Captain Philip St. George Cooke, who led a caravan composed of
twenty-four wagons, 397 Mormon men, and five women west from Santa Fe late in
October, 1846. Cooke's guides were
two veteran trappers, Pauline Weaver and Antoine Robidoux, who took the Mormon
Battalion across the Continental Divide near Guadalupe Pass at the junction of
the modem boundaries of Arizona, New Mexico, and Sonora.
From Father Kino's old rancho of San Bernardino near modern Douglas,
Cooke's wagon train proceeded down the San Pedro, descending it as far as modern
Benson. Along the way, at the
deserted rancho of San Pedro, the Battalion encountered several hundred wild
cattle. As it happened, this
"battle of the bulls" was the only notable action in which Cooke's
force engaged on all its long march. The Mexican comandante at Tucson, Antonio
Comaduran, obligingly evacuated the village before Cooke entered on December 17
and raised the American flag there for the first time.
Cooke lingered only one night and left a note of apology for Comaduran.
The captain was not impressed by Tucson.
Turning north, Cooke reached the Pima villages on the Gila in four days,
and followed that river westward to its confluence with the Colorado near the
present site of Yuma. Again Cooke
was disappointed with the environment: "The country around the two rivers
is a picture of desolation . . . Black mountains with wild-looking peaks and
stony hills and plains fill the view." His wagons crossed the Colorado on
January 9, 1847, and reached San Diego on the 29th. His party suffered much from hunger and thirst on its journey
across the desert. Six months later the Battalion was dissolved at Los Angeles.
Its role in the Mexican-American War was limited to this famous march,
but the historical significance of the Mormon Battalion is great because Cooke's
march marked the first route of a practicable wagon road across the Southwest.
April May June July August
September October November
Final Note Appendix