Utah and the Civil War

write-up by Dylan Fawson

Placed by: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, No. 270

Utah Civil War Monument in front of the Utah State Capitol. Phot Credit: Dylan Fawson

GPS Coordinates: 40° 46′ 36.1″ N, 111° 53′ 25.5″ W

Historical Marker Text (1):

Utah and the Civil War

This monument honors the Utah men who answered the call to protect the mail and telegraph lines along the continental route during the Civil War. April 25, 1862 acting governor of Utah, Frank Fuller, called for volunteers from the Nauvoo Legion. The next day twenty-four men under Col. Robert T. Burton left for their assignment. Two days later Brigham Young received an authorization from President Abraham Lincoln, through secretary-of-war Stanton, for a company of cavalry to serve ninety days protecting the same route. One hundred and six men responded for duty under Captain Lot Smith. Later some Utah men joined the 3rd Regiment, California Volunteers, stationed at Fort Douglas, Oct. 1862 – July 1866. Other pioneers served in the Civil War before coming to Utah.

Top plaque of the Civil War Monument. Photo Credit: Dylan Fawson

Historical Marker Text (2): 

Utah Civil War Casualty

Lieutenant Henry Wells Jackson (March 10, 1827 – May 27, 1864), was the only Utah battle fatality of the Civil War and the first-known Latter-day Saint to be killed in a U.S. national conflict. Jackson marched in the Mormon Battalion, Company D, musician; panned for gold at Mormon Island (now Folsom Lake), California; and used gold to pay for his wedding. He and Eliza Ann Dibble were married in Salt Lake on February 3, 1850, by Brigham Young. Henry and Eliza started a family and helped establish settlements in Tooele Valley and San Bernardino, California. In 1858, Henry carried mail for George Chorpenning on the Overland Mail Route, a precursor to the Pony Express. Due to bad management, Henry was owed $1,300 in back pay for his mail service. He decided to go back East to try and collect the money. Payment was delayed, so Henry took employment as a wagon master and was ultimately captured by the Confederate Army and held as prisoner for three months. He was later released in exchange for Confederate prisoners. Because of the way he was treated he decided to fight for the Union. Henry enlisted with the First Regiment, District of Columbia, Volunteer Cavalry and was commissioned as a lieutenant due to his previous service in the Mormon Battalion. On May 8, 1864, Henry took part in the Battle of White Bridge near Jarrett’s Station, Virginia, and was shot. Due to infection, he died on May 27, 1864, leaving behind his wife and three children. Henry Wells Jackson is buried in Hampton National Cemetery and is remembered for his great sacrifice and love for family and country.

Photo credit: Dylan Fawson

Extended Research: 

When the Civil War began, a major worry of President Abraham Lincoln was communication between the eastern and western halves of the country. Although telegraph lines spanned the length of the country, attacks by Indian tribes sometimes left the telegraph lines down for several days. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been weary of the government in the past, Brigham Young said that “Utah has not seceded from the Union, but is firm for the Constitution and laws of our once happy country.” Utah’s geographical location, as well as Brigham Young’s recent declaration of loyalty to the Union, made Utah and the Mormon Militia a convenient option to protect the telegraph lines.[1]

On April 25, 1862, acting governor of Utah Frank Fuller sent a telegram to Daniel H. Wells, the militia commander over the Utah Territory, requesting a group of volunteers to guard mail and passenger routes from the “depredations of hostile Indians.”[2] The volunteers, under the command of Colonel Robert T. Burton, left Salt Lake City the following day and traveled due east along the United States mail route. The Burton company consisted of 24 men. On April 28, three days after the original telegraph, Brigham Young received another communication, this time from President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln allowed Young to raise another cavalry for 90 days of service. This company, which consisted of 105 men, was placed under the command of Captain Lot Smith. This company, in addition to guarding overland mail lines like the first company, would also be in charge of guarding telegraph lines, between Fort Bridger and Laramie, Wyoming. Because of delays in getting equipment ready for the expedition, this company did not leave Utah until May 1.[3]

Although Brigham Young swore loyalty to the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War, many in the United States had lingering distrust about Mormons, largely because of two events in the years preceding the Civil War: the Utah War and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Although the Utah War, which happened between 1857 and 1858, fell short of violence between Utah and the federal government, a tense relationship between the two resulted in the United States army marching west to Utah. The Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857 was much more extreme.

In September of 1857, during a time of reformation for the Mormon church, the Fancher-Baker party was traveling westward through Utah in route to California. After a reported verbal confrontation in Cedar City, Utah, between the party and local Mormons, the Fancher-Baker party continued west. After an initial attack by a Mormon militia and Paiute Indians killed several members of the party, the party pulled their wagons into a circle and were besieged by the militia. Four days after this attack, on September 11th, 1857, the Mormon militia convinced the party to surrender and handover their weapons, claiming they would march the party back to Cedar City. The Mormon militia proceeded to massacre the party. Save for those they deemed too young to be able to remember, militiamen killed some 120 men, women, and children.[4] It was because of these two events that the two companies were only chosen for 90 days of service, and was also a major reason why a third group, led by General Patrick Edward Connor, would be sent to Utah. 

