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Interlude

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Year of Decision

by
Bernard DeVoto

published by Little, Brown and Company,
Boston, 1943

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p218  Chapter 8:
Solstice

In early June the command of Brevet Captain Frémont of the Topographical Engineers had come down the Sacramento Valley, where we left them on May 24, to the Marysville Buttes, sixty miles north of Sutter's Fort. As a military organization they were to go through several phases, but at this period they looked strikingly like some militia known to American humor as the Tallapoosy Vollontares.

Word of Frémont's return from Oregon spread over the countryside. Comandante Castro, whose quarrel with Governor Pico had at this exact moment reached the point where he was raising horsemen for a demonstration (which might have been the beginning of the very revolution for which Larkin had been sedulously working) — Comandante Castro heard about it and reached the not unjustified conclusion that an American invasion was beginning. Consul Larkin heard about it and innocently wrote to Frémont, inviting him to exchange news and reproaching him for not having kept in communication during his absence. And all the resident Americans heard about it. All supposed that something was beginning and most of them believed that they could guess what it was. Many of them rode in to the camp at the Buttes for information — or orders.

However you care to interpret what followed, you can get supporting evidence at the source. Frémont had come back to California to initiate a movement which should seize it for the flag — whether as an act of war against Mexico or as a safeguard against Great Britain did not matter to him and should not matter to us. He was promptly surrounded by men who had long wanted to seize California, who were both annoyed and anxious because the expected war had not developed, and who clearly understood the significance of his return. The expected was now going to happen and the only question is how far Frémont was an instigator of it.

This appears to be a reasonable judgment. If it could be arranged for some of the Americans who had the least to lose to get themselves attacked by Castro, then Frémont could come to their protection, and if Castro should thereupon attack him, then all the rest would follow in strict accordance with the usages of nations. It was a shifty plan. It worked.

p219 After repeated conferences with Frémont, in the course of which he angered some of them by being too shifty and others by withholding his counsel too long, a band of Americans rode out on a raid, from the vicinity of his camp. They were acting on their own or they were acting under his instructions. General Castro, as we noted some time back,​re­quisitions_horses_from_Vallejo" HREF=" E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/_Topics/history/_Texts/DEVYOD/8*.html#note:Castro_re­quisitions_horses_from_Vallejo "onMouseOver="return Ebox(INARRAY,MyNote,WIDTH,150)" onMouseOut="nd();">a had sent a re­quisition to General Mariano Vallejo at Sonoma, for horses to be used in the demonstration against Pico. Nearly two hundred horses, herded by Castro's secretary who was named Arce, a lieutenant named Alviso, and eight humble privates, were on their way to Castro at San José. They would cross the Sacramento near Sutter's Fort. The raiders set out to get the horses. And Frémont moved down the valley and made a camp much nearer Sutter's.

There were ten or twelve of these marauders and they picked up four recruits on the way. They were led by a former mountain man named Merritt, huge and very tough. They included several other mountain men, a Yankee schoolteacher whose mind fermented with notions straight out of Brook Farm, and an ex‑sailor who was wanted for murder. On June 10, at Murphy's ranch on the Cosumnes, they surprised and captured the general's horse herd. They released the herders and drove the horses back to Sutter's. Arce hurried to Castro and reported, with the strictest accuracy, that his horses had been stolen by American highwaymen. Castro at once prepared to fight the invasion which this raid appeared to confirm. He began to fight it, necessarily, by issuing a proclamation and by raising troops.

In the course of a few days the highwaymen were delighted to find themselves a vanguard of empire. If the raid was not robbery, then it was war. If it was war, then the laws of strategy required them to clear the surrounding countryside of enemy troops. There were no troops but, at the microscopic hamlet of Sonoma, there was the California equivalent of troops, a general. This was Don Mariano Vallejo, already mentioned, who in theory commanded the northern frontier for Castro and who had a few antique arms in his custody. He was perhaps the most considerable citizen of California. He was known to favor American annexation and had been suspected of conspiring to bring it about.

Later, Frémont claimed that he gave the orders for the capture of Sonoma. He thereby outraged some of its conquerors. They accused him of wanting to hog the glory after refusing to take the risk — if any. No matter: thirty-three strong now and including William Todd, the nephew of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, the American revolutionaries reached Sonoma before dawn on June 14. In the reports which Senator Benton was to  p220 trumpet to an admiring nation the town figured as a fortified, garrisoned, and formidably armed presidio. That is what Old Bullion gathered about it from his son-in‑law's letter, but Sonoma was a tiny cluster of adobe houses and could have been captured by Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The conquerors found General Vallejo asleep.

They gathered in not only this general but a lieutenant colonel and a captain to boot. They told Vallejo that he was a prisoner of war. He had some difficulty understanding what war he was a prisoner of and set out brandy for his captors, so that they could talk it over. Conquerors and conquered wrote out a formal statement of terms, and by its third paragraph, the product of good native liquor, the California Republic was born.

To some of the army outside the house conquest began to look rather like a drunk. Others wanted to plunder the town. Still others, in cold morning air, began to wonder if high spirits had not carried them too far. The new republic nearly died of second thoughts, but it was saved by the Yankee schoolmaster, William Ide. He made a noble speech, and from then on was, for a brief but appealing time, chief of state. . . . There had to be a republic. Otherwise there was no sovereignty and the prisoners were being held simply by thugs; otherwise supplies seized for the army would just be stolen.

They sent the prisoners to Frémont, in camp near Sutter's Fort, and at Sonoma began mustering the Americans who rode in as the news traveled, scared or glad to be getting along with the revolution at last. President Commander Ide, calling upon his memory of speeches made from Yankee bandstands on Lexington and Concord Day, poured out his soul in a proclamation. He recited the grievances that a revolt must have if it is to gather in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson; there weren't any grievances but he made some good phrases. He summoned all native Californians of goodwill to rally to the free government now conferred on them at Sonoma. He sketched out the policies it would adopt. He closed with allusions to the bravery of his followers, all forty of them, to the native American hatred of tyranny, and to the favor of heaven.

When Josiah Royce came to narrate these events, in the study that remains on the whole the best one,​b he could find no solemnity adequate to describe this scene of a handful of exceedingly tough customers brushing a varnish of classical American rhetoric over a mere foray by brigands. He alluded to the Hunting of the Snark and let it go at that. There is a neater allusion in the works of W. S. Gilbert but one is deterred from making the parallel. For another parallel comes to mind. Here were some American settlers in California, some of them legitimate immigrants and others  p221 just adventurers on the loose, announcing in the morning sunlight to some amiable, peaceful, and extremely bewildered Californians that they were creating a new Texas on the golden shore. Comic enough. But in a study in the White House, on the plane of international affairs, with all due circumstance of diplomatics and phrased in better English than Conquistador Ide used, a new Texas was precisely what the President of the United States had envisaged.

