Hickmans in the Utah War
Col. Albert Sidney Johnston
from SUP, Pioneer, May/June 1994 p.5.
Following that is a letter of the same date from Army officer Col. Edmund B. Alexander to Brigham Young in which he describes their capture and the subsequent release of Thomas Jefferson and continued imprisonment of George Washington; he also makes some complaints about the way his invading army has been treated, and makes some demands, which in his reply, Brigham Young declines. Command of the army later shifted to Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, who was to lead the troops into Utah the following summer.
In the meantime, there was lots of footwork by a truly heroic figure, Thomas Leiper Kane of Pennsylvania, who managed to work compromises from both sides that allowed the Army to enter Utah without bloodshed and Governor Alfred Cumming to take over the civil leadership of the Territory of Utah. Needless to say, if George had been executed, his children would have had to find themselves another father.
My mess, consisting of nine mounted men (besides a cook) was engaged in driving the beef cattle then with the army. Promptly at dark the Tenth Regiment took the road, followed by the several wagon trains, and we rounded up the beef cattle and started them off. By this time the cattle had become so well trained and so accustomed to following the wagon trains that we had no trouble with them whatever. They would keep close up to the rear of the (corn) train though we might be three miles behind or off the road hunting. On this night we were riding along leisurely, not realizing how rapidly the army was moving on a forced march, so that when we passed through the train on the divide, <p.10> about midnight, we were fully four miles behind the regiment.
Soon after we passed through it a force of Mormon cavalry under Bill Hickman descended upon it, set fire to the wagons and consumed them and their contents. Hickman soon afterward told me in Salt Lake City that his force stood in a cedar forest half a mile south of the road when the regiment and its wagon trains passed, and that he started to fire the train when he heard horses' hoofs coming up from Green River, when he turned back under cover and waited until a small squad of mounted men (which was myself and my eight companions) passed. The same night or early next morning Hickman's and other Mormon cavalry burned up the two large supply trains at Green river and Big Sandy--thus depriving the army of about 500,000 pounds of provisions intended for its maintenance during the long and severe winter then setting in. . . .
--John L. Ginn, Mormon and Indian Wars, LDS Archives, MS 6037, pp. 9-10.
Camp 14, Harris Fork
Monday, October 12, 1857.
My Dear Maria:
Yesterday we made a march en route for Salt Lake City. I was left with my company to bring up an ox train, the cattle [p.76] of which had strayed away during the night. After 2 ½ hours it got under way, and as soon as I got to the 5th Inf. Camp, 5 miles, my orders were to leave it and join my regiment. I made a cut-off, and in the meantime orders were sent to me to act as flankers to the train. Our whole train is 9 miles long. It takes about 6 companies to guard it. I wish you could see the train as it moves along. Two Mormon spies were taken in camp yesterday by the 5th Inf. They are two brothers Hickman, brothers to the celebrated Bill Hickman who is hovering around our rear with a large party. We are in constant expectation of an attack, mostly in the night with a view of stampeding our animals. Dandy is blanketed and in front of my tent. We sleep on our arms, ready at any moment to fall in to receive our Mormon friends. It snowed yesterday morning and also last night. It goes off readily; all this is excellent for us as it wets the grass so they cannot burn it. It is a Godsend for us.
Tomorrow I am detailed for the advance, and I hope that I may meet some of the murderers. I do think from all I can learn from the mountain men, who know them well, that they are the greatest set of villains on earth. They say that this Bill Hickman, who is one of the 70 destroying angels, has murdered more than a hundred men in this country with his own hand. We hope to meet him ere long. Our grass is much better than we expected to find. We made today 10 ½ miles over a rough road.
--Otis G. Hammond, Ed., The Utah Expedition 1857-1858, Letters of Capt. Jesse A. Gove,10th Inf. U.S.A.,
of Concord, N.H. to Mrs. Gove, and Special Correspondence of the New York Herald,
Concord, N.H., New Hampshire Historical Society, 1928, pp. 75-76.
COLONEL ALEXANDER TO GOVERNOR YOUNG
HEADQUARTERS ARMY FOR UTAH,
Camp on Ham's Fork,
October 12, 1857.
