One of the most remarkable infantry marches in American history began here in July 1846 with the mustering of the Mormon Battalion. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) responded to the request from President James K. Polk to serve the United States in the war with Mexico. The 500 volunteers were among thousands of Mormons who had left Nauvoo, Illinois that year and were moving west in search of a new home. The Battalion demonstrated the patriotism of the Mormons and also enabled them to earn money for their westward trek.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Accompanied by a number of wives and children who served as laundresses and aids, the Battalion marched south to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to be equipped, then on through Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tucson, Arizona to the Pacific Coast — more than 2,000 miles in six months. Although not required to engage in combat, the Mormon Battalion made an important contribution in opening new roads to California and the Pacific coast. Their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, said of their achievement, "History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry."
The Grand EncampmentAt the Grand Encampment, 490 men, 12 boys and 20 women joined the Mormon Battalion. The Grand Encampment was the gathering Point for Mormon Wagon Trains, 1846.
During the spring and summer of 1846, many pioneer companies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) assembled at the Grand Encampment. Here they prepared for their westward trek to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Thousands of tents and covered wagons were scattered over nine miles of prairie along what is now State Highway 92. These shelters provided temporary housing for nearly ten thousand people. The tents were groups into great squares, with wagons and sometimes split-rail fences surrounding and protecting them. One of the wagons served as a post office, and a tent functioned as a newspaper reading room. The tent of Church President Brigham Young was identified by a large American flag hung from a pole.
Everyone had important responsibilities at the Grand Encampment. Boys tended large herds of cattle, oxen, horses, mules, and sheep in the lowlands. Women and their daughters washed clothes, tended small children, and prepared meals. Men built split-rail fences; hunted, and repaired tents, wagons, and equipment in preparation for the journey west.
Several of the Mormon bishops served as the first justices of the peace in Pottawattamie County. By the end of August 1846, this vast tent city was gone. Some pioneers crossed the Missouri River to prepare for their trip west. Others settled temporarily into more than eighty communities scattered throughout southwestern Iowa, where new sources of wood, water, and grass could sustain them and their livestock until they began their journey.
Placed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1994.