America’s Longest War from 1826 to 2022 – The Utah War
America’s Longest War from 1826 to 2022 – Utah War
On May 22, 2022, Elder Bednar dedicated the Yigo Guam Temple, the first temple in an American Territory subject to the jurisdiction of the Edmunds Tucker Act of 1887. The Act was an outgrowth of the Utah War of 1857-1860, which in turn was a continuation of the wars of extermination and expulsion from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and persecution in Pennsylvania and New York. Thus it might be reasonably said the Guam Temple dedication was the first to mark the effective end of another portion of sanctions in America’s longest undeclared war beginning in the summer of 1830, and continuing until May 2022. Some sanctions remain.
How is it possible to have a undeclared war lasting 198 years? Sanctions, embargoes, invasions, prosecutions, arrests, imprison, persecution, unchecked mobs, and their lasting effects.
Let’s begin in 1826 when Joseph Smith was sued or prosecuted for fraud, under the pretext he had defrauded an employer, but with the true goal of harassing the visionary man, and jailing him if possible. This approach mirrored a similar legal process, eighteen centuries earlier which was also employed at the time of the arrest of Jesus Christ and trial under Pilate, as noted by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. By 1830, the eastern newspapers were reporting strange things coming out of Palmyra New York, the golden Bible, visions, angels, and delusions of a new religion. Threats, arrests and trials began that very summer of 1830. By 1831, the leaders of the Church were directed to establish two communities at the same time, one in Ohio and one in Missouri. Mob violence in Ohio was almost immediate. By 1833 unrest and disputes gave rise to the term ‘Mormon War’ in Missouri, leading to the Saints expulsion from Jackson County, and over the next five years from the state of Missouri. Over the course of Joseph Smith’s adult lifetime, approximately 240 law suits, extraditions, arrest warrants were thrown at him, until he was murdered in 1844. The American newspapers reported the events of the Church on a weekly basis, with tens of thousands of words. It was apparently of sufficient interest nation wide to keep tabs on these folks.
When did the leaders of the Federal Government take notice of the mob violence which followed this upstart religion? The national political leaders knew from the start, 1830, due to the newspaper coverage. By 1839, the Saints leaders traveled to Washington D.C. to Petition Congress for redress and compensation for lost property and deaths in Missouri. On November 29, 1839 Prophet Joseph Smith and Judge Higbee met President Martin Van Buren to plead the Saints case. President Van Buren replied ‘’I can do nothing for you,’’ explaining he would lose the State of Missouri. By February of 1840, the U.S. Congress, acting through the committee to which the Saints’ relief petition was referred, refused redress, directing the Saints to redress thru the Missouri Courts and Legislature. In modern parlance, this kicked the can down the road. But refusing aid is consistent with choosing sides.
Compare the 1840 negative response of the Van Buren Federal administration to the Roosevelt administration June 1940 response during the Battle of Britain. Although ‘neutral’, the United States shipped 5 million rounds of ammunition for 500,000 Enfield rifles within days after Dunkirk, at the request from Prime Minister Churchill. Doing the math showed ten rounds per rifle. Churchill ordered no practice shots, as the precious ammunition could not be conveniently or otherwise replaced for months. Indeed, in 1840, the Federal Government was taking sides in the Saints’ wars. Mob action forced the Saints out of Illinois by 1846, and into settling the Basin of the Great Salt Lake and the Great Basin. Persecution was put on pause during the Mexican War of 1847, wherein the Mormon (herein Saints) Battalion was recruited and marched from Kansas to San Diego in behalf of the United States. However, a Saints’ petition to recognize the state of Deseret was declined by Congress, which had lingering animosity. Congress changed the name to Utah territory. The thaw continued with the appointment of Brigham Young as the Governor of Utah Territory by President Fillmore.
The newspapers attacks from 1851 to 1857 gradually shifted from accusing the Saints to be delusional, and disgusting, to attacks on polygamy and treason. With the inauguration of President Buchanan in March 1857, the papers renewed their demand for military action. An Army was marched toward Utah territory, and eventually occupied the territory until 1861. A partial account follows about the ‘Utah war’ which the Federal Government owned.
The eastern newspapers attack on the Saints continued unabated thru the 1850s. The papers noted steady immigration from overseas and the states toward Salt Lake City and California, with a hew and cry of treason and danger. Presidents Fillmore and Pierce took less public notice of Utah territory and the menace of the Saints. Fillmore, as Vice President, took office upon the death of President Zachary Taylor, and served without a vice president at all. Franklin Pierce, also served as President alone for almost his entire term, after his vice president died after only a month and a half in office. As both lacked vice presidents, perhaps their attention was focused on matters other than those complained of by the newspapers. Such as slavery, what to do and when. And national expansion, and railroads, and absorbing new states.
