This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Europe was a continent in social and political turmoil in 1848, with revolutions in at least a dozen countries. A revolution in Hungary was led by Lajos Kossuth, an orator who could sway thousands with his impassioned calls for Magyar independence, the liberation of peasants still bound by feudal serfdom, and civil rights for Hungary's Jews.
His revolution was a nearly bloodless event, and Kossuth became governor of Hungary in 1849 when he led a brilliant campaign to drive an invading Austrian army out of Hungary's borders.
Magyar independence was short-lived, however, as Russia came to the aid of its Austrian allies. Defeated by vastly superior numbers, the revolutionaries fled to the Ottoman Empire. The exiled Kossuth became a darling of the western world as a symbol of liberty's struggle against tyranny.
In 1851, an American naval vessel brought Kossuth and his band of Hungarian patriots to the United States, where Kossuth, as brilliantly fluent in English as he was in Hungarian, thrilled the public with his ringing defenses of personal and national liberty.
Among those accompanying Kossuth to the U.S. was Capt. Janos Kalapsza, "a young man, of prepossessing manners and address," who, according to Kossuth, "has, during our late struggle for freedom, done valuable service to the country in 14 battles. He was one of those, my noble hearted friends, who have voluntarily offered themselves to share my fate in misfortune, to watch for my personal security, and to alleviate the sorrows of my exile."
When Kossuth returned to Europe in 1852 to continue his struggle for Hungarian independence, Kalapsza remained in Boston. Then in 1856, according to his biographer, Kalapsza "went out to the Mormons in Utah and was never heard from again."
Kalapsza "went out" to the Mormons in Utah, yes but not as a convert, as was long assumed by those who study the 1848 revolutionaries. Rather, on June 20, 1857, the brown-haired, gray-eyed, 30-year-old, 5-foot, 8-inch veteran of 14 battles enlisted for a five-year term in the United States Army, in a heavy ordnance company. He marched across the plains and spent the winter of 1857-58 in Albert Sidney Johnston's snowbound camp at Fort Bridger, eating mule meat without salt and waiting for the conflict's resolution in the spring.
The army established Camp Floyd in the summer of 1858. There, John Rosza, another Hungarian with the Utah Expedition, met and married Patience Loader, a survivor of the Martin handcart company of 1856. The Roszas were married by a Mormon bishop.
When Rosza's officers refused to recognize the marriage, the couple married again before a justice of the peace. Standing next to Rosza to witness the civil ceremony and ensure that it would be honored by the government was Janos Kalapsza. To celebrate the wedding, Kalapsza presented the young couple with a buffalo robe, a large camp chair and a cow.
Once in Utah, with open hostilities at an end, the army had little need for a heavy ordnance battery. On Jan. 12, 1859, Kalapsza and most of the other ordnance specialists were discharged. Some returned east, while others went on to California.
Kalapsza the educated, well-mannered, professional soldier that he was found work of some kind at the army post and remained at Camp Floyd. He was still there in October 1860, when he made a visit to Salt Lake City.
Kalapsza called at the LDS Church offices and was introduced to Brigham Young. After conversing "for a long time" with the Hungarian officer, Young told Kalapsza that he had "only one favor to ask from him, that when he left Utah he would tell the truth about this people."
And there the trail goes cold again. Although I have filled in a few details of Kalapsza's going "out to the Mormons in Utah," I, too, have to admit that "he was never heard from again." Did he go on to California? Back East? Return to Hungary? Or did he die here in the Utah desert? The fate of the Hungarian-revolutionary-turned-American-soldier remains a mystery.
Ardis E. Parshall (AEParshall@aol.com) thanks Curtis Allen of Centerville, authority on the soldiers of the Utah Expedition, for sharing the record of Kalapsza's enlistment.