THE PURSUIT OF BIG BEAR.
Our two days in Prince Albert, were much enjoyed by the troops, but the General was impatient to be off, to join Colonel Otter at Battleford, and to push on to Fort Pitt, and complete the task of restoring peace, and protection to the country. He took with him the Midland battalion, "A" Battery, and my two troops on one steamer, leaving the other two steamers to bring the 90th and the Grenadiers. The transport, under the escort of the Intelligence Corps, and Captain Brittlebank's men (Captain Brittlebank had been appointed to the command of the late Captain French's scouts), were ordered to march by land, crossing the river at Fort Canton, by the north trail. We arrived at Fort Canton at 7 o'clock the following morning, and visited the ruins of this now historic place. After leaving Canton, a deputation from Poundmaker was met on the bank of the river, awaiting the arrival of General Middleton. Poundmaker had received the news of Riel's defeat and capture, and wishing to make peace, immediately despatched a letter to the General, of which the following is a copy:-
"SIR, - I am camped with my people at the east end of Eagle Hills, where I am reached by the news of the surrender of Riel. No letter came with the news, so I cannot tell how far it may be true. I send some of my men to you to learn the truth and terms of peace, and hope you will deal kindly with us. I and my people wish you to send us the terms 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 greeting.
"(Signed) POUNDMAKER" X
General Middleton was on the steamer Morthcote, en route for Battleford, when he received the message, and sent back Poundmaker's runner with the following reply:
"P0UNDMAKER, - I have utterly defeated the half-breeds and Indians, and have made a prisoner 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 defeat you and your people, or at least drive you away to starve in the woods, and will do so unless you bring in the teams you took. Yourself and your councillors to meet me with your arms at Battleford on Tuesday, the 26th. I am glad to hear that you treated the prisoners well, and have released them. (Signed)When Poundmaker's deputation had been dismissed with this reply, we proceeded on our way to Battleford, arriving there the same night. Here we found, that a similar communication had been sent by Poundmaker to Colonel Otter, showing that he was very anxious to come to terms.
"FRED. MIDDLETON, Major-General."
After disembarking, we pitched our camp alongside Colonel Otter's, on the plateau near the town, where the General awaited the arrival of the remainder of his column, and the expected surrender of Poundmaker and his braves.
After the battle of Cut Knife, an event occurred which threatened to interfere with our movements; namely, the capture of a transport train by Poundmaker. Feeling no longer safe in his proximity to Battleford, Poundmaker determined to move east to join Riel, who, after the battle of Fish Creek, had sent him urgent appeals to hasten to his standard. He was on his way thither, when, crossing the main trail from Swift Current, a transport train of bullock teams, with forage and supplies, had the misfortune to be passing. The opportunity was too good to be lost. The teamsters were surprised and surrounded, but they immediately formed a corral with their waggons, which brought on a parley. The Indians sent forward a half-breed to negotiate, and the safety of the teamsters was guaranteed, on condition of their quietly surrendering. This they did, and were at once conducted in triumph to Poundmaker's camp. A portion of their experiences may be gathered from the following account given to the correspondent of the Montreal Star:-
"About nine o'clock on Thursday, the 14th instant, the forage-trains were passing through a piece of open, 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 half-breeds, 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 half-breed towards the waggons. 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 waggons, 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 "Stonys," who had not been present at the capture, galloped up and attempted to shoot the prisoners. The half-breeds, 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 half-breeds alone saved the teamsters from a cruel death.These teamsters were released, as soon as Poundmaker made up his mind to surrender, and to the relief of their friends they came into Battleford.
"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 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 half-breed interpreter, that their 1ives would be spared. He added that he was aware there was a Manitou above, and that he could not permit them to be slain without cause. Poundmaker left, and shortly afterwards the Indians struck camp. Tee-pee poles were thrown down in a twinkling by the squaws, who, assisted by young boys and girls, rapidly packed every thing away in carts and waggons already in line for the start. Bucks lolled around, whiffing 'kineekinick' (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 twenty-five or thirty scouts riding a mile ahead, the 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 the more powerful animals stolen in the early raids. Next came Red River carts, waggons, and every other variety of vehicle ever manufactured. Each was loaded with plunder or teepee-poles while perched on top were seated old men, armed with bows and arrows. Behind, followed a chaotic mass of waggons and carts, surrounded by lowing cattle and little boys on foot. Other Indian lads added to the grotesqueness of the scene, and mounted on young colts kept up to the moving outfit. Further in 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."
