The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XIV. Travellers and Explorers, 1846–1900

§ 10. The Mormons

While the conquest of California was proceeding to its logical end an agricultural conquest of the valley of the Great Salt Lake was begun by the Mormons, or Latter Day Saints as they called themselves. Their late neighbours in Illinois had inaugurated such great opposition to Mormon methods that it culminated in the murder, by a mob, in Carthage jail, of Joseph Smith, the prophet and originator of the sect, and a migration was imperative. The Mormons now possessed a martyr, the essential basis of religious success, and they needed an independent field for expansion. Their new leader, Brigham Young, discovered it in the Salt Lake Valley described glowingly in Frèmont’s report. Brigham thought of founding a separate state in this Mexican territory, but the events of the Mexican war moved so rapidly that, even while he planned, the valley fell under American rule. The Mormons went forward nevertheless and arrived on the shore of the American Dead Sea in August, 1847. Brigham complained that the valley was not as represented by Frèmont—that it was really a desert. Frèmont had seen on the Rio Grande what irrigation can do, and the Mormons resorted to it with an agricultural success now well known.

The transit to the new home across the wide and unsettled plains and mountains was a huge undertaking and entailed much hardship. T. L. Kane, a non-Mormon, accompanied the famous “hand cart expedition” and tells about it in The Mormons (1850). The literature connected with the Mormons is voluminous. One of the latest, most comprehensive, and most exact general books is W. J. Linn’s Story of the Mormons (1902). It has been charged that the Mormon leaders employed a gang of cut-throats to discourage Gentiles from settling among them, and Bill Hickman, when he became an apostate, claimed to have been the leader of it. He issued a book, Brigham’s Destroying Angel Being the Life Confession and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill Hickman Written by Himself with Explanatory Notes by J. H. Beadle (1872). Beadle also published Western Wilds (1877), Life in Utah (1870), The Undeveloped West (1873), and “The Story of Marcus Whitman Refuted” in American Catholic Historical Researches (1879). Mrs. Stenhouse, who apostatized, wrote Tell it All (1874), a faithful account of her sad life as a Mormon.

While Frèmont was aiding Commodore Stockton to clinch the claim of the United States to California, the history of which is told in Despatches Relating to Military and Naval Operations in California (1849) and in A Sketch of the Life of R. F. Stockton with his Correspondence with the Navy Department Respecting his Conquest of California and the Defense of J. C. Fremont (1856), the war in Mexico was in full swing. General Stephen Kearny, with an army, was marching overland for the Pacific Coast by way of Santa Frè, where he halted long enough to raise the flag and destroy opposition.

Kearny was a noble officer whose early death in the Mexican campaign prevented his writing about the California campaign. Valentine Mott Porter wrote a sketch of him in Publications of the Historical Society of Southern California, vol. VIII (1911); and A Diary of the March with Kearny, Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fè (1846) by G. R. Gibson gives details concerning that part of the journey. Gibson also wrote two other diaries on a trip to Chihuahua and return in 1847. The journals of Captain Johnson and of Colonel P. St. George Cooke on the march from Santa Fè to California appeared in House Executive Document 41, 1st Sess. 30th Congress, and Colonel Cooke’s “The Journal of a March from Santa Fè to San Diego 1846–47” was printed in Sen. Ex. Doc. 2 Special Sess. 31st Cong. Other literary productions of Colonel Cooke were The Conquest of New Mexico and California (1878) and Scenes and Adventures in Army Life (1857).

Kearny, before proceeding to California, planned for the holding of New Mexico, and one of the memorable expeditions of the war resulted, that of Colonel A. W. Doniphan. It was accurately recorded by John T. Hughes in Doniphan’s Expedition; Containing an Account of the Conquest of New Mexico, General Kearny’s Overland Expedition to California, Doniphan’s Campaign Against the Navajos, his Unparalleled March upon Chihuahua and Durango and the Operations of General Price at Santa Fè, with a Sketch of the Life of Colonel Doniphan. (1847). Hughes wrote another book now very hard to obtain, California, Its History, Population, Climate, Soil, Productions, and Harbours, and an Account of the Revolution in California and the Conquest of the Country by the United States, 1846–47 (1848).

William E. Connelley has reprinted the Hughes Doniphan with Hughes’s diary and other related matter in Doniphan’s Expedition (1907). With the advance guard of the Army of the West went Major William H. Emory, and his Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego, California, 1846–47 (1848) is an important contribution to the documents on this famous march.

The Rev. Walter Colton was in California before the conquest and he wrote an exceedingly valuable book, Three Years in California, 1846–49 (1850), as well as another, Deck and Port, or Incidents of a Cruise in the United States Frigate Congress, etc. (1850). Still another volume of this period is Notes on a Voyage to California Together with Scenes in Eldorado in 1849 (1878) by S. C. Upham. The name Eldorado enters so commonly into the literature of the Far West that we may at this point note the volume The Gilded Man (1893), by A. F. Bandelier, which describes and explains the term and its origin. In a certain ceremonial in Peru a man was covered from head to foot with gold dust and this gave rise to the expression as meaning fabulous wealth.

With the prospect of closer contact with the Orient by way of the Occident, relations with some of the far off Eastern countries began to be more intimately considered. Caleb Cushing as Commissioner of the United States went to China in 1843 and in 1845 negotiated the first treaty between the United States and China. Missionaries, too, were at their task. Volumes of the Chinese Repository edited by Dr. Bridgman were publishing at Canton, and from these volumes, and his own personal observation and study of native authorities for twelve years, S. Wells Williams, who went to China as a printer for the Board of Foreign Missions, who mastered the Chinese language, and who lectured in the United States to obtain money to pay for a font of Chinese type, produced The Middle Kingdom. A Survey of the Geography, Government, Education, Social Life, Arts, Religion, etc., of the Chinese Empire and its Inhabitants (1848), a book that remains today one of the supreme authorities on the subject.

Another traveller in that region was the afterwards eccentric George Francis Train. Only twenty-four years of age, he met with much success in commercial ventures in China, and a book was the outcome: An American Merchant in Europe, Asia, and Australia (1857). The last years of Train’s life were mainly spent on a bench in Madison Square Park, New York, refusing conversation with all adults.