Utah Pioneer Stories

James (Polly) Brown

The Mormon Battalion


James (Polly) Brown
and wife
Eunice Reasor Brown

In 1846, President James K. Polk instructed Col. Stephen W. Kearney, the Commander of the Army of the West to enlist 500 Mormons for the purpose of assisting the U.S. Army in the Mexican war. Captain James Allen was ordered to go to the Mormon Camps in Iowa to recruit five companies of men with 75 to 100 men in each company. Captain Allen told the settlement of Mormons: “I have come among you, instructed by Col. S.F. Kearney of the U.S. Army, now commanding the Army of the West, to visit the Mormon camp, and to accept the service for twelve months of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged.”

“They will receive pay rations, and other allowances, such as other volunteers or regular soldiers receive, from the day they shall be mustered into the service, and will be entitled to all comforts and benefits of regular soldiers of the army, and when discharged as contemplated, at California, they will be given gratis their arms and accoutrements for which they will be fully equipped at Fort Leavenworth. This is offered to the Mormon people now. This is an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States, and this advanced party can thus pave the way and look out for the land for their brethren to come after them. Those of the Mormons who are desirous of serving their country, on the conditions here enumerated, are requested to meet me without delay at their principal camp at Council Bluffs, whither I am going to consult with their principal men, and to receive and organize the force contemplated to be raised. I will receive all healthy, able-bodied men from eighteen to forty-five years of age.” J. Allen, Captain 1st Dragoons

These Mormons were destitute and had many reasons to refuse this enlistment request. The government had done nothing to protect them from the persecutions and mob actions that took place in Missouri and Illinois. There were hundreds of miles of land to cross that was filled with hostile Indians. How could they leave their families at a time like this to support a government that had so little regard for the protection of their families? However, at the encouragement and urging of President Brigham Young, over 500 men were finally mustered in at Council Bluffs, in Iowa on 16 July 1846. President Young told them it was their patriotic duty to join, and so they did. President Brigham Young said to them: “Brethren, you will be blessed, if you will live for those blessings which you have been taught to live for. The Mormon Battalion will be held in honorable remembrance to the latest generation; and I will prophesy that the children of those who have been in the army, in defense of their country, will grow up and bless their fathers for what they did at that time. And men and nations will rise up and bless the men who went in that Battalion. These are my feelings in brief respecting the company of men known as the Mormon Battalion. When you consider the blessings that are laid upon you, will you not live for them? As the Lord lives, if you will but live up to your privileges, you will never be forgotten, without end, but you will be had in honorable remembrance, for ever and ever.”

Twenty women were hired at private’s pay to do the laundry. In addition, some of the officers chose to take their families, wagons and possessions with them. The army was happy to accommodate them as this cost the government nothing. There were 15 or 16 families and 50 or more children who left Council Bluffs with the Battalion.

After a long march to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in August the men were outfitted for the march, which included a musket or rifle, a bayonet, ammunition, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets and canteens, and specific training in the use of this equipment. They were also issued tents to be used by six men. There they also received the clothing allowance of $42.00 for the year which was mostly sent back to their families and friends in Council Bluffs. This became the longest military march in history. They traveled 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California.

Among these men was James (Polly) Brown and his wife Eunice Reasor Brown. James was a private in Company D, with Captain Nelson Higgins and 1st Lieutenant George Parker Dykes. James was born 22 Apr 1803 in Taylorville, Shelby/Spencer, Kentucky. He married Eunice Reasor who was born 4 Mar 1808 in Renbrely, Shelby, Kentucky. They had nine children. By 1851 the family was in Manti, Sanpete County, Utah. It was here in Manti that Eunice died on 18 Jul 1858. She is buried in the Manti City Cemetery along with two daughters, Sarah Jane Brown who married John Lowry, Jr., and Eunice Ann Brown who married Peter Mikkel Munk. Eunice’s grave is marked with a plaque stating that she was among the women who marched with the Mormon Battalion. The plaque was placed by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

James died 6 Nov 1871 in Rockville, Washington County, Utah, and was buried in the Rockville Cemetery in Washington County Utah. To view the diary of Zadock Knapp Judd of Company E. of the Mormon Battalion click on the link below. (Some data taken from Mormon Battalion website mormonbattalion.com)

Diary of Zadock Knapp Judd