Mountain Meadows Massacre
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During these years whose happenings we have been recording, there has been a community existing in the centre of our region that we have barely noticed. Their history, at any period, is a subject which a conscientious writer approaches unwillingly, for it involves a certain consideration of the merits of Mormonism and the Mormons, and that means wholesale denunciation, almost always of the Mormons, and very frequently of their enemies. Sweeping accusations must be made, and these, he knows, weaken alike the testimony of a witness, the plea of an orator, and the statement of an author. It is repugnant to man to believe that the majority of mankind are evil, and it is contrary to ordinary experience that any large class or sect of men should be radically bad. Besides this, all candid men will admit that the Mormons have at times been treated badly; that the killing of Joseph Smith, their prophet, was one of the most disgraceful murders ever known in this country; and that they were driven from their homes in Missouri and Illinois under circumstances of cruel severity. But candid men must also admit that past suffering is no excuse for continuing crime, and, leaving out of consideration all of their offenses that preceded or followed it, it has not fallen, nor shall fall, to the lot of any man to record a more atrocious crime than that of the Mountain Meadows. For this crime all Mormondom has voluntarily shown itself responsible, offering no excuse but fanaticism and revenge; and, worse than nothing as these excuses are, the moral obliquity of the deed is, if possible, increased by the desire of plunder, which was also an actuating motive.
To themselves, the Mormons are, of course, justified in any act that is approved by their priesthood. They are the chosen people whose inheritance is the earth, and in spoiling the Gentiles they are simply taking their own. They are the appointed agents of a vengeful God, and can do nothing but their duty in obeying his mandates, as pronounced by his holy prophets. They are under a “higher law” and the direct control of an inspired guide. They carry the higher law theory farther than even the extreme Jesuits, and in this dogma center all the objectionable features of their religion. When any sect receives a dispensation which permits its members to transgress the laws of man, and the commonly recognized laws of God, “for righteousness” sake “- whenever it publicly confesses that it owns no obligation of truthfulness, or honesty, or humanity, to outsiders – it has put itself outside the pale of our civilization, and can no longer justly complain of the lawlessness of any person. More than that, none of its members can consistently ask to be believed in any statement, except its truth be otherwise established, and this is the only safe rule of procedure with the testimony of Mormons or persons who have ever been Mormons. It will be made manifest, in the course of this chapter that Mormon declarations and oaths are worth less than the breath in which they are uttered, or the paper on which they are written. It does not follow that everything said against them is to be believed, nor that they cannot tell the truth when it is to their interest to do so; but it is evident that their statements must be received with the utmost caution. Put it in what language you may, no really harsher criticism of their veracity can be made than their own claims of obedience to a “higher law.”
When the Mormons left Nauvoo it was not certain where they were going. They profess to have moved under divine guidance, which all may believe who choose. The common understanding was that they were going to California, and a statement to that effect was commonly made in newspapers at the time. It is known also that Governor Ford, of Illinois, gave Brigham Young a copy of Fremont’s report of his second and third expeditious, and recommended him to go to some of the larger valleys of the Wahsatch. However that may have been, a party of explorers went out in 1847 and selected a place and a path for the mass of the people, who did not seem ready to trust divine guidance without an exploring expedition ahead. The Great Basin, in which they settled, was not wholly a desert, as they have claimed and as has been too commonly believed. Colonel Fremont had examined it carefully several years before the Mormons came, and he said of it: “Partly arid and sparsely inhabited, the general character of the Great Basin is that of a desert, but with great exceptions, there being many parts of it very fit for the residence of a civilized people; and, of these parts, the Mormons have lately established themselves in one of the largest and best. Mountain is the predominating structure of the interior of the basin, with plains between – the mountains wooded and watered the plains arid and sterile. . . . These mountains had very uniformly this belt of alluvion, the wash and abrasion of their sides, rich in excellent grass, fertile and light, and loose enough to absorb small streams.” Much of the land then considered sterile has since been made fruitful by irrigation, but it is erroneous to suppose that cultivation and improvement have been more rapid in Utah than in other equally sterile parts of the West. The contrary is the case.
