Mormon Battalion
1846 U.S. Flag
Active 1846–1848
Country United States
Allegiance USA
Branch Army of the West
Type Infantry
Lt. Col. James Allen
Jefferson Hunt (1803-1879)
Philip St. George Cooke (1809-1895)

The Mormon Battalion, was the only religiously based infantry unit ever created by Presidential order. It consisted of nearly 500 men recruited exclusively from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). This unit undertook the longest infantry march in U.S. military history (as of 1847) and in the process of marking out and creating the first continuous wagon road to California, linked the future states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the United States. Most members served an initial 12 month term (Jul 1846- Jul 1847) with some members re-enlisting for an additional 12 months afterwards.

Accompanying the Battalion were the families of some officers. All of these but five women and a few older children were eventually detached to winter at a small trader/trapper community on the Arkansas River - eventually to become the city of Pueblo Colorado.

U.S. Mormon Battalion (1846-1847) - Military March from Iowa to San Diego CA

Revised map of Mormon Battalion routes with all detachment routes shown.

Unit History[edit | edit source]

Almost 500 volunteers enlisted in the Mormon Battalion. Some 22 soldiers died from disease or other natural causes during their service. About 80 of the men re-enlisted for another six months of service.

Recruitment[edit | edit source]

The invitation to serve was actually the result of talks between Mormon leaders living on the East Coast of the United States, and U.S. Government officials. Jesse C. Little, presiding elder of the Mormon Church in the eastern United States, met with President James K. Polk and offered Mormon assistance in exploring and fortifying the American West in return for monetary help. Polk counter-proposed enlisting Mormon men to fight in the controversial U.S.-Mexican War. Under Polk's orders, Captain James Allen (1806-1846) (later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel) was dispatched from Ft Leavenworth to meet with the Mormon leaders in Iowa Territory. There Allen asked for five hundred men. In exchange, the impoverished Mormons, who had just been driven from their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, received much needed funds to finance their trek west. Brigham Young often stated that the Mormon Battalion proved to be the 'salvation of the church.'

On 1 July 1846 dragoon Captain James Allen, dispatched by Colonel (later Brigadier General) Stephen W. Kearny, arrived at the Mormons' Mosquito Creek camp (Council Bluffs, IA). He had a request from President Polk to enlist a battalion of 500 volunteers (5 companies of 100 men each) to fight in the Mexican War. Most members of the Church were suspicious of the request, as the Federal government had ignored the persecutions they suffered. They were concerned about facing discrimination by the government, as they had from both the state and federal government in the past.

The public approval of Mormon Leader, Brigham Young and other members of the Twelve were critical to gain men's enlistment. While some men quickly volunteered, Young had to persuade and cajole many enlistees. It took three weeks to raise the five companies of men, primarily because of the scattered disposition of the people.

Allen's instructions were to recruit five companies of men who were to receive the "pay, rations, and other allowances given to other infantry volunteers." Each company was authorized four women as laundresses, "receiving rations and other allowances given to the laundresses of our army." Approximately thirty-three women, twenty of whom served as laundresses, and fifty-one children accompanied the men. Five women would eventually complete the cross-continental trek.

The Mormon Battalion was mustered into volunteer service on 16 July 1846 as part of the Army of the West under General Kearny, a tough and seasoned veteran. His units included two regiments of Missouri volunteers, a regiment of New York volunteers who traveled by ships to California to meet him there, artillery and infantry battalions, Kearny's own 1st US Dragoons, and the battalion of Mormons.

Fort Leavenworth[edit | edit source]

The Battalion arrived at Fort Leavenworth on 1 August. For the next two weeks, they drew their pay, received their equipment (Model 1816 smoothbore flintlock muskets and a few Harper's Ferry Model 1803 Rifles), and were more formally organized into a combat battalion.

Newly promoted Lieutenant Colonel James Allen became ill but ordered the battalion forward along the Santa Fe Trail to overtake Kearny's Army of the West. On 23 August, Allen died and was the first officer buried at the Fort. Later his remains were move to became Fort Leavenworth National Military Cemetery.

Captain Jefferson Hunt, commanding A Company, was the acting commander until word reached Council Grove, Kansas, that Allen had died. A few days later Lieutenant Andrew Jackson Smith, West Point Class of 1838, arrived and volunteered to take temporary command of the battalion with the Mormons' consent. The LDS officers discussed the situation and eventually decided to let Smith lead the Battalion to Santa Fe where it was expected Gen Kearny would make a further change.

