“On January 27, 1858, the House of Representatives requested President Buchanan to furnish it with information concerning the war in Utah. At the moment the expedition which had been sent to the Territory six months earlier was huddled in tents and other makeshift shelters near Fort Bridger, with the snows and cold of a mountain winter shutting it off from entrance into the Salt Lake Basin or even from reinforcements across the Plains. . . .
In obedience to the congressional mandate cabinet members searched their files, and in due time the President was able to submit a bulky dossier of official correspondence and private communications accusing the Mormons of objectionable activities over a period of many months. The collection was a hodge-podge of both significant and irrelevant material . . .
To exclude extraneous elements from the causes of the Administration’s warlike policy toward Utah, one must first discover when its decision was reached. It is a difficult task, for Buchanan kept his purposes secret as long as he could. . . . [though] it is probably that his decision came on or about May 20 . . . .
Whatever the explanation given after the event, the Administration had unquestionably come to the conclusion in May 1857 that Utah’s defiance of the United States demanded stern measures. . . .
In assessing the factors that led to the ordering of armed forces to Utah, one is well advised to observe the part played by ignorance and misinformation. . . .
The view of Utah’s population in the East during 1857 was of a people oppressed by religious tyranny and kept in submission only by some terroristic arm of the Church. . . .The Saint, these non-Mormons falsely reasoned, would . . . welcome [the army] with open arms . . .
It would not have been difficult for Buchanan to inform himself of the situation in Utah. . . . [but] he had not even inquired into the facts before angrily seeking to punish the people of Utah. As a result he later found himself in the embarrassing position of sending the army in 1857 and a peace commission in 1858, instead of performing these actions in a reverse order.”