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Lessons from the Mormon Battalion

Posted by imawheatwatcher on January 25, 2009

I thought I scheduled this for last week but obviously I didn’t. Two posts today (and February meeting information coming soon!)

William G. Hartley, “Sturdy Shoes and a Waterproof Tent,” Ensign, Oct 2001, 38

Church history teaches us many lessons about personal preparedness
“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us!” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1831. While it may sound surprising, a look at Church history can teach us about preparedness for our day.

Lessons from the Mormon Battalion’s March
In 1846–47, the majority of the Mormon Battalion, an infantry unit of nearly 500 men in the U.S. Army of the West during the Mexican War, marched about 2,000 miles from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to San Diego, California. We learn several lessons from their experiences.

Lesson 1: During a crisis we may need to leave our family to meet community needs.  On 3 July 1846, President Brigham Young, Elder Heber C. Kimball, and Elder Willard Richards began recruiting men for the Mormon Battalion. Recruiting continued until 20 July. At noon on Tuesday, 21 July, the battalion began its historic march. All this took place in the midst of the members’ migration across Iowa and left hundreds of women and children to cross the plains without these men to help them.

Lesson 2: Water-purifying pills or filters are essential. Thirsty people will drink contaminated water, if necessary. Crossing a dry stretch in Kansas, the battalion suffered severely from heat and lack of water. So thirsty were they that they drove a herd of buffalo from an insect-infested pond and gladly drank the discolored and disgusting water. “No luxury was ever more thankfully received,” Sergeant Daniel Tyler wrote. Afterwards, “many were attacked with summer complaint.”

Lesson 3: Writing materials and a camera are helpful resources.  About 20 soldiers kept diaries during the trek, using a strange assortment of notebooks and papers—whatever they could find to write on. In order to “show” what he was experiencing, one man drew sketches in his diary.

Lesson 4: Bread or other grain products are important.  In January 1847 at Warner’s Ranch in southern California, previously famished battalion men received four pounds of beef a day as their ration. Beef, however, did not satisfy their hunger. The men craved bread, which was unavailable.


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