1857, Johnston's Army (Private Mason's Experience)
A SOLDIER'S STORY
I, Andrew Martin Mason, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on February 23, 1835, the son of Andrew Lucas and Grace Gilbert Hudson Mason. My childhood days were much the same as most boys at that time. When I was old enough to work, I helped my father on the farm and received a fair education. I farmed for six years and then took up the carriage trade. However, that did not satisfy me, so I learned to be a mason and a bricklayer as well. I worked at this until my parents died when I was twenty years old. It was then I decided to join the army, and I did so on July 28, 1857.
I enlisted at Governor's Island in New York Harbor. As a soldier I traveled around a great deal and this I liked. Then one day some of us men were sent down to Jersey City on a small, flat tugboat and put under the command of General Johnston. From here we entrained for some special duty and we were on our way to a place unknown to any of us. After twenty-four hours riding we reached Dunkirk, a small place on Lake Erie, but still in New York State. Here we had to change trains and on passing an outspoken conductor, we were surprised to hear him say, "You fellers had better watch out, those Mormons will eat you up."
This, of course, started a lot of talking among the men. None of us had ever heard of a Mormon and it was finally decided that they were some sort of vicious animal and the army had been called out to get rid of them. So we were naturally looking forward to quite a thrilling hunting spree. We boarded the train with six large cannons, twenty-eight mule teams and traveled down through Ohio and into Kentucky, where we stayed overnight at Marysville. That was an awful dirty place and we were almost eaten alive by bedbugs. We were sure glad to get out of there.
The next stop was in St. Louis, Missouri. Then on to Fort Leavenworth and from there we headed west for Kansas City. It was here that we learned we were headed for Utah, or at that time it was just the great unknown. Ours was a secret mission and we were not allowed to talk much about it, so we still believed we were going to kill off those dreaded wild Mormons, whatever they were. I enjoyed traveling very much. There was always something new and exciting going on and so different from my old life back home. Of course we were under strict army regulations, but this outdoor life held a certain amount of freedom that I liked.
As we traveled across the plains we encountered several tribes of Indians and some of them were on the warpath, so we had to be on our guard at all times, but we never had any serious trouble with them. Farther on we had some trouble with quick sand. This was while marching up the South Platte River country. However, as we got more acquainted with the land in general we had less trouble and got through the dangerous Ash Hollow country safely. In one little place where we camped, we found several families sick with the smallpox, which at that time was dreaded and feared as much as the lepers in Bible days. We got out of there in a hurry and felt very lucky that no one in our outfit broke out with them.
At each encampment we were given some liberty and we enjoyed many outdoor sports. We did some hunting and fishing and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but as yet we had not seen or heard another word about those vicious animals called Mormons, and still our officers refused to tell us anything about our destination.
At last we reached Fort Laramie in Wyoming, and we spent a little time there fixing our wagons and harnesses in preparation for the long hard miles ahead. Many times we made fires from buffalo chips and sometimes the water wasn't very good, but we had plenty to eat and all in all we got along fine. From Laramie we crossed the Sweetwater and took what we called the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains. We stopped at one little place called Sandy and the next day we crossed the Green River and went on to Fort Henry. Here we were able to buy fresh vegetables and fruits from the farmers, even tomatoes and they were quite a welcome treat along with our regular army meals. We paid twenty-five cents for a large box and some said it was the first quarters they had ever seen.
Our next stop was Sandfork and it was here that we found the real reason we had been sent out here. We learned that the Mormons were not animals at all, but real honest-to-goodness people, who had heard of our coming and were not to be caught off guard. Fires had been set to grass and grain fields for miles around and because of this we lost many teams. We could not get food for them. We had to keep on going however as best we could, and as our hardships grew, our hatred for the Mormons grew also because we did not understand their reasons.
Another large range of mountains faced us and we had great difficulty in making progress as some of the high cliffs were very steep and the trails narrow and dangerous. We had heard of the high Rockies but we never realized just how great mountains could be. We didn't have anything like that in the East. The way was so dangerous that many of the men refused to ride in the wagons for fear of serious accidents, along the steep narrow gorges. We had a few washerwomen along with us and in one place one of them got so frightened that she wrapped herself in a blanket and before anyone could stop her, she jumped from her wagon and ended it all. We were just starting to make a descent down a steep grade and as she jumped screaming loudly, it frightened the horses. They lunged forward, causing other teams to be frightened and there was one grand scramble as they all made one dash for the bottoms. The wagons were bumping and bouncing down over the rocks and deep ruts until we wondered if any of them would reach level ground again in one piece.
