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1. Introduction2. Birth of a Police Force3. The March West4. Establishment of the Force5. The Railroad and the Rebellion6. The Growth of the Force7. Establishment of a National Police Force8. Biographies
 
Roche Percee to the Sweetgrass Hills
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We had only covered about a quarter of the distance to Fort Whoop-Up, and this on an established trail. The force now had orders to strike north of the boundary and travel across unknown country. Unfortunately, our Metis guides were not familiar with the country. Using an inaccurate map and taking compass readings by day and surveying by the stars at night, Commissioner French and Sub-Inspector Walker gradually marched the force closer to its goal.

While never lost, they could not plan the best route. The force struggled up and down hills and through broken terrain. They never knew when they might find water. Many of the lakes and sloughs they did find were either fouled by buffalo or full of alkali. Often the men and animals were so thirsty that they drank the water anyway, only to suffer later.

Some days were better than others. A clean lake meant a day of rest, a chance to do laundry and to take a bath. Some of the better marksmen shot ducks and geese, a most welcome change to our diet of dry biscuits, bacon and tea! The men were very pleased the day Assistant Commissioner Macleod appeared with 4,700 pounds of pemmican he had purchased at Wood Mountain Depot.

Most days, the men rose early, loaded their tents and blankets into the wagons, brushed and saddled their horses, and rode for ten or twelve miles before stopping for breakfast. More often than not, breakfast was '23', a nickname for tea only, or 'wet and dry' - tea or water and a biscuit or hardtack. Tea, of course, could only be made when the men found firewood. On the prairie, they collected dry buffalo chips to burn. On wet days there were no hot meals.

On August 18, Commissioner French established his 'Cripple Camp'. Seven sick men, 26 horses and some exhausted oxen were left with Sergeant Sutherland in charge. The men were to stay there until the force returned on its march back to Manitoba later in the fall.

A week later, the force reached the edge of the Cypress Hills. Here they waited until Assistant Commissioner Macleod arrived from the White Mud River Depot with oats for the horses. That day the men ate the last of the bacon. Wet and dry would be the order for the next days.

After marching over 600 miles, the men finally spotted their first buffalo. Rifles were put to use and soon the men were feasting on fresh meat.

The horses weren't as lucky. The buffalo had eaten all of the grass. The oats were finished. With the coming of September, the weather turned cold and rainy. Already barely able to walk, more horses died. Some could only walk a few hours before needing a lengthy rest. The Commissioner ordered everyone to use one of their two blankets to cover their horse.

The force was in trouble. Food was in short supply, men and horses were exhausted and cold. About forty horses had already died. The men walked in what remained of their boots; some wound rags around their feet, one man even wore his slippers!

French sent out scouts to look for Fort Whoop-Up. All they found were three deserted log cabins. Even his information about the location of the Fort was wrong. French decided to push for the Sweetgrass Hills. Through driving snow, the force straggled into camp by the West Butte.

Commissioner French was once again faced with a decision. He decided to take D and E Divisions back to winter quarters at Fort Ellice. The rest of the men, B, C, F and a few men left from A Division would continue on to Fort Whoop-Up with Assistant Commissioner Macleod. The horses were inspected and the best assigned to D and E Divisions. Under Inspector Carvell, these two troops would begin to slowly make their way eastward to Wild Horse Lake, where they would wait for the Commissioner. French planned a trek to Fort Benton in Montana to re-provision the force, before heading east himself.

Looking west across the hills of the Coteau country.
Looking west across the hills of the Coteau country.




Fresh meat was always welcome.
Fresh meat was always welcome.







Buffalo hunt.
Buffalo hunt.

 

Buffalo coat.
Buffalo coat.

 
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3. The March West