Protecting the Home Front: The Utah Territorial Militia During the Civil War

Ephraim D. Dickson III

Ephraim D. Dickson III, Protecting the Home Front: The Utah Territorial Militia During the Civil War,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 143–59.

Ephraim D. Dickson III is the curator at the Fort Douglas Military Museum in Salt Lake City.

In August 1861, the leader of the Utah Territorial Militia, Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells, ordered district commanders to “quietly revive the military throughout the Territory.” Utah’s militia, better known as the Nauvoo Legion, had been established more than a decade earlier to protect frontier Mormon communities from Indian depredations and was reorganized in 1857 to defend those same communities from the approaching U.S. Army. But over the next three years, the Legion had largely languished. With the withdrawal of Federal troops to fight in the expanding Civil War and the departure of the territorial governor, the political situation in Utah Territory appeared on the cusp of change. “What we wish is to have our military organization as perfect as possible,” General Wells communicated in his order, “and to have the implements of war on hand and in good order. Now is a favorable opportunity to obtain guns and ammunition. Let the brethren provide themselves with a good supply of powder, ball and caps and then not shoot nor trade it away.”[1]

Historical reviews of Utah during the Civil War inevitably discuss Captain Lot Smith’s company, the only territorial militia unit sworn into Federal service. For three months, this company patrolled the main trail from Salt Lake City east to Independence Rock on the Sweetwater. To focus exclusively on the Lot Smith company, however, is to overlook the larger role of the Nauvoo Legion during the Civil War. The territorial militia continued to provide security on the frontier edges of the expanding Mormon kingdom, often negotiating with or fighting against Indian tribes. Echoing the militia’s role during the Utah War, units were placed on alert when Federal troops returned in 1862 and assembled to guard Brigham Young’s residence from possible army intervention. The Nauvoo Legion explored new areas for possible settlement and was called upon by the marshal’s office to make arrests and provide security. The territorial militia also served in a ceremonial role, marching in parades, firing cannons during celebrations, and escorting visiting dignitaries. While not directly engaged in bloody battles against the Confederacy, the Nauvoo Legion nonetheless played an active role in Utah during the Civil War. The militia reveals another facet of the Latter-day Saint Church’s continued efforts to direct the development of Utah Territory.

Militia Organization

Descended from the earlier Mormon militia in Illinois, the Nauvoo Legion was formally reestablished in 1849 as part of the new State of Deseret.[2] The primary role of the militia was to provide security against Indian depredations to spreading Mormon settlements, which impacted native communities and their economic livelihoods. During the Latter-day Saints’ first decade in the Salt Lake Valley, the Nauvoo Legion skirmished with the Utes near Fort Utah in 1850, fought in the Wakara War in 1853–54, and planned delaying tactics against the approaching U.S. Army during the Utah War in 1857. In 1861, as Federal troops withdrew from Fort Crittenden (or Camp Floyd, as it was originally known), Mormon leaders anticipated that the Civil War would be the next significant test of the territorial militia.[3]

White males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were eligible for military service in Utah Territory; however, muster rolls reveal that enlistment was restricted to Latter-day Saints. Territorial militia records are incomplete, but surviving documents suggest that the force numbered between eight and ten thousand men during the Civil War period. By 1867, the Nauvoo Legion had grown to over twelve thousand men. Three-quarters of the militia were listed as infantry and about 20 percent were classified as cavalry (or “minute men”). Two units of light field artillery, one based in Salt Lake and the other in Ogden, made up about 1 percent of the total force. The remaining 1 percent included staff officers and military bands.[4]

Units of the Nauvoo Legion were mustered at least once a year. During the three or four day encampment, officers were elected to fill vacancies and the enlisted men received basic instruction and drill. Quality of the drill varied from community to community, depending upon the experience of the officers. One army veteran noted in 1863 that despite the annual musters, there was “a marked deficiency in many of the officers of the Legion with regard to tactics and drill.”[5] To improve training, Colonel David J. Ross was promoted in 1864 to the senior staff with the responsibility to oversee drill instruction throughout the territory and a standardized drill manual for the Nauvoo Legion was published in 1865.[6]

In most state militias, officers were nominated and elected by citizen soldiers in their respective units. In Utah, nominations for officers generally originated with Latter-day Saint Church leaders, with the men voicing a unanimous vote of confirmation (“sustaining”). Warren Foote, who served in the Legion’s Second Regiment of Infantry in the Salt Lake Military District, described his election in 1862: “After drilling a short time, we marched into the schoolhouse and were seated. After making some remarks, General Richards nominated me for Major. It was seconded and voted unanimously.”[7] Individuals selected as officers were often Church and community leaders, a merging of religious, civil, and military roles common in Mormon culture during this period.

