THE MORMON WAR.
Army Dispatches from Colonels Alexander and Johnston.
Colonel Alexander to the Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY FOR UTAH,
CAMP WINFIELD, U. T., Oct. 9, 1857.
Colonel S. Cooper, Adjutant-General, U. S. A.:
SIR: I have the honor to report that I have assumed command of the troops of the United States, consisting of part of the army for Utah, which are now encamped at this point. These troops are the 5th Regiment of Infantry, eight companies of the 10th Infantry, and the batteries of Artillery (6 and 12-pounders) commanded by Captains PHELPS, 4th Artillery, and RENO, Ordnance Department, respectively. This camp is situated on Ham’s Fork, a tributary of Black's Fork, which is in turn a tributary of Green River, about 15 miles above the junction of the two forks. Fort Bridger is distant, in a southeast direction, about 30 miles. The 10th Infantry reached here Sept. 28—PHELPS' battery on the following day. The 5th Infantry arrived Oct. 4, and RENO'S battery on the same day. On the 5th inst. I assumed command, for reasons which I conceive to be of the greatest importance to the troops and their supplies, and of which I shall have the honor to make a full report when a safe and more certain opportunity of sending dispatches presents itself. At present I can give only a statement of what has occurred since my arrival, and report the disposition I have determined to make of the troops.
On the day after reaching Ham's Fork, and at the first camp I made on it, I received the inclosed letters from Gov. YOUNG and Lieutenant-General WELLS. The propositions they contain, however absurd they are, showed conclusively that a determined opposition to the power of the Government was intended. I had met Capt. VAN VLIET on the 21st of September, returning from Salt Lake City, and was informed by him that, although the Mormons, or, rather, Governor YOUNG, were determined to oppose an entrance into the city, yet he was assured that no armed resistance would be attempted if we went no further than Fort Bridger and Fort Supply. I was still further convinced of this by the circumstance that a train of more than one hundred contractors' wagons had been parked for nearly three weeks on Ham's Fork without defence, and had been unmolested, although they contained provisions and supplies which would have been of great use to the Mormons.
Upon receiving these letters, I prepared for defence and to guard the supplies near us until the nearest troops came up. I replied to Governor YOUNG'S letter, a copy of which I inclose, and have not had any further correspondence with him. On the morning of the 5th of October the Mormons burnt two trains of Government stores on Green River and on the Big Sandy, and a few wagons belonging to Mr. Perry, sutler of the 10th Infantry, which were a few miles behind the latter train. Colonel WAITE, of the Fifth, though not anticipating any act of the kind, was preparing to send back a detachment to these trains from his camp on Black's Pork when he received from some teamsters who came in, the intelligence of their being burned. No doubt now existed that the most determined hostility might be expected on the part of the Mormons, and it became necessary, from the extreme lateness of the season, to adopt some immediate course for Wintering the troops and preserving the supply trains with us. After much deliberation, and assisted by the counsel of the senior officers, I have determined to move the troops by the following route: Up Ham's Fork about eighteen miles, to a road called Sublette's Cut-off; along that road to Bear River and Soda Spring; on arriving at Soda Spring two routes will be open—one down Bear River Valley, towards the Salt Lake, and one to the northeast, towards the Wind River Mountains, where good valleys for Wintering the troops and stock can be found. The adoption of one of these will be decided by the following circumstances: If the force under my command is sufficient to overcome the resistance which I expect to meet at Soda Spring, I shall endeavor to force my way into the valley of Bear River, and occupy some of the Mormon villages, because I am under the impression that the Mormons, after a defeat, will be willing to treat and bring provisions for sale. The supplies on hand will last six months, and if I can get possession of a town in Bear River Valley I can easily fortify and hold it all Winter. There are also several supply trains in the rear, to which I have communicated, and if they receive my letter in time they will be saved and can join us. If the Mormons are too strong for us, which I do not anticipate, the other road will be adopted, and I will make the best of my way to the mountains and tent for the Winter.
