Back to the BOAP Web Page

Pace, William Bryan, 1832-1907

Autobiography (1832-1847)
Typescript, HBLL


Chapter One- Birth and Boyhood

I, William Byram Pace, was born February 9th, 1832 near Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee. My father, James Pace, was the son of James Pace who was captain of the light horse cavalry and went with his company to the support of General Andrew Jackson and was killed at the battle of New Orleans, December 23, 1814.

My father was a thorough farmer and spent most of his time on a farm except during the six years we lived in Nauvoo he was a policeman or lifeguard for Joseph Smith the Prophet and Brigham Young his successor.

My mother, Lucinda Gibson Strickland Pace, was the daughter of Judge Warren Gibson Strickland of Murfreesboro. She was highly accomplished and well-educated and the source from which I received my early training in music, arithmetic, grammar as well as the rudiments of education. When I was two years old, my parents with Judge Strickland and others moved to Shelby County, Illinois and established themselves on farms, where I grew to be seven years old, my earliest recollection being mixed up with trying to help drive a prairie team of five or six yoke of oxen in breaking up the rolling prairie of which Illinois was so justly celebrated.

About the year 1838 my parents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and early in the spring of 1840 they moved to Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois where I was baptized into said church in April 1840 being about two months over 8 years old.

Upon our arrival at Nauvoo we camped on the outskirts of the town, after dinner my father proposed going down into town and call on the Prophet Joseph Smith. I, boy-like, insisted upon going along too, which was finally agreed upon but we had not gone far when I heartily wished myself back again in camp for all of the boys of my size and larger in the neighborhood seemed to be following us.

I suppose I looked like a country Jake to them, and they wanted to pick a quarrel, this did not suit my idea of right, so I kept close to my father and tried to not notice them, until their taunts were observed by my father.

When he stopped of a sudden and picking out one of the largest boys among them (a crowd of about twenty), told me if I did not give that fellow a whipping he would give me one when we got back to camp, here was a dilemma; I had been raised thus far in the country where I had been taught that fighting was wrong yet I did not relish two whippings so there seemed no other alternative only to pitch in and do my best. By accident I managed to knock or push the fellow down. Then using my advantage jumped on him but he soon cried enough and I let him up. This was my first introduction into a town and I had no further trouble with them after that. I mention this as showing that the boys were up to date at that remote period.

The first two years in Nauvoo were mostly spent in school after which there was more or less excitement about mob violence in the settlements near around. As a precaution the legion was inspected, Silver Greys were reorganized and armed with slings, haver sacks and cobblestones, and added for defense. All the boys from eight years up (not capable of bearing arms) were organized into what was called boy companies to learn drill and discipline and attached the Nauvoo Legion as "reserves." This was no "paper hatboy play" but sober reality the companies were invariably uniformed with white pants, a kind of blouse or sailor shirt. Sailor hat and wooden guns made so they would snap at the command, "fire."

At this organization I was dully elected captain of one of the companies of "fifty" and commenced my career in the celebrated Nauvoo Legion when I was ten years old. My father being an expert drill master I was soon initiated into all the mysteries of drill and command, as soon as I got over my scare I managed very well.

I recall the names of a few only of the boys that figured prominently in these companies, viz. William Kimball, Henry P. Richards, Nelson A. Empy, Joseph Smith Jr. (son of the Prophet), William W. Cluff, Benjamin Cluff, Abram Hatch, and John R. Murdock most of whom are or have recently occupied prominent places in church but now released on account of old age.

In about one year I was taken out of the company and sent to Edward P. Desettes drumming school where I found Jesse Ear, H. P. Richard, N. A. Empy and others learning to drum. In a few weeks we were assigned to the Nauvoo marshall band and did service there during the remaining days of Nauvoo; much drill and guard duty was required of the band such as field playing nearly every day or staying at head quarters and beating the alarm at night if any, being a boy with no particular family cares I came in for much of the latter, hence my associates almost from this time became men and not boys.

