Diary–1859 Burial Detachment

Mountain Meadows
Utah Historical Quarterly– Spring 1967
Pg 143

Mountain Meadows
Burial Detachment 1859:
TOMMY GORDON’S DIARY

BY A. F. CARDON
Mr. Cardon, the son of “Tommy Gordon,” has previously contributed articles to the Quarterly. He is a retired government employee living presently in Los Altos, California.

The spring following the Mountain Meadows Massacre saw Albert Sidney Johnston’s army march through Salt Lake City and establish Camp Floyd in Cedar Valley, about 40 miles distant from Salt Lake City.1 The establishment of the camp stimulated the economy of the area by providing employment for Utah residents. Among those who applied for work was a young Mormon convert by the name of Thomas Cardon. While working at the camp, Tommy became friends with another Frenchman serving as a clerk with the army. A firm friendship developed, and apparently because of his friend’s persuasion, Tommy joined the army. At the time of his enlistment, Tommy’s English was poor and the enlistment officer understood his surname to be “Gordon,” and it was so entered on the official records. Tommy Cordon’s friend taught him to read and write English, and he began to keep a diary of his life as a soldier. His first recorded adventure was when he was sent with a detachment of troopers to bury the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The expedition started April 21, 1859. Since Tommy had hardly started to learn English, he wrote sparingly of the trip in the form of notes of the marches, the distance traveled each day, and the sites of each camp.

After burying the remains, the soldiers proceeded to Santa Clara and then returned to Camp Floyd. The Tommy Cordon diary describes the trek and the Mountain Meadows, where “one of the most lamentable tragedies in the annals of the west” occurred. *See Footnote 2 at the end of the Diary.

TOMMY GORDON’S DIARY
1859                                                                   Distance  Marched      Total

Apr. 21   Left Camp Floyd, U.T. at 6.15′ A.M.
and arrived at Goshen at 2.20′ P.1I                           27

“22            Left camp 5.20′ AM arrived at
Nephi 12.45′ P.M.                                                         21                     48

“23            Left camp 5.30′ A.11 arrived
Chicken Creek 10.45′ A.M.                                        18                    66

“24            Left camp 6.30′ AM. arrived at
Sevier Bridge 9.30′ A.M.                                            10                    76

“25             Left camp 6.5[0]’ .AM arrived
at buttermilk creek 2.20 P M                                   25                   101

26               Left camp 5.45 A.M. arrived
at Meadow creek 12.30 P.M.                                    18                   119

27               Left Camp at 6 A :M arrived at
Cove creek 3.15 P.M                                                    28                   147

28               Left Camp at 6.30 A.M. arrived
at pine creek 9.30 A.M.                                               7                    154

29               Left Camp at 6 A.M arrived at
Be[a]ver City 1 PM                                                       20                    174

30               Lay over

May 1st    Left Camp at 6.15 A M arrived
at dry creek at 10 A.M. Snow water                     12                     186

2                 Left Camp at 6.15 A M arrived at
Parona [Paragonah?] 12 M 15 miles
and at Parawine [Parowan] 1.30 P.M                  20                     206

3                 Left Camp at 6 A.M. arrived at Cedar City
12 M 17 miles Camped 3 from city                               226

4                 Left Camp at 6.20 A M arrived at
Iron or Cold Springs at 12.30                                  18                    244

5                 Left Camp at 6.15 A.M. arrived
at Mountain ‘Meadows at 12 M 16 miles                               260

6                 Lay over encamped on the ground where the Arkansas Train was massacred Sept 10th, 1857 helped to bury the bones that was laying overground in two graves, the first one 2500 yards North of the Spring and 45 yards from left hand side of road (mens grave). Second grave 150 yards north of first one (Womens grave) 50 yards from road on Same Side as the other 2.

7                 Left Camp at 6.30 A M arrived at
Camp on the Santa Clara at 12 M 18                                               278

8                 Left Camp at 7 A M arrived in camp
Do. [ditto] at 10 A M                                                      8                    286
9                 Lay over

10              Do [ditto]

11              Do California Train passed

12              Do [ditto]

13              Do [ditto]

14              Do [ditto]

15              Do [ditto]

16              Left Camp at 5.30 A.M arrived at
Mountain Meadows 3 P.M                                                                26
17             Lay over

18              Left Camp at 7 A.M arrived at
Iron Springs 11 A M                                                        16                      42

19              Left Camp at 6 A M arrived at
Cedar City at 1 P M                                                          20                      62

20              Left Camp at 7 A M arrived at
Summit Creek 11 A M                                                     15                      77

21               Left Camp at 6.25 arrived Red
Creek [?] near [?] Fort at Summit Creek at 10 A.M 12                 89

22              Left Camp at 6.15 A.M arrived
at Little Salt Lake Valley at 11 A.M                          14                   103

23              Left Camp at 6.20 A.M arrived
Indian Creek 12 M                                                            18                   121

24              Left Camp at 6.35 A M arrived at
Cove creek 12 M                                                                19                   14[0]

25              Left Camp at 6.25 A M arrived
Corn Creek 1 P.M.                                                             20                   160

26              Left Camp at 5.45 A M arrived
at camp near Cedar Springs                                         20                    180

27              Left Camp at 6 A. M. arrived
at Round Valley 12 miles from
Sev[i]er river 10 1/2 A M                                              12                    192

28              Left Camp at 5.25 A M arrived
at Sev[i]er River 1 P.AZ camp 8
miles from Bridge                                                              21                    213

29              Left Camp at 6 A M arrived at
San Pete River at 1 P.M.                                                  20                   233

30              Left Camp at 6.25 A M arrived
at Camp 5 miles from Mantua
[Manti?] & 2 from Ephra[i]m Fort at 12 M.             17                    250

1For the history of Camp Floyd see Thomas G. Alexander and Leonard J. Arrington, “Camp in the Sagebrush: Camp Floyd, Utah, 1858‑1861,” Utah Historical Quarterly, 34
(Winter, 1966), 3‑21.i

*2Tommy’s description of the massacre site is very matter-of-fact and certainly lacks any dramatics. The historian, Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540‑1886 (San Francisco, 1889), 556, described the scene the troopers found as follows: “On reaching Mountain Meadows, the men found skulls and bones scattered for the space of a mile around the ravine, whence they had been dragged by wild beasts. Nearly all the bodies had been gnawed by wolves, so that few could be recognized, and their dismembered skeletons were bleached by long exposure. Many of the skulls were crushed in with the but-ends of muskets or cleft with tomahawks; others were shattered by firearms, discharged close to the head. A few remnants of apparel, torn from the backs of women and children as they ran from the clutch of their pursuers, still fluttered among the bushes, and near by were masses of human hair, matted and trodden in the mould.”

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