Reasons for Utah War

A book about the Mormon Trail had better not concern itself with the Utah War, but it cannot avoid mentioning it. Buchanan’s posse comitatus was brought on by more than simple outrage at polygamy (which after all was perfectly constitutional) or anger at Brigham Young’s refusal to cooperate with the territorial officials, though anger surely had some weight in the decision. Somewhere behind the determination to impose the federal will on the stiffnecked Mormons and to weaken Brigham Young’s absolute control of church and state there lay reasons of political opportunism. From one point of view the Utah War was a diversion created by Secretary of War Floyd to: 1) deflect public attention from slavery, 2) weaken the power available to the Union in the event of trouble by sending an expedition into the West, and 3) fill his own pockets. From another point of view, it was an attempt by Buchanan to discourage secessionism in the southern states by a show of firmness in suppressing secession in the territories. From the Mormon point of view it was more Gentile persecution. This was a war that began as political maneuver, turned into a military fiasco, was resolved by compromise without any shooting, and ended by becoming a good business proposition for the people it was supposed to discipline.