March to Santa[edit | edit source]

Arriving in Santa Fe in September, General Kearny later learned of Allen's death. Kearny then dispatched dragoon Captain Philip St. George Cooke, West Point class of 1827, to assume command of the battalion. His assignment was to march them to California and to build a wagon road along the way. In Santa Fe many sick men and all but a few of the women and children were sent to Pueblo, in present-day Colorado. A total of three separate detachments left the battalion and went to Pueblo to winter. For the next four months and 1,100 miles, Cooke led the battalion across some of the most arduous terrain in North America. Most of the Mormon soldiers soon learned to respect him and he they. The group acquired a new set of guides in New Mexico – including adventurer and mountain man Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, who as an infant had traveled with his mother Sacagawea across the continent with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Sanderson continued with the battalion, along with Lieutenant George Stoneman, newly graduated from West Point that spring. During the Civil War, Smith and Stoneman were promoted to high-level commands for the Union Army. Afterward, Stoneman would go on to be elected Governor of California.

Sick Detachments[edit | edit source]

In Santa Fe many sick men and all but a few of the women and children were sent to Pueblo, in present-day Colorado. A total of three separate detachments (1 family group and two groups of sick/weak men) left the battalion and went to Pueblo to winter. They would all eventually join with the main body of the Latter-day Saints migrating to the valley of the Great Salt Lake (Utah) in the summer of 1847.

Battle of the Bulls[edit | edit source]

Along the San Pedro River in Arizona lived a sizable number of wild cattle. The battalion reached this area in early December 1846. Their passage aroused curiosity among these animals. After the bulls of these herds caused destruction to some of the mules and wagons and resulted in two men being wounded, the men loaded their guns and attacked the charging bulls, killing 10–15 of the wild cattle, which is humorously termed the "Battle of the Bulls".

Passage through Tucson[edit | edit source]

Approaching Tucson, in future Arizona, the Battalion nearly had a battle with a small detachment of provisional Mexican soldiers on 16 December 1846. The Mexicans retreated as the US battalion approached in order to avoid a battle that could have left the town defenseless. In his official report, Lt Col Cooke made no claim of actually 'capturing' Tucson for the U.S. In fact, in his official letter to Tucson Presidio Commander Comoduran, Cooke only mentions passing through on the way to California. The local O'odham and other Piman tribes along the march route were helpful and charitable to the American soldiers. Mormon soldiers learned many methods of irrigation from these native inhabitants and employed the methods later as pioneers in Utah and other areas.

Temecula Massacre[edit | edit source]

Nearing the end of their journey (Jan 1847), the battalion passed through Temecula, California, shortly after the Temecula Massacre, a conflict between the Californios and the Luiseño tribe. The Mormons stood guard to prevent further bloodshed while the Luiseño people gathered their numerous dead into a common grave.

San Diego Arrival[edit | edit source]

The Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego on 29 January 1847 after a march of some 1,900 miles from Iowa. For the next five months until their discharge on 16 July 1847 in Los Angeles, the battalion trained and also performed occupation duties in several locations in southern California. The most significant service the battalion provided in California and during the war, was as a reliable unit under Cooke that General Kearny could rely on to block Fremont's mutinous bid to control California. The construction of Fort Moore was one measure Cooke employed to protect legitimate military and civil control under Kearny.

Kearny Detachment[edit | edit source]

In May 1847, fifteen of the men were selected to accompany Gen Kearny back east. Col Fremont was also commanded to accompany Kearny for his court-martial. This group was tasked to bury some of the ill-fated Donner pioneer party at and near Donner Lake. Kearny arrived at Ft Leavenworth on Aug 22, 1847. These were the last of the Mormon Battalion to be discharged from the Army.

Sutter's Mill Gold Discovery[edit | edit source]

A large number of discharged veterans worked in the Sacramento area for James W. Marshall at Sutter's Fort and a small contingent up at Sutter's Mill. Henry Bigler recorded the actual date, 24 January 1848, in his diary (now on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA) when gold was discovered. This gold find started the California Gold Rush the next year. Upon reaching the Salt Lake valley, over $17,000 in gold was contributed to the economy of the Latter-day Saints' new home by members of the Mormon Battalion returning from California.

Duty Roster[edit | edit source]

Mormon Battalion Historic Site - San Diego CA

NOTE: Much work is being conducted in the National Archives. We now have in hand photographic copies of the original muster rolls which have not been available for over 100 years. They are being verified against all the 'old personnel lists' which were created from secondary source materials. The updated lists are available at:

Below are lists created from old documents and are known to contain some errors. Edits to the Officers and support personnel listings below have been added (2019.07) to reflect some of the recent findings. The Company lists have NOT been altered as the research is still underway.

