At Sword's Point: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858


The definitive account of a crucial but enigmatic American episode

The Utah War of 1857–58, the unprecedented armed confrontation between Mormon Utah Territory and the U.S. government, was the most extensive American military action between the Mexican and Civil wars. At Sword’s Point presents in two volumes the first in-depth narrative and documentary history of that extraordinary conflict.

William P. MacKinnon offers a lively narrative ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (4) from $35.55   
  • New (2) from $35.80   
  • Used (2) from $35.55   
Sending request ...


The definitive account of a crucial but enigmatic American episode

The Utah War of 1857–58, the unprecedented armed confrontation between Mormon Utah Territory and the U.S. government, was the most extensive American military action between the Mexican and Civil wars. At Sword’s Point presents in two volumes the first in-depth narrative and documentary history of that extraordinary conflict.

William P. MacKinnon offers a lively narrative linking firsthand accounts—most previously unknown—from soldiers and civilians on both sides. This first volume traces the war’s causes and preliminary events, including President Buchanan’s decision to replace Brigham Young as governor of Utah and restore federal authority through a large army expedition. Also examined are Young’s defensive-aggressive reactions, the onset of armed hostilities, and Thomas L. Kane’s departure at the end of 1857 for his now-famous mediating mission to Utah.

MacKinnon provides a balanced, comprehensive account, based on a half century of research and a wealth of carefully selected new material. Women’s voices from both sides enrich this colorful story. At Sword’s Point presents the Utah War as a sprawling confrontation with regional and international as well as territorial impact. As a nonpartisan definitive work, it eclipses previous studies of this remarkably bloody turning point in western, military, and Mormon history.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870623530
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Series: Kingdom In The West
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,166,116
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

