Category Archives: Civil War

Utah and the Civil War (5) Markers

Published / by Seth Todd / Leave a Comment

Utah and the Civil War Markers (1961):

These historical markers were erected September 30, 1961 by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (Central Company). It encompasses four markers.

GPS Coordinates (Latitude/Longitude):

40.7767625°, -111.89043469°


“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.”


Captain Lot Smith Company:

Joseph S. Rawlings, 1st Lt.

J. Q. Knowlton, 2nd Lt.

Richard H. Atwood, 1st Sgt.

James M. Barlow, 2nd Sgt.

Samuel H. W. Riter, Sgt.

Howard Spencer, Sgt.

Moses Thurston, Sgt.

John P. Wimmer, Sgt.

Andrew Bigler, Corp.

Wm. A. Bringhurst, Corp.

Hiram Clemons, Corp.

Joseph H. Felt, Corp.

John Hoagland, Corp.

Newton Myricn, Corp.

John Neff, Jr., Corp.

Seymore P. Young, Corp.

Moroni W. Alexander

William C. Allen

John Arrowsmith

Isaac Atkinson

William Bagley

Lachoneus Barnard

William H. Bess

John R. Bennion

Samuel R. Bennion

Henry Bird

Edwin Brown

Charles C. Burnham

John Cahoon

Theo J. Calkin

Thomas S. Caldwell

Francis R. Cantwell

Jesse J. Cherry

Peter Cornia

George Cotterell

Everet Covert

James H. Cragun

Charles Crismon Jr.

George W. Davidson

Albert Davis

Henry L. Dolton

Parley P. Draper

Josiah Eardley

Charles Evans”


Captain Lot Smith Company:

Joseph A. Fisher

Wid Fuller

John Gibson

Moses W. Gibson

Joseph Goddard

William Grant

James Green

Edward F. M. Guest

Solomon Hale

Thomas H. Harris

John Helm

Samuel Hill

Ira N. Hinckley

James S. Hixson

Richard Howe

Louis A. Huffaker

Harvey C. Hullinger

James Imlay

Lars Jensen

Powell Johnson

Hiram Kimball, Jr.

Wm. J. Larkins

Thurston Larsen

Leander Lemmon

Daniel C. Lill

Wm. Longstrough

Thomas Lutz

William W. Lutz

William Lynch

Elijah Maxfield

Edwin Merrill

Reuben P. Miller

Mark Murphy

Daniel McNicol

Benjamin Neff

Edward A. Noble

Hiram G. North

Lewis Osborn

Hugh D. Park

Francis Platt

Lewis Polmantur

Francis Prince

Alfred Randall

Adelbert Rice”


Captain Lot Smith Company:

Landon Rich

Wm. H. Rhodes

Alley S. Rose

James Sharp

Emerson D. Shurtleff

Harlon E. Simon

John Standiford

James H. Steed

Joseph J. Taylor

Joseph Terry

William Terry

John H. Walker

William H. Walton

E. Malin Weiler

James H. Wells

Bateman H. Williams

Ephrain H. Williams

Col. Robert T. Burton Company:

Heber P. Kimball, Lt.

Robert J. Golding, Sgt.

Joseph M. Simmons, Sgt.

John W. Woolley, Sgt.

Stephen Taylor, Corp.

James T. Allred

William Carlos

Mark Croxall

Lewis Grant

William J. Harris

Henry Heath

Richard D. Margetts

Orson P. Miles

Lewis N. Neeley

Samuel D. Serrine

Adam Sharp

George Spencer

Joshua Terry

George W. Thatcher

Lewis A. West

James Woods

Brigham Young, Jr.

John W. Young”

Utah and the Civil War Marker (2015), Utah Civil War Casualty:

This historical marker was erected on November 11, 2015 by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (International). It was added as part of the Utah and the Civil War Markers (1961).

GPS Coordinates (Latitude/Longitude):

40.7767625°, -111.89043469°


“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 a 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.”

Extended Research:

            On April 12, 1861, the United States descended into a civil war, portrayed in the contemporary perception as a conflict between an industrial north and a slaveholding south. With this perception, it is often thought of as a war in the southern and eastern United States, excluding the American West from discussion about this uncivil bloodshed. While the American Civil War and its cruel battles remained mainly in the eastern portion of the country, people from its western territories and states participated in various manners. Utah’s role was small and limited, enacting its state militia for only a 90-day service before federal troops from California assumed responsibility. Members of the Nauvoo Legion were ordered to protect the telegraph lines and the overland trails. While the militia accomplished little in terms of warfare, the Nauvoo Legion’s participation helped provide a counterpoint to the American perception about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ loyalty to the United States.

