The Mormon Battalion vs. the stray dogs of L.A.

Things I have learned from reading pioneer James S. Brown’s autobiography: the Mormon Battalion executed a military order to exterminate the stray dogs of Los Angeles. Brown recounts:

Another event about this period was an order by Colonel Cooke for a detail of good marksmen and trusty men to go through the town and shoot or bayonet all the dogs to be found in the streets. The colonel had notified the town authorities of his intention. Accordingly the detail was made and ammunition issued. The writer was one of the trusted marksmen. We sallied forth in the town of Los Angeles, where the dogs were more numerous than human beings, and commenced our disagreeable and deadly work. Muskets rattled in every street and byway, dogs barked and howled in every direction, and women and children wept to have the animals spared. But military orders had to be obeyed, for the dog nuisance had become intolerable. After that, there were sanitary orders sent forth, and the streets were cleared of the dogs and a great amount of bones and other rubbish.

I will admit that after my mission experiences with stray dogs, I read this with some enthusiasm. But the Battalion’s exploits against animals don’t stop there; they also fought a battle with a herd of wild cattle, with casualties of one mule for the Battalion and 20-25 for the cattle:

In a very brief space of time we found ourselves plunged into a warm climate, where we could not see any plant or shrub that we had been acquainted with before. There was some small, scrubby ash, sycamore and black walnut, but everything, even to the rocks, had a strange appearance. We also had entered the land of wild horses and cattle, which roamed the hills by thousands. The wild cattle became excited at the rumbling wagons, and gathered thickly along our way.

At last the muskets commenced to rattle, partly through fear, and partly because we wanted beef. Finally a herd of wild cattle charged our line, tossed some men into the air, pierced others with their horns, knocking some down, and ran over others, attacking one light wagon, the hind end of which was lifted clear from the road. One large bull plunged into a six-mule team, ran his head under the off-swing mule, throwing him entirely over the near one and thrusting his horn into the mule’s vitals, injuring our animal so it had to be left on the ground, where it expired in a few minutes. There were several men and mules roughly used and bruised, just the number I do not now recall. The attacking party lost twenty or twenty-five of their number killed, with many others badly or slightly wounded.

B. H. Roberts also recounts the battle with the cattle in his book The Mormon Battalion. And of course all this helped fulfill a prophecy from Brigham Young (quoting Brown, emphasis added):

…the words of President Brigham Young, in his farewell address to the battalion, in which he said: “You are now going into an enemy’s land at your country’s call. If you will live your religion, obey and respect your officers, and hold sacred the property of the people among whom you travel, and never take anything but what you pay for, I promise you in the name of Israel’s God that not one of you shall fall by the hand of an enemy. Though there will be battles fought in your front and in your rear, on your right hand and on your left, you will not have any fighting to do except with wild beasts.”

This is good stuff, guys. Read the book.

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