Mormon Battalion 1950 Reenactment

Mormon Battalion 1950 Reenactment

This article originally appeared in Vol.55, No.1 (2008) of Pioneer Magazine.

by Jay W. Smith, 2007 President

Three years after the celebrated the Centennial Year of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Salt Lake Valley with a of that first trek, a similar partial reenactment of the s trek was sponsored.

In 1846 more than 500 Mormon men agreed to join the U.S. Army and march through the Southwest to California to assist in the Mexican War. They left behind wives and children to continue to Zion on their own and marched over 1,900 miles in 194 days, the longest march in the history of the United States Army.

The Mormon Battalion reenactment in was headed by SUP President Fred E. H. Curtis, who assumed the role of commanding officer. Nine busloads of SUP members and their wives (300 people) left Salt Lake City on March 13. Five companies were organized, with representatives of the original officers, 14 in each company.

The buses first arrived at the South rim of the Grand Canyon. The next day the members donned their replica military uniforms and left for Mesa, Arizona, where they gave a dress parade. After dinner, a greeting was given by Arizona Governor Dan E. Garvel with a special musical performance. (Pioneer, July 1950, Sect. B, 6-7.)

From Mesa, the group followed the trail to Yuma, Arizona, and on to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino, California. The citizens of Yuma honored them with a parade and a barbecue dinner. On March 16, they arrived in San Diego and again were honored at a special program. The newly organized San Diego Chapter of the SUP helped host the celebration. The following morning the Battalion representatives marched from their hotel to Presidio Park, where a flag-raising ceremony was held on the spot that the first American flag with 29 stars was raised in 1847. More than 5,000 people attended the ceremony. In the evening, a program for the group was held at Knotts Berry Farm. Speakers included LDS church President George Albert Smith and Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee.

On March 18, another march was made from the Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles to the city hall, where Fort Moore once stood and where on July 4, 1847, the Mormon Battalion was mustered out of U.S. Service. Here California Governor Earl Warren and Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron spoke to an audience of 5,000 welcoming the reenactment participants.

The final stop of the reenactment was in San Bernardino, where approximately 20,000 people welcomed the reenactors as part of a special “Mormon Day” celebration. The SUP San Bernardino Chapter headed by Royal P. Skousen hosted the event. A final march was made to the fairgrounds and the ongoing National Orange Show. Governors Lee and Warren again were speakers at the afternoon welcoming program. The buses returned to Salt Lake City on March 19.

The excitement of the reenactment led to the establishment of the Mormon Battalion organization in 1954 with Fred E .H. Curtis as the first commanding officer.

For many years, the Battalion was sponsored under the Sons of the Utah Pioneers umbrella but is now a separate organization with a planned museum and office building to be built on the grounds of the “This Is the Place” Heritage Park.

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