Captain Dennis's corps, my own corps, and Captain French's, in all numbering about one hundred and thirty mounted men, one gun of "A" Battery, under Captain Drury; and the gatling, under Lieutenant Rivers, accompanied by Captain Howard, marched off under General Middleton to the position we occupied the day before. Before setting out, the General gave orders to Colonel Straubenzie to advance his brigade to the old position, and as much farther as he could, after he heard that we had engaged the enemy. We debouched on the plain at the same point as on the previous day; the Intelligence Corps dismounted and extended in skirmishing order to support the gun about to open upon the enemy, the gatling took up a position a little farther down the plain, the main body of the mounted men keeping out of sight behind a knoll. The General went out on horseback in advance of the skirmishers, to view the position through his glass before placing the gun, thus offering an excellent mark to the enemy as he sat there still and immovable as a target. The enemy were tempted to try a shot at him at four hundred yards, though they were careful of their ammunition. Ping! Ping! the bullets whizzed past him, when he deemed it prudent to retire, and in a temper to make it hot for them.
The gun being placed in position opened fire, and was viciously answered by volleys from the enemy about three hundred and fifty yards distant. Lieu- tenant Kippen, of the Intelligence Corps, who was skirmishing with his men in support of the gun, here received a deathwound, and presently breathed his last. Dr. Rolston, assisted by his dresser, Mr. Kinlock, attended him instantly where he lay, in the line of skirmishers. Captain Drury dropped several shells into the enemy's entrenchments, and the skirmishers kept up an independent fire at the rebels as occasional opportunity offered. The General took the gatling farther down the plain to another position, a couple of hundred yards off, supported by some of my men, and brought it again into action. A few shots had been fired, when a man, riding quickly, appeared waving a white flag. The General called "cease firing," and rode out to meet him. He proved to be a Mr. Astley, one of Riel's captives. Astley, it seems, was confined in a cellar with a number of other prisoners at Batoche, when Riel came to the trap-door, called him up, and sent him with a letter addressed to the General, which he now presented, saying "that if we murdered the women and children by our shell fire, he would massacre the prisoners." The General wrote an answer to say that "he did not wish to harm them, and that if Riel would place the women and children together in one spot, and let him know where they were, he would take care that no shot should be fired in that direction, adding that he trusted to his (Riel's) honour that no men would, be placed with them."
After a quarter of an hour's conversation with Astley as to where the prisoners were, the position of the ground, etc., he was sent back. Before leaving, however, Astley asked the General upon what terms he would accept Riel's surrender; as he (Astley) was anxious for the safety of the prisoners, and expected to bring about Riel's surrender. The General told him that he would be glad to see Riel in camp and would protect his life until handed over to the Government; but that his surrender must be unconditional; and with that Astley returned. As he was leaving, another messenger, named Jackson, came out from the same direction, on the same errand. He was the brother of Riel's secretary, and said he had been a prisoner in the hands of Riel. Having, however, got clear of the place, he refused to go back with an answer to his message, although the General urged him to do so, lest it should affect the safety of the rest of the prisoners.
The General now gave us orders to form up preparatory to returning to camp, keeping us for a while just out of sight of the enemy, occasionally showing a mounted man or two to puzzle the rebels as to our movements, which always drew a volley from them. About half past eleven we returned to camp, and the General was annoyed to find that the advance ordered had not been made. Shortly after the General left the camp in the morning, Colonel Van Straubenzie had ordered out the Grenadier and Midland Battalions, who took up a position in front of their respective lines, in quarter-column, waiting to hear the attack which he expected would be made on the position to the north. Owing, however, to a strong wind blowing from the camp, he only heard a little firing, and not knowing exactly what to do, determined upon waiting the return of the General. Colonel Van Straubenzie took this opportunity to address a few words to each corps, telling them that a resolute attempt was now to be made to capture the position. Immediately on his return to camp the General dismounted from his horse, sent him to be fed, and went down on foot towards the high ground overlooking the river, to examine the position. From there he walked over in the direction of the church, where he was received by a hot fire from the enemy, and took shelter, for the first time in the campaign, in one of our newly-constructed shelter-trenches. Colonel Van Straubenzie, Colonel Williams and I, stood watching him from the outside of the corral, greatly apprehensive that he would be hit. What his object was in going out, I could not imagine, unless it was to see if Riel made any attempt to withdraw his men, or if he had sent any message to the priests in regard to the women and children, or was only using the negotiations he had opened as a ruse to gain time, for Poundmaker and his braves were daily expected. In half an hour he returned to camp to lunch.