The Indians who inhabited this country were diverse in character, although originally of the same stock and speaking dialects of the same language – the Shoshonee or Snake Indians. They have three principal divisions, the Snakes proper, the Bannocks, and the Utes, but these relate only to race. In tribal government they were separated into more than a hundred small bands, each entirely independent. The country was divided among them in small districts, the boundaries being fixed by natural monuments. Only the principal divisions can be noticed here. The Eastern Snakes ranged from the South Pass to Bear River and Wind River; they numbered one hundred and twenty-five lodges, and subsisted largely on buffalo meat, for which reason they are called Kool-sa-ti-ka-ra, or Buffalo Eaters. They have been very reliable in their friendship to Americans, their chief, Wash-i-kee (Gambler’s Gourd), otherwise known as Pina-qua-na (Smell of Sugar), having attained a wide notoriety on this account. He was a half breed, tall, well formed, superior to his people, and exercising strong control over them. The Took-a-ri-ka, or Mountain Sheep Eaters, ranged high up on the mountains, usually, and had little to do with the whites. They were an extraordinary people, building their rude houses above timber line on the mountain heights, and seeming doomed to so cheerless a life that the Canadian trappers gave them the name “les dignes de pitie,” or, the objects of pity. On the Salmon River was a milted band, largely of their people, which numbered fifty lodges. Its principal chief was Qui-tan-i-wa (Foul Hand) and his sub-chiefs were “Old Snag,” an Eastern Snake, and Grand Coquin, a Bannock. Their friendship was always questionable. The Western Snakes were in two main bands, one under Am-a-ro-ko (Buffalo Meat under the Shoulder), ranging on Camas Prairie, and the oilier under Po-ca-ta-ra (White Plume), ranging in the Goose Creek Mountains and on the Humboldt. They numbered about one hundred and fifty lodges, and wore on good terms with the Mormons, but not with, other whites. They are commonly called Sho-sho-kos, or “White Knives,” from the white flint knives they formerly used. A large band of the Bannocks ranging west of the Blue Mountains were known as the War-ra-ri-kas, or “Sunflower Seed Eaters. They numbered one hundred and fifty lodges, were commanded by Pa-chi-co (Sweet Root), a mighty medicine man, and were hostile when favorable opportunities occurred. In the neighborhood of Fort Boise were one hundred lodges of Bannocks, under Po-e-ma-chee-ah (Hairy Man), who were the most friendly of their race towards the Americans. Ranging about Salt Lake, especially on Bear River, was a band led by “Long Beard” and Pag-e-ah (The Man who Carries the Arrows), numbering about fifty lodges, and known variously as Ho-kan-di-ka, the Salt Lake Diggers, Southern Snakes, Mormon Snakes, or Cache Valley Indians. They were the worst of all these Indians, so far as Americans generally were concerned, but were hand-in-glove with the Mormons. Commonly associating with these were the Mo-pe-as, so called after their chief Mo-pe-ah (Bunch-of-Hair-in-the-Forehead), who boasted himself a friend of the Mormons. They numbered sixty lodges. The Utes were much the largest division, and held the country to the south of the other two, occupying practically all of Nevada, Utah, and the mountainous part of Colorado, with a considerable portion of Northern New Mexico. The eastern bands, the Tabequaches, Mohuaches, Grand Rivers, Capotes, Uintas, and others occupying the country east of the Wahsatch Mountains, were the best warriors among them; they were less influenced by the Mormons, and most friendly to Americans. The Pah-Utes, or Water-Utes, of the Sierra Nevada, and the western part of Nevada, commonly called the Monos and the Washoes, were also good warriors. Of intermediate grade were the Gosi-Utes (Goships, Goshoots) of Eastern Nevada, the Sanpitches (Sinpichi, or, as now corrupted in Utah, San Petes), Timpanagos, and others of Eastern Utah. The lowest as warriors were the Pah-Utes, or Pih-Utes of Southern Utah and the desert portions generally, several bands of miserable beings, who were getting into a more wretched state each generation, through starvation and their defenseless condition. They were decreasing in numbers, in stature, and in physical strength, and were constantly preyed upon by their neighbors. Their food consisted of snakes, lizards, roots” berries, grass seed, worms, crickets, grasshoppers, and, in short, anything that could be chewed, swallowed, and partly digested.
