History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XXXI - Miscellaneous Rebellion Anecdotes


Death of D'Arcy Baker—John Paul, and the Gunpowder—"Grand Rounds"—The Forgotten Countersign—The Refugees from Poor Man's Reserve—An Audacious Fisherman—Foraging— Heroism at Batouche—Pen Picture of Poundmaker's Column —Supplies for the Taking—Le Gare and His Scouts—Denison's Buglers—An Unlucky Sentinel.

In connection with the rebellion of 1885, innumerable interesting and illuminating anecdotes might be related, illustrative of both the humorous as well as of the pathetic and tragic aspects of the insurrection. Of the many that have been brought to the writer's attention, a few have been selected for the present chapter.

One of the most inspiring is the story of the death of Private D'Arcy Baker, who was fatally injured at the battle of Fish Creek. After the engagement, poor Baker was lying in one of the hospital tents when he heard the shots of a night alarm. Staggering to his feet the heroic fellow called aloud for his horse and rifle, and then fell dead as he endeavored to make his way from the tent. This pathetic incident called forth a poem bv Mr. Murdoch, of Birtle, in which occur the following verses:

" 'My rifle and my horse,' the soldier said, As forth with vigorous step he quickly came: On his young brow the morning sunlight played. And life was centered in his active frame.

"By winding streams far o'er the plain we go, Where dark ravines and woody bluffs appear. Wherever a swarthy, treacherous Indian foe May hide, to burst upon our flashing rear. . . .

"The sulphurous smoke is drifting to the sky. And horse and rider on the plain are spread; The ambushed foe, in sullen terror fly, The bold and brave are now amongst the dead.

"With shattered heart, the stricken soldier lies, The fatal wound has almost ceased to bleed, The dying warrior vainly seeks to rise. And begs once more, his rifle and his steed.

"Forever more the youthful limbs are still, The young, the gallant, and impulsive brave Now rest beside the far-off western hill, And wild flowers blossom by his lonely grave."

A notable example of cool courage occurred at Duck Lake shortly before its evacuation by Air. Hilliard Mitchell and his subordinates. Among these was the daring scout. John Paul, since then well known in Saskatchewan. The district was already in thc hands of the enemy, and as there was in Air. Mitchell's stoics a considerable supply of ammunition, the keenest anxiety was felt lest it should fall into the hands of the Halfbreeds. Some of these dangerous supplies Paul removed to safe quarters by a courageous stratagem, a few days before the Battle of Duck Lake. He placed the ammunition in a sleigh or "jumper" and covered it with a few arm loads of hay upon which he himself sat without any attempt at concealment as he drove away. The disaffected Halfbreeds and Indians did not guess his purpose, and allowed him to escape in safety.

It is not surprising that among the local volunteers and home guards it was difficult to maintain anything approaching to strict military discipline. Indeed, the pranks of the men were often like the escapades of irresponsible school boys.

After the battle of Duck Lake, Air. Neilsou, now Sheriff of Prince Albert, was made sergeant, and in company with two of his superior officers, it was his duty to ride on tours of inspection around Prince' Albert during the night, visiting the sentries on "Grand Rounds." On one occasion he and his companions went to a spot where they should have found two Halfbreed sentinels, but no one was to be seen. They stood quietly in the darkness for a few moments, listening for any sign, and presently heard heavy trampling in the snow some distance away. Sergeant Neilson challenged, "Who goes there?" and received the astonishing answer, "Grand Rounds." Fortunately, however, the party who really constituted "Grand Rounds" held their fire, and presently descried through the darkness their two delinquent Halfbreeds. They had wearied of the monotony of their duties and were making the rounds by themselves, one mounted on the other's back.

On a certain occasion, Joseph Mackay, the well-known scout and policeman, was returning to Prince Albert on a scouting expedition, when he was suddenly brought to a halt as he was crossing a culvert, by the challenge of a sentinel concealed in a ditch. Immediately after he stopped his horse, the command was repeated, the sentinel shoving his gun into the horse's face. "Can't you see that I have halted?" said Mackay. "Well, halt!" shrieked the sentinel a third time, "and give me the countersign." "Say, Bill, do you know what the countersign is yourself?" said Mackay, who by this time had recognized the man on duty. "No," said that worthy, "I don't."

"Well, then, what the devil's the use of giving it you?" said the scout, who was then allowed to pass.

