Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/160

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Travellers and Explorers, 1846-1900

great number of interesting and valuable books relating to it. Los Gringos (1849), by Lieutenant Wise, U. S. N., describes the cruise of an American man-of-war which took active part in the conquest along the coast. One of the most trustworthy of all the volumes of this period is by Edwin Bryant, "late Alcalde of San Francisco," What I saw in California in 1846-1847 (1848). This will always stand in the first rank of Western Americana, with Farnham, Gregg, etc. Bryant was in Frémont's California Battalion during the conquest. The book has been cheaply reprinted, with a "blood and thunder" title-page supplanting the original, as Rocky Mountain Adventures (1889).

While the conquest of California was proceeding to its logical end an agricultural conquest of the valley of the Great Salt Lake was begun by the Mormons, or Latter Day Saints as they called themselves. Their late neighbours in Illinois had inaugurated such great opposition to Mormon methods that it culminated in the murder, by a mob, in Carthage jail, of Joseph Smith, the prophet and originator of the sect, and a migration was imperative. The Mormons now possessed a martyr, the essential basis of religious success, and they needed an independent field for expansion. Their new leader, Brigham Young, discovered it in the Salt Lake Valley described glowingly in Frémont's report. Brigham thought of founding a separate state in this Mexican territory, but the events of the Mexican war moved so rapidly that, even while he planned, the valley fell under American rule. The Mormons went forward nevertheless and arrived on the shore of the American Dead Sea in August, 1847. Brigham complained that the valley was not as represented by Frémont—that it was really a desert. Frémont had seen on the Rio Grande what irrigation can do, and the Mormons resorted to it with an agricultural success now well known.

The transit to the new home across the wide and unsettled plains and mountains was a huge undertaking and entailed much hardship. T. L. Kane, a non-Mormon, accompanied the famous "hand cart expedition" and tells about it in The Mormons (1850). The literature connected with the Mormons is voluminous. One of the latest, most comprehensive, and most exact general books is W. J. Linn's Story of the Mormons (1902).