Battle of Batoche

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Battle of Batoche
Part of the North-West Rebellion
The Capture of Batoche.jpg
Contemporary lithograph of the Battle of Batoche.
Date May 9 – May 12, 1885
Location Batoche, Saskatchewan
Result Decisive Canadian victory
Belligerents
Flag of the provisional government of saskatchewan.jpg Provisional Government of Saskatchewan (Métis) Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921.svg Canada
Commanders and leaders
Gabriel Dumont
Louis Riel
Frederick Middleton
Bowen van Straubenzee
Strength
250 916
Casualties and losses
16 dead[1][2][3]
30 wounded[1][2]
8 dead[1]
46 wounded[1]
The District of Saskatchewan in 1885 (within the black diamonds) included the central section of Saskatchewan and extended into Alberta and Manitoba.
The Métis conflict area is circled in black.

The Battle of Batoche was the decisive battle of the North-West Rebellion. Fought from May 9 to May 12, 1885 at the ad hoc Provisional Government of Saskatchewan capital of Batoche, the greater numbers and superior firepower of Middleton's force could not be successfully countered by the Métis (as had happened at Fish Creek), and the town was eventually captured. The defeat of the Métis led to the surrender of Louis Riel on May 15 and the collapse of the Provisional Government. In the weeks that followed, Poundmaker would surrender and only the Cree under Big Bear would continue to engage Canadian authorities – see Battle of Frenchman's Butte and Battle of Loon Lake.

Early advances and the crippling of the Northcote[edit]

Conscious of the numerous reverses that had been suffered by government forces in previous clashes with the rebels (see the battles of Duck Lake, Fish Creek, and Cut Knife), Middleton approached Batoche with caution, reaching Gabriel's Crossing on 7 May and advancing within eight miles (13 km) of the town the following day.[4] Middleton's plan rested on an encirclement strategy: as his main contingent advanced directly against Métis defensive lines, the steamboat Northcote, carrying some of Middleton's troops, would steam past the distracted defenders and unload fifty men at the rear of the town, effectively closing the pincer. However, due to the difficulty of the terrain and Middleton's penchant for prudence, his force lagged behind schedule, and when the Northcote appeared adjacent to the town on 9 May it was spotted by Métis who had not yet come under artillery fire. Although their small arms fire did little damage to the armoured ship, the Métis were able to lower Batoche's ferry cable, into which the Northcote steamed unsuspectingly. Its masts and smokestacks sliced clean off, the crippled ship drifted harmlessly down the South Saskatchewan River and out of the battle.[4][5]

Mission Ridge[edit]

Ignorant of the Northcote's fate, Middleton approached the church at Mission Ridge on the morning of 9 May in order to bring his plan into effect. Finding the mission occupied only by priests and civilians, Middleton brought his artillery out onto the ridge and began shelling the town. There his Gatling gun was used to good effect, providing covering fire for the withdrawal of cannon that had come under sniper fire and dispersing an attempt by Gabriel Dumont to capture the guns.

Canadian advances saw less success but were carefully conducted, keeping casualties to a minimum. A Métis attempt to surround the Canadian lines failed when the brushfires meant to screen the sortie failed to spread, and at the end of the day, both sides held their positions at Mission Ridge, Canadian soldiers retiring to sleep behind their network of improvised barricades.[4][5]

Probing attacks of 10 May to 11[edit]

On May 10, Middleton established heavily defended gunpits and conducted a devastating, day-long shelling of the town. Attempted advances, however, were turned back by Métis fire, and no ground was gained. The next day, Middleton gauged the strength of the defenders by dispatching a contingent of men north along the enemy's flank while simultaneously conducting a general advance along the front. Having redirected a portion of their strength to hold the northward flank, the Métis lacked the manpower to oppose the Canadian thrust, ceding ground with little resistance. Canadian soldiers ventured as far as the Batoche cemetery before turning back. Satisfied with his enemies' weakness, Middleton retired to sleep and contended to take the town in the morning.[4][5]

The storming of Batoche[edit]

Batoche battlefield sketch map

By 12 May, Métis defences were in poor shape. Of the original defenders, three-quarters had either been wounded by artillery fire or scattered and divided in the many clashes with the Canadians on the outskirts of the town. Those that still held their positions were fatigued and desperately short of ammunition. To this effect, some Métis were forced to fire nails and rocks out of their rifles, from their remaining gunpowder supplies. They also used forks and knives.[6]