Jos. Mackay's father-in-law, whose name was also Jos. Mackay, was the farm inspector of Poor Alan's reserve. He and his wife and daughter were wakened up one morning at two o'clock by a wild band of Indians, who looted the house, and ordered the instructor to come out with them and unlock the stables so that they might more easily get possession of the Government horses. A Cree woman who was present whispered to Airs. Mackay that they intended to murder her husband. Airs. Mackay then turned on the chief, speaking to the following effect: "When I came to this reserve your children were sick and I tended them myself. I clothed them with the clothes supplied by the Government for my own children. When your baby died I myself bathed and dressed it and prepared it for its funeral. My husband has lived among you all his life. He has traded with you from the forest country down to the American border, and has never done any of you any harm. Even if he had, none of you was ever man enough to stand up before him in the daylight, and now yon come to murder him by a shot in the back at night. I would never have believed you had so little manliness in you."

As Mrs. Mackay ceased speaking, her husband took the keys of the stable from his pocket and gave them to the chief, telling him to get the horses himself. The chief sent his band to the stables for this purpose, and as soon as they had left the house he cried to Mackay and the women to follow him. He ran in the opposite direction down the river bank, where he produced an old canoe from among the bushes. The river was frozen to about one-third on each side, but was open down the centre, into which he placed the canoe, imploring the white people to enter quickly and cross to the opposite side. The canoe was leaking badly, but if they made baste they would get across. He also gave Mackay his hunting knife, and ordered him to slit the canoe from end to end when he had reached the opposite bank. Having crossed the river, Mackay and the women proceeded twelve miles through the darkness and made for Bresaylor, the headquarters of Bremner, the well-known Halfbreed fur trader. Father Cuchon, of Bresaylor. warned them that they were still in imminent danger, as the Indians and Halfbreeds throughout the district were disaffected. While they stayed there the heroic French priest did guard over their tent at night. A few days afterwards Mackay found a discarded skiff near the bank. He plugged up the cracks with "hard fat," and in this boat he and his wife and daughter escaped down the river. Ultimately they landed on an island, where for nine days the party lived on tallow. At the end of this time they saw Indians signaling from the banks, at each side, and knew they were discovered. Once again, therefore, they took the desperate chance of re-entering their miserable skiff, in which, however, they ultimately reached Prince Albert in safety.

The young woman of this party afterwards became the wife of the scout and policeman, to whom we have previously referred.

Mr. R. G. MacBeth relates an amusing episode that occurred in the vicinity of Fort Victoria. The volunteers were in the midst of the enemy's country and were accordingly forbidden to leave the camp. One of the soldiers apparently failed to understand these instructions and went a-fishing. The Colonel himself witnessed the delinquent's return and commanded his arrest. The fisherman, however, insisted on bringing with him his string of fish, and when conducted before the Colonel he solemnly declared that he bad intended the best of the catch for that officer's own dinner. The culprit's audacity, coupled with his previous excellent reputation and record of valuable services, won him his liberty at the expense merely of a formal reprimand, which his commanding officer had difficulty in administering with due solemnity.

The following extract from the diary of another volunteer indicates that the officers themselves could not only appreciate a joke, but were not unnecessarily scrupulous with regard to the sources from which they obtained their own little extras :

"As soon as the men are dismissed, they begin to forage, not openly, of course, for it is forbidden. One lucky individual was seen depositing quietly in his tent a very fine looking turkey. The story of its capture he related with much glee. A sergeant of a sister corps, who had managed to make himself peculiarly obnoxious to our fellows by his overbearing manner, was observed by him to deposit the. turkey in some brush outside the lines, probably fearing to be seen if he attempted to bring it in by daylight. Our man calmly marched across and boldly walked off with the bird. The wrathful sergeant bad to look on in grim silence for the betrayal of himself would have been the necessary result of any outcry.

