John Williams Gunnison (November 11, 1812 - October 26, 1853) was a surveyor and officer in the U.S. Army. Born in New Hampshire, he attended West Point starting in 1837 and graduated second in his class. After serving as an artillery officer in fighting against the Seminoles in Florida, he was reassigned due to health reasons and joined the Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers. He spent most of the 1840s surveying lands around the Great Lakes, and in 1849 served as second-in-command to Howard Stansbury's expedition to map the Great Salt Lake. In addition to his cartographic work, Gunnison spent considerable time interacting with Mormons and wrote a book about the people and their religion on returning to Washington D.C. After additional surveying work around the Great Lakes in present-day Wisconsin, in 1853 Gunnison was assigned to lead an expedition to survey a railroad route through Utah (the Gunnison–Beckwith Expedition). While doing so, he was killed in a massacre committed by Pahvant Ute Indians, who had likely mistaken his surveying team for a group of Mormons, with whom the Pahvant were fighting a low-level war (the Walker War). In the context of existing tensions between the U.S. Government and Mormon settlers, rumors swirled that Brigham Young had orchestrated the massacre to prevent the railroad's construction, a charge which later investigations found to be baseless, but which nevertheless was widely believed at the time. The incident was one of several that increased mistrust between Mormons and the U.S. Government in the lead up to the Utah War of 1857 - 1858.

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