CHAPTER VI. THE MORMONS.
Meanwhile the animals were driven once more across the stream to the base of a granite ridge which faced the storm, but where there was no grass. They refused to eat, the mules huddling together and moaning piteously, while some of the horses broke away from the guard and went back to the ford. The next day better camping-ground was reached ten miles farther on. On the morning of the 8th the thermometer marked forty-four degrees below freezing point; but in this weather and through deep snow the men made eighteen miles, and the following day nineteen miles, to the next camping-grounds on Bitter Creek, and in the valley of Sweetwater. On the 10th matters were still worse. Herders left to bring up the rear with stray mules could not force them from the valley, and there three-fourths of them were left to perish. Nine horses were also abandoned. At night the thermometer marked twenty-five degrees below zero; nearly all the tent-pins were broken, and nearly forty soldiers and teamsters were on the sick list, most of them being frost-bitten. "The earth," writes the colonel, "has no more lifeless, treeless, grassless desert; it contains scarcely a wolf to glut itself on the hundreds of dead and frozen animals which for thirty miles nearly block the road."
At length the army arrived at Fort Bridger - to find that the buildings in and around it, together with those at Fort Supply, twelve miles distant, had been burnt to the ground by Mormons, and the grain and other provisions removed or destroyed. All that remained were two enclosures surrounded by walls of cobblestone cemented with mortar, the larger one being a hundred feet square. This was appropriated for supplies, while on the smaller one lunettes were built and mounted with cannon. A sufficient garrison was stationed at this point; the cattle were sent for the winter to Henry Fork in charge of Colonel Cooke and six companies of the Second Dragoons, and about the end of November the remainder of the troops went into winter quarters on Black Fork of the Green River, two or three miles beyond Fort Bridger, and a hundred and fifteen from Salt Lake City. The site, to which was given the name of Fort Scott, was sheltered by bluffs rising abruptly at a few hundred yards from the bed of the stream. Near by were clumps of cottonwood which the Mormons had attempted to burn; but the wood being green and damp, the fire had merely scorched the bark.
Though most of the beef cattle had been carried off by the Mormons or Indians, a sufficient number of draught animals remained to furnish meat for seven months during six days of the week, while of bacon there was enough for one day in the week, and by reducing the ration of flour, coffee, and other articles, they might also be made to last until the first of June. Parties were at once sent to Oregon and New Mexico to procure cattle and remounts for the cavalry. Meantime shambles were built, to which the starved animals at Fort Henry were driven, and butchered as soon as they had gathered a little flesh, their meat being jerked and stored for future use.
There was not an ounce of salt in the entire camp; a supply was proffered as a gift from Brigham Young, whom Johnston now termed, "The great Mormon rebel," which was rejected with contempt. Salt was secretly brought into the camp, but the commander would eat none of it, and the officer's mess was soon after supplied by the Indians at the rate of five dollars a pound!
Thus did the army of Utah pass the winter of 1857-1858, amid privations no less severe than those endured at Valley Forge eighty-one years before.
But meanwhile events occurred which promised a peaceful solution of the difficulty. The spirited resistance of the Saints had called forth unfavourable comments on Buchanan's policy throughout the United States and Europe. He had virtually made war upon the territory before any declaration had been issued; he had sent forward an army before the causes of offence had been fairly investigated; and now, at this critical juncture in the nation's history when there was a possibility of the disruption of the Union, he was about to lock up in a distant and almost inaccessible region more than one-third of the nation's war material, and nearly all of its best troops. Even the soldiers themselves, though in a cheerful mood and in excellent condition, had no heart for the approaching campaign, accepting, as they did, the commonly received opinion that it was merely a move on the President's political chess-board. In a word, Buchanan and the Washington politicians and the Johnston-Harney army must confess themselves hopelessly beaten, before a blow was struck. The army was powerless before the people they had come to punish. All that remained to do was to forgive the Mormons and let them go.
Through the pressure brought to bear, the President was induced to stop the threatened war. On the 6th of April he signed a proclamation promising amnesty to all who returned to their allegiance; and on the 26th of June, 1858, the army of Utah entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.
Thus ended this farcical demonstration on the part of the government - a war without a battle! There was, perhaps, no genuine basis of necessity upon which to organize the expensive and disastrous expedition against the Mormons. The real cause, perhaps, should be attributed to the clamour of other religious sects against what they held to be an unorthodox belief.
The City of Salt Lake, the capital of the Mormon settlement, was founded upon the arrival of that sect in the valley in 1847. It is situated in latitude 40 degrees 46 minutes north, and longitude 112 degrees 6 minutes west, (from Greenwich), at the foot of the western slope of the Wahsatch Mountains, an extensive chain of lofty hills, forming a portion of the eastern boundary of what is known in our geography as the Great Basin.