The summer the Prophet Joseph was killed I was twelve years old. The previous February yet the scenes of those days are vividly fresh to my mind as if done yesterday. During that season I was on duty almost the entire time, as present on the square when the Prophet addressed the Nauvoo Legion on the importance of obeying the governor's requisition for the public arms on June 22, 1844 a synopsis of which I herewith insert for its preservation.

"Brethren we will give up our arms as the governor requires we will give to them that asketh of us and trust in the Lord for future welfare I wish to tender you as soldiers and citizens under my command as your general, you have done your duty faithfully in guarding this city and in guarding and preserving the lives of the people as well as mine in a special manner for I have seen you on duty without shoes and comfortable clothing and if I had the means to buy or could obtain those necessary things for you I would gladly do it, but I cannot mortgage any of my property to get one dollar.

But I will say, this you will be called the first elders of the church and your mission will be to the nations of the earth, you will gather many people into the fastness of the Rocky Mountains as a center for the gathering of the people and you will be faithful because you have been true and many of those who come in under your ministry, on account of their much learning will seek for high places and they will set up and raise themselves to eminence above you, but you will walk in low places unnoticed and you will know all that transpires in their minds and those that are your friends are my friends.

This I will promise you that when I come again to lead you forth, for I will go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you will be. I now dismiss you with my blessing to go home. Amen."

The last discourse that Joseph Smith delivered in Nauvoo on the top of a frame building close to the Nauvoo house on the twenty- fourth of June 1844.

Laying his hand on the head of Levi W. Hancock saying, "This day the Lord has shown to me that which he has never shown me before that I have thousands of friends that never pretended friendship while others have sought to crawl into my bosom on account of my good feelings towards them and now are vipers and seek my life and if they shall take it they will pursue you they will do it anyhow. When you are obliged to fight be sure that you do not stain your hands in the blood of women and children, and when your enemies call for quarters be sure you grant them the same and then you will gain power over the world you will be forever called the Nauvoo Legion. And as I have had the honor of being your general and leader I feel to say a few words for your comfort and I wish to ascertain your interest and faith in your future mission of life that you are engaged in; even the same cause which the power of the priesthood sealed upon you and your callings to minister life and salvation to all nations on the face of the earth although things appear at the present time bad.

The work of our enemies that they hold at the present time overwhelming over us, but I will liken these things to a wheel of fortune if we are at this time under the wheel. It is sure to be rolling on and as sure will the Saints be sometime on the top of this great wheel if they hold on to the object in arew.

Our enemies are after me to trust myself amongst them by their crouching the honor of the state by the governor and authorities of Illinois. I will therefore say to you as Saints and elders of Israel be not troubled nor give yourselves uneasiness so as to make rash moves by which you may be cut short in your preaching the gospel to this generation, for you will be called upon to go forth and call upon the free men from Maine to gather themselves in the strongholds of the Rocky Mountains and the red men from the west and all people from the south and from the north and from the east to go to the west and establish themselves in the stronghold of their gathering places and there you will gather the red men to their center from their scattered and dispersed situation to become the strong arm of Jehovah, who will be a strong bulwark of protection from your foes.

These things I feel to tell you beforehand that you may always be ready for your duty, for at this time I need the best of friends to stand by me and on this occasion I would like to know of you all by your answering, "Yes" or "No". "Are you willing to lay down your lives for me?" (pause) When the answer was with a unanimous voice, "Yes." "I am your father shall I not be your father?" When all with one exclamation said, "Yes", when again he said then "I am willing to lay down my life for you and if innocent blood is spilt on this occasion (drawing his sword out of its scabbard and raised it above his head,) I will call upon the gods to bear witness of this. I will draw my sword and it shall never be sheathed again until vengeance is taken upon all your enemies and I will call upon the Eternal in your defense, the winds with the whirlwinds, though thunders and the lightnings, and the hailstorms. The heavens shall tremble and with earthquakes shall the earth be shaken.

And the seas heaving themselves beyond their bounds, these things shall be brought to bear against year enemies for your preservation, as the people of the Lord.