Yesterday two young men, named Hickman, were arrested by the rear guard of the army, and are now held in confinement. They brought a letter from W. A. Hickman to Mr. Perry, a sutler of one of the regiments, but came under none of the privileges of bearers of despatches, and are, perhaps, liable to be considered and treated as spies. But I am convinced, from conversation with them, that their conduct does not merit the serious punishment awarded to persons of that character, and I have accordingly resolved to release the younger one, especially in consideration of his having a wife and three children dependent upon him, and to make him the bearer of this letter. The elder I shall keep until I know how this communication is received, and until I receive an answer to it, reserving, even then, the right to hold him a prisoner, if, in my judgment, circumstances require it. I need hardly assure you that his life will be protracted, and that he will receive every comfort and indulgence proper to be afforded him.
I desire now, sir, to set before you the following facts: the forces under my command are ordered by the President of the United States to establish a military post at or near Salt Lake City. They set out on their long and arduous march, anticipating a reception similar to that which they would receive in any other State or Territory in the Union. They were met at the boundary of the Territory of which you are the governor, and in which capacity alone I have any business with you, by a proclamation issued by yourself, forbidding them to come upon soil belonging to the United States, and calling upon the inhabitants to resist them with arms. You have ordered them to return, and have called upon them to give up their arms in default of obeying your mandate. You have resorted to open hostilities, and of a kind, permit me to say, very far beneath the usages of civilized warfare, and only resorted to by those who are conscious of inability to resist by more honorable means, by authorizing persons under your control, some of the very citizens, doubtless, whom you have called to arms, to burn the grass, apparently with the intention of starving a few beasts, and hoping that men would starve after them. Citizens of Utah, acting, I am bound to believe, under your authority, have destroyed trains containing public stores, with a similar humane purpose of starving the army. I infer also from your communication received day before yesterday, refering to "a dearth of news from the east and from home," * that you have caused public and private letters to be diverted from their proper destination, and this, too, when carried by a public messenger on a public highway. It is unnecessary for me to adduce further instances to show that you have placed yourself, in your capacity of governor, and so many of the citizens of the Territory of Utah as have obeyed your decree, in a position of rebellion and hostility to the general government of the United States. It becomes you to look to the consequences, for you must be aware that so unequal a contest can never be successfully sustained by the people you govern.
It is my duty to inform you that I shall use the force under my control, and all honorable means in my power, to obey literally and strictly the orders under which I am acting. If you, or any acting under your orders, oppose me, I will use force, and I warn you that the blood that is shed in this contest will be upon your head. My means I consider ample to overcome any obstacle; and I assure you that any idea you may have formed of forcing these troops back, or of preventing them from carrying out the views of the government, will result in unnecessary violence and utter failure. Should you reply to this in a spirit which our relative positions give me a right to demand, I will be prepared to propose an arrangement with you. I have also the honor to inform you that all persons found lurking around or in any of our camps, will be put under guard and held prisoners as long as circumstances may require.
I remain sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant
E. B. ALEXANDER
Colonel 10th Infantry, Commanding.
BRIGHAM YOUNG TO COLONEL ALEXANDER
GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, U.T.,
In consideration of our relative positions--you acting in your capacity as commander of the United States forces, and in obedience, as you have stated, to orders from the President of the United States, and I as governor of this Territory, impelled by every sense of justice, honor, integrity and patriotism to resist what I consider to be a direct infringement of the rights of the citizens of Utah, and an act of usurpation and tyranny unprecedented in the history of the United States--permit me to address you frankly as a citizen of the United States, untrammelled by the usages of official dignity or military etiquette.
As citizens of the United States, we both, it is presumable, feel strongly attached to the Constitution and institutions of our common country; and, as gentlemen, should probably agree in sustaining the dear bought liberties bequeathed by our fathers--the position in which we are individually placed being the only apparent cause of our present antagonism; you, as colonel commanding, feeling that you have a rigid duty to perform in obedience to orders, and I, a still more important duty to the people of this Territory.
