THE CANADIAN MILITIA
The North-West is to Canada very much what the colonies of England have for centuries been to her. She has always rushed to their defence and helped them to maintain their laws inviolate. Formerly Canada was a station for British troops, which were always available for her protection and use; but in the year 1870 a new policy had been dictated by Mr. Gladstone's Government, of withdrawing from Canada the troops that had for so many years been maintained there, and throwing upon Canada the responsibility of maintaining her own defences, retaining only a sufficient force at Halifax for the protection of a coaling station for her fleet. The withdrawal was so complete that the stores were sold, the guns handed over to Canada, and even the sentry boxes in the citadel of Quebec removed to England. It was a sad day for Canada when the forces that added so much to her prestige, whose expenditure was so beneficial, and whose leisure added so much to the amusement and social life of the country, were withdrawn. But it was a step in the direction of making the colonies self-supporting and self-reliant, a policy which it was intended to extend to England's entire colonial empire, but which led to such adverse criticism that it was checked.
The military force of Canada, in its present organization, was instituted in the year 1855, and consists of two divisions-the active militia and the sedentary militia. Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is divided into military districts, and in these the active militia is composed of a number of battalions of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, officered after the fashion of the British service, during good behaviour, and recruited by men who undertake to serve for three years. The sedentary militia consists of all those, under the age of sixty, who are not enrolled in the active militia, and are capable of bearing arms, with the ordinary exemptions. At the head of each military district is a permanent staff-officer, a deputy-adjutant-general, assisted by a brigade-major and a district paymaster. The whole is commanded by a major-general, with the assistance of an adjutant-general and permanent staff. The general is selected from among the distinguished officers of the British army, and his term of service lasts for five years. The civil head of the military organization is a minister of militia (at present, Sir Adolphe Caron), assisted by a deputy-minister and the staff of his department. While the British troops were quartered in Canada, it was permitted individual officers and men, who wished to obtain a more thorough military training, to spend a brief period with regiments to learn their duties. This led to the institution of military schools in the various provinces, where short and long courses of instruction can be obtained and certificates granted. With the growth of the country these schools were enlarged, and a small permanent force was organized, composed of two batteries of artillery, denominated 'A' and 'B' batteries, to which officers were permanently appointed and men enlisted for lengthened service.
Finding them to work well, these military schools were enlarged to include schools of cavalry and infantry, until now the permanent force of the country consists of about two thousand men, including the Mounted Police, which is one thousand strong. This force is divided up into permanent corps, of about one hundred and fifty men each, which form the various schools of instruction throughout the country for artillery, cavalry and infantry tactics and drill. A Royal Military College has been established at Kingston, on the model of Sandhurst, where a thorough military training and education is obtained; and four commissions annually are given by the British Government to the successful competitors. Captain Wise, Lieut. Frere, A.D.C.'s, Major Perry, Mounted Police, Lieut. Nanton, Midland, Lieut. Sears, Colonel Otter's Brigade-Major, and Lieut. Laurie, of the 90th, were all educated at this College, and took part in the recent campaign. Lieuts. Wood, Cartwright, Ogilvie, Pelletier, and Nelles, were also from the Military College, besides about twenty others. The active militia are called out annually to do twelve days' drill, which is generally performed in brigade camp or under canvas at battalion headquarters.
It will thus be seen that Canada has at her disposal a drilled force of about two thousand regulars, an active militia force of about forty thousand, and a reserve of all the available muscle in the country, which numbers about seven hundred thousand. The growth of this military force has been very gradual, additions and modifications continually being carried out as time and experience dictated. The man who, probably more than any other, has had to do with these organization, and their modifications, is Colonel Powell, the Adjutant-General, who for nearly twenty-five years has faithfully discharged the duties of that position. The General at present in command of the forces in Canada is General Sir Fred Middleton, formerly of the 29th Regiment, and late commandant of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where for several years he governed that training school for officers in the British army.
General Middleton was appointed to his present position in the year 1884, and came out to perform the routine duties which are generally the work that falls to the lot of this office, consisting of inspecting the forces and endeavouring to improve their drill and efficiency. Little did he think, when he was appointed, that it would fall to his lot to command the first active expedition ever organized solely from the citizen soldiery which he commands, the responsibility of which was to fall upon the shoulders of Canadian statesmen and Canadian officers and men. Without the guiding experience of past expeditions, without any knowledge of how to deal with an armed rebellion, thousands of miles from the central authority, and without the steady military training in the field of any of her officers or men, Canada had to undertake the task of arming, equipping, transporting, and commanding the military expedition which was now deemed necessary, and honourably and well has the task been performed.
Before the Duck Lake fight had taken place, the seizure of prisoners and stores by Riel was sufficient warning to the Government that more than ordinary exertions would be necessary. Therefore, on the 24th of March, 1885, the Government hurriedly despatched General Middleton to Winnipeg, after only a hasty and imperfect consultation, to be prepared for any emergency that might arise.
