View Full Version : Latter Day Saints in the Civil War?

03-13-2004, 04:52 PM
My research thus far has produced few results as I attempt to find whether or not there any Latter Day Saints that fought for the North during the war. Specifically, I am wondeirng if any reformed Mormons (RLDS) from Wisconsin and Iowa served. Has anybody come across anything applicable to this during their studies? The Utah Mormons effectively stayed out of the war, but what of the Saints that did not follow B. Young's Mormons westward?



03-13-2004, 05:04 PM
Tad - that's an interesting question. It's true that there were some Mormons in various isolated communities throughout the Midwest that did not make the trek West. Whether they served (1861-`865) or not is a question I've never seen posed. I suspect they didn't due to their particular beliefs... and certainly on the heels of the Utah War, one would think Mormons wouldn't be too friendly with the U.S. Army. Pologamy was a pretty hot issue at the time... so they may have sought to have kept their religious identities "close to the vest."

I wonder if there are some Mormon genealogical boards where this question might be posted. Obviously Mormons are big into genealogy. Perhaps there are some references out there to Mormons who may have served.

I think it would have been pretty isolated - certainly no "Mormon regiments", etc.

03-13-2004, 05:12 PM
Tad - Was thinking on this further ... we do know that the US Army raised a battalion of Mormons 1846-1847 to fight in the war against Mexico. So I guess it wasn't unheard of for the Mormons to bear arms on behalf of the Federal Government.

Although, one might be led to believe this would only have made the Mormons increasingly anti-war because they were strong-armed into forming the battalion.

03-13-2004, 05:13 PM
Many of the reformed were anti-polygamist...hence the bad blood between the Utah Mormons and themselves. Your suggestion to post on some Mormon geneology sites is a good one, but I've been down the path to no avail. I will keep trying, however :)

Will keep you all posted as I learn more.


Chad Teasley
03-13-2004, 06:18 PM

Although I know you asked specifically about Latter Day Saints in the Union Army, a reference you might wish to check into is The Civil War Reminiscenses and Diary of Pvt. Levi Lamoni Wight. He was the son of Lyman Wight, an early Church leader who led a small colony of Saints to Texas after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844. The elder Wight died in 1858, but his son Levi enlisted in the 1st Texas Cavalry and saw extensive service in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, fighting at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, among other places. Wight survived the War and lived until 1918 as a member of the Reorganized LDS Church, today called the Community of Christ.

A while back I did some digging to attempt to locate any Mormons who served in the Federal Army during the War, and came up with zilch. A couple of years ago I read in a book about the history of the Church that there may have been as many as 50 Saints to serve in the Union Army, but unfortunately don't remember the title of the work, or where the author may have obtained that figure.

Given the hostility between the Federal government and LDS leaders in Utah Territory (then known as "Deseret" to the Saints), there was not much inclination among LDS men to fight for the Union. The so-called "Mormon War" of 1857-1858 has rightly received a good deal of recognition as having served as a training ground for a number of men who later obtained prominence in both the Confederate and Federal Armies (A.S. Johnston, Fitz-John Porter, E.P. Alexander, among others...), but feuding between Brigham Young and other Church leaders on one side and the Federal authorities on the other continued throughout much of the Civil War itself. Fortunately, the hostilities never descended into actual warfare. (Of course, there was little if any real belligerence during the "Mormon War", either.) The attitude of many of the local Federal authorities in the West was exemplified by Colonel Patrick Connor, who wrote to General George Wright in San Francisco that "it will be impossible for me to describe what I saw and heard in Salt Lake, so as to make you realize the enormity of Mormonism; suffice it, that I found them a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores." (Alvin Josephy, The Civil War in the American West, pg. 253). Apparently attempting to pick a fight, in late October, 1862, Connor took 750 volunteers, primarily from the 3rd California Infantry, crossed the Jordan River, and marched into Salt Lake City. He established a permanent camp on a bluff three miles east of the city, which he named Camp Douglas after the late Senator Steven A. Douglas, who had once referred to the Mormons as a "pestiferous, disgusting cancer." Connor then launched an expedition to wipe out a band of Shoshone Indians under the leadership of a Chief named Bear Hunter. On Jan. 29, 1863, his forces caught up with the Shoshones at the Bear River, and wiped out Bear Hunter and his band. Bear Hunter himself was captured after being wounded, and then brutally dispatched by having a red-hot bayonet driven through into his ear and through his head.
Open conflict between Connor and Mormon leaders was avoided when Lincoln appointed James Doty, a former Indian superintendent, as Governor of Utah Territory in mid-1863. Doty was an able diplomat, and maintained friendly relations with Brigham Young and other LDS leaders. However, Connor continued to attempt to create trouble with the Saints. He financed a weekly newspaper at Camp Douglas, called the Union Vedette, in which he wrote inflammatory anti-Mormon editorials which served to keep his Californian soldiers stirred up against the locals. He also encouraged his troops to prospect for gold and silver in the surrounding Utah mountains. In a letter to Gen. Wright in San Francisco in September, 1863, he declared that the solution to "the Mormon question" was to flood Utah with non-Mormon settlers, and he hoped that a large-scale discovery of precious metals would bring this about.
Finally, in summer, 1864, General Irvin McDowell, who had relieved Gen. Wright as departmental commander in San Francisco, ordered Connor to cease and desist from attempting to provoke the Mormons into a fight. McDowell stated that war with the Mormons would "...prove fatal to the Uinon cause in this department" and that "it is the course of true patriotism for you not to embark on any hostilities" against them. (Josephy, page 263) So the Mormons and the Federal government continued to maintain an uneasy peace throughout the Civil War, and for decades afterwards, until Church Pres. Wilford Woodruff formally abolished the practice of polygamy in 1890.