While awaiting the arrival of the transport from Prince Albert, the General celebrated the Queen's birthday, by a divisional parade of the two columns. A salvo of artillery, and a feu-de-joie were fired, and three hearty cheers given in honour of her Majesty, followed by a march past. This imposing ceremony, performed by so large a number of troops, could not fail to impress the half-breeds and Indians, who were now flocking in to surrender themselves. The first detachment to arrive, was a camp of French half-breeds, who had been with Poundmaker all this time, but, as they claimed, in the position of prisoners. They approached with a long string of horses, carts, and waggons, with their families and all their household goods, and had every appearance of being a prosperous community. On the following day, to the great interest of the troops, came Poundmaker, with a number of his councillors and braves, having left their camp some ten miles out. (The teamster prisoners had before marched in.) They brought with them two hundred and seven stand of arms in waggons.
General Middleton arranged to have a pow-wow with Poundmaker in the afternoon, to hear what he bad to say for himself, and this was one of the most interesting features of the campaign. The grim old soldier was seated in front of his tent, surrounded by his officers, in the midst of the largest camp of soldiers, that had ever visited the North-West territories. Arraigned before him were the various chiefs, councillors, and braves, to answer for their conduct during the outbreak. Similar pow-wows had often been held in treaty-making, and on other occasions, when there was only the moral force of the country behind its officers; but here, the Indians could see a portion of the physical force of the Dominion, with which they had to contend - a force that had been successful in overcoming their leader at Batoche, and had in a short time penetrated the fastnesses of these tribes, no doubt deemed by them, an impossibility for soldiers to accomplish.
The Indians squatted themselves in a semi-circle in front of the General, to the number of sixty or seventy. They were well dressed in their fashion, being painted up in war costume. Some of the men were adorned with kid gloves, others had on ladies' hats and feathers, and all presented a most picturesque group. The talking commenced through Hourie, the chief interpreter. The General, in his matter-of-fact way, desired them to keep to plain facts, and to leave the flowery embellishments of their Indian tongue to one side for the present. It was impossible, however, to prevent them commencing with the earth, the sky, the grass, the sun, etc., one and all, young and old, seeming to be imbued with the allegorical style of oratory, and unable to express themselves without this verbiage. Poundmaker knew nothing. He claimed that he had done his best, to keep his braves in order, and seemed to think that having come to make terms of peace, was quite sufficient merit, to entitle him to every consideration. He is a fine-looking Indian, and one cannot help being interested in him. He is undoubtedly clever, and had the honour of accompanying the Marquis of Lorne, in his trip through the country in 1881, who enjoyed nothing better than listening to his tales, over the camp-fire, through an interpreter. One brave after another told his story, commencing with a desire to shake hands with the General, who, however, steadily refused, telling them that he never would shake hands with bad Indians. They must first prove themselves good. After several had spoken, a squaw came forward, and was anxious to have her say, but the General said he never listened to women. The statement was pertinently made that the Queen was a woman, and that she ruled the country; but the General readily answered, that the Queen, though ruler, only spoke through her councillors, and with that the indignant squaw had to be satisfied. After hearing all they had to say, the General made them the following address :-
"After many years of peace," began the General, "when the half-breeds rose in rebellion, these Indians rose to join them. The Indians all around here, like Poundmaker's band, rose, thinking the white man would be beaten. They did not hesitate to murder. All round they attacked the stores of the Hudson's Bay Company and others, and killed men and women, and thought they were going to have their own way. Instead of saying when you heard of the half-breeds' rebellion, 'now is the time to show how we value the kindness of the white man to us,' you turned upon us. This very band of Poundmaker's was going to join the enemy, and if we had been beaten they would have done more murder. And now when you find the head rebel-chief, Riel, and the other warriors are beaten, you come in and tell all sorts of lies, and beg for peace. You thought the Government had no more men; you thought you were better fighters; that you could lie in ambush in the bluffs and shoot us down. Now we have shown you there is no use of lying in the bluffs and pits, that we can drive you out and kill you."After the General's demand for the murderers to be given up, one of the braves, called Wa-Wa-Nitch (the man without blood), came forward and sat himself down, cross-legged immediately in front of the General. Taking his feet in his hands, he confessed to the murder of Tremont, as I have before described. When that scene was over, another Indian, named Ikta, who had stripped himself to the waist, came forward, and made a similar confession of having murdered Payne, the farm instructor. The General ordered four of the leading chiefs whom lie named, with these two murderers, to be made prisoners, and the remainder were allowed to return to their reserves. Wa-Wa-Nitch, on his way up to the fort, made signs to Poundmaker indicative of hanging, which was intendeded to convey, 'I am going to be hanged; I am a brave man, and I don't care." The Mounted Police were now instructed to ascertain, who were guilty of the minor crimes, of stealing, committing depredations, etc., and made several arrests. The remainder of the Indians and half-breeds, returned to their respective camps.
POUNDMAKER - "True."
