Caleb Warnock – Daily Herald Daily Herald | Posted: Saturday, February 5, 2011
The discovery of a previously unknown map of Camp Floyd, and letters home from a soldier stationed there, is shedding new light on Utah’s history.
Russell Felt, who is the president of Friends of Camp Floyd, was browsing the Internet searching for Camp Floyd data recently when he hit upon a link to a historical society in Kentucky that had in its collection a set of four letters written from Camp Floyd in 1859. Best of all, the letters include a half-page, hand-drawn sketch of the camp, drawn by Captain Benjamin Wingate one night during a dull watch shift.
The letters are owned by the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Ky. The group has provided copies to Camp Floyd officials.
The letters reveal the attitude of the soldiers to the pioneers.
“Now for the Mormon news,” Wingate wrote on May 11, 1859. In what follows, spelling and grammar have not been changed. “A Rumor has been current for ten days past that the mormons are collecting and organizing themselves into armed bodies in different places through the Territory. The object of this none of us know but there is many conjectures, some think it is for an attack upon the paymasters who we is lookin for soon from California with funds to pay off the troops. He will have a large amount of money with him as none of the Troops in this Dept had been paid since last August.
“Another report is that Brigham Young is going to [unreadable] the Territory and that he is collecting an escort of a thousand men to go with him.
“To close my remarks on the subject of Mormons. There is nothing that will do them any good except a thorough thrashing clean them out nut and branch and that will have to be done sooner or later unless they should take it into their heads to leave this United States. They may think it best to do so. I have intended to say something about the Mountain Meadow Massacre which occurred about eighteen months ago but I have not space to do so now. I must close.”
In the same letter, Wingate writes about the expense of food, saying that butter and pork are both 50 cents a pound, coffee and sugar 75 cents a pound, and whiskey $8 to $10 per gallon. Envelopes are $2 per hundred. He notes he has “commenced gardening.”
On July 28, 1859, Wingate writes, “I am in Depot Guard to night. And having nothing of importance to write about, I thought I would give you a ruff sketch of Camp Floyd but I have nothing but a pen to do it with so the preparation is bad and the execution very ruff but perhaps you can understand the diagram by studying it a while. The buildings are all built of adobie or unburned bricks, plank roofs with dirt on the plank. The camp is three quarters of a mile one way by a half the other. It was astounding to see this place spring up last fall in six weeks from the time we commenced to build a city in appearance was completion.”
On April 18, 1860, Wingate writes his last letter from Utah.
“We will leave hear about the 20 of May and if we have no bad luck will arrive at our post in New Mexico about the first of August. The moving of the troop from Utah is a hard blow on the Mormons but there is still ten companies left in the Territory,” he wrote.
Felt said the discovery of the letters is significant because they add more context to what everyday life was like in the camp, and the tensions between the soldiers and the residents of Lehi.