The utter failure of military action, between 1857 and 1861, did not deter the enemies of the Church in Congress. The war moved from force of arms onto force of sanctions, penalties and embargoes. A similar example was the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 to overturn Castro’s control of government. The United States fell back to a policy of Cuba sanctions and embargoes of trade, which continued with changes between 2009 to 2022. Examples of sanctions include embargo on sale of fire arms, banning exports or imports, banning medicine and food, banning use of finance system or banking, travel ban, blockade, no financial aid, refuse credit (meaning trade is all cash), no diplomatic relations, prohibit aid to any country giving assistance; restrict travel by category – i.e. business, tourist, government, press or news organizations, research, relatives, missionaries; confiscate property, designation as terrorist state, exclusion from groups or organizations [Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States], migration. In 1980 President Carter withdrew the United States from the Moscow Olympics, meaning all passports for athletes were cancelled and any circumvention of travel resulted in fines and prison. About the same time Iranian oil sales were embargoed. For the past 3 decades weapon sales and travel are banned for countries on the State departments Terrorist list, which list will contain a half dozen or more countries. Most recently, in early 2020, the pandemic for the China virus, or COVID-19, shut down travel in and out of most or all of the continents, trapping tourists, separating families, blocking business and trade, limiting missionaries presence in countries around the world. No doubt travel restrictions hinder spies, as well.
Thus in 1862, the Congress passed an income tax to fund the Civil War, with a rider to make polygamy in a territory illegal and a crime. Lincoln needed the money from the tax and signed the law. The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 lead to the arrest of Brigham Young in 1863 and 1871 for bigamy. A test case to the Supreme Court, United States v. Reynolds (1879) affirmed the act. The 1862 act targeted the The Church because it was limited to territories, and also limited property in a territory to $50,000, and forfeiting and escheating the property. It was the only territorial church around to so apply. Morrill was a Senator from Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph Smith. The Act was amended in 1882 by the Edmunds Act, and in 1887 by the Edmunds Tucker Act. Notice the act did not apply to states, leading one to ask if the crime of polygamy was so odious, should it have applied to states? The Act also annulled the incorporation of the Church.
Escheat is an anglo saxon legal term for the reversion of property to the state, harking back to feudal law wherein the feudal Lord received back property, such as when the tenant died without heirs, by escheat to the King. As an aside, beginning about 1534 to 1541 King Henry the Eighth of England escheated the monasteries, priories, convents, and friaries property which owned a third to half of England’s land. So Congress’ escheat in the 1862 law was of ancient date, reaching back into the fog of Anglo Saxon England, and earlier.
Along the way, at least by 1890, the anti Saints acts prohibited immigration based on bigamy or polygamy, taking note of tens of thousands of converts recruited by the missionaries as reported in the newspapers. The 1882 Edmunds Act also denied the right to vote, to hold political office, and to jury service based on a belief in the doctrines of the church. Again, harking back to Henry the Eighth, beginning in 1534 unto 1829, Parliament adopted laws requiring membership in the Church of England as a prerequisite to the right to vote, to hold political office and jury service, military commission, bishop or priest, corporate director, witness at trial and more. Remembering these laws, the United States of America founding fathers prohibited Test Acts in the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The 1882 Edmunds Tucker Act declared all registration and election offices vacant, substituted by a commission to fill the offices, register voters, canvass election returns, issue certificates of election. The result was fewer rights than existed under the Magna Carta in 1215. The Commission drafted a test oath, similar to those used under King James the Second, formerly Duke of York, between 1685 and 1688, then used to coerce Covenanters to confess or die on the spot. In England the result was the 1688 Glorious Revolution, and an abhorrence of such oaths for two centuries until 1882. In continuing the realty of war, the oath used the term ‘Marriage relation’ to segregate the ‘Saints’ from the Gentiles, criminalizing ‘Saints’ marriage yet permitting Gentiles’ licentiousness. The 1882 law was also made retroactive to decades before polygamy was criminalized. And finally Utah territory women were denied vote, or suffrage. The Federal officers selected grand juries to question children, parents, issue contempt of court, similar to the Spanish inquisition in the 17th century, and paid spies, similar to the Nazis spies in Holland in 1944 to discover Anne Frank and other Jews. These were Federal actions, in line with the direction of Congress and the President.
Other crimes were committed against the Saints in the South, or East, including the Tennessee Massacre in 1884. The Federal appointed unelected Governor of Utah Territory, with animus toward the Saints, likened the Church Missionaries to ‘organized crime’, expecting the ‘killing of emigration agents’ sent to Tennessee. Letter of Governor Eli Murray of Utah Territory to Governor W.B. Bate of State of Tennessee.
Recall the sanctions in the 1930s America levied on Japan, embargo of oil, steel and iron? These sanctions were due to Japan’s relentless military attack on China, resulting with the death of tens of thousands of civilians and military in Nanking, Manchuria, and throughout eastern China, beginning about 1931. The Japanese considered the American sanctions acts of war to justify the Japanese Imperial surprise attach on Pearl Harbor in 1941, without declaration of war as required by the Hague and Geneva treaties.
