The Mormon Conflict

Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict: 1850–1859 (1960)

Norman F. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict: 1850–1859I came across this book while reading Jess Unruh’s The Plains Across. The Mormon Conflict is somewhat tangential to the Pony Express. Russell, Majors & Waddell, as the exclusive freighting firm for the army west of the Missouri, went deeply into debt to put together the late-season supply trains for the Utah Expedition. They lost even more when Lot Smith burned up three trains of supplies near the Green River. Congress’s failure to reimburse RMW was a major factor in Russell’s involvement in the Indian Bond embezzlement scandal that broke RMW just before it launched the Pony Express.

Even still, with so many other authors referring to the Utah War (or Mormon Conflict, or Mormon War, or Utah Expedition), I’ve been looking for a good book on the subject, and Unruh called this “an excellent study of the entire episode.” And it was.

Furniss digs into the detail of the conflict. For instance, at one point W M. F. Magraw held a mail contract between Missouri and Utah. the contract was to run for four years; the post office cancelled it after two for poor service, and give it to a Mormon bidder. Unruh summarizes by stating that Magraw’s unhappiness at losinig his contract was a contributing cause to the Mormon War. Furniss supplies background on Magraw, his connections with President Buchanan, why he lost the contract, and even details of some of the hate-filled anti-Mormon letters Magraw wrote to the administration.

Furniss gives this level of attention and detail to every aspect of the Mormon Conflict. And though the book is scholarly, the writing is crisp. Furniss occasionally lapses into the academic style where he posits and disproves multiple ideas before launching into the more correct thoughts and explanations. And he favors vary long paragraphs. So at times, his argument is hidden under his style. But even then, he tells the story well.

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