1885 NorthWest Campaign

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"Some Experiences .... of the North West Field Force"

Postby GrantRCanada » 25 Jan 2011 23:59

I recently came across an account prepared in 1924, summarizing the personal campaign diary of James M. Austin (1859-1949) who served in H Company of the Midland Provisional Battalion, comprising 3 officers and 42 men of the 49th Hastings Battalion of Rifles. I located it in Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1 (Winter 1985) of Saskatchewan History put out by the Saskatchewan Archives Board ..... apparently the first publication of this account.

Rifleman Austin fell ill at Maple Creek on May 4 1885, and was returned by train to Swift Current, where he remained hospitalized until the 20th of that month. Accordingly, he was not present with the Midland Battalion at Batoche .... although his Company was not directly engaged in the Battle of Batoche, anyway. He rejoined his Company on June 1, at Clarke's Crossing on the South Saskatchewan, and they marched to Telegraph Creek on the North Saskatchewan, whence they moved to the area of Fort Pitt and Frog Lake Landing. On July 4th the Midlanders embarked on the steamer North West to begin their homeward journey. Although not covering any military engagements, this brief account - about 6,000 words in total - does relate the day-to-day experiences of a Militiaman serving with the North West Field Force in 1885.

I have made a .pdf file of Austin's account, which can be downloaded here -
http://www.mediafire.com/?8ehta4cz02qmoj4

Adding somewhat to the interest which this article may engender is the fact that 26-year-old Rifleman Austin was photographed shortly after his return from the campaign, togged out in his field uniform and kit, including improvised field service cap and cartridge bandolier made from feed sack material -

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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Wayne F. Brown » 06 Feb 2011 20:13

Austin probably missed the militia's trek to Cold Lake to meet up with General Strange and Middleton went fishing. Languishing at Ft. Pitt wouldn't have been much fun, just boring. The Frog Lake camp was very near the traditional Cree campsite about a kilometer north of the burned out community. I have a copy of Rutherford's watercolor which just shows a group of milita bell tents. The nearby Frog Lake National Historic site is pathetic ! A nice monument in a small fenced compound, some graves of the victims are body-less, (Parks Can. ground sensing radar work last year, two bodies lay where they fell in 1885!). Cst. Cowan's there when he should really be at Ft. Pitt, his detachment and where he was killed. None of the features of the Frog Lake settlers' community are identified, the basements lost in the thick underbrush. Truely a sad situation! [Note: Seem my remarks in "Frog Lake Massacre" for an update on this historical site. Ft. Pitt on the otherhand has a newly developed site done by Sask. Parks. Building outlines of both forts are identified by timbers; story boards describe the details and features of the site, but the Cree camp, the location of Treaty #6 signing etc. are not identified, despite Pitt had a long history beginning in 1829, even the scene of a real wild west style "gun-fight" in 1859! I visit both sites quite frequently as an executive member of the Frenchman Butte Museum Soc., also Frenchman Butte Battlesite, and Steele Narrows on Loon Lake could really use "help". All sites just reek with history, and go virtually unknown despite efforts to promote them. Maybe that's good; one can still find relics of 1885 at the sites, even without a metal detector. Ft. Pitt especially - - bone pieces all over, Human? Domestic animal? Wildlife? All are possiblities as they routinely get dug up by badgers, gophers moles etc.
I live central to all the Alberta Field Force related sites - - incredible country, well worth a visit sometime! The more you know the story, the better it is as many sites, like Steele's Pipestone Creek skirmish are still unmarked. I think I'm the only guy who knows the location of the Cold Lake shore camp that's depicted in Cpt. Rutherford's June drawing of Middleton and Strange chatting on lakeshore in front of a tent.
Not meaning this as advertising, but check out my book, Steele's Scouts - - Heritage House Pub. 2001. It covers the military side of the uprising: maps, photos, details for finding sites etc. "Blood Red The Sun" by William Cameron covers the Cree side as he was their prisoner for 2 months.
For your info. Wayne
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Scona » 07 Feb 2011 07:45

Hi Wayne,

You're privileged to live in the area and have so much local knowledge. I intend on visiting the area this summer, hopefully with a metal detector and have some fun with my kids.

The nearby Frog Lake National Historic site is pathetic ! A nice monument in a small fenced compound, some graves of the victims are body-less, (Parks Can. ground sensing radar work last year, two bodies lay where they fell in 1885!).

William Cameron gave quite a detailed account of that day in his book. On p. 81 he states The bodies of the two priests and of Gowanlock and Delaney were placed in the cellar beneath the church and the earth walls thrown in upon them. Quinn and Gouin were buried in the cellar of Pritchard's house. Within a day or two of the massacre all of the buildings had been burned by the Indians, including the two that were the sepulchres of the murdered men.

