Copyright 2012 The Guild of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, All Rights Reserved

Louis Riel first came on the scene in 1870 when he formed a provisional Metis government at Fort Garry. When the government sent a military force (The Red River Expedition) to deal with him, he bolted and went into exile in Montana.

The Metis people having been resettled along the banks of the Saskatchewan River from Manitoba were under pressure again when surveyors threatened to impose a rationalized grid system on their scattered holdings the Metis reacted to protecting themselves. Their old leader, Louis Riel, was persuaded back from Montana to head their cause.

A week later a force of 56 North West Mounted Police and 43 white settlers sworn in as special constables, moving on Batoche in an attempt to establish Canadian  authority,  encountered  a  larger  group of armed Metis at Duck Lake, led by Gabriel Dumont, Riel's field commander. The Mounties decided to engage this force, even though over 100 reinforcements were only a couple of hours behind them. The battle lasted about thirty or forty minutes until the Mounties withdrew leaving behind ten dead, with two more near death and eleven wounded. At this point, the Rebellion began in full swing. With Riel's initial victory, a number of Indian bands joined into the rising. A few days later, Indians from the Poundmaker and Little Pine reserves arrived on the scene "ALL ARMED AND IN WAR PAINT". Along the North Saskatchewan River, Cree Indians of Big Bear's band unearthed the hatchet and proceeded to murder nine people at Frog Lake.


Two years after it had been formed the Calvary School Corps received it's warning order on the 7th of April and moved out four days later. The Regiment was tasked with escorting supply convoys and protecting lines of communications. The regiment's main A.O.R. was Touchwood Hills south east of Saskatoon. When the order to mobilize came, the Militia reacted instantly. There was no shortage of volunteers.  The troops were beginning  preparations to move almost  immediately though there were a few problems. Equipment was in short supply and there was no real support structure for a fighting force. In addition, the route out west had to be an all Canadian one. The real problem with this was that the railway was not complete between Quebec and Winnipeg. The worst terrain, some two hundred miles, had to be covered on foot.


General Middleton's plan of action was simple. Three columns of troops would move north from three different points along the railway to relieve the threatened areas. General Middleton detrained at Troy and moved toward Batoche and Prince Albert. Colonel Otter left from Swift Current for Battleford. And General Strange headed north from Calgary to Edmonton and then down the Saskatchewan River for Big Bear's encampment near Fort Pitt. The Cavalry School was employed, to their immediate disappointment, to protect the supply line between the CPR track and the South Saskatchewan river. In this capacity, their chief enemy was boredom and the elements.


The lessons from the North West Rebellion were fairly obvious...militia training was inadequate and so was the military supply, transport and stores system. The scandals involving graft and corruption in the purchase of supplies touched nearly everyone. Unfortunately, it still took the government a long time to deal with these problems. In fact, at first, things got worse instead of better for Canada's Regulars. Though finally having a permanent spot in Canada's military organization, they weren't given the support they needed.

The only immediate positive effect for them was an increase in their establishment to one thousand. They received an artillery battery at Victoria, another infantry company, and, more importantly a school was formed in Winnipeg for mounted infantry----thought by many to be the wave of the future for cavalry in a changing world. Unfortunately, the Regulars were still under paid and it seemed that the only way to get ahead in the army was to make the right friends within the establishment. By the early 1890's the desertion rate in the Permanent Force was seventeen percent per year, while those who legitimately left the service numbered in the area of thirty-nine percent. Canada's army was rapidly losing its base of experience and skill. Things wouldn't really begin to change for the better until 1890.


In 1890, Major-General Ivor Caradoc Herbert arrived in Ottawa as General Officer Commanding. He knew exactly what was needed. The militia would amount to nothing, he explained, until the regulars improved,---And they would not get better until they were instilled with a sense of professional identity and obligation and were made to understand the importance of merit. To this end, his first step was to make regiments out of the dispersed artillery batteries and schools of infantry and cavalry...thus forming the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, The Canadian Regiment of Infantry, and the Canadian Dragoons. He also required permanent force officers to pass British Army courses to qualify for appointments. At Militia Headquarters, meanwhile, he arranged for the appointment of a Staff College trained British officer, Colonel Percy Lake, as the country's first Quartermaster General, and gave him responsibility for mobilization planning and the creation of military supply and service departments. At last, someone had heeded the lessons learned from the Red River Rebellion and put forward changes toward the betterment of Canada's Permanent Force.The last battle was fought on the 26th of May. In August the regiment was ordered home.

In recognition of their fine work during the rebellion The regiment was awarded it's first battle honour NORTH WEST CANADA 1885 in 1895.
North-West Rebellion