The Mormons had but little trouble with Indians, for they approached them as brothers and equals, without any desire to force civilization upon them. The Negroes, the descendants of accursed Ham, were originally barred from the Mormon heaven, though latterly a revelation has been made which lets them in, but the Indians were always brothers. They are “Lamanites,” the “remnant” of the lost tribes of Israel, lineal descendants of Abraham, sprays from the “fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall,” who are to be reclaimed by Mormon righteousness, and in due time to become “a fair and delight-some people.” The Mormons brought to the Indians a religion and customs differing in but one essential respect from what they already had, and that was obedience to the Mormon prophet. This duty was largely brought by presents (usually purchased with United States funds) and protection, and was further induced by missionary work and intermarriage. Their protection of the Indians who adhered to them was sufficient to prevent any punishment for their crimes. The case of the murders of Lieutenant Gunnison will illustrate this. Gunnison had wintered at Salt Lake in company with the remainder of Captain Stansbury’s party, and all had been treated kindly by the Mormons. Gunnison repaid their kindness by serving as a volunteer in their Indian war during the winter, and by eulogizing them in his reports. But in 1853 he was on a mission which the Mormons did not wish accomplished, that of selecting a route for a Pacific railroad by way of Salt Lake, and he, with seven of his party, were killed by the Indians near Sevier Lake. In 1854 Colonel Steptoe reached Salt Lake with a body of soldiers, captured the murderers of Gunnison, and brought them to trial. A clear case was made against them; the judge charged the jury that they must either be found not guilty or guilty of murder; and the Mormon jury returned a verdict of manslaughter. The highest possible sentence, three years’ imprisonment, was pronounced, but the murderers escaped “by oversight” of their jailers, and regained their tribes, where they remained undisturbed. The Mormons announced that they had treated Gunnison’s party well, as he testified himself, and that they had done all they could to bring his murderers to justice, to which facts they still point with pride.
The war in which Lieutenant Gunnison assisted was the only real trouble that the Mormons ever had with the Indians. At that time there were but two settlements in the beautiful borders of Utah Lake, one on the American Fork, and one on Provo River. The Indians there, a band of Pah-Utes, did not appreciate good treatment, and from begging went to robbing. Finding they were not punished, they attributed their safety to the cowardice of the Mormons, and became so bold as to shoot people who tried to hinder them from taking what they wanted. They little dreamed of the claws of the velvet paw they had been playing with. The people on the Provo sent for assistance, and one hundred and fifty men went to them from Salt Lake. They found the Indians posted in the brush and cottonwoods along the Provo, and fought them there for two days. Then Sunday came, and the Saints rested, as is their custom, while the Indians fled. On Monday secular occupation was resumed. The Indians at the southern end of the lake were first proceeded against, and about thirty of their warriors killed. They then returned to their first opponents, who had fled up a cañon, and killed all but seven or eight of their men. Some fifty women and children were taken prisoners and distributed among the settlements, but afterwards allowed to join other bands if they so desired. After this there was no trouble that could be dignified by the name of war. Brigham Young was governor and ex-officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The agents, farmers, and interpreters were all Mormons. It was repeatedly charged that all the government annuities were represented to the Indians to be Mormon gifts, and numerous official reports of this, based on the statements of the Indians and other evidence, show their truth. Pocatara told Superintendent Lander that “whenever he should feel certain that the White Father would treat him as well as Big-um (Brigham Young) did, then he would be the kindest friend to the Americans that they had ever known.” The hostile Indians in Utah were often accompanied and led by painted whites, and emissaries were kept constantly at work among the more remote tribes. While the troops were fighting Indians, who were furnished with Mormon guns and ammunition, in the Yakima country, the people of Southern California were holding mass meetings and denouncing the Mormon bishop, Tinney, who had been among the San Luis Rey and Carvilla Indians, telling them that the Mormons and Indians must act together against their common enemies, the Americans. While the Pelouses were receiving aid and bad counsel from Salt Lake, an Indian emissary to the Navahos, bearing letters which certified his conversion and membership of the Mormon Church, was taken in Kew Mexico, and confessed that he was sent by the Mormons to urge the Navahos to war. And so, in almost every war in the Rocky Mountains, the same complaint has been made, down to the last outbreak of the Utes in Colorado, when Ouray certified to its truth. To these charges no defense is made, except the denunciation of their authors as liars.
