Canadian Response

Land of Red and White 1975The Saskatchewan Rebellion raised up some 8,000 men in a Canadian Militia army. Much credit for its speedy or­ganization went to the Minister of Militia, Adolph Caron, and to William Van Home. On March 23, Major-General F. Middleton, General Officer of Commanding Militia, was ordered to the West, and the Winnipeg Militia were put on alert. By March 24, one company was at Qu'Appelle, and two days later Middleton arrived. More militia was requisi­tioned. Two permanent artillery batteries from Quebec and Kingston arrived in Winnipeg on April 5, and other militia followed at intervals. The C.P.R. track did not cover all the distance, and supplies had to be unloaded and reloaded sixteen times. Railroad grades without tracks made excel­lent roads for sleighs.

Middleton was to move from Qu'Appelle against Batoche. Colonel Otter from Swift Current was to relieve Battleford. Major-General Strange from Calgary was to pro­ceed north to Edmonton, then east to Frog Lake and Fort Pitt to meet Colonel Otter. At Clark's Crossing, north of Saskatoon, Middleton split his force into two columns, to follow up either side of the Saskatchewan River forty miles to Batoche. On April 24, on the east bank at Fish Creek, Dumont's sharpshooters in a ravine picked off troops above them. Dumont, an excellent "tactics" man, had his adver­saries in somewhat the same situation as buffalo forced into a "pound." The close-order tactics of the troops was partly their downfall. Dumont later withdrew, and Middleton spent two weeks awaiting reinforcements and organizing his supplies.

Colonel Otter, with a combined police and militia force, marched into Battleford on April 24. A surprise move against Poundmaker's Crees at Cut Knife Hill, thirty miles west of North Battleford, failed, and the Indians advanced toward Batoche. Father Lacombe and C.E. Denny circu­lated among the Blackfeet, hoping to discourage Crowfoot from joining Poundmaker, his son.

Strange's men were welcomed at Calgary by people who hadn't believed the government would really send troops. The 65th Carbiniers were from Montreal, and Colonel Osborne Smith headed the Winnipeg Light Infantry. Major- General Strange moved north. Father Lacombe and Rev­erend McDougall went ahead reasuring the peaceable Indians. Rivers were high and the troops reached Edmonton May 1, having travelled two hundred and ten miles in ten days. Most of the troops had gone east to Fort Pitt by May 14.

Middleton moved toward Batoche on May 9. In the ad­vance troops were the Midland (Ontario) Regiment under Colonel Williams and the Toronto Grenadiers under Colonel Grassett. Three days later Batoche fell.

Dumont and Michel Dumas, two of the Council, fled to Montana. Middleton offered Riel protection, and on May 15 he surrendered to Mounted Police scouts. Nearly two weeks later Middleton took Poundmaker's surrender at Battleford. Big Bear surrendered on July 2. The rebellion had cost the government $5,000,000. Settlers had lost herds of cattle and horses in the months previous, and it was too late to seed the fields.