsome marble sarcophagus marking President Buchanan’s grave stands neglected in the midst of a seedy Pennsylvania cemetery, adorned only by a floral wreath sent annually by his incumbent successor. As Buchanan so presciently phrased it at the beginning of the Utah War, while politely deflecting the ludicrous but serious proffer of a Brooklyn cemetery plot and monument by a former Nauvoo Legion general: “Whether I shall be worthy of the distinguished honor . . . is a question which cannot be wisely determined until after I shall have finished my course.”[9]

Among Buchanan’s cabinet officers, Secretary of War John B. Floyd—the prime hawk in the Utah War—clearly proved to be the least capable and most hapless. In December 1860, Floyd resigned under pressure in the midst of a scandal over his financing of the Utah War, a performance for which he was subsequently indicted for malfeasance in office. With Floyd’s departure and rumors of his disloyalty, the name of the army’s principal garrison in Utah—the nation’s largest—was changed from Camp Floyd to Fort Crittenden to honor a senator then engaged in trying to broker a sectional compromise. During the Civil War, his predecessor as secretary, Jefferson Davis, appointed Floyd a Confederate brigadier and then relieved him of command after his disgraceful abandonment of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, to General U. S. Grant. Floyd, who experienced poor health throughout Buchanan’s administration, died in Virginia of natural causes in 1863.[10]

So many of Buchanan’s cabinet officers either became Confederate generals or were perceived as southern sympathizers that the historiography of the Utah War’s origins came to be shrouded in a misguided conspiracy theory in which a Southern cabinet cabal supposedly plotted to isolate the army and bankrupt the federal treasury as early as 1857. Compounding the early enthusiasm for this theory was the obvious (but irrelevant) fact that for the first year of the Civil War, Albert Sidney Johnston was the Confederacy’s leading field general. Nowhere has this fanciful—but typically American—conspiracy notion been more vigorously embraced than in Utah.[11]

After returning to Salt Lake City from the move south on July 1, 1858, President Young—no longer Utah’s governor but under federal indictment for treason—went into a months-long period of seclusion and perhaps even depression.[12] Soon, however, the prophet’s resilience returned, the treason indictment was quashed, and President Young resumed the active rule if not the governance of Utah. This was a distinction well understood by Governor Alfred Cumming, although Utah’s new chief executive was unaware that as early as April 1858 Thomas L. Kane had cynically described (if not arranged) these dynamics in telling Brigham Young, “[I have] caught the fish, now you can cook it as you have a mind to.” [13] And so Brigham Young did so—poaching Cumming in a daily broth of civility seasoned with a barely masked flavoring of intimidation and manipulation.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Governor Cumming returned to the Atlantic coast and unsuccessfully sought President Lincoln’s sanction for passage through Union lines to his native Georgia, where his namesake and nephew, a former captain in the Utah Expedition’s Tenth U.S. Infantry, had become a Confederate brigadier. It would be the end of the war before the senior Alfred Cumming arrived in Augusta, where he died in 1873 at age seventy-two.[14]

If Alfred Cumming literally sat out the Civil War, so figuratively did Utah and Brigham Young, who, with lingering bitterness over the Utah War and contempt for President Lincoln, viewed it as a non-Mormon fight. Consequently, the territory’s support for the Union Army was confined to compliance with President Lincoln’s request early in the war for a single mounted company to protect the telegraph line and trail east of Fort Bridger for ninety days until regulars or other volunteers could be assigned to the area. As discussed elsewhere in this volume, private citizen Young used his substantial influence to block reenlistment of this unit, thus concluding Utah’s contribution to the Union Army and confining it to a token demonstration of patriotism. From this ambivalence would come decades of debate within the LDS Church’s hierarchy, if not its membership, about the wisdom of supporting the U.S. government’s foreign military ventures.[15]

In the wake of Cumming’s departure, President Young endured during the 1860s and 1870s a series of federally appointed governors of uneven quality and tenure as well as sensational legal difficulties flowing from the passage of multiple federal antipolygamy laws. There was also his long-delayed indictment in 1871 for an 1857 Utah War murder involving, among other defendants, Nauvoo Legion lieutenant William Adams (Bill) Hickman, a legal complexity later quashed by the U.S. Supreme Court on a technicality. Brigham Young died of appendicitis in 1877 at age seventy-six, soon after the execution by firing squad of his religiously adopted and embittered son, Nauvoo Legion major John D. Lee, for his responsibility in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.[16]

Given the fact that during 1857–58 Brigham Young had pitted himself against a large expeditionary force of U.S. Army regulars led by West Pointers, one of the more surprising facts of President Young’s legacies is that he sent one of his sons, Willard Young, and a grandson, Richard Whitehead Young, to the United States Military Academy. Both cadets graduated and eventually became highly respected general officers in the Utah National Guard and U.S. Army during the Spanish-American and First World wars. Through Willard Young’s line, four consecutive generations of Brigham Young’s direct descendants served in the U.S. Army, three generations of them through officers’ commissions earned at West Point.[17]

The Soldiers

The initial commander of the Utah Expedition was Brevet Brigadier General William S. Harney, an officer whose reputation for severity was such that news of his appointment had the unintended consequence of stiffening Mormon resolve to deny the army access to Utah during the summer of 1857. Harney was so feared during the 1850s that one Sioux band had dubbed him “Mad Bear.” It was an apt name, but probably one coined independent of any Indian (or for that matter Mormon) awareness that on four occasions an exasperated army had court-martialed Harney while a civil court had tried (and acquitted) him a fifth time for a non-military offense—bludgeoning a female slave to death. Notwithstanding his formal Utah assignment, Harney spent the entire campaign in Kansas Territory. During the late summer of 1858—with Kansas temporarily pacified and the Utah Expedition entering a presumably quieter phase—Harney was ordered to the Pacific Northwest to command the department of Oregon. This disastrous assignment nearly brought the United States into armed conflict with Great Britain during a sensitive border dispute due to Harney’s unauthorized, heavy-handed occupation of San Juan Island—the so-called “Pig War” of 1859. Because of his lack of political skills, Harney spent most of the Civil War vainly awaiting orders for a command that never materialized. Eventually he was breveted a major general for long and faithful service and retired, although in 1868 he was brought back to active duty briefly for treaty negotiations with the Plains tribes. Harney died in 1889 at age 88.[18]

