Monument honoring Mormon Battalion to regain its luster
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And the future shall write them in bronze and in stone -
Their name and their day, and the deeds they have done,And the youth of the land who beholds it and reads
Shall read life's great lesson - the lesson of deeds.
- May Belle T. Davis, from a poem read at the Mormon Battalion Monument unveiling, May 30, 1927.
Amonument on the Utah State Capitol grounds honors the memory of the Mormon Battalion, but it has suffered the ravages of time and weather.
Determined to prevent decay of the monument - and the memory it preserves - the Mormon Battalion Inc. on May 30 inaugurated a restoration project expected to cost $360,000, slightly more than it cost to construct the monument originally in 1927. Funds are being raised from state government, and Church and private sources.
Portions of the monument, made of granite chips set into pre-cast concrete, are now deteriorating. W. Dee Halverson, restoration chairman, said the project will restore the monument to its 1927 appearance, including a reflecting pond and fountain that were originally part of the monument. The pond area is currently landscaped with flowers.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve was the featured speaker in a ceremony at the monument. The gathering was exactly 65 years from the day that President Heber J. Grant dedicated the monument before a crowd estimated in a Deseret News account at 15,000.
Referring to the period when he served as a Utah State Supreme Court justice and worked in the Capitol, Elder Oaks said: "I often came out on the grounds during the lunch hour and walked around and looked at the monument and . . . thought that it was time to refurbish it. And I express my personal pleasure that you have taken the leadership in doing that, that the state is supporting it. I'm very pleased that the Church has seen fit to give financial support, and I endorse wholeheartedly the appropriateness of this effort."
He said the Church, the entire nation and many individual states benefited greatly from the service of the battalion.
"In a variety of ways, the Mormon Battalion played a vital role in the settlement of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah," he said.
He quoted the diary entry of U.S. President James K. Polk of June 2, 1846, giving Polk's reason as commander-in-chief of the armed forces for recruiting the battalion:
"Col. [Stephen W.T Kearney was also authorized to receive into service as volunteers a few hundreds of the Mormons who are now on their way to California with a view to conciliate them, attach them to our country and prevent them from taking part against us."
Elder Oaks noted that the rank-and-file Church members were surprised at the demand, in light of the persecution they had suffered and the government's acquiescence. But, he added, President Brigham Young said in a recruiting speech given July 13, 1846: "If we want the privilege of going where we can worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, we must raise the battalion."
By furnishing army recruits, the Church immediately raised badly needed cash, Elder Oaks said. He explained that the men were given a uniform allowance at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., of $42 each. Because they were allowed to wear their civilian clothing for the march, the money was immediately available in its entirety to the saints at nearby Winter Quarters for the purchase of provisions.
Though considered a blessing by Church leaders, the battalion's recruitment may not have seemed so to some of the men, Elder Oaks commented. He read this quotation from one soldier's diary entry:
"Arose early to prepare to join my company which were 10 miles distant on the Missouri River. Went to Brother Eldredge and besought him to permit my mother to make her home with him until I could be free to take care of her. When he agreed to be a son to my mother I left her with him, promising to recompense him as soon as was able and opportunity would offer. About 9 o'clock I took my knapsack and left the camp of Israel, leaving my wife and mother in tears. I reached my company at noon and was given an army blanket and rations."
Elder Oaks enumerated five significant contributions of the battalion: "They played an important part in the conquest of northern Mexico, which became parts of three U.S. states. Their army pay provided significant financial support for the Mormon pioneers, without which their exodus might not have been possible. Their march proved the feasibility of an overland wagon road to the Pacific that avoided both the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Their members pioneered a wagon road between southern California and Salt Lake City. And finally . . . the money earned by the battalion was used to purchase the claim of Miles Goodyear in the Weber Valley that became the city of Ogden, Utah."
Representing the state of Utah at the ceremony, Lt. Gov. Val Oveson said: "If the state . . . assumes the responsibility on this [CapitolT complex for a monument, we also should assume the responsibility to make sure that it's in good repair."
Noting that the state shouldered roughly half the cost for constructing the monument originally, Oveson said it is appropriate that the state assume about the same proportion for restoration.
Restoration chairman Halverson said that funding sources other than the state and the Church include corporate sponsors. He said the original construction was supported in part from individuals who gave money ranging from a penny to $500.
Larry C. Porter, BYU professor and a member of the research committee, said the battalion comprised approximately 559 men, including officers, non-commissioned officers, privates, guides, aides to officers and teamsters, plus 35 women and 42 children who physically participated in the march.
"Each person has a story to tell," he said, and appealed to members of the audience to share information they may have on the battalion.
Brother Porter said a citizens committee in Tuscon, Ariz., is working on a memorial to the battalion for that community, and that in Old Town San Diego, a reconstruction of the original courthouse built by battalion soldiers is "progressing nicely."
Col. R. Paul Madsen, who leads the modern battalion in Utah, said, "This all comes about as a result of a promise that was given to the men and women of the battalion by Brigham Young, who promised them that if they would go and serve faithfully, that they would be held in honorable remembrance."
Plaque recounts history of the battalion
Bronze figures and plaques grace the Mormon Battalion Monument. One of the plaques gives a concise history of the battalion as follows:
"In May and June of 1846 the services of the Mormon People - en route to the west - were officially tendered to the United States Government, then at war with Mexico.
"President James K. Polk authorized colonel Stephen W. Kearney, commander of the army of the west, to enlist 500 Mormon volunteers and march to California. Captain James Allen, who was detailed to make the enlistment, arrived at the Mormon camps June 26.
"After three weeks recruiting with the aid of Brigham Young and other officials of the Mormon Church, the battalion was mustered into the United States service at Council Bluffs, Iowa, July 16.
"The march was via Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, thence to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the battalion arrived in two divisions in October. Here Lt. Col. P. St. George Cooke was given command.
"The battalion left Santa Fe Oct. 19, and marched southward down the Rio del Norte to 32 degrees 41 minutes north latitude, thence south and westward to near the headwaters of the San Pedro; north and westward to Tucson; and so to the Pacific.
"The march of over 2,000 miles ended at San Diego Jan. 29, 1847. The battalion served in garrison duty at San Diego, San Luis Rey, and Los Angeles, and in outpost duty at Cajon Pass until the term of enlistment ended July 16, 1847.
"Eighty-one members of the battalion re-enlisted for six months additional service and were known as `the Mormon Volunteers.' "