Assault on Salt Lake Via Bear Valley

“On October 6 [1857], Alexander called a council of war . . . [T]he men debated the best strategy to pursue. they could retreat to the Wind River Mountains, about ninety miles to the northeast [from Camp Winfield, their camp on Ham’s Fork], an excellent site for winter quarters; they could remain at Camp Winfield; or they could struggle into Utah. The majority opinion favored aggressive policy of the third alternative . . . But this decision raised other questions. From Van Vliet, Alexander had learned that the Mormons had fortified Echo Canyon, the shortest avenue into Salt Lake Valley, with formidable defenses. Furthermore, since all forage on this road had been burned, the lives of the animals might be endangered if the army should proceed along it. . . .

[Instead, the] army would move northwest up Ham’s Fork, jump across to join Bear River, and follow this route until it reached the northers border of Utah, where several gentle and unfortified valleys led directly to the settlements of the Mormons. Thuds, with winter near, Alexander and his advisors decided to turn from the most direct entrance into Utah in favor of.a road one hundred miles longer that had few if any real advantages. . . .

At length Alexander decided to plod back [thirty-five miles] to Camp Winfield, which he had left more than a week before. Once again, however, lethargy settled upon him; he permitted his men to remain at their present camp on the upper banks of Ham’s Fork for another eight days. . . .

Painfully, the soldiers and their 4,000 animals struggled down Ham’s Fork to Camp Winfield]. Badly worn, ¬†they arrived there on November 2. having gained nothing by their exertions of the past weeks, they had returned to a camp with pitifully inadequate forage and dangerously low temperatures.”