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|United States||Mormon settlers|
|Albert Sidney Johnston||Brigham Young
John D. Lee
The Utah War was a dispute between Mormon settlers in Utah Territory and the United States federal government. From 1857 to 1858, the Mormons and Washington each sought control over the government of the territory, with the national government victorious. One famous incident was the Mountain Meadows massacre, which was a massacre of unarmed California-bound settlers from Arkansas by Mormon militia.
In the Presidential Election of 1856 the Republicans attacked the "twin relics of barbarism"—polygamy and slavery. Newly elected President James Buchanan (a Democrat) opposed polygamy but more important he opposed theocratic dominance of Utah territory by the Mormon Church under Brigham Young as a violation of American principles. Buchanan appointed Alfred Cumming as the new governor and ordered the U.S. Army to escort Cumming to the Utah Territory.
 Troop movements
The U.S. troops marching toward Utah were originally led by Gen. William S. Harney, but Harney was forced to return to Kansas to deal with border skirmishes between Missouri and Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas build up to the American Civil War. Because of Harney's unavailability, Col. Edmund Alexander was charged with the first detachment of troops headed for Utah, only to later rendezvous with and relinquish command to Col. Albert Sidney Johnston. The Nauvoo Legion, a Utah militia commanded by Lot Smith and under Young's leadership, harassed the federal mission while under Alexander's command. It was only days after Col. Johnston took command of the combined U.S. forces that he decided to settle in at the burned out remains of Fort Bridger, Wyoming for the winter.
In spring, reinforcements arrived to resupply and strengthen the American military presence in Utah, but negotiations were already underway. Hearing of the potential conflict, Thomas L. Kane had contacted Buchanan and offered to mediate. As it was a heavy winter, he traveled under an alias to Utah by way of Panama, crossing the isthmus by railway, and taking a ship to southern California. He then went overland through San Bernardino to Salt Lake City, arriving in February 1858. Kane persuaded Young to accept Buchanan's appointment of Cumming as Territorial governor, and to present no opposition to the troops acting as escort. Kane then traveled to the winter base at Fort Bridger, and persuaded Governor Cumming to travel to Salt Lake City without his military escort. Cumming was courteously received by Young and Utah residents, and was shortly installed in his new office.
By the time Governor Cumming was securely placed in office, the Utah War had become an embarrassment for President Buchanan. Called Buchanan's Blunder by elements of the national press, the President was criticized for:
- failing to officially notify Governor Young about his replacement,
- sending troops without investigating the reports on Utah's disloyalty to the United States,
- dispatching the expedition late in the season, and
- failing to provide an adequate resupply train for the winter.
In response to public opinion, Buchanan sent two peace commissioners to Utah. Arriving in June 1858, Ben McCullock and Issac Powell carried a global pardon to the Latter-day Saints, if they would reaffirm their loyalty to the federal government. Indignant, the Latter-day Saints insisted they had never been disloyal. Arthur P. Welchman, member of a company of missionaries recalled due to the war, wrote in his travel journal: June -- On the head-waters of the Sweet-Water, met Grosebecks' camp going to Platt Bridge for a train of goods. By these Brethren we had a proclamation from President Buchannan(sic) to the Inhabitants of Utah read to us. It was so full of lies, and showed so much meanness, that it elicited three groans from the company. However, President Young and the people of Utah accepted the pardon to establish peace in the territory.
The people of Utah lost much during the brief period of conflict. Suspicious and fearful, Young and the Saints made plans to abandon their fields, orchards, businesses and homes and destroy them if the army should invade Utah territory. Scouts had identified new areas for settlement in central and southern Utah and in the White Mountains of Arizona. Up to 30,000 Latter-day Saints boarded up their homes, packed their property, and began to move south. Historians James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard wrote:
- It was an extraordinary operation. As the Saints moved south they cached all the stone cut for the Salt Lake Temple and covered the foundations to make it resemble a plowed field. They boxed and carried with them twenty thousand bushels of tithing grain, as well as machinery, equipment, and all the Church records and books. The sight of thirty thousand people moving south was awesome, and the amazed Governor Cumming did all he could to persuade them to return to their homes. Brigham Young replied that if the troops were withdrawn from the territory, the people would stop moving.... (Allen/Leonard p. 308)
Once the troops had peacefully passed through Salt Lake City and settled in a permanent base, Camp Floyd, near Fairfield in Cedar Valley, west of Utah Lake, Young personally led a large group of Saints back into northern Utah and the Salt Lake Valley. However, the settler's livelihoods and economic well being were seriously impacted. Field crops had been ignored for up to two months and livestock had been culled for the journey. Poverty would be widespread in the territory for several years.
