Published on March 1, 2013 by Carol
In many ways, the soldiers stationed at Fort Douglas were spoiling for a fight. In addition to discipline problems among the soldiers, there was a minor “mutiny” among the soldiers where a joint petition by most of the California Volunteers made a request to withhold over $30,000 from their paychecks for the sole purpose of instead paying for naval passage to the eastern states, and to “serve their country in shooting traitors instead of eating rations and freezing to death around sage brush fires…” Furthermore, they stated that they would gladly pay this money “for the privilege (original emphasis) of going to the Potomac and getting shot.” This request was declined by the War Department
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Throughout most of January 1863, soldiers at Fort Douglas were preparing for a lengthy expedition traveling north to the Shoshone. Connor also wanted to keep word of his expedition secret, in order to make a surprise attack upon the Shoshone when he arrived. To do this, he separated his command into two different detachments, that were to periodically come together on their journey to Cache Valley. His main concern was to avoid the problems that McGarry had faced in the earlier action, where the Shoshone had moved and scattered even before his troops could arrive
Reaction to this military campaign was mixed. George A. Smith, in the official Journal History of the LDS Church, wrote:
On the other hand, the Deseret News in an editorial expressed:
The first group to leave from Fort Douglas was forty men of Company K, 3rd Regiment California Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Captain Samuel W. Hoyt, accompanied by 15 baggage wagons and two “mountain howitzers” totalling 80 soldiers. They left on January 22, 1863
The second group was 220 cavalry, led personally by Connor himself with his aides and fifty men each from Companies A, H, K and M of the 2nd Regiment of Cavalry, California Volunteers which left on January 25. As orders specific for this campaign, Connor ordered each soldier to carry “40 rounds of rifle ammunition and 30 rounds of pistol ammunition”. This was a total of nearly 16,000 rounds for the campaign. In addition, nearly 200 rounds of artillery shot were brought with the howitzers. As a part of the deception, the cavalry were to travel at night while the infantry moved during the day. Accompanying Connor was the former U.S. Marshal and Mormon scout, Orrin Porter Rockwell.
On the evening of January 28, Captain Hoyt’s infantry finally arrived near the town of Franklin, where they spotted three Shoshone who were attempting to get food supplies from the settlers in the town. The Shoshone received nine bushels of wheat in three sacks. William Hull, the settler who was assisting the Shoshone, noted later:
The sacks of grain carried by these Shoshone were later found by the 3rd California Volunteers during their advance the next day, apparently dropped by the Shoshone in their attempt to get back to their camp.
Col. Connor met up with Hoyt that evening as well, with orders to begin moving at about 1:00 am the next morning for a surprise attack, but an attempt to get a local settler to act as a scout for the immediate area led the actual advance to wait until 3:00 am
It should be noted that this military action took place during perhaps the coldest time of the year in Cache Valley. Local settlers commented that it was unseasonably cold even for northern Utah, and it may have been as cold as −20 °F (−30 °C) on the morning of the 29th when the attack began. Several soldiers had come down with frostbite and other cold-weather problems, so that the 3rd volunteers were only at about 2/3 of their strength compared to when they left Fort Douglas. Among the rations issued to the soldiers during the campaign was a ration of whiskey held in a canteen, where several soldiers noted that this whiskey froze solid on the night before the attack