In the meantime, between the passage of the 1862 law, and 1917, new territories were added to the United States. Alaska territory was purchased about 1867 from Russia. Alaska was exempted from the provisions of the religious property limitation, as would be Hawaii in 1898, and Cuba circa 1902. The Philippines territory was declared independent in 1946.
By 1887 the Federal Government in fact escheated the Church property in Utah Territory, renting its use back to the Church, with some prospect or intention of bankrupting the Saints. In nearby Idaho territory, the Idaho legislature adopted the ‘Idaho test oath’ which disfranchised all members of the Church. Remember the US Constitution prohibited ‘test acts’ in Article Six, ‘but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States?” That was ignored by Congress and the Federal courts.
By 1890, the leaders of the Church denounced polygamy, and a pause in the war began with a petition or pardon of amnesty, some of which was granted by the US President. Voting was restored in 1891 for those pardoned.
Congress, with an eye toward the Saints successful immigration, added polygamy to the list of excludables under the immigration laws (Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1084), which exclusion continues to this time in 2022. (212(a)(11) migration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(A).
In 1893 the Congress restored some personal property to the Saints, and in 1896, after statehood, the escheated real estate was restored to the Church. But the laws of escheat and more, applying to territories, stayed on the books. The 19th Amendment adopted in 1919 granted women suffrage or the vote, which the Congress had previously banned 4 decades earlier among the Saints’ sisters.
Congress’ 1894 Enabling Act for Utah statehood, required Utah to ban polygamy in the Utah Constitution. ln 2013, a US District Court suit by celebrity stars of ‘Sister Wives’ ruled the Utah state constitution provision on polygamy unconstitutional. However checking, the Utah law still is listed as of 2022. Congress also required Utah to give up its claim of right and title to public lands. This was to hem in the Saints. These same two clauses appear nearly word for word in the Oklahoma Constitution adopted in 1907 under the title Federal Regulations (Art I – Sec. I-1,2). ‘’In 1888, Congress required the passage of anti-polygamy amendments for new territories as a condition of statehood in only four states, each of them a western state where Mormons might settle. 24’’ as noted by Justice Scalia. See Undeclared war at end for reference.
From the 1898 Spanish American War, the United States acquired Guam and Puerto Rico, besides Cuba and Philippines. Pago Pago Samoa’s port, having been used by the Navy since the 1860s, was ceded by the Chiefs (Matais) to the United States in 1900. In 1917 the Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark. These four territories continued under the Morrill to Edmunds Tucker Acts until the $50,000 religious limit was repealed by Congress in 1978. Thus, as far as the sanction on religious property goes, the residual effects of the limit continued from after 1978 to 2022, with the dedication of a temple in Guam, and construction of temples in Puerto Rico and Pago Pago. The polygamy exclusions continue.
Thus was the status of the sanctions before, during, and continuing the Saints and Utah War.
Now what about the Utah War in 1857?
The Newspapers, just in New York City, in the year 1857, were the New York Herald, New York Tribune, and New York Times. They had 2400 entries for ‘Mormon.’ That is an average of 800 per paper, and just under an average of 3 entries every day. The active Army troop movements and dispatches were reported in full, and because of the active coverage, the newspaper editors or publishers, must have thought there was continual interest in the subject of war.
The newspapers, as scanned, OCR and listed with newspapers.com covered the Saints in New Orleans, Charleston South Carolina, Rutland Vermont, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland Ohio, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Buffalo New York, Atlanta Georgia. The Saints were also covered in England, London, and Liverpool. The interest in the Mormon Gold Bible began by 1830, and eventually included such detail, as the emigration of Saints from East to America, and then after 1847 to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The details included numbers of immigrants passing through towns and reported to the newspapers by telegraph. The numbers reported may be 300 in Cleveland, 500 in Pittsburgh, and any numbers in between, amounting to a count of 3 to 5 thousand or more, year after year. The English papers would pick up the emigrants and report their movements, causing a stir among the English readers. A famous report was made by Charles Dickens, the renowned novelist and prolific writer, wherein he visited the port at Southhampton to report on the movement of religious fanatics to America to join with the Saints. Dickens was so prolific, as his books filled many linear feet of book shelves, to cause the ‘meme’ ‘where in Dickens did you find that?’ to imply the discovery of an obscure fact or important event.
The English papers reported the birth of babies on the ships transporting families to join the Saints in Salt Lake. That is detail. The papers were certainly gossip. But let’s also assume the papers thought the readers interested in the ‘Mormons’, and it sold papers to have the stories. One example was a New York City newspaper reporting the birth of Westmoreland Garff on the ship Westmoreland, the ship obviously being the inventive for the name given to the little Saint. The Garff family had a tradition in the 21st century of a baby born on a ship enroute, and the discovery of the newspaper clipping confirmed the birth.