I desire to impress upon you the fact that I, though not the Commander appointed to this army, have adopted this course because the safety of the troops absolutely depends upon an immediate effort, and having information which makes it certain that the Commander will not reach here before the 20th inst., and if we wait until that time we cannot leave the valley. The information I allude to is to the effect that Col. JOHNSTON had relieved Gen. HARNEY, and had not left Fort Leavenworth on the 10th of September, and thirty days is the least possible time in which he can arrive here. I cannot, for fear of this being intercepted, tell you the strength of my command or fend returns of it. It is strong enough to defend itself and its supplies; whether it is able to assume and sustain an offensive position remains to be seen; but should the commands which I have heard are in the rear come up in time, I think we will have safficieni force to carry out an active invasion. If we are obliged to winter in the mountains, you can perceive by a reference to STANBURY'S maps that we will have an open road to Salt Lake City in the Spring, and one which I am told is open early. By this one attack can be made and attention called from the main road, (that by Fort Bridger,) which may then be traversed by troops. The Bear River route, is, however, said to be the best one in the valley. The other passes through canons that can be defended by a handfull against thousands, and it is moreover so easily obstructed that in a week it could be made utterly impassable. The want of cavalry is severely felt, and we are powerless on account of this deficiency to effect any chastisement of the marauding bands that are constantly hovering about us. On the 7th inst. I detached Captain MARCY, 5th Infantry, with four companies to Green River, to collect what he could find serviceable from the burnt trains, and to disperse any bodies of Mormons he found.
In conclusion, permit me to express the hope that my acts will meet the approval of the Government, and on the first opportunity I will make a fuller and more detailed report. It is unquestionably the duty of the Government to quell by overwhelming force this treasonable rebellion of the Governor and people of Utah, and I most urgently impress upon the War Department the fact that the small body of troops here will need reinforcements and supplies as soon ae they can possibly be got here next Spring. I would further respectfully suggest that troops should be sent from California and Oregon. It is said that the road from California to Salt Lake is passable all Winter, and it is certainly so much earlier in the Spring than that from the States.
Your obedient servant,
E. B. ALEXANDER,
Colonel 10th Infantry, commanding.
Colonel Johnston to the Assistant Adjutant General.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF UTAH,
CAMP ON THE THREE CROSSINGS OF
SWEET WATER, Oct. 13,1857.
MAJOR—To-night two men who live at Fort Laramie, and who had been sent on express to Colonel ALEXANDER, arrived at our camp on their way back. From them I learn that the Mormons, having interposed a force in rear of our troops then encamped at Ham's Fork of Green river, succeeded in burning three supply trains, with their contents. A message from Colonel ALEXANDER was sent by them to Colonel C. F. SMITH, instructing him to protect the trains in the rear, which contain the clothing, Sibley tents, subsistence, &c. The orders with regard to the march of the cavalry and companies of the Sixth having been countermanded, leaves Colonel SMITH with only twenty-two men. Forty-seven men of his command were left at Laramie as the Governor's escort. Lieut. SMITH, of the Dragoons, is four days march behind us, with two companies of dragoons, the forty-seven men of Col. SMITH'S command and twenty-five dragoons of my escort who were left at Laramie to come on with Lieutenant SMITH; his command will number about 200 men. I have ordered him to hasten forward and join Colonel SMITH'S command. We will march in the morning, and expect to encamp with Colonel SMITH to-morrow night. The express man says Col. ALEXANDER would attempt to reach the valley of Salt Lake by the Bear River. It is much further than by the usual route, and why he selects it I could not learn, unless from the probability of the grass being burnt by the Mormons on the direct route. These men say that it is certain that they will burn the grass on the route they are about to pursue. Under these circustances, if I could communicate with Colonel ALEXANDER, I would direct him to take up a good position for the Winter at Ham's Fork. The road is beset between this and Ham's Fork with companies of Mormons, so that it is doubtful whether I shall be able to communicate with Colonel ALEXAXDER. With great respect, your obedient servant,
A. S. JOHNSTON, Colonel 2d Cavalry,
Commanding Army of Utah.
Major IRVIN MCDOWELL, Assistant Adjutant-General,
Head-quarters of the Army, New-York City.
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