Battalion Command Staff[edit | edit source]

Commanding Officers:

Staff Officers: All of these men were enlisted IN the Mormon Battalion, then assigned or promoted to staff positions.

  • Dykes, George Parker, 1st Lt, Adjutant to 1 Nov 1846
  • Merrill Philemon Christopher, 2nd Lt, Adjutant, from 1 Nov 1846
  • Glines, James Harvey, Sgt Maj to 16 Oct 1846
  • Ferguson, James, Sgt Maj fr 16 Oct 1846
  • Allred, Reddick Newton (1822-1905), Quartermaster - 1852 Sandwich Islands Mission, 1856 Handcart Company Rescue Teamster

Medical Staff

  • Sanderson, George, MD; Appointed as Surgeon by Lt Col Allen but only commissioned an Assistant Surgeon. A battalion sized unit was only approved by Congress to have an Assistant Surgeon.
  • McIntyre, William L; Appointed as Assistant Surgeon by Lt Col Allen but not commissioned since the Battalion did not qualify by size for two doctors. McIntyre was paid as contract physician for the troops detached and sent to Pueblo.

Official Camp Followers - Anyone not officially enlisted IN the Mormon Battalion would have traveled WITH the Battalion as a 'camp follower' - a historical military term that applies to both regular Army personnel and unofficial persons who journeyed along for safety or other reasons. Regular Army Camp Followers applies to the following:

  • Stoneman, George, 2nd Lt (1822-1894) - Stoneman had accompanied Lt A. J. Smith from Ft Leavenworth to overtake and travel with the Battalion, but both men were actually detached from their dragoon units - not reassigned to the Mormon Battalion. From Cold Spring (OK), Smith sent Stoneman as an express to Santa Fe with word of Allen's death and the expected arrival date for the Battalion in Santa Fe. When Col Cooke took command of the Battalion under orders from General Kearny, Cooke appointed Smith as Acting Assistant Quartermaster for the Battalion - but that did not enlist him officially IN the Mormon Battalion. Stoneman was a promoted to Major General for the Union in the Civil War and then 15th Governor of California (1883-1887)
  • Cloud, Jeremiah, Maj, Additional Paymaster - responsible for most of the Army of the West in California, not just the Mormon Battalion. He seems to have traveled with the Battalion from Santa Fe onward.
  • Dent, Lewis, clerk (and friend) to Additional Paymaster Cloud. His brother was Capt. John Dent of Price's Regiment. After Santa Fe, Lewis traveled with the Battalion.
  • Laundresses - the 20 women laundresses functioned in a quasi-official capacity. They were provided transportation, tents and food rations for their work, but they were not 'enlisted' in any strict sense. No contracts have been located (even for Civil War laundresses) and indeed a contract likely did not exist.

Battalion Guides: Listed in order of their association with the Mormon Battalion - Some of the men usually listed as official QM hired guides were in fact, NOT official guides and thus should be listed as camp followers. See below.

  • Thompson, Philip - QM contract guide from Council Grove (KS) to Santa Fe. Frontiersman whose family lived in Oregon. Decided to not continue with the Battalion after Santa Fe.
  • Foster, Stephen G. - Interpreter hired by QM contract in Santa Fe and accompanied the Battalion to Los Angeles.
  • Charbonneau, Jean Baptiste - Son of Sacajawea; Charbonneau was one of LeRoux's men. Met Cooke and the command near Albuquerque.
  • LeRoux, Antoine - QM hired to be Cooke's lead guide. LeRoux joined the command on the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque. LeRoux had a team of 4 additional men working for him.
  • Weaver, Pauline W. - another renowned guide of the far west and part of LeRoux's team..
  • Tasson - LeRoux's #3 man. Thought to be Joseph Tesson Sr., aka Joseph Tesson-Horore an experienced interpreter and guide. Teamed up again with Cooke at the 1850's Blue River action against Indians.
  • Drunken Fat guide - Unnamed guide under LeRoux and dismissed by Cooke when he arrived in camp drunken on the Rio Grande.
  • Francisco - Francisco Largo, experienced guide from the early 1820's when he assisted Sibley. Largo and two assistants were sent back by Gen Kearny from California. Met Cooke near the Pima villages and guided the Battalion to California.
  • Appolonius - possibly one of Francisco's two assistants as he does not appear in the narrative until after the Pima villages.