Harney’s successor as field commander of the Utah Expedition in September 1857 was a quite different officer with a far more stellar destiny—Colonel (later Brevet Brigadier General) Albert Sidney Johnston, theretofore commander of the Second Regiment of Cavalry and before that secretary of war for the Republic of Texas. With the Utah Expedition ensconced at Camp Floyd, Mormon leaders scrupulously avoided vilifying Johnston on a personal basis in public. Nonetheless, by 1859 Johnston found himself in the middle of corrosive policy and civil affairs disputes through which he became increasingly marginalized in a deadly dull role. Thus Johnston was enveloped not only in political ambiguity but in the maddening local sandstorms and whirlwinds that the troops at Camp Floyd sarcastically dubbed “Johnsoons.” After repeated denial of his requests for furlough or reassignment, Johnston finally cantered out of Camp Floyd on March 1, 1860, headed for the desert, San Bernardino, and the Pacific steamer home. It was a journey that produced one of the eeriest documents of the Utah War—the account by Johnston’s adjutant of their final westward passage across the rim of the Great Basin near the killing field of Mountain Meadows. At that grim location a startled Major Fitz John Porter realized that General Johnston, he, and their fifty-dragoon escort had been quietly shadowed for miles by a lone and distant horseman—one heavily bearded and with a dog slung over his saddle in signature fashion. The outrider was almost certainly Orrin Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young’s bodyguard, whose solitary vigil three hundred miles from home sent an unmistakable message to the departing general about power and authority in Utah Territory.[19]

After furlough in Kentucky, the War Department sent Johnston back to California to command the Department of the Pacific from San Francisco. Speculation persisted that he was to be General Scott’s successor as general in chief, if not a presidential candidate. With the secession crisis, though, Johnston resigned his commission, offered his services to the Confederacy, and soon became her leading general in the field. On April 6, 1862, in the midst of the battle of Shiloh, the fifty-nine-year-old Johnston bled to death from an untended leg wound received while astride the horse he had ridden throughout the Utah War. Today the effectiveness of Albert Sidney Johnston’s Civil War generalship continues to undergo critical reappraisal.[20]

Among the officers, enlisted men, and even civilians who served under Johnston during the Utah War, more than thirty-five of them would become Union or Confederate generals soon thereafter. In a sense, the Utah War was as much a proving ground for military talent in a later war as the Spanish Civil War would be eighty years later for World War II. Several among Johnston’s troops—enlistees as well as officers and even a few civilians—were destined to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War or the Indian campaigns that followed. Perhaps least known and most enigmatic among Johnston’s troops was First Lieutenant Robert L. Browning, the U.S. Marine Corps’ one-man contribution to the Utah Expedition subsequently lost at sea in 1861 with the entire ship’s company of USS Levant, the naval vessel aboard which Edward Everett Hale was to exile a fictive army officer, Philip Nolan, in his Civil War era novella, The Man without a Country.[21]

One quick and graphic way to illustrate the vastness of the Utah Expedition’s experiential contribution to the Civil War’s talent pool is through the command structure of just the Union Army at a single but crucial 1863 battle—Gettysburg. It is a list that reads like a who’s who of Utah War veterans. Of course, it was a Confederate brigadier, Henry Heth, formerly a captain in the Utah Expedition’s Tenth Infantry, whom folklore credits with touching off the battle. Soon arrayed against Heth and his Confederate comrades—some of them Utah War veterans like General J. E. B. Stuart—were Union generals such as John F. Reynolds (who had served in Utah during 1854–55 and later with Johnston), Elon John Farnsworth (of whom more will be discussed later), and John Cleveland Robinson (the former Fifth Infantry captain in whose tent civilian Thomas L. Kane, a Union brigadier at Gettysburg, first found shelter upon his exhausted 1858 arrival at Camp Scott). Generals Reynolds and Farnsworth died famously at Gettysburg; General Robinson survived, later lost a leg, received the Medal of Honor, and went on to command the Grand Army of the Republic and serve as lieutenant governor of New York.[22] Also rendering extraordinary service to the Union at Gettysburg were General Stephen H. Weed, a former first lieutenant in Phelps’s battery who died while defending Little Round Top, as well as Generals John Buford and Alfred Pleasonton, both formerly of the Utah Expedition’s Second Dragoons. Among the tragic deaths at Gettysburg was that of Confederate brigadier Lewis A. Armistead, killed while fighting his friend and brother officer from the Utah Expedition’s Sixth U.S. Infantry, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, a subsequent candidate for president.[23]

Lower in the Union Army’s leadership cadre at Gettysburg, this partial list includes First Lieutenant James (“Jock”) Stewart, Scottish-born commander of the battle’s most decimated unit—Light Battery “B” of the Fourth U.S. Artillery, the unit in which Stewart served as first sergeant throughout the Utah War. Like Albert Sidney Johnston, Jock Stewart campaigned in the Civil War astride his Utah War horse—in this case a twice-wounded animal dubbed Tartar, which had spent the winter of 1857–58 near Fort Bridger recuperating with the Shoshones.[24]

The Utah War was also a federal proving ground for not only generals-in-waiting but for materiel, weapons, rations, tactics, communications arrangements, and transportation schemes involving field tests for the rifled .58 caliber Springfield, the Sharps breech loader, the tepee-like Sibley tent, the telegraph, railroads, and dried vegetables.

On the Mormon side of the Utah War, the military talent was as colorful as that of the federals but not as well known because of the Nauvoo Legion’s almost total absence from the Civil War. The military leader of the legion was, of course, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells, known irreverently to some non-Mormons and later the Salt Lake Tribune as “the one-eyed pirate of the Wasatch”—a man indicted for treason and murder, as had been Brigham Young. Uniformed as resplendently as Winfield Scott, Wells commanded the legion during the fall of 1857 from a smokey cave in Echo Canyon. He had been called to the religious role of Brigham Young’s second counselor following the 1856 death of Jedediah M. Grant, and he remained a part of the First Presidency as well as mayor of Salt Lake City for decades thereafter. In 1870 Utah’s non-Mormon governor removed Wells from his legion command, and seventeen years later Congress abolished the Nauvoo Legion itself through the Edmunds-Tucker Act. During the 1880s, Wells wrote his unpublished military memoirs for H. H. Bancroft without a single reference to the Utah War, a not unusual omission by senior Mormon leaders in legal jeopardy but a vexing gap for historians. In 1891, at age 77, Daniel H. Wells died in Salt Lake, leaving behind, among other family members, Emmeline B. Wells, an incredibly accomplished wife, and sons Junius F. Wells, the long-time editor of the Contributor, and Heber Manning Wells, Utah’s first state governor.[25]