Do you think it possible that some of the bodies that were buried in the cellars remain there? This may account for the body-less grave markers. Cameron stated that nine were killed, the men buried in the cellars account for six. He wrote Dill and Gilchrist ran. They were followed on horseback by Little Bear, Maymayquaysoo, Kahweechetwaymot, and Iron Body, overhauled and shot down about three hundred yards away. Would these be the two bodies that "lay where they fell?" Are the locations of where these two now marked? Are there any plans to exhume these two? Cameron doesn't mention what became of the body of John Williscraft.

A Parks Canada website states Parks Canada is responsible for a 0.2-acre plot of land that encompasses the
cemetery of the nine men who were killed in1885.
From the photo, I count only seven graves, not including Cowan's.

An earlier photo, perhaps the original grave markers. But there are only three smaller crosses.
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I read an account that members of the Alberta Field Force buried the bodies found there, some of which were mutilated. I'll have to do some more reading. I'm very intrigued by this.
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Wayne F. Brown » 07 Feb 2011 21:37

Some additional comments: Yes, there are two bodies still burried in house basement. Also, check out "Gunner Jingo's Jubilee". Gen. Strange indicates 2 unidentified bodies in basement of church along with Priests dismembered bodies. Also know of "a dismembered woman's body found in a well". Then there's Delaney's Cree mistress and her child, both murdered "Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear" contains comments by author, Sarah Carter. That makes 13, not 9 as history suggests. This is typical of many of our 1885 historic sites - - vague, inaccurate details and errors which are perpetuated by Gov't. Oh, by the way - - Don't say "rebellion" or "massacre", that's naughty -- and politically incorrect. Use "uprising" "unrest" "killings" etc. There's a real concerted effort in whitewashing our heritage, especially by Parks Canada! Wayne B.
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby GrantRCanada » 07 Feb 2011 22:12

Wayne F. Brown wrote:.... Oh, by the way - - Don't say "rebellion" or "massacre", that's naughty -- and politically incorrect. Use "uprising" "unrest" "killings" etc. There's a real concerted effort in whitewashing our heritage, especially by Parks Canada! Wayne B.

Nowadays, "Resistance" seems to be one of the most favoured "PC" terms to substitute for "Rebellion" ..... :? :roll:

On my own website, however, I insist on using the original "PC" word (i.e. meaning, of course, "Period Correct") -
http://members.memlane.com/gromboug/index.html

"Resistance" is how the University of Saskatchewan refers to it on their internet site relating to digitization of materials held by them on the period ..... Nonetheless, it is a valuable resource - http://library2.usask.ca/northwest/contents.html

Unfortunately, little in the way of digitized material is actually accessible online. It seems to be little more than a listing of the materials held by them ... although presumably access to such materials may be possible upon further inquiry. One absolute GEM which has been made available online is Alexander Campbell's illustrated manuscript "An Account of the Advances of the 7th Fusiliers of London to aid in the suppression of the North West Rebellion of 1885" - http://library2.usask.ca/northwest/campbell/campbell.html

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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Scona » 08 Feb 2011 19:19

Also know of "a dismembered woman's body found in a well".
This is likely She Wins, the insane "weetigo" woman that was killed. Cameron wrote a short chapter about the incident; she being killed, beheaded, and her body tossed into a well.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=RB1LDNe ... es&f=false

This is typical of many of our 1885 historic sites - - vague, inaccurate details and errors which are perpetuated by Gov't.
Are there reference maps or site markers giving any sort of layout of the scene available? Is Parks Canada producing any sort of updated publications with the new information they have gathered? Is the basement with the bodies marked? (sorry, lots of questions)

Oh, by the way - - Don't say "rebellion" or "massacre", that's naughty -- and politically incorrect. Use "uprising" "unrest" "killings" etc. There's a real concerted effort in whitewashing our heritage, especially by Parks Canada! Wayne B.
Have you heard about the NDP's proposal to have Louis Riel exonerated? I put this web-page together and forwarded it to Jack Layton and Pat Martin, MP, Winnipeg, who made the proposal.
http://www.orangelodge1654.com/loiusrielexoneration.htm
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Wayne F. Brown » 08 Feb 2011 23:55