We have given up our arms, and they have taken away your right of protection, by our city charter; and now they desire that I shall surrender myself into their hands, which I have consented to do. I only go to return to you again. With his blessing upon us we were dismissed to go home.

I am indebted to Alfred Bell of Lehi, Utah for the above two sermons taken on the spot by him, and supposed to be very correct. The next event of note, was the arrival of Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young and the twelve who were absent at the Prophet's death, and the struggle that followed.

Sidney Rigdon spent, what seemed to me several hours, haranguing the people on the importance of making him their leader, after which, Brigham Young arose and said only a word, when it was observed by the whole congregation that the mantle of "Joseph" was upon him, in word, gesture and general appearance.

The people arose en-masse to their feet astonished, as it appeared that Joseph had returned and was speaking to the people. I was small and got upon a bench that I might more fully witness the "phenomena." There was no longer any question as to who was the leader.

Work on the [Nauvoo] temple was then completed by instruction of the Twelve under Brigham, endowments given to many thousands, and preparation made to go west, to appease the mob element that was raging around Nauvoo.

In the meantime the mob element exercised such an influence on the governor and legislature that they repealed the city charter of Nauvoo, and left us without any city government, or any means of controlling the rougher element, hence the town was soon over-run with all manner of ruffians from the mob camps around about.

As we had no authority to arrest or protect the town, the boys resorted to whistling! That is, every boy generally could whistle and most of them had knives from ten to fourteen inches long, in scabbards, "al-la-buoy", and when any of those fellows became boisterous, or showed any signs of meddling the boy discovered would draw his knife and commence whittling and whistling soon a crowd of his pals gathered, then they would surround the obnoxious element, be he large or small, many or few, and whistle and whittle in his direction and stick by him until he was out of town. This lasted but a few weeks when it became apparent that to "go into Nauvoo men must mind their own business and not meddle with the people" or they would get whistled out.

This was rather an amusing process not a word was said but an unearthly whistle (and generally everyone had his own favorite tune) and an incessant whittling with those large knives was enough to strike terror to the hearts of the victims and he got out of town as quick as his legs could carry him.

Remember the city charter was taken away and there was no law against whistling or whittling and when fifty or a hundred boys got after a victim there was no protection and he had to "git."


On the first of February 1846, the people began to cross the Mississippi River and rendezvous on what was called Sugar Creek about six miles from the river.

I think it was the 6th of February that my parents crossed and camped on the said Sugar Creek with two horse wagons loaded with such necessaries as we could take leaving the balance with good comfortable homes (houses and lands) to the mob, for which no recompense has ever been recovered.

Our camp was made in the snow about 8 inches deep and was a rather uncomfortable introduction into camp life without tent or any shelter save it be a wagon cover made from common sheeting. Here we stayed form some time waiting the arrival of all those who could possibly supply themselves with teams. At length the companies were organized and began moving west, through mud and slush. Several days were consumed in reaching Bonaparte on the Des Moines River a distance of probably forty miles. Here we crossed the river and moved out into hills which were interspersed with many nice farms. Soon it became apparent that the camp was getting short of provisions hence a halt was made and some went over the Missouri line; all, however, found work and were literally paid in corn, meat, bacon and potatoes, the produce of the country.

As soon as the larder was replenished the camp moved onto Chariton River where we encountered a series of storms and were compelled to lay over several days. Here I saw the first timber cut down to browse the animals in lieu of hay. From here we moved on through rolling hills and wild uninhabited prairie land to a place called "Garden Grove," where it was decided to make a temporary settlement, raise a crop, and send their teams back to help others to leave Nauvoo. A few were selected for this purpose. The camp moved onto a place about forty miles. They designated Mount Pisgah; and here my parents stopped with others, built some log houses and prepared to raise a crop, sending their teams back to help others while the main body of the camp moved on to Council Bluffs on the Missouri River.

