Although Poundmaker and Big Bear were still at large, Louis Riel surrendered to General Middleton on May 15, 1885, and the Northwest Rebellion was over. The decisive battle had been fought at Batoche two days before. Gabriel Dumont escaped across the border into the United States, bur Riel wrote a note on an envelope and had two Métis take it to Middleton. It said, “I don’t like war.”
Middleton would not receive Riel until May 15 and then send him to Medicine Hat on board the Northcote under close guard. From there he was taken to Regina by train and put in prison. Middleton later described his meeting with Riel in an official report: “I found him a mild-spoken and mild-looking man, with a short beard and an uneasy frightened look about his eyes, which gradually disappeared as I talked to him.” He decided that Riel was sane enough to stand trial.
The Northcote played an important part in the battle. As it arrived with supplies at Middleton’s jumping-off place for the assault on Batoche, it was supposed to blow its whistle as the signal for the attack to begin. The Métis had strung a cable across the river, and it ripped off the Northcote‘s funnels. The whistle came down with them and was not able to blow!
The Métis were were hidden in pits, with breastworks of earth and logs. They were placed in such a way that Middleton’s troops had to attack across the skyline and could be easily seen. Middleton moved cautiously for two days, though some of his officers were impatient for a more daring type of attack.
On the third day, Middleton decided to attack the rifle pits. He took the Gatling gun and a small force of men to one sector, and arranged for the main body of troops to attack from the south when they heard his guns firing. However, there was a strong wind and his gunfire could not be heard. Middleton galloped to the main position on his white horse to scold the Midlanders and Grenadiers for not having gone into action. This was exactly what Colonel Williams and Colonel Grassett wanted. When they saw Middleton galloping towards them, they ordered their troops to rush the rifle pits in a daring charge. The battle was over in a few minutes, ans the Métis had run out of ammunition and were only firing small stones and nails.
This blog is peppered with stories about Louis Riel. If you want to read more about him and his arrest, I have a few reference sites to click to. For starters I recommend Daniel Paul‘s website has many interesting articles; and the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network also has lots of articles; we can always count on CBC to professionally cover Canadian content, and their article Louis Riel: The North-West Rebellion; another great place to go is at the Virtual Museum of Metis History and Culture, and lastly AWCHIMO – DOT – CA which is a “website for kids to learn about Métis heritage, culture, history and the Métis language, Michif! Do you know what “awchimo” means in Michif?! It means: “to tell stories”! I have LOTS to tell you about Métis People!”
As you can imagine, there are many, many books about Louis Riel. A few are Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, and also Riel and the Rebellion: 1885 Reconsidered, as well as The trial of Louis Riel: Justice and mercy denied : a critical, legal and political analysis, and finally Strange Empire The Story of Louis Riel.
- Poundmaker Wins Battle (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Battle of Fish Creek (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Canada’s rendezvous with the Métis (theglobeandmail.com)
- Half-Breed to Metis – A Return from a Savage Wilderness (robynlawson111.com)