Editor's Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon pioneers' original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer , using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.
July 4, 1847
On Independence Day, the morning was fine and warm at the Camp of Israel. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Stephen Markham and Charles Harper accompanied the five volunteers among them Brigham's brother Phineas H. Young, with Aaron Farr, Eric Glines, George Woodward and Rodney Badger to the Green River and ferried them across. The five were to carry instructions to the leaders of the second Mormon emigration advising them how to move the wagon trains along and to use the five as guides. It was at the ferry crossing that Young and the others met thirteen men of the Mormon Battalion from Pueblo.
One of them, William Walker, when apprised of the proposed return by the five volunteers to act as guides for the Winter Quarters emigration, joined them to meet his wife. The other battalion members included their sergeant, Thomas S. Williams, John Buchanan, Allen Compton, Jesse J. Terrill, Francillo Durfee, Andrew J. Shupe, Samuel Gould, Benjamin Roberts, James Oakey, George Clarke, Thomas Bingham and William Casto.
Williams, a rough, tough and fearless frontier sort, had won the devotion of his men when he refused to knuckle under to Army officers who insisted the sick and disabled in his company must march. Williams had obtained a wagon for them to ride in and would not put them out. He became known thereafter as "the beloved Tom Williams." At any rate, Williams' party had been hit by horse thieves from among a company of traders headed for Fort Bridger. They had lost a dozen animals to them and recovered all but one. It was Williams' intention to remedy that once they overtook the thieves at Bridger's trading post.
Williams told Young the Mississippi Company and the rest of the sick detachment was within seven days' drive of the main camp. Wilford Woodruff learned from them that among those in the battalion who died at Pueblo during the winter was Melvin Blanchard, "who drove teams for me last summer." As he was recording this melancholy news in his journal, Woodruff gave up in frustration. "I must stop writing. Mosquitoes have filled my carriage like a cloud and have fallen on me as though they intend to devour me. I never saw an insect more troublesome." He also noted "several traders passed our camp at nightfall."
Orson Pratt mentioned, "The horse thieves are at Fort Bridger, a few miles southwest of our camp." William Clayton reported the Mormon camp as "opposite to the junction of the Big Sandy and Green River." He also noted that one of Robert Crow's oxen was found poisoned, because it ate some kind of weed and was much swollen. "I understand it was dead when they found it."
In California on this Fourth of July, the U.S. Army dedicated Fort Moore, built by the Mormon Battalion directly above the old North Broadway tunnel in Los Angeles. The fort could accommodate 200 soldiers. In later years Fort Moore was leveled and became a public playground.