Actively aiding General Wells in the mountains during the legion’s crucial fall 1857 campaign was an extraordinary apostolic delegation involving such lions as Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith. Of these leaders, none bore formal military rank, although Smith had once been a militia colonel and John Taylor carried the moral authority of multiple wounds from Illinois militia bullets sustained during his unsuccessful attempt to shield Joseph Smith at Carthage Jail in 1844. After Brigham Young’s death in 1877, Apostles Taylor and Woodruff, of course, went on to serve sequentially as Brigham Young’s successors, while Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith provided long service during the last half of the nineteenth century as counselors in the First Presidency. During the Utah War, Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith, men subsequently called as the LDS Church’s fifth and sixth presidents, respectively, served in such disparate Nauvoo Legion roles as brigadier general and private. As President Joseph F. Smith later told it, he arrived home from a two-year Hawaiian mission in February 1858, stopped to mold a few bullets from lead mined at the Church’s Las Vegas diggings, and galloped off to serve as a teenaged cavalryman in Echo Canyon.[26]

Among the legion’s other brigadiers during the Utah War, Charles C. Rich, cofounder of San Bernardino, went on after the campaign to lead the settlement of Idaho’s Bear Lake area. The town of St. Charles was named after Rich, much as in 1861 George A. Smith became the namesake for St. George, Utah.[27] Brigadier General Hiram B. Clawson, husband to two of Brigham Young’s daughters (among other wives), returned to civilian life to become President Young’s principal business manager, leader of ZCMI, and a pillar of the Salt Lake Theater.[28] Brigadier Aaron Johnson spent the winter of 1858–59 bivouacked in the mountains to avoid Judge John Cradlebaugh’s investigation of the March 1857 Parrish-Potter murders, following which he resumed his principal responsibilities as the longtime bishop of Springville and commander of the legion’s Peteetneet Military District.[29] Adjutant General James Ferguson, a man of enormous talent and personal appeal who had once been sergeant major of the Mexican War’s Mormon Battalion, went on to take part in some of Utah’s most bruising legal disputes of the late 1850s. In 1859 he was a cofounder of the Mountaineer, a newspaper established in Salt Lake to counteract the anti-LDS Valley Tan. Tragically, Ferguson died of acute alcoholism in 1863 at the age of thirty-five.[30]

In the ranks of legion colonels, one finds men like Chauncey West and Lorin Farr, Utah War veterans who in the late 1860s played key roles in constructing the last segments of the Transcontinental Railroad after jointly giving their names to the town of Farr West, Utah.

Among the most colorful of the legion’s veterans were four men who during the campaign carried relatively modest military and church rank but were among the West’s most accomplished horsemen: Major Lot Smith, Captain Orrin Porter Rockwell, Lieutenant William Adams Hickman, and Colonel Robert Taylor Burton—all of whom were dogged throughout the rest of their lives by violence and controversy.[31] Best known of these, of course, was Lot Smith, a veteran of the Mormon Battalion, from whom came the Utah War’s most famous utterance during his spectacular, fiery raid on the army’s supply trains near Green River during the night of October 4–5, 1857. When an excited federal wagonmaster reportedly shouted, “For God’s sake, don’t burn the trains,” Smith’s reaction was, “I said it was for His sake that I was going to burn them.”[32] As discussed elsewhere in this volume, it fell to Smith to command the single mounted company constituting Utah Territory’s contribution to the Union Army, a role that he carried out efficiently as a federal captain. In 1892, living in self-imposed exile in the slick rock canyons of northern Arizona and somewhat estranged from his church, Lot Smith died of wounds sustained in a close-range exchange of gunfire with a Navajo shepherd in a grazing dispute. A decade later, Smith’s body was exhumed and transported north to his former home at Farmington, Utah, for an extraordinary recommital service attended by virtually the entire hierarchy of the LDS Church. This was a direct reflection of his standing as the Utah War’s best-known veteran on either side. For years thereafter, Lot Smith’s comrades-in-arms from the Utah and Civil Wars met for annual reunions at his grave. Even during the twenty-first century uniformed reenactments of these gatherings continue periodically in Farmington as a gesture of respect for Lot Smith and pride in Mormon military service.[33]

Perhaps the most bizarre of the many stories of Nauvoo Legionnaires and their fates is that involving three former legion generals who shared a surname, while two of the three also had the same given name. At the time of the Utah War, John C. Bennett was an excommunicated Mormon; James Gordon Bennett never had been a member; and James Arlington Bennet was a member (baptized by Brigham Young) but probably an inactive one, although he continued to style himself as a major general of the Nauvoo Legion. Incredibly, two of these legion generals—James Arlington Bennet and John Cook Bennett, a former assistant president of the LDS Church who was excommunicated in 1842—offered their services to the federal government against the Mormons during 1857–58, while the third, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, wrote anti-Mormon newspaper editorials during the campaign and assigned at least three reporters to the Utah Expedition—one of whom, Captain Randolph B. Marcy of the Fifth Infantry, became a general officer during the Civil War as well as chief of staff for his more famous son-in-law, Major General George B. McClellan. The ultimate destinies of the legion’s three Generals Bennet(t) were as a Brooklyn cemetery developer, an Iowa poultry breeder, and a Manhattan press baron, respectively.[34] During the Civil War an increasingly erratic James Arlington Bennet wrote President Lincoln from Brooklyn to offer him up to ten thousand Mormon troops for the Union Army, a ludicrous gesture unknown in Utah and unacknowledged by the president.[35]

Space limitations do not permit discussion of all the other soldiers—federal troops as well as Legionnaires—who later entered the history books but did so largely unconnected to the Utah War in which they served. And so this essay passes by the stories of men like Private William Gentles of the Tenth U.S. Infantry, a veteran of Marcy’s epic winter march from Fort Bridger to New Mexico for remounts. It was Gentles, an ironic last name, who allegedly delivered the mortal bayonet thrust to Chief Crazy Horse at the Fort Robinson, Nebraska, guardhouse in 1877 and who was subsequently buried at Fort Douglas.[36] Then there are Private Robert Foote of the Second Dragoons, who became a prominent civilian player in Wyoming’s Johnson County War of 1892; Corporal Myles Moylan of the same regiment, who during the Civil War was commissioned and then cashiered, reenlisted as a private under an alias, was commissioned in the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, and retired as a major in 1893 after surviving the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and receiving the Medal of Honor; Lieutenant Colonel Barnard E. Bee, the Volunteer Battalion’s commander, who died heroically as a Confederate brigadier at First Bull Run after giving General Thomas J. Jackson the nickname “Stonewall”; Bee’s Volunteer Battalion subordinate, Private Benjamin Harrison Clark, who became extraordinarily proficient in Cheyenne and served as chief scout and interpreter for Generals Custer, Sheridan, Sherman, and Miles during the post–Civil War plains campaigns; Second Lieutenant Samuel Wragg Ferguson of the Second U.S. Dragoons, the Confederate brigadier who at the opening of the war accepted the surrender of Fort Sumter and who at the end escorted Jefferson Davis in his last futile dash south from Richmond; Captain Jesse Lee Reno, commander of the Utah Expedition’s siege battery, who died a federal major general at South Mountain with defiant old Barbara Fritchie’s famous American flag in his saddle bags and later draped across his coffin; and William H. F. (Rooney) Lee, Robert E. Lee’s son, who wangled a lieutenant’s commission in the Utah Expedition’s Sixth Infantry against his father’s wishes by having his Harvard roommate, the talented Henry Adams, ghost-write an eloquent, irresistible plea to General Winfield Scott. Rooney Lee was to become the Confederacy’s youngest major general.[37]

