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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XXVI - Middleton's Advance via Prince Albert to Battleford, and the Surrender of Poundmaker


Middleton's Advance via Prince Albert to Battleford, and the surrender of Poundmaker, Middleton Marches from Batoche to Prince Albert—Previous Siege and Defence—Failure or Irvine and Middleton to Co-operate —Poundmaker Asks Terms of Peace—Middleton's Reply— Poundmaker's Surrender.

Middleton remained with his forces at Batoche. until May 17th. He and his troops then crossed the South Saskatchewan at Guard du Puis, marching toward Prince Albert, which they reached three days later.

That town had been practically in a state of siege for almost two months. Though no actual attack had been made upon it during the rebellion, its citizens suffered much inconvenience and indeed not a little hardship and danger. Colonel Irvine and his men were precluded from an active share in the actual fighting subsequent to March 26th, but never-the less they served with honor. Prince Albert was the key to the whole situation, and after the disaster at Duck Lake its security became a matter of supreme moment.

A large number of Sioux did move with the intention of making a raid on Prince Albert, and it is Colonel Irvine's belief that these rebel Indians only abandoned their intended raid when close to Prince Albert they came upon Irvine's trail leading to that place. The task of protecting Prince Albert itself was a difficult one. Prince Albert was a straggling settlement five and one-half miles in length with a normal population of about seven hundred, but refugees had increased this to about fifteen hundred, exclusive of the police.

To reinforce his two hundred police, Irvine enrolled about three hundred and nine special constables—practically the whole adult male population—after his arrival from Carlton, but only one hundred and sixteen rifles were available for their use. There were four companies under the command of Captain Young Pice Captain Moore wounded), with Campbell and Wilson; Captain Hoey, with Lieutenants Brester and Aguew; Captain Craig, with Lieutenants Taite and Dunlop; Captain Brewster, with Lieutenants Sutherland and Spencer. The staff duties were performed by Lieutenant-Colonel Sproat as Supply Office and Mr. Hayter Reed as Brigade Major. The services rendered by Mr. Lawrence Clarke have already been noted. The scouts, forty-seven in number, were organized under Air. Thomas MacKay, and all the shotguns in the country were gathered in and issued to those not having rifles.

In his official reports, Irvine speaks in the highest terms of the work done by his scouts, under the direction of Air. Thomas MacKay. Their constant activity obliged the enemy to keep a strong portion of their force on the west side of the river and restrained the operation of Riel's information corps.

"I feel at a loss to know," says Irvine, "how I could adequately give expression to the appreciation of the gallant service rendered to the country by the Prince Albert volunteers. Certainly no body of men ever earned more honorable mention than in their case is deserving."

This body of volunteers were disbanded on Nay 17th.

Food was scarce and rations had to be issued for eleven hundred and sixty-five souls in addition to enrolled men. It was necessary to retain the services of the farmers who had volunteered, and this prevented their sowing their crops. Before the date of siege was finally relieved supplies had fallen so low that it had been necessary to use a considerable quantity of flour which had been soaked with coal oil. Alost of the citizens had been forced to withdraw from their dwellings, and to gather within extemporized fortifications.

The decided check sustained by General Middleton and his troops at Fish Creek produced a very serious impression in and about Prince Albert. Indeed, a number of Indians and Halfbreeds who had previously professed loyalty then went over to the rebels.

According to Middleton's account, Irvine urged him to cross the river and march direct to Prince Albert, so that their forces might be combined before an attack was made on Riel.1 This course Middleton considered would be bad strategy, but he directed Irvine to come out with -some one hundred and fifty Mounted Police, to co-operate on the west side of the river. His orders he did not think it advisable to put on paper, but they were carried by Captain Bedson and Air. Macdowall (later a member of the Canadian House of Commons for Prince Albert). Middleton informed him that he intended taking Batoche on the 1Sth of April, and instructed Irvine to prepare to cut off flying Halfbreeds, as Middleton feared, it is

likely, that they would make away on the approach of his column. In obedience to these instructions and greatly to the indignation of the people of Prince Albert, who felt that the safety of the town was being seriously jeopardized, on the 1Sth Irvine moved out from Prince Albert with two hundred Mounted Police, but learned from his scouts that no attack was being made on Batoche, and, receiving on that same day a letter from Prince Albert which made it appear not unlikely that an attack was contemplated on that place, he and bis force returned.

On April 30th one of his scouts brought a message from Middleton, dated the 26th, telling Irvine to expect him at Batoche about Thursday. On the 7th of May he learned through his own scouts that Middleton had changed his plans, but throughout the whole episode he was in the utmost uncertainty as to Middleton's movements.