Overwhelmingly the newspaper article writers described the emigrants as deluded, poor, low class, lazy, thieves, ignorant, disgusting, dangerous, and worse. The leaders were frauds, tricksters, liars, imposters, criminals, traitors, treasonous. The women were enslaved. The members were held as hostages, unable to escape, illiterate, arsonists, cowards. But thousands, and tens of thousands, came out of the eastern states, north and south, and from across the Atlantic, moving toward the Utah Nevada territory. Seldom or never did the reviewed newspapers articles report the cost of transport. To pay for passage across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York (or Boston, or other east coast sea port) was a years wage for each person. One person, one year’s wage. Such toll continued until the Steam ships began to take over the routes from Great Sail, about 1877. Figure these costs – food for a passenger for 6 weeks, plus space on the ship. Two centuries earlier the Pilgrims of the Mayflower had English sponsors to pay the passage for 120 pilgrims setting up shop in Plymouth, and keep the ship in port for 6 months during the winter of 1620. The cost of transport from New York to Salt Lake was another years wage. Although the trip New York to Utah was not across an ocean, and it could be traveled on foot, if the hiker had the fortitude and time, access to food and water, weapons, maps or directions.
How hard could it be? The newspaper writers condemning the Saints had, for nearly three decades, expressed their disgust at Joseph Smith, the Golden Bible, and then Brigham Young. The hue and cry to send an army, hang a few hundred leaders and disperse the remaining Saints was loud and continuous. And if the Saints would not disperse, hunt them down. How hard could it be? If The Saints were known to have walked across the prairie to Salt Lake Valley, an Army could certainly do the same. If the Saints were so ignorant and lazy to make the trip, a disciplined Army would have no problem arriving in a few months from August, to invade before the winter snows set in.
If the lazy Saints could exist on a few crops, pigs, sheep and cattle, a well supplied Army could make the trip. The distance from Kansas to Salt Lake was a little more than half the distance to California, and had not the 49ers made the trip by the tens and hundreds of thousands? Yes. The Saints would not put up much of a fight. Hadn’t that been so in Ohio, then Missouri, and later Illinois, which expelled them all within recent memory? The Saints were cowards, and so it was said over and over. The war would be cheap, and it gave the Army something to do. Deluded, ignorant, lazy, thieves, cut throats, low class. Those were the occupants in the Mid continent mountain ranges. Just How hard could it be? And if there was resistance, that would be the excuse to pound all the harder, a slaughter of extermination.
Eventually, an 1858 newspaper writer of the day, asked the question? Where are they (the Saints) getting all this money to move 30 thousand, 50 thousand, or 100 thousand emigrants to the Rocky Mountains? Weren’t they Poor, slothful, lazy? Where did they get the money? Crossing the Atlantic for One way trip was one year’s wage. Five tickets, five years wages. He didn’t know the answer.
The US census of 1850 recorded the Saints only as it was from 1847, and missed the tens of thousands that had come from between 1850 to 1857. The Eastern newspaper estimates of how many were in Utah territory varied from 30 thousand on low end to 100 thousand on the upper side. The population of the enemy is a number an invading army would like to have. The estimates of gold seekers going to California in 1849 was 50,000, coming overland from the Oregon trail, or by ship around the Cape Horn or Tierra del Fuego, or from the south along the Mormon battalion route. Based on the California immigration, the number in Utah of even a hundred thousand was not unreasonable, even if unknown. The California population in 1850 was listed as 92 thousand, and 260 thousand in 1852. Some reports have Salt Lake City’s population set at 6 thousand in 1850, and 40 thousand by 1860.
Then, still back in England, after watching for a full generation from about 1837 to 1857, of regular ships being chartered to transport families, by the hundreds, into the thousands, to America for delivery to the Saints in Salt Lake, the 1858 papers began to ask? Where are our priests in England to prevent the deluded from leaving? Didn’t England have many dissenting religions to cover across the horizon of spiritual needs? Church of England, Catholics, Protestants, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Unitarians, Jews, dissenters of all types? And yet the Saints’ Missionaries from America continually gleaned through the fields of Europe to bring the deluded hope and comfort in America. Over and Over. With little or no reduction in sight of missionary success. With the cost of one way travel England to New York being the equivalent of a year’s wages.
The army of Utah started in Fort Leavenworth Kansas in June 1857 with 3,000 troops. Gradually desertions were reported by the English newspapers reducing the troops to 2500, then 1700, and by October 1857, the English newspapers reported troop strength at 700, and then stopped reporting desertions. The desertions of the Utah army has to have set some kind of desertion record for the US Army. Probably 300 remained for the entry and march into Salt Lake City the next June. But the reports did not list the number. Eventually, about 5,000 troops passed through Camp Douglas until 1861, when called back for the civil war.
The disastrous Donner Party Sierra Nevada mountain range blizzard which resulted in a few dozen frozen to death pioneers in 1845, with cannibalism, was widely reported in the east. Ten feet of snow and ten days killed all the Donner cattle, mules, horses, or they wandered off during the blizzard. Regular tales of Indian depredations, and starvation on the high plains were reported by the press. Then in January 31, 1857, the New York Tribune reported deaths of 1200 Saints in the Willie and Martin handcart companies frozen on the plains, with an eyewitness of the Army lieutenant traveling west to east, carrying the names to Fort Leavenworth. These companies had been counted and followed from England. That was what the east believed. In summary, the trip across the plains was a ‘death march.’ And not in a good way, and not a nomination for an award.