While Utah militia regulations did not specify a required uniform, many regiments developed their own standardized attire modeled after other militia units or the U.S. Army. Officers sometimes purchased the federal blue frock coat to which were added brass Nauvoo Legion buttons. They also wore the standard army black hat with an ostrich feather. “In uniform, I saw a Captain, a Major and one Colonel,” wrote an observer of the 1864 muster near Salt Lake City. “All the others were in the free and easy mountain habiliments of corduroys, homespun and broadcloth.”[8] By 1865, a few companies in Salt Lake City were “neatly uniformed.”[9]

Not only were officers and enlisted men expected to clothe themselves, they were also responsible for procuring their own weapons and maintaining at least forty rounds of lead, powder, and percussion caps at all times. Soldiers assigned to cavalry units provided their own horses and saddles. Wagons and teams used for hauling baggage were often supplied by members of the community. The soldiers were generally expected to bring their own rations when deployed in the field.

Each of the regiments displayed locally-made regimental standards, which often exhibited religious symbols and mottos such as “God and Our Rights” and “The Stone from the Mountain.”[10] The American flag was also prominently displayed. Colonel Fullmer, commander of the First Regiment of Infantry in the Salt Lake Military District, was ordered in 1863 to procure and prominently display the national standard to show the militia’s Union sympathies. “The presence of a National flag with your command would be palpable evidence of its loyalty to the Constitution and laws of the U.S.,” noted his commander, “while its absence might, under some circumstances, seriously embarrass you.”[11]

Headquarters of the Nauvoo Legion was based in Salt Lake City, with Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells as overall commander. Having served in the Nauvoo Legion in Illinois, Wells was appointed to the committee charged with drafting legislation for organizing the militia in 1849 and selected as its first commander. When the Nauvoo Legion was reorganized in 1852 and again in 1857, his position was reconfirmed. In addition to militia duties, Wells also served as an Apostle in the Church, as Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and as superintendent of public works overseeing construction of public buildings in Salt Lake City. In 1862, after thirteen years in the militia, Wells submitted his resignation to Brigham Young. It was not accepted. Except for his absence on a mission to Great Britain in 1864–65, Wells remained commander of the territorial militia until 1870, when the Nauvoo Legion was largely deactivated by Governor Shaffer.[12]

Salt Lake City lawyer James Ferguson served as the adjutant general on General Wells’s staff, responsible for maintaining Nauvoo Legion records. Formerly a sergeant major in the Mormon Battalion, Ferguson served with distinction as adjutant general for nine years before problems associated with alcoholism forced Wells to suspend him in 1861. Hiram B. Clawson, General Wells’s aide-de-camp and a son-in-law of Brigham Young, filled the vacancy for the next three years until he was officially appointed adjutant general in 1864.[13]

Other members of General Wells’s staff included Lewis Robison, quartermaster general; Albert P. Rockwood, commissary general of subsistence; and Thomas W. Ellerbeck, chief of ordnance. Because the territorial militia lacked a centralized supply system, these officers had modest responsibilities compared to their counterparts in the Regular Army. Additional staff officers were tasked with overseeing medical care, military justice, and martial music.[14]

The Nauvoo Legion was organized into districts, which generally correlated with existing counties. Individual units such as companies, battalions, and regiments reported to their local district commander. Surviving records suggest that General Wells rarely issued specific directives, leaving many decisions to be made at the discretion of his district commanders. This somewhat decentralized system of command resulted in military districts being shaped differently depending upon local issues and the individual abilities of community leaders. A closer examination of two military districts can serve to illustrate these differences. Based in a growing urban center, the Great Salt Lake Military District was the largest in the territory, with most of its activities driven by local interactions with federal authorities. In contrast, the Cache Military District was located on the northern edge of the Mormon frontier, where new settlements struggled against a growing wave of Shoshone resistance. These very different roles for the legion reflect ways in which the militia was utilized throughout the territory during the Civil War.

Great Salt Lake Military District

Major General George D. Grant was promoted to commander of the Great Salt Lake Military District in 1857 following the death of his brother, Jedediah Grant, the previous commander and mayor of the city. A veteran of the Illinois Nauvoo Legion, George Grant had a leading role in early militia campaigns against Indians in the territory, including the fight at Fort Utah in 1850 and in the Tooele Valley in 1851. (The town of Grantsville was named in his honor.) He was also prominent in preparations for the Utah War in 1857.[15] By the beginning of the Civil War, General Grant commanded the largest component of the territorial militia, consisting of one regiment of cavalry, three regiments of infantry, and a light artillery company. These units were organized under two brigade commanders.[16]