In the meantime the Grenadiers and Midlanders had had their dinner, and, according to orders, again turned out. Colonel Van Straubenzie now gave instructions to the commanders of the corps to advance to the old ground and as much farther as they could, telling them what was expected of them, and himself accompanying them. Colonel Grasett advanced his regiment straight to the front, and Colonel Williams advanced his men to the graveyard, and threw his line down the bank of the river till his left touched the water's edge and his right was near the graveyard. At this point the river takes a bend, and in advancing, it became necessary to change the front by throwing forward the left, so Colonel Van Straubenzie ordered Colonel Williams and Colonel Grasett to throw the left flank forward, which was well executed under a brisk fire from the front as well as from the opposite side of the river. This movement was performed at the double, the men responding with a cheer, which was taken up along the whole line, warning us in the. camp that operations had commenced in earnest. A company of the 90th, under Captain Ruttan, was ordered out to support Colonel Williams, and another company, under Captain Wilkes to support the Grenadiers. Colonel Van Straubenzie now sent word asking for the guns, which the General ordered out, at the same time mounting his horse and going to the scene of action, taking up his position at the church, surrounded by his staff. My horses 4 having been fed I told the men to saddle and fall in to wait for orders, and rode out myself to join the General I knew that there was likely to be some warm work, and determined to be on the spot to take instructions.
The excitement now increased, and order after order issued in rapid succession from the General. One gun of the "A" Battery, and both guns of the Winnipeg Field Battery had been ordered out, and I galloped back into camp with the General's commands to hasten the movement. I met them all coming thundering along at full gallop, with the little gatling in their midst, followed by the ammunition waggons, under Lieutenant Desbrowe, who was indefatigable in supplying the troops with ammunition. Other mounted officers galloped to and fro carrying orders, and making a stirring scene. "E" and "F" Companies of the 90th, under Colonel Mackeand, and Major Buchan, followed the artillery, to prolong the line to the right.
All this time the infantry were steadily advancing through the bush, supporting one another by hearty cheers. The guns took an advanced position and opened fire, one shelling the opposite side of the river, and two more shelling the enemy's position in the valley, and clearing the houses, which were filled with men, to make way for the advance of the infantry. I now received orders from the General to bring the mounted men out, and prolong the line to the right of Major Buchan, so I galloped back into camp and gave orders to the Intelligence Corps to turn out, and went over to my own camp, where the men were all ready standing on the parade ground, each man holding his horse. I gave the word to mount and advance, and within a few minutes of receiving the order we had galloped up to the skirmishing line and dismounted. Leaving the horses in charge of three or four men, the former standing perfectly quiet in the midst of the din, we formed up on the right of the 90th with a hearty hurrah! In this movement we were quickly followed by the Intelligence Corps, which had marched up on foot. Cheer after cheer rose from one end of the line to the other, as the men saw that they were being supported by their comrades.
The whole line, stretching upwards of a mile from the river bank, now advanced steadily but rapidly through the bush to the open space which lay between us and the village. Before getting through the bush we came to a gully, at the bottom of which lay a number of the enemy I shouted to the men not to hesitate, but to rush down, as it was dangerous to stand in the exposed position they had gained. At this moment poor Ted Brown, who had only lately been promoted to his captaincy, and was a universal favourite, became a mark for the enemy and was instantly killed, having time only to say, as his head dropped upon his arm, "I am hit, boys!" This exasperated our men, who, with the 90th on the left, rushed furiously down the gully and drove the enemy before them, As they ran from us, five of them dropped under the fire of the now excited men, and pit after pit was cleared in front of our skirmishing line, as we took them on the flank.
From the hillside, as we advanced straight to our front, we could see the line of skirmishers advancing on the left, in the form of a semi-circle. We could also see the rapid rush of the Midlanders on the left and the Grenadiers in the centre, mixed with the 90th, all rapidly advancing and concentrating on the clump of houses which formed the village. My own men, with the remainder of the 90th and the intelligence corps, advanced straight to the front to protect the flank of our comrades who were now capturing the village. We were further reinforced by Captain Coutlee, with a gun from the Winnipeg Field Battery, supported by the gatling. The latter had been ordered round to open fire upon the village from the right flank, to assist the. Grenadiers and Midlanders.