Middleton's attack plan was designed to mirror the success of the previous day's flanking feint, with one column drawing defenders away to the north and a second, under Colonel Bowen van Straubenzee, assaulting the town directly. Straubenzee's soldiers performed brilliantly, charging into Batoche in the face of heavy fire and driving the remaining Métis clear of the town.[4][5]

Gallery[edit]

Aftermath[edit]

The Métis defeat at Batoche virtually ended the North-West Rebellion. Louis Riel surrendered and was hanged for treason in Regina on 16 November while Gabriel Dumont fled to the United States, returning to Batoche only in 1893. Middleton's forces proceeded north to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Casualties[edit]

Middleton reported 8 deaths and 46 wounded on the Canadian side and 51 deaths and 173 wounded on the Métis side.[1][7] Later Father Vegreville reported that the Métis loss was not as high as the Mission first reported to Middleton. There were 16 Métis killed and between 20 and 30 wounded.[2] Nine of the Métis killed in the battle were buried in the cemetery of Batoche. Eight were in a common grave.[3][8][9]

Bell of Batoche[edit]

Main article: Bell of Batoche

Following the battle, it was believed that several Canadian soldiers from Millbrook, Ontario, had taken the bell from the Batoche church back to Ontario as a prize.[10] The fate of the bell became an issue of longstanding controversy, involving several Métis organizations and the provincial governments of Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Legacy[edit]

BATOCHE. In 1872, Xavier Letendre dit Batoche founded a village at this site where Métis freighters crossed the South Saskatchewan River. About 50 families had claimed the river lots in the area by 1884. Widespread anxiety regarding land claims and a changing economy provoked a resistance against the Canadian Government. Here, 300 Métis and Indians led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont fought a force of 800 men commanded by Major-General Middleton between May 9 and 12, 1885. The resistance failed but the battle did not mean the end of the community of Batoche.

Historic Sites and Monuments board of Canada. Government of Canada[11]

In the spring of 2008, Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Christine Tell proclaimed in Duck lake, that "the 125th commemoration, in 2010, of the 1885 Northwest Resistance is an excellent opportunity to tell the story of the prairie Métis and First Nations peoples' struggle with Government forces and how it has shaped Canada today."[12]

Batoche, where the Métis Provisional Government had been formed, has been declared a national historic site. Batoche marks the site of Gabriel Dumont's grave site, Albert Caron's House, Batoche school, Batoche cemetery, Letendre store, Gabriel's river crossing, Gardepy's crossing, Batoche crossing, St. Antoine de Padoue Church, Métis rifle pits, and Canadian militia's battle camp.[13][14]

Maps[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament., Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  2. ^ a b c Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 p.327, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  3. ^ a b "Batoche: les missionnaires du nord-ouest pendant les troubles de 1885 (La Liberation) P.206". Le Chevallier, Jules Jean Marie Joseph. Montreal: L'Oeuvre de presse dominicaine. 1941. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (p.196-215), Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  5. ^ a b c d Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament.(P. 27-35), Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  6. ^ "The Battle of Batoche: British Small Warfare and the Entrenched Métis". The Battle of Batoche by Hildebrandt, Walter. Parks Canada, Winnipeg. 1985. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  7. ^ "The Battle of Batoche". The New York Times. May 16, 1885. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  8. ^ "Batoche". Darren R. Préfontaine. Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  9. ^ "Heroes of the 1885 Northwest Resistance. Summary of those Killed.". Barkwell, Lawrence J. Louis Riel Institute. 2010. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  10. ^ "Bell of Batoche really the Bell of Frog Lake". Alexandra Paul (Winnipeg Free Press). 2014-04-21. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  11. ^ Historic Sites and Monuments board of Canada. Government of Canada (21 Nov 2004). "Welcome To Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Region Gen Web Batoche / Fish Creek Photo Gallery". Saskatoon Gen Web. online by Julia Adamson. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  12. ^ "Tourism agencies to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Northwest Resistance/Rebellion". Home/About Government/News Releases/June 2008. Government of Saskatchewan. June 7, 2008. Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  13. ^ "Batoche The Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture". Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  14. ^ "Parks Canada Batoche National Historic Site of Canada". Government of Canada. 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 

References[edit]

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