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The Royal North-West Mounted Police
Chapter VII


A Vice-Regal Escort which Travelled over Two Thousand .Miles—Some Notes of A Highly Significant Prairie Pilgrimage.

THE year 1881 will always be memorable throughout the. North-West by reason of the visit made, to the region in that year by His Excellency the Marquis of Lorne, Governor General of Canada.

In 1877 the Earl of Dufferin, then Governor General, visited Manitoba, accompanied by the Countess of Dufferin, but their tour through the prairie region of the Dominion was confined to the limits of the Province of Manitoba. So that the Marquis of Lorne, in 1881, was the first Governor General to visit the North-West Territories. The visit was fraught with great practical benefit to the North-West and the whole Dominion, the newspaper reports of the Vice-Regal progress bringing the new region immediately, and >n a favourable manner, to the attention of the people of the older Provinces in a way no other event could have done.

This tour of Lord Lorne. not only brought the Mounted Police into wide notice at the time, but is still considered as one of the best proofs of the early efficiency and usefulness of the force, for the entire duties in connection with the long prairie journey, were taken over, and with complete success, by the force.

By a letter from Mr. F. White, the Comptroller. A Irvine was informed a few weeks before the event, that His Excellency the Governor-General had decided to visit the North-West. He also learned that an escort of the North-West Mounted Police Force would be required to accompany His Excellency, together with a certain number of additional men to act as teamsters, etc. The Commissioner at once communicated with the Comptroller on the subject, pointing out the various details that required consideration and action. Similar letters were written to Superintendents Herchmer and Crozier. The officers commanding at Battleford and Fort Macleod were informed as regards the supply of forage, etc., required and the points at which such supplies should be delivered along the road.

It was decided that the escort and additional men required should be furnished from headquarters, and that their equipment should be made as complete .as possible. The necessary stores required were carefully selected, and Superintendent William Herehmer was appointed to command the escort.

On the 8th of August, Superintendent Herclunce, who had part of his escort with him, reported to His Excellency, for duty at the railhead of the Canadian Pacific Railway, west of Portage la Prairie, and assumed charge of some additional transport brought up by train for the co-regal party. It having been arranged that His Excellency should proceed to Fort Ellice by river, the main escort, was assembled there, and the transport under Superintendent Herchmer was advanced there without delay. August 13, His Excellent landed at Fort Ellice, was met by a mounted escort of twenty men under Superintendent Herchmer and escorted to the Hudson Bay Post. The appearance of the escort and the general hearing of the men called forth universal admiration.

About 3 p.m., on the 14th August. His Excellency and his escort started for Qu'Appelle, which was reached on the evening of the 17th, His Excellency being received by a smart guard of honour under Inspector Steele.

On the 19th, the party started for Carlton with 46 men and 84 horses. Of these 84, 36 were remounts and 46 horses belonging to the various divisions.

Supt. William H. Herchmer, later Assistant Commissioner.

The route was via Humbolt, Gabriel Dumont's Crossing, Fort Carlton, Battleford, Blackfoot Crossing, Calgary, Macleod, to Fort Shaw, Montana, from which point His Excellency returned east through United States territory.

A more exact idea of the route, and a correct statement of the distances travelled by the Mounted Police escort is given in the following abstract diary:—

Aug. 8, end of C. P. R. to camp, one-half day, 5 miles; Aug. 9th, to Big Mud Creek, 32 miles; Aug. 10th, to Rapid City, 25 miles; Aug. 11th, to Shoal Lake, 38 miles; Aug. 12th, to Birtle, 25 miles; Aug. 13th, to Ellice, one-half day, 4 miles; Aug. 14th, camp, one-half day, 6 miles; Aug. 15th, camp, 35miles; Aug. I6th, to Qu'Appelle River, 40 miles; Aug. 17th, Qu'Appelle, 34 miles; Aug. 18th, halt; Aug. 19 to camp, 38 miles; Aug. 20th, Edge of Salt Plain, 33 miles; Aug. 21st, halt; Aug. 22, to camp, 38 miles; Aug. 23, to camp,

34 miles; Aug. 24, to Gabriel's Crossing, 36 miles; Aug. 25th. to Carlton, one-half day, 20 miles; Aug. 26, 27, 28, 29, to Battleford, 92 miles; Aug. 30th to Battleford; Aug. 31, to Battleford; Sept. 1, to camp, 33 miles; Sept. 2, to camp, 36 miles, Sept. 3, to Sounding Lake, 37 miles; Sept. 4, to camp, 23miles; Sept. 5, to camp,

