Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists
Chapter 28 Wolseley's Welcome

Canada's military experience, ever since the excitement of the "Trent Affair," had been in dealing with a persistent band of Irishmen, posing as Fenians, and egged on by sympathizers in the United States. Now there was trouble, as we have seen, in her own borders, and though here again, American influence of a hostile nature played its part, yet it was those connected with one of the two races in Canada who were now giving trouble in the Northwestern prairies. Such an outbreak was more dangerous than Fenianism, for to the credit of the Irish in Canada, it should be said that they gave no countenance to the Fenian intruders. The French people in Quebec, however, had strong sympathies for their race in the Red River Settlement. No one in Canada believed that any injustice could be done to either the English or French elements on the banks of Red River, but Sir George Cartier fought strongly for his own, and was very unwilling to allow an expedition to go out to Manitoba with hostile intent. Of the two battalions of volunteers that went out to Red River, one was from Quebec, but one military authority states that there were not fifty French-Canadians all told in the Quebec battalion. It had been proposed that Col. Wolseley, who was to command the Red River Expedition, should be appointed Governor of the new province of Manitoba, but this was sturdily opposed by the French-Canadian section of the Cabinet, and Hon. Adams G. Archibald, a Nova Scotian, was appointed to the post of Governor. Hampered thus, in so far as exercising any civil functions were concerned, Col. Garnet Wolseley was chosen by the British officer in command in Canada—General Lindsay—to organize this expedition. Wolseley was very popular, having served in Burmah, India, the Crimea and China. The Ontario battalion soon had to refuse applications, and from Ontario the complement of the Quebec battalion was filled up. It was decided also that a battalion of regulars, with small bodies of artillery and engineers should take the lead in the expedition. Thus, a force of 1,200 men was speedily gathered together and put at the disposal of Colonel Wolseley. Two hundred boats, each some 25 to 30 feet long, carrying four tons as well as fourteen men as a crew, were built; the voyageurs numbered some four hundred men. No sooner did the Fenians in the United States hear of this expedition than they threatened Lower Canada, and spoke of interrupting the troops as they passed Sault Ste. Marie. The United States also refused to allow soldiers or munitions of war to pass up their Sault Canal. The rallying began in May, and though the troops were compelled to debark themselves and their stores at Sault Ste. Marie, portage them around the Sault and replace them in the steamers again, yet all the troops were landed at Port Arthur on Lake Superior by the 21st of June, their officers declaring "our mission is one of peace, and the sole object of it is to secure Her Majesty's Sovereign authority." Some time was lost in endeavoring to use land carriage up from Port Arthur as far as Lake Shebandowan. The difficulties were so great that the scouts were led to find another route for the boats up the Kaministiquia River. In this they were successful; in all this worry from mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies in millions, the troops preserved their good temper, and Col. Wolseley said, "I have never been with any body of men in the field so well fed as this has been." (July 10th.) The real start of the expedition was from Lake Shebandowan. The three brigades of boats—A. B. and C.—seventeen in all, got off from Shebandowan shore on the evening of July 16th; by the 4th of August Rainy River was reached, and at Fort Frances Colonel Wolseley met Captain Butler, who had acted as intelligence officer, having adroitly passed under Riel's shadow, and being able now to give the news required. It was still the statement and belief of Riel that "Wolseley would never reach Fort Garry." Crossing Lake of the Woods the regular troops were pushed ahead, and on descending Winnipeg River they reached Fort Alexander and Lake Winnipeg on August 20th. Here Commissioner Donald A. Smith, having come through in a light canoe, met Colonel Wolseley. After a short delay Colonel Wolseley's command hastened to the Red River, ascended it, and cautiously approached Fort Garry. It was still uncertain whether Riel was to oppose the expedition or not. The troops formed for what emergency might arise, and two small guns were in readiness should they be required. When Fort Garry was sighted, its guns were mounted, and everything seemed ready for defence. The officers of the expedition, as they approached it were quite ready for a shot to be fired from the battlements, but there was no movement, Riel, Lepine, and O'Donoghue alone, were left of the Metis levy, and as the 60th Rifles drew near the Fort the three were seen to escape from the river gate and to flee across the bridge of boats on the Assiniboine River. Capt. Huyshe states that the troops took possession of the fort with a bloodless victory, the Union Jack was hoisted, three cheers were given for the Queen and the Riel regime was at an end. The militia regiments arrived on the 27th of August, and two days afterwards the Imperial troops started back to their headquarters in Ontario. Captain Buller, who afterward became so celebrated in South Africa, took his company down the Dawson road to the northwest angle of the Lake of the Woods, and thus returned eastward, while Colonel McNeil left the country by way of Red River, through the United States. Shortly afterward, on September 2nd, Lieutenant-Governor Archibald arrived by the Winnipeg River route, and began his work.

Winnipeg in 1871


The joy of all classes of the people was unbounded. The English half-breeds had been loyal through the whole of the disturbances. Kildonan Church had been the headquarters of the Loyalists in their attempted rally, and after the execution of Scott, the French half-breeds had gradually dropped off from Riel, until he and his two companions formed a helpless trio shorn of all power.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.