Mormon Battalion mustered

Sunday, July 12, 1846:

A brush bowery had been constructed during the previous week at the Camp of Israel at Council Bluffs. It was used this morning for a large Sabbath gathering of the Saints.Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards and their party arose early in the morning to make the final 33 miles by carriage to the Camp of Israel.

Monday, July 13:

Heavy rain fell between 8 and 10 a.m. Gradually all the Latter-day Saint men round about assembled at the bowery for the scheduled meeting. Eleven members of the Twelve Apostles were present. This was the first time in two years that this many of the Church's leading Quorum of the Twelve were together at one time and place. The band played to lighten the spirits, for many men were sorrowful that they would be leaving their families behind in desperate straits at the Missouri River.

Brigham Young gave an impassioned appeal to the assembled brethren. "My experience has taught me that it is best to do the things that are necessary and keep my mind exercised in relation to the future. I have learned to do the things necessary independent of my feelings, and at the expense of everything near and dear to me. Many have been called upon to forsake the society of friends, wives and children and you will all be brought into a situation to learn the same lesson. The blessings we are looking forward to receive will be attained through sacrifice. . . . If we want the privilege of going where we can worship God according to the dictates of our consciences, we must raise the battalion. I say, it is right; and who cares for sacrificing our comfort for a few years?"

He emphasized that always before the Saints had settled where there were other people first who then turned against the Mormons. This time, through this sacrifice, they could be the first ones to settle an area.

Tuesday, July 14:

Brigham Young met with his council and proposed numerous measures. A settlement was to be established away from any other settlers east of the Missouri River, and winter wheat was to be sown. A party was to go to the Grand Island on the Platte River and establish a fort. Some elders were to be sent to England.

At 5 p.m. the volunteers for the army from Mount Pisgah arrived. One of their number, James S. Brown, recounted, "We had excellent music, the best dinner that the country could afford, and, above all, a spirit of brotherly love and union that I have never seen surpassed."

Back in Nauvoo, all was in a state of extraordinary fear and tension. The mob forces went about western Illinois raising an armed force with which to attack Nauvoo.

Wednesday, July 15:

Brigham Young again met in council and suggested that most of the apostles give instructions to the U.S. Army recruits at Council Bluffs and that he and Elders Kimball and Richards would go across the Missouri River to attend to business there. President Young spoke about building a new temple. The next temple, he prophesied, would be in the Rocky Mountains.

Elders Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor were called to lead the new group of missionaries to Britain.

At the outdoor meeting Elder Orson Pratt gave instructions to the U.S. Army recruits. He taught them not to misuse their enemies, or to spoil their property. Remember, he admonished, that they are fellow beings "to whom the gospel is yet to be preached." He urged the soldiers to set an example of virtue and honesty.

Thursday, July 17:

The first four companies (400 men) of the Mormon Battalion were officially mustered into the United States Army. At the close of the meeting they were marched double file the seven miles to the Missouri River bottoms where they had their first camp. Wilford Woodruff recorded this poignant moment: "When these 500 men were called for, they stepped forth instantly at the call of the President notwithstanding the ill treatment & suffering we had endured in the persecutions of the United States. Yes, we stepped forward as a people while in the midst of a long journey and left families, teams, wagons, & cattle standing by the way side not expecting to meet with them again for one or two years. And while casting my eyes upon them I considered I was viewing the first battalion of the Army of Israel engaged in the United States service for one year and going to lay the foundation of a far greater work, even preparing the way for the building of Zion."

The Council of the Twelve voted to ordain Ezra T. Benson an apostle.

Friday, July 17:

At a 10 a.m. meeting at the bowery, President Young charged more men to volunteer to fill out the necessary fifth company for the Mormon Battalion. By nightfall nearly enough men had volunteered.

In the afternoon the Council appointed 90 older and married men, to be known as "bishops," to oversee the temporal welfare of the families whose husbands and brothers had left for the army.

Saturday, July 18:

The council dispatched Henry W. Miller and seven others to explore the country northward along the east side of the Missouri River. The leading brethren then returned to the Mormon Battalion encampment to give last minute instructions to the officers.

Brigham Young's address to the commissioned and non-commissioned officers was inspiring and prophetic. His official history reads: "I instructed the captains to be fathers to their companies, and manage their affairs by the power and influence of their priesthood, then they would have power to preserve their lives and the lives of their companies and escape difficulties. I told them I would not be afraid to pledge my right hand that every man will return alive, if they will perform their duties faithfully without murmuring and go in the name of the Lord, be humble and pray every morning and evening in their tents. A private soldier is as honorable as an officer, if he behaves as well. No one is distinguished as being better flesh and blood than another. Honor the calling of every man in his place. . . ." He assured the brethren that they would have no fighting to do and told them, "We should go into the Great Basin, which is the place to build Temples; and where our strongholds should be against mobs. The Constitution of the United States is good."

That evening a farewell ball was held for the soldiers. William Pitt's band furnished the music. Mormon advocate and friend Col. Thomas L. Kane observed, "A more merry dancing soul I have never seen." As part of the program a young woman sang "By the Rivers of Babylon We Sat Down and Wept." Col. Kane wrote, "There was danger of some expression of feeling when the song was over, for it had begun to draw tears! but breaking the quiet with his hard voice, an Elder asked the blessing of heaven on all who `with purity of heart and brotherhood of spirit' had mingled in that society."

Sources: Journal History; Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 232-44, 260-266, 589; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:59-61; The Diary of Hosea Stout 1:177-180; Winter Quarters: The 1846-1848 Life Writings of Mary Haskin Parker Richards (published by USU Press, 1996), ed. by Maurine Carr Ward (hereafter referred to as Writings of Mary Richards), pp. 75-76, 78; The Journals of William Clayton, p. 286; Life of a Pioneer, pp. 26-27; Mormons at the Missouri, p. 62-63; Ensign to the Nations, pp. 62, 65; Comprehensive History of the Church 3:121-28; Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, pp. 81-82, 124, 128-129.

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