"Another case of the biter bitten was that of our worthy orderly. The good lad heard the joyful clucking of a lien at some distance from the camp, and on proceeding to investigate, found that the noise came from a little shed at the rear of the school. There he found, and immediately caught, a fine, fat fowl, and then he began to look about for the confidently expected eggs. lie crawled through a small opening into a little hay bin, carrying the unfortunate hen with him. Here he was overjoyed to discover some eight or ten beautiful eggs. These he immediately put carefully, one by one, through the opening, placing them upon a shelf near by. Just as he was about to crawl out again, our gallant Major entered the shed, accompanied by a parson, the owner of the place. The Major saw the eggs at once, backed towards them, kept the attention of the parson carefully engaged, and pocketed the spoils. The original finder's rage may be imagined, but not described. Great was his difficulty in preventing the discovery of his own whereabouts by the noise occasioned by the struggles of the half-strangled hen, and trembling with anger and fear he had to witness in silence the disappearance of his treasure."

Many inspiring stories might be told of the gallantry displayed on numerous occasions by non-combatants. The following extract is taken from the official report of Surgeon-General D. Bergin, M. P.:

"At Batoche I am told that during the fight a flag was thrust from a window of thc church and was observed by a surgeon and a student who were under shelter from the fire, a couple of hundred yards distant. The student, immediately he perceived it, proposed that a party should at once go to the relief of the one demanding succor. No one appeared willing to second his proposal. To go to the church through the open under such a terrible fire as was being poured from the Halfbreed pits seemed to be like proceeding to certain death; but persisting, the surgeon said, 'If yon are determined to go, and we can find two volunteers to assist us in carrying a stretcher, I am with you.' Two men from the grenadiers of Toronto at once stepped forward; and the four started upon their perilous journey-crawling upon their bellies, taking advantage of any little inequality of ground to cover them, and to shield them from the bullets of the Halfbreeds. They reached the church, the bullets tearing up the earth all around them, without a scratch, and breathing a short prayer for their deliverance thus far from death and danger, they looked around for him for whom they had risked, and were still risking their lives, to succor and to save. They found him in the person of a venerable priest who had been wounded in the thigh, and they at once proceeded to remove him. after administering temporary aid. To remain in the church was to court certain death. To return to their corps seemed to be no less perilous; but they chose the latter. When they sortied from the church, so astonished were the Halfbreeds at their daring that they ceased their firing for a moment. This time returning they had no cover and were obliged to march erect. Bullets flew thick and fast; but the condition of the wounded man precluded any-think like hurry, and they hastened slowly. God watched over them and protected them, and they reached their comrades in safety, their wounded charge also escaping without further harm. Such conduct deserves recognition."

In May one of Otter's supply trains was captured by Poundmaker's braves. The story of this affair is contained in the following somewhat biased-but picturesque report from Thc Montreal Star. It is-of special interest on account of its spirited description of an Indian caravan on the march:

"About nine o'clock on Thursday, the 14th instant, the forage trains were passing through a piece of open ground surrounded by wooded bluffs, about eight miles from Battleford, when the teamster in front observed mounted men closing in upon them from all sides. At first they were inclined to think that the newcomers were friends, but a few piercing war-whoops, uttered from a place of cover, convinced them that they had been ambushed. Notwithstanding the utter suddenness of the attack, many of the drivers did not lose their wits, but made a hastily improvised laager. By this time the Indians, who numbered about a hundred, led by paint-bedaubed Halfbreeds, approached, gesticulating and shouting at the same moment, without firing a single shot. The rear was not well guarded, and while the excitement continued in front, six or seven teamsters, who owned horses, cut loose and made their escape, amid a heavy fusilade. Meantime, the Indians approached nearer and nearer the laager, while twenty of their number went in pursuit of the retreating horsemen. The enemy finally sent a Halfbreed towards the wagons. Throwing down his weapon to show his good intentions, the man advanced within fifty yards, and called for one of their number. The head teamster responded, and walked towards him. A brief discussion followed, the Breed promising that their lives would be spared if they would quietly surrender. The teamsters immediately gave up their arms, consisting of sixteen Winchesters, two Sniders, and three shot-guns. After robbing each prisoner of every valuable, the Indians, who were overjoyed at their success, began to examine the contents of the various wagons, and in a few minutes a start was made for the Indian camp, which was pitched in a ravine about four miles west of the Swift Current trail. The prisoner-teamsters were compelled to drive the oxen. Soon the warlike 'Stoncys,' who had not been present at the capture, galloped up and attempted to shoot the prisoners. The Halfbreeds, however, proved themselves to be endowed with some redeeming traits, and frustrated this cruel design. Rifles were levelled by both parties, and the determined stand taken by the Halfbreeds alone saved the teamsters from a cruel death.

