Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mormon Battalion Historical Site

This place is so cool!! If you’re in Old Town San Diego, whether or not you’re Mormon, you should check this place out:

To be honest, we weren’t really sure what we were in for. They said the tour was starting now and we sat down in the cute little waiting area looking at antique black and white pictures of people we assumed were in the Battalion.

Another couple sat down and two Mormon sister missionaries welcomed us, but their greeting was interrupted by the people in the black and white pictures behind them. In true Harry Potter style, the pictures came alive and started talking with the Sisters and joking around with each other. Before long, they wandered off into the next room, and the Sisters asked if we’d like to follow them. We still had no idea what we were in for, but how could you say no? We had to see what would happen next.

We found ourselves in the 1800’s, somewhere in the Midwest. The characters now danced around on three screens around the room, playing the fiddle and showing us what life was like back then. It was a lot of fun. Soon, the call came from the U.S. Army for 500 men to enlist to aid in the war. (I’m not really clear on history. I think we were fighting Mexico back then.) Regardless, that’s how the Mormon Battalion was formed, and we followed battalion to the next room, where we learned about military life and their uniforms:

Apparently, they wore sandals too.
They taught us all about the uniforms and conditions back then, and the characters continued to interact with us by knocking on a window outside the cabin (the one next to me in the pic above) and asking us questions. The whole design of the place was really fascinating and realistic too.

Next we went on the trail with the Battallion, learning about the miracles that took place and the trials and tribulations they went through. They really draw you in, with a campfire, and interesting storyline, and even seats that shake when we find ourselves “under attack.”

We ended up in the room below, where the characters gave us a sort of epilogue that tied everything together. This is that part I thought was the most interesting. I had heard of the Mormon Battalion, but I always thought it was a waste (they never fought a battle, they just hiked for 2000 miles and then played in San Diego for six months – or so I thought).

The Battalion was actually quite crucial to the settlement of San Diego and Salt Lake City. The six months they spent in San Diego, they built buildings and showed the locals how to use brick. Old Town, where we had just spent the afternoon, was in large part a result of their efforts and leadership. Salt Lake City, where the Mormons were starting to settle, was mostly desert and practically uninhabitable when the Saints arrived, but part of the Battalion (sick members of the group went to Puebla, Mexico to recover) had learned irrigation techniques that enabled the Mormons to grow crops to survive.

The final room had actual artifacts from the Battalion:

Many thanks to our tour guides for all their insight and cheerful dispositions. We had a great experience!

Yeah. So you should go. Click here to learn more.

Oh, and they take your picture:

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