The Utah Expedition might be compared to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea after Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
The Army moved on its stomach and the stomachs’ of 3,000 mules. The New York City papers reported that the grass had been burned for a distance of 200 miles east of Utah, in any direction. The army expected to rely on the grass as forage for the animals, transport beasts, and for cattle to eat. A meme is ‘eat like a horse’ which refers to fact that a horse, or mule, eats 4 times that of a cow or ox. The bovines have 4 stomachs to extract as much protein from the grass at it contains. Grass hay has about 8% protein and 31% fiber, with alfalfa and clover being the richest in protein at 12 to 15 percent. Since the grass was burned, the forage had to be hauled for hundreds of miles. The result was that the mules started starving to death at the rate of thirty then a hundred of day. By January 1858, the remnants of the army was eating ‘mule steak’ from the dead and frozen mules. The mules were already starving from lack of forage. No point in wasting the meat, or gristle.
The Saints organized companies of 40 or 50 men to raid the Army, to burn grass, and to stampede cattle or horses. The Saints were able to intercept a large cattle herd, of 300 to 1000 head, which deprived the army of ready beef. The Utah Army had to send a company, about October 1857, south to Denver to gather more supplies, and return with food in the spring of 1858, after the snows.
The Saints’ raiders intercepted a supply wagon train of 75 wagons, either ahead or lagging, a week or two ahead or behind the main Army. Each wagon held two and a half tons of supplies and had two or three teamsters. The Saints put the 200 or so, teamsters on 5 wagons with supplies to keep them alive to be sent and to make the trek back east a thousand miles, from where they came. The rest of the 70 wagons were burned, destroying 175 tons of supplies. The result was the army was denied expected supplies, and learned, in the future, it had to have escort for supply shipments. This meant more escort horses to feed, and escort troops to supply for transporting the supplies. The Army considered the attack on supplies as an act of war. Surprise, surprise. The irony of it all, an invading army sent to exterminate an entire people, and the loss of their supplies was an act of war, and not self defense.
The escort lesson was one from the American Revolution, when the British marched on Lexington and Concord in 1775 to seize the Colonials’ weapon magazines. The Minute Men were alerted by Paul Revere and his companion, and lined up on each side of the road from Cambridge to Concord. For the 3 or 4 hour retreat the Colonials fired on the Red Coats from behind stone fences and trees. Firing their muskets, then running up the route toward Boston, to take position and fire again. For the rest of the war, the British had to have mounted cavalry riding escort on each side of marching infantry in order to prevent similar fire by snipers and sharp shooters against the marching infantry. This greatly reduced the mobility of the British and increase greatly the British costs of military operations. Lesson learned by the British, to be relearned 75 years later by the US.
The location of the Saints in the Great basin of the Salt Lake was an act of God, when it came to defending the Saints from an invading army. In 1846, Sam Brannan hired a ship from the east coast, with a company of Saints, took it from the Atlantic to Pacific to Hawaii and eventually to San Francisco bay and California. Brannan crossed back over the Sierra Nevada mountain range in to the Salt Lake Valley (then Deseret) and pitched upper California to Brigham Young as the center of Zion. But the Salt Lake Valley was the vision and destination which the Lord set up, and Brigham followed the Lord’s will. This location was protected by the Wasatch mountains, and by range after range of mountains to the east, the Rockies, and to the west, by the Sierra Nevada, and by deserts to the South and west. This natural protection would come in handy a decade later, when war was undeclared. As the Army of Utah became bogged down on the Continental divide, at 8,000 feet, the snows were several feet deep, and thaw and refreeze created a crust which could support a man, but not a mule. So the Army supplies had to be hauled a hundred miles by man power without the use of mules, over the crusted snow.
The army dispatches reported it was only able to move a mile a day by October 1857, when it was still 120 miles from Salt Lake City. Not going to make the Great Salt Lake before winter of 1858! The alternatives for the Army were to go north to the Snake River valley and come down South through the Beaver lake pass, which added another 600 plus miles from Fort Bridger. Going north meant even more northern snow, before reaching into Salt Lake valley. Or, the army could swing south through Denver, to Albuquerque, and west to San Bernardino California, and up through the Virgin River, for an additional 1200 miles or more. The third route is San Francisco, over the Sierra Nevada range, thru the Donner pass, and 400 miles across the Humboldt desert to Salt Lake a distance of about 800 miles east of San Francisco. The shortest direct route thru immigration canyon was easier to defend against an invading army. High cliffs on each side of the narrow canyon meant ten could chase an hundred or thousand, as needed.
