From Carleton Place to Fish Creek –North West Rebellion


Yesterday I wrote about the Fenian and Ballygiblin raids and I was upset how badly the soldiers were treated, not that anyone had a choice. Call me stupid- or I missed something in school, but I had no idea about the North West Rebellion in Saskatchewan until today when I read an article in the The London Advertiser  Newspaper Archives. Time to study up as I feel my brain must have been full of cat food and sadness to miss something like that.



Troops on the march, North West Rebellion, Qu’Appelle Valley, 1885

In April of 1885, Fred McCarthy of the No. 3 Company Seventh Fusiliers wrote in a letter to his Mother that he had endured more hardship than he ever did before in his life on the trip to Red Rock, Ontario. It was a miracle he said, that most of them did not perish from exposure while they travelled from Carleton Place to Red Rock on their way to battle in Saskatchewan. McCarthy wrote they received good meals until they reached the first gap at Dog Lake and then they had to live on *hardtack and tea that resembled dry leaves.


The Northwest Rebellion marked the first time Canada’s new army was used, and the first time Canada’s new trans-continental railway was used to transport some soldiers to the prairies. At a few of the CPR camps they were fed tainted pork beans and black bread.

The marching on the north shore of Lake Superior was in some of the wildest storms they could imagine. In some cases the wind was so fierce it picked up knapsacks out of the sleighs and whisked them clean out of sight over the lake.


Illustration of troops marching over the ice at Nepigon Bay, Lake Superior

The night Fred McCarthy’s regiment reached Superior Lake they marched out for almost a mile around midnight and were put inside the wrecked hold of a schooner. The ice on the floor of the hold was over a foot thick. There they laid themselves down in wringing wet clothing for a few hours sleep, but were constantly awakened  by the freezing air that seemed to cut through them like pins and needles.


When they awoke in the morning some of their clothing was frozen to the ice on the floor of the ship. Their particular regiment did not have the luxury of boarding a CPR passenger train, but instead filled flat cars the next morning. Those cars were roughly boarded around the sides and contained about a foot of snow on the floor of the car.There they endured the cold until they reached Saskatchewan which took 9 days. I can’t even begin to imagine.


Karen (whose own ancestor John Snow fought too) from the Lanark County Genealogical Society added:

Kippen, a surveyor from Perth was killed in one of those battles. Might have been the Louis Riel Rebellion though…don’t have my notes open at this moment. He has a huge – probably 20 foot tall monument in the Elmwood Cemetery in Perth, Ontario. I have started to write about him for the LCGS upcoming book Prominent People (title not confirmed)

  1. 2003-W. Kippen Monument —The monument to A. W. Kippen was finally put up in its place last week and is the most conspicuous object in Elmwood Cemetery. It consists of a plain massive pillar with sloping sides on a base which in turn is placed on a terraced platform. Both pillars and base are of Canadian grey granite.  Standing upon the monument proper is a sculptured figure of a Canadian volunteer in a white marble, a little under life size, keenly gazing toward a possible enemy.  The rifle is upright at his side and a field glass is grasped in his left hand.  On the granite podium appears the following inscription under the engraved coat of arms of Canada:

Lieut. Alexander W. Kippen                                      Intelligence Corp                                                            Born at Perth Aug. 1, 1857                                            Killed in action at Botoche, N.W.T. May 12, 1885

Erected in his memory by his fellow citizens, Masonic brethren and comrades in arms.


Battle of Fish Creek, North West Rebellion


The North-West Rebellion (or the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, Northwest Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) of 1885 was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Métis people under Louis Riel, and an associated uprising by First Nations Cree and Assiniboine, of the District of Saskatchewan against the government of Canada. The Métis believed that Canada had failed to protect their rights, their land and their survival as a distinct people. Riel had been invited to lead the movement but he turned it into a military action with a heavily religious tone, thereby alienating the Catholic clergy, the whites, nearly all of the Indians and most of the Métis. He had a force of a couple hundred Métis and a smaller number of Indians at Batoche in May 1885, confronting 900 government troops.

Despite some notable early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion ended when the Métis were defeated at the siege of Batoche. The remaining Indian allies scattered. Riel was captured and put on trial. He was convicted of treason and despite many pleas across Canada for amnesty, he was hanged. Riel became the heroic martyr to Francophone Canada and ethnic tensions escalated into a major national division that was never resolved.

Thanks to the key role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops, Conservative political support for it increased and Parliament authorized funds to complete the country’s first transcontinental railway. Although only a few hundred people were directly affected in Saskatchewan, the long-term result was that the Prairie Provinces would be controlled by the Anglophones, not the Francophones. A much more important long-term impact was the bitter alienation Francophones across Canada showed, and anger against the repression of their countrymen.–Wikipedia

Battle of Fish Creek

On April 24, 1885, at Fish Creek, Saskatchewan, 200 Métis achieved a remarkable victory over a superior government force numbering 900 soldiers who were sent to quell the rebellion. The reversal, though not decisive enough to alter the outcome of the war, temporarily halted Major General Frederick Middleton’s column’s advance on Batoche. That was where the Métis would later make their final stand. Fish Creek today lies abandoned.







Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of cracker or biscuit, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages and military campaigns. They were also called Molar Breakers.




This photograph was taken in Carleton Place during the 7th Fusiliers’ trip from London to Clark’s Crossing, N.W.T. in 1885.
Left of photograph – 1 Capt. Frank Peters 2 Major Wm. M. Gartshore 3 Capn Geo. M. Reid 4 Capt Frank Butler 5 Lieut. J.K.H. Pope 6 Lieut. Alfred Jones 7 Lieut. A.G. Chisholm

Left bottom – This Photo was taken April 8th, 1885 at Carleton Place while waiting for the train to take us to First Gap. Wm D. Mills Secty. 7th Fusiliers K.W.F.F. 1885.

4 responses »

  1. Kippen, a surveyor from Perth was killed in one of those battles. Might have been the Louis Riel Rebellion though…don’t have my notes open at this moment. He has a huge – probably 20 foot tall monument in the Elmwood Cemetery – if you don’t write about him first, I will write about him later. I have started to write about him for LCGS upcoming book Prominent People – not the correct title.
    My own ancestor John Snow took part too….I really liked the pictures.


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