The 1870 Wolseley Expedition Route

By Laliberte, Larry | Manitoba History, June 2006 | Go to article overview

The 1870 Wolseley Expedition Route


Laliberte, Larry, Manitoba History


Old maps are found in the most interesting places. In the case of an 1870 map, showing the route taken by the Red River Expedition, it was folded up at the back of a 135 year old report in the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. The map was uncovered as a result of research related to an Internet history project, serving as a spatial backdrop for a theme entitled Red River Rebellion. in order to liberate the folded treasure, it was carefully spread out and scanned, at which point its digital life began. A portion of the map appears on the cover of this issue of Manitoba History.

Visually, the 1870 map is a cartographic gem, meshing landscape greens with annotated reds to artistically represent the geographic knowledge of northwestern Ontario and southern Manitoba region in 1870. The map also serves as a historical snapshot of the movements, including date of arrival at each place, of over 1,400 men in the Red River Expeditionary Force, under the command of Colonel Garnet Wolseley. By combining the map's cartographic information with other primary sources, first hand accounts, official reports, paintings, sketches and other maps and adding other data formats including audio, video, websites and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data, all possible within the three-dimensional (3D) authoring environment of Google Earth (GE; http:// earth.google.com), the 1870 map serves as a spatial portal to, as well as a representation of, certain elements of the Red River Expedition.

The first stage of re-visioning the 1870 map in GE has been the recreation of the original route of Dawson's Road, which ran from Prince Arthur's Landing (Thunder Bay) to Shebandowan Lake. This portion was selected because the transportation of men and materials over the road, with many sections in disarray and others not even completed, occupied approximately 60% of the Expedition's time. Ideally, the recreation of the route of Dawson's Road would involve the overlay of the scanned 1870 map onto GE's satellite image data for the area and then tracing the route. However, since the original surveying methods are over a hundred years old, the route marked on the 1870 map does not line up correctly, regardless of how many times it is resized, stretched and/or rotated. Since the current highways approximate the course of the 1870 route, a GIS road data set was selected and imported into GE to serve as the base to recreate the original road.

Once the route of the 1870 road was integrated within GE's landscape of digital elevation data and satellite images, other attributes can be added. For example, a first hand account of the state of Dawson's Road when Colonel Wolseley arrived at Prince Arthur's Landing on May 25th 1870, was incorporated from a book published in 1871, by Captain G. L. Huyshe entitled The Red River Expedition. in his book, Huyshe breaks down the route of the road into five segments, including the length of each segments in miles. By measuring and annotating theses segments, users can click on a portion of the route and read Huyshe's description (see below).

Any information that has a known location can be easily added as a place mark in GE. In virtually recreating the landscape of the 1870 map, icons have been added that link to the paintings of the Red River Expedition by William Armstrong. With a simple piece of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code, Armstrong's paintings, that are available on the Internet, can be pulled into a popup balloon that is displayed when a place mark is clicked. …

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