Thursday, April 12, 2012

The "Utah" War...!

One early conflict of our government was one not mentioned very much in most history books.

A true standoff of state and federal governments that was very close to becoming a "shooting war!" This is a time of history that I'm thinking we should study more closely.

Apr 12, 1858:
First gentile governor arrives in Utah

Salt Lake City offers an uneasy welcome to Alfred Cummings, its first non-Mormon governor, which signals the end of the so-called "Utah War."

The Mormon acceptance of a gentile governor came after more than a year of tensions and military threats between the U.S. government and Brigham Young's Utah theocracy. Sometimes referred to as the Utah War, this little-known conflict arose out of fundamental questions about the autonomy of the Mormon-controlled territory of Utah. Was Utah an American state or an independent nation? Could the Mormon Church maintain its tight controls over the political and economic fate of the territory while still abiding by the laws and dictates of the United States?

When James Buchanan became president in March 1857, he was determined to assert federal control over Utah Territory, where most of the residents were Mormons. Buchanan dispatched a brigade of 2,500 infantry and artillery troops for Salt Lake City under the command of the infamous General William ("Squaw Killer") Harney, who had a reputation for harsh methods. The troops were to establish a federal garrison in Utah and provide support for the new non-Mormon Utah Governor Alfred Cummings, who had been appointed by Buchanan to replace Young.

Buchanan failed to fully inform Young of his intentions. As rumors spread of an impending American invasion, Young and other Mormon leaders reacted with alarm. Fearing the approaching federal army was actually just an armed mob similar to those that had previously driven the Mormons from Missouri and Illinois, Young was determined to make a stand. He mobilized the Mormon's huge militia, the Nauvoo Legion, and ordered it to implement a scorched earth policy in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City to deprive the federal army of necessary forage and supplies. Meanwhile, Mormon citizens began manufacturing arms and ammunition in preparation for war.

Much to the embarrassment of the Buchanan administration, severe weather and the Nauvoo Legion's scorched earth tactics initially stymied the federal troops. After a hard winter spent at the burnt out shell of Fort Bridger, the American force prepared to make another attempt to push through the Wasatch Mountains and down into Salt Lake. By this time, Young was ready for peace, but he remained so distrustful that he ordered some 30,000 people to abandon Salt Lake and other northern settlements and make an unnecessary retreat southward.

When Cummings finally arrived in Salt Lake on this day in 1858, the city was nearly deserted. Young peacefully relinquished the governorship and all of his other governmental roles, agreeing to become solely the spiritual leader of Utah Mormons. In exchange, Buchanan gave all Utah residents a blanket pardon for any involvement in the conflict. Several months later, two brigades of American soldiers established Camp Floyd south of Salt Lake City, the largest garrison in the nation until the Civil War.

With the threat of a bloody conflict diminished, Mormon refugees began returning to their homes. Though tensions between the Mormons and the federal government continued for decades, the Utah War ended the dream of a Mormon state geographically and politically separated from nonbelievers. Henceforth, Utah Territory was clearly a part of the American union, and it was granted full statehood in 1896.

The main lesson to learn here is that trying to fight someone on their home turf is not a good idea! Learning all you can about your foe is very important! Most important of all...when you start trying to enforce your rules and control over folks that don't want it, better bring your lunch!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. I've got some chocolate cake to go with it!

12 comments:

Sixbears said...

Our history is full of little independence movements that nobody knows about. Some, like the Indian Stream Republic were actually independent for a time.

Ben in Texas said...

I don't remember ever hearing about it in Texas Public Schools at all. I did learn about the Mormons later and spent some good times in Utah with them skiing and ballooning and visiting.

It certainly was a different World back in the 1800's

John said...

Chocolate cake--the breakfast of champions!

Fight somebody on their home turf and you might want bring an afternoon snack also.

JOJO said...

I have read a few books about the mormon movements across the country but this was never mentioned. thank you

OH my chocolate cake! I will try to refrain but the coffee is a good thing.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
It's amazing what you can find out if you study just a bit!

Some of these things I find out by accident and others are taught to me by my readers. Never learned them in school, though.

I've never heard of the one you mentioned, but I'll certainly look it up!

Thanks, my friend, for coming over today!


Hey Ben...
Sometimes I think our school system did us a big disservice by not telling us much of what we find out today.

I could probably spend everyday reading history and find out something new each day!

Thanks for coming over, buddy!


Hey John...
According to Bill Cosby, it makes perfect sense to have cake for breakfast! All the food groups are there!

Really appreciate you coming by this morning!


Hey JoJo...
If you don't want your cake, I'll eat it for you! Just trying to help, ya know?

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

The Griper said...

its stories like this about our government that never gets taught in schools. its also stories like this that needs to be learned by people so that they'd be far less trusting of the power of government.

people need to realize that our federal government is not as benevolent as they think it is.

HermitJim said...

Hey Griper...
Funny how they forgot so many things in the history books we were taught from. Pretty convenient, if you ask me.

Nothing in life is ever given by the government without strings! Never!

I appreciate you coming over today.

Anonymous said...

Harney was fired by Buchanan for publicly stating what he was going to do with the polygamist Brigham Young. Col. Albert Sydney Johnston replaced Harney by order of President Buchanan. Neither Harney, nor Johnston, led the 2,500 man army in the field against the Mormons. Colonel Philip St. George Cooke was the commander in the field. Johnston was later killed at Shiloh. The Mormons thought they were going to carve a country out of Mexico, but the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ruined their plans. In 1850 Utah had become a territory and in 1857 the 2,500 man army command controlled all aspects of the removal of Brigham Young as governor of Utah Territory and the installation of Cummings as his replacement.

David H. Burr, Surveyor General, had told President Buchanan that Utah was in a state of rebellion.

Your Obdn't,

Mountain Rifleman

Gorges Smythe said...

Once again, I've learned something from your blog. Thanks!

BBC said...

I was born in SLC and in the late 80's had a parts house in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City, loved it there.

Anyway, not clear if Utah wanted to become part of the states or was more or less forced into it. Seems like these days most states would like to get out of the union.

HermitJim said...

Hey Mountain Rifleman...
I appreciate all the information. It's a shame we didn't learn more about this conflict in school.

Hey, thanks for coming by today!


Hey Gorges...
My pleasure, my friend. Always glad to share what I can.

Thanks for the visit today.


Hey BBC...
I've never been to Utah, but I've always heard that it's a beautiful place!

Sounds to me that Utah had a pretty interesting history in it's past.

Thanks for coming by today!

Teresazpep said...

Hey Griper... Funny how they forgot so many things in the history books we were taught from. Pretty convenient, if you ask me. Nothing in life is ever given by the government without strings! Never! I appreciate you coming over today.