Even by October, and certainly by November 1857, the Utah Expedition was considered by most in the Army or back East, as being on a death march. This observation was not without reason. It was based on the Donner party cannibalism a little over a decade earlier. They remembered the 1857 New York Tribune report of the total extinction of the Willie and Martin handcart company of 1200 pioneers, frozen to death in January 1857. So in the spring of 1858, a son of an Army General was assigned to the Utah relief column and the General asked the President Buchanan or Secretary of War to reassign his son away from the Utah war. The request made it into the papers. The Utah Expedition was considered a death march. Very embarrassing.
The Utah Army commander was Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, later General. He sent regular dispatches back east from the Army in the Continental divide, or Nebraska Territory with the expression that although difficult, with weather, half rations, cold, exposure, and wind, that everything was well enough and the army would continue into Utah in the Spring months. Then the dispatch, having expressed optimism, would end with a ‘send reinforcements’. ‘Everything is well, send reinforcements.’ ‘Managing everything, send reinforcements.’ ‘We are wintering in tents, managing, send reinforcements.’
General Johnston, in 1861, after chasing the Saints as traitors and treasoners, resigned his U.S. commission and was appointed commander in chief of the Confederate forces. Johnston was wounded in his leg at the battle of Shiloh and bled out and died. Johnston’s replacement was General Robert E Lee, who remained as Commander until the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse Virginia in 1865.
The Utah Army hoped to seize and winter at Fort Bridger which the Saints had purchased from the fort’s owner Jim Bridger. The fort was built in 1842 as a trading post and relief on the Oregon trail. The Saints had made extensive expansion of the fort up until 1857. When the Utah Army came within a two week march of the fort, the fort was burned to the ground. This left the Army to weather the winter of 1858 in tents and lean-tos. Some wives accompanied their soldier husbands and the civilian officers sent to replace Governor Young. Little record was made of the wifes’ expressions. What could they have been?
The Saints claimed a three year supply of food stored in the mountains from which they would draw, to fight to maintain their valley. The summer of 1857, as the crop came in, the papers reported farmers claiming 92 bushels per acre harvest. You had to be a farmer to catch the significance of such a report. City folk would not pick up on the miracle. The paper did not relate that a successful harvest in the 21st century is 22 to 25 bushels per acre. So the harvest the summer of 1857 was equivalent to more than 3 years expected harvest. Similar to Joseph of Egypt and the 7 years of plenty ahead of the 7 years of famine, in the book of Genesis.
Buchanan’s Blunder. The clouds of war evolved in the summer of 1857. President Buchanan took office in March 1857, President elect Buchanan called for troops to assemble in Kansas by February 1857. Rumors of troop movements confirmed the target was Utah. A returning Elder Abraham Smoot, and others learned of the troops, and hurried to report to Utah to report in July 1857. Brigham Young closed the eastern states meeting houses, asking the elders to all return to Utah Territory. San Bernardino settlement was closed, and missionaries were called back from Europe and England. New settlements were established, Washington in 1857 in Washington County. Salt Lake was evacuated and families sent to Provo, about 40 miles south, and at least 2 days hard riding, at 20 miles a day. The Saints had to winter from October 1857 to June 1858 outside of Salt Lake City, until they could return.
Lot Smith, Orrin Porter Rockwell, and Wild Bill Hickman were among those named as Saints raiders. Lot Smith is the name of the Utah chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, as the rightful Grand Army of the Republic.
The newly appointed Federal judge, by October 1857, was trapped on the Continental divide in Nebraska Territory, and created a Grand Jury and indicted for treason about 7 dozen church and political leaders, to be tried as traitors, if caught. The paper columnists wanted them executed and the rest of the saints exterminated, similar to Missouri’s governor Boggs’ order. They were named in the indictments. The Continental Divide, in then Nebraska Territory, now Wyoming, is 8,000 feet, with mountains visible at even higher altitude. It has the appearance of a valley or broad meadow, the altitude makes it anything but. Denver is at 5,200 feet and brags as the mile high city. Salt Lake City’s altitude is at 4,000 feet. The judge recruited some of the troops sitting around Fort Bridger and conducted a Grand Jury to indict for treason the top 80 or so leaders of the Church. The newspapers hoped for quick convictions when the army ever got into Salt Lake Valley.
The west bound mails were cancelled, so the Saints did not have regular reports of the invading army or eastern politics. Among other things, they did not receive the newspaper reports. The Church continued with and had as a designee a Representative to Congress, who stayed in Washington lobbying and presenting the Church’s position against invasion and war.
The Utah war was half of the US federal budget between 1858 and 1860. The newspapers printed the budget to the penny. There was a depression between 1856 and 1858, when the size of the cent was reduced from about a half dollar size copper to the small cent size still used today in 2022.
