The Red River Rebellion
The Red River Rebellion--Brutal Murder of Thomas
Scott--Organization of a Military Expedition to Quell Riel's Revolt.
Almost at the same moment that we had Fenian
troubles at home, and threatened invasions of our Quebec and Ontario
frontiers, the standard of revolt had been raised in Manitoba by the
turbulent rebel Louis Riel and his band of half-breeds.
Arrangements had been completed between the Dominion Government and
the Imperial Government with the Hudson's Bay Company, whereby the
rights of the latter to lands in the Northwest Territories were to
be transferred to the Dominion, subject to certain reservations. It
was made an express agreement that the rights of the Indians and
half-breeds in certain territory were to be respected by the
Dominion Government. The arrangement was sanctioned by Parliament,
and the sum of 300,000 pounds sterling was appropriated for the
purchase of the Hudson's Bay Company's titles as specified. In the
preceding year Lieut.-Colonel Dennis (of Fort Erie fame) was sent to
the Red River country by the Dominion Government to institute a
system of public surveys. When he appeared among the half-breeds,
and they learned his intention, they strenuously objected, as they
believed by the inauguration of a new system of survey their titles
to the lands which they held might be jeopardized. Moreover, they
thought that they should have been consulted when the purchase and
transfer of the territory was made. The French half-breeds were
especially fearful that the Dominion Government might dispute their
titles to the lands, and gave Colonel Dennis to understand that
trouble might result if he attempted to carry out his plans of
survey. In the meantime Hon. Wm. Macdougall had been appointed
Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territory, and started west for
the purpose of assuming office. He had been warned by Col. Dennis of
the unfriendly feeling which prevailed among the half-breeds in
respect to himself and the Dominion Government, and on arriving at
Pembina (Minnesota), he was more forcibly notified of the
disaffection which existed when he was forbidden by them to cross
the border into the territory. He was determined to go ahead,
however, and advanced about two miles over the line with his party,
when he received news from Col. Dennis that rebellion was rife, and
that the insurgents, under the leadership of Louis Riel, were
determined to prevent his further progress. Riel had posted armed
guards at various points along the trails leading from Pembina to
Fort Garry for the purpose of resisting the advance of
Lieutenant-Governor Macdougall, and as there was not a sufficient
force available to overcome the rebels, he was obliged to remain
where he was. Then Riel became emboldened, and seized Fort Garry,
where he set up a "Provisional Government," and organized a force to
hold the territory. During the fall and winter of 1869 and 1870 he
held high revels at Fort Garry, and amused himself by arresting and
imprisoning all loyal Canadians he could lay hands on. Several
prominent citizens were confined in the fort by Riel's order and
subjected to insults and indignities, while their worldly
possessions were pillaged and destroyed. Among those who especially
fell under Riel's displeasure was a loyal Canadian named Thomas
Scott. He was a bold and fearless young man, and his sturdy
patriotism to his country and his determined manner of expressing
his views, angered Riel, who ordered him under arrest. He was taken
to Fort Garry and confined in a cell, but made his escape. He was
soon recaptured, and Riel at once convened a court-martial and
sentenced Scott to be shot at 10 o'clock the next morning. The
unfortunate prisoner was not allowed to make any defence. Riel's
word was law, and to gratify his angry passions he ordered the
execution to take place the following morning. Therefore on the 4th
of March, 1870, poor Scott was led outside of the walls of the fort
by a party of six rebels under command of Ambrose Lepine and
brutally murdered. When the news of this inhuman butchery reached
Ontario the people of the Province were filled with feelings of
intense indignation, and the public and press demanded the
Government to take immediate action in organizing a force to stamp
out the rebellion and effect the arrest and punishment of the
perpetrators of the crime.
The Government promptly heeded the appeals of the people, and on the
16th of April, 1870, an Order-in-Council was passed by the Cabinet
authorising the organization of a military contingent for service in
the new Province of Manitoba, the principal object being to quell
the Riel Rebellion, arrest the leaders, and establish law and order
in that territory. In accordance with this resolution two battalions
of riflemen were organized, which were designated as the First
(Ontario) Battalion, and the Second (Quebec) Battalion of Rifles.
Each battalion consisted of seven companies, with an establishment
of three officers and 50 non-commissioned officers and men to each
company. The staff of each battalion consisted of one
Lieutenant-Colonel, one Major, one Adjutant (with rank of Captain),
one Paymaster, one Surgeon, one Quartermaster-sergeant, one Hospital
Sergeant, one Sergeant-Major, one Armorer-Sergeant, and one
Paymaster's Clerk, making the total strength of each battalion 375
of all ranks. These battalions were composed of volunteers from
existing corps of the Active Militia in the seven Military Districts
of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the terms of enlistment
were for one year, or longer if their services were required. The
enrolling of the men to form these organizations commenced on the
1st of May, and the ranks were quickly filled. The various companies
were concentrated at Toronto, where they were clothed and equipped,
and placed under the orders of Colonel Fielden, of Her Majesty's
60th Royal Rifles. All of the field and line officers were duly
appointed, gazetted, and joined their respective corps in due time,
and in a few weeks the expeditionary force was in excellent
condition for active service.
The following is a roster of the officers who were on active
service, in command of the volunteer corps named, on the Red River
||First (Ontario) Rifles.