I need not here reiterate what I have already mentioned in my official proclamation, and what I and the people of this Territory universally believe firmly to be the object of the administration in the present expedition against Utah, viz : the destruction, if not the entire annihilation of the Mormon community, solely upon religious grounds.
We have sought diligently for peace. We have sacrificed millions of dollars worth of property to obtain it, and wandered a thousand miles from the confines of civilization, severing ourselves from home, the society of friends, and everything that makes life worth enjoyment. If we have war, it is not of our seeking; we have never gone nor sought to interfere with the rights of others, but they have come and sent to interfere with us. We had hoped that, in this barren and desolate country, we could have remained unmolested; but it would seem that our implacable, blood-thirsty foes envy us even these barren deserts. Now, if our real enemies, the mobocrats, priests, editors and politicians, at whose instigation the present storm has been gathered, had come against us, instead of you and your command, I would never have addressed them thus. They never would have been allowed to reach the South Pass. In you we recognize only the agents and instruments of the administration, and with you personally, have no quarrel. I believe it would have been more consonant with your feelings to have made war upon the enemies of your country than upon American citizens. But, to us, the end to be accomplished is the same, and while I appreciate the unpleasantness of your position, you must be aware that circumstances compel the people of Utah to look upon you, in your present belligerent attitude, as their enemies and the enemies of our common country, and notwithstanding my most sincere desire to promote amicable relations with you, I shall feel it my duty, as do the people of the Territory, universally, to resist to the utmost every attempt to encroach further upon their rights.
It therefore becomes a matter for your serious consideration, whether it would not be more in accordance with the spirit and institutions of our country to return with your present force, rather than force an issue so unpleasant to all, and which must result in much misery and, perhaps, bloodshed, and, if persisted in, the total destruction of your army. And, furthermore, does it not become a question whether it is more patriotic for officers of the United States army to ward off, by all honorable means, a collision with American citizens, or to further the precipitate move of an indiscreet and rash administration, in plunging a whole Territory into a horrible, fratricidal and sanguinary war.
Trusting that the foregoing considerations may be duly weighed by you, and that the difficulties now impending may be brought to an amicable adjustment, with sentiments of esteem, I have the honor to remain, most respectfully, &c.,
* This communication from Brigham Young, dated at Salt Lake City, Oct. 7, reads: "Presuming that during a dearth of news from the east and your home, news from the west might enliven the monotonous routine of camp life, I have the honor to forward to you two copies each of the latest numbers of the Deseret News." Doc. 71, p.47.
** Another long letter of a similar tone was written by Brigham Young on Oct. 16 (Doc. 71, pp. 50-54) in answer to Alexander's letter of the 12th. Col. Alexander answered Young's second letter on the 19th (Doc. 71, p.54) with a brief response in which he said, "It is not necessary for me to argue the points advanced by you. . . My disposition of the troops depend upon grave considerations not necessary to enumerate, and considering your order to leave the Territory illegal and beyond your authority to issue, or power to enforce, I shall not obey it."
--LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, The Utah Expedition 1857-1858,
Arthur H. Clark Co., 1958, pp.74-81
While George was held as a prisoner, Thomas was sent back and forth between the opposing camps carrying messages between Colonel Alexander and Brigham Young. The next selections give the situation as viewed by the Mormon military forces:
--Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, Vol. 2, p. 642.
--Journal History of the [LDS] Church, 25 Oct 1857 p.20-21
Below you can read additional dispatches carried by Thomas Jefferson Hickman. Note the unusual degree of courtesy and respect expressed between Brigham Young and Col. Alexander though they were on opposing sides of the pending conflict. War today isn't as polite as it used to be.
