If you didn’t grow up in Utah, you’ve probably never heard of the Utah War. Federal troops came to Utah in 1857 creating great anxiety among the Mormons. This war footing led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the lowest point in Mormon history. Barbara Jones-Brown tells about these events that led to the greatest atrocity in American history up to that point in 1857.
Barbara: A memorial from Utah’s legislature [was sent to Washington] saying, “Look, if you keep sending us federal officials that we don’t like, that we don’t agree with, we’re going to send them away. Please choose appointees that are from among us and represent our values.” Basically one legislator said it was practically a declaration of independence. So there’s these kinds of stories, these kind of rumors, some based in fact, some exaggerated that reach Washington. So the new president concludes that he needs to send a whole new set of territorial appointees to Utah, including one to replace Brigham Young as governor and that he’s going to send federal troops with them to ensure that they are placed successfully and with no resistance from local Utahans.
So Brigham Young and church leaders interpret this as a threat and they vowed that the army, the troops will never enter into their settlements. I’m really glossing over things quickly here, but you have what came to be called the Utah War erupt where the troops and the federal appointees, as they are nearing settlements of what was then Utah Territory. Young and other church leaders send out Mormon militia men to hamper their way. So they’re running off their cattle, they’re burning the grass in front of them. They are burning their supply wagons, doing everything they can to try and get the troops to be stopped on the plains that year. So that’s the environment and you’ve got this war hysteria going, on if you will, in Utah Territory.
These heightened tensions contributed to Mormons in Utah committing the worst war atrocity in U.S. history up to that time in 1857. Approximately 100 settlers from Arkansas were killed. Check out our conversation….
Check out our other conversations about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.