THE UTAH NATIONAL GUARD AND TERRITORIAL MILITIAS
Utah National Guard Camp Williams
The Utah National Guard was officially organized on 26 March 1894 with its
headquarters in Salt Lake City, the capital of the territory of Utah. The
establishment of the Utah National Guard came as a continuation of the Utah
Territorial Militias which had existed since the first settlement in 1847,
and after a long political struggle waged by the Utah people to become admitted
to the Union of the United States. This struggle included several issues
which created problems for the militia organization.
The heritage of the Utah National Guard comes from the Nauvoo Legion, which
was organized by the Mormons in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1840 under a special
charter granted by the Illinois legislature. It was a special militia organization
formed to protect the community, but it could not prevent the killing of
the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, nor did it make a determined stand to
defend the community from mob violence and that plunged Illinois into a
state of open warfare. After the Mormons were driven from Nauvoo, the Nauvoo
Legion was reorganized in Utah. Early members of the Utah militia included
veterans of the Mexican War. As the Mormons were en route to Utah, the national
government called upon them for volunteers for the war. These volunteers
became known as the Mormon Battalion and eventually marched to California.
From the veterans of the Nauvoo Legion and the Mormon Battalion a new militia
organization was fashioned in Utah by territorial law in 1852; it was still
designated as the Nauvoo Legion.
The Nauvoo Legion in Utah had several calls to service in early days. In
1849 a battle took place at Battle Creek in Utah County in which approximately
three companies of militia drove off Indians who were threatening Fort Utah.
In 1853 militia units were called out to fight against the Ute Indians in
the Walker War, which raged through Utah and Sanpete counties. Twenty militia
soldiers were killed in the skirmishes. From 1865 to 1867 the Legion again
did Indian duty in the Black Hawk War. An estimated 2,500 militiamen were
mobilized to stop Indian raids in the central and southern portions of Utah.
Numerous settlements were abandoned and about ninety settlers and militiamen
The Nauvoo Legion also served against the United States government in what
was called the Utah War of 1857-58. With a total force of approximately
6,000 members, several units of the northern Utah force were mobilized to
stop the entry of Albert Sidney Johnston's army into Utah. The army had
been sent by President James Buchanan to quell what in the East had been
described as a rebellion of the Utah people against the government. The
Nauvoo Legion held Johnston's forces at bay near Fort Bridger until an agreement
was worked out for the army to pass through Salt Lake City and establish
a post at Camp Floyd, about forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
The Nauvoo Legion was given federal duty during the Civil War to guard the
mail and freight routes from Independence Rock to Salt Lake City. Two troops
of cavalry carried out this duty, but only one of them, led by Captain Robert
T. Burton, was officially credited for service. In 1857 a major blotch on
the generally honorable service of the early militia took place when Nauvoo
Legion members of the Iron County Military District participated in the
murder of 120 immigrants of the Fancher Party that was moving through Utah
to California. This tragic event became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
By 1870 the Nauvoo Legion became embroiled in political problems between
the federally appointed territorial officials and the local Mormon religious
leaders. It was felt that the militia took its orders from the religious
leaders of the church and paid little heed to the orders of the government.
One manifestation of this was an incident of 1870 when the Governor of Utah,
J. Wilson Shaffer, removed the commander of the Nauvoo Legion, Daniel H.
Wells (a Mormon) and replaced him with Colonel Patrick Connor (a non-Mormon).
This was later followed by the Nauvoo Legion marching in public parades
even though the Governor had issued orders not to parade. This led to charges
of treason and a threat to execute the soldiers who violated these orders.
This never happened, but it did lead to continued controversy over the Nauvoo
The final action against the Nauvoo Legion came in 1887 when Congress passed
the anti-polygamous Edmunds-Tucker Act, which has as one of its provisions
that the Nauvoo Legion was to be eliminated. From 1887 to the establishment
of the Utah National Guard in 1894 there was no militia organization in
Utah Territory, a situation which Utah citizens held was unconstitutional.
During those years a number of unofficial groups organized with the intention
of serving as posse comitatus when called upon, but in reality they
acted as "marching clubs" to march in the political demonstrations
for their parties during elections. These groups, although not official
militias, carried the "militia spirit" over to the time of the
establishment of the Utah National Guard.
Since its organization, the Utah National Guard has been called to duty
on several occasions, both within the State and during wars outside the
United States. One of its major functions has been to preserve peace during
labor strikes. Three weeks after the Guard was organized in 1894, it was
called to Ogden to control a group of unemployed workers, estimated at 1,200
men, who were moving through Utah as "Kelley's Army," a part of
the Coxey's Army movement. In 1903 and 1904 units of the National Guard
were sent to Carbon County to keep peace during a coal miners' strike. There
were no casualties during this service. In 1922 the Guard was again sent
on strike duty for three months after strike violence had killed two coal
company personnel. Again the Guard restored peace to the area. In 1933 a
few guardsmen assisted the Highway Patrol troopers in keeping order during
a strike in Carbon County. In general the strike duty of the Guard was conducted
in a reasonable way which prevented loss of life and destruction of property,
and helped restore order to the Carbon County communities.