Our captain shouted an order for all men to stay with their teams, but only a few of us were able to do it. The cannon wagons were overturned and the one loaded with whiskey barrels started to roll over the hillside and that did it. Most of the men broke orders and rushed to its rescue. But alas they were too late and every barrel was busted and we had to watch our precious whiskey splash down over the rocks to our utter dismay. It was a dry forlorn bunch of men that were given strict orders for the next few days. Our captain laid it on thick and heavy so there was little time for rest or relaxation. Our horses and mules had to be rounded up. Wagons and harnesses repaired. We had to find our cannons and as much of our equipment that could be salvaged reloaded and a complete check had to be made of all our provisions.
Then we found that we were not only out of whiskey, but short on wagons and food as well. We could not hope to get food from the Mormons, so our rations took a drastic cut and of course the mood of the dry, thirsty men did not help things out any. One can just imagine the cursing the Mormons got for the fix we were all in. After all, if it hadn't been for them we wouldn't have been out in that forsaken place anyway. We had hoped to buy more whiskey along the way, but that we were unable to do because we could not find any. These Mormons had a very queer religion that said, "No drinking allowed." The more we learned of these strange people, the more we disliked them.
Stuck at Ft. Bridger
We could only travel a few miles a day. Our livestock kept dying one by one, while the rest got poorer all the time. After about two weeks we reached Fort Bridger, where we camped for the winter as we were unable to travel any farther. One night two of our supply wagons were burned, it may have been the Indians, but we gave the Mormons credit for it. In fact they got the blame for everything that happened to us, especially if it was bad, and at the rate our hatred was growing I knew we would be well ready to fight them when the time came.
We pitched our tents and bedded down for cold days ahead. Our rations were cut again and this time in half. We went to bed hungry, got up hungry and many times stayed hungry all day. It was late in November now and the weather was getting very cold. We did not have nearly enough clothing to keep us warm so we were cold as well as hungry. About all we could think of on those long miserable nights was how we were going to get even with the Mormons, and I sort of dreaded the horrible thing that would surely take place.
To Camp Floyd
The day finally came when our provisions came from the East. Strong sturdy mules were sent in from Arizona and now well equipped again, we broke camp and headed for Salt Lake City, where we learned the action against our enemy would take place, and believe me, we could hardly wait. We camped at a place called Muddy for two days, then we came to a river which we thought was the Bear River. We had to build a bridge to cross over and traveled on down through into Echo. As I remember we went from there south and westward and down through Emigration Canyon and the following day we marched into Salt Lake City. But we were hardly prepared for what happened, or what didn't happen. We were all prepared for some real action but there wasn't any. It was like a ghost town. The whole place was as silent as a tomb. There was not a soul to be seen and we marched right through the town without a sign of trouble, but we had a queer but sure feeling that thousands of eyes were watching our every move.
I must say we were more than a little disappointed because we were in the mood for some real action, but there was none. Just any kind of excitement would have helped relieve our feelings, but you couldn't fight something you could not see. We marched down to the west side of the Jordan River and camped there for the night. Morning came and there still was no trouble. We marched along the river to a little place called Cedar Valley and then on to Big Springs, where we made our first real camp and that was called Camp Floyd. All this time we had encountered no enemy or any disorder at all. The people we met seemed friendly enough but we could tell they were a little cautious of our being there and well they should be. The men began to get restless and we wondered just why we were there anyway.
They seemed to be a peace-loving people and as we learned a little more about them, we found we had no real cause to molest them. Our captain had several meetings with their leader, Brigham Young, but we men did not know what went on between them. Anyway we were never called into action.
We built barracks of adobe and rock and here the army remained for several years. Many of the men got indefinite leaves, but they were to stay close so they could be called back in a hurry if there was any trouble. I might add here that they were all called back with the Civil War in 1861 by the United [p.62] States Government. This cost the government about eight million dollars and all this time there was not a single shot fired. All we could say was, "What a war! What a dangerous mission!" We all had quite a laugh when we thought of the fear and dread we had of the Mormons. In fact, I still do as I sit and reflect back over the past.
