Army Of Israel by David Bigler
Mormon Battalion Narratives

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"History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry," said Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke in commending the Mormon Battalion for its epic march in 1846 from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego and Los Angeles to claim California for the United States. Yet this historic journey across the Southwest during the War with Mexico was but one of the reasons the Mormon Battalion holds a unique place in the story of America's western migration during the nineteenth century.

Army of Israel puts to rest ancient myths and sheds new light on forgotten heroes, both male and female. Recruited from a single religious organization, this battalion was perhaps the most unusual body of men ever to serve in America's armed forces. Between 1846 and 1848 its members played pivotal roles in events of such magnitude that they continue to shape the nation's destiny and the lives of its people.

This documentary study seeks to place the larger political and military role of the Mormon Battalion in the context of the history of the American West through the papers and accounts of the participants, supplemented with thorough explanatory text, notes, and references. A fine addition to the Kingdom in the West Series.

The March: Without opposition or firing a shot, the Mormon infantry tramped across the width of what was then northern Mexico and built a road as they went-Cooke's Wagon Road. Their explorations helped influence the decision in 1853 to acquire the Gadsden Purchase in southern Arizona.

Service in California: The good behavior and industry of battalion members accomplished far more than the muskets they shouldered in pacifying California. They defended ranches against raids by hostile natives, they sank wells, manufactured bricks, and built new buildings at Los Angeles and San Diego. The command arrived too late to take part in the last battles of the American occupation, but just in time to carry out President Polk's orders to treat the people of the region as fellow citizens, not as subjugated enemies, reversing the damage done by Robert Stockton and his underlings.

Explorations and Adventure: Besides exploring and building Cooke's Wagon Road across the Southwest, men chosen from the battalion escorted General Kearny and party, including Fremont, to Fort Leavenworth in 1847. Near Donner Lake in the Sierra Nevada, they buried the bodies of Donner party members who had perished in the snow over the previous winter. Battalion veterans opened a new wagon road over the Sierra Nevada, known today as the Mormon-Carson Emigrant Trail, which became in 1849 the main thoroughfare of the gold rush to the new El Dorado. They pioneered Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff, one of the California Trail's major branches and blazed the wagon road from Los Angeles to Salt Lake.

The Gold Rush: Battalion veterans in California witnessed an event that would transform the nation almost overnight and touch off a massive population shift west that still continues. As employees of James Marshall and John Sutter, two of these men-and two only-would record the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill and the day it happened, 24 January 1848. Other veterans soon scored the first major gold strike when they discovered the rich placer diggings at Mormon Island.

New Voices from the Borderlands: Army of Israel contains dozens of previously unpublished eyewitness accounts of the American conquest of the Southwest, including narratives by the fortotten Mormons who spent the winter of 1846 in today's Colorado. The accounts include a moving set of women's letters and colorful descriptions of encounters with Apache moonshiners, freebooting Mountaineers, ruthless Comancheros, Wakara's horse raiders, and heroic Mexican patriots.


About David Bigler

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Published August 1, 2000 by Utah State University Press. 492 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, War. Non-fiction