Saturday, August 13, 2011


[Ancestral Link: Mary Elizabeth Bickmore (Schow), daughter of Isaac Danford Bickmore, son of Isaac Motor Bickmore, son of David Bickmore, father of Thomas Bickmore, father of Gilbert Bickmore.]

Member of the Mormon Battalion from July 16, 1846 to July 16, 1847
Gilbert Montier Lafayette Bickmore is my 1st cousin 3 times removed. He was the son of Thomas Bickmore and Christina Bagley, who was the son of David Bickmore, the father of Isaac Motor Bickmore, the father of Isaac Danford Bickmore, the father of Mary Elizabeth Bickmore, the mother of Beth Schow, the mother of me, JoAnn Stagge Miller.

Gilbert Bickmore was born 20 July 1827 and died 4 February 1896 near Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California. He was buried on 4 February 1896 in Arroyo Grande Cemetery in San Luis Obispo, California.

He was a private in the Mormon Battalion, Company A, with Jefferson Hunt as his captain.

I found this at:

He mustered out with Company A on July 16, 1847, at Los Angeles, California. (found at

Born July 20, 1827; Madison, Madison County, Illinois
Enlisted: July 16, 1846
Company: A
Rank: Private
Description: 5 feet 9 inches tall, black hair, gray eyes
Occupation: Wheelwright
Discharged: July 16, 1847; Los Angeles.  Traveled to Sutter's Fort in the Hancock-Los Angeles Company.  Traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in the Hancock-Hunt-Pace-Lytle Company, arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in October 1847.

Later Life:  Went to California to dig for gold.

Died: February 4, 1896; Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California
Information gathered at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in Old Town San Diego, California

Gilbert Montier Lafayette Bickmore was born July. 27, 1827 in Madison, Madison County, Illinois, USA.

He joined the Mormon Battalion in 1846 and helped to establish the first wagon road to California during the War with Mexico.

In 1849 he married Catharine Huntsman Bickmore (1824 - 1903). They are the parents of six children.

He lived in Santa Cruz and Gonzales, CA before moving to Arroyo Grande.

Their children: are Eliza Ann, born 1851 near Council Bluffs, IA; Amanda, born 1854 CA; Christina, born 1860 CA; Gilbert, born 1864 Santa Cruz, CA; William, born 1870 CA.

He died February. 4, 1896 in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo County, California, USA. According to the funeral records, Gilbert is buried in the Arroyo Grande Cemetery. His grave is unmarked and the sexton's records for that year are lost..
From FamilySearch.

He married Katherine Huntsman in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1849, so he must have gone back for her.

They had six children: Eliza Ann, Amanda Delia, Christina Hannah, Mary Catherine, Gilbert Montier Lafayette, and James William.

It looks like he settled in San Bernardino. "It was natural those chosen to help form the new settlement would include men acquainted with the terrain between Utah and the west coast, and also those capable of supervising a venture of such magnitude. Thus some members of the Mormon Battalion and Mississippi Saints were selected. Among the Mormon Battalion men who resided in San Bernardino (1851-1858) were Elijah Allen, James Bailey, W. E. Beckstead, Gilbert Bickmore, Thomas Bingham, Abner Blackburn, Henry G. Boyle, Montgomery Button, James Clift, Robert Clift, Foster Curtis, Robert C. Egbert, Ebenezer Hanks, Silas Harris, James P. Hirons, Lucas Hoagland, Gilbert Hunt, Jefferson Hunt, Marshall Hunt, Jesse D. Hunter, William Hyde, David H. Jones, Andrew Lytle, Peter J. Mesick, Harley Mowrey, Calvin Reed, John Henry Rol[p.367] lins, Levi Runyon, M. L. Shepherd, William McIntyre, James Stewart, Stephen M. St. John, Rufus Stoddard, Nathan Swarthout, Truman Swarthout, Myron Tanner and Albert Tanner. (See Mormon Battalion DUP publication)."