Of all the postwar exploits of the Utah War’s soldiers, it would be most intriguing to probe the experiences of Private Charles H. Wilcken, a Prussian Army veteran with an iron cross to his credit, who deserted the U.S. Army’s Fourth Artillery during the fall of 1857. Wilcken was probably unique in having served both the federal and Mormon sides. After the Utah War, he took part in so many of late-nineteenth-century Utah’s seminal events that his story takes on a Forrest Gump-like quality. As a coachman, bodyguard, nurse, and eventually pallbearer for Presidents Taylor and Woodruff, Wilcken was everywhere and saw everything. Two of Wilcken’s Romney descendants would even become presidential candidates in the elections of 1968, 2008, and 2012.[38]

If Private Wilcken had a rival for most intriguing post-1858 life, it might well be his comrade-in-arms in the Fourth U.S. Artillery with a wonderful last name, Sergeant Thomas Moonlight. With the Civil War, Moonlight rose to brevet brigadier general, was forced out in 1865, was appointed Kansas’s adjutant general, became governor of Wyoming Territory, and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia before dying in 1899. It was as Wyoming’s governor that former sergeant Moonlight granted a pardon to that famous Utahn, the Sundance Kid, who also ended his career in Bolivia.[39]

The Camp Followers

Among the Utah War’s most colorful dramatis personae were the civilian employees and hangers-on who accompanied Albert Sidney Johnston’s troops. In a sense, they had no real counterparts on the Mormon side. I refer, of course, to people like William Clarke Quantrill, who found work as a monte dealer at Fort Bridger in 1858 and later as a mess cook at Camp Floyd before becoming the most notorious guerrilla of the Civil War. Quantrill was shot down by a federal patrol in Kentucky in 1865, and until relatively recently his skull occupied a refrigerator in an Ohio household. Young David Poole and George Sheppard, who toiled as Utah War teamsters, subsequently joined Quantrill’s Confederate band. Sheppard then rode with the Jesse James–Cole Younger gang to execute a variety of bank robberies that took him to further government service in a Kentucky penitentiary.[40]

Charlie Morehead, a youthful employee of the massive freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, left the Utah campaign for a rendezvous with destiny as mayor of such tough frontier towns as Leavenworth, Kansas, and El Paso, Texas, during the salad days of the notorious gunman John Wesley Hardin.[41] Then there were the Michigan college boys, who included the son of Kalamazoo College’s president as well as three lads who signed on as assistant foragemasters in Utah after being expelled from the University of Michigan following their involvement in a fatal drinking bout. The most famous of these former students, Elon John Farnsworth, later entered the Civil War with an Illinois cavalry regiment commanded by his congressman-uncle. Four days after vaulting from the grade of captain to brigadier general with Custer and Wesley Merritt, Farnsworth was shot down at Gettysburg leading a futile cavalry charge against Alabama troops likened to that of the Crimean War’s Light Brigade.[42]

Among the army’s civilian guides was the legendary Jim Bridger, who returned to the charred remains of his trading post in November 1857 as an army employee with the equivalent grade of a major. Among the illiterate Bridger’s mess mates was Albert G. Browne Jr., a young newspaper reporter with two Harvard degrees, a PhD from Heidelberg University, and a murder indictment from a Boston grand jury to his credit. During the Civil War Browne became a lieutenant colonel and military secretary to the governor of Massachusetts. Postwar efforts by Jim Bridger and his heirs to obtain compensation for first the Mormons’ and then the army’s occupation of Fort Bridger went on in Congress well into the 1880s.

Accompanying Jim Bridger as Utah War guides were other veterans of the wild old fur-trapping days—Jim Baker, Tim Goodale, and Marianna Medina (a founder of what is now Loveland, Colorado)—as well as such newcomers as Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, a tough, practical-joking alumnus of Virginia Military Institute who subsequently was one of the founders of the Pony Express as well as the owner of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. One of the young express riders who worked for Ben Ficklin after the Utah War was Charles W. Becker, a lad who had accompanied the army to Camp Scott as a teamster and then been captured by the Nauvoo Legion. After his Utah War and Pony Express days, Charlie Becker moved to Malheur County, Oregon, and amassed a huge cattle spread which by the early twenty-first century had grown to 180,000 acres.[43]

So colorful were the Utah War adventures of even the conflict’s civilian participants that dozens of uninvolved people later embellished their life’s story to “join” them. For example, in the 1870s Frederick William “Buffalo Bill” Cody shamelessly fabricated a story that he had been along on the campaign as an eleven-year-old assistant teamster protected at Fort Bridger during the winter of 1857–58 by James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, a bravo who himself never claimed to be part of the Utah War.[44]

The Societal Forces

Aside from spawning a legacy of fascinating personal outcomes, many of which had Civil War implications, the Utah War also set in motion a series of societal forces with economic, geographic, political, and even literary impact on the post-1858 development of Mormonism, Utah, and the American West. Some of these forces ran their course during the last half of the nineteenth century, while others remain actively at work today, although the latter are rarely thought of as by-products of a territorial-federal confrontation that took place more than 150 years ago.

