The Grand Ol’ Utah War

July 7, 2006 | 42 comments
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When I was young teenager I read a lot of military science fiction, including Jerry Pournelle’s popular There Will Be War anthologies. Good times, those. Saving up money from my (largely unprofitable) paper route, then the long, slow bike rides to the used book store.

The anthologies included essays, often by Mr. Pournelle himself. I can’t remember why but in one essay he mentioned the most violent of the verses of the Star-Spangled Banner, the one that talks about blood wiping out foul footsteps’ pollution, and pointed out that it was largely unknown, being found only in the military academies and in the Mormon hymnbook (this is no longer the case). Aside, he observed that the Mormons were one of the few groups to have defeated the U.S. Army, in the Utah War. He then moved on, leaving me in a mood of chest-thumping exaltation that lasted for a few days. I was pretty high, yep.

But I’d known about the Utah War before then–I’d even been high about it before then–so I was surprised when I discovered one of my cobloggers hadn’t heard in Church about “the Mormon raiders who torched grazing land, scattered their cattle, blocked routes, burned baggage trains, and otherwise impeded the progress of the federal army as they marched toward Utah territory.” In my gut I always assume that what I’ve known for awhile everybody knows.

I commented that “may be because of the sociology of the wards you’ve been in. In the rural fringes of Deseret where I’ve spent most of my life, folks are proud that we made Uncle Sam blink without killing folks.” A fun little private discussion among us cobloggers ensued. We’re trying to be good about commenting on the blog instead of talking privately, though, so my cobloggers told me to put up a post.

Here are the different directions the conversation was going:

(1) whether this episode shows the Church and its history can seem different depending on where you grow up (or where you join the church), and whether this is lamentable or not
(2) whether this episode shows that correlation can have the effect of suppressing information that isn’t highly speculative or faith-threatening
(3) whether the Utah War was, in fact, something to be proud of.

Feel free to comment on any of these points or to make your own observation.

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42 Responses to The Grand Ol’ Utah War

  1. Jonathan Green on July 7, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Adam, concerning science fiction and militant Mormons, don’t forget Heinlein’s “If This Goes On–,” a longish story about a palace coup against an American religious dictatoriship. There’s a passing reference to a small role played in the final battle by an insurgent Mormon Battalion. In an odd twist, these future Mormon guerillas encourage their newly liberated countrymen to “grow a beard,” which had been forbidden under the previous dictatorship. A lot has changed in the semiotics of facial hair since the Golden Age of science fiction. (Please excuse any factual errors; it’s been a few decades since I read the story.)

  2. J. Stapley on July 7, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    Hm. The Mormon’s did not infact win the Utah War. If anything, we lost it. The troops, though slowed and annoyed, eventually entered the Valley. Kane negotiated a settlement that included every goal that Buchannan wanted and the Territory recieved a new Federal governer. The Mormons got nothing they wanted and eventually gave up what they held most dear.

    I’m not proud of the war. It makes me sad that the American governement was so cruel to our people. And as I mentioned in a recent book review, it is a miricle that the Saints forgave the US and joined them so ardently.

  3. Adam Greenwood on July 7, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Why aren’t you proud of the Mormon role in the war, J. Stapley? It sounds like you wished the Mormons had resisted more, but I’m not sure that would have served any useful purpose.

    The review J. Stapley’s talking about is here:
    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2006/07/gods-country-uncle-sams-land/#more-1982

  4. Madera Verde on July 7, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    The U.S. army arrived a year later than it was supposed to. It was referred to as Buchannans blunder in the east and assured his defeat in the next election.

    Given the difference between what happened and the last times armies marched on them (Missouri) and also considering that it wasn’t their goal to sucede from the union I’m not sure why you think it was a defeat. Their enemies were discredited (The two men who spread false rumors of a Utah rebellion and the anti-mormon politicos in washington) and their rights in the union and as citizens were preserved. What would you have seen as a better outcome?

  5. Ivan Wolfe on July 7, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    One should read Harry Turtledove’s alternate history novel “How Few Remain” and the Great War trilogy that follows it. The Federal army razes Utah to the ground.

    So, naturally we invited Harry out to BYU’s science fiction symposium when I was the chair back in 2001.

