Camp Floyd State Park
Above: Modern reenactment of U.S. soldiers training at Camp Floyd (source: utahvalley.com)
On 9 November 1858, amid gun fire and patriotic music, the soldiers of Camp Floyd, Utah Territory, raised the United States flag above their newly completed garrison. Named for Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, the post housed the largest concentration of U.S. troops to that time, in what immediately became the third largest city in Utah.
Above: Camp Floyd, the largest U.S. military camp up to that time, Jan.1859 (Photo Samuel C. Mills)
Camp Floyd was a product of the so-called "Utah War." Influenced by rumors of rebellion in Utah (and rumor has it by Secretary Floyd), President James Buchanan ordered 2,500 soldiers led by General William S. Harney to the territory in May 1857. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston took over the command of the Utah Expedition as Harney was retained in Kansas to direct troops in the escalating troubles there.
Extreme cold and harassment by Mormon guerrillas forced Johnston's Army into a winter encampment called Camp Scott near Fort Bridger. Successful peace negotiations resulted in orders in the spring of 1858 for the army to march through Salt Lake City and on to a garrison site in Cedar Valley, forty miles south of the Mormon center. After a short stay at the north end of the valley, Johnston moved his men across a creek from present-day Fairfield where soldiers, aided by Mormon laborers and artisans, built Camp Floyd.
Though originally intended to be an occupying force, the army found itself virtually isolated from most of Utah's citizens. Nevertheless, it organized its own theatrical productions, a circus, a temperance society, and a Masonic lodge (the first in Utah). During the three-year tenure of the post, the men engineered a unique watering system, planted gardens, and regularly honed their military skills through drills and instruction. Some served in brief forays against Indians in western Utah and present-day eastern Nevada. A detachment escorted the seventeen surviving children of the Mountain Meadows Massacre to Fort Leavenworth. Others guarded army paymasters and immigrant trains between Utah and California.
Above Left: Here is a photo of several surveyers at Camp Floyd (photo: Samuel C. Mills)
The most significant contribution of the army came in its assistance in improving western immigrant roads. Under the direction of Captain James H. Simpson of the Army Corps of Engineers, new routes were mapped which shortened travel time between the states and California; already existing trails were also improved. Scientists and artists accompanying the troops studied the scenery, flora and fauna, collecting specimens and sketching their findings to add to the knowledge of this newly opening area.
Right: John B. Floyd, for whom the fort was named, once Secretary of War, later served as a Confederate general.
In 1860, after Secretary Floyd's Southern sympathies caused his dismissal from cabinet, the post was renamed Fort Crittenden. It proved to be a tremendous build up of troops in an area that apparently had no need for one. A full one third of the army’s forces were eventually present in Camp Floyd at an astronomical cost to the Federal government. Interestingly, eventually 59 different officers that served there would go on to serve as generals in the Civil War (30 for the Union and 29 for the Confederacy). After Floyd's dismissal, rumors spread that Camp Floyd was set up by southern-sympathizer Secretary of War Floyd with the actual purpose of deliberately exhausting the federal treasury.
The whole affair became known as "Buchanon's Blunder", and it lost support in the Federal Government, especially seeing as the local Mormons proved to be more helpful than a threat. Thus, when fighting in the South escalated into the Civil War, the frontier troops were called back east to that conflict. By midsummer of 1861 Camp Floyd/Fort Crittenden was almost completely abandoned.
The government sold at auction supplies not deemed transportable, and destroyed munitions and armaments. Many local citizens benefited from the sale as provisions and other items sold at rock-bottom prices. After the army left, scavengers hauled away stones, lumber, and other abandoned items to construct needed farm buildings.
Below Left: Though little remains of the camp today, the nearby restored Stagecoach Inn was built to house travelers around that same time
Not much remains today to remind the visitor of the huge military reservation which covered nearly 100 acres, or the satellite community of camp followers known as Frogtown. Only one storehouse and the army cemetery still exist at the site of the encampment. However, many Utah families trace their roots to soldiers who chose to remain in Utah after leaving the army. Today, Camp Floyd State Park and Museum exhibit artifacts from this important place in history. The Overland Stage and Pony Express also passed through the area and an inn was established in Fairfield nearby for overnight stays. It has since been restored and now serves as the museum at the state park. Visit their website at campfloyd.utah.gov for more information.
Camp Floyd / Stagecoach Inn State Park and Museum
18035 West 1540 North
Fairfield, UT 84013
Open year-round, 9 am to 5 pm Mon-Sat
Holiday Closures: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Children up to 5: Free
Senior (Utah resident 62+): $1 per person
Group (25 or more): $1 per person
Adult or Child: $2
Family (Up to 8 people): $6
Senior Adventure Pass: $35
Annual Pass: $75
Group Day Use
Pavilion: $30 (by reservation)
800-322-3770 (toll-free from outside the Salt Lake City area)
801-322-3770 (from within the Salt Lake City area) One-Room Schoolhouse: $50 (reserve through park only)
Source: adapted from historytogo.utah.gov by josephaw