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Archives Month: Author of The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War

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Join us on October 21st at the Utah State Archives as Will Bagley discusses his latest book (co-authored with David Bigler), The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857-1858. This story describes how in 1857 President James Buchanan ordered U.S. troops to Utah to replace Brigham Young as governor and restore order in what the federal government viewed as a territory in rebellion. In this compelling narrative, Bigler and Bagley use long-suppressed sources to show that contrary to common perception the Mormon rebellion was not the result of Buchanan s blunder, nor was it a David-and-Goliath tale in which an abused religious minority heroically defied the imperial ambitions of an unjust and tyrannical government. They argue that Mormon leaders had their own far-reaching ambitions and fully intended to establish an independent nation the Kingdom of God in the West.

Long overshadowed by the Civil War, the tragic story of this conflict involved a tense and protracted clash pitting Brigham Young’s Nauvoo Legion against Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston and the U.S. Army’s Utah Expedition. In the end, the conflict between the two armies saw no pitched battles, but Bagley and Bigler argue that Buchanan’s decision to order troops to Utah (his so-called blunder) eventually proved decisive and beneficial for both Mormons and the American republic.

A rich exploration of events and forces that presaged the Civil War, The Mormon Rebellion broadens our understanding of both antebellum America and Utah’s frontier theocracy and offers a challenging reinterpretation of a controversial chapter in Mormon annals.

Will Bagley is a historian specializing in the history of western United States. Bagley has written about the fur trade, overland emigration, American Indians, military history, frontier violence, railroads, mining, and Utah and the Mormons, and has authored and edited numerous books, including Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows Massacre and So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812 1848.


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