Upon receipt of General Wells’s order to revitalize the Nauvoo Legion in 1861, General Grant forwarded instructions to each of his two brigade commanders.[17] Brigadier General Franklin D. Richards, head of the Second Brigade, ordered each regiment to update rolls and conduct an inspection. “No particular danger is now felt that requires these orders to be issued,” General Richards wrote in an explanatory note, “but the present is the first proper time that has presented itself, since our Territory was occupied by a Government Mob, to put our Militia in a state of self defense.” Richards added that the militia might be called upon by the U.S. government to provide troops to fight in the Civil War or to act as a home guard. Richards added that he wanted the men “on a complete war-footing,” ready for effective service “at home or abroad.”[18]

The First Regiment of Cavalry was commanded by Colonel Robert T. Burton, one the best-known officers in the Nauvoo Legion. As a young man, Burton had served briefly with the Nauvoo Legion in Illinois. In Utah, he had the reputation of a fearless Indian fighter. During the Utah War, his company shadowed the approaching U.S. Army, reporting back their position and strength. He was named colonel of the cavalry regiment in 1857. The regiment numbered about 265 men in 1863, about 62 percent of which Burton reported were available for deployment on short notice. His regiment included two battalions, one led by Major Lot Smith and the other by Major Andrew Cunningham.[19]

As part of the 1861 reorganization of the militia, Almon L. Fullmer was promoted from adjutant to colonel of the First Regiment of Infantry, replacing Jesse P. Harmon, who had moved to southern Utah. Fullmer’s regiment was estimated at about 363 men in 1861, divided between four battalions.[20] Jonathan Pugmire Jr. was named the new commander of the Second Regiment of Infantry, in place of Thomas Callister, who resigned. Veteran of the Mormon Battalion, Pugmire helped oversee the construction of the fortifications in Echo Canyon during the Utah War and worked as the foreman of the Public Works Blacksmith Shop in Salt Lake City. Colonel Pugmire served the regiment until 1864, when he was sent to the Bear Lake Valley and the command passed to Samuel W. Richards. At the 1861 muster, the regiment included 420 men divided among five battalions. A muster roll from the following year reveals that over one-third of his force did not possess a firearm.[21]

The Third Regiment of Infantry was commanded by Col. David J. Ross, one of the most experienced officers in the district, having served in the British Army a decade earlier. He was promoted to General Wells’ staff in 1864 and assigned as training officer for the militia throughout the territory. His regiment numbered about 319 men in 1863.[22]

The Salt Lake Military District also had one company of light artillery, with six cannons of various sizes. General Wells expressed concern about leadership of the battery following an accident on July 4, 1861, that seriously wounded a militiaman. An investigation cleared the men of drinking but found contradictory testimony about whether the barrel had been properly swabbed and whether the gun captain had adequately supervised the crew. “Your attention is particularly directed to the organization and probably the entire reconstruction of the artillery,” General Wells directed. As part of the 1861 reorganization, Major Samuel G. Ladd was named the new artillery commander. The company numbered about 140 men by 1865.[23]

One final unit was added to the Salt Lake Military District in 1862. With the significant advancement of firearms, General Wells established a sharpshooter company known as the Enfield Rifles under the command of Captain Thomas Jack. The new company was recruited in Salt Lake City and ordered to hone marksmanship “to the requisite efficiency.”[24]

Important insights about Salt Lake City during the Civil War, including frequent mention of the territorial militia, were reported in weekly newspaper dispatches of Thomas B. H. Stenhouse. Baptized into the Latter-day Saint Church in 1841, Stenhouse had been an enthusiastic missionary in Europe for over a decade before immigrating to the U.S. in 1855. While in New York City, he served as editor of the Mormon and then as a reporter for the New York Herald. After his arrival in Salt Lake City in 1859, Stenhouse was employed as a clerk in the Church historian’s office, opened a newsstand, and in 1862 was appointed postmaster. He submitted pro-Mormon letters to the New York Herald and several newspapers in California, including the Sacramento Daily Union, where he wrote under the pseudonym “Liberal.”[25] “Had the territory of Utah possessed a minister of public information and propaganda,” one historian noted, “Thomas Stenhouse would have been it . . . his journalistic voice was undoubtedly the most powerful in the territory.”[26] While Stenhouse’s writings focused primarily on religion and politics in Salt Lake, he also frequently mentioned militia activities.

The reorganization of the Great Salt Lake Military District was completed in early 1862, just as word reached the territorial capital of a series of Indian attacks along the trail east of Fort Bridger near Independence Rock. In response, Brigham Young and Acting Governor Frank Fuller both ordered General Wells to assign a militia unit to patrol the trail, creating a conflict of jurisdiction. Colonel Burton was selected for the assignment, and on April 26, he departed with a hastily assembled detachment of twenty-three mounted militiamen. “The company is composed of picked men, the cream of the regiment that could be spared,” Stenhouse noted. “Brigham has sent two of his own sons and a son-in-law, and Heber has two of his sons in it.”[27]

