Their arrival has been described as “unnecessarily spectacular” by those present.  It was planned that way in part to antagonize the Mormon spirit and in part to embolden and render more arrogant and aggressive the federal authorities – the governor and judges.  A rumor had circulated that they would be met by resistance; their commander, Colonel P. Edward Connor, then boasted that “he would cross the river Jordan even if hell yawned beneath him.”  That he did, but without any evidence of that other earthly realm.  The troops were issued ammunition; with loaded rifles, fixed bayonets, the band playing, they entered Salt Lake City.  They came from the south, up State Street, north to First South and then eastward to the residence of the governor, Stephen S. Harding.  There they halted and smartly formed two lines while the governor delivered a speech.  At the end they loudly cheered the governor, the nation and the “brave old flag.”  The band then resumed playing and off they went to found Camp Douglas.  That facility is still there today, about 2 ½ miles east of Temple Square.

It was October 20, 1862.  Twice in just four years the territory had been subjected to military occupation, at least it so appeared to the local residents.  The troops were the California Volunteers, about 700 all total, who had enlisted to fight rebels further east in the ongoing Civil War.  “Why were we sent here,” complained one.  The infantry companies sent a request to the army paymaster to withhold $30,000 from their future pay, if only their regiment could be sent east rather than to Utah.  President Lincoln thought otherwise.  They were needed in Utah to protect the recently completed telegraph lines – that in spite of the fact that Brigham Young had offered to provide 100 men, at no expense to the government, to perform the same task.

To say that Colonel Connor and President Young didn’t get along is a significant understatement.  The historian Thomas Stenhouse said, in reference to the Camp Douglas location, “no place could have been chosen more offensive to Brigham Young.  The artillery had a perfect and unobstructed range of Brigham’s residence, and their muzzles turned in that direction.  The prophet felt awfully annoyed.”  At least one time it went beyond annoyance.  One evening, about 10 pm, the cannon began firing and most of the city feared the worst.  The word was sent for the Nauvoo Legion to immediately assemble and only later was it learned that it was just a celebration party to honor the commander on his promotion to brigadier general. 

Civil War era infantry troops

General Connor has been described as the father of Utah mining and that honor he rightly deserves.  With little else for his solders to do, he strongly encouraged them to prospect and explore the territory for precious metals.  His goal, his ulterior motive, some would call it an obsession, was to make a discovery of such magnitude so as to bring tens of thousands of new non-Mormon residents to the area and through numerical superiority bring an end to LDS theocratic rule.  This of course was not to be, but in light of all that was happening in some neighboring states, a distinct possibility.

Over time the two antagonists warmed some towards each other – or possibly it would be more correct to say that a certain amount of mutual respect became evident in their relationship.  That point is made by an incident that occurred late in Brigham Young’s life.  The Young party was in southern Utah when word was received that Brigham had been charged with accessory to murder and ordered to appear at court in Salt Lake.  On the trip north, somewhere just south of Cove Fort, they encountered delays brought on by a severe December blizzard.  There, of all places, they bumped into General Connor, a stage passenger, also northbound.  Upon hearing of the charges, “he expressed himself strongly against the prosecution of Brigham Young, and offered to sign bonds to the extent of $100,000 in favor of Brigham Young if he could be admitted to bail.”  What a noble gesture on his part!  Is this the same General Connor?  We are reminded of the often heard statement that “familiarity breeds contempt;” sometimes, it seems, it can also do quite the opposite.

Many details for this story come from:  A Comprehensive History of the Church, Century One, Vol. V, by B.H. Roberts, Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah, 1965.