Questions about Latter-day Saints shifted into doubts regarding the loyalty of Latter-day Saints to the Union. Prior to the Civil War, they were viewed as alien to the ideal American community, which was white and Protestant.[1] During the war, this perception became coupled with heavy suspicions that Latter-day Saints collaborated with the Confederates. For example, the governor of Nebraska Territory wrote of “Mormon emigrants,” who “sympathize warmly with the secessionists” and, “If they were disposed to make common cause with the secessionists in our own Territory and Missouri, the Indians also becoming their allies, they could easily exterminate the whole loyal population between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains before relief could be obtained from the Government.”[2] It was not enough that the group traveling through Nebraska were emigrants. They were “Mormon emigrants” who would ally with Native Americans, reflecting the idea that Latter-day Saints were not white through their associations and beliefs about Native Americans in their religious text, “The Book of Mormon.”[3] The religious people were contrary to the ideal American community, which suggested in the eyes of the public that they must be secessionists too. Perhaps, therefore, Simon Cameron reminded President Abraham Lincoln of the Utah War and recommended that another army should be sent to Utah to prevent violence by Latter-day Saints.[4] The “Mormon Problem” expressed before the war became a question of doubt about loyalty.

            Latter-day Saint disloyalty came from their understanding of themselves as a persecuted people. In December 1861, Brigham Young, speaking in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, stated clearly that “never was a wickeder man than the President of the United States, and his associates are very wicked men.”[5] However, Brigham’s words were to express his disdain for the “Gentile” territorial leaders that lived in the state, believing them to have engaged in misconduct against the Latter-day Saints.[6] It reflected his desire for Utah statehood and the corresponding right for Latter-day Saints to govern themselves. Heber C. Kimball, an early Latter-day Saint leader, declared that while he did not pray for the destruction of the government of the United States, he knew that “dissolution, sorrow, weeping and distress are in store for the inhabitants of the United States, because of their conduct towards the people of God.”[7]

For Latter-day Saints, the Civil War thus brought a reliving of previous abuses and a reminder of the recent Utah War where the nation, in their eyes, turned against them once more. As a result, it was easy for Latter-day Saints to view the Civil War as God’s justice enacted against the United States when the war erupted. This is evident in an editorial likely penned by George Q. Cannon, which stated, “Already our boasted land of liberty… is deluged with blood, and will continue to be so until it has atoned for rejecting the Gospel and refusing to avenge the wrongs of our people, and for passively sanctioning the murder of God’s servants.”[8] The Civil War, in the early Latter-day Saint perspective, was justified for the murder of their prophet, Joseph Smith, as well as other abuses. These expressions of frustration, however, when viewed by the American public were seen as further evidence of LDS disloyalty.

           Yet as much as Latter-day Saints expressed fiery indignation toward the United States for their “abuses,” there was a fair amount of conciliation and sympathy as well. Brigham Young did express sorrow for the people in the East.[9] Though angry at the United States federal government, Brigham affirmed Latter-day Saint loyalty to the country. He felt that it was better that his people submitted “to those things which are [unpleasant] than for us to do wrong” when asked if the Utah Territory would secede.[10] His first telegram to the United States reaffirmed Utah’s loyalty to the Constitution and the laws of the land.[11] To help affirm Latter-day Saint allegiance to the Union in the minds of the American people, he offered the Nauvoo Legion as an aid.

President Abraham Lincoln—tasked with the reunification of the country—knew that the survival of the United States rested on maintaining the loyalty of the states and territories remaining in the Union.[12] Part of Lincoln’s duty was to ensure communication lines with the western states and territories remained open. As workers built the transcontinental telegraph, Lincoln realized its importance. During its construction, he had the lines shifted more towards the north, putting the route through Salt Lake City.[13] Moving the route enabled the transcontinental telegraph line to remain open and free from interruptions. If this was not accomplished, communicating with the people in the West would prove long and tedious as it would more likely be done through messengers on horse. It would add further strains to an already stressed country.

