In 1854 President Pierce wanted to appoint Colonel Steptoe as governor, but when Steptoe visited Utah, he could see that the people loved Brigham and followed him. Colonel Steptoe recommended that Brigham Young remain as governor because Brigham was “the most suitable person . . . for that office.”
Some of the judges sent to Utah did not get along with the Mormons. They accused Brigham of rebelling against the United States Government. Even though Brigham sent letters telling President Buchanan that the Mormons supported the United States Government, it did no good.
At the time Congress was divided on the issue of slavery. Each side wanted the support of the western territories. A new Republican party had been formed in Nebraska that didn’t want slavery or polygamy (a man marrying more than one wife) in the territories. Though President Buchanan was a Democrat, he didn’t want anyone to think he was in favor of polygamy. He also wanted to show the south that rebellion would not be tolerated, whether it was Brigham Young and polygamy in the west or slavery in the south. To make his point, Buchanan sent an army of two thousand five hundred soldiers to Utah under the leadership of General Albert Sidney Johnston. But the President didn’t bother to let Brigham know they were coming. President Buchanan also replaced Brigham as governor, appointing Alfred Cumming in his place. Governor Cumming traveled west with the army.
Abraham O. Smoot, mayor of Salt Lake City, was out on the plains taking mail across the country, and he was the first to learn that the army was coming. He and several others raced back to tell Brigham. They averaged over one hundred miles a day with their best horses hitched to a small wagon.
When Brigham heard that Johnston’s Army was heading west, he sent men out to delay their progress. The men burned the grass so the animals of the army had nothing to eat; they lit the army’s supply wagons on fire and destroyed the bridges they had to cross. The men also burned the Mormon outposts of Fort Bridger and Fort Supply so the troops would have nowhere to stay. The army had to camp in Wyoming during the winter of 1857.They suffered without food and shelter for protection.
More next week on what happened.