Academic journal article Alberta History

Prairie Warships River Navigation in the Northwest Rebellion

Academic journal article Alberta History

Prairie Warships River Navigation in the Northwest Rebellion

Article excerpt

Prairie Warships River Navigation in the Northwest Rebellion

by Gordon E. Tolton. Victoria, B.C.: Heritage House, 336 pp., illus, maps, soft cover, $24,95.

The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 is a well known part of Canadian history. Less known is the part played by steamboats, ferries, and other river craft during the conflict and after. River craft were already a part of Western history. The Hudson's Bay Company had used canoes and York boats for years, carrying their goods upstream and furs down river on their way to European markets. In 1872, it also joined the steam age with the Chief Commissioner which survived for only a few months before being wrecked. It was followed two years later by the Northcote which had a long career in the West.

By the early 1880s a number of other companies had found good use for the prairie watercraft. When the Galt family went into the coal business near the future city of Lethbridge, it added the Baroness, Alberta, and Minnow to the western fleet. Because of these steamboats and other craft, the government was able to press into service a readymade fleet of boats that could serve the Canadian troops. In addition, there were some thirty barges and scows and at least fourteen ferries that played a part in quelling the rebellion.

Perhaps the most exciting naval experience of the rebellion was that of the Northcote which was ordered to take part in an attack on Batoche, the Metis stronghold. …

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