It was not only President Lincoln who saw the vitality of communication with the West. Politicians, too, noted its importance. On May 1, 1861, Erastus Corning, an American politician, wrote a letter to Simon Cameron (the Secretary of War at the beginning of the American Civil War) stating:

I also think that it is of vital importance to the Government that the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad be preserved to its owners, and that its free and uninterrupted use be maintained at all times and at all hazards. It furnishes the only accessible and speedy route by which the Government can communicate with Kansas, Nebraska, and Utah, or with its military posts along the Western and Northwestern frontier to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and, if allowed to fall into and remain in the hands of an enemy, it is easy to see how difficult and well-nigh impossible in such an emergency it would be for the Government to preserve its Western Territories and military posts, for the danger to which they would be exposed would indeed be serious, and they could only be supported at immense expense and loss both of time and of means.[14]

However, the trouble did not come from Confederate sympathizers, but from Native Americans. For Native Americans, there was a desperate struggle to survive on dwindling resources as settlers encroached on their territory. Competition for natural resources taxed the natives as more settlers entered Utah.[15] The United States made treaties with the various tribes that comprised Utah territory in disadvantageous ways. They were written in English with terms not explained correctly and made with Native Americans who did not lead the tribe.[16] These treaties often faltered. Reservations were never maintained properly with living conditions proving difficult.[17] It pushed some Native American people to raid emigrant trains and cause general mayhem. For these reasons, Native Americans disrupted communications even prior to the war. During the war it proved alarming as Native Americans in the eastern United States sided with both the Union and the Confederates. There was a legitimate fear that native peoples in the West would join the Confederate cause and eliminate those loyal to the Union.

Feeding Native American peoples would not prove to be a solution. As reported by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the year 1862 in Utah, “To keep [Native Americans] from robbing the stations and committing depredations upon them, and upon the settlers and travelers, the largest expenditures were incurred for flour, wheat, and beef; but it was impossible, with the funds… to furnish them a constant and adequate supply.”[18] Resources were needed elsewhere as the war continued. The question of how to protect the communication lines was eventually solved by bringing forces to ensure Native Americans in the West did not cause issue for the embattled Union instead of using assets to keep peace. “The safe and speedy transportation of mails and of treasure over this route has now become of such vast importance to… the government, it is supposed the funds appropriated… cannot be devoted at the present time to a more useful purpose than the protection of the mail and telegraph lines.”[19] Perhaps surprisingly to the American public, Brigham Young offered Utah’s militia “to take care of all the Indians within [Utah’s] borders.”[20] Until other forces could assume responsibility, the Latter-day Saints had the duty to protect important communication lines, allowing them to prove their loyalty.

            The opportunity for service came shortly after a year of the war had passed. The adjutant-general, Lorenzo Thomas, wrote to Brigham Young on April 28, 1862, allowing him to raise a company to protect the mail routes and telegraph lines. He wrote, “By express direction of the President of the United States you are hereby authorized to raise, arm, and equip one company of cavalry for ninety days’ service.”[21] Brigham Young acted immediately on this letter, ordering Daniel H. Wells, the Lieutenant-General of the Nauvoo Legion, to act on the telegram.[22] Daniel H. Wells raised the company with Lot Smith at the head. At the time, Colonel Robert T. Burton and his men were protecting mail routes in northern Utah.[23] As well, Robert T. Burton and his men were instructed “to protect Colonel Hooper, [General] Chauncey W. West, and Judge Kinney.”[24] Lot Smith and his men had different duties. He and his men were to be representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been admonished by Brigham Young to be “kind, forbearing, and righteous in all your acts.”[25] They marched to Fort Bridger in May and then to Independence Rock (both in Wyoming), improving the trail and noting the destruction of mail stations along the way.[26] In July, at Independence Rock, some of the men were instructed to apprehend deserters. Lieutenant J.Q Knowlton captured a horse thief (which resulted in a brief skirmish).[27] At the behest of Brigham Young, they contacted Chief Washakie of the Shoshones to ensure that he remained a friend to the Latter-day Saints.[28] Their last mission involved recovering animals from a Native American raid. On their return in August, a Private Donald McNichol “lost control of his horse” in the Snake River and was pulled under the river current, drowning.[29] Private McNichol’s death was the only loss that the Nauvoo Legion experienced. With their service completed, the United States passed the duty to protect Utah and the mail routes and telegraph lines to Colonel Patrick Edward Connor, a leader of a group of volunteers from California. Connor established Fort Douglas on the bench overlooking Salt Lake City and presided over federal forces in the territory for the duration of the Civil War.

