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What Was The Mormon Battalion?

The Mormon Battalion was the only unit in American military history bearing a religious title and being comprised almost entirely of recruits from a single religion. If the 11,000+ members of the new Christian religion called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a quarrel, it was with the United States, not the Mexicans. They had just been expelled in mid-winter from the United States by some of the mobs posing as state militia.

After being forced to abandon their homes in Nauvoo (then one of the largest cities in Illinois) and cross the Mississippi River into the wilds of Iowa Territory, many expected the now impoverished Mormons to disburse. With this prospect, they felt that the Mormons could not spare their best frontiersmen. Yet these 500 men volunteered when their leader Brigham Young called and proved their loyalty. And the rest is history.

This unit was unique in two ways: 

  • It was not a state or territorial militia recruited by a governor, but a federal volunteer infantry battalion recruited by order of President James K. Polk. 
  • It had no parent regiment but was an independent battalion assigned directly to the Army of the West. Official U.S. Army records simply referred to it as the “Mormon Battalion.”

During its single twelve-month enlistment in the Mexican-American War, these soldiers established friendly relations with Native Americans and Mexican Americans wherever they went. Later, many of its veteran frontiersmen were instrumental in guiding “greenhorns” from the East and Europe in establishing Mormon settlements all over the Mountain West.

SGT William Hyde recorded a prophecy in the 19 July 1846 entry in his journal, stating that Apostles Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff gave a last charge and blessing to the officers and NCOs of the Battalion before their departure that “our names [would] be held in honorable remembrance to all generations.”*

*William Hyde, The Private Journal of William Hyde, Part 2 [1846-48], p. 16.

President Brigham Young enlarged upon that prophecy eight years later at the first reunion of the Mormon Battalion on 6 February 1855:

“The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defence [sic] of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will yet rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion…As the Lord lives,…you will never be forgotten, worlds without end, but you will be had in honorable remembrance, for ever and ever.”*

*Report of the First General Festival of the Renowned Mormon Battalion, Which Came Off on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 6 and 7, 1855, in the Social Hall, G.S.L City, reported by J. V. Long, reported by T. S. Williams, Deseret New Office [1855], p 17.  Copy in Historian’s Office Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vault P, M273.42, R-425, 1855. 

Modern Mormon Battalion

The modern Mormon Battalion Association™ was established in the late 1940s when LDS President David O. McKay asked Fred M. Reese, to form the organization. One does not have to be a descendant of the original Mormon Battalion to belong to the modern Mormon Battalion Association.™ Membership is open to all who love this history.

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