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Johnston’s Army is Coming!

After the Mormon Pioneers settled down in Utah, the U.S. government didn’t like the idea of this rumored religious group governing themselves. So President Buchanan decided to send General Johnston and his army into Utah territory to see that things were done right. This activity is a role-play that involves every student, and lets them learn about the struggle for statehood by acting it out!

I’m not going to put an actual script for the play here, because every teacher is different and would probably have his/her own way of writing it. But here is an outline you can use to create the play:

Scene One: Salt Lake City- Mormon pioneers talking working together (perhaps working on the Salt Lake Temple) and talking amongst themselves about being persecuted and coming out West. They also talk about Governor Brigham Young and things he is trying to implement in the territory, including things that have worked, and things that haven’t.

Scene Two: Washington D.C.- President Buchanan talking to General Johnston on the rumored “Mormon rebellion”, and their unfair treatment of non-Mormons. He orders him to take command of an army waiting for him in Kansas, and lead them to Utah territory to create order. He also appoints Mr. Alfred Cummings as the new governor of Utah territory and tells him he has quite the task ahead of him of gaining favor with the Mormons.

Scene Three: Salt Lake City- Governor Brigham Young receives word about Johnston’s Army heading towards Utah. He fears they have come to persecute and destroy the Mormons as in times past. He addresses locals and tells them what needs to be done before the army arrives: form an army (5,000 men), burn Fort Bridger and Fort Supply, drive off their animals and destroy their animals’ food. Captain Lot Smith is appointed and leads his men out to do this.

Scene Four: After waiting for warmer weather, Johnston’s Army arrives and is shocked to find everything deserted. Once they find the residents of Salt Lake, Johnston introduces the Mormons to their new governor, Governor Cummings, and says he and his army will be stationed at Camp Floyd. He also tells people to expect some additional changes, such as constructing new buildings to meet the army’s needs. He also tells them to “cheer up” because the arrival of his army means a boost to Utah’s economy (“You just got 3,500 new customers to buy your things, and we have plenty of things you can buy from us for cheap!”). Governor Cummings expresses his wishes and desire for peace and prosperity while he is in office.

Scene Five: Settlers talking amongst themselves. Some agreeing that this change might not be so bad after all, and some still hate the army’s arrival. Others expressing complications that might arise by having the army stationed so close, and by having a governor who is not of their religion. Some might point out that this change might be a step in the right direction for Utah to become a state.

One option teachers have with this play, is choosing to write a script themselves, or allow the students to write it once you give them this outline. Either way, it’s sure to be a fun activity in which no one is left out.

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