Young’s Hostile Attitude Toward U.S. Troops

“In his correspondence with Colonel Alexander, Young had justified his hostile attitude toward the troops on Ham’s Fork by certain legalistic quibbles. The Organic Act of the Territory, he maintained, gave the governor a term of four years unless he was replaced by a person duly qualified and appointed. Since Young had not been formerly appraised of the expedition, Young . . . could contend that it was a mob, not an army of the United States. On this pretext he used his power as commander in chief of the territorial militia to protect his people from invasion by a gang of irregulars. Obviously delighted with these arguments carelessly provided by the President, the Mormons frequently drew upon them . . . 

Although such questionable reasoning was useful to the Mormons in the war of words accompanying the military aspects of the campaign, its comparison of the army to a mob also revealed their actual fears of the soldiers . . .

The Mormon’s unflattering estimate of the troops was accurate to a certain extent. . . . Because of its unpopularity, the army frequently drew its recruits from the less stable elements of society, men who were persuaded to enlist because of desperate poverty or some similarly compelling reason.  . . . John W. Phelps found the men in his battery ‘exceedingly stupid,’ ‘naturally defective in intellect,’ so depraved that ‘they would sell their last article of clothing for liquor.’ . . .

Believing the common soldiers of the expedition to be individuals of dangerous passions, the Saints were also convinced that they were commanded by men whose anti-Mormon antipathies were deep-rooted. . . .

The Mormons had not only the expedition’s soldiers to fear. During the summer and early fall contractors Russell, Majors & Waddell had sent 328 ox wagons to Utah; the sutlers and other merchants traveling with the column had another 160 wagons in their trains. When the army reached the Territory, it would therefore bring a great horde of drivers and wagon masters with it, men who had been recruited by advertisements in the barrooms and on the streets of Leavenworth City. . . .

Another fear of the Mormons in 1857 centered upon the newly appointed territorial officers. With a reprehensible indifference the Government had not told the people of Utah who their officers were to be; the Saints knew only that they were Gentiles. Aware of the enmity toward them in the East, they [resumed that these men were antagonistic to the Church and been selected because of the strength of their animosity.”