  6. J. Stapley on July 7, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    No, I think that they did splendidly. I am happy that the Saints showed the restraint that they did. In some ways I can see being proud that we didn’t just roll over, but in the end the Saints remained victims of Federal aggression. The war didn’t change that. It is sad, because of how the Saints were treated.

    And regardless of Buchannan’s later political tenure and the popular view of the execution of the campaign, Americans popularly and politically continued to seek the downfall of the Saints. The war did nothing to change that.

  7. Adam Greenwood on July 7, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    I am inclined to agree with Madera Verde that the Saints would have been worse off if they’d let the Feds march in before tempers had cooled, but I am also proud of the splendid self-restraint and tactical skill that the Saints showed.

  8. Kimball L. Hunt on July 7, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    Just platitudes here re Brig’s political expertise and Jehovah’s guerillas’ restraint vis-a-via Johnston’s troops? Shakes head. Three letters. Em-em-em.

  9. Margaret Young on July 7, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I read a biography of Albert Sidney Johnston, penned by his son. It was quite a remarkable book. Perhaps the most telling episode was Johnston’s death, at the Battle of Shiloh. Johnston, severely wounded, ordered his medic to attend to the fallen soldiers–Union and Confederate–rather than to him. “They were our enemies,” said Johnston of the Union soldiers, “but are now fellow sufferers with us.” Quite a man. I believe there was a restrained respect between Brigham Young and Albert Sidney Johnston–both powerful men.

  10. William Morris on July 7, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    Lee Allred’s novella For the Strength of the Hills is another alternate history take on the Utah War. It also happens to be one of the best works of Mormon-themed speculative fiction ever as well as one of the best works ever in the entire genre of alternate history.

  11. Nate Oman on July 7, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    One of the most unfortunate aspects of more Mormons not knowing the story of the Utah War is that they lack a context for understanding the Moutain Meadows Massacre. Although I do think that BY et al deserve credit for finding strategies for dealing with Johnston’s Army that fell short of bloody confrontation, it is also important to remember that by adopting a policy of coming right up to the brink of blood shed, the Mormons created a situation in which some of their number teetered over the brink to our everlasting shame. Mind you, given the situation in which he found himself, I do not fault BY for the policy that he adopted. I think that it was the best response given the situation. We should take pride in the bravery, ingenuity, and ultimate bloodlessness- of Lot Smith and his cavalry. However, the same situation that called forth Mormon stalling tactics on the plains of Wyoming also led to a hideous Mormon crime in the hills of southern Utah.

  12. mistaben on July 7, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    My g-g-g-grandfather Charles Henry Wilcken was a Prussian soldier who was conscripted into Johnston\’s army. He deserted near Fort Bridger, was captured by a Mormon, and brought to Salt Lake City. He was baptized in December 1857.

    http://helaman.pratt-family.org/wilcken.htm

  13. Mark Butler on July 7, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Nate (#10), You say:

    (1) It was the best response given the situation
    (2) It led to a hideous crime in southern Utah

    Therefore how can you possibly assert:

    (3) BY’s policy was implicitly responsible for Mountain Meadows

    if it was the best policy available?

    What better alternatives were there? It is not like Buchanan bothered to tell Brigham Young why he was sending an invasion force. If anything is responsible for MM it is James Buchanan’s perverted sense of political expediency, not BY’s sense of rational self defense – facing a large, well armed invasion force with an uncertain and undocumented agenda.

  14. Jim Cobabe on July 7, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Excerpt from the journal of Hyrum Smith Neibaur, one of my ancestors.