These two companies did not do any fighting and did not have much trouble along the way other than bad weather at times. In a letter to Brigham Young in June of 1862, Lot Smith informed him that “the Company are all well, some few exceptions of cold and slight fever, the Brethren who have suffered are now fast recovering.”[5] At the time of Smith’s correspondence, they’d had four pack animals stolen from them and one horse had frozen to death.

In addition to the two groups of Utah volunteers, a volunteer group from California was formed under the command of General Patrick Edward Connor, with the same purpose of guarding telegraph lines.[6] Connor’s company, stationed in Utah, established Fort Douglas as part of Connor’s attempt to keep an eye on the Latter-day Saints. Connor, like many at the time, was distrustful of the Saints because of earlier events. While stationed in Utah, Connor and his men traveled north to Idaho where they committed the Bear River Massacre, killing hundreds of Northwestern Shoshone.[7]Other troops removed from the conflict in the East committed similar atrocities, such as the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864.

However, not all interactions with Native Americans were hostile. In a telegram dated July 13, 1862, Lot Smith described how a Colonel Collins traveled over 300 miles to meet with a Shoshone leader by the name of Washakie.[8]Although Washakie told them that he was no longer acknowledged as the Head Chief and could not agree to terms, he made his men return a stolen horse and gave Collins group 25 pounds of flour for their return trip. 

According to a letter from Brigham Young to George Q. Cannon, dated August 6, 1862, Lot Smith’s company made it back in late July or early August, with some members of the group taking a detour in an attempt to catch some horse thieves.[9]

After Lot Smith’s company returned, Utah and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints experienced little involvement in the Civil War, but that is not to say they were not affected by the events taking place. Many Latter-day Saints had family in the East who were affected by the war. The war was also troublesome for members making the pilgrimage to Utah. Many Mormon companies crossing the Great Plains were stopped and asked to pledge allegiance to the Union, while ships carrying converts overseas were often stopped by Confederate ships.[10] Despite the Civil War happening, mainly in the East, both Union and Confederate newspapers throughout the country continued to publish stories about Utah, mainly about Mormonism and polygamy. Nationally, Mormonism continued to be a popular topic throughout the remainder of the 19th century.[11]

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Brigham Young, Correspondence to George Q. Cannon, August 6, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Departure of the Company for the Protection of the Mail and Telegraph Lines,” Deseret News, May 7, 1862.

Lot Smith, Correspondence to Brigham Young, June 16, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lot Smith, Correspondence to Brigham Young, July 13, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Secondary Sources:

Barnes, John. “The Struggle to Control the Past: Commemoration, Memory, and the Bear River Massacre of 1863.” The Public Historian no. 1 (February 2008), 200-211.

Boone, David F. “The Church and the Civil War.” In Nineteenth-Century Saints at War, edited by Robert C. Freeman, 113-139. Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006.

Generous, Tom. “Over the River Jordan, California Volunteers in Utah During the Civil War.” California History 63, no. 3 (Summer 1984).

Hartley, William G. “Latter-day Saints Emigration During the Civil War.” In Civil War Saints, edited by Kenneth L. Alford, 237-265. Provo: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012.

Kenneth, Alford L., and Joseph R. Stuart. “The Lot Smith Cavalry Company: Utah Goes to War.” In Civil War Saints, edited by Kenneth L. Alford, 127-141. Provo: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012.

Kenneth, Alford L. “Utah and the Civil War Press.” In Civil War Saints, edited by Kenneth L. Alford, 267-283. Provo: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012.

Turley, Richard E. “The Mountain Meadows Massacre.” In Mormonism: An Historical Encyclopedia, edited by W. Paul Reeve and Ardis E. Parshall, 95-100.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_Creek_massacre


[1] Kenneth L. Alford and Joseph R. Stuart, The Lot Smith Cavalry Company: Utah Goes to War,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 127–41.

[2] David F. Boone, “The Church and the Civil War.” In Nineteenth-Century Saints at War ed. Robert C. Freeman (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2006), 132.

[3] “Departure of the Company for the Protection of the Mail and Telegraph Lines,” Deseret News, May 07, 1862.

[4] Richard E. Turley, “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” in W. Paul Reeve and Ardis E. Parshall, Mormonism: An Historical Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara: California: ABC-CLIO, 2010), 95-100.

[5] Lot Smith, Correspondence to Brigham Young, June 16, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[6] Tom Generous, “Over the River Jordan: California Volunteers in Utah during the Civil War,” California History no. 3, (Summer 1984): 200-211. 

[7] John Barnes, “The Struggle to Control the Past: Commemoration, Memory, and the Bear River Massacre of 1863,” The Public Historian no. 1, (February 2008): 81-104.

[8] Lot Smith, Correspondence to Brigham Young, July 13, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[9] Brigham Young, Correspondence to George Q. Cannon, August 6, 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234 1, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[10] William G. Hartley, “Latter-day Saint Emigration During the Civil War,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 237-265.

[11] Kenneth L. Alford, “Utah and the Civil War Press,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 267–83.

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