Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thomas Leiper Kane & the Utah-Mormon War of 1857-58

On July 24th, 1847, a number of wagons, filled with beleagured, worn & weary 'Mormon' pioneers, entered what is now, the Salt Lake Valley, which would later become Utah Territory, under the leadership of an American religious leader & colonizer, Brigham Young.
Image from the Society Portrait Collection at HSP

Some nine years previously in October of 1838, during the so-called, 'Trail of Tears,' some 11, 500 Cherokee Indians had been forced from their ancestral lands in the Southeast, only to be resettled in what is now Oklahoma. The famous late historian, Dr. Thomas D. Clark in his seminal volume, Frontier America (1959), would state: "No more pathetic mass movement of people had occurred on this continent."

In actuality, some 15,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the 'Mormons,' had also been forced at gunpoint, to leave the State of Missouri, as a result of the 'Extermination Order,' issued by Governor Lillburn Boggs, on October 30, 1838. However, this would not occur until 200 armed men attacked the small 'Mormon' settlement of Haun's Mill, where they killed & massacred 18 persons, one being a nine-year old boy.

Then again, beginning in 1846, approximately 20,000 'Mormons,' were driven from their burning homes at Nauvoo, Illinois (a city rivaling Chicago in population) & the surrounding area, the start of what would become in reality, the largest forced migration in American history.

Philadelphia born resident, Thomas Leiper Kane, son of U.S. District Judge John K. Kane and brother to famed Arctic explorer (Elisha Kent Kane, see previous blog for details), would play a major role in 'Mormon' & Federal affairs.
'Thomas Leiper Kane' taken from the Gratz Collection, Case 5, Box 5, at HSP

Having attended previously a gathering of 'Mormons' in Philadelphia in May of 1846 {Joseph Smith, the founder and martyr of Mormonism had established a congregation in the city as early as 1839} Kane became a solid advocate for Latter-Day Saint rights and a staunch defender of their faith within governmental circles.

Kane would go on to serve as as an attorney, counselor and clerk for the District Court of the U.S., in Philadelphia in 1857, but not until he had first given a sympathetic account in behalf of the Latter-Day Saints sect, entitled, The Mormons: A Discourse delivered before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: March 26, 1850,' published in Philadelphia that same year.

In March of 1850, there was a heated dialogue occuring within the 'halls of Congress' and elsewhere in the country, over the establishment of Utah Territory. Thomas L. Kane continually defended Brigham Young & the 'Mormon' sect, both in print & as an orator during this time of debate.

During the winter of 1857-58, when much of the American public was convinced the 'Mormons' and Brigham Young were in 'armed rebellion' against Pres. James Buchanan & the government of the United States, Kane traveled some 3,000 miles from the East to Salt Lake City, Utah, in an attempt to halt any actual bloodshed that might possibly occur between the 'Mormons' & Federal forces, which at the time were under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston (from my native Mason County, Kentucky), who would later serve in the Civil War, and die during the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

Kane would be successful as a mediator during what would later become known as, 'Buchanan's Blunder,' since there were in reality, NO casualties in the so-called, 'Utah-Mormon War,' other than two Kentuckians, who shot & stabbed one another with bowie-knives, in Kentucky, over which individual would lead their county's company of volunteers to 'put down the Mormon rebellion that never was.' (see my article reference below)

Thomas Leiper Kane and his family, though not 'Mormon,' would continue to visit & carry out friendly relations with Brigham Young & the Mormons long after 'Buchanan's Blunder.' Kane County, Utah is named after this Philadelphia native, and the 'Thomas L. Kane Memorial Chapel,' located in the Borough of Kane, McKean County, Pennsylvania, is maintained as a visitor's center, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints today.

Thomas Leiper Kane after the 'Mormon' conflict, would go on to serve in the American Civil War, as Colonel of the 'Bucktails,' or 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, during which he would be wounded, captured, but later rose to the rank of Brigadier-General in the 'Army of the Potomac,' and would also fight at Gettysburg on 'Culp's Hill,' achieving the rank of 'Brevet Major-General.'

Kane was a staunch supporter of Brigham Young and a loyal friend of the Latter-Day Saints until his death in 1883. He is buried at the former Presbyterian chapel in McKean County, Pennsylvania, where the 'Mormon' church erected a statue in his honor, in 1972.