They had a Republic, California model, by proclamation, out of Lexington and Brook Farm. So while they went about giving it substance they ought also to set up a standard to which honest republicans might repair. William Todd obliged, women's patriotism assisting him. The wife of one revolutionist sacrificed a chemise and the wife of another a petticoat, and Todd made a flag. Red flannel stripes across a white (or at least unbleached) field. He painted in red a crude five-pointed star in the left-hand corner and, facing it, an animal standing on its hind legs, doubtless remembered in emergency from the state seal of Missouri. A realist, or he may have been an adept of symbolism, described it as a hog, but Todd meant it for a bear. Underneath, in ink or pokeberry juice, he lettered in the legend: California Republic. He left the i out of the last syllable and made a blot painting it over again, but the one‑village nation had the ensign that has come down to glory.

All California north of Monterey quivered with alarm or curiosity. The amazed Montgomery, of the navy's sloop Portsmouth, hurried in to proclaim that neither he nor the United States had or wanted any part in the creation of this commonwealth. The one accredited representative of the United States, Consul Larkin, realized that if any hope of fulfilling his instructions had remained after Frémont's drama on Gavilán Peak, this gaudier drama had extinguished it. In resignation he also disavowed the Republic and told the California authorities that he would help them bring its proprietors to justice. More Americans rode in to join the founding fathers, others rode in the other direction to join Frémont, and the Californians rode in all directions, taking counsel.

Frémont received General Vallejo and his companions and ordered them confined at Sutter's Fort, which he now seized, inaccurately, in the name of the United States. . . . Thus began the downfall of John Augustus Sutter, emigré, fantast, true empire-builder, and the end of his amazing principality in the new world. At the very moment when the heroes raided the horse herd Sutter had a man out, once more, trying to locate the best site for a sawmill on the American River. The project had been interrupted before this; when at last it should be completed, James Marshall, some Indians,  p222 and some veterans of the Mormon Battalion would finish what Frémont had now begun.

The first stage of any California action had to be rhetorical, and the veterans easily surpassed the amateur Ide's proclamation. Castro told his fellow citizens "to rise en masse irresistible and just," and assured them that he would be the first to sacrifice himself. "Duty leads me to death or victory. I am a Mexican soldier and I will be free and independent or die with pleasure for those inestimable blessings." Far to the south Pico outdid his comandante, rising to this peroration: "Fly, Mexicans, in all haste in pursuit of the treacherous foe; follow him to the farthest wilderness; punish his audacity; and in case we fail, let us form a cemetery where posterity may remember to the glory of Mexican history the heroism of her sons, as is remembered the glory won by death of that little band of citizens posted at the Pass of Thermopylae under General Leonidas. . . ."​1 Neither Ide nor Semple could compete with that and the American oratory must win or lose with John Charles Frémont.

But the California orators meant what they said and had at least the dignity of men who were defending their lives and independence. If their language was overblown, it was spoken against an attack on their country, which had harmed no one, neither the head Conqueror himself nor any of his collaborators.

A little order began to come out of the miscellaneous riding. Certain improvised bands came together and Castro made plans to recapture Sonoma, the capital of the Republic and so far its entire domain. Commander Ide, who now had a flag and a proclamation, was receiving volunteers, was offering a square league of his gulf conquest as a bonus for enlisting (thus repeating the leitmotif), and had organized his forces into the First Artillery and the First Rifles. He had made prisoners of war of the town's alcalde, a simple-hearted and extremely bewildered young man, and thirty or forty other citizens. He invented a service of supply and information — and had to combat the foul rumor that he was a Mormon or a Mormon agent. A dispatch from Frémont arrived, to be forwarded to Montgomery at San Francisco Bay. Ide called on the versatile Todd to become a courier. Todd was valorous but unacquainted with the principles of military security. He ran into one of the bands of wandering horsemen and now the Californians in their turn had a prisoner of war. At once they had two more. For Ide sent a couple of his recruits, Fowler and Cowle, to procure a keg of powder for the Republic's army and they also met some horsemen on the public road. These were more excitable horsemen: if there was going to be a war, let it begin here. They shot Fowler and Cowle. Since  p223 they were enemy horsemen, this was clearly against the rules of war. (It was promptly, and erroneously, rumored that they had dismembered the bodies.)

Word of these captures, though not of the murders, reached the Republic, and Ide sent out his lieutenant, Ford, with a dozen and a half of irregulars to retake the prisoners. On June 23 they met some horsemen at the hamlet of San Antonio and took four of them prisoner. The next morning they blundered into a party of fifty campaigning Californians who had stopped for breakfast at Olompali, halfway between Santa Rosa and Petaluma. This was the first of three detachments which Castro intended to send against Sonoma but the only one that got across the Bay. It was led by Captain Joaquin de la Torre, who was mightily surprised to find himself under fire. The Americans were equally startled but gamer. They took cover, killed one Californian, wounded another one, and presently had de la Torre riding hell for leather down the back trail to San Rafel. Ford went on to his original destination and recaptured William Todd, then rode back to Sonoma. . . . End of the military history of the California Republic.

Meanwhile Captain Frémont, commanding sixty American freebooters of his own and nearly as many irregular recruits, had become an open ally of the Republic. He was imprisoning at Sutter's Fort all peaceful wayfarers his men encountered — including certain Americans who could not understand that what they took to be a violation of the public peace was an honorable warfare to liberate the enslaved. Also he was in a literary phase, spouting letters of explanation, manifesto, and deception — to Montgomery, to Larkin, to Senator Benton — describing the purity of his intentions, the extreme peril of his situation, and the wakeful resolution of his heart. . . . No one could look ahead to the summer of 1864, to a time when history's stage manager would make him, for a while, a candidate for the Presidency against not only A. Lincoln but Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George B. McClellan as well. He had McClellan's talent for believing himself surrounded by irresistible hordes of enemies and for calculating his chances at something like one in ten thousand. So now he peopled the countryside with marching masses of murderous Mexicans — hundreds of them and all thirsting like the Indians of ten‑cent fiction for the hero's gore. Moreover, he was somehow being insulted as well as hunted down, and one of his letters announced that, besides defeating the Californians, he intended to force an apology from them.

Word reached him at Sutter's of Castro's intention to attack Sonoma. The Republic was in danger! So gallop, gallop, Frémont au secours! Eighty miles he took his cavalry at full speed and at the end found himself in  p224 extreme danger — of being fired on by the garrison of Sonoma, who had been weakened by the dispatch of Ford's expedition but would nevertheless sell their lives dearly when hooves came pounding through the night. Good playwriting saved the Conquistador just as the lighted match was arching to the breech of Sonoma's cannon. Frémont, as senior officer of guerrillas, now took command of the Republic military establishment, and the next day Ford got back with word that de la Torre had escaped.

Even the topographical engineers knew that pursuit was called for. Frémont took his army — it had grown to about 130 — off to San Rafael, toward which de la Torre had been fleeing when Ford last saw him. He was not there when Frémont arrived. (He was farther down the Bay, desperately afraid that he would not get boats before the americanos caught up with him.) But another enemy appeared.