William P. MacKinnon of Santa Barbara, California, is an independent historian, management consultant, and former General Motors vice president. A widely recognized authority on the Utah War, he has recorded the colorful saga of Utah's long territorial period and the U.S. Army's western campaigns.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Illustrations     9
Foreword     11
Acknowledgments     17
Editorial Procedures     29
Introduction     35
"Like a Thousand o'Brick": Tense Prelude to Armed Intervention, 1849-55     41
Tensions of the Early 1850s
1855: A Watershed Year
"Happy Fighting Led by Inspired Men": Approaching the Flash Point, 1856     53
A Highly Political Summer
Autumn Angst among Utah's Businessmen and Appointees
"See the Red Stuff Run": Awaiting Buchanan     61
Brigham Young under Pressure
A Rising of the Blood: Brigham Young's Health
Snapping and Biting: Governor Young Focuses on Federal Appointments
The Yoke of Tyranny: Fateful Petitions
Our Constant Friend: Young Reconnects with Kane
When Your Finger Crooks, We Move: The Ambrose-Betts Affair
"Dancing on a Volcano": The Change in Administrations     83
The Coarsest and Most Brutal Assaults: The Secondary Importance of the Mormon Problem
His High Functions As Chief Magistrate: Buchanan Forms His Cabinet
The Most Remarkable Instance of Indecision: An Ailing Buchanan Fights the Patronage Wars
Behold Me, a Lieutenant General: Winfield Scott's Splendid but Conflicted Isolation
"It's a Hell of a Place": The Decision to Intervene     99
It Was a Declaration of War: The Utah War's Smoking Gun
Mr. Buchanan Is a Timerous, Overworked Man: Thomas L. Kane
I Will Make Open War on This Administration: Judge Drummond as Loose Cannon
Mr. BernhiselHas Left These Parts: Washington's Mormon Vacuum
Well Informed on All Subjects: Buchanan Hears from Advisors and Strangers
Orders Having Been Dispatched in Haste: Planning for Military Intervention
The Mormon Imbroglio in Its True Light: Decisions Explained Retrospectively
We Can Place No Reliance upon the President: Kane Turns Fatalistic
Why Have You Barked with the Dogs?: Senator Douglas's Betrayal
"President Young Says That He Would Build a Fort": Utah Prepares for the Storm     139
The Moral and Physical Sky Is Clearer: Flight of the Federal Appointees
A Matter of Chemistry: Frederick Loba Flees Utah
The Earth Seems to Revolve as Formerly: To Oregon and Back with Brigham Young
Sounding the Alarm: Enter Bill Hickman
The Best Silver Epaulettes: Gubernatorial Outreach
"To Conquer Both Time and Distance": Harney Organizes the Expedition     151
In Due Time: The Tentative Selection of Harney
Cold Water upon the Utah Expedition: Controversy over Harney's Enthusiasm
This Highly Improper Departure: Re-ignition of the Scott-Harney Feud
Squaw Killer and Mad Bear: The Mormons' Adversary
A Suggestion
Not an Order, Nor Even a Recommendation: Orders for General Harney
To Bear Our Separation Cheerfully: Home Front Departures
Unfeigned Anxiety: Enter Major McCulloch, Exit Captain Van Vliet
Not Even the Archangel Michael: Governor Walker Explodes
Ordinary Military Duties: Buchanan Instructs Utah's Governor-Designate
My Presence Is So Necessary: A Change in Commanders
In Pharaoh's Army: Teamsters, Reporters, and Soldiers West     185
Wide Awake and Out Front: Charlie Morehead
They Had Mistaken Their Calling: Teamsters and P. G. Lowe
Marching Is Not Dancing: Field Reports from the Peripatetic, Homicidal Mr. Finlay
This Vile Dog's Life: Marcy's Lamentations from the Fifth
Such Miserable, Forlorn Men: Surgeon Bartholow's Patients
Chase after the Infantry Regiments: A. G. Browne's Dispatches
I Have Many Many More Things to Say: Captain Cumming's Voice
"We Will Make a Potter's Field of Every Canyon": Young and the Legion Respond     223
A Place Sacred and Devoted to the Service of God: Drama in Big Cottonwood Canyon
Our Enemies Are Also Their Enemies: Young Positions Mormons, Leaders, and Indians
I Greatly Prefer Fighting to Hanging: Sending George A. South
Let It Be Treason, or Not Treason: The 16 August Discourse and Independence Issue
Riding Directly into the Lion's Den: Mormon Backtrailing on the Plains
First Comes the Catching: Anxieties over Colonel Sumner's Mission
The Intelligence We Have Thus Far Obtained: Trail Reports for Brigham Young
"Bring Home All the Powder and Lead": The Quest for Arms and Munitions     257
"Big Nose" Threads the Needle: Across the Plains and into the Mountains with Nicholas Groesbeck
Those Who Cause Us Trouble Will Freight for Us: Smuggling Ammunition
With All the Gun Powder He Could Carry: Howard Egan Scours Southern California
The Best and Cheapest that Can Be Made in This Place: Creative Weapons Design
Reverend Beecher and His "Bibles": A Kansas Context for Mormon Gunrunning
"If We Are Driven into Extreme Measures": Brigham Young Beleaguered     277
Or the Knife and Tomahawk: Positioning Easterners
Arise Like Men of God: Proclaiming Martial Law
Justification for That Extreme Measure: Context for Young's Proclamation
An Armed Rabble: The Troops React
"Lonely Bones": Violence and Leadership     295
Up the Pocket of the Lord: The Yates Murder
Eaten Away by the Crows: The Lynching of Private Clark
We'll Hang Him Yet: Other Threats in the Green River District
A Fine Looking Party of Men: Assassination of the Aiken Party
The Assassination of Henry Forbes: A Familiar Pattern
Explaining Violence: Gubernatorial Language, Leadership, and Example
"Like Stubble before a Wirlwind": The Legion Strikes     329
To Waste Away Our Enemies and Lose None: Recalibrating Tactics
A Cold Seat around the Ashes of Forts Bridger and Supply: Trial by Fire
It Was for His Sake: Of Lot Smith, Myths, and Realities
Left to Your Discretion and Judgement: Young Strategizes and Micromanages
I Am on the Lord's Business: Campaigning with Legionnaires
In Regard to Pretended Civil Officers: Dealing with Potential Captives
Order and Harmony Were Restored: Life in the Nauvoo Legion
"Staggering Along Like So Many Drunken Men": The Army's Ordeal     377
Nothing but Your Success: Johnston's Reassignment and Optimism
So Little Thus Far Accomplished: Captain Phelps's Frustrations on Hams Fork
One Magnificent Struggle from the Beginning: The Accounts of Porter, Johnston, Stewart, and Carter
"My Thoughts upon Utah Matters": Origins of Kane's Mission     405
He Had Been in the Country: S. W. Richards's Failed Attempt to Brief Kane
When I Came Down upon the World Again: Prelude to Mission
Policy of the Government Not Yet Definitely Fixed Upon
"Much Easier to Plan than Execute": Buchanan and Diplomats React to Lot Smith     415
Getting on Here Very Quietly & Pleasantly: A Deceptive Calm in Washington
The Mormon Problem Is Solved: Sour News from the Sweetwater
Waiting All Day to See the Secretary: The Colorado River as Invasion Route
Approach Them in Three Columns: General Smith's Advice
The Kind Feelings You Entertain for Me: Harney Weighs In
No Friend to the Mormons: Gratuitous Advice from Captain Ingalls
To Keep Them Quiet: Heading Off Mormon Tribal Influence
They Will Turn to the North: Pacific Coast Jitters
"Into Winter Quarters": Sidney Johnston Takes Charge     445
Men in Very Deep Thought: The Dilemma of Army Intentions
Curiously Wrought Chimneys: Building Camp Scott
Remain in the Vicinity of My Fort: Magraw among the Shoshones
Or Be Starved on the Road: Volunteering under Duress
It Will Be Much to My Credit: Marcy to New Mexico
With Rifles, Pistols, Swords, and Other Warlike Weapons: Log Cabin Indictments
Tut, Tut, None of That Mr. Ferguson: The Captivity of Charlie Becker
"To Avert a War of Extermination": Converging Destinies of Kane, Buchanan, and Young     479
His Power Has Been, Therefore, Absolute: Explaining Utah
He Is Full of Courage: Van Dyke and Kane's December White House Meeting
Poisoned Fangs So Deeply Buried: Young's Annual Message
To Exterminate or Drive Us from the Mountains: Pacific Coast Fury
Silent Night: Christmas with Brigham Young and the Utah Expedition
Christmas at the White House: Kane, Van Dyke, and Buchanan
Lord, Please Put into the President's Mouth Right Words: Year-End Maneuverings
Buck All Over: Plausible Deniability and Buchanan's Letters
God Bless and Speed Him with All My Heart: Cross-Currents among the Kanes
Bibliography     513
Index     531
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)