The female body in the well could be She Wins, but doubt it. Her death, for claiming to want to feed on human flesh, was several miles away and since she was possessed by a bad spirit I doubt anyone other than the killer would touch her. Her executioner was an athiest Metis.
Secondly, some of the communities basements were identified years ago by a local historian who used a chunk of re-bar and a plastic tape labeler. All are now gone. Parks Canada did limited archological test work at the site in 2010, including ground sensing radar. The Archeologist I /C. indicated the province of Alta. had considered some significant enhancement but that appears to be someone doing a lot of wistful dreaming ~ nothing resulted. Oil patch seismic work ran a cat right through the community, just cutting the corner off Delaney's house foundation and down a portion of the trail leading to the Cree camp to the north on Frog Creek, luckily missing other basements. None of the features outside the monument compound are marked in any way and most difficult to locate without a knowledgeable guide. Responsiblity for the site is: Alta Gov't, Fed. Gov't, First Nations, Municapality, local landowners - - that complex mix ensures nothing ever gets done when they sit at the table.
Oil company activity also encroached onto the milita side of the Frenchman Butte battle-site about 3 years ago. Well sites all over the place now. There is no official protection unless the ground is within a historic site. The Fr. Butte rifle-pits, for example, has only about 1/8 th of the battlefield inside the National Historic Site, outside is not protected. It has been heavily worked over by relic hunters over the years as a result, much of the battlefield lies vulnerable to incursion for what-ever reason. Parks Canada is responsible and exerts only minimal effort is put into the site. Day use area and site pathways are maintained under a contract by our Museum volunteers. The word "neglected" is the best description of all the sites, exception is Ft. Pitt Historic Park.
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Scona » 25 Jul 2012 04:54

opcmh wrote:Steele's Scouts: Looking for information on Steele's Scouts other than revealed in publications. I know Sam Steele's affects are now in Calgary.....Specifically the battle of Pipestone Creek and Tpr Fred Walter(s)......regards jack

This past winter I bid on a pair of medals to Sgt. Ibbotson,Steele's Scouts, along with his GSM with the 1870 Fenian Raids clasp named to him being with the Victoria Rifles of Montreal. I was smartly outbid, but prior to that I did some research on him. The Edmonton Archives has a good file on him, being that he was an early pioneer and frontiersman. He and another former militiaman organized the home guard at Fort Edmonton during the rebellion, and when the Alberta Field Force passed through, Ibbotson and other capable men were recruited into Sam Steele's Scouts. I paid a visit to his grave in the Edmonton Cemetery to see if there was any reference to his military service on his headstone. It turned out that he didn't have a headstone, so I contacted the Last Post Fund to see what could be done about it. The LPF will mark the graves of veterans with no headstone. I made an application and provided the research proving who he was and the headstone was just recently placed.

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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby GrantRCanada » 25 Jul 2012 07:29

Well Done, Scona!
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Waggoner » 25 Jul 2012 12:40

Scona,

Excellent! Well done!

All the besr,

Gary
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Scona » 25 Jul 2012 17:22

Thanks, fellas. It gives me a bit of a warm feeling. I've also applied to have a headstone placed for Sgt. Pritchard of the Winnipeg Light Infantry who is buried in Millet, Alberta. Hopefully it will be placed before winter.

A photo of some of Steele's Scouts that were recruited at Fort Edmonton. Courtesy of the Provincial Archives.

Jeremiah Whitford, Colin J. Whitford, Ab Spence and Betchie Laroque
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https://hermis.alberta.ca/paa/PhotoGall ... ctID=A1370
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby Scona » 25 Jul 2012 17:37

I should mention as well, the Sir Sam Steele Exhibit currently on until September 30 in Edmonton. I better get over there and have a look.

http://steele.library.ualberta.ca/exhibit

http://steele.library.ualberta.ca/index.html

http://steele-cms.library.ualberta.ca/
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby opcmh » 06 Aug 2012 14:54

That is great work on your part, and the headstone to boot ! My man Walter (s) is not in the picture but does give a lead to further pics etc......thanks Scona for the follow up.....jack
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby seaforth72 » 10 Jan 2013 22:06

The 1885 Northwest Rebellion, since renamed by federal political revisionists :( , is a very interesting part of Canadian history. All Canadians should visit those historic sites.

When I went to work at Battleford National HIstoric Park and Batoche National Historic Site as the Interpretive Officer many years ago, it was a wonderful experience.

At Batoche I was taken around by the senior person on site there and shown Metis rifle pits on the far side of the river, Gunner Phillips' grave, the 90th Bn rifle pits overlooking the river, the Zareba etc. The Winnipeg Field Battery red cross flag on display was of special interest to me as I had a relative in that battle with the WFB (Gunner MacGregor) and I have his 1885 medal. I also have his brother's 1870 Riel Rebellion medal. He served in the Ontario Rifles. Both men were from St. Catharines, Ontario and I have no idea how the one got out to Winnipeg! He was likely out there trying to make his fortune when the rebellion started. Their father Neil MacGregor was involved in the 1837 Rebellion and was on the raid to capture the rebel supply ship, the "Caroline" (I have done a lot of research about this incident).