It was now evident that the day was ours, and that the winding up had only to take place, although the enemy still kept up a stubborn fire. From our new position we could see the soldiers, who had now reached the village, sheltering themselves from behind the houses, the enemy having retreated to the bed of the river, protected by a bank of some twenty feet, from which they poured a hot fire upon the victorious soldiers. The men, little heeding the fire they had become so accustomed to after three day's fighting, went from house to house to take possession, the first one visited being that in which the prisoners were confined in a cellar.
A piece of timber jammed between the ceiling and the trap-door of the cellar was used to prevent their escape, and all of these unfortunate men were confined for some time in this dark, foul place, and had been prisoners in Riel's hands ever since the 18th of March. They came out, looking pale and wan, but greatly relieved to be once more at liberty. During the time the charge was made upon the houses, Major Jarvis, with the remaining gun of the Winnipeg Field Battery, opened fire from the left upon a clump of trees up the gully, where the enemy was in position, and after a few well-directed rounds he succeeded in silencing them. After the village was captured the advance was continued by Captain Harston and a company of the Grenadiers, who gained Champagne's house, near by the river bank; and Captain Young, the Brigade Major, with some men took possession of the Council Chamber, where all the rebel documents were found intact.
The two companies of the 90th continued their advance, now under Major Buchan, as Colonel Mackeand had sprained his ankle and was obliged to retire, though not before knowing that the day was practically won. My men and the surveyors also continued their forward movement on the right of the 90th, clearing the front for about a mile beyond the village, where the enemy kept up a most determined fire. In this advance one more of the enemy fell under the good marksmanship of Sergeant Burton. After we had passed the village, Hope Hay, another of my men, was badly wounded in the arm; and Fraser of the 90th was the last man killed in Major Buchan's advance late in the afternoon. About five o'clock we halted to await further orders from the General, and I came down the hill to the village to ascertain what were the results of the day.
The first thing I heard, and from everyone's lips, was that poor French was killed. With some of his men he had advanced with the Grenadiers and Midlanders, and after taking possession of the houses in the village, made a rush for Batoche's, which was about a hundred yards nearer the bank of the river and standing by itself. With characteristic gallantry Captain French entered the house with others, rushed up-stairs and went at once to a window to open fire on the enemy below. The latter, observing the movement from the shelter of the bank, only a short distance off and waiting their opportunity, concentrated their fire on the windows. An old French half-breed, named Ross, was standing at the corner of a house nearly opposite Batoche's house, and fired the fatal shot, then made a run for cover, but paid the penalty for shooting French just before reaching it. Captain French was a gallant, kind-hearted Irishman, and a friend of everyone. Just at the moment of victory, death met him in triumph, his last words being, "Remember, boys, who led you here!" I now heard for the first time of the death of Lieut. Fitch, of the Grenadiers, who, with Captain Brown, Captain French, Lieut. Kippen, and Fraser of the 90th, made up the day's casualties. Happily, owing to the impetuosity of the advance, forcing the rapid retreat of the enemy, the killed were confined to these few, who, in their country's cause, nobly met a soldier's death.
Under the shelter of the bank of the river, concealed by a bluff, we found numbers of women and children huddled together, frightened and anxious. Their household property lay in a confused mass in the middle of the village. The captives were kindly treated by the General, as well as by the officers and men, who sincerely pitied them in their unfortunate position, and who did all they could to relieve their anxiety, as well as to assist them in collecting their effects. I should have mentioned another circumstance that occurred as I was standing beside the General before receiving the order to bring my men, and that was the approach once more of Astley, who had brought the flag of truce in the morning from the enemy's lines. He gallantly galloped through the line of fire, pouring in from front and rear, and receiving several bullet marks in his clothes, in his anxiety to bring about the safe release of the prisoners. He was the bearer of another despatch from Riel, thanking the General for his prompt and courteous reply, and informing him that he would put the women and children in some place of safety and send word, Astley all the time hurrying him up, as the firing was getting warmer and the time short. Riel sealed the letter up as he heard the ominous cheers of our men; and the fire increasing, he hurriedly wrote on the envelope, hoping to stay proceedings thereby, "I don't like war, if you do not cease firing, the question will remain the same as regards the prisoners." This despatch Astley handed to the General, but further negotiations were now out of the question. Astley returned to Riel once more, in order to give him the opportunity of surrendering, not knowing what the fate of the day might yet be. Riel by this time was anxious to surrender, and if he could have got safely into the General's hands he would have done so, but it was too late. In discussing the advisability of his surrendering with Astley, Riel was anxious to have his safety assured; "but," he said, "there are three things that will save me: one is politics; another that I have assumed the office of priest, and that will save me; and the papers which are all here will implicate the council more than me." From this latter circumstance it may be assumed that the papers were left behind purposely. Riel's actions at this time were so selfish that he completely lost the sympathy of his own people.