Burton’s company escorted William H. Hooper, the former congressional delegate for Utah Territory, as he headed east to the States. While en route, his men examined damaged stage stations, two burned coaches, and numerous bags of looted mail, but they did not encounter any Indians. Rumors abounded throughout the region, but the identity of the raiding party could not be established with certainty, some suggesting Shoshone while others thought Arapaho or possibly Crow. After reaching the Deer Creek station near present Glenrock, Wyoming, Burton’s company turned around and headed home.[28]

Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, just two days after Colonel Burton’s departure, a telegram was received from the War Department addressed to Brigham Young. The communication authorized Young to raise one company of cavalry for ninety days of federal service to protect property and personnel along the Overland Trail, especially in the Sweetwater country where Indian attacks had occurred. Rather than federalize Colonel Burton’s company (they were only twenty-five miles away, having passed Parley’s Summit), Brigham Young and General Wells recruited a second company for field service. “Young received the dispatch at nine o’clock on the evening of the 28th,” observed Stenhouse, “and I am told that in fifteen minutes afterwards, there were three expresses at full speed in three counties for an equal division of men. Major Lot Smith, now in command, was down from his farm by early breakfast, and that evening the muster roll was nearly full with respondents.”[29] Lot’s company departed Salt Lake City on May 1 to begin their term of Federal service. Colonel Burton’s company returned to Salt Lake City on May 31. Lot Smith returned with most of his company on August 15, 1862.[30] Both expeditions demonstrated that on a small scale the territorial militia could be quickly mobilized and dispatched in an emergency even some distance from Salt Lake City.

In addition to serving along the Overland Trail, militias in the Salt Lake Military District assisted the judicial arm of the government. For example, on June 12, 1862, Governor Fuller ordered General Wells to provide the marshal with “a sufficient military force” to assist in the arrest of religious dissident Joseph Morris. Excommunicated from the Church a year earlier, Morris and his followers had gathered on the Weber River at Kingston Fort to await what he and his band of followers believed to be the imminent Second Coming. After several predicted dates for the millennial event passed, some followers doubted Morris’s revelations and started leaving. Conflict erupted when three of the departing men seized a wagonload of wheat. They were chased down and brought back to the fort, though one escaped and reported the situation to officials in Salt Lake City. A writ of habeas corpus was issued for their release, but the Morrisites refused to comply. Governor Fuller wrote, “It appears that said Joseph Morris and his associates have organized themselves into an armed force to resist the execution of said writs, and are setting at utter defiances [sic] the law and its officers.”[31]

The militia was dispatched under the command of Burton, who served as both county sheriff and colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry. Nauvoo Legion records do not list which units were sent with Burton to make the arrests. Richard W. Young, in an 1890 article on the “Morrisite War,” noted that the force from Salt Lake City consisted of “one skeleton company of riflemen, one full company and a detachment of artillery, in all about two hundred and fifty men.” Young’s description suggests that the units included Captain Jack’s newly formed Enfield Rifles, a portion of Major Ladd’s artillery with two cannons, possibly a portion of Colonel Burton’s First Regiment of Cavalry, and part of Colonel Ross’s Third Regiment of Infantry. An additional two hundred men from Davis County and about one hundred men from Weber County, representing militia units from these northern districts, also joined the posse early in the morning of June 13 near Kingston Fort. This represented the largest movement of militiamen since the Utah War.[32]

After sending a written demand to surrender, Burton ordered Major Ladd to fire two warning shots from the artillery battery. The first flew over the fort, while the second landed in front of the adobe walls, ricocheting into the structures and killing two women. Shots soon erupted from both sides, commencing a siege that lasted for three days. On June 15, the Morrisites raised a white flag. But tragically, as the two parties met in the chaotic moments of the surrender that evening, Joseph Morris and several others were shot point blank and killed, the circumstance of which remains controversial to this day. The posse then returned to Salt Lake City with male prisoners charged with murder or resisting arrest. The militia was then released from service.

Another instance in which the Nauvoo Legion was called to support the legal system came in January 1864 with the execution of convicted murderer Jason R. Luce. A month earlier, Luce cut the throat of a man he claimed had previously beaten him unconscious for being a Mormon. Luce was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder. Robert T. Burton, as county sheriff, called upon the Nauvoo Legion for support in guarding the prisoner and maintaining peace on the day of the execution. When Stenhouse arrived at the courthouse where the prisoner was held in a cell, he found the building “entirely surrounded by the militia and the Minute Men (cavalry) were posted inside of the outer wall.” Luce was executed by a five-man firing squad inside the courthouse grounds.[33]

While statutes directed that the Nauvoo Legion to report to the territorial governor, the militia, in reality, answered to Brigham Young, evidence that the militia continued to operate as an extension of the LDS Church. No event emphasizes this allegiance better than the militia’s reactions to the return of the federal army to Utah in 1862.