On August 6, 1860, I and a small party of men got permission to leave camp for awhile. As there was nothing to do it was not hard. We traveled on foot down to Spanish Fork. Here some of the men parted company, while some of us went on down to the Provo Valley. One night we got caught in one of the worst storms that I could ever remember and we had been in a lot of them. The rain came down in torrents and like drowned rats we crawled in a little cave beside the road and huddled together to keep warm. We were still wet and it seemed half frozen by morning, because by now it was the latter part of September. Cramped and very stiff we started out again. We were taken in by a good Mormon family, where we dried our clothes and were given a good meal. In fact many people had been kind to us along the way and we really felt ashamed for the hatred we had once felt for them. We felt like lost souls not knowing what to do. The rest decided to turn back and return to the camp, but I just felt like I could not go back. I don't know just where I went from there on. I went east for awhile and then circled back to the north. I worked a little here and there along the way and then I came to the Weber River. I followed it eastward back up into Echo Canyon again. I would not admit it, but I later wondered if I might have been trying to find my way back home again. I knew I could turn back even now and it would be alright with the army, but I went right on in spite of what it might mean if I were ever caught.
I was in need of clothing and money so I stopped at a little Pony Express station, where the mail stage ran through twice a week. A Mormon by the name of John Smith took care of it along with his wife and family and a sister. They took me in and gave me work. I had full charge of all the livestock and I really enjoyed doing it. I was surprised at this because I was really a wanderer at heart, but perhaps the sister, Rebecca Smith, had a lot to do with it, as she was young and very beautiful.
Rescue of Stolen Cattle
At this time the Indians were causing some trouble, killing and driving off the cattle, and one day some of our cattle turned up missing. Even the herder did not return so I was sent out to find them. But there was no sign of them anywhere. I had learned many ways and tricks of the Indians from my army life, so the next morning I took a good horse and set out to see what I could do about it. I rode all over the range, up hill and down with no sign of the missing cattle or the herder. So I took off on foot over a narrow path that was called the Back Bone Trail. It was less than a rod wide in places and very dangerous. There were recent tracks and I was pretty sure of what I would soon run into, and sure enough as I reached the top I could see a small Indian village in the clearing below and also some cattle in a corral nearby. I was pretty sure they were ours and that there was another way to get to them. They could not have gone through that pass. I hurried back down to my horse and scouted around the hill to the other side. By now it was getting dark so I watched and waited through the night until early dawn, then I crawled into the camp, unseen by the napping guard. I opened the corral gate and started a stampede and I soon had the cattle on their way to freedom with me right behind them. I made so much noise yelling and screaming and shooting off my gun, that I am sure the Indians never knew that just one man did the job, or I could never have got away with it. Anyway I got them all back safely.
I was well paid for my services and was pretty much of a hero around there after that. Rebecca and I were pretty good friends now and I was secretly making plans for us, but as she was so very young, I thought I better wait awhile before asking her to be my wife. But I did not wait long, because we became engaged on February 25th and were married on the 12th of March in 1861. Rebecca was then only sixteen years old.
We lived on at the station and I had many experiences hauling coal through the canyons on slippery roads in winter. I was given the credit of hauling the first load of coal into Salt Lake City. Soon after our marriage William Moss bought the Express station and he hired me to take charge of it. The following year he sold out and we moved down to South Weber where I worked for my father-in-law for a short time. Then we moved to Farmington where I worked for a Judson Stoddard for awhile. I guess I was still a rover because I was not satisfied there either, so we moved up into Yellow Creek where John Smith had moved, and worked with him again for a few months. A little later we moved back to South Weber again. It was here our first child was born, a baby boy and we named him Andrew. That was on December 10, 1863. Soon after this we decided to go to California with the Smith family.
This came about because of the Morrisite War. It seemed a man by the name of Joseph Morris was quite a spiritual leader and claimed to be a true prophet. He seemed to have so much authority that many believed him. He said and did things that the others did not like and it grew into quite a feud between them, and serious trouble followed. The government called all the men back into service and I knew that the troops would be sent to settle fighting. I did not know what to do. If I went back I would have to fight my wife's people as they had joined with the Morrisites and if I did not go back I would be a traitor to my country. As we had decided to go to California to get away from it all, I listened to my wife and family and decided to go with them. The battle did not last long but some were killed and many were injured before Joseph Morris was shot and peace came to the Valley. [Andrew went to California, then returned, settled down and quit his wandering ways.]
Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.