Birkner, Michael J., MacKinnon, William P., Quist, John
Prelude to Armageddon : James Buchanan, Brigham Young, and a President's Initiation to Bloodshed
James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War
University Press of Florida
This chapter analyzes James Buchanan’s unexpected March 1857 decision to resolve "the Mormon problem"-Brigham Young's autocratic and highly controversial performance as Utah Territory's governor-by replacing him and sending a successor west with a large army escort. When Young resisted removal, proclaimed martial law, and attacked the Utah Expedition, this confrontation escalated into a territorial rebellion and guerrilla campaign, the nation's most extensive and expensive military undertaking during the period between the Mexican War and the Civil War. The Utah War resulted in atrocities on a scale comparable to those in "Bleeding Kansas," including the notorious, 120-victim Mountain Meadows Massacre. The chapter credits Buchanan with the resolve and tenacity to remove Young but faults him for the flawed execution of the related military operation and a less-than-full restoration of federal authority to Utah. The essay describes this presidential initiation to armed confrontation and bloodshed while bridging to subsequent chapters dealing with Buchanan's cabinet and his handling of the secession crisis three years after the Utah War.