The Mormon Battalion treks through the California desert (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park)
During January of 1847, the Mormon Battalion, led by their commander Philip St. George Cooke, trekked through the California desert on their way to San Diego then Los Angeles during the Mexican War. From Tucson, AZ to San Diego, the Battalion had little by way of supplies such as water. This preserved portion of the Anza-Borrego Desert was where the Battalion came through (the rest is now developed or belong to other preserved areas of Anza-Borrego). A monument here marks the march of the Mormon Battalion.
Backstory and Context
"Shortly after crossing the Colorado River heading west, the Mormon Battalion entered the Anza-Borrego desert in extreme southern California under the most trying of circumstances. Their food rations were but 8 oz. of flour per day, water was scarce for battalion members and their animals, roads were sandy making them difficult to negotiate. Passing through this region on January 15, 1847, battalion commander Phillip St. George Cook noted: 'Besides being nearly starved, our old mules have had no water since yesterday morning; the men, too, are without. It is necessary to go on in the coolness of the night speedily, to end this terrible state of things. The ten miles of much dreaded sand is before us.'
Portions of the desert are now a California state park. Established in 1933, the park’s area is 916 square miles. It is managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Written by someone with a sense of humor, an inscription on a stone monument found at the park entrance, reads, 'This is the regret: there is nothing but more nothing.'
The journey of the Mormon Battalion in this desert began just west of what is now El Centro in the state of California. They labored through extremely difficult conditions as they continued on this section of their long march. It should be remembered that from Santa Fe, New Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, with little food and water, members of the battalion had to make their own roads.
About a decade later, the roads blazed by the battalion were subsequently utilized by the Butterfield Overland Mail company. Butterfield chose a route through Yuma, Arizona and on to the Pacific because the climate allowed travel year round.
To approximate the battalion route, exit I-8 at the Ocotillo, Imperial County, exit (exit 89) and go north on the S2 or Imperial Highway. Follow S2 to its junction with SR 79. Turn right to Warner Springs and continue on to Temecula."
Other Mormon Battalion sites in Anza-Borrego and the surrounding area include:
-A marker at Box Canyon commemorating the Battalions march through the canyon and later the Overland Stage Route (On County Road S2, 8.6 mi S of State Hwy 78, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park)
-Palm Spring, where a marker also commemorates the Battalion march through and the Overland Stage (lies about 6.3 miles SE of Aqua Caliente Springs, also in Anza-Borrego Desert)
-Puerta Pass-The path of the Battalion and the well used Overland Stage Route left a scar in this pass that can be seen to this day (0.5 mi E of County Rd S2, 5.8 mi S of State Hwy 78, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park)