Thursday, July 16, 2015

Remember the Mormon Battalion

The Mormon Battalion, the only religious unit in the American military, was active in 1846-1847, serving in the Mexican-American War. Their long march from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California, was instrumental in securing a route through the western territories being fought over, including what became the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
The Battalion was authorized by President James Polk in 1846 to march west and join Colonel Stephen Kearney, Commander of the Army of the West, to help him fight in the Mexican-American War. Captain James Allen was put in charge of raising the battalion from the Mormon population in Iowa. The enlistment of men into the Mormon Battalion was the first case of government aide to the Mormon people.
The battalion left Council Bluffs, Iowa on July 20, 1846, in a group that contained officers, enlisted men, women, and children. In August they stopped to outfit the expedition in Fort Leavenworth. The heat, malnutrition, and poor medical care they suffered made the march to Santa Fe extremely harrowing. The group, including some women, left Santa Fe, New Mexico in October 1846, and was guided by Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea, the Shoshone guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition. The battalion chased Mexican soldiers out of Tucson, Arizona, were attacked by wild cattle in the “Battle of the Bulls,” crossed the Colorado River into present-day California on January 9th and 10th, 1847, crossed Imperial County in January, and finally passed through Temecula, California, ending their march at the Mission in San Diego on January 29th, 1847. While the battalion was officially mustered out in July 1847, some men reenlisted in the Mormon Volunteers, a group that helped to open the first southern wagon route between Utah and California in 1848.
Each soldier was issued the following: 1 Harpers Ferry smoothbore musket, 1 infantry cartridge box, 1 cartridge box plate, 1 cartridge box belt, 1 bayonet scabbard, 1 bayonet scabbard belt, 1 bayonet scabbard belt plate, 1 waist belt, 1 waist belt plate, 1 musket gun sling, 1 brush and pike set, 1 musket screwdriver, 1 musket wiper, 1 extra flint cap. Each company was also allotted 5 sabers for the officers, 10 musket ball screws, 10 musket spring vices, and 4 Harpers Ferry rifles.
This 1816 musket model was produced from 1816 until 1844 by Harpers Ferry, Springfield Armory and various other contractors. The 9-1/2 pound musket had the highest production of any US Flintlock musket and was the last flintlock martial arm to be produced. In total, all US government productions of the M1816 were 325,000 muskets produced at Springfield, Massachusetts and 350,000 muskets produced at Harper's Ferry in addition to 146,000 produced by other contractors. It served the US Army over 50 years and in two major armed conflicts. It saw service in the Mexican war in its flintlock version and in the US Civil War in both flintlock and percussion versions.
The Mormon battalion was created on July 16, 1846. After the long, harrowing march many of the members of that battalion became close to Brigham Young and leaders in the church. I had relatives in this battalion and am proud of the service these brave souls rendered to a country that at times seemed bent on exterminating Mormons from its borders. I recognize the accomplishment of these pioneers and their commitment to the Church. They also carried what was state of the art weapons of the time. It was their “assault weapon”.

Semper Paratus
Check 6