Origin of the Mormon Battallion

“Just before leaving for the West [January 1846], Brigham Young wrote a letter appointing Jesse C. Little, a Mormon convert living in New Hampshire, to preside over the church’s Eastern States Mission . . .

“[D]uring May 1846, [Little] held church conferences in the major branches of the mission to ‘take into consideration the most expedient measures for the removal and emigration of the saints in the Eastern States to California.’ . . .

“During one of their meetings [between Little and Thomas Kane], Little mentioned that he hoped the government would help them because otherwise they might be forced to seek aid from another country. Kane immediately advised Little that such a threat would be the strongest possible approach in Washington. Because the Mormons were leaving the confines of the United States, they could pose a serious obstacle to the country’s westward expansion if they set up an independent country or joined with either Mexico or Great Britain. The possibility of joining England was heightened by the fact that more than fifteen thousand English had joined the Mormon church by 1846, and of that number almost five thousand had journeyed to Mormon settlements in the United States. . .

“Understandably, the president [Polk] was not eager to alienate a group with over twenty thousand members on the western borders of the country. . . .

“[Polk] wanted a United States force in California before peace negotiations to further the country’s claim to New Mexico and California.

“The battalion provided over $50,000 in cash payments to church members, much of which was used to help the entire church migrate west. . . . Polk was quite candid in his diary about his motives. ‘The main object of taking them into service would be to conciliate them, and prevent them from assuming a hostile attitude towards the U.S. after their arrival in California.”