Across the Bay, General Castro, still hoping to urge his forces into action against Sonoma, was wondering what had been happened to de la Torre, his spearhead of attack. Two young men, brothers, volunteered to cross over and try to take a message to him. An old man insisted on going with them, the father of Sonoma's alcalde. He had heard that the americanos had imprisoned his son, and wanted to see if the rumor was true and if he could do anything about it. A fourth man offered to row them across the strait. They got across, the rower turned back again, the two messengers and the anxious old man started up the shore. And here was Captain Frémont, watching them come on. He was having a moment of being the Conqueror, pacing by himself, like Hannibal and Napoleon. He ordered Kit Carson and two others to intercept this enemy. They did so. Kit reported to Napoleon and asked for instructions. The Conqueror's mind swarmed with enemies, this was war, and he must be stern. "I have no room for prisoners," he said, possibly thinking of biographers unborn. So Kit Carson and his corporal's guard killed them.

De la Torre was no great soldier, possibly, but he worked the hoariest ruse in warfare and let a dispatch bearer be captured by the Conqueror, with plans of an attack preparing on Sonoma. Frémont galloped back again and de la Torre crossed his command to safety. But three days later Frémont performed another feat of arms. The ship Moscow was anchored in the Bay; back in March its captain had offered Frémont refuge at the time of the show on Gavilán Peak. Now Frémont, with Gillespie as adjutant, told him that he was acting on orders of the government and re­quisitioned his help in reducing the enemy fortress on the far shore of the strait, the site of San Francisco. Captain Phelps supplied a longboat and some sailors to row the party of assault on its desperate mission.

 p225  Another daring venture at midnight when graveyards yawn. On the way, Frémont resumed his outgrown role of geographer long enough to give the strait its name, the Golden Gate. They reached the far shore at dawn and stormed its defending fortress, El Castillo de San Joaquin. There was no one there: no one had been there for a generation. The cannon were rusting away into eternity but the Conqueror spiked them nevertheless — ten popguns that had been cast early in the seventeenth century to arm some Spanish galleons — and so brought to a glorious end the first phase of John Charles Frémont, military genius. He had done his first great deed.

As the curtain falls on this act, the performance may seem below the standard of great drama. But if the hero's role has been trivial, let Hubert Howe Bancroft remind us what he had achieved. He had made himself, by his actions so far, Bancroft sums up, "a popular hero, a Senator of the United States, a candidate for the Presidency, a millionaire ad interim, [and] a major-general."

Bancroft adds that he was a lucky fellow. Right — so far. How lucky he was is apparent when one considers what would certainly have happened to Frémont and his guerrillas if, civil war having been precipitated in a California which was slow to act but could have annihilated the revolutionists, the news of the outbreak of the Mexican war had not now reached responsible men who had instructions to act. That news arrived at about the time when Frémont captured his empty fortress. The one‑town California Republic ended its sovereignty and the conquest of California began.

* * *

The marine band played in June dusk on the White House lawn, and here were dispatches from Minister McLane saying that Her Majesty's government would propose to settle the Oregon boundary at 49°. So the administration faced an embarrassment. The President, however, had prepared an exit: to submit the proposal, if it should come, for the advice of the Senate and thus escape the odium of having to withdraw from the extreme position. The levy and supply of armies for the Southern excursion made it all too clear that the extreme position would have to be abandoned, that the British offer would have to be accepted. But it was also clear that the oratory for 54°40′ was going to be remembered.

The Cabinet agreed that the exit would have to be used. Except that Mr. Polk was by now completely surrounded by candidates for '48, and the strangest belligerence had seized Mr. Buchanan. Having for a full year protested, moaned, and all but wept at the President's firmness in the matter,  p226 having pleaded for the amelioration of many dispatches, having held out for 49° from the beginning and once demanded that Great Britain be given anything more that she might ask, he now held out for 54°40′ and would bleed for it as gallantly as General Cass. He was ranging ahead to the national convention of '48 and the delegations of disappointed Western states, as the President immediately understood. Polk wrote that Buchanan's about-face "excited" him: he meant that it made him tearing mad, reasonably enough. His patience held for a day or two, then he loosed his formidable rage on his Secretary of State, who collapsed like a punctured bladder and would accept 49°.

Pakenham, the British Minister, drove up to the White House and made the expected proposal. Polk duly forwarded it to the Senate, where the warhawks bellowed with outraged anger. But for one thing Thomas Hart Benton's erudite analysis had convinced his colleagues, and for another, even a warhawk had to admit that one war at a time was enough. After two days of debate, the Third War with Great Britain became just something that Niles' Register had asked questions about in January, we were not going to twist the lion's tail, and the warhawks could muster just twelve votes against thirty-eight. Senator Allen of Ohio, however, had meant the orations that had annoyed Herman Melville: on the spot he resigned as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

The vote of June 12 was to instruct the President to accept 49°. Three days later Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Pakenham signed the convention that settled the Oregon question forever. . . . At this point it is wholesome to recall once more the rates of communication, since they governed the management of armies as well as the tidings of peace. The convention was signed on June 15. At once an express left Washington to notify the Oregonians that they were American citizens after all and need not, as some most of them were at that moment proposing to do, commit a Bear Flag maneuver against the Hudson's Bay Company. It went to Vera Cruz and followed in Gillespie's tracks across enemy soil to Mazatlán. The first boat out was bound to China by way of the Sandwich Islands, and at Honolulu the dispatch was put on board the bark Fawn, which crossed the bar at the mouth of the Columbia on November 12. Five months after the steam signing of the convention, the Fawn's supercargo was rowed to shore with the great news. He was nine days behind unofficial dispatches from Honolulu on the Toulon.

Mr. Polk had now achieved the first of his four objectives. But at some cost. Allen had become an enemy of the administration, so had Hannegan (he was almost incoherent, in fact, applying polysyllabic but barbed epithets to the President who had let him down), and the support of such  p227 men as Cass, Atchison, and Jarnegan could no longer be counted on for anything. The internal tensions of the Democracy had been stepped up still farther, nearer the breaking point.

And to the westward, where thousands of Bill Bowens had supposed that oratory meant what the words said, subtle shifts and movements within the submerged Republic began to set in a new direction, toward a far‑off event. One of the strongest cohesive forces in the United States, one that had long seemed a law of nature as firm as the law of falling bodies, was the implicit alliance between the South and West. Lines of strain showed on its surface now and, once more, the tug of vast bodies was pulling the nation out of shape. Whatever diverse things expansionism had meant, Manifest Destiny had been thought of as a common purpose. Now the South had Texas and it also had a war which, Bill Bowen knew, would bring in other square miles of unsettled land. But Bill Bowen, looking by the thousand at that vote of 38 to 12, may be excused for interpreting it as the South abandoning him when it had got what it wanted.

* * *

The sole practical preparation for war that had been made was the order for Commodore Sloat to seize the California ports if he should learn that war with Mexico had broken out. There had been some conversations between department heads and the appropriate committees of Congress. They had anticipated a war with Great Britain, however, and little action had come from them. Although Polk and his Cabinet had envisaged the possibility of war with Mexico from March 4, 1845, on to May, 1846, they had done nothing to prepare for it. They suffered the illusions of a nation that had not fought a war since 1814, had fought foreign wars only with the navy, and had never fought a war of conquest. They expected the irresistible sharpshooters of Yorktown and New Orleans to spring to arms: in Robert Dale Owen's phrase, "two companies of Kentucky rifles" could do the job. In June of '46 the Americans were springing to arms all right, far more of them than could be used, but no one had any idea what to do with them.

