During the early phase of the saints' westward trek, the United States government declared war with Mexico. (Announcement of the war was recorded in the Congressional Globe, May 13, 1846.)
According to a footnote in A Comprehensive History of the Church 3:64, the declaration of war "authorized the president to accept the service of fifty thousand volunteers, and placed ten millions of dollars at his disposal."While a group of Mormon pioneers was camped at Mount Pisgah, Iowa, Capt. James Allen of the United States Army arrived June 26, 1846. Many members of the pioneer camp feared Capt. Allen and his uniformed soldiers had been sent by the federal government to stop their westward migration.
The captain had come, however, by direction of Col. Stephen W. Kearney to "accept the service for twelve months of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged."
The LDS brethren at Mount Pisgah directed him to Brigham Young, then at Council Bluffs, about 130 miles to the west.
On June 30, 1846, Capt. Allen met with President Young and others to discuss the raising of a battalion from among Mormon men. At another meeting of the saints, President Young introduced Capt. Allen, saying that he had been sent "through the benevolence of James K. Polk, president of the United States, to enlist five hundred of our men."
After Capt. Allen had spoken, President Young then spoke to the pioneers. In History of Brigham Young, he noted: "I said, the question might be asked, `Is it prudent for us to enlist to defend our country?' If we answer in the affirmative, all are ready to go. . . .
"I proposed that the five hundred volunteers be mustered and I would do my best to see all their families brought forward on the westward trekT, as far as my influence extended, and feed them when I had anything to eat myself."
At a council meeting, it was voted that President Young and Elder Heber C. Kimball go to Mount Pisgah to raise volunteers. After they had done so, they returned to Council Bluffs, where the work of raising volunteers continued. By July 16, 1846, Capt. Allen took command of the Mormon Battalion.
Before their final departure from the camps in the vicinity of Council Bluffs, a ball was given in their honor. On July 20, battalion members took up their march for Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where they arrived Aug. 1, 1846, and began their preparations for their march for California, which has been described as the longest infantry march in U.S. history.
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Information compiled by Gerry Avant