Johnston's Army and Orin's Mother-in-law

Until now, the only stories that I've been able to add to this web site have been of George and Ann's descendants. I'm certain that many stories worth telling can be found in the lives of the ancestors of the women and men that the Jarvises married. This is one such--and more will be welcomed. Why this story? There were many ox and hand cart pioneers, but how many of us can claim a relative--even if somewhat distant--that came as part of Johnston's army?

The story begins in Germany with Carl Heinrich Wilcken, whose great niece married my grandfather, Orin Woodbury Jarvis.

Charles Henry (Carl Heinrich) Wilcken was born in Echorst, a small village in Holstein, Germany, on October 5, 1830. At 15 he was apprenticed to a miller and learned that trade. 1848 found him 18 years old and 6' 3" in height.

At that time the two provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, although nominally independant, had been under the "protection" of the Danish crown for about 400 years. Except in the northern part of Schleswig, contiguous to Denmark, the language spoken was German, and the natural leaning of the people was toward Prussia. In 1848 the Danish king decided to to annex the northern province of Schleswig. Schleswig and Holstein, aided by Prussia, then took up arms.

Carl Heinrich Wilcken The young miller shook the flour dust out of his clothes and hair, and went off to be a soldier. He enlisted in what was called the First Jaeger Corps -- mounted riflemen -- a picked body of men of approved courage and marksmanship, designed for service either mounted or afoot. In fierce fighting for a key position--a brickyard--Corporal Wilcken found himself the ranking non-commissioned officer and successfully led a final, desperate charge which secured the brickyard. For his bravery he was promoted to sergeant and awarded the most prized of all German decorations, the Iron Cross, cast from the metal of captured cannon, and given personally by the Prussian King, Frederick William IV "For Gallantry in Action."

Eventually, other powers stepped in as mediators and the war ended with, for all practical purposes, Schleswig being given to Denmark and Holstein going to Prussia. Carl Heinrich returned home, became the proprietor of a wind-driven grist mill purchased for him by his father, and soon married. Learning that he was soon to be conscripted into the Danish king's Horse Guard, he hurriedly sold his mill and went to England, intending to follow his two brothers to Argentina.

He relates:

"On arriving in England I met a host of old war-companions, who had left home and friends for the same reason as I had. We had a jolly good time as long as money lasted; and when at the end of several weeks I wanted to buy my passage for Buenos Aires I found myself short of funds, having only enough left to secure steerage on a sailing vessel for New York."
The boat carried a lot of livestock--and their fleas. He further says:
"By the time we landed in New York, being seven weeks making the trip, and this in hot weather. I do not think I had a place on my body the size of a silver dollar that was not raw from scratching."
He scratched all the way to New York, arriving with two trunks of good clothes and fifty cents in his pocket. He was completely unsuccessful in finding work in New York and after two weeks his landlord turned him out, keeping his trunks of clothes in lieu of back rent. His story continues:
"Towards evening, almost driven to desperation, I passed a recruiting office, and resolved to enlist rather than to spend the night upon the streets. Seeing a decent-looking fellow, the officers were glad to enlist me and soon found a government interpreter to do the talking. Next morning I was shipped to Governor's Island, and soon transformed from a lone and friendless tramp to a U.S. soldier, enlisted for Utah, to wipe out the "Mormons." My temporary wants, of course, were at once relieved."

My stay at Governor's Island was short. A few days' drill prepared a lot of us to be shipped to Fort Leavenworth to be distributed among these several companies and regiments that were to make up the army sent for Utah. I heard it mentioned frequently that this division was the "flower of American army," and I felt to say, "May the Lord take care of the balance." I never had in all my experience seen anything like it that was called a military organization."

Preparations for starting were soon completed at Fort Leavenworth, and the march across the plains was begun. I was assigned to the light artillery. We had eight pieces of light caliber, very incompletely mounted. We had no small arms, except eight old condemned cavalry carbines--one for each cannon. It would have been next to impossible to hit the side of a barn with them at a hundred yards' distance.

Our sabers were strapped to the caissons, and in case of an Indian attack all of us would have been cut down before we could have got them. Only the commissioned and non-commissioned officers had revolvers. The reason the privates had none was, as I learned, because they could not be trusted with them. They would either sell them for whisky or use them in their brawls with each other, which were of frequent occurrences.

Nothing of importance occurred until we reached Ham's Fork. Here we could see now and again little squads of men on horseback, peeping over the hills. Sometimes they would descend into the bottoms and set the grass on fire and burn the timber. This caused some uneasiness, as we could not turn out our horses to feed for fear they would be run off. The grass where we were camping had all been burned before we reached there, our supply of corn was very near exhausted, and all this began to tell severely upon our animals.

Now and again reports would reach us that the "Mormons" had tried to run off the teams from some of the other columns, that provision trains had been burned, etc. I could plainly see that our officers began to look at things more seriously. Cold weather was approaching, teams were poor, provisions scarce, and the heaviest and most dangerous part of the journey was before us.

I had by this time become so thoroughly disgusted with the life of an American soldier that I determined to throw up my commission, and leave for "greener fields and pastures new," when I found that orders had been given for our column to halt and await the arrival of the rear troops. Here an incident in my life occurred which is worth mentioning, as it is a testimony to me today that some unseen power was watching over me, even when I did not want to believe in anything of the kind.