In July 1846, under the authority of U.S. Army Captain James Allen and with the encouragement of Mormon leader Brigham Young, the Mormon Battalion was mustered in at Council Bluffs, Iowa Territory. The battalion was the direct result of Brigham Young's correspondence on 26 January 1846 to Jesse C. Little, presiding elder over the New England and Middle States Mission. Young instructed Little to meet with national leaders in Washington, D.C., and to seek aid for the migrating Latter-day Saints, the majority of whom were then in the Iowa Territory. In response to Young's letter, Little journeyed to Washington, arriving on 21 May 1846, just eight days after Congress had declared war on Mexico.

Little met with President James K. Polk on 5 June 1846 and urged him to aid migrating Mormon pioneers by employing them to fortify and defend the West. The president offered to aid the pioneers by permitting them to raise a battalion of five hundred men, who were to join Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, Commander of the Army of the West, and fight for the United States in the Mexican War. Little accepted this offer.

Colonel Kearny designated Captain James Allen, later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, to raise five companies of volunteer soldiers from the able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five in the Mormon encampments in Iowa. On 26 June 1846 Allen arrived at the encampment of Mt. Pisgah. He was treated with suspicion as many believed that the raising of a battalion was a plot to bring trouble to the migrating Saints.

Allen journeyed from Mt. Pisgah to Council Bluffs, where on 1 July 1846 he allayed Mormon fears by giving permission for the Saints to encamp on United States lands if the Mormons would raise the desired battalion. Brigham Young accepted this, recognizing that the enlistment of the battalion was the first time the government had stretched forth its arm to aid the Mormons.

On 16 July 1846 some 543 men enlisted in the Mormon Battalion (Officially the 1st Iowa Volunteers). From among these men Brigham Young selected the commissioned officers; they included Jefferson Hunt, Captain of Company A; Jesse D. Hunter, Captain of Company B; James Brown, Captain of Company C; Nelson Higgins, Captain of Company D; and Daniel C. Davis, Captain of Company E. Among the most prominent non-Mormon military officers immediately associated with the battalion march were Lt. Col. James Allen, First Lt. Andrew Jackson Smith, Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, and Dr. George Sanderson. Also accompanying the battalion were approximately thirty-three women, twenty of whom served as laundresses, and fifty-one children.

The battalion marched from Council Bluffs on 20 July 1846, arriving on 1 August 1846 at Fort Leavenworth (Kansas), where they were outfitted for their trek to Santa Fe. Battalion members drew their arms and accouterments, as well as a clothing allowance of forty-two dollars, at the fort. Since a military uniform was not mandatory, many of the soldiers sent their clothing allowances to their families in the Mormon refugee encampments in Iowa.

Each soldier was issued the following: 1 Harpers Ferry smoothbore musket, 1 infantry cartridge box, 1 cartridge box plate, 1 cartridge box belt, 1 bayonet scabbard, 1 bayonet scabbard belt, 1 bayonet scabbard belt plate, 1 waist belt, 1 waist belt plate, 1 musket gun sling, 1 brush and pike set, 1 musket screwdriver, 1 musket wiper, 1 extra flint cap. Each company was also allotted 5 sabers for the officers, 10 musket ball screws, 10 musket spring vices, and 4 Harpers Ferry rifles.

Battalion members took cash in lieu of uniforms, using the money to support their families and their church during a very hard period. Consequently, they did not wear uniforms. The uniform collection shown here is in a private collection. It shows the uniforms that the battalion would have worn had they been issued. The owner of these uniforms often shows them off at gun shows. Click on the image for more info.

The march from Fort Leavenworth was delayed by the sudden illness of Colonel Allen. Capt. Jefferson Hunt was instructed to begin the march to Santa Fe; he soon received word that Colonel Allen was dead. Allen's death caused confusion regarding who should lead the battalion to Santa Fe. Lt. A.J. Smith arrived from Fort Leavenworth claiming the lead, and he was chosen the commanding officer by the vote of battalion officers. The leadership transition proved difficult for many of the enlisted men, as they were not consulted about the decision.