Soon after closing Fort Crittenden, President Lincoln telegraphed the governor of California requesting that the state raise two regiments to protect the main transportation corridor across the western interior. This assignment was originally given to Colonel James H. Carleton; however, his troops were diverted to southern California as the Confederacy appeared to advance across the Southwest. Following Lincoln’s request for additional troops from California, Colonel Patrick Edward Connor was assigned to guard the trails. He departed in spring of 1862 with companies of the Third California Infantry and Second California Cavalry.

After establishing Fort Ruby in the Nevada Territory, Connor marched toward Salt Lake City in October 1862. Expecting the army to rebuild on the site of Fort Crittenden, Mormon leaders were surprised when Connor moved up to the bench overlooking the city and established Camp Douglas.[34] The proximity of Federal troops made a collision between the army and militia a real possibility.

In March 1863, following his plural marriage to Amelia Folsom, Brigham Young was charged with violating the new Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. Rumors suggested that Connor’s troops would accompany the territorial marshal to make the arrest. As a result, the Nauvoo Legion was placed on alert. Over a three-week period, activities at the post were misinterpreted and militiamen gathered to protect the Beehive House.[35] On the evening of March 29, a thirteen-gun salute celebrating Connor’s promotion to brigadier general again prompted the militia to surround Brigham Young’s home.[36]

Similarly in 1864, the militia was called upon to protect Temple Square. In an effort to retrieve disorderly soldiers and to ensure Union sympathies in the city, the army established a provost marshal’s office in Salt Lake City. In a provocative move, the army rented a building directly across from the south entrance of Temple Square. Once again the Nauvoo Legion was called to protect Church leaders from a feared attack. After failing in court to force Connor to close his provost marshal’s office, men bricked up the south gate of Temple Square. Such examples illustrate ways in which the Nauvoo Legion was utilized in Salt Lake City.

Cache Military District

A copy of General Wells’s August 1861 order to reorganize the Nauvoo Legion arrived in Cache Valley on the northern border of Utah Territory. For the past two years, settlers had borne the brunt of Shoshone aggressions against Mormon expansion in the region and as a result, militia units were being actively developed.[37]

The militia in Cache County had been initially organized as part of the Weber Military District in 1859, the first year of significant migration in to the valley. In November 1859, as religious leaders were being selected for the valley, the commander of the Weber Military District, General Chauncey W. West, organized the local militia. In Wellsville, men were paraded on the public square and instructed in basic drill. Elections of officers were conducted. Bishop of Wellsville, William H. Maughn, was selected to lead the new battalion with the rank of major. General West and his party then traveled to Logan, where they organized another battalion under the command of Major Israel J. Clark.[38]

In fall 1860, General Wells accompanied Brigham Young on his first visit to the Cache Valley settlements, which had grown three-fold over the past year to more than 2,600 people. Young recognized that one of the most critical issues for Cache County was security. “You are very much exposed here,” he noted at a public meeting in Franklin. “The settlements in this valley are, as it were, a shield to the other settlements.” He encouraged settlers to build a strong fort capable of withstanding an Indian attack and to be vigilant. At a meeting in Logan the following day, Young again emphasized security. “Be at all times prepared to successfully resist Indian hostility,” he instructed. “Keep minute men ready, that they can be in the saddle and off on short notice—enough to protect your settlement.” During this trip, General Wells issued an order establishing the Cache Military District, though it was to remain subordinate to the Weber District. Wells also set the date for the formal muster and elections and echoed Brigham Young’s instructions to fortify and protect settlers.[39]

For the 1860 muster held on June 14, General West again traveled to Logan to oversee the organization of the Cache Military District and individual militia units. Apostle Ezra T. Benson, who had recently moved to the valley to oversee its growth, was selected as colonel for the military district. Presiding Bishop Peter Maughn served as the militia chaplain. Nine battalions were established with a total of 601 men, each based in one of the Cache Valley communities. The original company of militia from Logan formed the First Battalion, commanded by Major Thomas E. Ricks, and the Wellsville unit formed the Second Battalion, led by Major William H. Maughn. To these was added battalions from Hyde Park, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield, Franklin, Hyrum, and a second one from Logan.[40]

The diary of Nauvoo Legionnaire George Barber of Smithfield highlights some of the activities of the militia in 1861. “Went to Logan in company with five other minute men to attend a meeting and review of all the minute men in Cache Valley,” he recorded on May 11. Two weeks later, he attended a muster in Logan. When a large number of Shoshone appeared in the valley that summer, he and several other men from Smithfield were ordered to assemble near the Indian camp. Together with a unit from Logan, these fifty militiamen drilled and carefully scouted the village. “The Indians do not know what to make of a body of well-armed men encamped so near them watching their movements,” Barber noted in his diary. “They made another demand for presents today, throwing out threats occasionally.” Nine days later, the large Indian village moved near Wellsville, where other members of the Nauvoo Legion took over the vigil. When Barber’s unit was released from duty, the men returned to their farms, some finding that crops had suffered from lack of water during their absence.[41]