Anyway, I know your original inquiry was related to Saints residing in the mid-West during the War, not Utah, but hopefully this might be of some benefit to you.

Please keep us informed of the results of your research. I would be fascinated to know of any Mormons that served in the Federal Army.


03-14-2004, 12:35 PM
Thanks for the excellent information, Chad.

I will keep you posted with more information as it comes. As a direct decendant of Joseph Smith Jr., and dedicated Civil War enthusiast, such stories hit close to home. I was raised in the RLDS in Wisconsin as a child.



03-14-2004, 11:35 PM

There is a couple of books that you might look into. One probably more specific than the other.

The first:

"A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion inf the Mexican War: 1846-1848"
By: Sgt. Daniel Tyler

I picked this book up on Alibris under the "hard to find"

The second book:

"The Saints and the Union - Utah Territory during the Civil War"
By: E.B. Long

I believe that I got this on Amazon or some other internet site, not as difficult to find as the Mormon Battalion book.

Also, I had read in James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" that the Utah Territory had "recognized" themselves as a slave state. While there were not many slaves in the State, in the area of 20-30, the Utah Territory was "in line" to be a slave holding State.

While it is my complete speculation, but there may be more recognition with what Chad posted regarding more sympathy to the South.

As I grew up in the Beehive State, I would be interested to know what you are able to find out.


Steve Johnston

Chad Teasley
03-15-2004, 12:25 AM

Some years ago I was told by a fellow who was fairly well-versed in LDS history that the Confederate government sent emissaries to Brigham Young in an attempt to encourage the Saints to secede from the Union and declare Deseret to be an independent nation. The story goes that President Young became furious at their suggestion and threw them out. I've been unable to confirm this account in independent research. It may be just an urban legend within the Church...But the guy who related it to me was pretty knowledgable. Have either of you ever come across this story?

Good thread!


Michael Comer
03-15-2004, 09:53 AM
I believe that LDS folks were generally viewed as anti-slavery. That was part of what caused the furor in Missouri. As more and more migrated to the Independence area, their anti-slavery views were a factor in fomenting some of the hatred the locals acquired for them eventually leading to mob violence and expulsion.

The Church was certainly loyal to the United States as seen by raising the Mormon Battalion while trekking across Iowa on their way to the Salt Lake Valley after being run out of Nauvoo, Illinois. That was done to show allegiance to the country despite what had been done to them and it was also recognized that the money earned by the men while in US service would be very helpful in helping finance their families' trek to the West. Allegiance to country and government is also expounded in the Articles of Faith, which Joseph Smith wrote in response to a newspaper reporter's asking what church members believed in.

There was missionary work in the South prior to the war but it was not overly successful although it did bring some converts into the Church. So, there may have been some pro-slavery sentiments among individuals but, I think that would be minimal and the general view would be pro-Union.

04-27-2004, 11:29 AM
As Paul touched upon, perhaps more relevant to the LDS experience in the ACW than the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War was the so-called "Utah War" or "Mormon War" of 1857.

Influenced by rumors of rebellion in Utah, President James Buchanan ordered 2,500 soldiers led by General William S. Harney to the territory in May 1857. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston took over the command of the Utah Expedition as Harney was retained in Kansas to direct troops in the escalating troubles there.

With the completion of Camp Floyd (later Crittenden) in November 1858, the US Army maintained a sizeable presence in Utah. It was the largest concentration of U.S. troops to that time and upon its' completion, Camp Floyd immediately became the third largest city in Utah. The post was abandoned in 1861 and the assetts auctioned off.

Anyway, giving this situation, I'm not sure how inclined Mormons in Utah would have been to join the war effort.