The Echo Canyon BreastworksThe Echo Canyon Breastworks were constructed during the autumn of 1857 under the direction of General Daniel H. Wells, commander of the Mormon Militia. They were set atop high cliffs where they would provide the greatest strategic advantage against possible attack by Johnston's Army during the Utah War (1857-58). This 2500-man force was sent to the Territory by President James Buchanan to silence what was preceived to be a rebellion by the Mormons. The dry masonry walls, constructed of uncut stones, stacked in random courses without mortar, were 1 to 2 feet above ground and 4 to 12 feet in length. These fortifications stretched some 1.2 miles along the narrowest section of Echo Canyon. These Breastworks were part of a larger defnsive network that included plans to dam the creek to force the troops against the canyon wall where the breastworks are located, and large trenches across the canyon to impede the passage of horses and men. More than 1200 men worked together completing the Breastworks on the cliffs in the matter of a few weeks. However, the peaceful resolution of the Utah War in the early summer of 1858 rendered the fortifications unnecessary.
The NarrowsNear here the Mormons built a huge breastwork and a 500-foot-long rifle pit (across the freeway, near the base of the telephone pole line). They also put land mines in this area, made from oak barrels, one-pound cans of powder, and flintlocks.
And they built a big dam here with plans to flood the Narrows and make it difficult or impossible for the army to get through. Pretty tricky.
In all, the Mormons built 14 fortifications in this canyon.
Death RockStop at the end of the guardrail after the Narrows. Here the Mormons dug a trench 10’ deep and 7’ wide to stop the troops’ progress. On the cliff just east of the speed limit sign, you can spot fourfoot- tall rock wall fortifications. The cliff west of the fortifications is called Death Rock. Here a member of the Mormon militia on the ground aimed his rifle at a friend on the cliff, thinking the ball could never go that high. The ball hit his friend in the head, killing him.
Brigham Young sent men into Echo Canyon to build a line of defense and the Nauvoo Legion was sent into Wyoming to ' harass and delay" the army. During their harassment tactics, they set fire to and burned Fort Supply. They drove off several of the horses and mules with the army. Many more of the animals died during the severe winter. However, General Johnston lost only one man, and that was from tetanus.
The fortifications were built along the cliffs of Echo Canyon. Rock fortifications were built among the crevices and dips of the cliffs. Then cedar trees were cut, the ends painted black to look like the bore of a cannon, and placed over the top of the fortifications. At night the men would march around large camp fires to make it seem that there were more men present than there actually were. The extra guns and ammunition were buried to prevent them from being exploded by accident or by enemy fire. The cliffs gave the defenders the advantage of height and better protection.