The army had no general staff to plan campaigns. It did have a military genius, Major General Winfield Scott. But Scott made no plans in advance of the war, and his first act after his outbreak was to disqualify himself by an act of insubordination toward his commander in chief. Polk retired him from command for a time and would probably have done so anyway, for he thought that Scott was too "visionary and scientific" — that he knew too much about his business. Scott wanted to equip and train an  p228 army before trying to use it, whereas the President wanted quick victories and a short war and no nonsense about logistics or discipline, which were unnecessary. And as for Polk himself — in the plan of grand strategy he had a small army on Mexico's northern frontier, some maps, and an overwhelming ignorance not only of the conditions under which armies must operate but of the country through which his particular armies must operate. By the grace of God and the ultimate return of Winfield Scott, this equipment served him very well indeed.

They were poor maps; if they had been good ones, probably even the amateur strategists would have been deterred. If their innocence had been tarnished by knowledge of the country they proposed to campaign across they might easily have lost the war.

They were, however, passably informed about the internal politics of Mexico. So a plan of strategy developed: part desire to make sure of California (the true begetter of the war), part the hope that no fighting would prove necessary, and part a notion that the northern provinces would revolt. . . . From the Atlantic westward, these were Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua, and, on the Pacific, Sonora. North of these and a special problem were New Mexico and California. All the northern provinces were supposed to be ready to rebel against the federalist government of Mexico. Demonstrations had, in fact, occurred in some of them; Santa Anna had called attention to the shaky loyalty of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas; at the outbreak of war disturbances in Sonora were reported and they were expected to spread to Chihuahua.

So Polk decided to occupy the northern provinces and hold on, meanwhile blockading the seaports. That might do the job — with the assistance of a bribe fund, Santa Anna, civil war, and the luck of the American arms. Tamaulipas had already been invaded when Taylor occupied Matamoros. Just beyond the end of its southern coastline was Tampico, the second largest port of Mexico. Commodore Conner of the blockading squadron was ordered to occupy it; he did so and Taylor, after bungling his instructions to support Conner, finally sent some troops. As for Nuevo León and Coahuila, it was natural to expect Taylor to attend to them, for whether he should move overland or up the Rio Grande they would be square in his path. Eventually they were both occupied, when Taylor took Monterey and Worth, back in the army with his grievances and his goose quills, took Saltillo.

So much was obvious and Mr. Polk's gaze moved across his map to Chihuahua. (Always remember that this province was the principal market of the Santa Fe trade.) The volunteers who were pouring in so fast would  p229 be concentrated at the three places, the mouth of the Rio Grande, New Orleans, and somewhere in Texas, say San Antonio. On the map a mere forefinger would reach from San Antonio to the city of Chihuahua, the capital of the province. Good: we will take Chihuahua. So General John Ellis Wool, a veteran but neither senile nor a letter writer, was ordered to lead an expedition against it down that finger-length of paper from San Antonio. Wool, an excellent officer, cold, a martinet, undertook the job but it proved impossible. After great expense, a waste of material, transport, and supplies, after a dangerous waste of time and dispersion of force, and after much hardship unnecessarily inflicted on green troops, the expedition failed. Wool had to cross not a map but a countryside — and it detoured him in a vast arc so that, when he was recalled, he was little nearer Chihuahua than he had been at San Antonio.

The Chihuahua expedition was preposterous and a failure. The expedition against the special case, New Mexico, was little less preposterous as a military conception but it did not fail. It was Polk's own ewe lamb; he had been thinking about it as far back as he had been thinking about New Mexico. And he had the assistance of knowledge­ful realists, Benton and a large part of Benton's constituency, those who were interested in the Santa Fe trade. The Western press had been advising such an expedition for months, and there were those at hand who knew how to get it started.

On May 13, the day when Polk signed the war proclamation, the governor of Missouri was called upon to supply a thousand mounted volunteers (he had anticipated the summons and already had the machinery working), and Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny, commanding the First Dragoons at Fort Leavenworth, was ordered to protect the freight caravans understood to be en route to Santa Fe. But it was, or immediately became, clear to Polk that New Mexico was the true key to California and by May 16 the protection of the Santa Fe trade had become the conquest of New Mexico; Kearny was put in command of the volunteers being raised in Missouri and ordered to undertake another of Mr. Polk's bloodless conquests. (The President was supporting it with diplomacy, hoped to support it with bribes, and called in specialists in the Catholic religion to organize a propaganda arm.) By May 30, the conquest of New Mexico had become the conquest of California. Kearny (given discretionary power — apparently because he was not known to be a Whig) was ordered to organize New Mexico after he had occupied it, to determine whether he could reach California this year, and if he thought that he could, to do so. Thus the conception of an ambitious and potentially decisive campaign was fully developed in seventeen days.

 p230  It looked simple when you studied the map. It turned to be almost as simple as it looked.

The First Dragoons were the crack regiment of the army and had been habituated to frontier service. Kearny was not only a practised frontier commander but one of the most skillful and dependable officers in the army. In the vaudeville show of swollen egoism, vanity, treachery, incompetence, rhetoric, stupidity, and electioneering which the general officers during the Mexican War display to the pensive mind, Kearny stands out as a gentleman, a soldier, a commander, a diplomat, a statesman, and a master of his job, whose only superior was Winfield Scott. He did the jobs assigned him. Since one of them involved reducing John C. Frémont's heroic dislocations, he aroused the enmity of a fiery hater, Thomas Hart Benton, and so has had less than his due from history. But he wrote no letters to the papers and he could even address his superior in respect­ful prose.

Exactly two weeks after Francis Parkman drank wine with him at Fort Leavenworth, he received his first orders. At once he got to work, acquiring arms and munitions, buying transportation and supplies, arranging to send them ahead of his expedition. A frontiersman, he knew what was ahead of him; in fact, as we noted earlier, he had traveled the Oregon trail to South Pass and the Santa Fe trail from Bent's Fork back to the settlements, the preceding summer. He began forwarding supplies to Bent's Fort. But he could not buy enough of them and could not organize the service fast enough. When he got his expedition moving, his troops were ahead of their rations most of the time.

His orders to protect the Santa Fe traders were soon supplemented by orders to stop them and to arrest some of them — Governor Armijo's wagons and those of Albert Speyer, which were known to contain powder and arms. He hurried out two companies of his Dragoons, but the traders also knew that the war had begun and were too far ahead. They were urged on by a double incentive: the blockade would insure them high prices in Mexico, since it would cut off the usual British and German competition, and the duties would be discontinued as soon as New Mexico should be conquered, so they must sell out before their competitors could get there with the army. As they hurried their trains down the trail they confidently expected New Mexico to be conquered, expected no New Mexican interference with the trade, and expected, like Mr. Polk, that the country would not rise.

