Yesterday I came home from a Boy Scout trip in which I hiked fifteen miles on the California Hiking Trail, which is where the Mormon Battalion had hiked. I learned a lot from this very important battalion.
The Mormon Battalion was formed in July of 1846, when the United States was fighting Mexico in the Mexican-American War. The Mormons had been persecuted by the government previously, and many were resistant to help the government that had persecuted them, but their leader, Brigham Young, convinced over 500 to serve and move to California from the east to fight the Mexicans. Many of the men had to leave their wives and children home and make one of the most daring journeys in history. It was the only religiously-based military unit in U.S. history.
The trek was difficult, and death was not uncommon. Some men died of disease, and a few were even murdered on the way to California. The Mormons did not even face the Mexicans for their troubles! The only battle fought was the “Battle of the Bulls” in Arizona. The Battle started when a herd of bulls stampeded in the Battalion’s camp. The Battalion won the battle, and the herd was chased off. The Mormon Battalion arrived on January 29, 1847 in San Diego, California, finishing their long and painful journey west.
Once in California, the Mormons worked to build many buildings, and some even helped with Sutter’s Mill, where the beginning of the Gold Rush pushed thousands of settlers west. The Mormon Battalion disbanded in July of 1847, and most returned east just a year before the famous California Gold Rush.