Thomas Kane, Colonel, sought to help diffuse the war preparations, upon request of Brigham Young. Kane went to Washington, received authority to mediate for President Buchanan, and took a ship from New York to Darien, later styled the Isthmus of Panama, crossed the isthmus to the Pacific Ocean, and sailed to California. From San Bernardino California, and he turned north thru the Virgin river Saint George to arrive in Salt Lake City. Newspaper accounts reported of those who tried to stop Kane, even though he was an envoy of President Buchanan. The newspaper reports overwhelmingly wanted war, not peace, attack, not accommodation. As such Kane traveled under disguise. By February 1858, Kane had Brigham Young’s confidence in Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake, Kane went east over the mountain pass with a 50 mounted Saint Escort to the US Army camp at Fort Bridger. Kane persuaded Governor Cumming that it was safe for the Governor and his wife to come ahead into the Valley. Col. Johnston refused an Army escort for Cumming, so the Saints escorted him into the valley. Cumming found the Saints prepared to do battle, but still loyal, and Cumming ordered Johnston to move the army to a location 40 miles west of Salt Lake City, which occurred in June 1858.
The Eastern paper columnists who wanted to destroy the Saints were frustrated that President Fillmore appointed Brigham Young governor of Utah Territory in 1850. The papers began a drum beat to get the next President, Franklin Pierce, to send in the army to chase down the Saints, but nothing happened. The election of November 1856 saw Buchanan as the new President, and for the next 4 and a half months the papers sought immediate war against the Saints. Buchanan was inaugurated March 1857. The papers supposed the war would be short and victorious to eradicate the Saints.
As the 1857 troop movements were reported by dispatches, the eastern columns began to speculate as to where the surviving Saints, if any, would be removed. Speculation included Vancouver island in Canada, if the Queen of England would have them. Vancouver, at 31 thousand square kilometers, or 20 thousand square miles, was about the area of South Carolina. Other locations were Mexico, and New Guinea across the ocean. No discussion for payment of the Saints removing from Utah territory was considered. The cost to go overseas, over the pacific would have been comparable to crossing the Atlantic, or more. Eventually saints did immigrate to both Canada and Mexico, during the 1880s persecution for plural marriage.
As Salt Lake City was evacuated, the houses were filled with hay, to burn quickly. And as the Army passed through the city, Saints with lit torches stood ready to burn the town to the ground if the army attempted to seize the buildings. This was June 1858. An army Captain, Van Vliet, visited Salt Lake City in September 1857 and went east through Johnston’s army. Van Vliet was convinced the Saints would resist invasion, had the means, and will.
Panic of 1857.
The summer of 1857 saw the suspension of payments on August 24, 1857 by the Ohio Life company, after the railroad stocks prices peaked. The event was described as the Panic of 1857. The commercial credit dried up and indebted merchants stopped buying. The Railroads began to stop, some filed bankruptcy. By October 1857, one Railroad cut wages by ten percent, mortgage on western farms defaulted. Grain prices which were $2.19 a bushel in 1855, dropped to 80 cents a bushel by 1858. Those farmers who bought land on credit to grow more higher priced grain, could not meet the payments at lower prices. The Dred Scott decision of March 1857, by which the Supreme Court ruled the Congress could not prohibit slavery in Territories, reopened settled disputes about Slavery, particularly whether Kansas would be a free or slave state.
In the meantime, the Utah Territory legislature and Governor Young were issuing proclamations and orders directing the affairs here and there.
The Salt Lake Valley at 4,000 foot altitude is about half the altitude of the continental divide in what became Wyoming. Reportedly, the atmospheric temperature drops three and a half degrees for every thousand foot change in altitude. So whatever the temperature was in Salt Lake, it was 15 degrees colder at the continental divide.
Apparently it never occurred to the Eastern papers that the veterans of the ‘Mormon Battalion’ of the 1847 to 1848 Mexican War, only a decade earlier, were still around. Probably most, if not all, were living in the mountain west around or in the great basin of the Salt Lake. They had more than a full year of military training, drill, and life, to reflect on. These veterans, although they did not out number the Army at first, perhaps did so, after the Army desertions, of the fall of 1857 and winter of 1858.
Indeed, upon reflection, the Utah war was a running continuation of the Mormon war which started in 1826 and blew as a hot war and as a cold war for nearly the next two centuries. The scriptures tell of war in heaven, in Revelations, wherein the dragon, or Satan drew off a third of the host of heaven. The war is mentioned in Jude. Upon hearing of a new revealed religion, the national newspapers began reporting slander and ruin upon the tiny faith. The war blew hot in New York and Pennsylvania, so the leaders began relocating first to Ohio by 1831, and then Missouri about the same time. Twice mobs attacked the Saints in Missouri, murdering whom they could, using legal process, if able, and if not, resorting to powder and ball. By 1838 Missouri was abandoned with tremendous loss of property and life for the Saints. The building up in Illinois was short lived, and Illinois was a center of armed mobs chasing the Saints, and eventually murdering the Presidents of the Church, the Smith brothers. Illinois was abandoned in 1846, with all who could leave, left within a few years. The temple in Ohio was lost to litigation claims. The temple in Illinois was burned and blown by weather.
