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Best Prepared Pioneers In The West
Ably led by Brigham Young, the Mormons made an orderly march to Utah and created ‘Zion” with smooth efficiency
October 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 6
That further bloodshed was avoided was due to the intervention of a self-appointed peacemaker. Thomas L. Kane, a Philadelphia lawyer, had been a staunch friend of the Mormons since the Nauvoo persecutions interested him in their plight. During the winter of 1857–58 he offered himself as mediator to President Buchanan, and was allowed to conduct negotiations on his own authority. He reached the Saints’ capital on February 25, 1858, and there had little difficulty persuading Brigham Young to receive the newly appointed territorial governor, Alfred Gumming, provided the army did not enter the valley. Thus armed, Kane hurried to Colonel Johnston’s headquarters at Fort Bridger, where he convinced Governor Gumming to return with him. The two men, accompanied only by two servants, arrived at Salt Lake City on April 12, 1858. Brigham Young received them warmly; the new governor was told that his authority would be respected and every aid tendered him in his duties. But when Gumming told 4,000 Mormons assembled in the Tabernacle that Colonel Johnston’s army must be allowed to occupy their land, the harm was done.
Suddenly, almost unaccountably, panic swept northern Utah. Throughout the land families packed their belongings, loaded their wagons, and started south toward safety. In all some 30,000 persons joined this mad rush; within two months northern Utah was deserted save for bands of men left behind to fire buildings and crops when the enemy appeared.
As news of this move filtered east, a rapid reversal of sentiment occurred there. Overnight the Saints became martyrs, ready to sacrifice all they possessed toworship God in their own way. This shift in opinion, combined with Governor Cumming’s friendly reception by Brigham Young, convinced President Buchanan that peaceful gestures should be made. On April 6, 1858, he offered full pardon to all Mormons who would submit to the authority of the United States, and at the same time hurried two peace commissioners westward. After two days of negotiations, it was agreed that the army should enter Utah but camp at least forty miles from Salt Lake City, and that the territory should accept civilian officials.
Thus did the tragic and useless “Mormon War” come to an end. On June 26, 1858, Johnston’s troops marched through the deserted city on their way to Camp Floyd, where they remained until called east by the outbreak of the Civil War. From that day on the Mormons were allowed to develop their desert Zion in peace; for while Gentile governors might sit over them, their true leader was Brigham Young. His genius had transformed Utah Territory from a barren desert to a thriving frontier community; his leadership in the future would help mold the higher civilization that was Utah’s destiny.