Mormon’s Defense Strategy

“[The Mormon’s] strategy passed through two distinct phases.

The Church’s first course, followed from July to early October 1857, seems to have been one of determined resistance to Buchanan’s expedition. . . . The resistance envisaged by Brigham Young and [Daniel H.] Wells was confined to the burning of grass, stampeding of stock, and other acts designed to slow the advance of the army. Behind this policy lay the belief of the Mormon leaders that if an engagement could be avoided until the arrival of winter, negotiations between the Church and the Government might settle the difficulties existing between them. . . .

The Mormon’s strategy entered another phase in November 1857, when the mood of the Hierarchy began to shift from assurance to concern for the future. There were a number of causes for their depression at this seeming auspicious time.  . . .[T]he Administration by January was making preparations to reinforce the army and also to launch an attack from California upon Utah’s indefensible western border. . . .[T]here was no significant Gentile demand for negotiations . . . Among the troops, furthermore, no enervating collapse of morale.

Furthermore, the Hierarchy came to realize early in 1858 that . . . they were woefully unprepared for and encounter with an organized and well-equipped army.Supplies of clothing were low, production of powder completely inadequate, and the territorial arsenal ‘dilapidated.’ This desperation of the position was dramatically revealed with Ferguson recommended the manufacture of bows and arrows for his troops. . . .

With these ominous considerations in mind the high priests began to place their hope of safety in flight from still another country made inhospitable by Gentiles.”