BATTALION OF SAINTS by Richard Wormser


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The Mormon migration westward is attracting more and more attention from novelists, and this particular novel deals with the period during which the rank-and-file Mormon had not been informed by Brigham Young and his elders that they believed in and practised ""celestial"" plural marriage. A battalion of Latter Day Saints was actually formed to fight for the U.S. during the Mexican War, and the events of the story take place mainly during the march of that battalion from Iowa to Santa Fe. The rigidity of the young commanding officer who despises the Mormons and the insistence of the Mormons on their various religious rites even when their observation means danger, exhaustion, and even death, leads the battalion into almost incredible hardships. Against this background the courage and integrity of the various men are tested, and a romance develops between the battalion's guide, mountain man Ned Springer, and Nancy Wakefield, a young Mormon girl travelling as a laundress with the group. The extremely telling picture of religious fanaticism, which sanctions the murder of two men and brings Nancy almost to a breakdown when she learns that she is to be the celestial wife of one of the elders, actually somewhat weakens the climax in which Springer decides to stay with the battalion after they reach Santa Fe and he has escaped execution for treason. Despite this, the book is an interesting and sometimes gripping piece of Americana.

Publisher: McKay