One hundred and fifty years ago Tuesday, the guns in the batteries off the coast of Charleston, S.C., fired upon Fort Sumter, beginning America's Civil War. The long Civil War had begun. This week, the National Park Service and several other agencies of the U.S. government will begin nearly four years of 150th anniversary observances.
Utah learned of the actions of April 12, 1861, by Pony Express, which was covered in the Deseret News. The telegraph was to come to Utah later in 1861 and with it, the news came within hours rather than days or weeks. In earlier years before the telegraph, it would take months for information from the East to get to Salt Lake. Utah was isolated from the heat of the battles due to the distances — even the western fronts of the war were far away.
In the territory during the war, people did not see much change from normal frontier life. For many in Utah it was like all other parts of the country as they learned about relatives on both sides of the conflict who fought and died.
President Brigham Young, who was the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sided with the Union. When the telegraph opened, he told President Abraham Lincoln that he was for the flag and the Constitution.
Utah's first non-Mormon governor, Governor Cumming, left Utah at the beginning of the war. He returned to his home in Georgia, where he served in the southern army along with Gen. Albert S. Johnson, who was involved in the Mormon War period.
Utah's delegate John Bernhisel, who was a friend and classmate of one of Lincoln's Cabinet members, Salmon P. Chase, arranged for a meeting with Lincoln. Bernhisel encouraged Lincoln to move troops located at Ft. Douglas to places where the Union could use them more. Lincoln's hand-written note can be seen in one of the images in our story today.
As the years of war waged on, the Deseret News covered the progress of the war — but it didn't dominate the paper. It didn't seem to affect the lives and farming of the community. Then it was over. But Lincoln's assassination overshadowed the end of the war in the Deseret News' coverage.