Meanwhile volunteers were pouring in on Kearny at Fort Leavenworth. . . . Just as, in the same headlong eagerness, they were swarming to New Orleans and would soon be inundating Texas and Taylor's bases. The regular  p231 officers were frantically trying to do what they could without arms or equipment and without discipline. For the problems of a volunteer army were acute. The depots and bases filled with whores, sutlers, and gamblers, were already a continuous jamboree and vicious with crime. The regular officers were too few to control the volunteers and their own officers, holding their jobs by the suffrage, had little disposition to try. Already there were indecorums at Matamoros, which would presently become an unsystematic but recurrent pillage and murder. Taylor, who was running for the presidency, lacked Scott's willingness to impose martial law and so destroyed any chance there may have been of the conquest of the northern provinces by persuasion.

A Maryland regiment on the way to the Rio Grande by transport fought with fists and knives, was sometimes on the edge of mutiny, and suffered attrition from delirium tremens. Arrived at its base it was soon quarreling with an Ohio regiment, went for its muskets, and lined up to settle matters with the Buckeyes for good. Quick work by some officers prevented the slaughter but there was not even a court of inquiry, though Taylor spoke of one as the proper procedure. The occurrence was to be duplicated or approximated many times. Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George Gordon Meade watched the arrival and behavior of the volunteers and his precise mind was shocked. "They (the volunteers) have killed five or six innocent people walking in the streets, for no other object than their own amusement; to be sure they are always drunk, and are in a measure irresponsible for their conduct. They rob and steal the cattle and corn of the poor farmers, and in fact act more like a body of hostile Indians than of civilized whites." Presently two members of the West Point Class of '46, George Brinton McClellan and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thomas Jonathan Jackson, who were in this much alike, that they thirsted for glory even more intensely than Frémont, would go beyond Meade's apprehension to contempt. It was McClellan, though it could easily have been Jackson, who spoke of the "cursed volunteers" and was always seeing them "from the general down to the dirtiest rascal of the filthy crew: as "scared out of their wits (if they had any)." By autumn there was not only a cleavage but a feud between regulars and volunteers. And on the whole the regulars were right. Lieutenant Meade summed up at Saltillo, after a Kentucky regiment had been ordered to the rear in disgrace, for rape and, following the Mexican civilians' retaliation, indiscriminate murder: —

Without a modification of the manner in which they are officered, they are almost useless in an offensive war. They are sufficiently well drilled for practical purposes, and are, I believe, brave and will fight as gallantly  p232 as any man, but they are a set of Goths and Vandals, without discipline, laying waste to the country wherever we go, making us a terror to innocent people, and if there is any spirit or energy in the Mexicans, will finally raise the people against us, who now are perfectly neutral. . . . They cannot take care of themselves; the hospitals are crowded with them, they die like sheep; they waste their provisions, requiting twice as much to supply them as regulars do. They plunder the poor inhabitants of everything they can lay their hands on, and shoot them when they remonstrate, and if one of their number happens to get into a drunken brawl and is killed, they run over the country, killing all the poor innocent people they find in their way, to avenge, as they say, the murder of their brother.

Kearny escaped this kind of trouble. His volunteers were a homogeneous lot and he could give them the discipline of the Santa Fe trail. He was able to work them so hard and move them so fast, and through such a barren country, that the amusements of single men in barracks had to be forgone. The kind of work he had to do did not require the West Point ritual of close order and tent‑peg severity, and his ego did not trouble him. . . . A correspondent of the St. Louis Reveillé saw him go up the gangplank of a steamboat at Fort Leavenworth and instruct the sentry to prevent the volunteers from following. No use; they had to see what was going on and rushed the sentry. One of them apologized, slapping his commander on the back: "You don't git off from us, old hoss! for by Ingin corn we'll go plum through fire and thunder with you. What'll you drink, General? [He had been promised promotion but his commission was not yet signed.] Don't be back'ard! Sing out!" If the invitation had been made to Lieutenant McClellan or the chrysalis of Stonewall Jackson, there would have been hours of full-pack drill in the sun, if not a general court. But Kearny, the correspondent says, tried for only a moment to look grave, had to laugh, and ended by asking the Missourian to drink wine with him. Wine, in the opinion of the soldier, warn't worth shucks, was only fitten for women. And another gaping youth chimed in, 'Why in thunder don't you go for the corn juice, General? It's the only stuff for a military feller to travel on." . . . There is a distinct foreshadowing of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia or Sherman's Army of the Tennessee.

They were mostly Missourians, though a sprinkling of recruits from the Eastern and Southern states drifted in on the tide. They were mostly farm boys, though the towns and cities sent their share. The Ladies' Aid gave them a pie supper on the lawn, the mayor or the schoolmaster quoted classical hexameters at them and sprayed them with tags from Sam Adams  p233 and Patrick Henry, they wandered down back lanes for a last half hour with Lucy in June dusk, and they were off for the Halls of Montezuma. Ignorant, eager for glories which had only the haziest definition, they were the frontier democracy taking a military phase at the moment when their cousins, in another phase, were toiling up the Oregon trail toward Fort Laramie.

Kearny had written to Lieutenant Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ethan Allen Hitchcock, asking the philosopher to be his inspector general. But Hitchcock, on leave in St. Louis, was still being treated by Dr. Beaumont, thought his army career was over, and buried himself in Spinoza, Swedenborg, and Strauss's Vie de Jésus. (He would recover by the end of summer, join General Scott, and make himself invaluable in the campaign for Mexico City.) The recruits arrived with horses and in the formations given them on the village green but otherwise unorganized and unequipped. Kearny had his officers equip and drill them, teach them to make camp, give them on this gentler prairie some of the lessons they would desperately need later on.

Meanwhile he was concentrating his own regiment, the First Dragoons, which had been dispersed in frontier cantonments. The War Department got part of it away from him, including Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Richard Ewell, a blend of Buffalo Bill and the Chevalier Bayard who would have fitted the Doniphan expedition perfectly but instead got himself celebrated under Taylor and Scott. (And carried out of this war a remembrance which made him, in 1861, the only Confederate on record who hoped aloud that the Federals would not turn up a chap he had watched in Mexico, a man named Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant.) But Kearny was in time to arrest the theft of Troops B and K, at Fort Atkinson and Fort Crawford, which started for Fort Leavenworth under their respective commanders, both "unexpressibly disappointed" at being ordered on what they took to be a sideshow outside the big tent. One of them concerns us, Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Philip St. George Cooke, who was another reason why the First Dragoons were the best regiment in the army. A Virginian, Cooke was the brother of John Rogers Cooke the constitutional lawyer, and of Dr. John Esten Cooke, the celebrated antagonist of Dr. Drake at the Louisville Medical Institute. He was an uncle of Philip Pendleton Cooke, the ill‑starred romantic poet, John Esten Cooke, the novelist, and, by marriage, John Pendleton Kennedy. He fathered one Confederate general, John R. Cooke, and his daughter married Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jeb Stuart but Cooke was to stay in the Union when the time came. Something of the family's poetic impulse had accompanied him through years of chasing Indians on the frontier. He had made his adolescent journal into a book which is full of gothic moonlight, sentiments that Frémont would have found noble, and a  p234 literary pathos hard to associate with as hard-bitten an officer as the army had. He did not know it but he was going to take charge of some Mormons.

