In the shady Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Church members honored Lt. Col. James Allen, the first commanding officer of the Mormon Battalion, in a graveside service Aug. 3.
Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, a member of the North America Central Area presidency, laid flowers on the grave of Lt. Col. Allen, who died of malaria shortly after the battalion's arrival here Aug. 1, 1846.The Heart of America Mormon Choir from Kansas City presented several musical selections at the graveside service.
The military leader, who held the rank of captain at the time he recruited the battalion and was later promoted, was the first person buried in the Fort Leavenworth Cemetery, which became Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery in 1863.
Elder Kay Christensen, an area authority of the Church living in Kansas City, spoke briefly, explaining that Capt. Allen was sent by the U.S. government to approach President Brigham Young on the plains of Iowa about enlisting 500 soldiers for the war with Mexico.
The errand caused suspicion and resentment among some of the Saints at first, but attitudes soon changed when President Young supported it.
"He became a good friend of the Church," Elder Christensen said of Lt. Col. Allen. "He was solicitous of the Mormon Battalion. He knew why they
the battalion membersT were called, and that, I'm sure, influenced his behavior towards the battalion."
In a historical vignette at the graveside service which portrayed early Church members honoring Lt. Col. Allen, he was remembered as a man "who pushed us to march as far as we could every day but not like some tyrant. He was the kind of man you wanted to follow, even through the muggy Missouri swamps."