A short time later my husband was at work in his home office. He glanced over at a book on the shelf that we had obtained from my mother after my father passed away. This book is entitled; "Life of BrighamYoung or Utah and Her Founders" by Edward W. Tullidge; published in 1877. As he was looking through this book he found a chapter on the Mormon Battalion. The chapter in the book he found was poinant. Tear flowed as he read and later I read the story of the formation of the Mormon Battalion.
The Mormon pioneers had been chased out of Ohio and Missouri due to perscution from their neighbors and anti-mormons. Finally they felt at peace as they settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. They hope to be free from religious presucution. Nauvoo grew rapidly up to 15,000 people.These were families who loved this country and understood the Constitution of the United States which at this time should have afforded them religious freedom.
Again violence came upon the saints. Their beloved Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered in the Cathrage, Illinois jail on July 27th 1844. After their deaths, the saints of Nauvoo worked hard to complete their temple in Nauvoo. The mobs continued to rage against them. They were again forced to leave in February 1846 and cross the frozen Mississippi river into Iowa.They asked the United States government to assist them against this mob vilolence and were refused.They had to leave their unsold property and homes along with their beautiful Nauvoo Temple. They quickly prepared for the westward trek to wherever their Prophet Brigham Young would lead them. Camps were set up in various locations in Iowa and Nebraska. In Winter Quarters, Nebraska it was decided that they were to build dugouts or small cabins and plant crops to prepare for other groups that would follow over the next several months.
In July of 1846 the United States government ask the leaders of the church for 500 men; and a few woman to form a Battalion in the fight against Mexico. They were to go on foot to California and help secure that area from Mexico intrusion. They were asked to serve in this army for one year. These men would be leaving their wives and families in dire conditions. However the Mormon Battlian would be paid money that would help support and obtain the supplies for their later travel to the Rocky Mountains. It is amazing to me that they were willing to obey this order after how the Government of the United States and the states of Ohio, Missouri and Illinois had treated them. They would be leaving their families with very little food, adequate housing and supplies for completing their trek west.
The following is their story of the day the decision was made. President Brigham Young made the follow statement: "I want to say to every man, the Constitution of the United States, was formed by our fathers, was dictated, was revealed, was put into their hearts by the Almighty, who sits enthroned in the midst of heavens; although unknown to them, it was dictated by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I tell you , in the name of Jesus Christ, it is as good as ever I could ask for. I say unto you magnify the laws. there is no law in the United States or in the Constitution, but I am ready to make honorable." (The Life Of Brigham Young; or, Utah and Her Founders, pg 56).
These wonderful pioneers on the night before the men were to leave; they held a ball.
Here is the story of that event as told by Thomas L. Kane to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: "The afternoon before their march was devoted to a farewell ball; and a more merry dancing rout I have never seen, though the company went with out refreshments, and their ball was the most primitive. It was the custom whenever the larger camps rested for a few days together, to make great arbors, or boweries, as they called them, of poles, and brush, and wattling, as places of shelter for their meetings of devotion or conference. In one of these , where the ground had been trodden firm and hard by the worshipers, was gathered now the mirth and beauty of the Mormon Israel.
If anything told that the Mormons had been bred to other lives, it was the appearance of the women as they assembled here. Before their flight they had sold their watches and trinkets as the most available recourse for raising ready money; and hence like their partners, who wore waistcoats cut with useless watch pockets, they although their ears were pierced and bore the marks of rejected pendants, were without earrings, chains or brooches. Except such ornaments, however, they lacked nothing most becomeing the attire of decorous maidens. The neatly -darned white stockings, and clean white petticoat, the clear-starched collars and chemisette, the something faded, only because too-well washed lawn or gingham gown, that fitted modishly to the waist of its pretty wearer --these, if any of them spoke of poverty, spoke of a poverty that had know better days."
With the rest attended the elders of the Church within call, including nearly all the chiefs of the High Council, with their wives and children. They, the bravest and most trouble-worn, seemed the most anxious of any to throw off the burden of heavy thoughts. Their leading off the dance in a double cotillon was the signal which bade the festivity to commence. To the canto of debonnair violins, the cheer of horns, the jingle of sleigh bells, and the jovial snoring of the tambourine, they did dance! None of your minuets or to her mortuary possessions of gentles in etiquette, tight shoes and pinching gloves, but the spirited and scientific displays of our venerated and merry grandparents, who were not above following the fiddle to the lively fox-chase, french fours, jigs, Virginia reels and the like forgotten figures executed with the spirit of people too happy to be slow, or bashful, or constrained. Light hearts, the figures and light feet a had it their own way from an early hour till after the sun had dipped behind the sharp sky-line of the Omaha hills. Silence as then called, and a well cultivated mezzoo-soprano voice, belonging to a young lady with fair face and dark eyes, gave with quartette accompaniment, a little song, the notes were a version of the test touching to all earthly wanderers;"
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept; We wept when we remembered Zion:"
"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 the society, and then all dispersed, hastening to cover from the falling dews."
Elder Lance B. Wickman in a message entitled: From Iowa to Immortality: A Tribute to the Mormon Battalion stated the following: "As out of place as these men may have appeared upon their arrival at San Diego, as exhausted and subdued as they may have seemed in taking those last few agonizing steps in a trek of 2,000 miles, theirs is a story of courage and sacrifice that has few equals."
(Ensign, July 2007)
These faithful and hardy pioneers believed and followed their prophet leader, Brigham Young. They were asked to sacrifice much to obtain that freedom from perscution that they desired. They believed in the Consitiution of the United States and it's devine formation.
Today, we are in dire circumstances and our constitution is in danger. May we all like Elder Little in that day and time stated: "We are true-hearted Americans, true to our native ccountry, true to its laws, true to its glorious institutions; and we have a desire to go under the outstreched wings of the American Eagle." (Life Of Brigham Young Or Utah And Her Founders, pg 50.
May we all be true-hearted Americans and fight for our Constitution which is now hanging by a thread.