Economic impact. With respect to economics, the impact of what most Mormons today call the move south was devastating, and the cost of the Utah Expedition on the federal side drained the U.S. Treasury. The strains of the Utah War were such that they drove Russell, Majors and Waddell—the nation’s largest freighting firm—into bankruptcy, while perhaps stimulating the subsequent rise of one of Utah’s creative design and manufacturing marvels, what later became the Browning Arms Company. Finally, it should be mentioned that the Utah War had a positive impact on the territory’s economy through its stimulus for the 1861 completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in Salt Lake City and the exploration and development of multiple road systems in Utah. Albert Sidney Johnston should be remembered today as much as the commander of explorers and road builders in Utah as leader of the Utah Expedition. There was also the economic impact of the April 1858 discovery of gold by Colonel W. W. Loring’s Mounted Rifles as they marched north from New Mexico to reinforce the Utah Expedition through what is now Denver’s Cherry Creek, thereby helping to trigger the Pike’s Peak rush. Likewise for the impact of U.S. Army lieutenant Joseph C. Ives’s ascent of the Colorado River during early 1858, a journey that led not only to Ives’ rediscovery of the grand Canyon (and a subsequent tourism bonanza) but to Brigham Young’s subsequent decision to exploit trade on the Colorado River through Call’s Landing.[45]

Political legacy and geographical consequences. Even more important than its economic legacy was the fact that the Utah War marked the beginning of a process by which not only the arithmetic ratio of the Mormon-Gentile relationship in Utah changed irretrievably but with it the governmental balance of power as well. With the simultaneous influx during 1858 of thousands of U.S. troops, their civilian camp followers, a new slate of federal appointees, and the establishment of the Valley Tan newspaper, Utah’s physical and psychological sense of isolation from national influence began to fade. No longer was the U.S. government or the non-Mormon world to be without substantial influence in Utah as they were during the period 1847–57.

A companion legacy of the Utah War was the fact that these changes took decades to unfold for a variety of reasons, including James Buchanan’s fecklessness during 1858–61, the enormous national distraction of the Civil War, Thomas L. Kane’s dedicated lobbying, and most importantly Brigham Young’s iron resolve. And just as the active (or 1857–58) phase of the Utah War was ten years in the making rather than the result of a single critical incident, the assertion of federal authority which Buchanan had sought so ineptly by intervening in Utah came not entirely in 1858 but rather through another four decades of conflict and confrontation. In the interim, statehood for Utah was, in effect, held hostage politically until 1896.

Notwithstanding what appeared to be Brigham Young’s successes in this exhausting, decades-long process, there were some forces that not even he could control, with prices to be paid by Utah. Consequently, Mormon Utah—highly unpopular as well as relatively defenseless in Congress—suffered the punishing indignity during the 1860s of losing roughly 60 percent of its territory in multiple “bites” to form Nevada Territory, the State of Nevada, and the territories of Colorado and Wyoming, while also enlarging Nebraska Territory. Utah’s current boundaries emerged from this process by 1868. And so, post-war consequences or legacies could be geographical as well as economic and political. This was a lesson that Russian tsar Alexander II contemplated during the Utah War as he faced the possibility of a wholesale, armed Mormon exodus from Utah to the Pacific Coast, a prospect that strengthened the tsar’s resolve in 1857 to sell Russian America to the United States government rather than to see it seized without compensation by Brigham Young.[46] The sale was completed in 1867 after a delay attributable to the Civil War.

If one doubts that the Utah War has had long-term political impact, consider the spectacle during the summer of 1996 in which President Clinton had to announce his unpopular creation of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument not at its Utah location but rather from the safe distance of northern Arizona because of the depth of feelings in Utah’s three southernmost counties. Ironically, in the Utah county named after Thomas L. Kane, residents muttered about Grand Staircase–Escalante in terms of “Johnston’s Army” and “1858 all over again.” Utah Congressman Chris Cannon capitalized on the furor by creating a 1996 campaign video that pointedly linked President Clinton’s unilateral political-environmental action to President Buchanan’s earlier decision to intervene militarily in Utah. The so-called Sagebrush rebellion against federal authority in the West was not created by the Utah War, but the depth of its roots in this region should be considered a special legacy of that conflict’s anticolonialism.[47]

Literary legacy. To date, no attempt has been made to construct a comprehensive bibliography of the Utah War’s contribution to literature, although even while being prosecuted the campaign inspired works of fiction and drama published in various formats on both the Mormon and federal sides. This is not the place to attempt such a review. Suffice it to say that what followed the war was a rich legacy of fictive works ranging between the fascinating and the absurd, some published in Europe. Few of these literary works bridge the Utah War and the Civil War, although with the rise of “alternate history” in the late twentieth century, a small group of novelists have created fictive scenarios in which the operations of the Utah War morph into those of the massive conflict soon to follow.[48]


If the origins and prosecution of the Utah War have too often been neglected, this essay has sought to provide a few glimpses of the conflict’s post-1858 impact in hopes of nurturing a growing awareness of its colorful legacy. It is a need which comes to mind when reading the prelude to Jay Winik’s 2001 book, April 1865: The Month That Saved America. Here Winik presents Thomas Jefferson’s neglected mansion, Monticello, as emblematic of a divided nation teetering at war’s end on the brink of an uncertain destiny. To drive home his opening point about the mansion and the nation, Winik describes Monticello as the property of two competing owners: “one Northern—the estate of naval officer Uriah Levy—one Southern—the Confederate entrepreneur Benjamin Finklin.” There it is—an unintended but nevertheless real mangling of Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, the Utah War veteran discussed earlier, into “Benjamin Finklin.” Lost in the process is not only Ficklin’s name but his extraordinary Mexican War and VMI record, Utah War adventures, Pony Express role, experiences as a leading Confederate blockade runner, and his postwar success as a Texas mail contractor after whom an entire county was named. Small wonder that Ben Ficklin choked to death. If he had not done so on a fish bone in Georgetown in 1871, he surely would have gagged over Jay Winik’s presentation of his career and its significance 130 years later.[49]

When in 1866 Major General Randolph B. Marcy published an account of his incredible winter journey from Fort Bridger to New Mexico to remount the Utah Expedition, he concluded his narrative with a brief, throw-away comment that virtually passed over the entire balance of the Utah War: “The sequel of the Mormon expedition is well known to the public.”[50] Perhaps Marcy’s statement was accurate just after the Civil War, but not now. And we are all the poorer for our collective loss of such a story.


This chapter is a distillation and revision of two earlier works by the author: “The Utah War’s Impact: A Military Campaign’s Legacy for Both Utah and the Nation,” unpublished paper presented on October 26, 2002, for the symposium commemorating the 140th anniversary of Fort Douglas’s founding, and “Epilogue to the Utah War: Impact and Legacy,” Journal of Mormon History 29 (Fall 2003): 186–248.

[1] The most recent comprehensive narrative and documentary accounts of the Utah War, its origins, and prosecution are David L. Bigler and Will Bagley, The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857–1858 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011); Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict, 1850–1859 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1960, rept. 1966); William P. MacKinnon, ed., At Sword’s Point, part 1: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858 (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2008); LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, eds., The Utah Expedition, 1857–1858: A Documentary Account of the United States Military Movement under Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston and the Resistance by Brigham Young and the Mormon Nauvoo Legion (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1958, repr. 1982). The Hafens’ book was more recently reprinted as Mormon Resistance: A Documentary Account of the Utah Expedition, 1857–1858 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005). The most recent summary account of the conflict is MacKinnon, “The Utah War, 1857–1858,” in W. Paul Reeve and Ardis E. Parshall, eds., Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2010), 120–22.