Camp Followers acting as voluntary guides/interpreters/hunters

  • Hall, Willard Preble. - Part of Price's Missouri Regiment. Kearny tapped him to assist in writing governing plans for Santa Fe until civil authority could be established. Had been elected to Congress and needed to get home. Leaving Santa Fe with the Mormon Battalion, Hall helped as an informal guide/hunter/interpreter to California. He returned east with Kearny in the spring/summer of 1847.
  • Chacon - Tomas de Jesus Chacon, a private Santa Fe trader who took a pack train of about 30 mules and some men. Chacon assisted informally from the Rio Grande westward. Was friendly towards the Saints afterwards in Utah. Also hired as an Army interpreter for many years.
  • Manuel - first mentioned on 11.28.1846 by Cooke, the same day LeRoux brings in a drunk Apache chief to help guide the command to the abandoned Mexican rancho San Bernardino. Manuel doesn't appear again after the command approached Tucson, leading to the speculation that "Manuel" and Apache chief "Manuelita" may be the same person. The other possibility is that Manuel was the second of Francisco Largo's assistants.

Servants and Aides:

  • Bosco, John and Jane - teamster and traveling companions of Jefferson Hunt
  • Allison Family - cousins and traveling companions of Jefferson Hunt
  • Lt Col Cooke's Staff - Cook, Bugler, Teamster, etc.
    • Robert Quigley - Cooke's lead bugler
    • Additional men have been identified but research has not been completed.
  • Zemira Palmer (1831-1880) - joined at age 15, his step-father was in Co A and his mother was one of the four women allowed to travel all the way to California.
  • There were a number of other aides/servants to the Mormon officers which we shall not list here.
  • There were a number hired servants and slaves owned by Army officers.
    • Levi (or John) Wells - slave to Lt Col James Allen
    • Peter Biggs - slave to Lt A. J. Smith
    • Charles - slave of Dr. Sanderson
    • Ben - Mexican hired by Lt Stoneman - probably at Santa Fe
    • Jack - a slave to Col Cooke
    • Pete - possibly a second slave for Cooke, or perhaps Peter Biggs was a 'shared' servant with Lt Smith after Cooke was promoted and was entitled to a second servant

Roster: Company A[edit | edit source]

Officers & Staff:


Women & Children:

Roster: Company B[edit | edit source]

Officers & Staff


Women & Children

  • Coray, Melissa Burton, wife of William Coray.
  • William Coray, son of William Coray.
  • Hunter, Lydia Edmounds, wife of Jesse D. Hunter.
  • Diego Hunter, son of Jesse D. Hunter.
  • Ludington, Mary Eliza Clark, wife of Elam Ludington. - At least two children were in the Ludington family.
  • Ludington, Lena Monger, mother of Elam Ludington.

Roster: Company C[edit | edit source]



Women & Children:

Roster: Company D[edit | edit source]

Officers & Staff


  • Abbott, Joshua
  • Averett, Jeduthan
  • Badham, Samuel (1815-1868) (SD) - Settled in Iowa
  • Boyd, George W.
  • Boyd, WilliamW.
  • Brizzee, Henry Willard
  • Brown, James P
  • Brown, James Stephens
  • Button, Montgomery
  • Casto, James
  • Casto, William W.
  • Chase, Abner
  • Clawson, John Reese
  • Cole, James Barnett
  • Collins, Robert H.
  • Compton, Allen
  • Coons, William
  • Cox, Amos
  • Curtis, Foster
  • Davis, Eleazer
  • Davis, James
  • Douglas, James
  • Douglas, Ralph
  • Fatoute, Ezra
  • Finlay, Thomas
  • Fletcher, Philander
  • Fosgreen, John Erick
  • Frazier, Thomas Leonard
  • Gifford, William
  • Gilbert, John R.
  • Gilbert, R.
  • Gilbert, Thomas
  • Gribble, William
  • Hendricks, William Dorris
  • Henrie, Daniel
  • Higgins, Alfred
  • Hirons, James P.
  • Hoaglund, Lucas
  • Holmes, Jonathan H (1806-1880) -
  • Hunsaker, Abraham
  • Kenney, Loren E
  • Lamb, Lisbon (1827-1880) - later married former plural wife of Apostle W. Woodruff.
  • Lane, Lewis
  • Laughlin, David Sanders
  • McArther, Henry Marrow
  • Maxwell, William Bailey
  • Mecham, Erastus Darwin
  • Merrill, Ferdinand
  • Mesick, Peter
  • Oakley, James DeGroat
  • Owen, James
  • Peck, Edwin Martin
  • Perrin, Charles
  • Pettegrew, James
  • Rawson, Daniel Berry
  • Raymond, Alonzo Pearis
  • Richmond, William
  • Roberts, Benjamin Morgan
  • Robinson, William J.
  • Rowe, William
  • Roylance, John
  • Runyan, Levi
  • Sanderson, Henry Weeks (1829-1896) - Kept Journal of Battalion Experience
  • Sargent, Abel Morgan
  • Savage, Levi
  • Sharp, Albert
  • Sharp, Norman
  • Shelton, Sebert C.
  • Smith, John Grover
  • Spencer, William W.
  • Steele, John
  • Stephens, Alexander
  • Stewart, Benjamin
  • Stweart, James
  • Stewart, Robert Boyd
  • Stillman, Clark
  • Swarthout, Nathan
  • Tanner, Myron
  • Thomas, Hayward
  • Thompson, Jonathan Miles
  • Tippets, John Harvey
  • Treat, Thomas W.
  • Tubbs, William
  • Twitchell, Anciel
  • Walker, Edwin
  • Whiting, Almon
  • Whiting, Edmond
  • Woodward, Francis Snow (1829-1888) -

