In January 1847, the Mormon Battalion staggered into San Diego, California, having just completed a grueling march from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Battalion member Levi Ward Hancock drew this sketch of the San Diego harbor and town in his journal in which he had faithfully recorded his journey. Much of what we know about the battalion’s experience comes from his and other battalion members’ journals.
At the beginning of his journey, in August 1846, Levi Hancock wrote, “The Lord is good and merciful. He has shown himself so to me. Let me ever praise him and do all the good I can for his kingdom.”1 At the time he wrote this, he had already done much to prove his commitment to serving the Lord.
Levi Hancock joined the Church in Ohio in 1830 after hearing missionaries preach. Within a year, he was on a mission himself, teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Missouri.
In 1834 he participated in Zion’s Camp with the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which they traveled from Ohio to Missouri to assist Church members whose land had been taken from them. While Zion’s Camp failed to regain the land and property that the people had lost, it solidified for many participants their willingness to serve God at any cost. When the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum of the Seventy were organized in 1835, most of those called had served in Zion’s Camp. Levi Hancock was called as one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy.
When Levi and his family were forced from Nauvoo with the other members of the Church, they fell behind because Levi was caring for his elderly mother-in-law and two young relatives. They arrived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just as the call to join the Mormon Battalion was issued.
Ever faithful, Levi joined the battalion, leaving his family in the care of his teenage son. Levi was still serving as a President of the Seventy and was the only General Authority to join the battalion. As such, he became the battalion’s unofficial chaplain and served as the group’s spiritual leader. A fine musician, he also served as a fifer for the battalion and wrote songs about their experiences. In this stanza, he describes what he might have hoped would be a legacy of their service:
The hand of friendship we extend
To evry body round us
And to our Country we are friends,
As it has ever found us.2
After his discharge from the battalion, Levi traveled to Utah, where he reunited with his family and continued to serve God unfailingly until his death in 1882.