Pretty soon Kearny had enough soldiers to shape the regiment he had been ordered to organize, the First Missouri Mounted Volunteers. As volunteers, they were entitled to elect their officers. Fine! a ballot box in the Halls of Montezuma. Lacking stumps, the orators climbed ammunition cases and promised their constituents to fix the sutlers' prices, look tenderly to the rations, keep the moral tone high, and resist the tyrannies of West Point. Then they were off in the voting procedure of the emigrant trains, lining up behind their candidates. The town of Liberty, Missouri, had been providing free tavern breakfasts to advertise its leading citizen, a private of Company C who had once been a militia general. His principal opponent "had been a lieutenant-colonel in the Florida [Seminole] war and had not won a very enviable name for himself; and when he came to mention his name in connection with that war [during which some Missouri militia had run away], some one from the crowd informed him it would have been better to keep that fact a secret. The vote was taken and was given almost unanimously in favor of" the town of Liberty's candidate. The First Missouri Mounted Volunteers had found their ideal colonel in Alexander W. Doniphan.

They elected as lieutenant colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles F. Ruff, and as major, William Gilpin, either of whom the West Pointers would have been glad to see in Doniphan's place. Ruff had been for five years a lieutenant in the First Dragoons, and now had ahead of him a distinguished military career. Gilpin was an amazing man who, like Doniphan, had inevitably gravitated to leadership in the frontier democracy. Educated in England and the University of Pennsylvania, tutored by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he had gone to West Point,​c where he was tutored by George Gordon Meade and Montgomery Blair, and had served in the Seminole War. He resigned from the army and practised law at Independence. He was a frontiersman by instinct and a museum specimen of expansionism. He vibrated with the premonition of empire, saw the great central valley as the focus of all future civilization, predicted and charted the future of Kansas City, and so competently understood the westward currents that he had insisted on accompanying the second Frémont expedition. His campaigns under Doniphan will be noted here but we cannot describe his bloodier campaign down the trail in '47. After the war he lived further romance. His visions of the great valley swelled out in a kind of aurora borealis, which produced two books of an amazing mixture of incantation and inspired prediction comparable to nothing in our literature except Dr. Drake's earlier treatises. He was a  p235 tireless agitator for the Pacific railway and became the first governor of Colorado Territory, where he mightily served his nation by organizing a regiment which helped save the Southwest for the Union. His administration was shadowed by financial manipulations not ascribable to him, which got still farther into the imagination of Wild West fiction. After it he came back to Kansas City and still gaudier dreams of empire, and he appears in the autobiography of our last link with the age of heroes, William Jackson, the pioneer photographer, who married his daughter, as an old gentleman boring everybody with monologues about a railroad to Alaska which was to subjugate the whole world to his home town.

At last Kearny got his command organized: the Army of the West. The core of it was six troops of his own regiment, the First Dragoons. The rest were, in Cooke's phrase, "all raw volunteers." Doniphan's First Missouri was 856 strong, eight companies, when it left Fort Leavenworth.​2 The rest of the Missourians had been organized into a battalion of infantry, 145 men in two companies; two companies of light artillery, about 150 men; and a spare troop of cavalry from St. Louis, 107 strong, called the Laclede Rangers. There were the usual staff troops and a detachment of topographical engineers.

A detachment of the First Missouri left Fort Leavenworth on June 16, convoying a hundred wagons and eight hundred cattle toward Bent's Fort. On June 22 two troops of the Dragoons and two of the First Missouri sprinted down the trail to join the pursuit of Speyer and Armijo. On June 26 the real start was made, Ruff taking four or five companies in the advance, Doniphan following with two companies which were to gather up all the traders' wagons. The topographical engineers set out on June 27, and on the next two days all the troops remaining at the fort got under way, Kearny commanding them in person. On July 6, two troops of Dragoons that had been upriver hurried out to catch up with him. The army did not come together as a whole till they reached Bent's Fort.

These are the troops who gave substance to Polk's fantasy. No other troops except supply trains would go down the trail till Sterling Price took the Second Missouri to Santa Fe. We will pick Kearny up a few miles to the southwest, but we must first turn back to another officer of the First Dragoons, Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James Allen of Company I, whom Kearny had detached to enlist some soldiers from the Mormons.

* * *

All through 1845 Brigham Young had had agents in the East, soliciting aid for Israel's emigration. They had got contributions from many private  p236 citizens who were appalled by the Burnings, but persistent efforts had not succeeded in interesting the government. Over a year ago, interviewed by the Illinois Congressmen, Polk had spoken consoling generalities and refused action. Now, however, Polk was moving upon California — and so were the Mormons.

The energetic, rhetorical, and ambiguous editor Samuel Brannan had been instructed to take Eastern Mormons to California by sea. In January he went to Washington to solicit government help for Israel. In Washington there is always a Man to See, and in '46 this insider was Amos Kendall. The model of all Brain Trusters, Kendall had been one of the intellectuals (George Bancroft was another) who had given Jacksonian democracy its program. A member of Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet, author of many of Jackson's state papers, ringmaster behind the scenes, Postmaster General when a scandal had to be cleaned up, for years one of the most influential of Democratic editors, he had thrown his support to Van Buren in '44 and so had had no favors from Mr. Polk. So, setting a model that was to endure, he had begun to practise as a collector of claim against the government, and more recently had insured his old age by becoming the fiscal manager of Samuel F. B. Morse. Arriving in Washington, Brannan ran foul of an adventurer named Benson, who saw an opportunity and explained to him the stern purpose of the administration to prevent the Mormons from going west. Governments can be manipulated by those in the know, however, and for a consideration Mr. Benson would take charge of the Mormon interest. He would see the Man to See.

There followed a series of consultations from which Brannan emerged with a conviction (or possibly a story to tell Brigham) that the government had been manipulated, a contract drawn by Amos Kendall, and Benson's assurance (or again a story to tell Brigham) that the President of the United States was a sleeping partner in a land fraud. The contract represented that the government would permit and assist the emigration and protect the Mormons from their enemies — and stipulated that when they should be granted government land in Upper California (where in January the government had no land), every alternate section and town lot was to be the property of the contracting syndicate, Benson, Kendall, and the sleeping Polk. Brannan forwarded the contract to Brigham Young, wrote that Israel now had a listening post and interested friends in the center of the government, and sailed for Yerba Buena with nearly 250 Saints on February 4, the very day when Israel started crossing the Mississippi from Nauvoo. Brigham, however, had not been born yesterday. He understood Mr. Benson at a thousand miles, and the Council voted no contract.3

 p237  The situation had changed fundamentally by May, when Elder Jesse C. Little, head of the Eastern States Mission, set out for Washington from New Hampshire on Brigham's order, bearing letters of introduction to George Bancroft. He was instructed to apply for any kind of help the government might be pleased to offer. He was to suggest that the Mormons might volunteer troops for the occupation of California, might employ their teams and wagons transporting army supplies, might erect forts in the Indian country and garrison them, or might build roads and operate ferries along the trails. Brigham was eager to milk Mr. Emerson's poor, good cow, even while he was fulminating against its persecutions.