MIDDLETON - "Up to this time you Indians have been in the habit of going to the settlers' houses, saying you were hungry and wanted food, and frightened the women. Let the Indians understand that they must do so no more, and that if one more white man is killed ten Indians will suffer in consequence. If any disturbance takes place, and if any of the young men think they can go and rob and pillage, they will find themselves much mistaken, and all the men will suffer. More soldiers are now coming here, and if Poundmaker had not come in, would have followed him and killed every one of his men if necessary. We want to live in peace with the red man, but we can't allow you to go on in this way, and the sooner you understand that the better. I am only a soldier, and I do not know what the Government will do in the matter, but I have no doubt you will be helped to live in the future by the cultivation of the land as in the past. If Big Bear doesn't do the same as you have, I will take my troops and go after him and his men. I have received orders from the Government at Ottawa to detain as prisoners Poundmaker, Lean-Man, Mud-Blanket, Breaking-Through-the-Ice, and White Bear. The. rest of you and your people had better return quietly to your reserves, giving up the men who did the murders. No agent at present will live among you, after the way you have behaved, so that you will have to come and get your rations here, once a week."
Cut Knife Hill was visited, where tepees with dead bodies in them were found, as reported by Big Bear's emissaries. The Indians, now deprived of their means of subsistence, which had been so plentiful for the past two months, had a hard time of it. Proverbially thriftless, the Indian will feast inordinately, upon whatever he may have at the time, taking no thought for the morrow; hence the plentiful supplies they had feloniously gathered, were about consumed. The General told them to come to Battleford, in order to get rations; but the dread of showing themselves in the country, filled with soldiers and scouts, prevented them from taking advantage of the offer for some time.
The next day the General went down on a visit to Moosomin's reserve, about eighteen miles to the west of Battleford, taking my men as escort. We found comfortable houses, ploughed fields, and everything that denotes industry, and comfort. Moosomin was a loyal Indian, and proud of his loyalty. He had gone off with his tribe to the north of the Saskatchewan, to get out of the way of Poundmaker and his tribe, that he might not be drawn in, to commit disloyal acts. He was still absent from his reserve, but on the following day, he came into Battleford to visit the General, and was warmly thanked for his steadfastness, and loyalty, which pleased the old man greatly.
Being cut off by several hundred miles from all telegraph communications, nothing for some time, had been heard of General Strange's movements. Scouts were sent out, to ascertain if any trace of Big Bear could be found, between Fort Pitt and Battleford, as it was suspected he was on his way to join Poundmaker. On Friday, Major Perry, of the Police force, marched down with his men from Fort Pitt, on the south side of the river, and though, he had left before General Strange's encounter with Big Bear, he was able to give a detailed account, of General Strange's movements up to that time. The steamboat was at once sent, in charge of Mr. Bedson, with Captain Forrest, and one company of the 90th as an escort, laden with supplies and forage for General Strange at Fort Pitt. Major Perry, with his men, returned, on board the steamer, and when half way to Fort Pitt, a canoe was met, bringing news of General Strange's engagement with Big Bear. Mr. Bedson landed Major Perry, to continue his march, and returned with the steamer for further orders.
At eight o'clock p.m., orders were issued, for the troops to hold themselves in readiness, to embark early the next morning. The General took the infantry, and went in the steamboats to Fort Pitt. The mounted men he ordered to march by the south trail, guided by Mr. McKay of the Hudson's Bay Company, a brother of the Rev. Canon McKay, with General Strange's column, and a brother also of Mr. McKay, of Prince Albert, who played so important a part in the Duck Lake fight, and another brother belonged to French's scouts.
On a bright Sunday morning we started, and made the ninety miles in two days, reaching Fort Pitt, almost simultaneously with the infantry. On Tuesday morning, we crossed the river to the encampment, where we met Captain Leacock, the provincial member for our district. He had been left here with a small detachment, to advise General Middleton, that General Strange had left that day, to return, and take up his position at Frenchman's Butte, the scene of the late engagement.
Now commenced, a fresh campaign after Big Bear, for General Middleton was determined not to leave the country, until every insurgent tribe had been brought into subjection. Before General Middleton disembarked, General Strange despatched Major Steele, with seventy-five mounted men upon Big Bear's trail. On Wednesday morning, the day after our arrival at our new encampment, the General ordered his mounted men, consisting of fifty Mounted Police, under Colonel Herchmer; forty Intelligence Corps, under Captain Dennis; sixty of my corps, and twenty of Captain Brittlebank's men to advance to General Strange's position. After giving orders to Colonel Van Straubenzie, to form up the infantry brigade at Fort Pitt, he followed himself, in the afternoon with fifty of the Grenadiers, fifty of the Midland, and fifty of the 90th, under the command of Major Hughes, of the Midland. "B" Battery, under Major Short, with the gatling under Lieutenant Rivers, also accompanied the General, while Captain Peters, of "A" Battery, acted as transport officer.
