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Love and Peril, Southland Times, Issue 1142, 11 March 1890
Love and Peril
(By the Marquis of Lome.) Chapter IV. The Half Breed insurrection in the North West broke out. Kiel, who had made mischief in 1871, was again in the field, and was again hatching rebellion, sot this time in his old quarters, but far away in those regions 1 knew too well. There his countrymen, the ' Metis,' had taken it into their heads that 'Leß Anglais' would interfere with their possessions^ which were usually, as in French Canada, elongated slips of land, having a frontage on tbe Saskatchewan, and stretching back into the country behind. The English, they said, would 'square' these lands and interfere with their tenure. It was a false idea and could easily have been removed. But they were not reassured in time. They had arms, and got more, with some ammunition, Riel came at their invitation from the States, and it was evident that mischief was meant. Already some of the Indians had joined their Halt* Breed kinsmen. I had been for some time an enthusiastic member of one of the Toronto militia regiments. We were ordered to 'the front/ as we already called the scene of impending trouble. But how different was this journey from that I had last undertaken to the North West ! Now we were regularly ' entrained ' in the splendid cars'of the Canadian Pacific railway, and we reached without much trouble the city of Winnipeg, now grown into a fine town, and very different from the tumble-down village 1 remembered. The greatest heartiness was shown by the troops. At that time there were some breaks in the line north of Lake Superior, and we had to march a bit through disagreeable slushy Bnow and ice, for the spring was coming. Nothing could discourage for a moment the high spirits of oar men. This was made very apparent when we left the rail, and began a very tedious and toilsome march over the trail I had years before passed over in midwinter with my dog team. The food was often insufficient, and the hardship from cold and wet great. But onward we went, all longing to be doing what we could to justify the proud name of the Canadian Militia. While the main body, after arriving in tbe neighborhood of the smith branch of the Saskatchewan were turned towards Batoche — a name-toon to become only too famous for the desperate fight which took place there between our men and the enemy, who were in numbers not inferior, and bad all the advantages of position — I was one of a smaller force which was directed further to the West to prevent a number of Crees and others from joining tbe rebels. Garlton Fort was again reached, but w« found it in rains. It had been burnt by tbe enemy. How strange it seemed to me to be here again, with a number of redcoats, and with a strength great enough, as we believed, to carry all before it. But want of regular supplies ot food told to some extent on the men, and we marched on, grumbling but resolute, until another stockaded fort on the river named Battleford,was reached. Here we were comfortable enough. The long swelling- lines of the bare prairie looked cheerless enough, but there was the great shallow stream still rolling past us in the vast hollow it had scooped for itself during the cours9 of ages in the gravels and alluvial sands of the plains. A river always makes a landscape more interesting. Here, too, on the Battle River, which joins at this place the Saskatchewan, was a village among poplar groves. This had bten looted by Indians, who, we were assured, had taken the warpath. Well, they should have a taste of our lead and eteel 1 We had with us men of the Mounted Police — a gallant corps — well mounted, and accustomed to Indian manners, whether hostile or friendly. We had the brave Short, the beau ideal of an artillery officer, who would have been an ornament and credit to any service, and was the pride and darling of our own. We heard that Poundmaker, a Cree, who had but lately acted as a guide to the Governor-General when he travelled hence to the Blackfeet, at the foot of the distant Rocky Mountains, had joined the rebels. This seemed to show that tbe hostile movement must be pretty tjeneral,]ior this man was an intelligent Indian, who had been much among the Blaokfeet natives, as well as a leader among the Crees. Our leader determined to prevent these men under Poundmaker from joining Riel, to the westward; and as we had good information from on r scouts, we left Battleford with a gatling gun, two 71b guns, 45 waggons, and about 150 men. We halted at night, until the moon rose, and then marched southwards ail night, across long, swelling plains, with here and the c a higher hill, and many dumps of poplar, growing especially in the little ravines. At daybreak we were near the Indian camp, Our guns opened with shrapnel as soon as the enemy was felt. Their fire was brisk, and our men suffered a good deal, their zeal causing them to expose themselves too freely, I was near Short, wbo.with Rutherford, was directing the fire ot the guns. Short, as our leader (Colonel Otter) afterwards said, Beeraed to have a charmed life, as he coolly stood in tbe front lines working the guns. The action was very sharp, and it was difficult to see the enemy's sharpshooters, hidden as they were in the brushwood. While I was watching a severe contest on my left I heard some one shout, ; ' Look out there — look at those fellows,' and I saw a party of many Indians in the bush close to us. They came quickly making a rush for the gatling. In an in* tan c Short, with his revolver and drawn 6word, had called us te him, and following him we rushed at the enemy. I remember only seeing Short's light forage cap lifted on b s head by a shot that passed through it, and then I flaw him hand in hand with the Indians, shooting one and roshing for another, who fired at him but missed. The Indian fell, a war whoop on his lips. We fired and fired, and the enemy ran. I stopped for a moment at the body of the Indian who had fired at Short. What face was that, now pale, and gasping forth blood from the lips ? It was Mistufiu ! Here we had met again. I bad but time to tear away his hoadgear. In the excitement I should like to have looted all his savage frippery, but we bad to rash back to the gatling. Then < poottrred mora fighting, and it wm not I
until some time later that we found we had done what we could in breaking the enemy's march westward, and in giving them a lessos, and that our small force was not able to do more. We limberedup the guns with great difficulty, and retired slowly, tbe gun trails having been broken and difficult to move. Short, ever at the post of danger, was the last to go, ever giving a return fire to the sharp pinging of the enemy's bullets. They did not pursue us, and we reached Battleford in good order, carrying all our dead but one. I need not pursue the story of our brief campaign nnd victory. Ido not desire more Indian experiences, either in love or war. Our successes were dearly achieved, and a good lesson was afforded by the outbreak of the Canadian Government, that lesson being that the role of the soldier ia one that must be played even among the most peacpful and peace loving people, and that it is folly not to have at all times a force well organised for defence, or the neressary offence which is the safeguard of defence. If Canada had had mere troops regularly enrolled the outbreak would have eben impof-iible. If ghe had recognised realier the necessity that peace must b« guarded by armed men in good array, she would not have had to deplore the doubtful battle of Outkuife or the heavy losses at Batoche. My tale is told, and although I say that my Indian experience has been quite enough for me, I am still in Canada's militia, although I <io car 17 about in the law courts the blue bag which is the badge of the enterprising barrister. I began with s. >n)e moral reflections on the regret that does not always accompany silly actions. I hope Canada, as a whole, will be wiser than I, a bumble Canadian individual. Although long since happily married, I do not regret either my acquaintance with poor Kiooshka or having been 'in at the death' of Mistusu. L')RNE.
Love and Peril, Southland Times, Issue 1142, 11 March 1890
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