General Wells’s 1861 order to reactivate the Nauvoo Legion across the territory also established the Cache Military District as an independent command that reported directly to Salt Lake City. General West was ordered to assist Colonel Benson with the 1861 muster to create a “more effective and complete organization” in the Cache Valley.[42]

For three days in September 1861, the militiamen gathered from across the valley to a large encampment near Logan. Each day, they drilled under the leadership of two members of Colonel Benson’s staff who had prior army service in the Mexican War. The structure of the Cache Valley militia was again reorganized. The First Battalion commanded by Major Ricks became the First Battalion Cavalry, with each company based in a community. The remainder of the militia was organized into six battalions of infantry. General West expressed satisfaction with the men’s progress.[43]

Throughout the 1861–63 period, the militia was frequently called out to recover stolen horses. When the Shoshone passed through the valley each year, militia units camped nearby, visible and prepared to respond to any emergency. The Nauvoo Legion was also used to scout and explore areas for future settlements. In July 1861 and again in July 1862, detachments from the Cache Valley militia scouted east into the Bear Lake vicinity, reporting favorable conditions. When a portion of Lot Smith’s federalized company traveled north to the Bear Lake area in pursuit of deserters, the Cache County militia was notified to assist if needed.[44]

The arrival of Colonel Connor in Utah in fall 1862 created turmoil as far north as Cache Valley. As Connor set out from Fort Ruby en route to Salt Lake City, he sent two companies of cavalry under Major Edward McGarry north to Humboldt River in pursuit of Shoshones who attacked an emigrant train near Gravelly Ford. McGarry then moved east to City of Rocks before turning south towards Salt Lake City, following the main road. They crossed the Bear River just west of Cache Valley as they continued south to rejoin Colonel Connor.[45]

McGarry’s expedition, however, was apparently not widely known in Salt Lake City; thus the approach of a second column of troops from a different direction caught some residents by surprise. On October 25, 1862, Colonel Benson sent a small detachment of militiamen from Logan to scout for evidence of federal troops in the area. The party traveled west to the upper ford of the Bear River where they found McGarry’s tracks heading south. At midnight, an express arrived in Mendon from Salt Lake City asking for twenty men to be prepared to start immediately to defend Salt Lake City, if needed. The Logan militia was also under similar marching orders.[46]

Major McGarry returned to Cache Valley several times in the coming months in pursuit of Shoshones. In late November 1862, he had a minor skirmish with a Shoshone band at the mouth of Providence Canyon during which a white child was rescued. After McGarry’s departure, Shoshone retaliated by attacking Providence. Although the attack was repelled by the militia, local leaders were concerned that indiscriminate violence against the Shoshone would provoke further troubles for settlers in the Cache Valley.[47] McGarry returned in December to recover stolen stock but failed to engage the Shoshone in a decisive battle.[48]

In January 1863, Colonel Connor led a larger column of troops into the Cache Valley and attacked the village of Bear Hunter and Sagwitch, north of Franklin, killing hundreds of Shoshone. This attack sent shock waves throughout the tribe. In the wake of the Bear River Massacre, Cache Valley communities struggled with Shoshone retaliation. General Wells counseled Colonel Benson to distinguish the militia from the army and warned him not to get caught up in the Indian war started by Connor.[49]

In August 1865, Brigham Young visited Cache Valley and, in company with General Wells, reviewed the militia at their annual muster. By this time, the Shoshone had signed a series of peace treaties and had largely pulled back from the valley. As these Church leaders congratulated the assembled men under Benson, now promoted to brigadier general, they must have realized how indispensable the Nauvoo Legion had been in establishing the settlers’ hold on the valley. This had been the same process in each of the Mormon frontier zones as they wrestled areas from native control. In fact, this process was just starting anew in southern Utah in what would become the largest Indian war fought by the territorial militia, the Black Hawk War of 1865–72.[50]


In November 1865, the territorial militia in the Great Salt Lake Military District gathered for its annual muster and review at a temporary encampment about four miles south of the city. The bloody American Civil War had ended seven months earlier, and the territory was entering its new period of growth. This muster was especially poignant. On the morning of the review, General Connor and several of his officers from Camp Douglas visited the encampment early and received a polite tour with the senior staff. Citing pressing business back at the post, Connor’s party soon departed. Fifteen minutes later, the official review party from Salt Lake arrived, including Brigham Young, General Wells, and the new territorial governor, Charles Durkee. The two wagon cavalcades, Connor’s heading back into the city and Young’s heading out, must have passed each other on the road. As with all of their public appearances, these two men never actually met. They remained two powerful forces carefully revolving around each others’ spheres of influence.