See also, Daniel N. Rolph, "Kentucky Reactions & Casualties in the Utah War of 1857-58," The Journal of Kentucky Studies, Vol.4 (September, 1987): 89-96.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Hungarians: Lovers of Freedom & Liberty

During this season of reflection on 'American Independence,' it is wise to remember various ethnic groups which make-up the 'American landscape,' individuals & peoples who fought, bled and died for liberty, freedom and self-government centuries ago, or in modern history, both abroad and in the New World.

One such people are the Hungarians, or as they call themselves, the Magyars, who by the thousands came to Pennsylvania and worked in the factories and mines located throughout the state, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Many people are aware of the stubborn but fatal resistance of the Hungarian 'freedom fighters,' against their Communist overlords, from October 23rd through November 20th, 1956, known as the 'Hungarian Freedom Revolt' which received international attention, a nation who sought for Western aid which never came, leaving them to throw stones at the tanks of their enemies, once their ammunition was depleted.

On this day
, beginning on July 6th through the 9th, in the year 1552, Capt. Gyorgy Szondi, with only 146 men, held out against an opposing force of some 12,000 Ottoman Turks, at Castle Dregely, on a volcanic escarpment in Hungary. Some 30 fortresses would fall in Hungary during that one year alone, as the Turkish-Muslim forces attempted to carry out a jihad or 'holy war' against the Christians of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, which would continue until the Turks were halted at the 'Siege of Vienna' in September of 1683.

Szondi and his forces would 'die to the last man' on July 9th, but unlike other previous engagements between Muslim & Christian forces in Eastern Europe, the ill-fated Magyar captain received an honorable burial by his opponents, for his stalwart & heroic defense, which is still commemorated annually today, in Hungary at the very location of the conflict.

Some of my fondest memories, are sitting at a kitchen table, in northeast Philadelphia, with the late Irene & George Lukacs, immigrants from Hungary, who'd fled Communist oppression in their native land, having hid in the American Embassy in 1965, until they could secretly cross the Hungarian border and ultimately arrive as exiles in the United States with their children.

The love of their land and its rich heritage was evident, as the Lukacs family spoke often of their country's historical & folk heroes, from Janos Hunyadi or Corvinus, the 15th-century 'Hammer of the Turks,' who helped save Central & Eastern Europe from Ottoman domination, to such colorful individuals as Toldi Miklos or Michael Toldi of poetic & Medieval fame, to Arpad, their ancestral leader who led the Magyar tribes into Europe from Central Asia. Statues to these and many other Hungarian figures were long ago erected, and are visited today by thousands of tourists who visit the city of Budapest.

Hungarians are no strangers to America or to Pennsylvania. Stephen Parmenius, a Hungarian poet, linguist, historian and explorer, traveled with the famed English adventurer, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on his voyage to Newfoundland, in 1583, with Parmenius serving as a chronicler for the expedition, and who would later lose his life during his exploratory ventures.

Lajos or Louis Kossuth (1802-1894), Governor of Hungary, freedom fighter & patriot, would tour the United States in 1851 & 1852, traveling to Pittsburgh as well as speaking in Philadelphia at Independence Hall. The city of Kossuth, Clarion County, Pennsylvania, is named for this Hungarian statesman.

The collections at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, are no strangers to Hungarian or Magyar materials as well. Manuscript collections like that of the Gondos Family Papers (1895-1978); Philadelphia & Vicinity Hungarian Sports Club Records (1977-78); as well as newspapers, such as the Magyar Hirado (1917-1919, 1924-25), published in Pittsburgh, to that of the Magyar Herald or Magyar Hirnok (1915, 1922-1951), of New Brunswick, NJ, printed in both Hungarian & English are to name only a few that are available at the Society.

Issues of the Hungarian Quarterly, Hungarian Studies Newsletter, and the Magyar Hirek (1962-1976), the latter publication being in the Magyar language all are part of HSP's 'Balch Collection' of ethnic materials, while the Hungarian encyclopedia or dictionary, Magyar Neprajzi Lexikon, in five volumes, is a valuable source for researchers of Hungarian culture as well.

Once again, as we reflect upon our own heritage of freedom and liberty, inherited by us vicariously from the 'Founding Fathers' or through the struggles of our own ancestors, let us not forget the many minority ethnic groups, such as the Magyars or Hungarians, who have also contributed their own blood, sweat & tears, both on American soil and their ancestral homeland.

Hungarian or Magyar history, serves as an acute reminder, that 'freedom's formula' has always required 'sacrifice' and 'suffering,' by those who are brave and self-less enough to fight for it, be it for themselves or in behalf of their posterity.