With the Flag Flying

Fort Moore memorial in Los Angeles honoring the Flag Raising by the Mormon Battalion

Brigham Young’s vanguard company of pioneers did not have a U.S. flag with them when they entered the Salt Lake Valley, but the Pioneers had already declared their allegiance to the United States when about 450 pioneers enlisted in a U.S. Army unit that became known as the Mormon Battalion.  In one of the longest military marches on record, the Battalion marched nearly 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs in Iowa to San Diego on the Pacific Coast.  They then proceeded to El Pueblo de Los Ángeles.  There they established Fort Moore and, and for the first time, raised the Stars and Stripes over the settlement which became modern Los Angeles.  A Battalion Detachment did not march all the way to California, but after leaving the main body traveled through what is now Colorado wintering in Pueblo.  This Pueblo Detachment entered the Salt Lake Valley five days after the main body of pioneers.

Not having a U.S. flag with them as they entered the valley, the Mormon Pioneers could not raise the U.S. flag on the 24th of July; however,  they did fly the U.S. flag in the Salt Lake Valley a few days later.  The first documented display of the Stars and Stripes in the Salt Lake Valley by the Mormon Pioneers took place on July 29th when the Pueblo Detachment of the Mormon Battalion marched into the valley.  George A. Smith wrote that the Battalion arrived “all armed and carrying the flag of the United States.”  In days following, the flag brought by the Pueblo Detachment was displayed at various places, including atop Ensign Peak.  A Pueblo Detachment member, John P. Wriston, reported, “I helped to rais[e] the United States flag on Encine [Ensign] Peak.”

While flags said to have been the actual first banner flown have been mentioned over the years in the historical record, the first Stars and Stripes raised appears to have been lost.  However, a newspaper picture appeared in 1928, when Brigham Young’s family held a reunion at the base of Ensign Peak.  Young’s descendants raised a worn 13-star flag that they reported to be the flag raised in 1847.  Thirteen-star flags were not uncommonly flown during the Mexican War, a flag of the pictured design could have been carried into the Salt Lake Valley by the Pueblo Detachment of the Mormon Battalion.

Illustration of purported first U.S. flag flown in Salt Lake Valley

Newspaper photo of flag raised in 1928








We can’t fully document the history of the first U.S. flag—first flown in the Salt Lake Valley by the Mormon Pioneers—as well as we would like.  However, a clear story emerges from numerous accounts.

“We were not told to hate the flag,” one of the pioneers reported. “We were not taught to hate the government of the United States, for which our forefathers fought and died.”

These pioneers were not compelled to raise the flag in their new home, but they believed it was important to raise the Stars and Stripes, when they arrived in their new gathering place.


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