Here they were overtaken by Captain Allen of the U.S. Dragoons with a requisition from the President of the United States for five hundred men to form a battalion of infantry and march through and be discharged in California at the expiration of one year. Brigham came back to Mount Pisgah, called upon my father and others to volunteer which they did promptly and on the sixteenth of July the now famous Mormon Battalion was mustered into the service of the United States and started for Mexico via Santa Fe.

In the organization my father was elected First Lieutenant Co. E. [?] and was therefore entitled to a servant of $15 per month. Pursuing his usual economy, he concluded to take me to fill that position as I was too young to enlist; hence he got a furlough from Colonel Allen and came back to Mt. Pisgah for me, and thus I became identified with the Mormon Battalion. Crossing the country we overtook the battalion at St. Joseph, Missouri. On approaching western Missouri, Colonel Allen being desirous of showing off his Mormon boys to the Missourians, selected Levi W. Hancock and Elisha Averett as fifers, and Jessie Earl and myself as drummers at the head of the command, being two of the smallest boys in the Battalion. About 14 1/2 years old, we were of course very conspicuous. However, I do not recollect of ever feeling prouder or weighing more in my imagination in life, than on that occasion though I have since figured conspicuously before the people as general, member of the legislature, etc.

The march through the city and suburbs was about three miles of continuous beating, so when we were through we were wet as drowned rats from perspiration, yet it paid in vanity for many callers at Fort Leavenworth the next day requested introduction to those two little boys that drummed through the city of western Missouri.

The Battalion was fitted out with teams, wagons, old flintlocks and bayonets at Fort Leavenworth set out for Sante Fe, a march of over one thousand miles on foot.

They had only made a few miles and camped when it was learned that Colonel Allen was dangerously ill in the Fort, and the next day brought word that he was dead. Here was unforseen difficulty the command legitimately belonged to Captain Jefferson Hunt of Colonel Allen but after a council of war it was decided that Lieutenant James Pace (my father) was to return to Council Bluffs, see President Young, report progress, and ask advice etc.

He started alone leaving me in care of Lieutenant Andrew Lytle. We moved on to Hurricane Ridge (so called from a violent storm that overtook us here demolishing tents and spreading havoc in camp so that we were compelled to lay-bye a few days for repairs) and camped. Here we were overtaken by Lieutenant Smith of United States Dragoons and Dr. Sanderson. Smith claimed the command and a second council of war gave it to him, through the modesty of Captain Hunt who declined. The next day Smith assumed command and the Battalion moved forward, nothing further of note occurring.

At the crossing of the Arkansas River my father accompanied by John D. Lee and Howard Egan overtook the Battalion bringing news from the bluffs. Here we shipped water mostly in vinegar barrels to do us across the Semirone Desert 90 miles. Much suffering followed yet we got through safe and finally arrived in Santa Fe where we lay in camp several days. Here the Battalion was divided; all the sick and most of the woman was sent back to Pueblo on the outskirts of Mexico under command of Captain James Brown of Company C, and the Battalion was placed under Lieutenant Colonel Philip, St. George Cook, and ordered to make a force march through to California to the support of General Kearney who had already gone there with only one company of Dragoons, with pack mules.

I am at a loss as to dates, but as this is my history, and not that of the Battalion I must be excused, for every digression of positive data. Memory says, it was sometime in October 1846, we left Santa Fe with teams to make a force march through to Santiago, southern California. When about five miles out of Santa Fe (in sight of abundance of government supplies) we camped and were placed on "half rations." Our line of march took us through Albuquerque, Socora and many small Mexican settlements where we could buy onions and many other garden productions that added to our half rations, kept up in fair spirits, but on the River De Norte another detachment was selected and sent back to Pueblo under Lieutenant Willis, leaving the Battalion only about three hundred strong. Then we soon turned west leaving civilization, as it were, into the wilds of the desert, making our own roads and letting our wagons down over mountain sides with ropes as circumstances demanded.

On arriving on the San Pedro River, our rations were getting low, in the extreme, many were actually suffering for want of supplies; there is a vast difference in men, as to their ability of endurance under such circumstances, some can endure all manner of hardships, on half or quarter rations, while others require more.

