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Leaving Fort Dufferin
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What a commotion! The troops from Toronto arrived with horses, wagons and supplies. That night, they kept their horses within a circle of their wagons. Our three troops camped nearby. It was a night we will never forget. A storm blew in with lightning and thunder frightening those eastern horses. When the wind picked up some of the tents and threw them at the horses, well you can just imagine the panic! Horses were everywhere, leaping over the men, the wagons and each other! They broke out of the circle and ran! It took Sub-inspector Walker and a few of our lads, like Fred Bagley, that night and the next day to bring them back. They found all but one.

We spent the rest of the week fixing tents and wagons, loading supplies, and waiting for our sidearms to arrive. On July 8, 1874 we pulled out of Ft. Dufferin in the late afternoon. We had a Hudson Bay start, that is, only a short march from the fort. Just as well - we had trouble with inexperienced riders and horses not used to pulling loads. Commissioner French had two wagon loads of non-essential items sent back, as well as the men's spare clothing. He added two wagonloads of much needed oats.

Dressed in our red Norfolk jackets, white pith helmets and shiny dark boots, we made a tremendous display. At last, our great adventure had started!

A lightning storm stampedes the horses.
A lightning storm stampedes the horses.

The first camp not far from Ft. Dufferin.
The first camp not far from Ft. Dufferin.
A supply trail follows the surveyors on the Boundary Commission's road near the international border.
A supply trail follows the surveyors on the Boundary Commission's road near the international border.

A Boundary Commission work crew.
A Boundary Commission work crew.

A cairn marking the international boundary.
A cairn marking the international boundary.

A stop at Roche Perc�e.
A stop at Roche Percée.
Our March across Manitoba followed the Boundary Commission's road. We stopped at several of their depots to acquire news, provisions, and if available, oats and hay for the horses. We camped on the prairie, sometimes near clean water, often by mosquito-infested sloughs or in dry grassland. We had to watch our fires, not only to make what little firewood we could find last, but also to prevent grass fires.

Our eastern horses had the worst of it. They were not used to the long days, some pulling heavy wagons, and the scarcity of feed and water. Some died, others were mere hide-covered skeletons before the first month ended.

The oxen and cattle fared better. By the time we reached Roche Percée we were strung out for about 8 kms and often the men would go to bed hungry, the supply wagons being many hours behind. Mosquitoes attacked in clouds, grasshoppers ate up all the grass, slough water made the men and horses sick, thunderstorms and rain woke them at night-any ideas of glamour, adventure and fame quickly left the thoughts of the exhausted men.

At Roche Percée the men and animals rested and recovered. Commissioner French, faced with over fifty animals reduced almost to skeletons, and several sick men, made a decision: the force would split up and go in two different directions.

A Division, with the weakest horses, the cows and calves, non-essential provisions and the sick men, would head north to Fort Ellice, then on to Fort Edmonton. The rest of the force would continue westward, to stop the whisky trade and bring law to the land.

This is where I left the main body of men.

I will tell you about my journey with A Division later; let's continue west with Commissioner French, Inspector Macleod, Inspector Walsh, and the rest of the force.

 
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3. The March West