I was accompanied by the late Colonel Williams, and two or three other officers, who wished to survey the scene of General Strange's engagement, and after a march of twelve miles we reached the place. We passed through the camp where the sun-dance had been held, which showed traces of about one hundred and seventy-five tepees, or lodges, and evident signs of a hurried flight; all the tepee poles were left strewn about. These poles, are made of light spruce sticks, and take about twelve to each tepee, the tepee itself, being composed of dressed moose or deer skins, sewn together to cover the poles. Two miles farther on, we came upon the camp, and the rifle-pits, where bacon, flour, carts and waggons, of every description - a heterogeneous collection, of savage, and civilized articles - were found. The position was a strong one, but had been hurriedly selected. The careful preparations which POundmaker bad made, for the protection of his position were wanting. As I rode round the heights with the late Colonel Williams, a dog which had been left behind sprang out of the bush, challenging our intrusion. We looked in and discovered a pup being suckled by its mother, both having been left behind by the Indians. Colonel Williams jumped off his horse and secured the pup, intending to bring it home to his little boy as a memento of Big Bear's camp. He carried it all the way back to Fort Pitt in a birch-bark basket, which he picked up at the sun-dance camp. I mention the circumstance, for Little Bear, as Colonel Williams called the pup, was an object of great interest, and was brought carefully home to Port Hope. We arrived about twelve o'clock, and camped beside General Strange, who had just struck tents preparatory to moving off to Onion Lake on a more westerly trail towards Beaver River. General Middleton, with the three infantry companies; arrived at three o'clock in the afternoon.
That night, at twelve o'clock, a messenger came back from Major Steele, to say that he had caught up to Big Bear's band, forty-five miles from this point, and had had an engagement with him. Major Steele had left Frenchman's Butte at ten o'clock on Tuesday morning, and picked up Big Bear's trail a few miles from there ; following it up he came upon a portion of his band the next morning at seven o'clock, having had one man wounded on the march. He surprised the Indians on this side of a ford leading across a small bay in Loon Lake (a large sheet of water not shown on the map), and had an engagement lasting two hours, during which time two of his men were wounded. We found out afterwards that he had killed four Indians, thereby inflicting some punishment on this tribe, although unfortunately one of the killed was Chief Cut Arm, who had befriended Mr. Quin ney. This was a plucky, well-executed march and attack. Major Steele pushed on, with only three days' rations, through the dense woods which Big Bear had traversed, and gallantly followed with his little body of men, finally reaching Big Bear's camp. Had he sent for supports when he struck Big Bear's trail, he would no doubt have brought the Indians to bay, but for want of rations and support he could pursue the attack no further, and retired with his three wounded men. General Middleton having now ascertained that Big Bear had escaped to the north, through the forests and muskegs with which that part of the country abounds, this district had to be penetrated.
With that object in view, the General sent orders to Colonel Otter to march north, parallel to him, from Battleford to Turtle Lake, to endeavour to intercept any Indian tribe escaping east, leaving Major Dawson, of the Grenadiers who had recovered from his wound, in command at Battleford. Orders were also sent to Colonel Irvine, at Prince Albert, to march north from there to Green Lake, he himself intending to follow Big Bear's trail, as General Strange had expressed a wish to move to Beaver River by a more westerly trail. In the meantime we had re- ceived news of the prisoners and Big Bear's movements. The Rev. Mr. Quinney and his wife, who had made their escape and wandered back to try and find the troops were attracted by the whistle of the steamboat, and in Mrs. Quinney's own words, I give her account of their escape:-
"The Indian, Longfellow, was friendly, and we owe our escape to him. He never slept that night, watching lest any of Big Bear's braves should come. The first we knew of the presence of troops was when entrenched in the ravine, where we heard firing, and we also heard it the next day. This was the occasion of General Strange's engagement, but none of us knew anything about it, except that we heard the firing. We made a further march of about eight miles through the thick bush. We continued marching until Sunday, on which day we rested in the woods, and Mr. Quinney held service. Previous to this, Mr. Quinney wished Longfellow to let him and me go, as I was not able to tramp through the bush. But the answer was, 'Yes, but if you go we must send you to Big Bear's camp.' On Saturday Mr. Quinney told me that when the order to start was given that I was to refuse to go any farther north, and I did so, and my husband also refused; but we learned afterwards that had we gone back that morning, Mr. Quinney would have been killed, as an Indian had gone back and was in waiting to shoot him as he passed. Fortunately my husband decided to go on with the Indians, and it was not until Monday that my husband finally made up his mind to escape. On that day when the order was given to go on, my husband, Halpin, Cameron, Dufresne (father and son), and family, myself and others, started back. Longfellow made no resistance to our going, but was willing that we should escape. I asked him if he was sure the Indians were willing also, as I feared some of them might come after us, and he said they were all willing. We were a strange lot; some of the women were carrying children and some of the children were walking, and all of us suffering from the hardships of the march. The first day, we got about twelve miles away from the Indians, when we camped. Mr. Quinney, Mr. Dufresne, and Cameron, left us in charge of three men, and went to find General Strange's column. We remained where we. had been left, and all night the men left with us watched. Early the next morning, we heard three shots fired, which was the signal that our party had returned. They had found the soldiers, and a few minutes afterwards about twelve mounted men rode up with eatables and other necessaries, and I need not say we were all rejoiced and happy. When we finally reached the soldiers' camp, our party were welcomed by the men, who all turned out to greet us with three hearty British cheers."