Hunting parties were sent in search of game but the country was so poor little was accomplished until after we reached the San Pedro. Here we encountered wild cattle, and laid in an immense supply of beef, while traveling down this river, some of us engaged in fishing; a "Battle Royal" seemed to be raging in the command. In order to ascertain what was the matter, we simultaneously took to trees, when to our astonishment the whole command were engaged in a general "bull-fight."

It appears that a large herd of wild cattle were enjoying a quiet "siesta" in the tall grass along the San Pedro, where the command came in and surprised them; result, an open battle in which several mules were killed in the teams, five or six men were wounded by being gored and tossed up fifteen or twenty feet in the air, some of them seriously, and an innumerable number of wild cattle left dead on the ground. After the smoke was cleared away, the wounded cared for, camp was made and a fresh lot of meat added to our rations. This was the famous bull fight of the San Pedro and proved to be the only battle the Battalion engaged in during their term of enlistment.

We traveled a few miles farther down the river when our scouts returned and reported one of their number arrested and held in custody by the Senora commanding officer at Tucson, also instructions to Colonel Cook to keep around to the north or he would serve his whole command the same.

Here was an unexpected dilemma, we could only muster about three hundred men and the idea of attacking the whole army of the province of Senora, Mexico, would seem absurd, yet Colonel Cook made camp, issued a large supply of ammunition, put the men on drill in the afternoon, then decided to go by Tucson and "see if they would put his whole command under arrest." Consequently, the next day found en-march for Tucson distant about 60 miles, teams worn and gadded could not make much more than twenty miles a day. At our first camp we were met by an officer of the Mexican Army in Tucson and a posse, with a request not to come through Tucson but keep around and we would not be molested. Learning that one of the generals son's was in the posse, Colonel Cook placed him under a strong guard, then told the officer of the posse to go back to his general, tell him he was on the road to California, that he should pass through Tucson, that if our scout was not returned to him before midnight he would execute his son, then go after his scout. Hence a little before midnight of the day specified, the scout was returned, and the son released.

On the next day the Battalion marched into Tucson and found it evacuated by several hundred cavalry, infantry and artillery. The people were friendly and contributed much by way of beans, corn and fruit for which they took all they could get. We stayed here one day and replenished our mules, seized some government wheat, beans, etc., had a false alarm at night which aroused the camp, but hurt no one. It was learned afterwards that our picket guard fired on a herd of cattle in the night killing one, supposing them to be cavalry causing alarm.

From Tucson we crossed a 90 mile desert. Consequently, we started in the afternoon. When fairly on our way the Mexican troops returned to Tucson, then followed us I suppose intending to give us battle by night; but Colonel Cook marched late, built fires as if to camp, then moved on 3 or 4 miles, built another fire, then moved on and camped without any fire. From deserters we learned that the Mexicans, being reinforced from neighboring posts, decided to catch us on the desert, that they came and surrounded the second "campfire" but not finding us went back, thus we probably escaped being annihilated. Another evidence of divine providence in our behalf.

We arrived on the Gila River, safe from the desert and had a feast of watermelons, at the Pima Indian village, on Christmas Day 1846. Lieutenant Rosecrance said he enjoyed the luxury of a piece of roasted "rattlesnake" with an old Indian chief, same day and place. From here we traveled down the south bank of the Gila River to the Colorado River without any particular mishap, save it be toiling through excessive sands, and an effort to boat some of our baggage down the Gila in some of the zinc government wagon boxes that resulted in a failure. In the stranding of the wagon boxes on some of the sandbars and the loss of boxes and cargo (provisions) thus shortening our rations again.