The General arrived in Winnipeg on the 27th of March. In the meantime, the news of the fight at Duck Lake had been transmitted over the wires, and its sad sacrifice of life brought forcibly before General Middleton and the Government the necessity for a strong force to successfully cope with armed resistance in the territory. Calling at once for troops, on his arrival at Winnipeg, the General found that the only available forces there were the 90th Battalion, which had just been organized under the late Colonel Kennedy; a troop of cavalry under Captain Knight, and a field battery of artillery under Major Jarvis. The 90th had been called out on the 23rd, and promptly answering to a full roll-call at their headquarters, had armed and equipped themselves for service, and were soon ready for the field. The left wing of the 90th was sent forward on the 25th, under Major Boswell, to Troy, a station on the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was to be used as the base of operations for the column under the immediate command of the General himself. In the emergency many retired military officers in Winnipeg came forward and offered their services.
The other troops called out and promptly answering the call, were, the Governor-General's Body Guard, under Col. Denison; the 10th Royal Grenadiers, under Col. Grasett; the Queen's Own Rifles, under Col. Millar, and "C" School of Infantry, under Major Smith, all of Toronto. These regiments were brigaded under Col. Otter, Commandant of the Infantry School. The late Colonel Williams was authorized to raise a provisional battalion, which came to be familiarly known as "The Midlanders," being composed of two companies from the 46th Battalion and one each from the 15th, 40th, 45th, 47th, 49th and 57th Battalions, all situated in the Midland district.
Colonel O'Brien was authorized to raise a battalion called the "Simcoe Rangers," composed of four companies of the 35th Simcoe, and four companies of the 12th York Rangers. The 65th Mount Royal Rifles, of Montreal, under Colonel Ouimet, were also called out for active service. Colonel Scott, of Winnipeg, was commissioned to raise a regiment, known as the 91st Battalion, which was drawn from Winnipeg and the surrounding towns. Lieut.-Col. Osborne Smith, C.M.G., was also commissioned to raise a battalion in Winnipeg, called the "92nd," or "Winnipeg Light Infantry."
In addition to these forces, a detachment of fifty sharpshooters was selected from the Governor-General's Foot Guards, under Captain Todd, of Ottawa. On the 31st March the 7th Fusiliers, of London, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Williams, and the 9th Battalion, Quebec, under Colonel Amyot, were also called out. A provisional battalion was formed from detachments of the 66th, the Halifax Garrison Artillery, and the 63rd, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Bremner. The Quebec School of Cavalry, under Colonel Turnbull, and "A" and "B" Batteries, of Quebec and Kingston, were also called out and ordered to the front. Later on, the Montreal Garrison Artillery, under Colonel Oswald were ordered to proceed to garrison Regina.
Captain Dennis was commissioned to raise an Intelligence Mounted Corps, composed of Surveyors; and local companies were gazetted at Birtle, under the command of Captain Wood, at Regina, under Captain Scott, at Battleford, under Captain Nash, at Emerson, under Captain Whitman, at Yorktown, under Major Watson, at Qu'Appelle, under Captain Jackson, besides a local company at Calgary. The Rocky Mountain Rangers, under Captain Stewart, and the Moose Mountain Scouts, under Captain White, were also put in commission.
The whole of the Eastern corps, numbering about four thousand men, were called from their homes and avocations, to take part in an expedition three thousand miles away, before the winter had yet closed.; and within a few days from the 27th March, the date on which the Government had received news of the Duck Lake fight, most of these troops had actually embarked upon the Canadian Pacific Railway for transport to Winnipeg.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was not quite completed to the north of Lake Superior, there being several gaps where the rails were not laid. These gaps, some seventy miles in length, had to be crossed by the troops. The difficulty of these marches was very great, for the snow was still upon the ground, and the country frozen up; but by the energy of the Canadian Pacific Railway authorities, who admirably performed their part in transporting the troops to the North-West, these difficulties were got over without any mishap. The teams which were engaged upon the construction of the line were used to assist the troops in passing over the gaps, and they were of material assistance in this service, though the exposure to the men was very great. An unfortunate accident happened to Lieut. Morrow, of the Grenadiers, in crossing the gaps: a rifle went off accidentally, and gave him a severe wound, which necessitated his return.
I happened to be visiting Winnipeg at the date of General Middleton's arrival, and having served him with him on former occasions, I waited on him, and offered to raise a force of mounted men that would prove serviceable in the proposed expedition. The men, I urged, resided on their homesteads in the interior, not very far from the scene of action. He asked at what cost this could be done, and I told him at the same rate as the Mounted Police, viz., seventy-five cents per day, with clothing and equipment. The General transmitted my proposal to Ottawa, and in two days I received authority from the Minister of Militia to raise and equip my force.
