Métis Nation History

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The first clash came on March 26, 1885, when Crozier sent out a small detachment of Police with a few civilian volunteers from Prince Albert, under the general direction of that experienced and fearless frontiersman, Thomas McKay, above named, to bring in to Fort Carlton some Government stores from Mitchell's trading place above mentioned. This little detachment, of some twenty all told, were met when near Duck Lake by that mischievous Indian, Chief Beardy, with his warriors and Riel's fighting Lieutenant, a famous half-breed plainsman, Gabriel Dumont, this rebel force being estimated by Duck Lake residents at between 300 and 400 men, all well armed, though all did not appear then on the field. A confab took place, Beardy and Dumont being very insolent, and endeavouring evidently to get Crozier's men to begin hostilities so that the rebels might wipe them out. But McKay, though boldly standing his ground, would not be drawn, and after a somewhat stormy interview, retired to Carlton, daring the rebels to follow.

In the meantime, the Commissioner, Colonel A. G. Irvine, a careful and conscientious officer, who had succeeded MacLeod in command of the Police in 1880, wired from Regina to Ottawa and got orders to take all available men, less than 100, and proceed to Prince Albert, as that whole section of country was exposed to the utmost danger. Irvine made a record march through slush and snow, outwitted Riel's forces at South Saskatchewan by going through their zone, and arriving at Prince Albert with horses so used up by the spring roads that a day had to be taken to get them able to go further. He had received word from Carlton that there was no immediate likelihood of trouble, but he lost no time in pressing on to that point, reaching there in the afternoon of March 26, only to find that Crozier had gone out that day to Duck Lake with his handful of police and civilian volunteers and had just returned after experiencing a reverse.

At that time, and later in his formal report, Irvine expressed keen regret that Crozier, knowing the Commissioner to be within 50 miles with reinforcements, had not waited. But Crozier had been true to the Police record of not counting odds when duty seemed clear. And so, when his first small detachment, under Thomas McKay, had come back, the Superintendent doubtless felt that unless he acted at once, the rebels would say that the Police could be bluffed, and would thus be able to call to the cause of the revolt hundreds of half-breeds and Indians, who would take courage from the apparent apathy or weakness of the Government forces. Besides this, it became known later that the volunteers from Prince Albert were anxious to settle the rebels, as their homes were menaced by the uprising.

So the Duck Lake fight took place between Crozier, Inspector Howe, with Surgeon Miller and fifty-three men of the Mounted Police, aided by forty-one civilian volunteers from Prince Albert, under Captains Moore and Morton, a total of ninety-nine on the one side against Gabriel Dumont, Chief Beardy and a force of nearly 400 half-breeds and Indians on the other. The rebels first used a flag of truce, and under cover of conference partially outflanked our men on the one side, while the rest of their forces were well concealed under cover of log buildings and brush. The thing was too unequal, and our men, after fighting in the open with the utmost coolness and courage against a practically hidden enemy, gathered up their nine dead and five wounded, who needed care, and retired in good order to Carlton. The loss of the rebels, who concealed their dead, was not known, but Gabriel Dumont was wounded by a bullet which plowed along his head and felled him to the ground. A few years later Mr. Roger Goulet, a famous loyalist French half-breed land-surveyor in Winnipeg, who was on the Commission to inquire into the question of half-breed rights, said to me: "The Duck Lake fight was worth while, because Gabriel Dumont's wound, which I saw later when he took off his hat to make an affidavit, cooled his ardour to such an extent that he was timid for the rest of the campaign, or the rebellion might have lasted much longer." --Policing the Plains, by R.G. MacBeth (Primary source documents)



Métis Nation History

Commemorating 2010 Year of the Métis Nation Anniversary

Related 1885 Métis Nation Newspaper links

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