On reaching the Colorado River, a day was spent in fixing up some more zinc wagon boxes, with a view to having to ferry the river. The boats were made ready and loaded, and run aground, then it was discovered that by wading, the boats could be got across, then the teams were hitched up and the river forded before night, thus saving several days in ferrying. From here we entered upon another 90 mile desert, water was however obtained in two places by digging, sufficient for the camp, on reaching the main chain, or California mountains. We followed up a wash until it became too narrow for our wagons, not being able to get out, there was no other alternative except to hew our way through which was done, and we arrived at Warner's ranch the first settlement in California on the 8th of January 1847, got a fresh supply of beef and fared luxuriously on beef alone. From this place to Santiago our road was interspersed with many difficulties but were overcome.

At San Louis Rey we had the first view of the Pacific Ocean, the country was green with wild oats and mustard, the hills were covered with fat cattle which proved our salvation, as there was no flour in the land until Commodore Stockton brought it from the Sandwich Islands some three months after, hence our beef rations grew to 71 pounds per day before we got any bread, coffee and accompaniments.

When we reached Santiago on the coast, General Kearny was gone to Monteray leaving orders for the Battalion to retrace their steps to San Louis Rey mission and take up quarters, after one days rest, spent mostly on the beach, we took up the line of march for San Louis Rey where we were quartered for several months, with not anything to do, only eat beef, and drill two hours forenoon and two hours in the afternoon.

Here, though not required to do any military duty, I found it a pleasure, to borrow a gun of some sick man and join in the "drill" from which I obtained a fair knowledge of infantry tactics, that became very useful to me in after years.

Here, we also demonstrated the fact that a man can make way with 71 pounds of beef a day when reduced to beef alone, as we were for several months, before supplies came from the Sandwich Islands.

We had roast beef, boiled beef, fired beef and every other kind then known at once. There was some trouble came to the surface, between General Kearny [John C.] and Fremont's arrest and the Battalion being moved from San Louis Rey to Los Angeles and the taking possession of many pieces of ordinance in the hands of Fremont's men at San Gabriel mission 12 miles from Los Angeles. Tremont was charged among other things with stirring up a conspiracy with the Spaniards against the Mormon Battalion holding forth some of his Missouri mobocratic spleen against the Mormons. But as usual he signally failed, and was taken back to the states under a guard of members of the Mormon Battalion, Kearny's death soon after they reached the states caused proceedings against Fremont to cease, and he struggled hard to become great during the rebellion but failed, and died a pauper. Thus it will be, to every man, who tries to injure the cause or prejudice the minds of strangers against the Latter-day Saints.

In June, I think, there was a report of an uprising of the Spaniards throughout California, whether true or not, the Battalion was concentrated on the bend above Los Angeles, and breast works built around the camp, Company "B" was sent to Garrison Santiago and everything prepared for a flight but it did not come.

The only thing of note I remember that came of this, was "John Allen" a "deserter reputed," who joined the Battalion at Fort Leavenworth, was sent out on picket duty during the most exciting time. Well he left his post, came into town, traded off his gun and accoutrements for wine, got drunk and was found next day in an Indian Rancherie by an officer of the guard. He was court marshalled and sentenced to have his head "shaved" and be "drummed out" of the service. Being requested I joined the drum chore and assisted in drumming him out of camp and out of town.

For the information of those that never saw a man "drummed out," I will say he was a tall, well-proportioned man with heavy beard, one half of which, and one half of the hair of his head was shaved off clean, leaving the remainder to show up. He was then brought on the parade ground by the guard (a file of soldiers) the band was formed and sentence of the court martial read to him.

Then it became the duty of the fifers and drummers to play the "Rogues March" until he was well out of camp, and out of town, then he was turned loose with instruction to leave the country and never be seen, or he would be subject to arrest and be shot on sight.

About the first of July, 1847, we began to prepare to return to Council Bluffs, or wherever the main body of the Church was, horses, mules, saddles, etc. were being bought.

A good well broke riding horse would cost form $3 to $6, mules less and Broncho's for $1. Saddles were scarce and cost more. On the 16th of July 1847 the famous Mormon Battalion was mustered out of service of the United States and honorably discharged. A few young men re-enlisted for six months to help guard the country until more troops could arrive by water. But the main body of the Battalion organized under James Pace and Andrew Lytle as captains and prepared to return.