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19th Century Latter-day Saint Movements & Western Manuscripts: Mormon Battalion (1846-1847)

Guide to the 19th Century Latter-day Saint Movements & Western Manuscripts Collection at L. Tom Perry Special Collections

Collections on the Mormon Battalion (1846-1847)

The following are selections of manuscript collections located in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections containing information related to the Mormon Battalion, a group of about 500 Latter-day Saints who joined the United States Army in 1846, during the Mexican-American War, to help provide financial support for their families and other Mormon pioneers. For additional collections related to this era, contact Ryan Lee, curator of 19th Century Mormon and Western Manuscripts.

  • An appeal to the president of the United States, 1846 June 1 (MSS 241): Handwritten copy of a letter from Jesse C. Little appealing to the president of the United States, James K. Polk. The item was copied in 1890, but the original was dated 1 June 1846. The letter states that the Mormons have been persecuted and appealed for aid. It is believed that Polk's call for volunteers to fight in the war with Mexico was an answer to this request. The "Mormon Battalion" was formed in consequence.
  • Samuel Hollister Rogers diary, volume 1, 1841-1855 (MSS 1134, Box 1, Folder 1): Volume includes an autobiographical sketch for Rogers, from his birth in 1819 to life in Kirtland, Ohio and Nauvoo, Illinois, as an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Central to Rogers' diary is his experience in the Mormon Battalion from July 1846 to July 1847. Dated 1841-1855.
  • Thomas L. Kane collections:
    • James Allen note to Thomas L. Kane, 1846 July 22 (Vault MSS 792, Series 3, Sub-series 3, Box 14, Folder 7): Note signed by Allen, Camp [Mormon Battalion?], authorizing Kane to buy three gallons of whiskey, dated July 22, 1846.  Digitized copy available here.
    • Philip St. George Cooke orders no. 1, 1846-1847 (Vault MSS 792, Series 3, Sub-series 3, Box 14, Folder 8): Order from Lt. Col. P.S. George Cooke, San Diego, read to the Battalion at Retreat parade San Luis Rey, February 4, 1847, giving congratulations on completing the march to the Pacific, recounts the hardships of the journey, includes extract from Cooke's official journal, dated December 20, 1846. Dated January 30, 1847.  Digitized copy available here.
    • Thomas L. Kane letter and sketches to John K. Kane, 1846 July (Vault MSS 792 Series 3 Sub-Series 2 Box 14, Folder 4, Item 2): Letter from Kane from Winter Quarters to John K. Kane. Contains a letter of introduction for Orson Hyde, dated July 25, 1846 and enclosed are two sketches of Winter Quarters (formerly in 3 pieces) titled: "My wagon-the first camp," "Distant view," and "Enlisting Camp of the Mormons," all drawn on the back of invitations. The last ("Enlisting Camp") has brief explanation written on reverse side of sketch: "The eye is on a high hill. Capt. Allan’s tent. Immediately on the right at its foot begins the road that comes from Pisgah to the Missouri (B) and continues all along the Prairie Bottom. marked here & there by waggons drawn by ox teams . . . The distant line of timber. C. marks the course of the Missouri. Some trees small mark the course of a creek [spring written but crossed out] in the meadow at the right & front. The other marks mean waggons tents or cattle the more speckly generally cattle which crowd every hill-side & meadow – but the low speckles on the distant prairie bottoms are camps. The nos. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. denote relative distance." One is dated July 14, 1846, the other two are dated July 29, 1846. Digitized copy available here.
    • Brigham Young letter to James K. Polk, 1846 August 9 (Vault MSS 792 Series 3 Sub-Series 2 Box 14, Folder 4, Item 3): Letter from Young (Willard Richards clerk) to President Polk, saying that the Mormons are on a journey to west of the Rocky Mountains, within the basin of the Great Salt Lake or Bear River valley, enlistment of the Mormon Battalion, assured of the President's friendship to the Saints by Jesse Little and Thomas L. Kane, saying they support the Constitution but would rather leave than be subject to unfair governors, etc. They oppose the appointment of Lilburn W. Boggs as Governor of California, they will ask for a territorial government as soon as they settle in the West, expresses confidence in and support for President Polk, dated August 9, 1846. Digitized copy available here.