    I was born in the year 1844 in the state of illinois Handcock countey, city of Nauvoo, on the 23 of may. father put his name down to go with the church in the year 1847 and we arrived in SaltLake Valley Sept the 24, 1848 and seteld on a lot whitch is now in the 13 ward whare we livd from the time we came there untill the year 1858 when the saints ware called to leave their homes and go south. where we was to go we did not know. the government had sent out an armey of men to destroy the mormans and we left our homes and intended two make A sacrifice of them rather than give up the principels of our religon or the principels the lord had revealed to us whitch we know to be right. father and my brothers mooved most of our things early in the spring as far as provo and about the fore part of June my father with his famley left our home in Salt Lake city and started south never expecting two sea our home Again and willing to leave it if the lord required it of us rather than two sacrifice one principel of our religon. I was baptised when I was 8 years old or a bout that time. we moved south as far as provo and was gon a month and then returned a gain and I remember well the time and the joy and the satisfaction that I had in looking forward to the time when I was to be baptised and I thought I would never a gain say a bad word or doe a bad deede and I felt as tho I was willing to repent of all the bad I had done or said but I find that I am the same as all other men and when I would do good eavel is present never the less I feele to continue in striving to overcome that which is eavel. We lived in the same place while we lived in the city and all of my fathers children ware maried of xcept my brother nathan the youngest of my fathers children. I lived at home with my father and mother untill I was 22 years old and I was maried two a young ladey by the name of Jane Harriet Spriggs a very estamabel and loving and mutch respected young ladey. She was the daughter of Sharlott Letecia Fokerd Spriggs and John Spriggs. my wife was 18 years old in June and we ware maried the next January. we was maried in the indument house Salt Lake city by heber C kimbel on the 18 of January 1867. we lived at my fathers until we went to keeping house.

  15. Nate Oman on July 7, 2006 at 7:53 pm

    “how can you possibly assert:

    (3) BY’s policy was implicitly responsible for Mountain Meadows”

    Um. I didn’t assert this. Any event has lots and lots of causes. I think that one of the causes of MMM was the Mormon strategy of resistance to the feds. However, the issues of cause and responsiblity are seperable. (First year torts: cause, proximate cause, fault, etc.)

  16. Mark Butler on July 7, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Nate (#13),

    I disagree with your implicit sense of causation. We cannot define causation so lightly that every prior temporally connected event is a cause of every successor. Indeed the whole notion of causation only makes sense in the context of metaphysical freedom.

    I offer this definition:

    A free choice C of actor A is one of the causes of event E, if and only if there was a reasonable alternative to C that implies not E.

    Brigham Young did not have any reasonable alternatives, so his policy was not a material cause of MMM, rather exactly what anyone else would be expected to do as a matter of course.

    Now Buchanan bears the greatest *potential* responsibility for the Utah War, because he largely set the whole thing in motion for political reason – he had the greatest freedom to avoid the whole thing.

    Of course Isaac Haight et al no doubt bear more responsibilty than either, for MMM. At the very best, their actions were characterized by first class stupidity.

  17. Kristine Haglund Harris on July 7, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    Adam, nothing to the substance of the discussion, but hail to a fellow newspaper-carrier. I had a paper route for years, but never made any money, because I was too shy to collect the money people owed me unless there was a book I really, really wanted!

  18. Paul R. on July 7, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    I have a hard time finding much to celebrate in the Utah War. As Nate pointed out, celebrating the bloodless delay tactics of the Nauvoo Legion against the army on its approach to Utah must be tempered by the sobering fact that priesthood holders in that same Legion massacred innocent civilians, including women and children, at Mountain Meadows.

    Will Bagley’s contention in Blood of the Prophets to the contrary, I don’t think that you can separate the Utah War from the MMM. The war created a context ripe for overzealous southern leaders to commit murder.

    And I think it is also a mistake to divorce either the war or the massacre from the Mormon Reformation that immediately preceded it. Brigham Young’s rhetorical excess whipped the Saints into a frenzy and factored into the Parish-Potter murders (Polly Aird, “’You Nasty Apostates, Clear Out’: Reasons for Disaffection in the Late 1850s� JMH (I don’t have the full reference with me)) and the Santa Clara Ambush (Ardis Parshall, “Pursue, Retake & Punish’: The 1857 Santa Clara Ambush,� UHQ 73 (Winter 2005): 64-86). The Reformation was also a significant factor leading to the runaway federal officials who in turn precipitated Buchanan’s ordering of troops to Utah.

