Captain Daniel C. Davis of the Mormon Battalion carried this bullet pouch the entire way from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to California, but he never fired a shot in combat. None of the battalion members did. Although the battalion was formed in a time of war, its legacy is one of peace.
Like many Mormons who had been forced from Nauvoo, Daniel Davis and his family gathered in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to prepare for the journey across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Church members were destitute. They would not make it to the valley without help. That help came in an unexpected form—a call to enlist in the United States Army to fight in the war between the United States and Mexico.
Brigham Young encouraged Church members to enlist, saying, “The thing is from above for our own good.” The soldiers would be moved west at government expense, and their salaries would help greatly in buying supplies for the rest of the pioneers.
Davis and almost 500 other men responded to the call, and the Mormon Battalion was formed—the only religious military unit in United States history. They were divided into five companies (titled A through E), and Davis was selected as captain of Company E. Each of the five companies hired four women as laundresses, and almost 60 other women and children, including Davis’s wife and six-year-old son, joined the men on their journey of more than 1,800 miles.
Brigham Young advised the battalion members to keep the commandments and promised, “If you obey this counsel, attending to your prayers to the Lord, I promise you in the name of the Lord God of Israel that not one soul of you shall fall by the hands of the enemy.” This promise was fulfilled. Although 22 men died of sickness and exhaustion, not one died in battle.
This bullet pouch held .54-caliber bullets, which would have been used to hunt game to supplement the soldiers’ rations. Davis might also have used this ammunition in what became known as “the battle of the bulls,” when the battalion met a stampede of wild cattle, the only combat the soldiers ever saw.
Rather than fight in the war, the battalion carved out a new wagon road to California, paving the way for western travel. Once they reached California, they helped maintain the peace and won the trust of local citizens with their industry, honesty, and kindness.