    • Willard Richards letter, 1847 February (Vault MSS 792, Series 3, Sub-series 9, Box 16, Folder 18, Item 2): Letter from Richards, Winter Quarters, to Thomas L. Kane, they don't know anything about their permission from government to stop on Omaha lands, they don't know where Lyman Wight is, Winter Quarters is a good place for a fort and they are prepared to contract for the building of one, the leaders of the Church will leave for the West as early as possible, they will definitely settle in the Great Basin, thanks Thomas L. Kane for his efforts to help them, news of the Mormon Battalion. Dated February 16-19, 1847. Digitized copy available here.
    • Thomas L. Kane letter to Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, 1872 January 12 (Vault MSS 792, Series 3, Sub-series 9, Box 16, Folder 25, Item 3): Letter from Thomas L. Kane to Stenhouse, drafts, replies to January 5, 1872 letter, answers his question about the Mormon Battalion, speaks of his dealings with the Mormons. Dated January 12, 1872. Digitized copy available here.
  • John Steele collections:
  • Abner Blackburn diary, 1827-1851 (MSS SC 43): Typescript of diary which gives accounts of the Mormon experiences in Missouri, frontier and pioneer life, Indian customs and warfare, and gold-digging during the California gold rush of 1849. Blackburn was a member of the Mormon Battalion.
  • Albert Smith diaries, 1842-1880 (MSS 453): Photocopies of a handwritten diary and a typescript copy. His diary starts in 1842 and includes information on where he lived and his experiences in the Mormon Battalion.
  • Daniel Tyler papers, 1816-1906 (MSS SC 481): Collection includes photocopies of journals and other personal papers. Journals cover Tyler's time as mission president, patriarch, and member of the Mormon Battalion.
  • Jacob Kemp Butterfield collections:
    • Jacob Kemp Butterfield correspondence, 1837-1886 (MSS SC 2841): Photocopies of handwritten and typed copies of correspondence. Butterfield writes to his mother and other family members, about several things related to his experiences as a Latter-day Saint, including his service with the Mormon Battalion. 
    • Jacob Kemp Butterfield letters, 1846 (MSS SC 1931): Handwritten letter and a typescript. The letter was written at Fort Levenworth on August 7, 1846 to Butterfield's mother and deals with the "Mormon Batallion," with his personal feelings toward the Mormon Church, and quotes from his patriarchal blessing.
    • Jacob Kemp Butterfield letter, 1846 (MSS SC 1385): Photocopy and typescript of a handwritten letter written while on the march with the Mormon Battalion. The item is addressed to Butterfield's mother and gives particulars about the Mormon pioneer trek to the west as well as the Mormon Battalion's mission and activities. Butterfield explains his Mormon faith to his mother.
  • Andrew Jackson Workman autobiography, 1839-1874 (MSS 5902): Andrew Jackson includes in this account his experience serving in the Mormon Battalion, and march to California; and his work in the gold mines.
  • David Pettigrew autobiography and diary, 1840-1861 (MSS 473): Photocopy of a handwritten autobiography and diary with a typescript of the item. Pettigrew (apparently also spelled Pettegrew) started his autobiography in 1840. Among other things, he described his service in the Mormon Battalion from 1846 to 1847.
  • Henry Green Boyle autobiography and diary, 1844-1912 (MSS 156, Box 1, Folder 1): Starting in 1844, Boyle records an early history of his life from his childhood to joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Virginia in 1843 and moving to Nauvoo, Illinois, soon after. He begins a diary in 1846 and writes brief entries of events in his life up to 1855, service in the Mormon Battalion, traveling to Utah, first marriage, and his service as a missionary in California.
  • Mormon Battalion Company A return list, 1846 July 16 (Vault MSS 76, Box 4, Folder 8, Item 1): Contains a list of members of Company A of the Mormon Battalion, including information on their rank, place of origin, birthdate, family situation, supplies, and the disposal of their wages. Document is signed by Jefferson Hunt, and dated July 16, 1846. Part of the Newel Kimball Whitney papers. Digitized copy available online here.
  • James Allen and R. B. Mitchell letters, 1846 July (Vault MSS 399): Handwritten and signed letter, dated 16 July 1846, and composed at the "Headquarters Morm. Batt. U.S. Volunteers." Allen writes about the march to California and the necessity of protection against Indians. On the reverse of Allen's letter is found a handwritten letter, dated 21 July 1846, and signed by R. B. Mitchell, "Indian Agent." The item was composed at "Point aux Poules." Mitchell praises the conduct of the emigrating Mormons in general and with the Indians in particular.