[2] For a summary of this carnage, see MacKinnon, “‘Lonely Bones’: Leadership and Utah War Violence,” Journal of Mormon History 33 (Spring 2007): 121–78; At Sword’s Point, part 1, 295–328. For the best analysis of the Aiken party atrocity, see David L. Bigler, “The Aiken Party Executions and the Utah War, 1857–1858,” Western Historical Quarterly 38, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 457–76.

[3] The Church presidents involved were Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith. In 1880 former Utah Expedition comrades-in-arms John W. Phelps and Winfield Scott Hancock ran unsuccessfully for the US presidency, as did two descendants of Charles H. Wilcken, one of Phelps’s privates—George W. Romney and Mitt Romney—in 1968, 2008, and 2012.

[4] An assessment of Buchanan’s handling of the Utah War early in his administration and the implications of this performance for the onset of the Civil War appears in MacKinnon, “Prelude to Armageddon: James Buchanan, Brigham Young and a President’s Initiation to Bloodshed,” in Michael J. Birkner and John W. Quist, eds., Disrupted Democracy: James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, forthcoming).

[5] Charles S. Foltz, Surgeon of the Seas: The Adventurous Life of Jonathan M. Foltz in the Days of Wooden Ships (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1931), 339.

[6] Homer T. Rosenberger, “Two Monuments for the Fifteenth President of the United States,” Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 78 (1974): 29–48.

[7] Theodore Appel, The Life and Work of John Williamson Nevin, D.D., L.L.D. (Philadelphia: Reformed Church Publication House, 1889), 601–4.

[8] Brian H. Stuy, “Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Journal of Mormon History 26 (Spring 2000): 64–90.

[9] James Buchanan to James Arlington Bennet, July 1, 1857, James Buchanan Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. James Arlington Bennet was Joseph Smith’s first choice to serve as his vice presidential running mate in the 1844 US presidential election; Bennet declined Joseph’s offer, and Sidney Rigdon was subsequently selected. Baptized in 1843, Bennet became disassociated with the Mormon Church in 1845 after Brigham Young failed to select him as head of the Nauvoo Legion, but he continued to use his Nauvoo Legion military title—at least in correspondence with Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln. See Lyndon W. Cook, “James Arlington Bennet and the Mormons,” BYU Studies 19 (Winter 1979): 247–49.

[10] Charles Pinnegar, Brand of Infamy: A Biography of John Buchanan Floyd (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002); Philip G. Auchampaugh, “John B. Floyd and James Buchanan,” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 4 (April 1923): 381–88; John M. Belohlavek, “The Politics of Scandal: A Reassessment of John B. Floyd as Secretary of War,” West Virginia History 31 (April 1970): 145–60.

[11] The conspiracy literature is summarized in MacKinnon, “125 Years of Conspiracy Theories: Origins of the Utah Expedition of 1857–58,” Utah Historical Quarterly 52 (Summer 1984): 212–30; Richard D. Poll and MacKinnon, “Causes of the Utah War Reconsidered,” Journal of Mormon History 20 (Fall 1994): 28–33; Benjamin F. Gilbert, “The Mythical Johnston Conspiracy,” California Historical Society Quarterly 28 (June 1949): 165–73.

[12] In December 1857, a less-than-impartial federal grand jury, empaneled at Ecklesville near Fort Bridger under the protection of the Utah Expedition, returned an indictment of treason against Brigham Young and hundreds of others (probably all Mormons). In 1859, Utah’s non-Mormon US attorney quashed this indictment shortly after Young instructed the Nauvoo Legion’s judge advocate that most of the Church’s legal business was to be steered to the private practice of the US attorney (Alexander Wilson), a juxtaposition of events as suspect as were the composition and biases of the grand jury that had started this chain of events two years earlier. For the circumstances and text of this indictment and its dismissal, see MacKinnon, “At Sword’s Point, part 1,” 468–74, and “Epilogue to the Utah War,” 245n134.

[13] Kane quoted by Mormon Apostle George A. Smith, Historian’s Office Journal, April 13, 1858, CR 100/1, vol. 20, LDS Church History Library.

[14] Ray R. Canning and Beverly Beeton, eds., “Epilogue,” The Genteel Gentile: Letters of Elizabeth Cumming, 1857–1858 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Library Tanner Trust Series, 1977), 101.

[15] See the chapter on Lot Smith’s Civil War cavalry company elsewhere in this volume as well as E. B. Long, The Saints and the Union: Utah Territory during the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981); Margaret M. Fisher, comp. and ed., Utah and the Civil War. Being the Story of the Part Played by the People of Utah in That Great Conflict with Special Reference to the Lot Smith Expedition and the Robert T. Burton Expedition (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1929); Ronald W. Walker, “Sheaves, Bucklers and the State: Mormon Leaders Respond to the Dilemmas of War,” Sunstone Review 7 (July/August 1982): 43–56.

[16] Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Knopf, 1985), 250–401; Newell G. Bringhurst, Brigham Young and the Expanding American Frontier (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), 133–219; Lester E. Bush, Jr., “Brigham Young in Life and Death: A Medical Overview,” Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 79–103.

[17] Sidney Hooper Young, Jr., San Francisco, late grandson of Willard Young and an alumnus of West Point, Class of 1942, correspondence with MacKinnon, 1998–2002; Arrington, “Willard Young: The Prophet’s Son at West Point,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Winter 1969): 37–46.

[18] George Rollie Adams, General William S. Harney: Prince of Dragoons (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001); MacKinnon, “Review Essay,” New Mexico Historical Review 76 (October 2001): 431–37.

[19] For the complexities of Johnston’s command of the Utah Expedition, especially vis-à-vis Harney, see MacKinnon, “‘Who’s in Charge Here?’: Utah Expedition Command Ambiguity,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 42 (Spring 2009): 30–64. Johnston’s departure from Utah is described in Fitz John Porter, “A Characteristic (Mormon) Conspiracy. (From Incidents of the Utah Expedition of 1859 to 1860, under Genl. A.S. Johnston),” unpublished holograph, 9–11, box 53 (microfilm 25), Fitz John Porter Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC.

