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Mormon Battalion Memorial

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san diego mormon battalion memorial

Serving with distinction during the Mexican-American War, the volunteer Mormon Battalion was the only religiously based unit in U.S. military history. Commanded by Regular Army officers, the unit made a grueling overland march along the Santa Fe Trail from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego. The hands-on exhibits and other resources of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site chronicle the history of this unique military unit and the role that it played in the country’s westward expansion. Located at 2510 Juan Street in Old Town San Diego, the free museum is open seven days a week. Docents lead a 45-minute tour while attired in period dress.

Ultimate Guide To The Mormon Battalion Memorial

San Diego, California is more than sunshine, sand and sea. Steeped in history, San Diego is filled with historic sites, monuments and areas dedicated to those who were here first, and those who helped to create today’s city. San Diego provides a welcoming arm to those who make today’s city special. Take a hike up the hill at San Diego’s only national monument to learn the history of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his efforts that led to the official name of this special city. Wander up to Presidio Park to learn about the historic encounters on the site of the west coast’s first permanent European settlement at Junipero Serra Museum. Or learn your way through Old Town, the birthplace of California, and explore much of San Diego’s past including information of a religious journey of over 500 members of the Mormon Battalion as they share their experience on their trek from Iowa to California.


The Mormon Battalion Historic Site is set in Old Town, San Diego. Known as the birthplace of California, this state park and preserve allows visitors to step back in time, learn by doing and experience what life was like in a simpler time. Here, at the historic site of the Mormon Battalion, the journey of hundreds is shared. Along with 80 children and women, nearly 500 men enlisted in the Mormon Battalion. In the hot summer of July of 1846, they left their homes in Council Bluffs, Iowa (bordering Nebraska) and headed west. Completing one of the longest infantry marches in the history of the United States, this battalion, the only unit in the country’s history based on religious affiliation, marched approximately 2,000 miles across seven states and the Mexican border.

This new facility set upon the historic site uses technology and primary source documentation to share the stories of those who made the long journey. Incorporating Spanish and early Californian period architecture, the site lobby creates a feel of an outdoor plaza and a statue of a battalion soldier greets visitors upon arrival. The historic site sets out to share character traits of the battalion and its members. Showcasing citizenship and sacrifice, religious belief and service to country, the site creates a museum that takes visitors back in time while sharing stories of old amidst a historic setting.

Learning increases with every step along the way. The site shares some of the reasons that these followers of the Church of Latter-day Saints joined the army, their experiences along the march and their accomplishments along the way. Imparted throughout the exhibits are contributions of these pioneers and battalion members in the settling of the West, their instrumental assistance in the building of the transportation corridor from Salt Lake City to San Diego and their role in helping to fire and lay the bricks for San Diego’s first courthouse.

Important Visitor Information

The Mormon Battalion Historic Site (which is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is located at 2510 Juan Street in San Diego. The site is open daily (seven days a week) from 9am to 9pm with their last tour beginning at 8pm. Admission to the site is free to all visitors. Guided tours are offered every 15-20 minutes all day. For further information and details regarding the tours, call 619.298.3317.

Must See Features

Complete with great films, interesting artifacts, interactive computers, hands-on brick making and opportunities to take free tours and pan for gold – the Mormon Battalion Historic Site welcomes all who enter. The site itself is an interactive wonderland.

The tour guides are dressed in period costumes, which draw their present day visitors back to another time. On your guided tour, your guides interact with digital technology and photographs of Battalion members who talk to them as they wander the museum. Through these interactions and first hand accounts of history, visitors learn what life was like for the 500 men and their families who bravely traveled west on the tiresome journey from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California. There are tents and logs set up for visitors to sit on in order to listen to more of the stories of old. Rooms are arranged and designed to feel as if you are truly in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the Old Courthouse in San Diego.

The museum itself houses treasured artifacts and other historical delights. You can pan for gold and learn the art of brick making. You can find the ins and outs of authentic muskets and cannons as well as read personal accounts in journals from the period. Check out the touch-screen database to see if you happen to have ancestral links to any of the original Battalion members.

Things to do Nearby

The Mormon Battalion Historic Site is set in San Diego’s Old Town. This historic state park, known as the birthplace of California, is home to countless learning opportunities at every corner. Come for the freshly made tortillas and stay all afternoon. Experience the schoolhouse of yesteryear and try your hand at making your own candles. Connect to San Diego’s past through present day experience.

Old Town provides a space to learn about life in the Mexican and early American periods of 1821-1872. There are original historic buildings set alongside restructured ones. Gather in the historic plaza or grab a picnic under one of the many inviting trees. Museums, retail shops, restaurants, markets and plenty of photo ops are available in Old Town. A great way to see the sights of the city is by a journey on the Old Town Trolley. Hop off in Old Town and spend the afternoon in the sunshine while you eat, enjoy and learn about the beginnings of America’s finest city.

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