35 miles; Sept. 6, to camp, 30 miles; Sept. 7, to camp, 23 miles; Sept. 8, to camp, one-half day, 10 miles; Sept. 9th, Blackfoot Crossing, 34 miles; Sept. 10th, camp, one-half day, 14 miles; Sept. 11th, camp, one-half day, 18 miles; Sept. 18, Calgary, 28 miles; Sept. 13, halt; Sept. 14, to halt; Sept. 15, to High River,. 37 miles; Sept. 16th, to Willow Creek, 40 miles; Sept. 17th, to Macleod, 25 miles; Sept. 18, Macleod; Sept. 19th, to Macleod; Sept. 20th, Colonel Macleod's house, 40 miles; Sept. 21, to halt; Sept. 22nd. to camp, 28 miles; Sept. 23, to camp, 28 miles; Sept. 24, to Cutface Bank, 38 miles; Sept., Birch Creek, 31 miles; Sept. 26th, to Teton River, 68 miles; Sept. 27, to Fort Shaw, 28 miles.—Total number of miles: 1,229.

In addition to this, the escort, or most of it, for Supt. Herchmer took some men with him from Battleford, travelled in the first place from Fort Walsh to Fort Ellice, a distance of 443 miles; then again from Fort Shaw to Fort Macleod, and from Fort Macleod to Fort Walsh, a distance of 400 miles, making an aggregate total of 2,072 miles.

His Excellency held councils with Indians at Fort Ellice, Fort Qu'Appelle, Fort Carlton, Battleford, Blackfoot Crossing, and Fort Macleod.

Owing to the hurried nature of the trip, it proved very trying on the horses. Between Ellice and Qu'Appelle, Superintendent Herchmer was obliged to leave three horses on the trail, while between Qu'Appelle and South Branch, he left four horses, two dropping dead. Of these two, one was the property of the Indian Department. Between Carlton and Battleford, three horses were left, between Battleford and Blackfoot Crossing, five were dropped along the trail. At Carlton, one horse was left, and at Calgary, seven. None of these horses were incapacitated from lack of care, for day and night the horses received the greatest attention, and throughout this long and trying march, not a horse was incapacitated for work by sore back or shoulders, truly a remarkable and probably an unprecedented record.

The force crossed the South Saskatchewan at Gabriel Dumont's Crossing, on August 25thj the crossing being effected most successfully, 80 horses and 19 waggons being crossed in five hours with one scow. The men of the force worked admirably, their handiness and cheerfulness under most trying circumstances, the wind being very high, being most favourably commented upon. At Carlton, it was determined that His Excellency and party should visit Prince Albert, travelling by the steamer "Northeote". Superintendent Herchmer with the escort and transport, proceeded overland to Battleford, reaching there on the 29th. The following day, His Excellency arrived from Prince Albert by steamer "Lily".

On the 31st, His Excellency visited the barracks and quarters at Battleford, expressing himself very much pleased.

While the party was en route from Battleford to Calgary, on the morning of the 7th, they came upon a small herd of buffalo near Red Deer River. Three buffalo were killed by the party; the meat thus supplied being most acceptable, as they had been somewhat longer on the road than was calculated on, the distance travelled being greater than expected. There being no road, the party did not steer as direct a course as if they had gone over a well-marked and direct trail. The guide originally intended to have taken the party to a crossing of the Red Deer River, immediately south of the Hand hills, but when about 20 miles from the Hand hills, the guide assured Superintendent Herchmer that the party would encounter serious difficulty in getting the waggons down to the river, and also stated that he could take him to a crossing still farther south, which had a better approach. This being the case, Herchmer decided to accept the latter course and found a good crossing.

At Red Deer River, the guide, John Longniore, informed the Superintendent that he could take the party no farther, as he was unacquainted with the country beyond. Herchmer, therefore, utilized the services of "Pound Maker", a Cree Indian chief from Battleford, who had accompanied the Indian Commissioner.

Between Battleford and Red Deer River, there was plenty of water; but the only wood was at Sounding Lake, about half way, so wood for cooking had to be carried.

Soon after leaving Red Deer River, on the 8th. a cold and very severe rain storm set in, and after travelling some 8 miles, the party camped at the first water. Had Superintendent Herchmer not camped at this point, he would have had to make too long a drive without watering the horses. The rain continued for twelve hours, the weather remaining cold.