HEAD QUARTERS. Army for Utah,}
Camp on Ham's Fork,}
Oct. 18th, 1857.}
To His Excellency Brigham Young, Governor of Utah Territory:--
HEAD QUARTERS, Army for Utah}
Camp on Ham's Fork, Oct. 19, 1857}
To His Excellency, Brigham Young, Governor of Utah Territory:---
GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, Great Salt Lake City,}
Oct. 28th, 1857}
Col. E.B. Alexander, 10th Inf. U.S.A., Camp Ham's Fork:---
HEAD QUARTERS, advance of the Army}
for Utah, Camp on Ham's Fork, }
Nov. 1, 1857}
Governor B. Young:
The following letter contains the orders to Col. Waite by which our George Washington Hickman was finally released from captivity:
Head Quarters, Army of Utah
Blacks Fork, 16 miles from Fort Bridger
en route to Salt Lake City
November 8 1857
The Colonel Commanding directs that if there is not sufficient evidence against Mr. George W. Hickman, now a prisoner in your charge, to convict him of being a spy, or to make him amenable to the civil authority, that he be released from confinement, his mule restored to him, and he sent immediately from camp.
I am sir, very respectfully Your Obedient Servant,
--Records of the War Department
RG 98 United States Army Commands
Department of Utah, Letters Sent,
1857-1861, Volume I, No. 161;
Utah Historical Society Film A-112.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, G.S.L. City, U.T.,}
Nov. 26th, 1857.}
Col. A.S. Johnston, U.S.A., (if he has arrived on Black's Fork) or Col. E.B. Alexander, U.S.A.:---
--Journal History of the [LDS] Church, 4 Jan 1857, pp. 3-4.
FORT KEARNY, U.T., Dec. 23. ’57.
On the 26th November, Col. Johnston was at Fort Bridger, at which place he had established his head quarters. Col. Cooke, with six companies Second Dragoons, arrived that morning, having lost many of his animals, and the remainder were unfit for service. From Laramie to Salt Lake there is no grass, (the Mormons burnt it in advance of the troops) consequently all the animals belonging to the expedition were very poor when winter set in, and it is reported that they are dying at the rate of some one hundred daily. There can be no doubt that when spring opens Col. Johnston will be so much crippled that he will be compelled to await the arrival of fresh animals, and other supplies, before he will be able to commence active operations.---That the expedition is a failure for this year, cannot be questioned; and when we reflect upon the matter and see what an immense amount of public property must be lost, as well as the condition of the troops, on short rations, and living in tents in a country where the snow is usually very deep during winter, (in November it was two feet deep,) it would seem that your predictions last summer were well grounded. That the Mormons intend to resist there can be no doubt, they are fortifying the passes that lead to the city. They have released Jesse Jones, agent of Majors & Russell, who was taken prisoner by them some time since, and have sent him to Col. Johnston's camp. In passing through the different canons they blindfolded him, to prevent him from obtaining any knowledge of their movements. It is reported that Bill Hickman, who is one of the Danites, and a notorious scoundrel, has been killed by a mountain man named Baker. I am inclined to think it is his brother who was a prisoner in Col. Alexander's camp, as report says he was released a short time before.
Mr. Magraw, of the wagon road expedition has volunteered under Col. Johnston--those of his party who would not do so were discharged. So this expedition is broken up without accomplishing anything, save what has been done by Lander, Chief Engineer and his assistants. Mr. Magraw having had some difficulty with his Engineers, they, as well as the Disbursing Agent, left him and have gone to the States.
A few nights since, a party of Cheyenne Indians attacked some Pawnees, who were occupying an old mail house within a few hundred yards of the post, which occasioned some little excitement in the garrison. The command promptly turned out, and a detachment was sent to patrol, but the night was so dark that no Indians could be discovered. Some doubt was felt, at first as to the fact of Cheyennes having made this attack, but next morning moccasin tracks, (without doubt Cheyenne,) were discovered, which settled the matter. the bold attack on the part of the Cheyennes was from the following circumstances, viz: three Pawenees has stolen some horses from the Cheyennes, were pursued and the animals recovered. In the encounter the Cheyennes had one man killed, (supposed to be a Chief,) and another severly, if not mortally wounded. The Pawnees escaped without loss, and came immediately to the Fort where they had been some days, before this attack was made on them; which fact was, no doubt, known to the Cheyennes, and their object was to surprise them and get a scalp or two in revenge for the loss of their comrades. An attack on thepost was evidently not designed by them.