As might naturally be supposed, the Mormons did not feel kindly towards the people who had expelled them from their homes in the East and murdered their ”prophet,” and their friendship was not increased by the treatment which their missionaries occasionally received. But there was a more potent cause for their disloyalty than persecution, or mere allegiance to a Church which asserted and maintained temporal power. The Mormons are chiliasts, and for thirty years have been looking for the millennium to be ushered in very soon, their millenarian doctrines being perhaps the strongest feature of their religion as presented in missionary work. The millennium, by prophecy, is to follow at once on the disruption of the Union, which is to be caused by civil war, and “Zion” is to be set up on the ruins of this nation, with headquarters in Jackson County, Missouri. The principal basis of this belief is the following prophecy of Joseph Smith, said to have been delivered in 1832, and certainly published as early as 1854:
“Verily thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls. The days will come that wars will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at that place: for behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States: and the Southern States will call upon other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations: and thus war shall be poured out upon all nations. And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their roasters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war. And it will come to pass, also, that the remnant which arc left of the land (i. e., the Indians) shall marshal themselves and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation. And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed, the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn, and with famine and plagues and earthquakes, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning, also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath and indignation and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made an end of all nations; that the cry of the saints and of the blood of the saints shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies. Wherefore stand ye in holy places, and be not moved until the day of the Lord come; for, behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord! Amen.”
It would be difficult to find, in the entire range of prophecy, a prediction more remarkably fulfilled in many respects, and more possible of explanation and delay as to the unfulfilled portions. The best proof of its earthly origin will be found in unfulfilled prophecies from the same source, by those who are curious enough to examine them. Its effect on the loyalty of the Mormons was necessarily disastrous. They could not feel an attachment for a country whose destruction must precede their entry into millennial bliss. When the civil war began, “We told you so” was heard wherever a Mormon was found; and when that war was concluded without embroiling “all nations,” the ready interpreter showed that the time was not yet full. It has been expected to break out again at every national election, especially those of 1876 and 1884, each failure of fulfillment being only the result of misinterpretation. They cling to it still with more than ”Millerite” patience, and its fulfillment is only a question of “a few more years.” Then will come the time mentioned by Isaiah, when ”Seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach” – the reproach referred to being childlessness, by Mormon interpretation; the men Mormons, and the women Gentiles.
Decided changes took place in the Mormon community after the exodus from Nauvoo. There was a weeding out of a majority of the weaker brethren, to begin with, leaving the assemblage in Utah fairly united in credulity and fanaticism. Relieved of any prohibitory power, polygamy was openly announced as a doctrine in 1852 at Salt Lake City, and in the following year abroad. This caused a split in the Church, and an extensive desertion at all points outside of Utah. The dissenters maintained that the doctrine was an introduction of Brigham Young’s, and in proof cited the express prohibitions of it in the *’ Book of Mormon,” and also in the “Doctrines and Covenants,” the latter adopted in open conference after Smith’s death. The Brighamites showed that in fact it had been practised and taught by Smith and other leaders. Moreover, both sides proved their claims by the solemn statements of the principal men of the Church, made at different times, and thus it was demonstrated that the principal men; including Smith and President Taylor, were unblushing liars, no matter whether the doctrine were new or old. It is fairly assured, however, that the doctrine was privately promulgated from about 1844. Under this doctrine a woman may possibly attain salvation, but never an “exaltation,” when not the wife of a saint, and, as a corollary to this proposition, it is both lawful and commendable to induce any woman, married or single, to leave her sinful relatives and seek the higher heaven in company with a Mormon. The doctrine was at first treated rather as a matter of privilege; but as months passed away, and its peculiar fitness to their theory of pre-existent spirits, anxiously waiting for earthly bodies, was seen, it became more and more a thing of duty. It reached its grossest form during the reform period of 1855-6.
