The Battle of Fish creek
Advancing on the Métis Heartland

It took only 10 days for the army to reach Saskatchewan because the railway was almost completed, except for a section in northern Ontario, and .  On April 10, a column of 800 men under the command of Major General Frederick Middleton marched north from the railhead at Qu'Appelle. A few days later 550 men moved north from Swift Current under Lieutenant-Colonel William Otter, and a third came from Calgary under Major-General T.B. Strange.

On April 24, Dumont mounted a surprise attack on the Middleton's column at Fish Creek about 20 km from Batoche.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Battle of Fish Creek 1885
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 19" x 24.5"
Found - St. Thomas, ON
WD Blatchly, from sketches, Toronto Lithographing Co.
Pub. by Grip, Toronto, 1885

Fish Creek:

The Battle of Fish Creek took place April 24, 1885, as Maj. Gen. Frederick Middleton was leading 900 men of the North West Field Force along the east bank (near side) of the South Saskatchewan River, (background) to Batoche where he hoped to crush the rebellion at its source.

 

Gabriel Dumont, leading some 150 Métis and Sioux Indians, decided to set an ambush to try to halt the approaching army. He chose the deep ravine of Fish Creek, some 20 kms from Batoche. He hid his men in the brush-filled coulee and waited.

When the Canadians approached, he sent out a few men to act as decoys. Seeing a "few rebels" the militiamen charged jubilantly, right into the gully where Dumont's men were waiting. They opened up a withering fire that made the militiamen drop to the ground, madly scrambling for cover.

All day Middleton used his heavy nine-pounder guns to try to dislodge Dumont's men from the gully. In vain. As the rifle fire from the Mètis and Indians was causing mounting casualties among his men. Middleton decided to withdraw from the gully, to a safer place. Dumont decided to pull his men back to Batoche.

Middleton had lost six killed; Dumont four.

The result was inconclusive.

 

At left is another original print produced at the time showing the same battle.

Below the famous Blatchly lithograph.

Ambush!

Blatchly has given us a wonderful sense of place for the events that happened on this battlefield. He shows Middleton's men - enthusiastically, if recklessly - charging in from the left, towards the gully of Fish Creek, where they fall to the ground, seeking cover from the withering fire coming from the brush-filled coulee.

Blatchly shows Middleton mounted, in the open space in middle left. He has successfully captured the General's central conviction about the situation - the belief that his men were facing a powerful enemy force of superior numbers, all hidden by brush. Blatchly cleverly uses only a shower of puffs of smoke to represent an enemy that might well be in the thousands, just waiting to pounce out of the bushes, and wipe out Middleton's militiamen!

Below the nine-pounder artillery pieces arrive to do their work, shooting at puffs of smoke in the gully. The gun is given pride of place at the bottom of the print.

But another gun will become more famous during the campaign, an early type of machine gun, called a Gatling



Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
The Attack on the Rebels at Fish Creek
Orig. lithograph - Size - 14" x 19.5"
Found - Cookstown, ON
Hand-coloured, Canadian Pictorial & Illustrated War News Souvenir Number, Pub. Toronto Lithographing Co. 1885
   
   
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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007