Sticking Up For the Force’s “Mormon Boys"

A letter, written by Dragoon Lieutenant Clarendon L. Wilson to Dr. Armistead Mott, of Leesburg, Virginia, was folded and sealed without an envelope, as was the custom of that period. Dr. Mott was the father of our present experienced and efficient military attache in Paris, Colonel T click here for more info. Bentley Mott. Lieutenant Wilson graduated at West Point in the class of 1846. He crossed the continent to California with the column from Fort Leavenworth and returned to New Mexico in 1850. He participated in the actions at Embudo and Fernando de Taos, New Mexico, on the march out, and was brevetted first lieutenant for his conduct. He was promoted to first lieutenant, First Dragoons, in 1849, and died at Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1852, at the age of 28 years. In this connection my attention has been attracted to the very large proportion of deaths, at early ages, of young officers who entered the service from the Florida War to the Civil War. The hardships were great and food limited and poor during that period.

William Harding Carter,

Major General, Retired.

Fort Leavenworth, Aug. nth, 1846.

Dear Mott,

I reached this place two days ago and having a little time to spare take , this opportunity of writing to you. I found here more than two thousand troops, (if these untamed volunteers deserve the name) but the number is daily diminishing as they are put en route for Sante Fe. This place is, at present, a perfect Bedlam—”the damnedest noisy, dusty place that I have ever met with. You can hear nothing; for the teamsters are breaking mules and oxen to the wagons, and cursing, yelling at and thrashing them incessantly. The Mormon force are getting under headway today. I have just seen the rear of the 3d Mormon company file past. There are several more of the same command to leave to-morrow. The Mormons are the most orderly of the forces that I have seen at this place. I think that they are more likely to do credit to themselves, if brought into action, than the other volunteers.

This is a very pretty place—just on the outskirts of civilization—lots of Indians in their original wild state visiting it every day. I wish that you would come out and try this trip—I think (throwing out of consideration the hardships) that we shall have a tall time. It is a much more expensive affair than I had anticipated. The outfit is an extensive one in the line of articles necessary for a prairie life, such as cooking utensils, blankets, knives, axes, oil-cloth (to protect against the expected long rains) quantities of woolen clothing, horses or mules, &c, &c, &c. I am going out in company with one of my classmates and we club together in the major part of the outfit. Mules are selling at from 80 to 130 dollars—”horses at about the same, although you can get some knotty, stinted old fellows at less. Mules and horses are in the greatest demand—”one might make his fortune, if he had grazed this kind of cattle largely. Myself and friend had to purchase 5 horses between us, one apiece to ride in order to spare as much as possible our parade horses, the other for our servant: it being absolutely necessary to get a servant at any rate of hire—the officers here saying that “it was absolutely necessary.” I should have preferred getting three mules, but the rate at which they are selling is too exorbitant.

We are now nearly ready, so far as our personal effects are concerned, to set out, but are detained by order of the ranking officer at this post. He says that he wants to send me out with a supply of government stores under my charge. There is another officer here who perhaps will start out in charge of them and as he is much my senior in years, I should like it a great deal better as it would take the responsibility off my hands. If I am sent, I shall have a company of Mormons, I expect, as an escort and if the Comanches undertake to carry the stores off, they’ll catch hell or I’m mistaken. If I command them, perhaps, I shall get off in a day or two, if not I shall be detained perhaps a week. It has been almost a week since I commenced this letter.

The greater part of the Mormon and other volunteers are now on their way to Sante Fe. Ge1 Kearney is in all probability there at this time as an express arrived from Bent’s Fort a day or two ago, saying that when he left, Kearney proposed leaving Bent’s the next day and marching into Sante Fe. The distance between the latter places is about 12 or 14 days march. The express thinks that there is no chance of a fight. Capt. P. St. G. Cook of the 1st Dragoons had been despatched with 12 men and a flag of truce to Sante Fe. You will perhaps learn from the papers the information brought by the express, more correctly than I did, amidst the bustle and confusion here. If I had had my own way about the matter I should have been on the Sante Fe trail 5 days ago at least.

