Utah Troubles (1857-58, 1881, 1915, 1941-1943) refers to a series of rebellions, reprisals, and occupations of the state of Utah by the United States Army. Starting in 1858, well before the War of Secession, Mormon nationalist-theocrats attempted several times to secede Utah from the Union and form the Nation of Deseret. The uprising of 1881, which coincided with the Second Mexican War tied future Utah uprisings to conflicts between the U.S. and the C.S., with the C.S. supporting the Mormons in each conflict thereafter.
The Second Mexican WarEdit
In 1881, Mormon leaders, taking advantage of Second Mexican War of 1881-82, sabotaged telegraph wires and severed the Transcontinental Railroad. US soldiers under the command of Brigadier General John Pope and Colonel George Armstrong Custer were diverted from the war against the Confederacy and restored federal authority over the state, publicly hanging Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City. Pope and Custer also cracked down on several polygamists, arresting them and burning down their expansive homes. This occupation bred generations of Mormon hatred and distrust for the government. Although the occupiers restored territorial sovereignty to elected local officials, and Utah was admitted to the Union in 1896, the damage was done. The Mormons simply began biding their time, waiting for the next opportunity to rebel.
The Great Revolt of 1915Edit
Peace between the Mormons and the United States government held through the first decades of the 20th century, but beneath the surface of relative tranquility there existed a tremoring tension of boiling hate between the two groups that made further violence inevitable. When the United States and the Confederate States went to war in 1914 during the Great War, Mormons saw the chance to rebel.
While the USA and CSA were locked in mortal combat, Mormon radicals bought weapons from both the Confederacy and the British Empire in Canada, also enemies of the USA. The uprising began around Easter, 1915, upsetting the plans for a large US spring offensive in Kentucky by forcing President Theodore Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood to take two divisions away from General Custer (who, at 75, was now in command of an entire army) and stop the uprising. The US Army battled its way through Utah against foes far more fierce and tenacious than most Canadian or Confederate soldiers. At one point during the campaign, the Mormons detonated a large mine under the US forces' trench near Ogden, destroying an entire division and forcing the other to hold tight until reinforcements arrived--further disrupting US plans for other theaters.
Nevertheless, the US Army captured the last stronghold of Ogden, taking the rebel leaders into custody and enforcing martial law in Utah for an indefinite period.
The Long Occupation: 1916-1937Edit
First under the command of Major General Alonzo Kent, then Lt. General John Pershing, and then Colonel Abner Dowling, US Army governor-generals ruled the Occupied State of Utah from a bunker complex in Salt Lake City. Occupation included banning the LDS Church as an illegal organization, enforcing curfews and bans on public ceremonies, occupying Temple Square and leaving the rubble of the Temple in ruins as a reminder of the cost of rebellion (with the picking up of any stone or pebble from the rubble a crime punishable by execution). Mormons chafed under this tight occupation, but were forced to endure it or face extermination by an all-too-willing US government.
With the stock market crash of 1929 and the economic conditions in the state deteriorating even further, a Mormon radical gunned down Governor-General Pershing in front of Colonel Dowling, the commandant of Salt Lake City. Throughout that summer and well into 1930, Mormon separatists set off several bombs on trains and public squares across the United States, while assassinating famous American politicians and lawmakers and robbing several banks to finance their operations. The Hosea Blackford administration, which had been on the verge of restoring popular sovereignty in the state, changed its mind and renewed occupation. When Herbert Hoover became president, he forbade any public-works programs to take place in Utah, seeing the notion as Socialist-minded and not worthy of the people it would help out.
Intelligence reports from sources planted in Mormon society pointed to an increase in militancy amongst the radical elements. Colonel Dowling (now the head of Occupied Utah) reported these disturbing findings to the War Department, which buried it in a file of other reports and forgot about it. Random acts of sabotage take place, with the support of Confederate President Jake Featherston.
Heber Young, grandson of Mormon founding father Brigham Young, negotiated the end of occupation with the new President Al Smith through Colonel Dowling, and Utah returned to normality in February 1937. Almost immediately, the Mormons took over all branches of the state government, with Young himself as a moderate governor in a sea of radicalism. The Temple was immediately rebuilt.
Second Great WarEdit
The beginning of the Second Great War between the Confederacy and the United States was just one more opportunity for a Mormon revolt. Once again, the US to sent troops into Utah again to crush the rebellion. In response, the Mormons developed the concept of people bombs, and used them to US civilians as well as military.
Despite the terror these attacks caused, by 1943, the Mormons sought to surrender. The Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War debated the issue, with one possible idea being the transportation of all the Mormons from Utah to one of the Sandwich Islands (other than Oahu, which was an important military area), the logic being that if they weren't in Utah any more, they'd be less likely to cause trouble.