After the invasion in 1857- 1858 was settled, matters quieted down the active threats of armed violence. The US Army occupied Camp Floyd until recalled east because of secession and the outbreak of the wars between the United States and the Confederacy in 1861. Twenty years of relative quiet resulted in the continental railroad, and growth of the Saints economy, with a few arrests and trials, some fines, threats, and prosecutions. After Brigham Young died in 1877, the hew and cry to crush the Saints began again. This time, the Federal Government and Congress passed a series of laws against the Church, between 1862 and 1887, referred to as the Morrill Act of 1862, the Edmunds Act of 1882, and the Edmunds Tucker Act of 1887 (herein the series of the Edmunds Tucker Acts). The Act purportedly targeted territories only, not States, with laws whose purpose was once again to destroy the church. The Act exempted the territory of Alaska. One provision was that the Federal government would escheat any religious property worth more than $50,000 in any territory, but not state. The target was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The only territory property so seized was that of the Church. The Federal government seized temple square then rented it back to the Church. The Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893.
The War of 1861 to 1865 was so contentious the Congress has never named it. It has been referred to as the American Civil War (National Park Service), the War between the States, the War of the Southern Rebellion, the War of Northern Aggression, War for the Union (Choates in America), War of the Rebellion (War Department’s 128 volume series)
After the American Civil war, Alaska, or Russian America, was purchased, adding territory to the former Mexican jurisdiction, and as mentioned, Alaska was exempted from series of the Edmunds Tucker Act. Hawaii was acquired or annexed in 1893 and exempted from the series of the Edmunds Tucker Act. Pago Pago (locally pronounced and referred to as ‘PoNgo’) Samoa by an 1877 treaty became a territory, the Virgin Islands were purchased in 1917. Perhaps because of the panic of 1893, and weariness over the generations old contention between the Saints and Gentiles, Utah was eventually admitted as a state in 1896, and as a state the escheat law of Edmunds Tucker no longer applied to church property in Utah, as a state. Previous temples built in Utah Territory, Logan, Manti, Saint George, and Salt Lake were all started before the Act of 1887. The Laie Hawaii Territory temple was not subject to Edmunds Tucker Act, because Congress exempted first Alaska and then Hawaii territories from the $50,000 escheat of series of the Edmunds Tucker Acts.
After the Spanish American war in 1899, Guam, Wake, Marianas, Cuba and Philippines were acquired, first captured, then ceded. Cuba was given Independence by 1902, so shortly as it was not under Territory status, so Edmunds-Tucker Acts did not apply to Cuba, except for the polygamy exclusion. The Philippines also became independent after World War Two. By 1960, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Alaska and Hawaii territories had become states. Cuba and Philippines had become independent.
But the series of Edmunds Tucker Acts were in effect and applied to American Samoa, Guam, Marianas, Virgin Islands, Panama Canal Zone, and probably Puerto Rico. The Law Clerk, Executive Research and Legal Specialist for the High Court of American Samoa in 1973, called attention to this statute, left over the from persecution and Utah war time laws. The Act would apply to any temple, which are worth many multiples of the $50,000 floor cited in the Act. Five years of letter writing and lobbying were required to gain attention to this ignored and sleeping statute. It was still on the books and good law until President Kimball announced a temple in Samoa in 1977. And then the law clerk, who had returned to the state as a Tax law professor was contacted and told to send in everything he had. Thereupon Congressman K Gunn McKay, and a legislative staff member, Marcus Faust, submitted the repeal. Congress repealed the escheat provision in 1978. 48 U.S. Code § 1480 to 1480b – Repealed. Pub. L. 95–584, § 1, Nov. 2, 1978, 92 Stat. 2483. The polygamy exclusion for immigration continued. The proposed 1978 Samoa temple was moved to Apia, western Samoa, a sovereign nation.
Forty four years later, 22 May 2022, the Yigo Guam temple was dedicated. The first temple dedicated in a United States Territory subject to the series of Edmunds Tucker Acts (1862, 1882, 1887). The San Juan Puerto Rico temple began ground breaking the same day as the Yigo Guam temple. The Pago Pago (locally pronounced and referred to as ‘PoNgo) American Samoa Temple began construction with an estimated completion of mid-2024. The effects of the laws stimulated by the Utah War are beginning to be abated.
In 2000, a law review article from William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal acknowledged the obvious. ‘Furthermore, the prohibition of polygamy is merely a “remnant of abandoned doctrine,” ” namely the United States’ undeclared war on the Mormon Church.’ (THE ABSOLUTION OF REYNOLDS The Constitutionality of Religious Polygamy, p. 521.) In the earlier discussion on the Utah State Constitution, the Congress ordered 4 territories to ban polygamy and renounce claims in public lands as a price for statehood. This was noted at footnote 324 in the Absolution Journal article. 324 See Romer, 517 U.S. at 648 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (listing Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Oklahoma as the states where polygamy was forcibly outlawed by the federal government).
© Edmunds Tucker.
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