    Certainly Buchanan bears his share of the blame for a failure to communicate his intent to Young, to consult with Congress, or to even consult with his general in chief, Winfield Scott. He also failed to investigate the charges of the runaway officials, yet he sent investigators to bleeding Kansas to assess the situation on the ground there. However, (Mark #15) I don’t think that Young pursued his best policy option either. There is a great article by Richard Poll and William P. MacKinnon, “Causes of the Utah War Reconsidered,� JMH 20 (Fall 1994): 16-44 that argues that the war should be called Buck and Brigham’s blunder. Poll and MacKinnon point out that Young failed to inquire of the government the army’s intent. He simply could have asked before jumping to a conclusion. Instead he assumed the worst (that it was an army of invasion, not an army of escort) declared martial law, and sealed Utah’s borders. Poll and MacKinnon suggest that lack of communication from both parties was a significant factor in the war, which was exacerbated by fact that SLC and Washington DC were about one month apart in terms of communication. The transcontinental telegraph wasn’t completed until 1861 and the Pony Express only a year earlier. For a variety of additional reasons Poll and MacKinnon believe Young and Buchanan share equal blame. Even though I don’t buy their entire argument, I think that they are right to suggest that the entire affair was avoidable. Not much to celebrate there.

  19. Mark Butler on July 7, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Paul R. (#17),

    Perhaps if BY had asked the right people. However, the rank and file members of Johnston’s army seemed to have much the same idea of its purpose as Brigham Young did. One does not generally need a 2500 man army to escort somebody around. A force of ten or twenty is more than adequate for that.

    The next question, of course, is could the assertions of the leader of such a gratuitously large army be trusted, in an environment just a few years removed from Van Buren’s refusal to lift a finger in the defense of the Saints for admittedly purely political reasons. And of course the army was marching a couple of months or more ahead of the officers in charge.

    Now I am sure, in hindsight, Brigham Young would have modified some aspects of his policies, notably the absolute prohibition on trade with the “Gentiles”. No need to create enemies where there were none.

    I also agree, that some of the rhetoric of the Mormon Reformation was out of control, and in part was based on one of the most fatally incorrect doctrines ever devised – that of literal blood atonement. As I have argued elsewhere, it is not the shedding of red blood cells of Christ himself that has any efficacy whatsoever, but rather what that loss of blood stands for – the atoning, spiritual sacrifice of the Lord, slain from the foundation of the world. Some of the leaders of the time apparently needed to take a remedial course in the Book of Hebrews:

    How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
    (Heb 9:14)

    And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

    It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

    For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

    Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

    For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
    (Heb 9:22-26)

    For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

    For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.

    But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
    (Heb 10:1-4)

    Or the blood of people, for that matter.

  20. donna carlson on July 7, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    I found a accurate well documented account in the book Under the Banner of Heaven….Great Book!

  21. Adam Greenwood on July 7, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Morris, it sounds fascinating (http://www.aml-online.org/reviews/b/B200194.html). Do you know anywhere that I can order the story without having to buy the whole anthology its in? I’m really anxious to read this, given the topic, my interest in SF and alternate history, and for some reason given that fact that the author is a fellow guardsman.

  22. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 12:00 am

    One thing to consider, Nate Oman, is that the Utah War proper mostly happened after the massacre. This timeline confirms what I vaguely remembered, that Brigham’s public decision to fight back, and the actual fighting, occurred after the massacre. So the causation might run the other way from what you suggest. Instead of the atmosphere created by the decision to fight leading to the massacre, the massacre might have led led to the decision to fight using non-lethal means.

  23. Paul R. on July 8, 2006 at 12:01 am

    Mark #18

    “Perhaps if BY had asked the right people. However, the rank and file members of Johnston’s army seemed to have much the same idea of its purpose as Brigham Young did. One does not generally need a 2500 man army to escort somebody around. A force of ten or twenty is more than adequate for that.”

    Why would he ask the rank and file of the army? He only has to ask one person, President Buchanan. Buchanan, I believe bears the bulk of the responsibility for not conveying his intent to Young, but Young could have asked.

    Your point about the size of the army is well taken. It was the largest and most costly U.S. military expedition between the Mexican War and the Civil War. Buchanan was operating under the assumption that the Mormons were in a state of rebellion, as reported by the runaway officials. He feared that he may have to supress the rebellion before he could install Cummings as gov.

    As for your citing of Van Buren’s failure to help the Mormons in Missouri, there was a more recent and more favorable precedent with Fillmore, much more applicable to the Utah War situation. When the first set of runaway officials bolted Utah Territory under Fillmore, he did investigate their charges and found in favor of the Mormons. He then threatened future federal territorial officials who left their posts that they did so at the loss of their pay. Young in this case had sent his version of things east and Fillmore sided with him. Instead of pursuing a similar diplomatic route with Buchanan, however, he chose to assume the worst. Certainly Buchanan started the whole nasty affair with a failure to communicate, something that became somewhat of a black mark on his administration, not just in the case of the Utah War. But Brigham Young also failed to communicate. I don’t see martial law as Young’s only option.