Lieut.-Col. Samuel P. Jarvis, commanding officer; Major
Captains--Thomas Scott, Thomas Macklem, William M. Herchmer,
William Smith. Alex. R. Macdonald. Daniel H. McMillan and
Lieutenants--Donald A. Macdonald, David M. Walker, William
N. Kennedy, Andrew McBride, William J. McMurty, Samuel B.
Harman and James Benson.
Ensigns--A. J. Z. Peebles, Stewart Mulvey, Josiah J. Bell,
Samuel Hamilton, John Biggar, William H. Nash and Hugh John
Paymaster--Capt. J. F. B. Morrice.
Adjutant--Capt. Win. J. B. Parsons.
Surgeon--Alfred Codd, M.D.
Second (Quebec) Rifles.
Lieut.-Col. Louis Adolphe Casault, commanding officer; Major
Acheson G. Irvine.
Captains--Z. C. A. L. de Bellefeuille, Allan Macdonald,
Jacques Labranche, Samuel Macdonald, Jean Baptiste Amyot,
John Fraser, Wm. J. Barrett.
Lieutenants--J. W. Vaughan, John P. Fletcher, Edward T. H.
F. Patterson. Oscar Prevost. Maurice E. B. Duchesnay, Henri
Bouthillier, Leonidas de Salaberry.
Ensigns--Ed. S. Bernard, John Allan, George Simard, Gabriel
L. Des Georges, Alphonse de M. H. D'Eschambault, William W.
Ross, Alphonse Tetu.
Paymaster--Lieut. Thos. Howard.
Adjutant--Capt. F. D. Gagnier.
The following officers were appointed to positions on the
Brigade Staff in connection with the expedition:--
Assistant Brigade Major--Major James F. McLeod.
Assistant Control Officer--Capt. A. Peebles.
Orderly Officer on Staff of Commanding Officer--Lieut.
Frederick C. Denison.
The total strength of the expeditionary force
amounted to about 1,200, which was composed of about 350 officers
and men of H. M. 60th Royal Rifles, detachments of Royal Artillery
and Engineers, the First and Second Rifles above mentioned, and a
contingent of Canadian voyageurs.
The whole expedition was in command of that gallant soldier Colonel
Garnet S. Wolseley (who afterwards won honor and fame in foreign
campaigns, and became a Field Marshal of the British Army). The
troops left Toronto in May on their long trip to Fort Carry, going
by steamboat to Prince Arthur's Landing (now Port Arthur), from
which point they took the old "Dawson route" to their destination.
It was a most difficult undertaking, but the undaunted courage of
the officers and men and their determination to overcome all
obstacles triumphed, as they forced their way through rivers, lakes,
swamps, muskegs and forest until they reached the prairie land of
Manitoba. They were about three months on the way, arriving at Port
Garry on the 24th of August. During this time it became necessary
for the men to cut trails through brake and bramble, construct
corduroy roads, build boats, ascend dangerous rapids, portage stores
and supplies over almost insurmountable places, meanwhile fighting
mosquitoes and black flies, and encountering countless dangers, all
of which they cheerfully performed with their characteristic bravery
until the whole expedition was successfully landed on Manitoba soil
without serious mishap.
Their approach to Fort Garry was made so quietly and quickly that
Riel and his followers had barely time to get out of the fort and
scatter in all directions before the troops arrived, and therefore
they did not have an opportunity of using force to quell the
rebellion. Unfortunately Riel and his lieutenants succeeded in
making their escape. Fort Garry was at once occupied by the column
and the Union Jack hoisted on the flag-staff, amid ringing cheers
for the Queen, while the artillery fired a royal salute.
The arrival of Col. Wolseley's troops was hailed with delight by the
loyal residents of what is now the flourishing city of Winnipeg, as
they had suffered severe persecutions by the rebels during the
period that Riel and his lieutenant Ambrose Lepine held sway in
their career of rebellion. Lawful authority was quickly established,
and all fragments of the revolt being stamped out by Col. Wolseley,
the loyal citizens took up the work of temporary organization of the
necessary civil institutions for the proper government of the
Province, pending the arrival of Hon. Mr. Archibald, who had been
appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the new domain. In this work Mr.
Donald A. Smith (now Lord Strathcona) proved a tower of strength,
and with the assistance of Dr. John Schultz and other loyal
residents of the Province, matters were soon shaped into a state of
peace, progress and prosperity.
Lieutenant-Governor Archibald arrived at Fort Garry on Sept. 2nd,
and a few days later assumed the duties of his office. When it
became absolutely certain that all of the embers of the rebellion
had been extinguished, Colonel Wolseley returned to the east with
the regular troops, leaving the Canadian volunteers still on duty in
Manitoba. They remained at Fort Garry until the following spring,
when their services being no longer required they were ordered home
for "muster out."
That the Canadian volunteers and voyageurs acquitted themselves
creditably on the occasion of the Red River Rebellion is a matter of
history, and that their services were highly appreciated by Colonel
Wolseley is evidenced by the fact that when he was put in command of
the British troops operating in the Egyptian campaign, and desired a
method of transporting his troops and stores up the River Nile, he
remembered his Red River experience, and promptly asked for a
contingent of Canadian voyageurs to handle his system of transport
by the great water route, and got them. That they did their duty in
the Land of the Pharoahs as thoroughly as they did on previous
occasions at home, will always stand to their credit in the annals
of the British Army.
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Troublous Times in Canada, A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870
Fenian Raids of 1866 - 1870