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Brief History of the U.S. Mormon Battalion

The need to assist the U. S. Army in the Mexican war was urgent [1846]. President James K. Polk instructed the Secretary of War, William L. March to authorize Col. (later General) Stephen W. Kearney, Commander of the Army of the West, to enlist a battalion of 500 Mormons for this purpose. Captain James Allen was ordered to proceed to the Mormon Camps in Iowa to recruit five companies of 75 to 100 men each.

The Mormons had many reasons to be reluctant to enlist: They had received no protection from persecution and mob action in Missouri and Illinois; their families were destitute and spread over a wide area; they had hundreds of miles of hostile Indian territory to cross; they worried how their families would suffer in the bitter plains winter; and of course, the Mormons had particularly close family ties and were concerned about protection for their families located on the western frontier.

However, President Brigham Young and the governing Council of the L.D.S. Church urged the men to enlist, telling them it was their patriotic duty to join. Five companies totaling over 500 men were mustered in at Council Bluffs, Iowa on July 16, 1846. There were 32 women, of which 20 were laundresses hired at private's pay, that left with the Battalion. They made the longest march in military history consisting of 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California.

President Brigham Young told them: "Brethren, you will be blessed, if you will live for those blessings which you have been taught to live for. The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defense of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion. These are my feelings in brief respecting the company of men known as the Mormon Battalion. When you consider the blessings that are laid upon you, will you not live for them? As the Lord lives, if you will but live up to your privileges, you will never be forgotten, without end, but you will be had in honorable remembrance, for ever and ever."

In addition to the 500 men, some of the officers chose to take their families and their possessions and their own wagons at no expense to the government, which the Army permitted. There were 15 or 16 families, including 50 or 55 children and dependents, who left Council Bluffs with the Battalion.

In 1954 the present organization called the U. S. Mormon Battalion, Inc. was formed to help fulfil Brigham Young's prophecy to those Mormon Battalion men. Also an Auxiliary to the USMB was formed for the women.

Carl V. Larson and Shirley Maynes. Women of the Mormon Battalion. A B C Printing 1997


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