One of the oddest episodes in American military history occurred during the Mexican War. In 1846 the Mormons were beginning their epic trek West which would end with their carving a Mormon Zion out of the wilderness in what is now Utah. The Mormons, realizing they would need at least tacit Federal approval to accomplish this, sent representatives to Washington. The Polk administration asked for a quid pro quo. The Federal government would render assistance if a battalion of Mormons would enlist to fight in the Mexican War. Brigham Young readily agreed, and a battalion was raised after much cajoling by Young, due to the suspicion of most Mormons of the Federal government as a result of Federal indifference to the persecution of Mormons in Illinois and Missouri.
Along with the approximately 500 men, the Battalion was accompanied by 30 Mormon women, 23 of whom served as laundresses, and 51 children. The Mormons were mustered into the Army on July 16, 1846. They were assigned to the Army of the West under General Kearney, a tough regular. From Fort Leavenworth on August 30, 1846, the Mormon Battalion made the longest infantry march in US military history, 1900 miles to San Diego, California which they reached on January 29, 1847. The Battalion captured Tuscon, Arizona on the way to California, but saw no fighting, although the harsh climate and terrain they marched through more than made up for the absence of human adversaries. Continue Reading