Smith and his accompanying surgeon, a Dr. Sanderson, have been described in journals as the "heaviest burdens" of the battalion. Under Smith's dictatorial leadership and with Sanderson's antiquated prescriptions, the battalion marched to Santa Fe. On this trek the soldiers suffered from excessive heat, lack of sufficient food, improper medical treatment, and forced long-distance marches.

The first division of the Mormon Battalion approached Santa Fe on 9 October 1846. Their approach was heralded by Col. Alexander Doniphan, who ordered a one-hundred-gun salute in their honor. At Santa Fe, Smith was relieved of his command by Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke. Cooke, aware of the rugged trail between Santa Fe and California and also aware that one sick detachment had already been sent from the Arkansas River to Fort Pueblo in Colorado, ordered the remaining women and children to accompany the sick of the battalion to Pueblo for the winter. Three detachments consisting of 273 people eventually were sent to Pueblo for the winter of 1846-47.

The remaining soldiers, with four wives of officers, left Santa Fe for California on 19 October 1846. They journeyed down the Rio Grande del Norte and eventually crossed the Continental Divide on 28 November 1846. While moving up the San Pedro River in present-day Arizona, their column was attacked by a herd of wild cattle. In the ensuing fight, a number of bulls were killed and two men were wounded. Following the "Battle of the Bulls," the battalion continued their march toward Tucson, where they anticipated a possible battle with the Mexican soldiers garrisoned there. At Tucson, the Mexican defenders temporarily abandoned their positions and no conflict ensued.

On 21 December 1846 the battalion encamped on the Gila River. They crossed the Colorado River into California on 9 and 10 January 1847. By 29 January 1847 they were camped at the Mission of San Diego, about five miles from General Kearny's quarters. That evening Colonel Cooke rode to Kearny's encampment and reported the battalion's condition. On 30 January 1847 Cooke issued orders enumerating the accomplishments of the Mormon Battalion. "History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry. Half of it has been through a wilderness where nothing but savages and wild beasts are found, or deserts where, for lack of water, there is no living creature."

During the remainder of their enlistment, some members of the battalion were assigned to garrison duty at either San Diego, San Luis Rey, or Ciudad de los Angeles. Other soldiers were assigned to accompany General Kearny back to Fort Leavenworth. All soldiers, whether en route to the Salt Lake Valley via Pueblo or still in Los Angeles, were mustered out of the United States Army on 16 July 1847. Eighty-one men chose to reenlist and serve an additional eight months of military duty under Captain Daniel C. Davis in Company A of the Mormon Volunteers. The majority of the soldiers migrated to the Salt Lake Valley and were reunited with their pioneering families.

The men of the Mormon Battalion are honored for their willingness to fight for the United States as loyal American citizens. Their march of some 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs to California is one of the longest military marches in history. Their participation in the early development of California by building Fort Moore in Los Angeles, building a courthouse in San Diego, and making bricks and building houses in southern California contributed to the growth of the West.

Following their discharge, many men helped build flour mills and sawmills in northern California. Some of them were among the first to discover gold at Sutter's Mill. Men from Captain Davis's Company A were responsible for opening the first wagon road over the southern route from California to Utah in 1848.

Historic sites associated with the battalion include the Mormon Battalion Memorial Visitor's Center in San Diego, California; Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial in Los Angeles, California; and the Mormon Battalion Monument in Memory Grove, Salt Lake City, Utah. Monuments relating to the battalion are also located in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, and trail markers have been placed on segments of the battalion route.