On his way to Washington, Elder Little attended to his priestly duties, convening special "conferences" (the Mormon term for church conventions) of the Saints. So the Lord inspired a young Gentile with curiosity, and Thomas Leiper Kane, out for a morning walk, strolled into the Conference at Philadelphia. Elder Little was a mighty exhorter and the young man's heart was moved. . . . He was a romantic and neurotic young man, a sentimental humanitarian, the kind of miniature Gerrit Smith who loved all good works and by the hundred obstructed the path of serious reformers, and he would have greatly enjoyed himself at Brook Farm. He was the brother of Elisha Kane, who as an arctic explorer and leader of heroic last chances would be the Henry Stanley or Charles Lindbergh of the 1850's. More to the point, his father was John Kenzer Kane, the attorney general of Pennsylvania, leader of the bar and elder statesman of the Democracy, friend and political ally of Polk, who would elevate him to the federal bench before the end of June.

Young Kane listened to the sufferings of the Saints and at the end of the meeting took Elder Little home and sought further instruction. The Lord gave the missionary eloquence and two days later Kane announced that he would go west, share Israel's tribulations, and accompany Brigham to the Rocky Mountains. Pity jangled his unstable nerves and he fell ill. Little cured him by prophecy, the cure smelled of miracle, and in the end he set out with Little to visit Israel. He reached it at Council Bluffs and here his emotions boiled over and he again fell ill. The Saints nursed him back to health but he lacked strength for the migration. (He later claimed to have convinced Young, at this time, that Great Salt Lake Valley was the best place for Zion. The claim is absurd.) He presented a dagger to Porter Rockwell, the great Danite, and it may be that Brigham baptized him into the faith. Thereafter he was not only a propagandist but an agent for Mormonry in high places. He took to the lyceum circuit with a lecture which was the best propaganda the Church had ever had. And in 1857 when  p238 James Buchanan, President at last and taking no joy of it, sent Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston's army against Utah, Kane hurried west and worked out a compromise which permitted both the President and the Prophet to save a certain amount of face.

But in June of '46 Kane's importance was that his connections could open doors to Elder Little. Little carried to Washington a letter to Vice President Dallas, who put him in touch with various members of Congress, Buchanan, Secretary of War Marcy, and finally Polk himself. The opportune Mr. Benson showed up again and trotted out his Amos Kendall, who showed Little the wonders of the telegraph and the National Fair and got him the privileges of the floor in the House of Representatives. Polk gave him encouragement and finally led him, after a grandiloquent letter in which Little recited the loyalties of the Twelve Apostles, to suggest that a battalion for the defense of California be enlisted from the Saints. The President welcomed the patriotic offer, the Cabinet expressed satisfaction, Little hurried off a message of congratulation to Brigham, and all Mormons who could vote this year would vote Democratic.

A typical Polk maneuver. The President neglected to tell Little and his sponsors that, a week before he accepted the offer of Mormon volunteers, he had instructed Colonel Kearny to enroll "a few hundred" Mormons in his Army of the West. Polk had taken thought of that large body of emigrants who were on the right flank of his invasion and had no reason to love the United States. He made sure that Kearny should not take enough Mormons to endanger his command, but it was desirable, as his diary explicitly says, "to conciliate them, attach them to our country, & prevent them from taking part against us." Little's petition gave him a chance to deserve the gratitude of the Saints, and he got it. The most fulsome adjectives distinguished him from other recent Presidents, all of whom burned in hell every Sunday morning, till the expedition of 1857 prodded Brigham to represent the enlistment of the Mormon Battalion as just one additional persecution in the long list of Satan's buffetings.

Kearny was gratified by the order because it would add some infantry to an army which, Missourians being averse to service on foot, was top‑heavy with cavalry. Just before he left Fort Leavenworth with the Dragoons, he had an interview with Kane and sent Captain James Allen to take the offer to Brigham Young, who had reached the Missouri at Council Bluffs.

It reached Brigham with his central quandary still unsolved. It had become quite clear that he could not get the whole Church over the mountains this year — on May 21 eight hundred men reported that they had less  p239 than two weeks' provisions — but he and the Twelve were still laboring to work out some plan that would get a considerable party to Zion. Clearly, many would have to stay at the permanent camps that stretched across Iowa from the Mississippi, and many more would have to stay on the Missouri. But the daily agitation was to form a party of picked specialists, perhaps five hundred strong, to send them "over the mountains" and to get other parties farther along the trail than the Missouri, to prepare the greater migration of '47. The party of specialists was to find a resting place for Israel in the Great Basin or, if none can be found there after all this planning, might go on to California, where Brannan would be and whither many of the Saints still thought they were all going. It was also to consider setting up another outpost like Brannan's, on Vancouver Island. The other parties might occupy such places as Grand Island on the Platte where they, like the advance party, could plant crops for next year's movement.

The proposal of an advance emigration to the Great Basin this year divided the Twelve and agitated the faithful. It kept up without cessation or settlement and Brigham, who put his full strength behind it, had to deal with a more effective public opinion than ever opposed him again. Sometimes the proposal was to devote Israel's goods to supporting an advance of five hundred families; more often the specialists were to leave their families behind for Israel to take care of till next year. Both ideas brought consternation to the Saints, and the alternative one which developed, that a smaller party headed by the Twelve should go, was just as alarming. There was the most serious division of opinion, doubts about the future, and inability to see how any satisfactory program could be worked out this year — or even next year.

Brigham required little time to understand the importance of the government's desire for volunteers and to readjust all his plans. He saw at once that the Mormon Battalion would both prohibit any large emigration this year and save Israel. He professed to find oppression and serious danger in it, but he was merely bargaining for official permission to camp, build blockhouses, cut timber, and raise crops in the Indian lands. Allen assumed the authority to grant such permission, believing that Brigham's consent hung on it, but it was only a tip. For Brigham had decided. The government Israel was fleeing from would take Israel to its sanctuary.

That, the free transportation for five hundred men and the sum in cash for their pay and allowances which would solve the financial problem of the main emigration, was unquestionably the weightiest reason for Young's decision. Almost as important, however, was a basic reason of strategy and diplomatics. The outbreak of war made it certain that Zion, the land of  p240 Israel's inheritance, would be under American jurisdiction, not Mexican as it had been when the preparations for the exodus had been made. It would be of the greatest importance for the Church to locate there by the encouragement and permission of the United States and after answering a demand for patriotic service. The Mormons would not only be the "old settlers," the first arrivals, the ones who broke the wilderness and so could dictate to those who followed after, but they would have the United States considerably in their debt for the conquest of this very country.