At the Indian Council at Blackfoot Crossing the escort furnished a guard of honour under Superintendent Herchmer. In his report that officer stated: —"Notwithstanding the necessarily extremely short notice I received as to this guard being required, the men turned out in a manner that would have done credit to any troops stationed in permanent stations. His Excellency and party were loud in their expression of admiration at the men's appearance. 1 mention this incident as I consider it goes far to prove the efficiency of a force which, notwithstanding the fact that it had travelled over 850 miles of prairie, was thus enabled to supply a guard of honour at a few minutes notice, fit to appear on a general inspection."

On the 11th, about 3 p.m., some 25 miles from Calgary, Lt.-Col. Irvine, the Commissioner, accompanied by Superintendent Cotton, Adjutant of the force, arrived at the Vice-Regal camp and were heartily welcomed. They brought a relay of horses and a good supply of oats. At 1.30 p.m. on the following day the party reached Calgary, making a successful ford at the Bow River at a point immediately in rear of Police Post, which ford Col. Irvine had previously formed and marked out.

The 13th and 14th, the party remained in camp at Calgary, their rest being a particularly pleasant one. His Excellency and party had excellent fishing, and some shooting.

On the 14th, the Commissioner, accompanied by Supt. Cotton, started for Fort Macleod to make arrangements for the reception of His Excellent.

On the 15th, His Excellency and escort started for Fort Macleod with ninety-nine horses. On the morning of the 17th, about seven or eight miles from that place, the Vice-Regal party were met by the Commissioner and Supt. Cotton.

On reaching Willow Creek, about three miles from Fort Macleod, His Excellency was received by a salute fired from the two 9-pounder muzzle-loading rifle guns in possession of the force. These guns were placed in an appropriate position on a high ridge commanding Willow Creek, From the crossing of the; Old Man's River to the fort the road was lined at intervals by a party of mounted men under command of Supt. Crozier. At the main gate of the fort His Excellency was received by a guard of honour under Inspector Dickens. The general appearance of this guard of honour was everything that could be desired.

On the morning of the 19th, Superintendent Herchmer handed over the command of the escort to Suit. Crozier, in accordance with the Commissioner's instructions. Supt. Herchmer had previously applied to be relieved from escort duty, in order that he might return to Battleford and reach that post before the winter set in.

Before leaving Fort Macleod the following letter was received by Superintendent Herchmer:

"Fort Macleod, 18th Sept., 1881.

"Sir,—I am commanded by His Excellency the Governor General to desire you to express to Superintendent Herchmer, his entire satisfaction with the admirable manner in which that officer has performed his duty while in command of the force of Mounted Police which has escorted His Excellency from Winnipeg to Fort Macleod. I am further to request you to convey to the non-commissioned officers and men who formed the escort, His Excellency's thanks for the services rendered by them while on the march, and the pleasure it has afforded him to witness the discipline and efficiency of the corps.

F. DeWinton, Lt.-Col.,

After leaving Fort Macleod, His Excellency's party was joined at the Blackfoot Agency in Montana by a detachment of United States troops, who accompanied the party as far as Birch Creek. It had been the intention of the officer commanding the United States troops at this point, Colonel Kent, to escort His Excellency thence to Fort Shaw with a mounted detachment of ten men, in addition to the escort of Mounted Police under Superintendent Crozier, but

owing to the United States troops having lost their horses from the encampment at Birch Creek, this design could not be carried out. Colonel Kent, himself, accompanied the party from the Blackfoot Agency, Montana, to Fort Shaw. His Excellency was escorted about two miles on the road towards \ Helena by the Mounted Police under Crozier, the duty then being transferred to a detachment of the 3rd U.S. Infantry.

Prior to His Excellency taking his departure from Fort Shaw, he commanded to be ordered a parade of the escort of North-West Mounted Police, whom he addressed in the most flattering terms.

To quote some of his words, he said: "You have been subjected to the most severe criticism during the long march on which you have accompanied me, for I have on my personal staff experienced officers of the three branches of the service—cavalry, artillery, and infantry—and they one and all have expressed themselves astonished and delighted at the manner in which you have performed your arduous duties, and at your great efficiency."

From His Excellency's remarks, he fully appreciated the many different kinds of services performed by the Police of the North-West.

"Your work." said he, "is not only that of military men, but you are called upon to perform the important and responsible duties which devolve upon you in your civil capacities. Your officers in their capacity of magistrates, and other duties are called upon to perform even that of diplomacy."

A Typical Four-Horse Mounted Police Team. (From photograph loaned by the Comptroller, Lieut.-Col. F White).

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