           Utah’s part in the Civil War was limited and small, but for the people involved, it meant a measure of self-preservation. For Native Americans, they sought to maintain their way of life as settlers encroached on their lands, diminishing viable resources. Options for survival changed; raiding and destroying became a method to uphold their rights as a people. As Latter-day Saints were perceived as alien before the conflict, this perception warped as the American public viewed them as secessionists that would consume the West. Latter-day Saint participation, through the Nauvoo Legion, achieved little in terms of warfare. Their service provided instead an opportunity to prove loyalty to a doubting Union and a way for Latter-day Saints to attempt to foster a positive self-image.

For Further Reference

Primary Resources:

Alford, Kenneth L. Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record. Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017.

Corning, Erastus. Erastus Corning to Simon Cameron, May 1, 1861. In Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, edited by Alford, Kenneth L. Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017.

Dole, William P. “Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.” H.exdoc.1/5. From Office of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior.

Paddock, Algernon. Algernon Paddock to Simon Cameron, June 24, 1861. In Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, edited by Alford, Kenneth L. Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017.

Thomas, Lorenzo. Lorenzo Thomas to Brigham Young, April 28, 1862. In Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, edited by Alford, Kenneth L. Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017.

Utah State Archives (Salt Lake City, Utah). Utah Territory Militia; Nauvoo Legion Correspondence, Orders and Reports, 1-2126. Film. Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1966. Found in Family History Library.

Secondary Resources:

Alford, Kenneth L. Civil War Saints. Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2012.

Fluhman, J. Spencer. ‘A Peculiar People’: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

Maxwell, John G. The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016.

Reeve, Paul W. Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

[1] Spencer J. Fluhman, “A Peculiar People”: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 2012).

[2] Algernon Paddock to Simon Cameron, June 24, 1861, in Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017), 87.

[3] Paul W. Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[4] Alford, Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record.

[5] John Gary Maxwell, The Civil War Years in Utah: The Kingdom of God and the Territory That Did Not Fight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016), 103.

[6] Maxwell, The Civil War Years in Utah.

[7] Kenneth L. Alford, Civil War Saints (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo Utah, 2012), 97.

[8] Alford, Civil War Saints, 98.

[9] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[10] Alford, Civil War Saints, 111.

[11] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[12] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[13] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[14] Erastus Corning to Simon Cameron, May 1, 1861, in Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017), 80.

[15] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[16] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[17] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[18] William P. Dole, “Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,” (Office of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior, September 12, 1862), 342.

[19] Dole, “Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,” 342.

[20] Alford, Civil War Saints, 72.

[21] Lorenzo Thomas to Brigham Young, April 28, 1862, in Utah and the American Civil War: The Written Record, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017), 142.

[22] Utah State Archives (Salt Lake City, Utah), “Utah Territory Militia; Nauvoo Legion Correspondence, Orders and Reports, 1-2126” (Film, n.d.).

[23] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[24] Maxwell, The Civil War Years in Utah, 136.

[25] Maxwell, The Civil War Years in Utah, 137-138.

[26] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[27] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[28] Alford, Civil War Saints.

[29] Alford, Civil War Saints, 138.

Connor Statue at Historic Park

Published / by Zach Vayo / Leave a Comment

Connor Statue at Historic Park

Write-up by Zach Vayo

GPS Coordinates: 40.764399°N, 111.832891°W

Historical Marker Text:


Born in County Kerry, Ireland. Emigrated as a child to the United States. Enlisted in the army at age 19. Attained rank of Captain in the Mexican War. As Colonel, commanding the Volunteers, established Camp Douglas on Oct. 26, 1862. A soldier-statesman of great energy and vision, he was the “father of Utah mining”, published the first daily newspaper in Utah Territory, and founded Stockton, Utah. * * * * This park presented to the United States Army by the Fort Douglas Museum Association on the 124th Anniversary of the founding of Fort Douglas. Oct 26, 1986.”