Utah was under military occupation. Historian Leonard J. Arrington noted that "the cream of the United States Army" jeered and reviled the Utah settlers. Relations between the troops, their commanders and the Mormons were tense. However, settlers living near the 7,000 troops quartered in Cedar Valley did sell farm produce and manufactured goods to the troops. In addition, when the army finally abandoned Camp Floyd in 1861, surplus goods worth an estimated four million dollars were auctioned off for a fraction of their value.
 Timeline of events
- July 24, 1847: Mormon Pioneers found Salt Lake City as the first city of Deseret.
- February 2, 1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by the U.S. and Mexico, granting the region of Deseret to the U.S.
- September 9, 1850: The Great Compromise of 1850 is signed into law, creating the Utah Territory and appointing Brigham Young governor.
- June 29, 1857: U.S. President James Buchanan declares Utah in rebellion of the U.S. government. Buchanan appoints Alfred Cumming as governor of Utah. Cumming is to be escorted by a regiment of the U.S. army, initially led by Col. Edmund Alexander.
- July 18, 1857: Two Mormons, Porter Rockwell and Abraham Owen Smoot, learn of Buchanan's declaration in Kansas City while on a mail run. The same day, Col. Alexander and troops begin the journey to Utah.
- July 23, 1857: Rockwell and Smoot arrive in Salt Lake City and inform Brigham Young of the government's plans.
- August 28, 1857: Col. Johnston is ordered to replace Gen. Harney in command of the U.S. troops.
- September 11, 1857 - A group of Mormons in Southern Utah, led by John D. Lee, attack and kill a group of traveling civilians in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
- September 15, 1857: Brigham Young calls out the Nauvoo Legion to fight the U.S. Troops if they enter Utah Territory.
- September 18, 1857: Col. Johnston and troops leave Fort Leavenworth, Kansas headed for Utah.
- October 5, 1857: Lot Smith leads the Nauvoo Legion on a guerrilla-style attack on the provision wagons of the U.S. Army. Fifty-two wagons belonging to outfitters Russell, Majors and Waddell are burned. The government never reimburses the outfitters and in 1860 they form the Pony Express to earn a government mail contract to keep them from falling into bankruptcy.
- November 3, 1857: Col. Albert Sidney Johnston catches up with Col. Alexander and replaces him as commander. Johnston orders the regiment to spend the winter in Fort Bridger and to delay the move to Salt Lake City until next spring.
- March 23, 1858: Brigham Young implements a scorched earth policy. All faithful are ordered to move south to Provo and to prepare their homes in Salt Lake City for burning.
- April 12, 1858: The U.S. Army and Cumming arrive in Salt Lake City. Brigham Young surrenders the title of governor to Alfred Cumming.
 See also
- Mormon War (1838 Missouri)
- Extermination Order (1838 Missouri)
- Illinois Mormon War (1844-1845)
- Mormon Exodus (1846-1857)
- Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (1862)
- Poland Act (1874)
- Reynolds v. United States (1879)
- Edmunds Act (1882)
- Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887)
- The Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. United States (1890)
- 1890 Manifesto
- Smoot Hearings (1903-1907)
- ^ Poll, Richard D., and Ralph W. Hansen. ""Buchanan's Blunder" The Utah War, 1857-1858." Military Affairs (Lexington, VA) 25, 3 (1961): 121-131.
- Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, UT, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6.
- Arrington, Leonard J. Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958, reprinted by University of Illinois Press, October 2004. ISBN 0-252-02972-0.
- Fleek, Sherman L. "The Church and the Utah War, 1857-1858," Robert Freeman, ed., Nineteenth Century Saints at War, Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006.
- (1)Poll, Richard D., and Ralph W. Hansen. ""Buchanan's Blunder" The Utah War, 1857-1858." Military Affairs (Lexington, VA) 25, 3 (1961): 121-131.