Hysterical Journey to Historic Places

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August 28th 2017
Published: August 28th 2017
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During the fight Gunnison's party sought cover in the river and most of them were killed there. A few broke out of that death trap and were killed in the parking lot.

Captain John Williams Gunnison, of the army topographic corps, was busily surveying a route along the 38th Parallel for the transcontinental railroad on October 26, 1853 when he stumbled in to the midst of The Walker War and got himself and most of his party slaughtered by some unruly Pahvants. It came down through history as the Gunnison Massacre. It was getting late in the work year, and Gunnison wanted to maximize his work effort before going in to winter camp at Sevier Lake. He split his command on October 25th and sent half back towards Nephi to complete work in that direction while he continued to work towards the lake. At daybreak on October 26th his camp was surrounded at a bend in the Sevier River and brutally attacked. Four of his escort broke away and rode in search of the other party. When they returned to the scene of the attack they found Gunnison and the remaining seven members of his party killed and mutilated. Gunnison’s wife maintained that the atrocity had been committed by the Mormons. Her allegations led to an investigation called for by W. W. Drummond, magistrate of the Supreme Court

There is no signage remaining at the massacre site. It was so often vandalized by Mormon revisionists that the signs were removed and are now on display at the museum in Delta.
for the Territory of Utah. To head the investigation Drummond called upon Lt Col Edward J. Steptoe who happened to be passing through Utah with a herd of remounts bound for California. Steptoe completed his investigation during the winter and in the spring concluded in his report that the Pahvants were acting alone in the attack on Gunnison. However, he recommended strongly that soldiers be sent to Utah to compel the Mormons to observe federal laws. President Buchanan wanted to appoint Steptoe as governor of the territory, in place of Brigham Young, but Steptoe had learned to like Mormons with hearty disfavor by then and chose to just remain in the army and continue on to California with the horses. Drummond was hounded out of office by Brigham Young and returned to Washington City with plenty of well-founded stories about Mormons disregarding federal court rulings. It resulted in President Buchanan’s decision to send a military force into Utah to restore the law of the land. That force was commanded by Col Albert Sydney Johnston. The Mormons regarded Johnston’s Army as an invasion of their sovereignty and prepared for war. They managed to stop Johnston’s Army for the winter at Fort Bridger. The unfortunate slaughter of the Fancher Party of immigrants at Mountain Meadows was a result of the Mormon War. Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War and he decided to find a way to attack Utah from the Colorado River if it ever came to that. The new judge assigned to the bench for the Territory of Utah on June 4, 1858 was a fellow from Circleville, Ohio named John Cradlebaugh. His first job was to prosecute the wrongdoers at the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The Mormon jurors would not pass down any convictions on their guilty-as-hell brethren and Cradlebaugh attempted to use the army to help enforce the law. The justice department would not allow it and Cradlebaugh got re-assigned to the bench at the furthest outpost of the Territory of Utah which happened to be a little place called Genoa a few miles southwest of Carson City. The silver rich Territory of Nevada sprouted up around him and he became a delegate to Congress during its run at statehood. Cradlebaugh was still mightily annoyed with the Mormons and he continued to push the proposed Nevada state boundary further eastward until it reached the salt flats. That desolate ground was fine for the Mormons to occupy. Cradlebaugh might have been laughed out of Salt Lake City, but he ended up taking a big juicy bite out of the Territory of Utah and its influence on the west. Captain Gunnison, that poor devil, was just minding his own business on the morning of October 26, 1853 when he was massacred, but he set in motion a series of events that changed the course of American history.


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