Nevertheless, the withdrawal of five hundred men, among the most active of the Church, would create the most serious problems. It at once forbade any large-scale attempt to get "over the mountains" this year. (Young still intended to get someone there, and as late as July 14 repeated his orders to his farthest outpost, Bishop George Miller's party, to make the trip, though he rescinded them on August 1. Even then, however, he still hoped to send a small party under the Twelve to locate Zion.) And also, the withdrawal of so many men put not only the care of their families but also the performance of their duties as teamsters, farmers, hunters, and priests on those who stayed behind. A more stringent co‑operation was called for, and Young sent out letters and messengers to accelerate the work of the way stations and to prepare the final evacuation of Nauvoo, which he still expected would not have to occur till the following spring.

So he started raising volunteers. The Saints began to love the government when they were bidden to, but they required some psychological adjustment after years of robustly cursing it. Was this Gospel? "I confess I was glad to learn of war against the United States," Hosea Stout's journal says, and other journals say the same thing more venomously, "and was in hopes that it might never end untill they were entirely destroyed for they had driven us into the wilderness & was now laughing at our calamities." Furthermore, families already strained with fatigue, disease, and malnutrition, and on the eve of the unknown passage of the desert, were not eager to send fathers or sons on a military expedition far away. Brigham set up a flag, had the Apostles act as recruiting agents, and — got only a handful of volunteers. He announced that this new plan was really Gospel, hurried epistles saying the same thing to Mount Pisgah and Garden Grove, and finally lost patience. He ordered the Saints to volunteer. If the young men did not come forward, he announced, he would draft old men, and if he could not get enough of them he would fill up the ranks with women. Grace was given his flock and the Mormon Battalion was formed, five companies, a little over five hundred men. A good many wives went along, some entire (and large) family organizations, a number of grandfathers, and a flock of  p241 children. The Battalion was an excellent organization for the service asked of it, on the whole, but when Cooke took command, after Allen died, he had to weed out so many cripples, invalids, and old men that it was reduced nearly a third.

Young diffidently offered to name the officers. Offer accepted, and by July 18 the Mormon Battalion was ready to march from Council Bluffs to Fort Leavenworth to be mustered in. Young gave them his sacerdotal blessing and promised them, quite safely, that none would be killed in battle. He even pledged his right hand that all would return alive — if they obeyed counsel. It would be wise, however, to wear the holy Temple underwear, which was invulnerable to hostile weapons. Let them treat prisoners civilly and avoid taking life except as a last resource. Do not dance with Gentiles, burn your decks of cards, carry a Bible and a Book of Mormon, do not preach in public except when people desire to hear, keep your observances, obey the priesthood among you. Be humble, teach charity, eschew profanity, and every man who accepts counsel will return alive. . . . Counsel turned into a dancing party and the daughters of Israel were, in Thomas Kane's eyes, extraordinarily comely and decorous, in neatly darned white stockings, bright petticoats, and starched chemisettes. "Light hearts, lithe figures, and light feet 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 was then called, and a well cultivated mezzo-soprano belonging to a young lady with fair face and dark eyes gave with quartette accompaniment a little song, the notes of which I have been unsuccessful in repeated efforts to obtain since — a version of the text, touching to all earthly wanderers, 'By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept, we wept when we remembered Zion.' "

On July 21 and 22 they marched for Fort Leavenworth, the Army of the Lord in the oddest phase it had yet had. Their commander knew of no route to California from Santa Fe and supposed that they would be back here presently to go by way of South Pass.​4 They would come dangerously close to their enemies, the Missourians, and they wondered if their enlistment as American soldiers would stay the enmity of the Pukes. Rumors reached them that the Pukes were indeed arming receive them, but their apprehension was much less than that which their approach produced. The Missouri border, sufficiently excited by the summer's development, got a new panic, and a flood of warnings and petitions poured in on Polk, Marcy, and Benton. Even the governor of Missouri solemnly warned the administration that Missourians and Mormons hated one another much more intensely than they could be brought to hate Mexicans, and predicted an outbreak  p242 of mobbery and insurrection. But, humble men who were quite willing to shift from the landseeking to the military phase of expansion at the prophet's command, they trudged southeastward to an accompaniment of miracles that strengthened their hearts. They reached Fort Leavenworth on August 1 and were made soldiers of the United States.

Back at Council Bluffs Brigham Young attacked the job of reorganizing a migrating people who had given up five hundred able-bodied males, preparing for the winter, gathering in the crops and laying in supplies, battling hunger and disease and discontent and heresy, and fitting together an organization for next summer's travel to the Great Basin. The job strained even his genius for management, but now he could go about it with assurance. Out of the hands of the enemy he had snatched safety. He had sent agents to receive the workers' commutation allowance for clothing, more than twenty‑one thousand dollars, and would send others to intercept the march at Santa Fe and elsewhere to collect their pay. (Perhaps fifty thousand dollars more, though by no means all of it went into the common funds.) And if five hundred laborers had been taken from the vineyard, still there would be so many less to feed this winter and transport west next summer. The ways of the Lord were mysterious altogether, and it was not for Brigham Young to question them. Israel needed wagons, stock, supplies, clothing, money, and if the Lord pleased to provide them by government subsidy, Brigham could see the joke. Some of his pious following had already been vouchsafed a miracle of quails, and now here was manna.


The Author's Notes:

 (p494)  1 Translations of Castro's and Pico's proclamations from Bancroft's California.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Since they were cavalry they should be called "troops," not "companies." But army nomenclature was not fixed and "company" was used indifferently to describe infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

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3 Since this wild story rests principally on the testimony of Sam Brannan, it is extremely difficult to interpret. Brannan's dime-novel style and his fervent admonitions to secrecy may mean that he was taken in or they may mean that he was working for Sam Brannan as a participating party in the intended sucker game. It is not clear whether Kendall had any knowledge of the intended fraud. The rumor that Lansford Hastings was acting in California for the Mormons rests on the fact that he was an  (p495) agent by correspondence for Benson. Benson and Kendall had planned a kind of wholesale colonisation of California, doubtless on a realistic calculation of the future. It was a wildcat real-estate scheme which would have profited from any emigration and any upheaval, especially a revolutionary one. Hastings got himself associated with it when he was in the East in 1845 and it unquestionably was a prime force in his activities of 1846. But when he returned to California he had no knowledge of the Mormons' intended emigration.

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4 Another indication of the state of geographical knowledge, the more indicative in that Allen as a Dragoon officer had been to South Pass and even to Bent's Fort. He thus knew far more than the administration, which at one point actually proposed to send Price and the Second Missouri to California by way of South Pass in the winter months. Note that the Mormons had informed themselves thoroughly, and Orson Pratt knew of the trail which Kearny took west from Santa Fe.


Thayer's Notes:

re­quisitions_horses_from_Vallejo" HREF=" E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/_Topics/history/_Texts/DEVYOD/8*.html#ref:Castro_re­quisitions_horses_from_Vallejo "onMouseOver="return Ebox(INARRAY,BackRef,WIDTH,170)" onMouseOut="nd();">a I've been unable to find any previous passage in DeVoto's book that mentions this.

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b California from the Conquest in 1846 to the Second Vigilance Committee in San Francisco: A Study of American Character.

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c But not graduated.


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