The “Reformation” was the result of distress. The removal across the plains involved large losses; the work of the last two years had been rendered unprofitable by drought and grasshoppers; the Saints were reduced to a condition of general poverty. The leaders accounted for it as a punishment sent on them for sin and want of faith. Under the preaching of men who, in charity, may be called demented, the people wore wrought up to an extravagant pitch of religious frenzy. Men were exhorted everywhere to repent, confess their sins, and be re-baptized, for the day of the Lord was at hand; and from all that land there rose a wail of, “Unclean! unclean!” It floated out over the desert, and over the mountains, and from the extreme southern settlements it was echoed back, “Unclean! unclean!” Men and women bared their hearts’ darkest corners to the public congregations, and many, whom suspicion itself had marked pure, confessed the perpetration of horrible crimes. Polygamy took on its most revolting shape; children of twelve and thirteen years were married to gray haired ciders; whole families of girls were wedded to one man; uncles united with nieces; in at least one instance half brother and sister were married; men met in the streets and exchanged daughters; divorce and remarriage became so common that some women had eight or ten husbands in almost the same number of months. All of the people were re-baptized, and started anew on their peculiar path, determined to gain heaven at any cost.
Out of this groaning for sin there arose the most villainous of all the doctrines of the Mormon Church – that of the “blood-atonement,” It is, in brief, that there are certain sins which are unpardonable, except the blood of the sinner be shed; and the people were exhorted: “Let your blood be shed, and let the smoke ascend, that the incense thereof may come up before God as atonement for your sins.” The chief of these unpardonable sins is the “shedding of innocent blood,” which means the blood of Mormons, and possibly of Gentiles who have not reached years of accountability, and whose parents have not been guilty of injuring Mormons or associating with people who have. Adultery, under certain circumstances, procurement of abortion, and the “violation of a sanctified oath” are also unpardonable, and for these offences many of these enthusiasts gladly submitted to death. But it did not stop there. They were not satisfied with throwing themselves under the wheels of Juggernaut, but must also have the privilege of sacrificing others to save them from their sins. “It is to save them,” said Brigham Young, in a sermon reported in their Church organ, the Deseret News on October 1, 1856, “not to destroy them. It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for our sins, but men can commit sins which it can never remit.” Again, on February 8, 1857, he said: “I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken, and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty but who are now angels to the devil, until our elder brother, Jesus Christ, raises them up, conquers death, hell, and the grave.”These are but brief selections from the many blood seeking sermons of those days, and the zealous churchmen took eager hold of this doctrine which the world had been growing out of for a score of centuries.
Just after the Church was fairly encompassed in this blaze of zeal, it was announced, on July 24, 1857, to the great gathering of Mormons at Cottonwood Park, where they had met to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of their exploring party in the Basin, that there was an army under way for Utah, escorting the new territorial officers. It was true. Crime in the guise of religion had become so rampant in Utah, and its repression by the people there so hopeless, that an external executive agency had to be sought. The courts had been overawed by armed mobs and the judges had fled. A lawyer who protested against such proceedings had been murdered. Indian agent Hurt had reported something of their connection with the Indians, and, believing his life in danger, had slipped away through the mountain passes, guided by Indian friends. He resigned, declining reappointment. Such troubles had been growing since 1851, and almost every Gentile official that went there had died suddenly, or been driven away on account of “immorality.” In his message of 1857, President Buchanan said: “Without entering upon a minute history of occurrences, it is sufficient to say that all the officers of the United States, judicial and executive, with the single exception of two Indian agents, have found it necessary for their own personal safety to withdraw from the territory, and there no longer remains any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham Young.” Whether the officials had been blameworthy or not is immaterial; the fact remains that Utah was in a state of confusion and lawlessness, and it was necessary to send troops with the new officials, who should act as a posse comitatus on their call.