I would here hold before the eyes of those who sympathize with Riel, his course during this eventful day, to show how little he deserves sympathy, and how he was working, not for the good of his people, not for the cause for which they were fighting, but for his own selfglorification, and, above all, for his own safety. For this he sent Astley out in the morning to open up negotiations, though, ostensibly, his motive was the protection of his women and children. But this was far from being his real motive. Astley returned with the humane assurances of the General, and, at the same time, with the promise of personal protection for himself until handed over to the civil authorities. Astley returned with this message, and Riel, anxious to carry on the negotiations in a politic way, and to obtain some terms, wrote four different letters, as Astley informed me, and tore them up, one after the other, not being satisfied with the part he wished to play. He thus allowed four precious hours to elapse after the General had answered him, and only completed his letter on hearing the vigorous fire of his assailants.
General Middleton would have been glad to have saved the lives of his gallant officers and men, who fell in that charge; he would have been glad to have saved the lives of the nineteen half-breeds and Indians who lay prone in death after the battle was over, and for whose death Riel, in refusing the General's offer, was responsible. But instead of thinking of them, Riel was thinking only of himself. In his anxious desire to couch his letters in such language as might ensure his own safety, he wasted the moments which were given him by the General to put an end to the warfare. In wasting these precious hours, what consideration did Riel show for the lives and property of his people, and what advantage or honour did he gain for them in the wicked extremity to which he drove them? In taking advantage of their excitable nature, and their ignorance and superstition, was he not making profit only for himself, and causing them to ignore the counsel and solicitude of their priests? If he had been allowed to escape unharmed, what security had the country from a like danger from other adventurers at some future period, in settlements as isolated in the more western districts; and what security had his people against having their homes and property destroyed, and their lives lost in fruitless opposition to the power of the country? It is to these questions those who condemn the hanging of Riel should give heed before allowing their sympathy to go out to a man who showed so little consideration for his people's welfare. Not for Riel, but for his unfortunate dupes, who are now undergoing the penalty of the crimes for which he is responsible, should there be sympathy and only for them should Executive leniency have been invoked.
The teamsters now brought down the picks and shovels for the troops to throw up entrenchments for their protection, for they were to hold the position during the night. This, however, proved quite unnecessary, as the enemy were thoroughly beaten and threw up their cause without another shot being fired. The delight of the troops over their day's work was unbounded, and congratulations and compliments passed round and great enthusiasm prevailed. After the men had captured every position and driven the enemy completely off; they took up their quarters in the village for the night, during which time the looting complained of took place.
The troops for four days had lain before Batoche, being killed, wounded and harassed by the residents of this village, where these schemes had been hatched, and which had been used throughout as their headquarters, and it is hardly to be expected that the soldiers, who had thus suffered, were at once to enter upon the burdensome duties of guard and picket, to protect this property, especially as most of it had been stolen at the commencement of the outbreak, and appropriated by Riel to keep up the sinews of war. I can say this as an eye-witness, that notwithstanding the provocation,notwithstanding the murderous fire they had been subjected to, after the battle was over there was not a particle of ill-feeling for these misguided people. There was rather a feeling of sympathy for their misfortunes, in having left their comfortable prosperous homes, to take up arms and bring upon themselves these troubles, at the instigation of a few ambitious leaders. The General did all he could for their relief; he gave them provisions, and assured them of his protection. By nightfall, such was the collapse of the rebellion, that friend and foe alike were perfectly safe in the neighbourhood.