"As the train approached the Indian camp, squaws, and toddling papooses poured out from every tepee, and advanced with cheers of joy to greet the returning braves. The females, at the sight of the prisoners, were especially boisterous, and shouted to the braves to put them to death. Through the jeering, howling, yelling mass, the frightened drivers were hustled, every moment expecting to be struck down from behind. Finally they were conducted to a ravine close to the camp, and after receiving a parting shout from the ugly squaws, they were left to their own reflections. A strong guard surrounded them, precluding all possibility of escape. The Indians held a formal council to discuss the propriety of shooting the teamsters, but decided not to do so. Shortly afterwards, Poundmaker put in an appearance in the ravine. After shaking hands with each man in turn, the redoubtable chief assured them, through a Halfbreed interpreter, that their lives would be spared. He added that lie was aware there was a Manitou above, and that he could not permit them to be slain without cause. Poundmaker then left, and shortly afterwards the Indians struck camp. Tepee-poles were thrown down in a twinkling by squaws, who, assisted by young boys and girls, rapidly packed everything away in carts and wagons, already in line for the start. Braves lolled about, whiffing 'kinec-kinick' (tobacco) from long-stemmed pipes, or attended to the trappings of their horses, while youngsters, scarcely able to crawl about, drove in the cattle. Finally a start was made, and preceded bv twenty-live or thirty scouts riding a mile ahead, the disorganized mob moved eastwards on their way to reinforce Riel. Instead of proceeding in column, the Indians moved along in extended order, leaving a trail behind them over two miles wide. First came about three hundred and sixty war-painted braves, mounted on wiry ponies, or on more powerful animals, stolen in the early raids. Next came Red River carts, wagons, and every other variety of vehicle

ever manufactured. Each was loaded with plunder, or tepec-polcs, while perched 011 top were seated old men, armed with bows and arrows. Behind, followed a chaotic mass of wagons and carts, surrounded by lowing cattlc and little boys on foot. Other Indian lads added to the grotesquencss of the scene, and, mounted on young colts, kept up to the moving outfit. Further in the rear, at a distance of half a mile, came other herds of cattle, while bringing up the whole, came another herd of horses. Young girls and squaws were mounted, several of the females riding along on oxen. In this manner the followers of Poundmaker covered three miles an hour with ease."

The surprising way in which valuable supplies were sometimes lost and found is illustrated in the following anecdote communicated to the writer by Mr. Horace C. Adams, of Fenton, Saskatchewan:

"During the rebellion, flour was very scarce and expensive at Prince Albert, and I was sent by my father to Troy to buy some. I started with a cousin, Robert Foulds, with a good yoke of oxen, and a wagon. We readied a place called 'The Salt riains,' and leaving the main trail a short distance, we came upon three hundred sacks of flour, many firkins of butter and lard, canned beef, barrels of hard tack, and sacks upon sacks of oats. We emptied one sack of flour, cleaned out the caked flour from the inside, opened another sack and took from it the good flour and so on, until wc had the quantity we required. We cached this, and then went on to Qu'Appelle, where we occured freight for Prince Albert at five dollars a hundred weight. We made considerable profit from our freight, and took home nearly all our money, besides the flour we needed. These supplies were in a deep ravine where, as we subsequently found, they had been unloaded by Hudson's Bay Company freighters when they heard that the rebels were up in arms. The Hudson's Bay Company put in a claim to the Government afterwards and got paid for it all. I remember that there was no selfishness manifested by anybody in connection with the find. Every one took enough to do him and his dependents, informed his neighbors and let them get their share also. In this way a great many of the hard pressed settlers were greatly benefited and nobody was the loser."

Here is a story of another kind: Lieutenant-Colonel George T. Denison was in charge of the post of Humboldt during the campaign. On the way to Winnipeg his trumpeter was taken ill and he was obliged to secure another. A retired Major of the Imperial army, an experienced veteran of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, was in Winnipeg and so anxious to get to the front in any capacity that he induced Colonel Denison to take him as trumpeter. All infantry regiment was passing Humboldt, and its Bugle Major, a youngster of twelve or thirteen years, called on Colonel Denison's trumpeter, inquired his rank and pay, and the amused veteran informed him that he was a simple trumpeter drawing fifty cents a day. The boy drew himself up with great dignity and announced that he. on the contrary, was a Bugle Major, drawing eighty cents a day. When Colonel Denison heard of the absurd incident he solemnly issued orders promoting the old soldier to the same exalted rank and remuneration, much to the amused satisfaction of all concerned.