    And thanks for your thoughts on blood atonement. Well said.

  24. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 12:05 am

    Generally speaking, I think the impulse to blame Brigham Young for the Utah War, or to tar Lot Smith’s men with the unrelated Mountain Meadow massacre, is part of the instinct for self-loathing that we’ve learned from the West.

  25. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Aside from its other problems, the Brigham Young should have communicated more theory comes up against the fact that he and Col. Alexander, the commander of the expeditionary force, were in frequent communication. I also think efforts to blame Brigham Young ignore his history and the stakes. Buchanan had very little to lose, whereas if Brigham Young ended up letting a hostile army take over, what he had to lose was the lives and virtue of the Saints and the existence of the Church, and he had the experience to show that this was not just a theoretical fear. Frankly, I think its admirable that Brigham Young decided to let the army in at all, even after Col. Kane’s negotiations and Gov. Cummings’ reassurances. Buchanan is to blame, and Justice whats-his-face who invented the story in the first place.

  26. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Lot Smith was a man in full.

    http://historynet.com/we/blutahwar2/index.html

  27. Paul R. on July 8, 2006 at 12:28 am

    Adam #20

    What do you consider the “Utah War proper”? BY learned of the approaching army on July 24 1857 (he likely knew earlier). He declared martial law by August (I believe) and sent G. A. Smith south to instruct the Saints as to how to implement it. Smith’s sermons in the south stirred southern leaders into a frenzy. Rumors ran rampant in the south that the US army was already in the territory and headed their way. All of that factored into the massacre at Mountain Meadows on Sept 11, 1857, which was, in my estimation, the most horrible event of the Utah War. You cannot separate the two.

    If you only describe the Utah War as the burning and plundering of army supply lines, etc., you are capturing a small portion of the overall war.

  28. Paul R. on July 8, 2006 at 12:37 am

    Adam #22

    Who is tarring Lot Smith’s men with the MMM? The two events were saparated by hundreds of miles. I’m not trying to suggest that Smith was responsible for MMM, but I am saying that the fear of the army that people in the south believed was almost upon them, martial law and the sermons Smith preached in the south to promote it are important events both in the Utah War and the MMM.

    Lot Smith can burn all the wagons he wants.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 12:38 am

    “If you only describe the Utah War as the burning and plundering of army supply lines, etc., you are capturing a small portion of the overall war.”

    How can you possibly arrive at that conclusion? The Utah War was the conflict between the Saints and the Feds, and the burning and plundering of army supply lines was almost the whole of that conflict.

    I am unaware of the calculus that would make a massacre by folks not on the front ,against non-combatants, the bulk of a conflict. I guess you’re just totalling up lives lost and looking at it that way, but that doesn’t make much sense to me, esp. where the Legion pursued a non-lethal policy in its fight against the federal army. It’s silly to dismiss their non-lethal policy as an unimportant part of the war because it didn’t kill anybody. Wars are fundamentally about achieving certain kinds of outcomes, and the massacre was irrelevant to the outcome as far I know.

  30. Paul R. on July 8, 2006 at 12:40 am

    #26 above: That should be George A. Smith who was preaching the sermons in southern Utah, not Lot Smith.

  31. Paul R. on July 8, 2006 at 12:49 am

    “How can you possibly arrive at that conclusion? The Utah War was the conflict between the Saints and the Feds, and the burning and plundering of army supply lines was almost the whole of that conflict.”

    The war affected the entire “kingdom.” Young called in outlying settlements (San Bernardino, Carson Valley, NV, etc.). He instituted martial law upon the entire territory. He offered plunder along the overland trail to the Indians in exchange for their allegiance. He implemented the move south which required the abandonment of SLC. None of these are a part of the Utah War? And how do you describe civilian casualties in the war in Iraq? The loss of electricity, food, disruption of daily life? None of that qualifies as a part of the Iraq War?