I photocopied the 1885 Nominal Roll from the souvenir edition and sent it to my parents with the name of our MacGregor of the WFB circled. My Mother sent it back having circled a relative of hers named Heakes who was the Paymaster of the Queen's Own Rifles at Battleford! I was able to visit Duck Lake, Frog Lake, Fort Pitt, Steele's Narrows, Cut Knife, etc.
QUESTION: Does anyone have a link to a legible copy of this Nominal Roll or have copies available inexpensively?

Also working at Battleford I was able to handle the Gatling Gun (Model 1876? with exposed barrels and box magazine - this one was bought from a U.S. collector for $5,000 complete with live ammo according to Superintendent Mabel Simpson. I never got to fire it. :( ) and the 9 Pounder (this 9 Pr. RML has NO known history and was provided by Commissioner (?) Wood of the RCMP who was notorious for making up stories. e.g. he donated a saddle to the RCMP Museum and said it was used on the trek West in 1873. Later as they cleaned the saddle they found a WWI maker's name and date. (Info from Malcolm Wake, Director of the RCMP Museum at the time). I was able to go through Government House at Battleford which later burned down. I met Fred Light who had a long history in the area and had his own museum down the street from the Fort. I also had to move the 9 Pr. on one occasion so, I brought my WWII Canadian army truck over as it had a tow hitch. :D

I researched the Captain Peters photos taken during the 1885 rebellion. Every book seemed to use different captions. I wanted to find:
1. How many images survived.
2. Original captions
3. Original sequence if possible.

WARNING regarding the Library and Archivces Canada. They have a set of Captain Peters' photos and as this was pre-digital era, they wanted me to be satisfied with viewing the small prints on their index cards. I expalined why I HAD to see the originals. Luckily I was able to return the following week to do so as they were stored off-site. The clerk wheeled the big album on a cart to my table, wearing white gloves as if it was the Holy Grail. I dutifully put on white gloves and carefully opened the album. After glancing at it I announced that it was a put together copy (or fake or words to that effect). The poor clerk almost had a heart attack! I showed her the photo of the Commanding Officer's Residence at Fort Battleford, a building I have been in many times. I showed her how each album page was actually a photograph of a photo album page and that the CO's Residence photo had the corner broken off. I told her that I had the ORIGINAL one in my office back in Battleford. I asked who had donated the album. Commissioner (?) Wood of the RCMP (see saddle story above). It appears that Wood had BORROWED photos, created a temporary album, photographed it and then returned the photos. A good intention to be sure but not the primary source I was looking for.

My quest continued. While at an Organization of Military Museums (OMMC) conference in Kingston, staff at the RMC library found for me a box of what appeared to be original prints of Captain Peters' photos with his captions. Not only that, there were photos that had never been published! (Note: I have not seen the book publuished about Capt. Peters) One I remember was a very blurry photo. The caption read something like "I was on the hill overlooking the village of Batoche, trying to capture a photo of a shell exploding in the village, when I heard bullets zipping by my head. I quickly depressed the shutter release, grabbed my camera, and ran for cover."

In my collection, which is mainly WWII Canadian special unit stiff, I have an INERT 9 Pr shell that was dug up on the banks of the river near Battleford. It was part of a cache of 7 and 9 Pounder shells. This appeared to be a surplus displosal rather than a hostilities loss as they all had shipping plugs rather than fuzes. I bought the last and best each type, kept the 9 Pr one due to my relative being in the Wpg Field Bty and sold the 7 Pr one to collector Mike McNall in Victoria. With that went the "piece of rebel flag" and photo of an 1885 soldier that I had found inside one of the shells.
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Re: 1885 NorthWest Campaign

Postby GrantRCanada » 11 Jan 2013 00:58

Welcome to the VWF, sir! Where are you located?

Interesting information about the Peters photos, indeed.

If the book you refer to is Michael Barnholden's "Circumstances Alter Photographs", I have a copy and was quite disappointed in it. I had hoped that the size and quality of the photographs published in it would be at least somewhat better than can be downloaded from the Library & Archives Canada website. However, they are all a maximum of 12 x 9 cm and of course suffer from the dot-matrix printing process, so the online images are actually quite a bit better to work with. Barnholden's introduction is only 24 pages of text, and the balance of the text in the book consists of 34 pages which "..... are, in the main, Captain Peters' dispatches from the front, fleshed out with various letters and clippings related to the war ....." There are 72 photographs in the 12 x 9 cm size (one to a page, with brief (two to five or six words) captions and LAC catalogue number, plus a 2-page appendix of four additional photos from the Glenbow Alberta Archives, which are even smaller (9.5 x 6.5 cm) - two on a page, with equally brief captions and Glenbow catalogue numbers. There is another 3-page index of five William Imlah photographs (similar smaller size and equally brief captions.)
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