Give my love to my sisters, my respects to all my friends, substituting names, particularly the Greys’, Harrisons’, Tylers’, Powells’, Masons’, Bentleys’, Sinclairs’, &c, &c, &c. Tell Charley and John Wildman that they had better come out with you and try this trip.

C. I. L. Wilson,
1st Reg. Dragoons.

(The Cavalry Journal (Jan. 1922) vol. xxx1, no. 126, p.300)

Construction of fort moore, saints and dragoon em:

dan tyler diary, p 279:

Orders No. 9.)

“head Quarters S. M. District,

Los Angeles, April 24, 1847. The Mormon Battalion will erect a small fort on the eminence which commands the town of Los Angeles. Company A will encamp on the ground to-morrow forenoon. The whole company will be employed in the diligent prosecution of the labors for one week, but there will be a daily detail of a noncommissioned officer and six privates for the camp guard, which, with the cooks absolutely necessary, will not labor during their detail. The hours of labor will be from half past six o’clock until 12 o’clock, and from 1 o’clock until 6 o’clock. The guard will mount at half past 5 o’clock.

(2) Lieutenant Davidson, First Dragoons, will trace tomorrow on the sight selected, his plan, which has been approved of, a fort with one small bastion, front for at least six guns in barbette, assisted by the company officers. He will have the direction, as superintendent, which pertains to an officer of engineers. As assistant quartermaster, he will procure the necessary tools.

P. St. George Cooke,

Lt. Col. Commanding.”

The 25th of April being Sunday, the Colonel’s ever lucky day, or general day to commence marches, company A moved on to the hill, in obedience to the Colonel’s order. There were various rumors afloat about an expected attack from the Spaniards and Indians that night. Colonel Cooke directed our officers, especially Captain Hunt, to have the Battalion ready to form a line’of battle, at a moment’s notice, with loaded guns and^fixed bayonets.

The 25th of April being Sunday, the Colonel’s ever lucky day, or general day to commence marches, company A moved on to the hill, in obedience to the Colonel’s order. There were various rumors afloat about an expected attack from the Spaniards and Indians that night. Colonel Cooke directed our officers, especially Captain Hunt, to have the Battalion ready to form a line’of battle, at a moment’s notice, with loaded guns and^fixed bayonets.

We were up most of the following night, owing to the Colonel believing we would be attacked. The enemy did not appear, however, and the remaining portions of the Battalion were ordered to remove to the hill as fast as the companies received their pay.

Company C arrived from the Cajon Pass, having received ordeis from Colonel Cooke, by express through a dragoon Corporal, stating that another war seemed imminent. The detachment under Lieutenant Pace also arrived, having been ordered back by an express, the Colonel very properly withdrawing all protection until he had assurance that the conditions of the armistice, already detailed, would be kept by the Californians, and until they and Fremont’s men ceased their threats. They were also given to understand that in case they came upon us no prisoners would be taken. They, of course, understood what that meant. The instructions to the Battalion were to the same effect: “Take no prisoners—”show no quarter, nor ask any.”

Our position on the hill commanded Los Angeles, upon which our artillery would have played to good advantage, and the city would doubtless have been destroyed; but with the prospect of the Mexicans again rising and the low murmurings of civil war hardly ceasing to salute our ears, what the end would have been is difficult to say.

What few dragoons there were, were true to their country and to the Battalion, and none of the latter could be insulted with impunity in the hearing of the former. When bullies came into the town and began to impose upon the “Mormon boys,” the dragoons would not allow them to take their own part if they could avoid it, but would say: “Stand back; you are religious men, and we are not; we will take all of your fights into our hands,” and with an oath would say: “You shall not be imposed upon by them.” Several instances of the kind might be named, but it is not deemed necessary.

Company A commenced work immediately upon their arrival at the new camping place, at excavating the ground for the fort, and the work was afterwards prosecuted by twentyeight men from each company, who were relieved every fourth day.

On the 29th, twenty-eight volunteers came in from Santa Barbara, bringing us some ammunition.

On the 4th of May, an order was read from Colonel Cooke, giving the Battalion the privilege of being discharged on condition of enlisting for five years as U. S. dragoons; but under the circumstances, the generous proposition could not consistently be accepted.