General Middleton, on the following morning, after the arrival of Steele's courier, ordered the mounted men, one gun of "A" Battery, and the gatling, with the three infantry companies, under Major Hughes, to march to the support of Major Steele. Our little column had now to cross swamps and bogs, and through brush, which made our progress slow; but we kept strictly to the trail which Big Bear had taken. The great interest of the march was inspecting his camps as we passed them, which always contained something hurriedly abandoned. At one camp we found a quantity of fur hid in the woods. We found unmistakable evidence of the recent presence of the prisoners in the locality, with an occasional message dropped by Mr. Maclean. At the first camp we picked up a silver mug, engraved on it, "Presented by General Rosser to Katie Maclean," which the General took possession of afterwards to return to its lawful owner. Also at the first of Big Bear's camps from Frenchman's Butte, we found a grave containing the body of Man-Who-Talks-Like-Another. He had been killed by a shell, and was said to be one of the murderers of Dill at Frog Lake. After a march of about twelve miles we met Major Steele on his return. The General halted for the day, and sent down to Fort Pitt to have pack-saddles made so that he might push on without his waggons, and the men were set to work to make travoies. A travoie is two long poles crossed and attached to the neck of the horse, the ends dragging on the ground, the load being bound on behind the horse. This is the Indian mode of transport over these roads. The General determined upon advancing without the infantry, and sent them back to Fort Pitt, taking with him only the artillery and the mounted men, with the gatling. And I might here say that our Canadian artillery proved themselves a most useful arm of the service, penetrating the most remote districts, and whether acting as infantry or gunners were always ready for work.
On the 6th of June we marched once more, leaving our tents and baggage behind. The Intelligence Corps rendered the greatest services, by brushing the swampy spots in advance of the column, and making roads. On the night of the 7th we reached the scene of Major Steele's engagement, and camped in view of Loon Lake, a beautiful sheet of water surrounded by hills. Here we remained for the night, and the General sent on two half-breed scouts to ascertain what difficulties were ahead of us. They had to cross the ford which lay beneath our camp, and after going five miles the trail turned north to another crossing, where the water was too deep to allow them to ford. Big Bear evidently was cunning enough to put all possible obstacles in our way. However, the General pushed on, and next morning we crossed this ford, and by noon had reached the other crossing, where it was necessary to make a raft. It was an inspiriting sight to see the men swimming their horses across and rafting their saddlery and equipment over on a few logs tied together, and the General watched it with great interest. By nightfall he had all of his mounted men on the other side, leaving the artillery and transport behind.
On the following morning it was discovered that there lay a broad deep muskeg a short distance ahead, and before proceeding the General sent his half-breed scouts across. The General told me to send an officer and men with them. I sent Lieutenant Pigott and Sergeant Selby, and they were accompanied by Mr. Reid, the Assistant Indian Commissioner. They crossed the slough, and went as far as Big Bear's next encampment, which was on the north shore of the lake. It took them half an hour to cross, only the strong horses being able to plunge through with their riders on their backs. Some of the party had to get off and wade a portion of the way; I ventured in for about two hundred yards, but was glad to turn back.
When the Indians went over three days before, the ice was not out of the bottom, leaving hard footing, but the heavy traffic, caused by their crossing, made the mud much deeper, and the Indians told Mr. Maclean that when the ice was all out of the bottom it was impassable even to them. However, the General determined to push on, and ordered my corps and Major Steele's to take three days' rations, and make a reconnaissance in advance, and to leave at six o'clock the following morning.