On the final day of the muster, militia troops marched back to Salt Lake City, stopping briefly at the governor’s residence to render honors. As a visible symbol of the Nauvoo Legion’s true allegiance, the militia next marched to the Beehive House, where it formed into columns. Brigham Young thanked the men for their years of faithful service to the territory and to the Church and officially dismissed the troops.[51] The Nauvoo Legion was truly a unique institution, an important element of the culture in the nineteenth century Utah Territory.


[1] Wells to Gen. G. D. Grant, Salt Lake Military District, Special Orders #3, 2 August 1861, Nauvoo Legion Letterbook, MS 1370, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City. Similar orders were sent to each of the district commanders.

[2] 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 detailed examination of the Nauvoo Legion in Utah remains to be written. For general overviews, see Richard W. Young, “The Nauvoo Legion,” Contributor 9 (1888), 121–27, 161–68, 201–12, 241–51, 281–86, 321–32, 361–73, 401–13, 441–54; Richard C. Roberts, Legacy: The History of the Utah National Guard (Salt Lake City: National Guard Association of Utah, 2003), 5–19; Hamilton Gardner, “Utah Territorial Militia,” unpublished manuscript, Gardner Papers, MS B 113, Utah State Historical Society.

[3] D. Robert Carter, Founding Fort Utah: Provo’s Native Inhabitants, Early Explorers, and First Year of Settlement (Provo, UT: Provo City Corporation, 2003), 163–95; Ryan E. Wimmer, “The Walker War Reconsidered” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010); Brandon J. Metcalf, “The Nauvoo Legion and the Prevention of the Utah War,” Utah Historical Quarterly 72 (2004), 300–21.

[4] Abstract Return of the Nauvoo Legion the Militia of Utah Territory, 1867, document #4652, series 2210, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[5] H. W. Isaacson to Gen. Daniel H. Wells, 19 March 1863, document #738, UTMR. He may have been Private Henry W. Isaacson, age 22, who enlisted in Company E, 62nd New York Infantry, in 1861.

[6] General Orders #4, Headquarters 2nd Brigade, Salt Lake Military District, 2 July 1864,Record of Orders, Returns and Courts Martial &c of 2nd Brigade, Nauvoo Legion, MS 357, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, Yale University, 85. William B. Pace, Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Print, 1865).

[7] “Autobiography of Warren Foote of Glendale, Kane Co., Utah,” unpublished manuscript, MS 1123, 174, Church History Library.

[8] Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, “Letter from Salt Lake,” dated May 29, 1864, Sacramento Daily Union, June 6, 1864.

[9] “General Muster of the Militia of Great Salt Lake County,” Deseret News, November 9, 1865, 4.

[10] Stenhouse, Sacramento Daily Union, June 6, 1864.

[11] Gen. Franklin D. Richards to Col. Almon L. Fullmer, 12 December 1863, Record of Orders, Returns and Courts Martial &c of 2nd Brigade, Nauvoo Legion, MS 357, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, 81.

[12] Bryant S. Hinckley, Daniel Hamner Wells and Events of His Time (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1942). Genl. Daniel H. Wells to Brigham Young, 21 March 1862, document #467, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives. Roberts, Legacy, 13–17.

[13] Gen. Daniel H. Wells to Gen. James Ferguson, 5 July 1861, Nauvoo Legion Letterbook, MS 1370, Church History Library. Gen. James Ferguson to Gen. Daniel H. Wells, 17 August 1861, document #445, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives. Will Bagley, ed. “A Bright, Rising Star”: A Brief Life of James Ferguson, Sergeant Major, Mormon Battalion; Adjutant General, Nauvoo Legion (Spokane, WA: Arthur H. Clark, 2000).

[14] Ralph Hansen, “Administrative History of the Nauvoo Legion in Utah” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University), 1954.

[15] Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: Cannon & Sons, 1892), 1:426, 623; Edward W. Tullidge, The History of Salt Lake City and Its Founders (Salt Lake City: privately published, 1886), 69–70; Ouida Blanthorn, A History of Tooele County (Salt Lake City: Utah Historical Society, 1998), 78.

[16] Registry Book, Great Salt Lake Military District, MS 9391, Church History Library.

[17] J. M. Simmons to Gen. F. D. Richards and Gen. Wm. H. Kimball, Orders #1, Great Salt Lake Military District, 23 August 1861, Record and Order Book of the Major General Commanding G.S.L. Military District, Nauvoo Legion, Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

[18] Orders #1, Headquarters 2nd Brigade, 7 September 1861. Richards to Harmon, 7 September 1861.

[19] Muster Roll, 1863, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[20] Deseret News, 16 January 1878. Record of Orders, Returns and Courts Martial &c of 2nd Brigade, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, 44.