Women & Children

  • Abbot, Ruth Markham - wife of Joshua Abbott
  • Brown, Eunice Reasor - Wife of James “P” Brown. Children: Robert, Newman, John, Mary Ann, Sarah.
  • Button, Mary Bittles - Wife of Montgomery Button. Charles, James, Jutson, Louisa.
  • Davis, Nancy Brown - Wife of Eleazer Davis and daughter of CPT James Brown and Martha Stephens.
  • Higgins, Sarah Blackman - wife of CPT Nelson Higgins,. Children: Drusilla, Almira, Wealtha, Carlos Smith, Heber Kimball,
  • Hirons, Mary Ann Jameson - wife of James P. Hirons.
  • Huntington, Fanny Maria Allen - wife of Dimick B. Huntington. Children: Martha Zina, Betsy Prescinda, Clark Allen, Lot.
  • Sharp, Martha Jane Sargent, wife of Norman Sharp. Child: Sarah Ellen.
  • Caroline Sargent - daughter of Abel Sargent and sister to Martha Jane Sargent Sharp Mowrey.
  • Shelton, Elisabeth Trains Mayfield - wife of Sebert C. Shelton. Children: John Mayfield, Jackson Mayfield, Sarah Mayfield, Caroline Shelton, Marion Shelton, Abraham Cooper Shelton, Thomas H.B. Shelton, Mary Shelton.
  • Steele, Catherine Campbell - wife of John Steele. Child: Mary.
  • Tubbs, Sophia - wife of William Tubbs.
  • Williams, Albina Marie Merrill (1826-1914) - wife of Sgt. Thomas S. Williams. Children: Caroline Marie Williams (1843-1916), Ephraim Thomas Williams (1845-1885), and baby Phebe Isabella Williams (1847-1880) was born during SD stay in Pueblo CO.
  • Merrill, Phoebe Lodema (1832-1909) - sister of Albina Marie Williams, served as Battalion Nurse, went with SD to Pueblo CO.

Roster: Company E[edit | edit source]

Officers and Staff:


Women & Children:

  • Brown, Agnes, wife of Edmond Lee Brown
  • Davis, Susannah (1827-) - wife of Capt. Daniel C Davis and stepmom to Daniel Jr. (see next)
  • Davis, Daniel C Jr (1842-1878), son of Capt Davis. youngest child to march the entire distance to California with the troop.
  • Hanks, Jane Wells Cooper, wife of Ebenezer Hanks
  • Hess, Emiline Bigler
  • Smith, Rebecca
  • St John, Harriet, wife of Daniel Brown.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Re-enactments[edit | edit source]

Boy Scouts can earn this patch. The Mormon Battalion Trail is ranked as one of the Historic Trails of America.

Living descendants retracing the steps of their fore-fathers:

Mormon Battalion Veteran[edit | edit source]


Participant in the march of The Mormon Battalion. This unit of the US Army served in the Mexican-American War and was the only religiously based infantry unit ever created by Presidential order. It consisted of nearly 500 men recruited exclusively from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). They undertook the longest infantry march in U.S. military history (as of 1847) and in the process marked out and creating the first continuous wagon road to California which linked the future states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the United States. Most members served an initial 12 month term (Jul 1846- Jul 1847) with some members re-enlisting for an additional 12 months afterwards.

  • See Gordon Silas Beckstead (1825-1891) - for summary layout
  • Category:Members of the Mormon Battalion]]
  • Category:American military personnel of the Mexican–American War]]
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