Extended Research:

Aside from Brigham Young, perhaps no individual played a larger role in shaping nineteenth century Utah than Patrick Connor. Indeed, prominent Utah historian Dean May has hailed these men as the two founding fathers of modern Utah.[1] Today, Connor’s statue in Fort Douglas quietly rivals Young’s much grander memorialization across Salt Lake in Temple Square – a silent reenactment of what was in its day a bitter public rivalry between these two men and their competing visions. Young sought to establish Utah as the Kingdom of God on Earth according to the unique sensibilities of the LDS Church. Connor, meanwhile, aimed to bring Utah into the American mainstream by conquering the land’s indigenous peoples and opening the door for white settlers like himself, looking to make their fortunes out West. Intensely distrustful of Utah’s Mormon population, Connor was himself an immigrant who, having undergone a process of Americanization, now sought to “Americanize” Utah along the same lines as the rest of the West. Portrayed as everything from hero to murderous plunderer, Connor has been sweepingly characterized as “the archetypal nineteenth century man”, who was “representative of all that was good and bad in that age.”[2]

The man who would come to identify himself as P. Edward Connor was born Patrick Edward (“Paddy”) O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. Very little information exists on Connor’s early life; he claimed to have been born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1820.[3] Economic stagnation in Ireland drove his family to emigrate to New York when he was perhaps sixteen. Connor spent several years working odd jobs as a laborer before beginning his military career by volunteering for the First Dragoons in 1839. It is possible the young Irishman viewed military service as a useful means to “Americanize” himself in an era animated by nativism and anti-Catholicism.[4]

Connor’s five year tour with the Dragoons took him to the lands in and around the newly-created Iowa Territory to maintain relations with the region’s native peoples. This fledgling military presence in the trans-Mississippi West, with the US fresh off the Jacksonian ethnic cleansing of native peoples in the East, would foreshadow atrocious military violence against the indigenous peoples of the West during and after the Civil War, in which Connor himself was to play a leading role.

While relatively uneventful, Connor’s tour with the Dragoons gave him valuable experience as a soldier. More importantly, he appeared to become enamored with the West, where he would spend almost all of the remainder of his life. Following the end of his tour of duty, he returned to New York for several years, engaging in “mercantile business” and becoming a naturalized citizen (a process no doubt made easier by his military record).[5] Also around this time, he removed some of the conspicuous Irish-ness from his name by dropping the O’ in his surname and shortening Patrick to an initial, becoming P. Edward Connor. With the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846, Connor headed west again, joining a company of Texas Volunteers. He participated in the US victory at the Battle of Buena Vista, receiving praise for his bravery.[6]

Connor ca. 1860s

The war resulted in the US seizure of a vast swath of land claimed by Mexico. Connor was among many who viewed these lands as a place to make it big, travelling to California in 1850 on the heels of the Gold Rush. After an ill-fated attempt to establish a community on the Trinity River, he settled in Stockton. Over the next decade, his numerous entrepreneurial ventures, particularly a gravel quarry on his property, resulted in Connor accumulating a degree of wealth. He emerged as a leading citizen of Stockton and came to head its militia, the Stockton Blues. In 1854, he married Johanna Connor, another emigrant from Kerry County.[7] The couple would raise five children to adulthood, enduring the loss of two sons who died in childhood.

This relatively peaceful period of Connor’s life came to an end in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. Eager to serve his adopted country once more, he took the lead in recruiting several companies of California Volunteers to serve under his command. In spite of his (and his troops’) desire to fight the Confederacy in the East, he found himself assigned to protect overland mail routes in Utah, as the Lincoln administration sought to preserve California’s tenuous connection to the Union.[8] In Utah, Connor’s troops were to serve as an occupying force to both native peoples such as the Shoshone and to the territory’s Mormon population, practitioners of an enigmatic and fanatical religion in the eyes of many, whose loyalty to the country seemed particularly dubious, particularly in light of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre.

During the journey across Nevada, Connor began to hone his reputation as an Indian fighter, launching attacks that killed several dozen Shoshones. Reaching Salt Lake City in 1862, Connor remarked with disgust on the apparent un-Americanness of the Mormons, calling them “a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores,” claiming “the people publicly rejoice at reverses to our arms,” and “Brigham Young rules with despotic sway.”[9] For their part, the Mormons had good reason to fear federal troops due to the “Utah War” of 1856-58. As such, they were none too happy when Connor, despairing of the state of the old Camp Crittenden (Camp Floyd) in Utah Valley, planted his troops directly above their capital, establishing Camp Douglas on an eastern bench of the Salt Lake Valley on October 26, 1862. Connor cited this new location as all the better to “say to the Saints of Utah, enough of your treason.”[10] Connor’s troops thus became the most visible symbol of “Gentile” (non-Mormon) presence in the territory, sparking a war of words between the two groups lasting for decades.

Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas) ca. 1865. Connor named the fort for Lincoln’s great political rival, Stephen Douglas.

The year 1863 was a critical one for Connor. Denied the chance to fight in the East, he seized on a chance to “chastise” the Northwestern Shoshone instead. Increased Anglo-American incursions into what is today southern Idaho had strained relationships with the Shoshone, producing intermittent fighting and claims of kidnapping. In the bitter cold of January, Connor marched his troops from Camp Douglas to a Shoshone encampment on the Bear River. One California newspaper offered a telling insight into the attitudes of the day by publishing a gleeful letter from a Salt Lake correspondent, stating that “before [Connor’s troops] quit the entertainment Mr. Redskin is to be well thrashed, and, if possible, ‘wiped out.’”[11]

Arriving at the encampment, Connor’s troops launched an attack on the 29th of January. What began as a battle became a bloodbath as Connor’s troops flanked the Shoshones, trapping them in a ravine. The troops proceeded to massacre anyone within reach, including women and children. The death toll may well have exceeded four hundred, making it the largest massacre in the history of the American West. Connor’s troops destroyed homes and food supplies, murdering dozens more women who refused to submit to rape by the soldiers.[12] His actions would make him one of the most despised figures in Shoshone memory, with one survivor, Sagwitch, later recalling the bitter irony of “that merciless battle, when women and suckling babes met their death at the hands of civilization.”[13] Those same actions, however, made Connor a hero to white colonizers in the West, and earned him a promotion to brigadier-general.

Bear River Massacre site.

Back in Salt Lake, Connor became fixated on the notion of publicizing Utah’s mineral wealth so as to draw non-Mormons into the territory, contending that “inducements … to the teeming population of the East and West, seeking new fields of exploration and prosperity” would spell political and social doom for the Mormonism that he saw as “not only subversive of morals, in conflict with the civilization of the present age, and oppressive on the people, but also deeply and boldly in contravention of the laws and best interests of the nation.”[14] To that end, he founded the Daily Union Vedette, a staunchly non-Mormon newspaper that wrote extensively on the wealth to be had in Utah. Connor helped to establish and personally invested in numerous mining districts, including what would become Bingham Canyon, earning the honorific “father of Utah mining.” In 1863, Connor also established the town of Stockton, near Tooele, named for his former home in California. Connor intended Stockton as a hub for non-Mormon settlement, though his grand visions could never elevate it beyond a minor settlement on the fringes of Brigham Young’s Mormon kingdom. Of course, Young and his disciples were none too happy to see these capitalistic incursions into their Zion. After Young petitioned unsuccessfully to have Connor and his troops removed from Utah,[15] he was spared of the general for a time when Connor was sent to present Wyoming for the Powder River expedition in 1865.

Connor thus departed Utah to crush resistance from the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho in response to a mining boom that had drawn a wave of white colonizers into Montana. While Connor’s campaigns failed to win any “victories” as decisive as that at Bear River, he nonetheless killed several hundred indigenous persons in a series of battles and skirmishes such as Tongue River (at times fighting alongside indigenous allies such as the Omaha). Such militancy undermined the capacity of indigenous communities to sustain themselves, leaving little recourse to federal economic dependency and reservations (with poverty ironically reinforcing white perceptions of indigenous nations as primitive and backwards). The Powder River endeavor was largely regarded as a failure, in part due to negative publicity surrounding another event to the south: namely, the army’s 1864 Sand Creek Massacre against the Cheyenne and Arapaho, which had soured the nation for a time on war with native nations.[16] Reflecting this shift in attitude, the Salt Lake Tribune expressed desire for “some sensible plan” regarding “the poor Indian race.”[17]Nonetheless, the expedition cemented Connor’s status as to hero to white colonizers in the West. This would be Connor’s last major military mission, as he resigned his commission in 1866.

