information booklet, requirements and award application from LDS-BSA Relations.
In July of 1846, on the banks of the Missouri River, approximately 550 Mormon refugees answered a call for volunteers to enlist in the US Army to serve in the Mexican-American War. Their mission: to blaze a trail from Council Bluffs, Iowa to the California coast. This "hike" of around 2,000 miles through some of the most miserable territory imaginable served to secure a vast swath of land, from Texas to California, and from roughly the current US/Mexico border to southern Idaho. It also provided a much-needed infusion of cash into Church coffers, which aided in outfitting the rest of the Saints for their journey to what is now Utah (it was then Mexico). Later, Mormon Battalion veterans were among those who discovered gold at Sutter's Mill on the American River, initiating the California Gold Rush.
I (reluctantly) received this award as a kid, since my dad has been deeply involved with the USMB memorial organization, and has spent the better part of 40 years documenting burial sites and compiling journals. Because of his involvement, I spent a lot of time in the City of Rocks in southern Idaho, where a contingent of Battalion volunteers began cutting a wagon road back to Salt Lake City. (Oddly enough, there is another City of Rocks in New Mexico, which the Battalion also passed near on their way to California.) The Salt Lake Cut-off bypassed Ft Hall, Idaho and saved days, even weeks of travel for California- and Oregon-bound travelers, who now stopped in Salt Lake City to replenish supplies before finishing the trek west. The Battalion's trailblazing efforts were instrumental in making Manifest Destiny a reality. The City of Rocks, a fairyland of granite spires and monoliths, is still one of my favorite places in the world. It is now part of the National Park System, and a rock climbing mecca. Hey, sounds like a great place for an overnighter. Now, I wonder if there's a similar recognition program for the Pony Express trail...
BONUS! By earning this award, a Scout will also satisfy several American Heritage merit badge requirements, including 2a, 3c, 4b/e and 5a/b. Ask your counselor for more information.