I had traveled out to Fairfield, Utah in search of eagles or other large birds of prey to photograph. These raptor birds have typically wintered out in the Fairfield area for years, but alas there was not a raptor to be found. So with a quick change of focus, I ended up over at the Camp Floyd Cemetery.
In May 1857 President James Buchanan ordered 3500 US army troops to Utah to suppress an alleged Mormon rebellion. The “news” was that the Mormon settlers in the Utah territory were plotting a rebellion against the federal government. Thus, Camp Floyd was established in 1858 in Fairfield, Utah – a stage coach stop, and briefly a Pony Express stop, near the southeastern base of the Oquirrh Mountains, about 40 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. The troops were there to keep an eye on the Mormons.
While there never was a real Mormon rebellion, there was some justification for the US government’s concern. The Mormon settlers in Salt Lake City did harass federal troops on occasions, even as far away as Fort Bridger, Wyoming. The Mormons were also practicing polygamy which was illegal under US laws. In fact, the troops ordered to establish what became Camp Floyd, were held up in Wyoming due to serious harassment by Mormon guerrillas and partially due to extreme winter weather. They ended up making a temporary winter camp near Fort Bridger, Wyoming. In 1858, peace negotiations were completed between the federal troops and the Mormons, and the troops then proceeded southwest through Salt Lake City before establishing Camp Floyd in Fairfield, Utah.
US tensions with the Mormon settlers continued. In September of 1857, members of a Mormon militia known as the Navoo Legion joined with Paiute natives in southern Utah where they massacred between 120 to 140 members of the Baker-Fancher wagon train that were on the way to California but camped in an area known as Mountain Meadows in southwestern Utah. Mountain Meadows lies about 6 miles south the present day town of Enterprise, Utah along UT 18 not far east of the Utah Nevada border. To this day, the events there are a sore point between Mormons and non-Mormons in the Utah area. One of the first duties of the Camp Floyd troops was to escort the 17 surviving young children of the wagon train to Fort Leavenworth.
Camp Floyd was named for President Buchanan’s Secretary of War, John Floyd. At its peak the camp was the largest military establishment in the US. With Fairfield being a major stop on the routes westward for stage coaches as well as settlers heading to Oregon or California, and the new military base, Fairfield boasted a population of about 7000, including the troops, making it the Utah territory’s third largest city.
The Camp Floyd troops were led by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, who later left the US military to join the Confederate Army. Under Colonel Johnston, Captain James H Simpson helped map out improvements to western migration routes to California which significantly shortened travel times to the western areas. Scientists and artists accompanying the troops also studied and cataloged local geography as well as plants and animals.
By 1860 tensions were mounting with the southern states in the US over slavery and other “states rights” issues. War Secretary Floyd was dismissed from his position due to his southern sympathies, so Camp Floyd was renamed Camp Crittenden. When the southern states seceded and attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1861, the Civil War had begun. Camp Floyd/Crittenden was abandoned as US troops there who had not defected to the Confederacy were recalled to join the war effort. The Army dismantled almost everything at the fort except the commissary building and the cemetery. The commissary building is now the Camp Floyd Museum.
You can read about the detailed history of Camp Floyd here: https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/camp-floyd/discover/ Also, here is another link for the old fort’s history: https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/c/CAMP_FLOYD.shtml
Well, this was my first post surgery trip out away from home. It’s not far, but it was a nice first step. I hope you enjoyed this little Utah history lesson. Thanks for visiting my blog. Stay safe out there, and let’s all keep our connections. We need each other more than ever nowadays.