  • Levi W. Hancock journal 1846-1847 (MSS SC 3252): Photocopy of a microfilm copy of a handwritten diary. Hancock writes about his service in the Mormon Battalion during the War with Mexico, 1846-1848. He writes about the daily activities of the men and about their hardships. He also includes a number of hand-drawn maps relating to the march of the battalion.
  • Lafayette Frost letter and biography, 1846-1860 (MSS 956): Photocopy of a handwritten letter and a handwritten biography. The date of the biography is uncertain. The letter was written by Frost while serving in the Mexican War with the Mormon Battalion when he was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Frost writes about the scenery along the line of march, his duties, a change in leadership, and about his illness.
  • Andrew Jackson Shupe diary, 1846-1855 (MSS SC 817): This is a typescript of a diary of a Mexican War soldier who served in the "Mormon Battalion." The diary was kept from 16 July 1846 to 10 Sept. 1847 with a few entries for the years 1848-1855. 
  • Azariah Smith diary, 1846-1912 (MSS 554): Photocopy of a handwritten diary. Smith writes of his early life until he started his diary in 1846. He tells about his experiences in the Mormon Battalion and the discovery of gold in California in 1848. Another copy of this diary along with an autobiography is available at MSS 2333.
  • Jonathan Harriman Holmes diary, 1846-1848 (MSS 1164): Photocopy of a typescript of a diary kept from 1846 to 1848. Holmes writes about enlisting in the Mormon Battalion, the march to Santa Fe and to California, being discharged from the service, and his travels to Sacramento, California, and to Salt Lake City, Utah. 
  • Biography of Samuel Miles the son of Samuel and Prudence Marks, ca. 1852-1881 (MSS 7599): Manuscript autobiography, labeled by the author as a biography, with thirty-two pages of a handwritten life story by Samuel Miles. Miles was a member of the Mormon Battalion and this history mentions his experience as well as his role in the Gold Rush at Sutter's Mill. Digitized copy available here.
  • Erastus Bingham pension application, 1859 (MSS SC 972): Holograph application to the US Department of the Interior by Erastus Bingham regarding the pension due him as guardian of his grandson, Elijah N. Freeman Jr. Freeman's father, Elijah N. Freeman Sr., died while serving in the "Mormon Battalion" on 20 Nov. 1846 during the war with Mexico.
  • Mormon Battalion (poem), ca. 1860 (MSS SC 2224): Handwritten poem commemorating the activities of the Mormon Battalion in service of the United States during the war with Mexico (1845-1848). The item was written in ink. "By John Hancock who went in the Battalion in 1847" has been penciled in at the bottom of the item in another hand. No John Hancock is listed among members of the battalion. Digitized copy available online here.
  • The experiences of a western pioneer, ca. 1800s (MSS SC 127): Two handwritten accounts written by an unidentified grandchild of Albert Smith. The first story concerns an acquaintance of the family who, while traveling east from California in 1852, rescued his wagon train's horses from the Indians. The second account concerns Albert Smith and Azariah Smith, their journey with the Mormon Battalion to California, their return to Utah, and their settlement of Manti, Utah.
  • Russell R. Casper biography of William Wallace Casper, date not identified (MSS 3714): Transcript of a biography of William Wallace Casper, with an emphasis on his service in the Mormon Battalion. Biography contains excerpts from a narrative account by William Casper. The edited biography is incomplete, documenting only brief elements of Casper's life.
  • Fifteen months experience, date not identified (MSS SC 3268): "Fifteen months experience" gives an account of Newman Bulkley's journey following his release from the Mormon Battalion until he rejoined his family. This collection includes a photocopy of the original account.
  • Carl V. Larson research on the Mormon Battalion, 1987 (MSS 5885): A partial list of identified burial places of members of the Mormon Battalion, collected by Carl V. Larson and donated in 1987.
  • Mormon Battalion Association records, 1846-2012 (MSS 8000): Materials include reports, minutes, biographies, correspondence, histories, newsletters, and other materials from the Mormon Battalion Association and its earlier women's auxiliary organization, both of which were headquartered in Lehi, Utah. The materials document the activities and governance of these organizations, as well as the history of the original Mormon Battalion of 1846-1847. Includes some copies of original manuscript materials from the Mormon Battalion. Materials date from between 1846 and 2012.