In 1846, though only 16, Lot Smith joined the Mormon Battalion, serving the United States in the Mexican-American War, marching from the Midwest to California. In 1857 he led Mormons recruited to harass Johnston's Army on its march to Utah - earning a degree of lasting fame for his guerrilla tactics in Wyoming and Echo Canyon.
But a little-remembered footnote is that five years later, in April 1862, Smith was back on the side of the U.S. Army - an independent officer during the Civil War."He responded to a call by Abraham Lincoln through Brigham Young to guard the overland stage route through Wyoming," says Val John Halford. "One hundred and six men responded; he was the captain.
"Kind of strange times, and he was an interesting individual," adds Halford, commander of Lot Smith Camp No. 1, a local division of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War named for the pioneer warrior.
Smith's life and service will be a focus of a Memorial Day program at 10 a.m. Monday, May 25, at his gravesite in the Farmington City Cemetery, including participation by the Sons of Union Veterans, the Utah Civil War Association and the Lot Smith Family Organization.
"Sons of the Union Army name their camps for a Union soldier," Halford says. Utah's camp, named for Smith, was organized on July 16, 1994. It currently has 21 members. Members of the organization also must trace their lineage to a Union soldier who served honorably during the period 1861 to 1865.
Halford's ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Irish immigrant John Stanslow Walsh, apparently recruited right after the Atlantic crossing to serve in a New Jersey regiment late in the war.
"Then, interestingly enough, he re-enlisted and found himself at Camp Douglas. He maintained his Irish Catholicism but married a Mormon girl. He died in 1933 and is buried at Mount Olivet."
Halford admires Walsh because he was a resourceful man, a description also applicable to Lot Smith.
Born in Oswego County, New York, in 1830, Smith prospected in California for gold after his discharge from the Mormon Battalion. In Utah, he helped settle Farmington, audaciously harassed the U.S. Army sent West for "the Utah War" and in 1876 was sent to lead Mormon settlers along the Little Colorado River in northern Arizona. He was killed in an altercation with a Navajo Indian on June 21, 1892. His body was exhumed 10 years later and reburied in Farmington.
To the last, historian Charles S. Peterson has written, red-haired Lot Smith was "the man of action, bombastic and precipitate in temperament. His personality combined the keenest of contradictions.
"Sometimes callous and rough in his dealings with family, he was not without warmth and love. Clutching and parsimonious in his business, he generously opened granaries to share a surplus that made the difference between starvation and survival in the earliest years of Mormon colonizing in Arizona. . . .
"Around him arose fear, animosity, love and loyalty - and, happily for the historian," Peterson said, "a system of legends based on fact and fancy."
About the photos
Members of the Utah Civil War Association and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War participated in a photo session at Mount Olivet Cemetery to illustrate our Memorial Day story. Above, Wendy Sorensen lays flowers on a Civil War veteran's grave as Steve Sorensen, Kenley Mauerman, James M. Retallick and Val John Halford look on. On the cover, Eileen Mauerman joins Wendy Sorensen at the cemetery.