My home is in the Shell River district, about three hundred miles west of Winnipeg, and nearly seventy miles north of the Canadian Pacific Railway. I received my authority on the 31st March; and before leaving Winnipeg, I ordered from the Hudson's Bay Company my equipment of rifles, blankets, tents and saddlery. I came out by train to Moosomin, and drove north to Birtle, where I left a notice with Mr. Pentland, land agent there, asking for thirty men and horses to be ready for inspection in two days. I then drove north to Russell, and there put up a similar notice. By the 6th of April, I returned to Moosomin, with sixty men and horses, besides officers, orderlies, cooks, etc. - in all eighty-two men, including six teams for transport of provisions, equipment and forage. I had travelled in the six days two hundred and twenty miles by rail and one hundred and forty miles by road. I purchased all my horses in the district, at an average of $165.00 a piece, giving orders on the Hudson's Bay Company posts, at Fort Ellice and Russell, which were duly honoured.
I formed up at Moosomin, gave my men their mounts and equipment, and took the train for Qu'Appelle, one hundred and twenty miles farther west, there to march to join General Middleton's column, which was about one hundred miles on its way to Clarke's Crossing. When I arrived at Qu'Appelle, I divided my men into two troops, and appointed to be captain of the Russell troop Meopham Gardiner, from Brighton, England, who came with me to Manitoba in 1880, and had been my neighbour ever since. Mr. Pigott, son of General Pigott, who with his family had settled in the country three or four years previously, I made lieutenant. Captain Johnstone, of Seaforth, Ontario, now of the village of Birtle, I appointed captain of the Birtle troop; with Mr. Gough, a nephew of Lord Gough, as lieutenant. Mr. Cox, a surveyor, from Buckinghamshire, England, I appointed quartermaster, and Dr. Rolston, late surgeon of the Royal Navy, surgeon. All my officers and men had been living on their homesteads, and now sacrificed the prospects of their season's crop to serve in the campaign.
General Middleton remained but twelve hours in Winnipeg. On the evening of the 27th of March, before leaving, he ordered the right wing of the 90th Battalion, under the command of Major Mackeand, to take the train for Fort Qu'Appelle, and gave instructions to the artillery to follow in the morning. The General accompanied these troops (numbering in all about 350 men) to Qu'Appelle station, and from there marched to Fort Qu'Appelle, eighteen miles further north, on the trail to Clarke's Crossing, where he organized his force.
Fort Qu'Appelle is one of the old established posts of the Hudson's Bay Company, and is prettily situated in a broad valley, with the Qu'Appelle lakes lying on each side of the fort. It is now the site of an enterprising town. `These lakes form part of the Qu'Appelle River, so called from the echo that the valley produces. The officer of the Hudson's Bay Company in command of the post, is Archibald McDonald, a man of thirty years' experience in the country, of great energy, and, having a thorough knowledge of the Indian character, and possessing their confidence. His success in controlling the Indians contributed not a little to quiet the excitement among them in the neighbourhood, while to his energy was due much of the rapid movement which characterized the expedition in the first organization of the transport.
It was at Fort Qu'Appelle that General Middleton commenced the real preparations for the campaign; and one of its first necessities was the want of mounted men. Knowing that it would be some days before my troop could join him, he empowered Captain French, an Irish officer who had been in the Mounted Police, to raise a mounted force in the vicinity of Fort Qu'Appelle. This troop, with the 90th Rifles, under Major Mackeand, and the Winnipeg Field Battery, under Major Jarvis, constituted the General's force at that time. Soon afterwards it was reinforced by Colonel Montizambert, in command of "A" Battery, and a few days later by a detachment, of "C" School of Infantry, under Major Smith. With these forces the General determined to push on with all expedition to the scene of the rebellion; and he now developed the plan of the campaign.
As he explained it to me, General Middleton's original plan of campaign was to march his column from Fort Qu'Appelle to Clarke's Crossing. The second column, under Otter, was to march from Swift Current to meet him at the Crossing; and from that point the two columns were to move down the river on both sides to attack Batoche. There he proposed to join the two columns, and march to relieve Prince Albert, then to relieve Battleford, and after punishing Poundmaker to proceed with a portion of his force to Fort Pitt. At this latter post he had ordered General Strange with his column to await his arrival, when it was his intention to attack Big Bear and release his prisoners. This plan was necessarily altered in consequence of the alarming reports received from Police Inspector Morris, at Battleford, of the danger the women and children were in. Learning of this, he now directed Colonel Otter to proceed straight to Battleford, and hold Poundmaker in check until he came up, while he marched with his own column to attack Riel in Batoche. These three columns were organized with great rapidity from the forces sent from the Eastern Provinces, and those raised in the Province of Manitoba, and the North-West Territory.
The troops from Quebec had a journey by rail of two thousand five hundred miles, and the troops from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had three thousand miles to get over before they arrived at the various points from which they were to march to occupy and protect the isolated and defenceless northern country. Colonel 0tter's column was composed of the Queen's Own Rifles, "B" Battery, under Major Short, a company of the Governor-General's Foot Guards from Ottawa, fifty Mounted Police, under Colonel Herchmer, and part of "C" School.
Before sketching the plan of the campaign, it is necessary to give a description of the country General Middleton was about to enter.