In the morning at five o'clock the General sent word that he had changed his mind, not caring to place such a deep, swamp barrier between his troops and his supplies. I afterwards found out, upon conversing with Mr. Maclean and with Big Bear after he was taken, that Big Bear and his tribe had started for Turtle Lake and had separated from the Wood Crees on the 7th of the month, so that by the time we crossed the slough he would have been closer to Colonel Otter's column, which arrived at Turtle Lake on the l4th, and on which date Colonel Otter's Scouts picked up the trail of Big Bear still going east. The General was criticized for having allowed this muskeg to balk him, but he, unquestionably, saved his men and his horseflesh from a most severe undertaking, and as it turned out, used good judgment.
At this encampment, near the slough, we found a dead squaw who had committed suicide by hanging herself. We were afterwards informed that she was a cripple, and had been left behind by the Indians (as they could not take a cart across the slough), who intended coming back for her with a horse; but feeling lonely and overcome with fear she put an end to herself.
We suffered here greatly from mosquitoes and flies, and were glad when the order was issued to retrace our steps. The men put out the nets, of which they found a number, and caught a good supply of fresh fish, - white fish and pickerel. We re-crossed the creek and the other ford on the 10th. At Loon Lake we found a number of riflepits dug, the Indians no doubt anticipating a further advance on the part of Major Steele, when he attacked them at the ford, five miles back. We returned to Fort Pitt on the 12th, having spent nine days in the bush. On arriving at Fort Pitt we found that Mrs. Gowanlock and Mrs. Delaney, with Pritchard and his party, had come in. They had managed to escape from the Indians, and were traced by the Rev. Mr. Mackay and some of Major Hatton's men, and brought back to Fort Pitt, to the relief of the poor ladies, who, for nearly, two months, had been dragged about from place to place by their captors.
On the 14th the General determined to march with the mounted men to Beaver River, to try and reach Lac des Isles and Cold Lake from that point, where he suspected the Indians had retreated with their prisoners. We passed the Midlanders, under the late Colonel Williams, who had been sent to support General Strange, and were encamped at Frog Lake, the scene of the massacre. There the Midlanders spent a week. On the 16th we reached Beaver River, where General Strange was encamped, having sent a hundred men on to Cold Lake, under Colonel Smith. This was the centre of the Chippawayan reserve.
Beaver River is a beautiful, deep-running stream, flowing east and north to lake "Isle a la Crosse," which empties into the Churchill River. The latter flows northeast into Hudson's Bay. At Beaver River the Chippawayans, who have their reserve there, surrendered themselves with Father Legoff, their faithful missionary, who had been taken prisoner on the 12th May; these Chippawayans left Big Bear before the battle with General Strange. They had for some time been endeavouring to get away, and were closely watched. On this occasion they purchased their release by a gift of forty head of cattle which they gave to Big Bear, and of which they raised a large number on their reserves. Father Legoff like all the other missionaries in the North-West, rendered valuable services during the rebellion; he remained with his tribe, and by his efforts and counsel, no doubt, lessened the dangers to which the settlements were exposed, and restrained the excitement of the Indians.
General Strange sent two scouts belonging to this Chippawayan tribe to endeavour to find some traces of Big Bear; and Captain Constantine, with a small escort, accompanied by Mr. Ham, the able correspondent of the Toronto Mail, undertook to go through the woods with a small party in the direction of Loon Lake, where they had a most fatiguing and tiring journey, finally reaching Fort Pitt. The Indian scouts returned and brought news that they had met an Indian, who told them that the Wood Crees had separated from Big Bear's band and had gone north with the prisoners. It was also said that their intention after getting well away from Big Bear was to allow the prisoners to return to Fort Pitt by the trail they had come upon, which was good news to all of us.
The previous day, General Middleton had gone on a fishing excursion to Cold Lake and to visit Colonel Smith's detachment camped there. The Rev. Canon Mackay, he found, had taken two Indians in a canoe to visit "Lac des Isles," to endeavour to get some word from the Indians at that point. Upon the General's return, in the evening the Indian scouts had brought the information about the prisoners. On the following morning, General Middleton ordered us back to Fort Pitt, leaving General Strange to time to the Indians who had released the prisoners to come in and surrender themselves at Fort Pitt. As he passed by Frog Lake, he instructed Colonel Williams to bring in his battalion also to Fort Pitt. On arriving at the latter post, the General sent Mr. Bedson off with teams to meet the returning prisoners at Loon Lake, which he reached at the same time as they did, to their great joy and relief. The Indians, it seems, had sent them off to make this journey of a hundred miles without provisions, and they had to rely upon what game they could catch to feed themselves. Mr. Maclean with his family, and Mr. Mann with his family, and about fifteen others, returned to Fort Pitt, thus completing the release of every prisoner that had been taken during the rebellion.