The tenth infantry were camped a distance of two miles from us, and on the evening previous to my departure from the army my captain sent me there to get his watch, which was being repaired by one of the soldiers. I took his horse--a very good one--and before leaving he handed me his revolver for fear some one should intercept me. I got the watch, which was worth at least one hundred and fifty dollars, and started on my way back to camp, when a thought came into my head that I was pretty well fixed to go on my intended journey to Salt Lake City. The more I thought of this the more feasible it seemed to me; so when I found a place to ford the river, my mind was made up, and I started. No sooner had I reached the water's edge than I heard my real name called! (I had enlisted under an assumed name.) This brought me to a stand in a hurry, and I began to reconnoiter the immediate vicinity; but I could neither find nor see anyone. So after a few minutes thought I came to the conclusion that it was only my imagination, and I started once more. Again I heard the same voice calling me, this time a little louder, which brought me again up standing. What to do and how to account for this I did not know, for I was sure that no living mortal in that part of the world knew my name. I finally made up my mind that I was only a coward, and that I did not have the courage that I had always thought I possessed, and that I would go on anyway. But when I wheeled my horse to proceed my name was again called in a still louder voice. A fear and trembling came over me to such a degree that I hurried from the spot and made my way for camp. I delivered the watch, pistol and horse and retired to bed, where sleep soon ended my reflections of what had transpired.

Next morning Colonel Alexander rode up to our camp with fifty cavalry, and we learned that he had been out all night patrolling around the different camps, watching the enemies. I am confident that if I had started, capture, imprisonment and disgrace would have been my lot. As it was I had spent a pleasant night, and in my dreams I was told to ask the captain for permission to go out hunting the following day, and that I should be led to meet some friends. My spirit, which had for some time previous been oppressed, had again assumed its natural buoyancy, and I felt better than I had done for months. After breakfast I saw the captain and asked him for permission to go hunting. He granted the request and cautioned me to be careful and not get taken prisoner by the "Mormons."

I took my gun, which was my private property, some ammunition and matches, and set out with a heart as light as a feather, knowing that my dreams would be fulfilled. I had procured several days' provisions, examined a map and had determined on the course I ought to take. My steps were directed in such a way that on the following day I reached Fort Bridger, where William Hickman and a Mr. Callister met me, and proved to me friends indeed. I do not know that I was ever better cared for in my life than I was by these men, and I felt at once at home.

I enjoyed myself exceedingly. Everybody was courteous to me and treated me with the greatest kindness. Everything was so different to the army; a different class of people, no swearing, no fighting. Every one I saw and came in contact seemed to enjoy himself, and was in possession of a different kind of spirit. Prayer morning and night were something novel to me, but I felt the influence of prayer and I cheerfully bent my knees with the brethren. Varied were my reflections as I passed the different camps and fortifications. I could plainly see that the "flower of the United States army," I had just left, would never be able to make their way through those mountain passes guarded by men like those I saw, and I felt to congratulate myself upon my good fortune. At times I used to pity the men when I heard them sing. "Now let us be on hand, Brigham Young to stand." I pitied them because I thought they were ignorant, and kept under a religious spell. I had only recently left the land of my birth, because I did not want to serve a despot. Thousands of lives had been sacrificed to break up this one man's power, and here in this supposed land of liberty I found a people that were enthusiastic to sustain, as I thought, that very same power. Little did I think then that I should soon change my mind and become as zealous a defender of that power as they were.

After some days' travel we arrived with our herd of cattle at the mouth of Emigration Canyon; and I shall never forget the feelings that came over me when I beheld this valley spread out before me. I can not describe it neither could I account for it at the time when I beheld this valley spread out before me. I cannot describe it, neither could I account for it at the time. A power forced me to seek some secluded spot and bend my knees in humble reverence before my Maker. I could not utter any words, but I felt to acknowledge for the first time for many years that there was a God that would take care of me and look after my welfare, notwithstanding my efforts to ignore Him. And I can assure you, dear reader, I felt humble; I felt my unworthiness, and in my heart did ask the Lord to forgive me and to lead me in a better path. After this a calm, heavenly feeling came over me and I arose to my feet a new man. It seemed that I had found a haven of rest, and from that moment to the present this feeling has never left me. I have always felt at home in Utah and with the Saints, and when I have been away in distant lands my heart has yearned for the day when I should be permitted to behold it again. I hope and trust that I may always retain this feeling.

. . .

In the fall of 1860 my wife and my two children arrived here from the old country; happy was our meeting after a separation of four years."

Within a few months of his arrival in Utah, Charles Henry (as he was then known) was baptized a member of the church. Thoroughly at home in his adopted land and religion, he was formally called to fill a mission for the church in 1869 but was delayed in fulfilling that assignment. One reason for the delay is obvious: he had deserted from the U.S. Army, and traveling across the country may have been a most unattractive prospect. Traveling to Germany, especially northern Germany near Denmark, may have been equally unattractive. Finally, in 1871, and bearing a document attesting to his "capture", he left to fulfil his mission. He spent time in England and Germany, was released on June 3, 1873, and left the following day for Utah in charge of a company of 246 Saints on board the ship "Nevada". Among the passengers were his brother August, his widowed mother Annie, and three nieces--Wilhelmine, Emily, and Christine Damke--orphaned daughters of his older sister Anna Catharina Christine Damke. Wilcken and his relatives arrived in Salt Lake City on June 26, 1873.

One of those nieces that he brought to Utah--Adolphina Bertha Christine Damke, usually known as Christine--became a plural wife John Willard Young, son of Brigham Young and Mary Ann Angel. (She later divorced John when he abandoned her and went off to New York, but that's another story.) Their daughter, Alice Anna Young married Orin W. Jarvis and is my grandmother.

Mark Jarvis

The preceeding is an adaptation of the material found at