The half-breeds had any number of ponies, and the soldiers were soon seen galloping about on their backs, and every man who wished had a shagganappi for his own use and amusement for the time being. They, however, proved too great an encumbrance to them to care for on the line of march, and so were left behind. Before dusk General Middleton took a survey of the position, visiting and inspecting the entrenchments, and as he rode round with his A.D.C., Lieutenant Frere; he was received with enthusiastic cheers from the men, in their admiration of his coolness and gallantry, and in acknowledgment of the successful manner in which he had led them to victory.
His plans were undoubtedly well laid; his attack on the position to the north, and the complete silence in the direction of the camp, put the enemy off their guard and drew their strength in that direction. When we seized the rifle-pits, one after another, in our front, we found that the timber defences, with which they were surmounted, had been changed from the south side to the north side of the pits. This showed that the sudden movement of the troops in the afternoon had caught the enemy unawares, made the victory so much the more complete, and unquestionably prevented a greater loss of life. My men picked up forty or fifty pair's of blankets in these pits, besides camping utensils and food, showing that the pits had been occupied for some time, and that men had slept in them.
At dusk the General ordered me to take my men back to the corral to remain on guard. During the day it had been under the command of Colonel Houghton, with Major Boswell and one company of the 90th, and half of "A" Battery. To guard the corral, while Batoche was being taken, was an unpleasant but necessary task that fell upon this portion of the expeditionary force.
The effect of the fall of Batoche was decisive for the country. The indians had been greatly excited by the false news concerning the battle of Fish Creek, which Riel had reported to them as a victory. At Fort Qu'Appelle, the numerous tribes assumed a threatening aspect, and it took the combined exertions of Colonel McDonald, an experienced Indian agent, and Mr. McDonald, chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, united with Colonel O'Brien's good judgment, to keep them quiet and avoid a conflict between the Indians and the troops who where stationed there, under the command of Colonel O'Brien. But the capture of Batoche nipped all this in the bud; and having now disposed of Riel, the General had only to gather in the insurgent Indian tribes farther west, to bring the campaign to a close.
About nine o'clock that evening the troops which had taken part in the charge were, by the General's orders, formed up in the square inside the corral, and were addressed by him. He paid them a high compliment for their gallantry, and said he was the proudest man in Canada, to be at their head. He was answered by hearty cheers from the men. The troops did their duty well, the officers gallantly led their men, and all ranks have a proud feeling and satisfaction that a grateful country acknowledges the service rendered.
The charge, if it could be called such, was gallantly made; it was in reality an advance by a long line of skirmishers through thick bush, and it was impossible that orders could be received or given to any, but those under immediate command. A great deal had to be left to the individual intelligence of the force. The ardour with which the troops charged was such that had the enemy been five times the number, they could not have withstood them. In fact, it could not be properly called a charge, but a. steady advance of four hundred and fifty men in skirmishing order, vying with each other in rapidity of movement, clearing everything before them as they steadily advanced on the enemy's position, and brought to a close by undaunted pluck and determination. The capitulation of Batoche ended the half-breed rebellion, and enabled the General now to turn his attention to quiet the excited Indians, who were threatening trouble all over the country, while the fate of the battle was still undecided.
About six o'clock in the evening the whistle of a steamboat was heard, and shortly afterwards the Northcote steamed up to the ferry with all on board safe. It appears that, on the morning of the 9th inst., those in charge of the boat had miscalculated their distance, and had dropped down upon the ferry before they were aware, and were at once attacked by the whole strength of Riel from both sides of the river. But the steamer was well barricaded, and "C" Company, under Major Smith, so steadily and rapidly returned the fire from their portholes, that no loss was sustained beyond three men wounded, although she was in a most dangerous position.. The hottest fire had been directed at the pilot-house, which was also well barricaded; but the captain of the vessel remarked that this kind of thing was not in his articles of agreement, and steadily refused to guide the boat, taking shelter from the enemy's bullets on the floor of his pilot-house. The vessel was allowed to drift for a short distance at will, but fortunately keeping clear of the many shoals in the river. She was followed for some miles by a few excited half-breeds, but finally escaped to the Hudson's Bay Crossing, where Mr. Bedson communicated with Colonel Irvine, and obtained from him a small detachment of Mounted Police, under Mr. White-Frazer, and returned just in time to be present on the day of the victory. For a more detailed account of this action with the steamboat, I refer the reader to Major Smith's graphic despatch in the appendix.