Colonel Otter had left Battleford with his column, a few of my men, under Corporal Marriott, accompanying him as scouts. At their head was Mr. Ross, one of the most daring and enterprising of scouts. They arrived at Turtle Lake on the 14th, just as Big Bear had passed by the north end; but his band had now become so small that by separating up they left no distinct trail behind them. The scouts captured a few of Big Bear's ponies, loaded with pack-saddles, but their drivers escaped. Colonel Otter pushed on east to Birch Lake, where he captured a band of Indians, under chief Yellow Sky, who had a large herd of cattle belonging to a settler and a considerable stock of store goods, which they had obtained at Green Lake.
The account this band gave of themselves was that they had remained loyal, and that the cattle they held they had taken charge of lest they might be stolen by other bands; but hearing that the Indians were plundering and destroying, and fearing that there would be nothing left for their use and support, they had provided against that exigency by helping themselves at Green Lake. At this latter post property belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company had been pillaged and destroyed to the value of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, the history of which is contained in the interesting account given by Father Paquette, which I here insert. Father Paquette's story :-
"On the 18th of March I was staying at St. Laurent, four miles from here. About fifteen minutes before midnight, just as I was going to sleep, someone knocked at the door. It was Louis Riel. Two men were with him, Dumas and Moise Ouillette; Jackson, who I think was insane, was also at the mission at the time. When Riel got in, he began to say, in a loud voice: 'The provisoire is declared, and we have got five prisoners already, I have already destroyed the old Romain, and have a new Pope, Archbishop Bourget.' And to me he said: 'You are to obey me.' I said I would never obey him. 'If you will not,' he replied, 'the churches will stand, but they will stand empty.' Among other outrageous things, he said: 'You are in danger here; I have got an affidavit against you, and will get some Indians to fix you.' Riel staid there two hours, at one time kneeling and calling on the Holy Spirit, and then crying out, 'To-morrow morning I will go and destroy the soldiers, and at night I will go and destroy Fort Carlton.' His eyes were like the devil's. He is not mad this Riel; he has a very good mind, but he is extremely wicked.Colonel Otter, through Lieutenant Seers, his Brigade-Major, and my scouts, opened up communication with Colonel Irvine, who was scouring the country in the neighbourhood of Pelican and Green Lakes. Big Bear, finding that he was pursued on all sides by troops, turned south between Colonel Otter and Colonel Irvine's men and crossed the Saskatchewan a little west of Fort Canton. There he camped in the settlements in the neighbourhood, and reported himself to the Hudson's Bay officer at Fort Canton, and eventually gave himself up to Sergeant Butlin, under Inspector Gagnon, of the Mounted Police.
"Some hours after he left-before daylight, in fact-I left and escaped to Canton to give the news that Riel had declared a new government, so as to prevent a surprise and massacre. The fort was full of half-breeds, so I said nothing except to the clerk, and told him to tell Major Crozier after I bad left. In consequence of this action of mine, which was some way told to Riel, I was afterwards informed that I had been condemned to death by the council. Crossing the river and arriving at my mission, I found all quiet there. On the same night five half-breed families - including that of Fran‡ois Primeau - crossed the river from near Carlton and followed me to my mission, where I hid them from the 19th March till the 7th of April.
"Twice during that time, half-breeds came to my place from Riel to get government cattle. On the first occasion, March 31st, Joseph Delorme and Baptiste Ouillette came to my room with loaded guns, saying that they were sent by 'the government' - meaning the rebel government - for animals, and asking me if I thought the Indians would give them up. I said I did not know, but I would see the chief. 'If they give the animals,' one of the envoys said, 'I promise that we will leave the people quiet.' On the same day, seeing these two halfbreeds coming in the distance, I had rung the church bell; it bad been agreed that on hearing that signal at any time, the Indians would make off to the woods. They did so, but I knew where to find them, and leaving Delorme and Ouillette, I sought out the chief and told him, 'Riel says that if you don't give up your cattle, he will come with many men and fetch both oxen and Indians. To which he replied that he did not want to go to Riel, even if he died for it. I advised him to go to the hills with all his best cattle, leaving only nine head. He did so, and I told the two half-breeds that the nine were all that were there now, so they took the nine and went away.
"The Indians then came back, but merely to get their property, and immediately went away again to the hills - three days' journey. Only my hired man stopped at the mission. On the 7th of April, early in the morning, an Indian from Battleford passed and told me that I had better run, as five other Indians on horseback were coming from Battleford, and two priests had been killed already. The half-breed families, with me, also thought it best to go; and I was the more afraid because some Battleford Indians had demanded provisions of me last summer and threatened to break into my store, saying that when they were numerous they would come and fix me. Taking the most precious articles with me, and locking all the doors, I set off for Shell River, where there is a half-breed settlement. On my explaining the situation to the half-breeds, they all turned against Riel, whom they had ignorantly imagined to be a great benefactor. Then, knowing that Riel intended to pillage the stores at Green Lake, and hearing that the Indians were disposed to take his side, I went there to persuade them all, as good Catholics, that they would be wrong to do so. At a meeting there, I found that all the people were in Riel's favour, thinking that he wanted to get the half-breeds their rights. They did not know that rebellion had actually been begun. I told them, 'You deceive yourselves; Riel wants to put down the Pope and the priests, and to make a new religion.' An old chief, or headman, of the half-breeds, called Vieux Payette, then spoke with great indignation, saying, 'If Riel is against religion, let us take our guns and fight him.' Then they ran to hide in the woods.