  32. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 1:00 am

    No, but its pretty blinkered to see those as the foreground and actual conflict as a “small part,” to use your term. Its reductionist to treat everything else as an appendage to Abu Ghraib or to treat the Utah War as an appendage to the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Its a reflex to focus in on atrocities, nothing more.

    Note to commenters: I do not wish to have an Iraq War free-for-all here. If its a free-for-all you’re wanting, notice that I used the word ‘correlation’ somewhere in the original post. That’s probably a better jumping off point for a flamewar.

  33. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2006 at 1:06 am

    “The war affected the entire “kingdom.â€? Young called in outlying settlements (San Bernardino, Carson Valley, NV, etc.). He instituted martial law upon the entire territory. He offered plunder along the overland trail to the Indians in exchange for their allegiance. He implemented the move south which required the abandonment of SLC.”

    None of these were necessary or even principal causes of the massacre. You’ll notice that in the original post its the wagon-burning I’m talking about, but if you want to expand our consideration to include calling in outlying settlements and so on I have no problem with that. It’s making the massacre the measure of the war, like you do in #17, that I object to.

  34. Jonathan Green on July 8, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Adam, this is off topic, but how do you lose money on a paper route? Two ex-paper carriers have said as much now, and I don’t get it. When I delivered newspapers, you paid your money or you didn’t get a paper, and I earned an extravagant amount of money for a 13-year old. You can keep this thread on-topic by not answering here (and by summarily deleting any comments containing the word ‘Ir*q’), but please explain sometime.

  35. Kimball L. Hunt on July 8, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Come on people. The sesquicentenial (sic) of MM will a year after this 9/11.

    So I hereby call on all Saints to fess up to the complicated events of this tragedy!

    To start here with all of YOU: that is, you OTHERWISE quite sophisticated folks at Times & Seasons!

    Some here might prefer to believe some immaculately scrubbed up version of events wherein the local Saints/ miliamen (aside from the group immediately with Lee) just happened to be out and about trying to stop Indians who were the friends of the Mormons from pillaging non-Mormon emigrant trains. But such a belief is not only the type of intellectual pablum not usually seen at Times & Seasons, but is something which refuses to take a look at the historical sources and which would have serious readers of history try to believe that somehow, completely coincidentally to all the events happening in Utah simulataneously with the implementation of martial law, that Indians friendly with the Saints just decided at that very time to go on the war path against non-Mormon emigrant trains.

    The first step understanding is to overcome denial, people.
    =======
    I’ve been having an H.G. Well’s time machine thing goin’ on in my head here — due to this couple who are friends of mine’s having had a child who was born two days ago. In zero-SIX.

    And I myself was born in fifty-SIX.

    And my dad was born in aught-SEVEN. (Also, coincidentally, his birthday was two days ago).

    So, we’ve got half century increments goin on here, huh.

    - Zero (Friends’ baby)
    - 50 (Me)
    - 99 (My dad)
    - 149 (Mountain Meadows)
    - 201 (the prophet Joseph Smith junior)
    __________
    (My dad was born in a formerly United Order settlement ((when the Saints were still striving to achieve a worldly slash otherworldly utopia behind or within what some have called some kind of separist “Zion-curtain.” And the same town his cousin Leavitt Brooks was born in, too, by the way)). There was still a czar in Russia, no electicity universally in homes, horses everywhere.

    (This baby just born will experience HER “Bolshevik” revolution right soon. ((Which happened when my dad was in knickers.)) But by the time her “Berlin Wall falls” I’ll be long gone! ((Which happened when my dad was in his eighties.)) But even an un-murdered Joseph Smith would also likely have been dead when my dad was born ((as Joseph had been born in aught-FIVE a century before)). Unless he’d lived to 102 ((as Joseph would have been 52 when the MM tragedy occured, fifty years before my dad was born)). . . . )

    – KLH

  36. Kimball L. Hunt on July 8, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    (Uh, my dad’s cousin Juanity Leavitt (Brooks).)

  37. Paul R. on July 9, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Adam we seem to be talking past each other quite a bit in the posts above. It seems that I have not been clear in explaining my position. From my perspective it seems that you have taken some of my answers regarding one issue and applied it to a different question, hence the disconnect.