At five o'clock in the afternoon the General called upon me for a courier to carry his despatches, which honour was entrusted to Mr. VanKoughnet, who galloped off to convey the good news to the people of Canada, who for four days had been torn with anxiety as to the result of the engagement. VanKoughnet returned during the night with messages of congratulation from the Minister of Militia. A congratulatory telegram was received from Lord Wolseley on the following night, all of which were put in orders.
The day after the battle the General had his wounded; numbering in all thirty-five men, placed on board the steamboat to be taken to Saskatoon, and made preparations for a forward march. I had to perform the painful duty of burying poor Captain Brown. We selected a quiet spot, half way down the bank of the river, in front of our corral, on the top of a slight rise overlooking the valley and surrounded by trees. A prettier spot could hardly be chosen for a soldier's last resting-place, and within view of the scene of the battle where he fell. The Rev. Mr. Gordon performed the burial service, and as we marched out of camp the band of the 90th Battalion played the Dead March. His comrades followed his remains to the spot selected, where a grave was dug and the coffin lowered into it amid the most sincere grief of all.
Captain Brown was originally from Peterborough, Ontario, where his widowed mother still lives to mourn his loss, though with a right to feel proud of her son, who at the head of his men sacrificed himself to uphold the laws of his country. He came to Manitoba six years ago with his brother, who is now deputy registrar at Portage La Prairie. He accompanied me to the Shell River district in 1880, where he was my neighbour and intimate friend till his sad death. Before leaving to go on the expedition he seemed to. have a presentiment of his approaching fate; for he made his will, as if expecting that something would happen. I requested the priest at Batoche to watch his grave, which he promised to care for; and we left our dead comrade to rest in peace. The Dominion Government, with characteristic liberality, consented to defray the expense of conveying the remains of those killed to their homes in Ontario and other places, which many took advantage of, the bodies being prepared and despatched the following day. It was at first the intention of Mrs. Brown to have her son's remains brought home, but when she heard that the body had been reverently and decently buried by his comrades she allowed her soldier boy to rest where he fell.
I would here remark upon the rapidity with which the wounded recovered, and the small percentage who died from their wounds. Out of eighty-nine wounded men, only four died, viz.: Lieutenant Swinford, of the 90th, D'Arcy Baker, of my corps, Private Watson, of "C" Com- pany, and Corporal Code, of the 90th. The fact is a tribute to the healthiness of the country, for the air is so pure that the healing process was most rapid.
A second time I had to appoint a commander to the Russell troop. Captain Gardner had been sent to the hospital at Saskatoon with two wounds, and Captain Brown had been the day before killed. I now appointed Captain Campbell, a son of an old Hudson's Bay officer living at Straithclair. He was installed amid the cheers of the men, reminding us forcibly of the truth of the old motto: "Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!"
On Thursday morning the General ordered us to strike camp, which we were thankful to do, having spent four days crowded together in the centre of a ploughed field, without tents or the ordinary comforts that may be obtained in a well-appointed camp. We quitted the scene with regret only for our fallen comrades; and left it to the imagination of the owner of the field to endeavour to make out the peculiar formation of the entrenchments we vacated. Each corps, according to its fancy, had thrown up earthworks for the protection of the face where it lay; each teamster had, according to his fancy, secured himself as he thought from harm by digging a pit under his waggon, where he lay for the four days, preferring to risk inflammatory rheumatism for life rather than expose himself to the rebel bullets.
The General now set out for Prince Albert, intending to cross the river at Gardapuy's Crossing, about ten miles north of Batoche. In doing so we passed through a portion of the half-breed settlement we had not yet visited. We found the people coming in in great numbers, carry ing white flags, to surrender themselves as peaceable citizens. One and all were treated kindly by the General and by the troops.