"Arriving at the Hudson's Bay Fort, I advised the clerk to load up in four boats with gunpowder and provisions and take them to Ile La Crosse, putting all lead ammunition into the lake. He did so, sending the boats to Beaver River, ten miles distant, and thereby keeping two hundred and forty-six kegs of powder from the Indians In the morning, when one boat was following with the families, twenty-seven Indians from Loon Lake, appeared and caught us. When the people had got ashore, `the Indians forced Mr. Sinclair, the clerk, to go back with them to the fort. There, as they were very hungry, they began by getting something to eat, after which they destroyed all the goods, including the property of both Protestant and Catholic missions. They wanted to take Mr. Sinclair prisoner, saying that they had Riel's order to catch him or kill him; but he managed to escape with two Carlton half-breeds, and made his way down the river in the boat. An Indian, named Makasis aimed at him; but a chief, to whom Mr. Sinclair had just given his gloves, pulled the gun aside.
"The journey to the Ile La Crosse took four days. It was a terrible journey. It was extremely cold - snowing and raining - and we got very wet. We camped on the shore each night. On the third day, Mrs. Sinclair became a mother, and I was chosen godfather of the little child. The Indians, in honour of the event, fired off about three hundred shots. I had sent a letter to La Crosse saying that we were on the way, and the people of the fort, when they heard the shots, fancied that the Indians were killing us. The next day, when we got to the fort, we found only the clerk, Mr. Franklin, and one pig. The chief factor, Mr. Ross, the sisters, and all the half-breeds had gone off to an island about sixty miles north-west. Our boats had stopped where Beaver River enters the lake, as the lake ice had not yet broken. up, so I had to walk nearly the whole of one day across the ice, accompanied by an Indian boy and a carpenter. I was very hungry when I got to the fort, and my clothing was very ragged. Mr. Franklin not only gave me plenty to eat but gave me his own clothes, and these are his boots and pants I am wearing now. The other people waited until we sent back dogs and pulled the boats over the ice. The provisions were hidden in every direction through the woods.
"I told the clerk to get all the half-breeds together so he sent off for them without delay, and the next afternoon, 30th April, they all assembled at the fort. About sixty-five or seventy, all men, were there; half-breeds and Indians, including Chippawayans and Wood Crees, some of whom had come a good day's journey, from Canoe Lake. I spoke first, and said that though they were poor, I knew that they were good and honest. A half-breed then declared that lie had an order from Mr. Lawrence Clarke and Mr. Ross to take whatever he wanted in the store for his own use. Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Franklin, both said, it was not true, and I asked who had brought the letter. The man said, 'Angus Mackay.' Then 1 said, 'You lie, because I read the letter, and there was not a word about such a thing.' To that he made no reply. Then I spoke very strongly to them for nearly an hour. I said to them,' Those who will not listen to me, I will excommunicate, because Riel is a heretic and an apostate.' And I told everyone who was for me to put up his hand. All put up their hands except one, who explained to me that he had only a stick and consequently could not fight. The one who had spoken was a very good Catholic, and held up his hand like the rest. From that time all were against Riel and all lived quietly.
"Two days after, three boats were sent to Green Lake, escorted by about fifty armed men. They travelled for two days and then met Indians, who told them that Big Bear was coming through the woods to burn Fort La Crosse. The boats turned back and brought the news that perhaps Big Bear would be at the fort that very night. On the people's advice I then went over to the island, where the others were. The chief of the Chip- pawayans brought two hundred men, with three families, to protect us, and we took advantage of this to carry on a niission among them. After three weeks on the Island, we returned to the fort - where Franklin and Sinclair had remained - and about four hundred men, Indians and half-breeds stayed there to protect the mission and the fort. Only when news came, about May the 27th, of Riel's capture, did they allow me to return to my mission On arriving, after three days' travelling, at Green Lake, I found everything destroyed; even my harness had been cut to pieces with a knife."
The news of this was telegraphed at once to General Middleton, who was now enabled to announce to the Government, while Parliament was still in session, that the campaign was over, resulting in the complete occupation of the country and the surrender of all the insurgent tribes.