Irvine was exceedingly disappointed that the force under his command was not given active employment after the fall of Batoche.

"We were able," says he, "to travel twice as fast as the militia troops General Middleton had with him. In addition to this, we not only knew the country and the bands of Indians, but even the men in the ranks knew and recognised at a glance the chief head men and others against whom operations were being conducted."

After resting a day and a half at Prince Albert, General Middleton set out on the Steamer North West for Battleford with half his force, leaving the others to follow by boat or trail, and on the 23d one of Poundmaker's prisoners, Jefferson, a farm instructor, met the steamer in a small boat, and delivered to Middleton the following letter:

"Eagle Hill, May 19, 1885.

"Sir:

"I am camped with my people at the east end of the Eagle Hills, where I am met with the news of the surrender of Riel. No letter came with the news, so that I cannot tell how far it may be true. I send some of my men to you to learn the truth, and the terms of peace, and hope you will deal kindly with them. I and my people wish you to send us the terms of peace in writing, so that we may be under no misunderstanding, from which so much trouble arises. We have twenty-one prisoners, whom we have tried "to treat well in every respect. With greetings,

"(Signed) Poundmaker. His (X) mark."

To this communication Middleton returned the following reply: "Poundmaker:

"I have utterly defeated the Halfbreeds and Indians at Batoche, and have made prisoners of Riel and most of his Council. I have made no terms with them, neither will I make terms with you.

"I have men enough to destroy you and your people, or at least to drive you away to starve, and will do so unless you bring in the teams you took, and yourself and councillors with your arms to meet me at Battleford on

Monday, the twenty-sixth. 1 am glad you have treated thc prisoners well and have released them. Fred Middeeton,

"Major General."

Meantime, Father Cochin and the other prisoners from Poundmaker's camp had already, on May 20th, readied Battleford, bearing the following communication:

"To the commandant of the Fort at Battleford:

"Sir—I and my men are at the foot of the Eagle Hills, having heard of Riel's surrender. I send you in twenty-one white prisoners, whom I have treated well. I await terms of peace. Please scud in writing so that there may be 110 mistake. (Signed) Poundmaker, His (X) mark."

Middleton arrived at Battleford on Sunday, May 24th, and on the afternoon of the 26th Poundmaker and his people came in to surrender.

The picturesque scene is graphically described in the following quotation from the diary of one of the officers present :

"Just after breakfast the lookout sentry reports that two horsemen are coming in and they turn out to be an Indian and Halfbreed who report that Poundmaker is just behind. Colonel Williams, who just at this time rides up, takes charge of the Indian and gallops off with him to report to the General. Soon we see a band of horsemen approaching rapidly and ere long the renowned Cree chief appears before us. Poundmaker is accompanied by some fifteen sub-chiefs and councillors, and the appearance of the band is very picturesque and striking. The great chief is himself a very remarkable looking man. tall, very handsome and intelligent looking, and dignified to a degree. He wears a handsome war-cap of the head of a cinnamon hear, with a long tuft of feathers floating from it, a leather jacket studded with brass nails and worked with beads, long, beaded leggings coming to his hips, and brightly colored moccasins, while over his shoulders he has a very gaily colored blanket. The others arc dressed in much the same manner and all are elaborately painted. Poundmaker shakes hands with the officers at Fort Otter without getting off his horse or uncovering, but all the others dismount and take off their .headgear before they approach. After a short talk they go on to the General for a pow-wow with the Commander-in-chief."

The unfortunate Indians squatted in a semi-circle in front of Middleton's chair, and Poundmaker advanced into the open space, and through Interpreter Houric delivered to the General a long and poetical oration. He declared that he knew little of what had been going on, that he had done his best to keep his young braves quiet, that he had carefully preserved their prisoners from violence, and that lie considered himself deserving of very honorable terms. General Middleton was very caustic in reply. Upon the whole, in the matter of dignity and moderation of speech, the savage showed to better advantage in this interview than did his victorious enemy.

Middleton now arrested Poundmaker and four of his sub-chiefs, Lean Alan, Yellow A hid Blanket, brother of Poundmaker, Breaking-through-the-ice, and White Bear, and demanded the surrender of those concerned in the murder of Tremont and Payne. Thereupon, Man-without-blood' stepped out of the semi-circle, and sitting at the General's feet, which lie grasped with both hands, confessed to one of the murders. His example was followed by another Indian, Itka by name, who first stripping himself to the waist, advanced and confessed to the other murder. The remaining Indians then returned to their reserves.


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