[21] Record of Orders, Returns and Courts Martial &c of 2nd Brigade, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, 44. Muster roll, 1862, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[22] Muster roll, 1863, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[23] General Orders #1, NL HQ, 25 June 1861, document #675; R. H. Attwood to General Wells, 5 July 1861, document #677; Samuel G. Ladd to D. H. Wells, 6 July 1861, document #678, series 2210. Wells to Grant, 2 August 1861, Special Orders #3, document #679, series 2210, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives. Simmons to Ladd, 28 September 1861, Record and Order Book of the Major General Commanding G.S.L. Military District, Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

[24] Wells to Jack, 2[?] March 1862, NL Letterbook, Church History Library.

[25] Mrs. T. B. H. Stenhouse, An Englishwoman in Utah: The Story of a Life’s Experience in Mormonism (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1880), 213. Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City, 317.

[26] Ronald W. Walker, Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 53.

[27] Stenhouse, “Letter from Salt Lake,” dated April 28, 1862, Sacramento Daily Union, May 9, 1862.

[28] Burton to Wells, 3 June 1862, document 472, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[29] Stenhouse, “Letter from Salt Lake,” dated May 5, 1862, Sacramento Daily Union, May 19, 1862.

[30] See the Stuart-Alford chapter herein for additional details on the Utah cavalry commanded by Lot Smith.

[31] Frank Fuller to Daniel H. Wells, 12 June 1862, series 242, Utah State Archives. For detailed narratives of these events, see Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton, 1873), pp. 593–601; Richard W. Young, “The Morrisite War,” Contributor 11 (1890):281–284, 348-, 369-, 428-, 466-; G. M. Howard, “Men, Motive, and Misunderstandings: A New Look at the Morrisite War of 1862,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 44 (1976): 112–132; C. LeRoy Anderson, Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1988).

[32] Young, “The Morrisite War,” 370.

[33] Burton to Wells, 9 January 1864. Order # 1, January 11, 1864. New York Times, February 14, 1864. Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, “Letter from Salt Lake,” dated January 1 and January 12, 1864, Sacramento Daily Union, January 11 and January 22, 1864. R. Michael Wilson, Legal Executions in the Western Territories, 1847–1911 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010), 166–167.

[34] See the Alford-MacKinnon chapter herein for additional information about the establishment of Camp Douglas.

[35] Stenhouse, “Letter from Salt Lake,” dated March 18, 1863, Sacramento Daily Union, March 28, 1863.

[36] Report of guard service rendered by 2nd Regt. 2nd Brigade at Brigham Young Residence, March 4–22, 1863. B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 5:28–29.

[37] Brigham D. Madsen, The Shoshone Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1985), 98–99, 127–130. John W. Heaton, “No Place to Pitch their Tepees: Shoshone Adaptation to Mormon Settlers in Cache Valley,” Utah Historical Quarterly 63 (1995): 159–171.

[38] Deseret News, November 30, 1859. Tullidge’s Histories, 2:355. No records for this muster are known to have survived, with the possible exception of an undated list of men eligible for militia service.

[39] Federal Census, 1860, Cache County, Utah Territory. Deseret News, August 1 and August 8, 1860. Special Orders, Headquarters Nauvoo Legion, June 11, 1860, Nauvoo Legion Records, MS 1370, Church History Library. Brigham Young followed up his speeches with similar written instructions to Benson on June 18, the bishop to read them to each of the settlements. Brigham Young Letter Press books, 5:536–537, Church History Library.

[40] “Muster Roll of the Field and Staff of the Regiment,” 14 June 1860, document #4868, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[41] Barber diary, MS A 20, Utah State Historical Society.

[42] Wells to Chauncey W. West, 2 August 1861, Nauvoo Legion Records, MS 1370, Church History Library. Special Orders, June 11, 1860.

[43] Donald G. Godfrey and Rebecca S. Martineau-McCarty, An Uncommon Common Pioneer: The Journals of James Henry Martineau, 1828–1918 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2008).

[44] Special Orders #7, HQ NL, August 7, 1862, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[45] McGarry to Connor, 31 October 1862, War of the Rebellion, vol. 50 pt. 1, 178–179.

[46] Godfrey and Martineau-McCarty, Uncommon Common Pioneer, 131.

[47] Deseret News, November 19, 1862.

[48] Ephriam D. Dickson III, “Prelude to Bear River: Confrontation at Empey’s Ferry, December 6–8, 1862,” Post Dispatch, newsletter of the Fort Douglas Museum, December 2008, 4–6.

[49] Wells to Benson and Maughn, 10 May 1863, Utah Territorial Militia Records, Utah State Archives.

[50] For an excellent account of this new Indian war, see John Alton Peterson, Utah’s Black Hawk War (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998).

[51] “General Muster of the Militia of Great Salt Lake County,” Deseret News, November 9, 1865, 4.