On our way we heard that Riel and Dumont had fled to the Birch Hills, not many miles distant from this point. After reaching the Crossing the following day, the General ordered me to take the mounted men, with the gatling, and scour the country in search of the rebel leader. Before leaving Batoche the General sent a letter to Riel, at the solicitation of Astley, telling him that if he would surrender he would give him protection until being handed over to the civil authorities. We marched back on the trail by which we had come the day previous, towards Batoche, and there we met a guide who undertook to lead us to Riel. We now branched off into the country towards the Birch Hills, where we got ample information of Riel having been seen a short time previously. I divided my men into parties and they scoured the country. They came across a place where a camp of women and children had for some time taken shelter. Some of my troopers caught sight of a mounted man, to whom they gave chase, but he was on too fleet a horse for them. We afterwards heard that this was Gabriel Dumont, who had been in company with Riel
. In the afternoon a message came from the General to say that Riel was captured. Hourie, Deal, and Armstrong, three scouts who knew the country and the people, accompanied me about a half a mile in advance of the column, and on the main trail Riel had surrendered to them with the General's letter in his hand. Dreading the approach of the troops, he asked them to take him out of our way lest he should be ill-treated. They made a detour across the country, which happened to be in the same direction that we had taken, and when about five miles from the trail they passed through some of my scouts, who did not know Riel, and Hourie in his anxiety to take him into camp himself, gave no intimation of his capture, sending word that he had lost his horse and was going back to camp for another. He took Riel into camp and delivered him up to the General, before it was known that he was captured. The General had a tent pitched near his own, and put Riel in it, in charge of Captain Young, of the Winnipeg Field Battery, who kept guard over him until he handed him over to the police authorities at Regina. We returned to camp that night, and gave up further pursuit of the rebel leaders. Gabriel Dumont, with his companion Dumais, evidently left the country at once, for a week after a telegram brought the news that they had been arrested south of the boundary, in United States territory. In this short time they covered the distance, some three hundred and fifty miles, fear lending wings to their flight. They were released by the American authorities, no application having been made for their detention, and there they have remained ever since.
Riel decamped so suddenly before the rapid and determined onslaught of the troops at Batoche that he left behind him all his papers and documents, with the official record of his provisional government, containing all the evidence necessary to enable the Ottawa authorities to prosecute those implicated with him in the rebellion. Two days after, he surrendered himself to the General, preferring to take his chances upon a judicial trial to wandering about among his people and the Indians, who now apparently were hostile to him, on account of the troubles he had brought upon them. The General sent Riel by steamboat to Regina, in charge of a guard, commanded by Captain Young, there to be handed over to the civil authorities. In the meantime the half-breeds had surrendered a large quantity of arms of all sorts, from the repeating-rifle to the single barrel shot-gun.
The day after the capture of Riel, I was sent to Batoche with a list of the names of men the General wished me to make prisoners. I took them and brought them into camp, whence they were sent to Regina, to stand their trial for complicity in the rebellion. While at Batoche, I met Major Henry Smith, in command of two more companies of the Midland Battalion, just arrived by steamboat on their way to join our column. They all went round the battlefield and inspected the various points of interest connected with it.
At Gardapuy's Crossing, Colonel Houghton took leave of the column, being obliged to return to his duties as Deputy Adjutant-General in Winnipeg, Major Street, who had been acting as Orderly Officer, accompanying him. Major Smith, of the Infantry School, was appointed to Colonel Houghton's position, while Captain Harstone, of the Grenadiers, was appointed Brigade-Major in place of Captain Young, who had been sent off in charge of Riel to Regina.
The crossing of the river at Gardapuy's took two days, and on the 16th we set off for Prince Albert. Before leaving, the General sent two waggon loads of provisions to the priests at Batoche, with instructions to relieve any distress that might arise among the people. At noon on the 17th, we arrived at Prince Albert, having marched eighteen miles that morning, over very dusty roads, the men being much weather-beaten and fatigued. We were met by Colonel Irvine and his police force, and were warmly welcomed by the citizens of the place, who for two months had been locked up without telegraphic or mail communication, and who had been in a constant state of excitement and anxiety over the stirring events which so materially affected their safety. They were, however, well-protected by the Mounted Police force, some two hundred strong, and by a local corps, lately organized, under Colonel Sproat.
The troops made a march of eighteen miles, with only half an hour's rest, the day of reaching Prince Albert, arriving there by twelve o'clock noon, literally black with the dust of the march. At Prince Albert they had a day and a-half rest before proceeding. I will now follow the fortunes of Colonel Otter's and General Strange's columns.