From the official instructions given at the time it is easily seen that, in the eyes of the administration, the state of affairs in Utah was very similar to what had recently existed in Kansas, with the difference that the trouble was over another question. But in reality the situation was very different. In Utah the people were united, but they wanted no government except that of their own leaders, no matter what the United States desired. The majority of them were ready for war. They had been apart from the Gentiles long enough to let the delusion of divine aid grow up again, and the belief was general, as it was in Missouri, that one should “chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” The leaders were not so pugnacious. The plan they adopted was to hold the army back until they were ready to move, and then desert the northern part of the territory, destroying everything behind them – to make a second Moscow of Salt Lake City. For this active preparations were made; grain was hoarded up and cached in the mountains; hiding places were sought out; and all the people prepared for a journey. The Mormons in California were recalled, and all returned to Utah. Fort Bridger and Fort Supply, under control of Mormon Indian agents, were vacated and burned down, in order that they might not furnish shelter to the troops when they came. The Nauvoo Legion was brought into active discipline, and a general martial spirit pervaded the entire community, such as is shadowed in this verse from one of their favorite songs:
“Old squaw killer Harney is on the way
The Mormon people for to slay;
Now, if he comes, the truth I’ll tell,
Our boys will drive him down to hell.”
General Harney did not come until after the difficulty was adjusted. He was succeeded by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, who reached the army in the early winter. No resistance being anticipated, Captain Van Vliet, a discreet officer, was sent ahead to purchase supplies for the army and explain its purpose to the Mormons. He arrived at Salt Lake early in September and found them preparing for war. He was treated with consideration, but could purchase no supplies. They told him that they had been persecuted, robbed, and murdered in the East, and now would resist all persecution at the outset; “that the troops now on the march for Utah should not enter Salt Lake Valley.” Van Vliet called their attention to the fact that resistance could only be temporary; that if the army were kept out over winter the government would send an overwhelming force which would crush them. Young replied: “We are aware that such will be the case, but when those troops arrive they will find Utah a desert; every house will be burned to the ground, every tree cut down, and every field laid waste. We have three years’ provisions on hand, which we will cache, and then take to the mountains, and bid defiance to all the powers of the government.”On Sunday Van Vliet attended their services, and when Elder Taylor, now President, after presenting the probabilities to them, “desired all present who would apply the torch to their own buildings, cut down their trees and lay waste their fields, to hold up their hands, every hand in an audience numbering over four thousand persons was raised at the same moment.” He also stated that, “The Almighty had appointed a man to rule over and govern his Saints, and that man was Brigham Young, and that they would have no one else to rule over them.”
On September 14 Van Vliet left Salt Lake City, and on the 15th Young issued a proclamation, in which he recited the wrongs and misfortunes of the Mormons, and forbid –
First, All armed forces of every description from coming into this territory under any pretence whatever.
Second, That all the forces in said territory hold themselves in readiness to march at a moment’s notice to repel any and all such invasion.
Third, Martial law is hereby declared to exist in this territory from and after the publication of this proclamation; and no person shall be allowed to pass or repass into, or through, or from this territory without a permit from the proper officer.
A copy of this was sent to Colonel Alexander, commanding the advance of the army. On September 21 Van Vliet met the advance, on his return, and reported his failure. On September 29 Young again addressed the commanding officer, calling his attention to his disregard of the former proclamation, and adding: “I now farther direct that you retire forthwith from the territory by the same route you entered. Should you deem this impracticable, and prefer to remain until spring in the vicinity of your present encampment, Black Fork, or Green River, you can do so in peace, and unmolested, on condition that you deposit your arms and ammunition with Lewis Robinson, Quartermaster general of the Territory, and leave in the spring as soon as the condition of the roads will permit you to march.” This was accompanied by a note from “Daniel H. Wells, Lieutenant general commanding Nauvoo Legion,” stating, “I am here to aid in carrying out the instructions of Governor Young.” The army was then in what is now the southwestern corner of Wyoming, straggling over a hundred miles or more of country, and not yet apprehensive of actual resistance; Colonel Johnston was at Fort Laramie; the supply trains were not guarded. On October 5 the Mormons, under Lot Smith, one of their great “war captains,” attacked and destroyed a train on Green River, another on the Big Sandy, and a number of wagons belonging to the sutler of the 10th infantry, also on the Sandy, making a total loss of seventy-five wagons, with their contents, and several hundred animals. About the same time it was learned that the mountain passes were barricaded and held by Mormon troops. It was considered impracticable to force them in the winter, so the army went into winter camp.
See Further: Mormons Passed in Preparation for War