    Please allow me an attempt to clarify:

    In #33 You quote me explaining other events apart from the burning of wagons which I consider to be a part of what I think of when I think of the Utah War. I am in other words trying to clarify why I said L. Smith’s and Rockwell’s activities were a “small part� of the war. I would add a variety of other aspects to that list too: actions and reactions in Washington, actions and reactions in SLC, actions and reactions of the Eastern press, Kane, Cummings, Johnston, the Limhi expedition, etc. When I think Utah War, I think of all of these aspects and more. You then respond to my more expansive view of the war by saying “None of these were necessary or even principal causes of the massacre.� True. I never claimed that they were. I was simply clarifying why I said the wagon burning was a “small part� of the overall war.

    You then write: “You’ll notice that in the original post its the wagon-burning I’m talking about, but if you want to expand our consideration to include calling in outlying settlements and so on I have no problem with that. It’s making the massacre the measure of the war, like you do in #17, that I object to.�

    Your original post ended by asking: “(3) whether the Utah War was, in fact, something to be proud of. Feel free to comment on any of these points or to make your own observation.�

    I wrote my original post (#17 which now seems to be #18) in response to your question 3. Notice how I begin and end the post with “not much to celebrate.� No where in any of my posts have I suggested that we make “the massacre the measure of the war,� and especially not in #17 [now #18]. Notice that in #18 (the post formally known as #17) that “celebrating the bloodless delay tactics of the Nauvoo Legion against the army on its approach to Utah must be tempered by the sobering fact that priesthood holders in that same Legion massacred innocent civilians, including women and children, at Mountain Meadows.� I say “tempered by� not replaced by, made the measure of, or anything else. My point is that if you are going to celebrate the delay tactics of Lot Smith and Rockwell and their men (my g-g-grandfather was one of Rockwell’s men btw) then you need to temper that exuberance a bit with the more sobering outcome at MM. That was only a small part of my post. The rest dealt with the causes for the war, which I see as avoidable if cooler heads had prevailed especially in DC, but also in SLC.

    You again miss my point when you write: “No, but its pretty blinkered to see those as the foreground and actual conflict as a “small part,� to use your term. Its reductionist to treat everything else as an appendage to Abu Ghraib or to treat the Utah War as an appendage to the Mountain Meadow Massacre. Its a reflex to focus in on atrocities, nothing more.�
    I didn’t even mention Abu Ghraib or atrocities, you did. My examples of other things apart from actual combat that I see as important aspects of ANY war do not focus on atrocities (loss of electricity, food, water, civilian casualties, etc). I chose Iraq because it is current, but in many American history text books there is often a chapter on the military campaigns of WWII and another on the home front, both of which are significant aspects of the war. I had one class in grad school on the Revolutionary War that did not talk about any battles. It seems ironic that you suggest that I’m guilty of reductionism when I’m arguing for a more expansive view of the Utah War than merely the burning of wagons.

    As for the MMM I do say in #27 that it was “the most horrible event of the Utah Warâ€?–again, an event in a broader series of events that equal up to the Utah War. The war is essential context for MMM, but I have never argued the opposite, nor suggested that we only focus on the atrocities. Heck, I like the guerrilla tactics of Smith and Rockwell and see their actions as essential to achieving a more peaceful outcome than would have likely otherwise been possible. The fact that the Army spent a cold and miserable winter in WY outside the burned out remains of Ft. Bridger cooled the hot heads in DC and gave BY room to negotiate.

    Even still, BY still proceeded with the move south, even after Gov Cummings urged him not to, assuring him there was no need. That move south disrupted lives, forced several thousand Saints to relocate yet again; all significant consequences/events of the war.

    Leave MMM out of it if you want, there is a significant amount to talk about with regard to the Utah War, not much of which, however, is celebratory as per my original assertion in the post formally known as #17. Sure BY won the concession that the army not be stationed in SL, but there was an army of occupation in Utah nonetheless. At the outbreak of the Civil War the largest single deployment of US troops was in Utah.

    Let me suggest, in the end, then, that seeing the war as a complicated series of events spinning in a variety of directions goes a long way in addressing your question #2 in your original post. How do you correlate something like this?

