A thumbnail glimpse of the battalion

The Mormon Battalion comprised about 500 soldiers recruited from the Camp of Israel heading westward on the plains of Iowa.

They were recruited at the command of President James Polk after an arrangement was worked out whereby the government would offer aid to the Mormon pioneers by permitting them to raise a battalion in the U.S. war against Mexico.- The battalion members were mustered in at Kanesville (present-day Council Bluffs), Iowa, on July 16, 1846. They were outfitted at the U.S. Army post at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Accompanying them were 35 women, including paid laundresses, and 42 children.

Though they suffered greatly from exposure and thirst, none of the battalion ever fought in combat. Brigham Young promised them that none would die in battle.

Their march of nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs to California is remembered as a great accomplishment. They are also remembered for participation in the early development of the West and the building of the first wagon road over the southern route from California to Utah in 1848.

The battalion was mustered out in San Diego on July 16, 1847, but some of the men re-enlisted and contributed to the building of the community there. A few went north and were among those whose discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill led to the California Gold Rush of 1849.

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