In times of national crises during war periods the Utah National Guard has
been called into federal service. During the Spanish-American War of 1898
several Utah National Guard units enlisted into the federal army and were
sent to Florida, California and the Philippine Islands. Artillery Batteries
A and B of Artillery were especially noted for their fighting in the Philippines.
In 1916 two squadrons of cavalry, a battery of artillery, and a field hospital
unit were mobilized and sent to the Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona to
patrol a l00-mile section of the border west of Nogales. In their border
service the Utah Guard units had several encounters with Mexican crossing
Immediately after their Mexican border duty, the Utah units were reorganized
into the 145th Field Artillery Regiment and became a part of the 40th Division
which included Utah, Nevada, and California units. On 17 October 1917 the
145th Field Artillery of Utah was inducted into federal service. They were
sent to Camp Kearney, California where they remained for about a year in
training. While in California 369 men were taken out of the regiment and
sent as replacements in American front line units in Europe. There were
several casualties among this group. In August 1917 the 145th started its
move to Europe and ended up at Camp De Souge near Bordeaux, France. They
trained for front line duty and were making preparations to move to the
front when the Armistice ended the war.
In the years between World War I and World War II new units were added to
the Utah National Guard, and in 1926 a permanent training camp, Camp Williams,
was created on some 18,700 acres of land south of Salt Lake City which had
been withdrawn from the public domain in 1914. New units assigned to Utah
included, besides the l45th Field Artillery, the 222nd Field Artillery,
the 204th Field Artillery, the 115th Engineers, the 115th Medical Regiment,
and the 115th Ordnance Company. These units were called on 3 March 1941
into federal service for what was intended to be a year of training, but
before the year ended the United States declared war against the Axis powers
and the units were kept in the federal service until the end of the war.
All of the Utah units, except the 204th Field Artillery, saw action with
the 40th Division in the Pacific Theater at campaigns on Luzon, Panay and
Negro in the Philippine Islands. The 204th fought at Cherbourg and on the
After World II ended, the Utah National Guard units returned to their home
state, and in the years following new organizations were added, namely,
the 213th Field Artillery and the 653rd Field Artillery Observation Battalion.
Also, a new branch of the service was added in 1946 with the organization
of the Utah Air National Guard which included the 191st Fighter Squadron,
the 191st Utility Flight, the 191st Weather Station, and the 244th Air Service
During the Korean War several Utah National Guard units were activated to
fight in Korea. The units activated were the 204th Field Artillery; the
213th Field Artillery; the 145th Field Artillery; the 115th Engineers; the
653rd Field Artillery Observation Battalion; the 191st Fighter Squadron;
and the 130th Aircraft Control and Warning Flight, and the 210th Tow Target
Flight. The 145th Field Artillery saw action at Heartbreak Ridge and the
Punch Bowl, and the 213th Field Artillery received a Silver Star Citation
for having captured and destroyed a Chinese Regiment. The Berlin Cold War
crisis brought the call-up of several Utah National Guard units. This activation
brought into federal service the Headquarters Battery of the XI Corps Artillery;
the Target Acquisition Battalion of the 140th Field Artillery; the 115th
Engineer Battalion; the 115th Ordnance Company; the 3659 Ordnance Company;
the 144th Army Field Evacuation Hospital; and the 116th Light Equipment
Engineer Company These units were on active duty for a period of ten months
during 1961 and 1962. All Utah units served within the United States at
various military posts. During the Vietnam War no Army Utah National Guard
units were activated, however some individuals did volunteer for Vietnam
duty. The Utah Air National Guard 151st Military Airlift Group, organized
in August, 1957, from 1966 through 1971 flew 96 missions carrying 1,340
tons of cargo in direct support of Vietnam. It flew 110 missions with uncounted
tons of cargo to Southeast Asia, Korea, Europe, and Central and South America
in indirect support of the Vietnam conflict.
In 1989 the Utah National Guard stands as a force integrated into the overall
plans of the national government to serve with regular forces during national
crises. The Utah National Guard has enrolled 6,371 Army troops and 1,645
Air guardsmen. The Utah National Guard has traditionally been oriented towards
artillery and engineer units and has acquired an additional air force responsibility.
In recent years new major units have been added such as the 19th Special
Forces in 1958 and the 142nd Military linguist unit in 1961 (now designated
as the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade). The Utah National Guard plays
a significant role in the defense plans of the United States and to serve
state needs in the event of public disorder or natural disaster, such as
during "Operation Haylift" when Air National Guard cargo planes
dropped hay to starving animals in 1949 and the engineer guardsmen helped
several communities control raging flood waters during the floods of 1983.
The Utah National Guard strives to live up to the long traditional expectations
Richard C. Roberts