  38. Paul R. on July 9, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    FYI
    There is an article in today’s DN on the Utah War. Its focus is the L. Smith and P Rockwell burning of wagons:
    http://www.deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,640193484,00.html

  39. Kimball L. Hunt on July 10, 2006 at 12:51 am

    The Church of Jesus Christ still owes the world an apology and explanation for certain policies which led to its stalwart member John D. Lee to have been guilty of war crimes. Yet . . . HOW is this “on topic” re brother Greenwood’s essay? Well . . .

    Somebody who names their essay The Grand Ol’ War sets up a polarized premise, whose patriotism will but memorialize a previous generation’s selfless acts as exemplify great pride, courage, and sacrifices. For such a lecturer to afterwards receive dissonant comments from the floor (that is, ones NOT thus polarized) could disconcert him. But the problem is the adjectives in our essayist’s title . . . As any war is ever too morally conflicted of a thing to earn such a sobriquet in reality!

    Rather than such a polarized label upon an entire war, it’s better to examine individual actors’ motives, to what moral underpinnings they aspired, and how these were modified in the face of inevitable exigencies. And under such a calculus there can be no grand ol’ actors — whether these be He Who Saved the Union, Abraham Lincoln, or that genteel scion of noble character and civility Robert E. Lee, or that stalwart saint Hoseah Stout. There can only be Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Hoseah Stout and an examination of what we can deem to have been their motives, the moral ideals to which they aspired, and to what exigencies they compromised.

    N.B. Oman believes Young’s sealing of borders a mistake. OK, sure: Maybe or maybe not. But the fact is that he “sealed” them. Or, that is, at the imposition of martial law, Young warned that Americans could no longer count on being provisioned by the Saints nor any longer protected from having their stock pillaged by the Indians. And there was a policy put into place at this juncture effecting covert action by paramilitarists or irregulars to facilitate (under the cover of this being due to spontaneous warfare from hostile Indians) stock be taken from these American emigrants caught in the territory at this time. Some men whom Greenwood would otherwise extol took part in this covert expediency. The honorable J. Hamblin took part in it, albeit in his case, the party of emigrant Americans assigned to lieutenant Hamblin and his party of militia to covertly plunder did NOT become massacred by the “marauding Indians” Hamblin had assembled thereabouts.

    However, in the case of the raid on the Fancher party (wherein Hamblin was innocent, most definately NOT being present), his colleague, John D. Lee, WAS. And this party was dishonorably massacred.|*|
    ________
    |[*(Perhaps to protect the militiamen's cover? As, Fancher party men had escaped their encampment that had been under seige by -- ostensibly -- only Indians, only to have some of these escapees killed by militiamen, with the surviving escapees somehow returning to their embattled encampment. Thus militiamen would reasonably believe these militiamen's compicity in the Fancher party's having been attacked was known to the Fancher party.)]|

  40. Adam Greenwood on July 10, 2006 at 6:47 am

    Paul R.,
    It still seems to me that (1) you are adopting a conception of the massacre that unnecessarily focuses on larger factors and what not instead of the choices of the stake presidents, Lee, and the militiamen down in Dixie who decided to do the killing and then did it. Given your larger-factors approach, it makes just as much sense to blame the massacred company itself or the mobsters out in Missouri for creating the environment that made the massacre possible. But while these are certainly causes, when making *moral* assessments they aren’t the sorts of causes one considers and (2) adopting an understanding of warmaking that unnecessarily focuses on the homefront, so to speak. While important, these are not of the essence, In any case, I don’t understand why you think drawing in the settlements and so on was a bad thing.

    P.S. I understand how you took the question about the Utah War. I was thinking just about the military aspect of it–the wagon-burning and so on–because in our private emails before I took the discussion public, it was implied that one of the cobloggers thought even that was questionable and distasteful. In retrospect I think I misunderstood that individual, but when I posted that was the question I had in mind. No way you could have known that. My apologies.

  41. Adam Greenwood on July 10, 2006 at 6:48 am

    My apologies to Kimball Hunt: in deleting some repeated comments, I accidentally deleted his observation that John D. Lee was distantly related to Robert E. Lee.

  42. Adam Greenwood on July 10, 2006 at 6:50 am

    Comments are closed. If individuals wish to add commentary, please email me or one of the cobloogers (adam at times and seasons dot org) and your comment will be posted, subject to editorial discretion. [Note to cobloggers: if its Paul R., please just post the comment without exercising editorial discretion.]

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