While the focus of Halfbreed discontent was in the Batoche district, it is a mistake to suppose it confined to that locality. For example, the Metis of Wood Mountain and Willow Bunch were .in a half-starving condition, owing to the recent collapse of the trade in buffalo skins, and to their inability as yet to adapt themselves to consequent social and industrial changes; and many of these unfortunate people became very restless during the rebellion. Indeed, a considerable number of them trekked northward in the direction of the actual disturbance. Accordingly the people of the little town of Moose Jaw were presently perturbed to see on the outskirts of the settlement a number of encampments of disaffected Halfbreeds.

Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney accordingly came to Moose Jaw and telegraphed for the famous trader and sturdy loyalist, Mr. Louis LeGare, to come in from Willow Bunch to induce the Halfbreeds to return south. LeGare told the Governor that it would be useless to argue with men with empty stomachs, and advised that the Halfbreeds be given employment, or, at all events, pay, on some pretext or other. Objection was raised on the score of expense, to which the trader shrewdly replied, "There are eighty men at the Bunch that can carry arms. That might cost a good deal." Accordingly the proposal was referred to Ottawa and Sir John A. Macdonald authorized the employment of forty men.

A plausible pretext was at hand in the fact that the authorities had received advices warning them that a force of American sympathizers was likely to come to Riel's support. Accordingly steps were taken to organize a corps of scouts under the supervision of the Mounted Police, and Mr. LeGare was entrusted with the task of turning the budding rebels among the Halfbreeds of his district into supporters of the Government.

The first thing necessary was to induce them to return to their homes, eighty to a hundred miles away. This was accomplished by means of an ingenious and courageous stratagem. The Halfbreeds causing the immediate anxiety were scattered, as we have said, in isolated encampments about Moose Jaw. Air. LeGare visited one of the camps, and with a great show of secrecy told the Halfbreeds that he wanted them to take something back to Willow Bunch for him. There would be good pay in it. and it was very important but secret; so that they were not to let anyone else know of their departure. They were to start at twelve o'clock that night. He then visited another encampment and told the same story. They were to break camp at one o'clock. The next camp he similarly induced to move south at two o'clock, and so on, until he had arranged for all the struggling parties to be moving southward before daybreak, one hour apart. He then started off himself for the Bunch to be there to receive them. As one party after another arrived, and realized what had occurred, their excitement and rage grew, until they were apparently on the point of burning the trader's store and murdering LeGare himself. He. however, kept his head, and convinced the Halfbreeds of the folly and hopelessness of any rising, backing his argument by the announcement that he would give them work at two dollars a day as scouts. In the course of the next ten days he enlisted forty men so selected as to represent practically all the Halfbreed families in that part of the country, and scattered them over the district at such a distance apart as to render them harmless. For his services in this connection the shrewd and pluck}' trader received the munificent sum of two and a half dollars a day as special constable. This body of scouts was placed under command of Inspector Macdonnell from Medicine Hat. Mr. LeGare's experience in connection with this episode and that of the surrender and maintenance of Sitting Bull's warriors, the story of which we have related elsewhere, has not been of a character to strengthen his faith in thc gratitude of governments. His services in 1885 received some slight mention in the police reports, but the details have never been printed before, so far as the writer knows.

With an account of one other curious incident this miscellaneous collection of Rebellion Anecdotes must close. The members of a certain column were subjected to considerable annoyance by sentries whose nerves betrayed their eyesight into seeing intruders that were not there. Shots would be fired and the slumber and temper of the soldiers equally disturbed. Accordingly one officer announced that the man who gave the next such needless alarm would get three days' "knapsack drill." That night, however, the usual occurred. The sentinel vigorously protested that he had distinctly seen a spy, but no trace of the latter was discovered, and for the next three days this discomfited volunteer carried his outfit on his back as a nerve sedative. At the end of this time scouts came into camp, who announced having found the body of an Indian spy whom the sentinel had shot. The unlucky soldier had got three clays "knapsack drill" for efficiently performing his responsible and, in this case, sanguinary duties! This is the kind of story that does not get into official reports.


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