The image to the right is of a Battalion flag owned by, and is in the possession of, a descendant of a battalion soldier. I don't have information on who the descendant (or the ancestor) is, but I believe the owner is in Salt Lake City, Utah. I assume that this flag was carried on the march. A Battalion member named Daniel Tyler wrote the book A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War (available from in which he described a reunion of Battalion members held in Salt Lake. The reunion was also attended by Brigham Young and other LDS leaders. Mentioned in the reunion chapter is a Battalion flag with an image of Abraham's ram in a thicket. That flag symbolized the Battalion as a sacrifice which saved the church just as Abraham's ram was a sacrifice which saved Isaac's life and his posterity (Genesis 22:1-12). The flag shown here clearly is not the reunion flag. I've never seen a picture of the reunion flag and have never seen any reference to it other than in Taylor's book. I'd sure like to know if this flag still exists. I assume that the reunion flag was created some time after the Battalion was discharged.

The image to the right is of a nine-foot-long Battalion flag reportedly was used by the Nauvoo Legion in Nauvoo, Illinois and later presented by Brigham young to the Mormon Battalion for their march to fight in the war with Mexico. It is believed to be the flag raised by the Mormon Battalion at Camp Moore, Los Angeles, California on July 4, 1847. When Battalion members rejoined the body of the Saints (by then in Salt Lake City), the flag was presented to Brigham Young. See "Secrets of the patriarch's bear flag" for more information.

Gilbert Montier Lafayette Bickmore was born 20 July 1827 in Morganvile, Scott, Ilinois, and died 4 February 1896 in Arroyo Grande, San Louis Obispo, California. He was buried February 1896 in Pioneer Cemetery, Wattsonville, Santa Cruz, California. He was the son of William M. Bickmore and Christina Bagley.

Katherine J. Huntsman was born 27 September 1824 in Perry, Richland, Ohio, and died 24 December 1903 in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California. She was buried December 1903 in Arroyo Grande Ce, San Luis Obispo, California. She was the daughter of James W. Huntsman and Mary Johnston.

Children of Katherine J. HUNTSMAN and Gilbert Montier Lafayette BICKMORE are:

i. Eliza Ann Bickmore was born 28 November 1851 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, and died 19 June 1942 in Oakland, Alameda, California. She married Moses Montgomery Ayers 22 February 1873 in Bakersfield, Kern, California, son of Zina G. AYERS and Mary HARGROVE. He was born 11 February 1849 in Spring Hill, Livingston, Missouri, and died 11 March 1932 in Salinas, Monterey, California.

ii. Amanda Delia Bickmore was born 9 March 1854/1855 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, and died 21 June 1914 in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California. She married James Simpkins Brooks 5 January 1873 in Bakersfield, Kern, California. He was born 17 August 1848 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died 9 September 1940 in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California.

iii. Christina Hannah Bickmore was born 28 February 1860 in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, California, and died 13 July 1924 in Gilroy, Santa Clara, California. She married Preston Thomas Stewart 18 May 1878 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. He was born 6 May 1853 in Provo, Utah, Utah, and died 21 August 1930 in Redlands, San Bernardino, California.

iv. Mary K. Bickmore was born 6 January 1862 in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, was christened 12 February 1889 in Newport, Orange, California, and died 14 June 1936 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California. She married Siney Cunningtham. He was born about 1850 in Illinois. She married Joseph Dustin 30 July 1878 in Santa Ana, Los Angeles, California, son of Buchias Dustin and Aseneth (Herlbert) Hurlbut. He was born 15 December 1827 in Hartland-Leroy, Genesee, New York, and died 10 December 1914 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California. She married Samuel William Van Ripper 11 October 1923 in San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, son of Peter Van Ripper and Anna Eliza Ratau. He was born 11 January 1840 in Holland, and died 12 December 1926 in Harlem Springs, San Bernardino, California.

v. Gilbert Montier Lafayette Bickmore was born 22 August 1864 in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, and died 26 January 1950 in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California. He married Nettie B. M. Casteel 14 September 1896 in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California. She was born 7 June 1875 in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California, and died 28 July 1963 in Camarillo, Ventura, California.

vi. James William (Willie) Bickmore was born about 1869/1870 in Gonzales, Monterey, California, and died 9 June 1881 in Huesna District, Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, California.

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