In an effort to honor those who have served our country –and inform citizens about how Utah contributes to military affairs – Sutherland Institute will highlight each military installation in the state in the weeks leading up to Veterans Day.

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The Utah National Guard

Photo: WikiMedia Commons


The Utah National Guard was organized March 26, 1894, in Salt Lake City after several decades of previous militias formed by the citizens of Utah.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created a militia called the Nauvoo Legion while living in Nauvoo, Illinois. This militia group was formed in 1840 to protect their community from outside sources of violence directed toward church members.

When driven from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City, the Saints felt a need for a small militia in their new community. Members of the church then decided to form another militia keeping the old name of Nauvoo Legion. Several members of the new Nauvoo Legion were veterans who fought in the Mexican war. Until 1894, when the Utah National Guard was officially formed, Utahns acted as the Nauvoo Legion, assisting in both state and federal matters.

Indian invasions were a common threat to Utah settlers. The Nauvoo Legion fought to prevent several groups of Native Americans from taking over settlers’ communities. This militia also served in the Civil War by helping to guard the mail runs and freight trains from Independence Rock to Salt Lake City.

Present day:

Both the Nauvoo Legion and the Utah National Guard have been tremendous assets for the residents of Utah. Today, Utah National Guard units are installed to support communities in local emergencies, such as during various natural disasters. The Utah National Guard also participates in building schools, hospitals and other resources to help build a stronger community.

The National Guard is the only U.S. branch to work directly with both the state and federal government. The purpose of the National Guard is to help and protect citizens. They often work closely with the government and citizens of a specific state; because they are stationed within a certain state they can be active citizens in their communities – for example, running for political positions.

When a national crisis happens, the Utah National Guard may be pulled into federal response, no longer acting under state orders. The Utah National Guard assisted overseas in the Spanish-American war, both world wars and the Korean War.

Today the Utah National Guard has 6,371 Army troops and 1,645 Air Guardsman. It focuses on artillery and engineering with an added emphasis on the Air Force. The Utah National Guard continues to defend and contribute to the safety and thriving economy for the state of Utah and the nation.

Tooele Army Depot

Dugway Proving Ground

Utah Test and Training Range

Hill Air Force Base

Utah Air National Guard

Fort Douglas

Shortly after the Civil War broke out in 1861, Lincoln realized the need for a federal presence in Utah: First, to establish loyalty to the Union, and second, to “keep an eye on the Mormons.” The camp’s leader, Colonel Patrick E. Connor, and Brigham Young were not fond of each other. They waged a constant power struggle over things such as land and religion.

In fact, Connor named the fort after U.S. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas (also known from the Lincoln-Douglas debates), who had voiced non-favorable opinions about polygamy and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Although the relationship between Young and Connor was complicated at best, over the course of American history, Fort Douglas left its footprint on the West and beyond.

According to Carma Wadley of the Deseret News:

“The military history of the state can also be traced there [Fort Douglas] — from conflicts with native cultures, through world wars and into peacetime defense. And the significance has extended beyond local borders. From the soldiers who fought the Battle of Bear River to the Buffalo Soldiers who rode up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, to the troops that made the final assault on Paris during World War II, there has been a Fort Douglas connection.”

Even as a territory, Utah’s military presence was vital for Western success. Fort Douglas was important in Utah’s growth and patriotism. Utah’s first documented photo of a president visiting Utah (Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880) was taken at Fort Douglas. It has housed thousands of patriots over the years and continues to stand as a symbol of westward expansion and freedom.


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