Fort Pitt Fallen.
On Monday noon two scouts came in from Pitt bringing the melancholy news of its destruction and the probable slaughter of all who were within its walls.
The story is, that when they arrived opposite the fort at night everything was dark, and that in the morning they saw that it was abandoned and that all the doors and windows in the building were broken.
Little Poplar with two lodges was along side the fort and entered into conversation with the scouts. He told them that he had persuaded the police and others to make their escape, as otherwise they would be killed, and acting on his advice they had gone down the river on a raft.
Little Poplar said that he had saved the lives of the people but was otherwise not very communicative.
Malcolm Macdonald, at one time interpreter to the force, was also there, but declined to accompany them in, as he said he was a prisoner—on what account or by whom held he did not say. He also was very reticent.
The fall of this place is a terrible calamity, as iot involves the rate of nearly fifty people; for taking everything into account there is but little hope of their escape or rescue. Even if they did emark on a raft under the safe-conduct of a chief, it by no means follows that they would be allowed to escape with their lives. The opportunity of killing a lot of defenseless as they ran down the narrow places in the river without endangering themselves is one that perpetrators of the cold blooded atrocities at Frog Lake would not allow to pass.
That the fugitives have not been able to make good their escape is apparent, as they should have been here a day or two ago, the run by the river not usually taking more than two or three days.
A party of police returned on Tuesday evening from a ride up Saskatchewan which they had taken to learn tidings of the police said to be on a boat.
They reported to have found them at a point fourty-five miles up the river, working their way down. Their course had been impeded by floating ice or they would have been here sooner.
Inspector Dickens, in command, gave the following account of the affair that led to the evacuation of Pitt.
On Wednesday last, 15th inst., Big Bear and his followers arrived from Frog Lake and camped in the vicinity of the fort. A council was held at which its capture was discussed, when a division arose as to whether or not it should be attempted. While this was going on some of the party placed themselves in ambush on the hill at the base of which the fort lies, and fired on the pickets as they where making their rounds, killing Const. Cowan of Ottawa and wounding Const. Lousby of Halifax. The latter's horse was killed under him, but that of the former ran off.
The garrison rallied to the rescue of their comrades and after a sharp condict drove them back, killing four and wounding many more. Meantime Mr. McLean, Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, went to the camp to have a talk with the chiefs. Here he was made a prisoner, and it being then decided that the fort should be taken, wich meant death to all within its walls, he was given the alternative of bringing all his people to the Indian camp, where their lives would be spared or of being himself killed—the object being to leave the police alone to hold the position. This he consented to do, and accordingly sent a letter setting forth the situation, and all the company's people, and other civilians surrendered.
A demand was then made on the police to give up their arms and be dealt with as Big Bear would afterwards see fit. This overture was scornfully rejected by Inspector Dickens, who told the messenger that he would hold the fort as long as there was a man left to hold a gun. In the discussion which followed the receipt of this defiance Little Poplar took the cautions side, assuring his friends that the police were desperate and would offer such a resistance to any attacks that might be made that their capture, of which he would not admit a doubt, would cost so many of his own people's lives that it would be too dear a victory. Looking at it from this standpoint it was decided to let them go wherever they pleased if they would surrender the fort. This offer Inspector Dickens accepted, but in doing so he was not sure of ultimate safety, as it was understood there that Battleford, Prince Albert and Edmonton had all been burned, and while doubting it they had no assurance that it was not true.
Left thus to themselves the gallant poarty put their arms, ammunition and a supply of provisions on a boat and set out for Battleford, and where allowed to depart unmolested.
The magnamanity displayed by Little Poplar, and the credit he was for a short time accorded as being opposed to bloodshed becomes cowardice and self interest when we look at the motive that implied him to act as he did. It was not that he liked the police but that he was affraid of the slaughter they would make amongst his braves before they could capture the fort.
Latest, and Official.
The following letter from factor W. J. McLean, Hudson's Bay Company, explains itself:
Top Of The Hill, Fort Pitt, April 15—2 p-m.
My Dear Wife—Most unfortunately I have been too confiding in the Indians and have come into camp; and after I had a long talk with them and they had spoke at length with me they would not have it any other way than that the police should and must go away at once, and I was speaking with a view at the same time at gaining time for the three men that are gone. They, the scouts, came on the main road and met some young fellows who fired on them, or they fired on the scouts, and the whole camp was after them in a minute. I thought the Indians were aware of the three men who were out and said nothing about them. Had I spoken perhaps things would have been different. They now, in the excitement, have made me a prisoner and made me swear by Almighty God that I would stay with them.
Alas, that I came into camp at all; for God only knows how things will go now. They want you and the children to go into camp and it may be for the best that you should, for heaven only knows how this will end. If the police force in the fort cannot get off the Indians are sure to attack it—so they say—and will burn it down. I am really a at loss what to sugest for the best. For the time being we might be save with the Indians, but hereafter it is hard to say, for provisions will be scarce after a short time and we may suffer in that way. The chiefs and councillors sayx they will let me go down the Beaver River with my family, and if so we would be all right. Stanley must come also,and every one belonging to the company. They say Malcolm and Hodson [servants—Ed.] are also wanted. I will write you again after I hear what Mr. Dickens says about allowing you all to come out. I believe candidly it is the best that you should come, as the Indians are determined to burn the fort if the police do not leave. They have brought coal oil with them for that purpose, and I fear they will succeed in setting the place on fire. Beyond a doubt the Indinas promise that after you all come out they will go off and give the police time to get away before they come to see the fort again. The Indians whish you to bring all your things at once. We must do all we can to get out before dark and move out so as to give Capt. Dickens a chance to get off with his men. They tell to bring everything I can with me. May God bless and guide you all for the best.
[The remainder of the letter is devoted to personal and private matters.]
W. J. McLean.
On receipt of Mr. McLean's letter, his family and the company's servants made preparations to join him. The position of the police being now very precarious a retreat was ordered. There was but little time for preparation; ammunition and provisions were placed in the scow, and with their wounded comrade Loasby in the midst, the police marched down to the lading place; the scow was launched but nearly filled with water, and it seemed at one time as it would be impossible to cross the river. There ensued a short period of dreadful suspense, as every one expected that the Indians would take advantage of the accident and attack; but Big Bear kept his word, and at last, under the guidance of Cons. Rutledge, who ably managed the boat, the opposite shore was reached. The night was stormy and very cold. When day broke another start was made; ice was floating down the river, and navigation was very difficult. By dint of hard work, however, Pine Tree Island was reached Sunday evening. A halt was made on Monday to refit; a good run was made on Tuesday, when the travellers had the pleasure of seeing Cons. Hines and guide Josie. On Wednesday the police reached Battleford, bringing with them arms and ammunition.
The prisoners number nearly fouty of all ages, and include Rev. Charles Quinney and wife and Instructor Mann, wife and family.--Saskatchewan Herald newspaper / Articles on the Frog Lake Massacre [Wikisource]
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