[20] Stanley Zamonski, “Border Ruffian and the Gold Nugget Race,” Wild West 12 (April 2000): 28–34; Jerry Thompson, “When Albert Sidney Johnston Came Home to Texas: Reconstruction Politics and the Reburial of a Hero,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 103 (April 2000): 453–78. Differing assessments of Johnston’s Civil War performance appear in William Preston Johnston, The Life of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, Embracing His Services in the Armies of the United States, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States (1878; repr., Austin: State House Press, 1997); Charles P. Roland, Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics, rev. ed. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Roland, Jefferson Davis’s Greatest General: Albert Sidney Johnston (College Station: Texas A&M Press Consortium, 2000); Larry J. Daniel, Shiloh: The Battle That Decided the Civil War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).

[21] Browning’s service records and his reports from the Utah Expedition are in the National Archives, Washington; a glimpse of him crossing the plains with the expedition’s reinforcements in 1858 may be found in Dale F. Giese, ed., My Life with the Army in the West: The Memoirs of James E. Farmer, 1858–1898 (Santa Fe, NM: Stagecoach, 1967), 18, 21–22.

[22] Thomas L. Kane, draft letter to President James Buchanan, March 15, 1858, Kane Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT. Robinson later wrote “The Utah Expedition,” Magazine of American History 11 (January–June 1884): 325–41, which criticized the Mormons and repeated virtually all of the conspiracy theories associated with the Utah War’s origins. General Reynolds’s first tour of duty in Utah was with the expedition led by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Steptoe, which wintered over in Utah during 1854–55 on its way to the Pacific Coast with a detachment of recruits and herd of animals for posts in California and Oregon.

[23] Most studies of Gettysburg provide information about the earlier service of these generals as company grade officers in Utah.

[24] Augustus Buell, “The Cannoneer”: Recollections of Service in the Army of the Potomac (Washington DC: National Tribune, 1890), 389–98; James Stewart, “Battery B Fourth United States Artillery at Gettysburg,” Sketches of War History (Columbus, OH: Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1893), 4:180–93; Harold Schindler, “Tartar the War Horse,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 4, 1994.

[25] Wells, “Narrative of Daniel H. Wells,” unpublished holograph, Bancroft Library, University of California–Berkeley. His most extensive published comment about the Utah War was a brief interview with George A. Townsend in connection with his indictment, along with Brigham Young and Bill Hickman, for the Yates murder. Townsend, The Mormon Trials at Salt Lake City (New York: American News, 1871), 25–26.

[26] Joseph F. Smith, “Reminiscences of the First Presidency,” Deseret News, December 21, 1901; Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Life of Joseph F. Smith, Sixth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1938), 194–96.

[27] For a disappointingly brief account of Rich’s Utah War involvement, see Arrington, Charles C. Rich: Mormon General and Western Frontiersman (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1974), 215–23.

[28] Hiram Clawson earned almost half of the funds used to build the Salt Lake Theater by reselling material purchased on discount when the US Army abandoned Fort Crittenden at the beginning of the Civil War. Here is the way Clawson explained it during a 1907 talk to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers: “I found building material, glass, nails, tents, sugar and other groceries, and many necessities. I was cordially received and favored by the officers. . . . I made my purchase as instructed. Tents with cook stoves that sold in New York City for $12 or $15, I bought for $1, nails worth $40 a box for $6, and other things in proportion. From the sale of a part of the things that I purchased, which realized $40,000.00, and with nails, glass and other building material, so conveniently provided, the building of the Salt Lake Theatre was made possible.” Clawson was also selected by Brigham Young to become the theater’s first manager. See George D. Pyper, The Romance of an Old Playhouse (Salt Lake City: Seagull, 1928), 75–76; S. George Ellsworth, Dear Ellen: Two Mormon Women and Their Letters (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Tanner Trust Series, 1974), 14, 50–51, 72–5; Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon, 1892–1904), 4:201–3; “Hiram B. Clawson,” Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine 1 (July 1881): 678–84.

[29] Lyndon W. Cook, ed., Aaron Johnson Correspondence (Orem, UT: Center for Research of Mormon Origins, 1990); Alan P. Johnson, Aaron Johnson: Faithful Steward (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1991).

[30] Will Bagley, ed., “A Bright, Rising Star”: A Brief Life of James Ferguson, Sergeant Major, Mormon Battalion; Adjutant General, Nauvoo Legion (Salt Lake City: Prairie Dog Press, 2000).

[31] Harold Schindler, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983); Hope A. Hilton, “Wild Bill” Hickman and the Mormon Frontier (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988); Janet Burton Seegmiller, “Be Kind to the Poor”: The Life Story of Robert Taylor Burton (n.p.: Burton Family Organization, 1988). Robert Taylor Burton served as a member of the LDS Church’s Presiding Bishopric from 1874 until his death in 1907.

[32] MacKinnon, At Sword’s Point, part 1, 355–58.

[33] Charles S. Peterson, “A Portrait of Lot Smith, Mormon Frontiersman,” Western Historical Quarterly 1 (October 1970): 393–414; “After Lapse of Ten Years, Remains of Captain Smith Interred at Farmington. A Most Notable Occasion,” Deseret News, April 9, 1902, 5.

[34] James Arlington Bennet’s proposals for Utah War service are discussed in Bennet to President James Buchanan, April 8, 1858, James Buchanan Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Bennet to Brigham Young, November 20, 1858, Church History Library, while those of John Cook Bennett are in Bennett to Stephen A. Douglas, January 20, 1858, Stephen A. Douglas Papers, Special Collections, University of Chicago. James Gordon Bennett (as well as some historians) did not take his commission as legion brigadier seriously, and he is not even mentioned in such a role in Richard E. Bennett, Susan Easton Black, and Donald Q. Cannon, The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois: A History of the Mormon Militia, 1841–1846 (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2010). A summary of the military roles of all three Bennet(t)s appears in Andrew F. Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 65, 68–72, 108–9, 115, 126.

[35] James Arlington Bennet to President Abraham Lincoln, October 22, 1861, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, microfilm reel 28.

[36] “People of Ft. Douglas,” accessed June 29, 2003,; Richard G. Hardoff, comp., The Death of Crazy Horse: A Tragic Episode in Lakota History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001); Jerome A. Greene, ed. and comp., Lakota and Cheyenne: Indian Views of the Great Sioux War, 1876–1877 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 150–52. The most focused study of this incident, which casts serious doubt on the traditional accounts of Gentles’s responsibility, is Ephriam D. Dickson III, “Crazy Horse: Who Really Wielded the Bayonet that Killed the Oglala Leader?,” Greasy Grass 12 (May 1996): 2–10.

