The Mormon Battalion Experience : Four Soldiers, Four Stories
Utah Historical Quarterly
The Mormon Battalion, numbering about 500 troops, plus women and children, left Council Bluffs, Iowa, on July 20, 1846. This battalion was authorized by President James Polk to assist Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny, commander of the Army of the West, in establishing an American presence in California during the Mexican War. Because the Mormon Battalion was behind the rest of Colonel Kearny's Army of the West, battalion leader Lieutenant Andrew J. Smith drove the recruits at a furious pace, determined to catch up to the rest of the Army in Santa Fe. During this harsh journey, many soldiers wore out so badly that two parties of sick, exhausted troops were sent to Pueblo, Colorado for the winter. Later, when the Battalion reached Williamsburg, New Mexico, another sick detachment was sent back to Pueblo. This article traces the paths of four individuals, David Martin Perkins, John Calvin Perkins, James Madison Welch, and Isaac Carpenter, all of whom were sent back in the sick parties. David and John were active Latter-day Saint brothers, James was their non-Mormon cousin, and Isaac later married the Perkins" sister, but was only intermittently active in the LDS Church. David and John Perkins, along with their future in-law Isaac Carpenter, left the Mormon Battalion with the second sick detachment. James Welch was later sent back from Williamsburg in the last sick party. By late December all four men were in Pueblo. John Perkins died of tuberculosis on January 19, 1847, and was buried outside of Pueblo. The sick detachment members left Pueblo on May 24, after a long winter made harder by bad feelings between the officers and enlisted men. After a long march, the company finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 29, 1847.