After a brief return to Utah (and a trip to Washington DC to testify against the evils of the Mormons), Connor returned to California with his family. By 1869, however, the looming completion of the transcontinental railroad brought him back to Utah. This time, his family stayed in California, establishing a permanent residence in Redwood City. Over the next decades, Connor would become increasingly estranged from his family as he bounced between various mining and railroad endeavors in Utah and Nevada in largely unsuccessful attempts to amass his fortune, made all the more difficult by the market instabilities laid bare in the Panic of 1873. Johanna Connor would eventually die in 1889, making no mention of her oft-absent husband in her will.

In Utah, the railroad spelled doom for Brigham Young’s bucolic conception of an economically isolated Zion. Anticipating an economic and demographic influx to the territory, Connor took an interest in the town of Corinne, near the mouth of the Bear River, which emerged in the wake of the railroad’s completion as Utah’s leading non-Mormon community. His assessment of this emerging landscape proved somewhat overly optimistic, with his vision of a steamboat service across the Great Salt Lake connecting Corinne to Stockton never truly materializing. As the most esteemed non-Mormon in the territory, Connor became the symbolic leader of Utah’s anti-Mormon Liberal Party, which denounced polygamy and sought to block statehood for fear of losing federal leverage against the dominant religion. Speaking at an 1880 Liberal rally, Connor declared his intention of “taking up the fight with renewed vigor,” and “helping forward the good work of regulating and Americanizing Utah.”[18] This symbolic leadership notwithstanding, Connor proved unsuccessful in parlaying his notoriety into political office, losing a bid even for the modest office of Salt Lake County Recorder. He died in Salt Lake in 1891 with much prestige and little wealth, and was buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery.[19]

Connor with President Hayes during the latter’s visit to Fort Douglas, 1880.

The decades after his death saw Patrick Connor’s vision of an Americanized Utah come to fruition to a remarkable degree. Booming mining industries throughout the new state in regions such as Carbon County and Bingham Canyon attracted waves of non-Mormon immigration from countries including Greece and Italy, and, to a lesser extent, Japan and China. Mining in particular signified Utah’s increasing integration into the national economy; while providing economic opportunity, this new colonial economy also spawned appalling working conditions and environmental degradation. Connor would no doubt also have been pleased to see the LDS church, the object of his perpetual contempt, take a firmer stance against polygamy and recede from the political sphere in the first decades of the twentieth century (though the latter change did not prove permanent). Furthermore, the twentieth century also saw emphasis on Brigham Young’s model of economic cooperation decline as many Mormons made their peace with Connor’s capitalist vision. Indeed, while not abandoning their distinct identities, Mormon communities have undergone a noteworthy degree of Americanization since Connor’s time.[20] Connor himself practiced what he preached with regards to Americanization: the Irish-born immigrant epitomized the self-made man of fame and fortune. While this rugged, romantic image has become iconic in conceptions of the West, Connor’s case also illustrates its shortcomings. Never truly successful in making his fortune later in life, his obsessive quest for wealth resulted in considerable alienation from his family. Underpinning all of this is Connor’s darkest legacy (and one that is conspicuously absent from his historical marker): the brutalization of indigenous nations, on whose dispossessed land the processes of “Americanization” played out. Particularly for the Northwestern Shoshones, the impacts and bitter memories of Colonel Connor’s atrocious actions on the Bear River echo into the twenty-first century.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

P. Edward Connor, Official Report on the Bear River Massacre, February 6, 1863.

Secondary Sources:

Madsen, Brigham. Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990.

May, Dean. Utah: A People’s History. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987.

Varley, James. Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. . Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989.

[1] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987), 194.

[2] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989), x.

[3] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990), 3-5.

[4] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 2.

[5] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 18-19.

[6] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 4.

[7] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 30.

[8] Ibid, 48.

[9] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major R. C. Drum, September 14, 1862.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “A Big Expedition – Connor and the Volunteers after the Indians,” Sacramento Daily Union (Sacramento, CA), Feb. 7, 1863

[12] Scott Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999), 52.

[13] F.W. Warner (Sagwitch), “Sagwitch Writes The Citizen About New Monument,” Franklin County Citizen (Preston, ID), Jul. 11, 1918.

[14] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major E. McGarry, October 26, 1863.

[15] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 114.

[16] Ibid, 121.

[17] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 258.

[18] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 237.

[19] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 271.

[20] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History, 190, 194-198.