[37] Murray L. Carroll, “Robert Foote: A Forgotten Wyoming Pioneer,” Annals of Wyoming 74 (Winter 2002): 9–23; Mrs. Charles Ellis, “Robert Foote,” Annals of Wyoming 15:1:50–62; Curtis R. Allen, “Myles Moylan,” Moylan family website,; James B. Agnew, “General Barnard Bee,” Civil War Times Illustrated 14 (December 1975): 4–9, 45–47; Agnew, “‘A Day of Sorrow and a Day of Glory’: A Brief Chronicle of the Career of Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee, CSA,” 1974, unpublished paper, collections of US Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; Bob Rea, “Ben Clark: Chief of Scouts” (paper delivered at the symposium “Through the Eyes of History,” Washita, OK, November 2002); James Marvin Lowrey, Samuel Wragg Ferguson: Brig. General, CSA, and Wife Catherine Lee, Featuring Selections from Their Writings (Sulphur, LA: n.p., 1994); Heyward and Ferguson Family Papers, Southern History Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill; Samuel Wragg Ferguson Papers, Special Collections, Hill Memorial Library, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge; Samuel W. Ferguson, “With Albert Sidney Johnston’s Expedition to Utah, 1857,” Collections of the Kansas State History Society 12 (1912): 303–12; Conrad Reno, “General Jesse Lee Reno at Frederick [Maryland], Barbara Fritchie, and Her Flag,” Civil War Papers Read before the Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot, 1993), 2:553–69; Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918), 59.

[38] William C. Seifrit, “Charles Henry Wilcken: An Undervalued Saint,” Utah Historical Quarterly 55 (Fall 1987), 308–21.

[39] W. Turrentine Jackson, “Administration of Governor Thomas Moonlight,” Annals of Wyoming 18 (1946): 139–62.

[40] Henry S. Clarke, “W.C. Quantrill in 1858,” Kansas Historical Collections 7 (1901–2): 218–23; William Elsey Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Lawrence: Kansas Heritage Press, 1992), 1–7, 66, 75–81, 87, 94–96, 99–100, 103–4, 109–10; Barry A. Crouch, “A ‘Fiend in Human Shape’? William Clarke Quantrill and His Biographers,” Kansas History 22 (Summer 1999): 143–56; Edward E. Leslie, The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders (New York: Random House, 1996), 52–63; Martin E. Ismert, “Quantrill-Charley Hart?” (paper presented at the Posse of the Westerners of Kansas City, October 13, 1959), William Clarke Quantrill Research Collection, McCain Library, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg; Charles Becker, “With Johnston’s Army, 1857,” 4, typescript, Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University, Logan; Joanne Chiles Eakin and Donald R. Hale, comps., Branded as Rebels: A List of Bushwhackers, Guerrillas, Partisan Rangers, Confederates and Southern Sympathizers from Missouri during the War Years (Independence, Wee Print, 1993), 391; Gilbert Cuthbertson, “Shepherd Was Name to Fear in Border War Era,” Kansas City (Missouri) Times, September 9, 1965, 140.

[41] “Charles R. Morehead, Pioneer Banker, City Builder, Farmer, Mayor of El Paso, Dead at 86,” El Paso Times, December 16, 1921, 1, 3; Owen P. White, Out of the Desert: A Historical Romance of El Paso (El Paso, TX: McMath Co., 1923), 339–45; William Elsey Connelley, War with Mexico, 1846–1847: Doniphan’s Expedition and the Conquest of New Mexico and California (Topeka, KS: n.p., 1907), 600–22.

[42] Larry Massie, “Local Officer Made Daring Escape from Confederate Prison,” Kalamazoo Gazette, March 19, 1989, F2; James M. Wells, “With Touch of Elbow,” or, Death Before Dishonor. A Thrilling Narrative of Adventure on Land and Sea (Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1909); D. L. Jaehnig, “The Brigadier,” Livingston County (Michigan) Press, May 11, 1977, A1, 5, 9; Eric Wittenberg, “A Bold and Fearless Rider: Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth,” accessed February 25, 2002,; Francis F. McKinney, “The Last Act at Gettysburg, The Death of Farnsworth,” Quarterly Review of the Michigan Alumnus 65 (Autumn 1959): 75–79.

[43] J. Cecil Alter, Jim Bridger (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), 273–82, 337–41; Fred R. Gowans and Eugene E. Campbell, Fort Bridger: Island in the Wilderness (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 159–62; MacKinnon, “Vita: Albert Gallatin Browne Jr., Brief Life of an Early War Correspondent: 1832–1891,” Harvard Magazine 111 (November/December 2008); 48–49; Nolie Mumey, The Life of Jim Baker, 1818–1898: Trapper, Scout, Guide and Indian Fighter (Denver, CO: World Press, 1931); James W. McGill, Rediscovered Frontiersman: Timothy Goodale (Independence, MO: OCTA, 2009); Harvey L. Carter, “Tim Goodale,” in The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, ed. LeRoy R. Hafen (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark, 1969), 7:147–53; Zethyl Gates, Mariano Medina: Colorado Mountain Man (Boulder, CO: Johnson, 1981); B. M. Read, “Ben Ficklin, 1849, and the Pony Express,” Virginia Military Institute Alumni Review 50 (Summer 1973): 13–14; Marie Pinney, “Charles Becker, Pony Express Rider and Oregon Pioneer,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 67 (September 1966): 213–56; Wanda Morgan, “The Pony Express Rider and the President,” Signal Mountain 1 (Fall 1998): 4–9.

[44] John S. Gray, “Fact Versus Fiction in the Kansas Boyhood of Buffalo Bill,” Kansas History 8 (Spring 1985): 2–20.

[45] MacKinnon, “Epilogue to the Utah War,” 238–43; and Jesse G. Petersen, A Route for the Overland Stage: James H. Simpson’s 1859 Trail across the Great Basin (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2008).

[46] MacKinnon, “At Sword’s Point,” part 1, 441–44.

[47] MacKinnon, “Epilogue to the Utah War,” 243–48.

[48] See for example Lee Allred, For the Strength of the Hills (n.p.: Bridge Publications, 1997). Much of this genre is rooted in the allied Mormon love of science fiction. While many of the novels devising alternate scenarios for the conduct of the Utah War after 1858 find a way to insert Robert E. Lee into the fighting, few, if any, seem aware that for a brief period during the spring of 1858, Lee and his Second US Cavalry, then in Texas, were actually under orders to join the Utah Expedition, in which Lee’s second son, Rooney, was already serving.

[49] Jay Winik, April 1865, The Month That Saved America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 25.

[50] Randolph B. Marcy, Thirty Years of Army Life on the Border (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1866), 275.