Threats Internal and External

An Assessment of the Campaign

The Metis’s Revenge

Facing this fighting force, which could easily have been beaten by a vigorous enemy, were scarcely 1,000 insurgents, badly armed and short of food and ammunition. The courage of the handful of troops fighting for a lost cause at Batoche surprised Middleton, and he was impressed by the strength of their position and the ingenuity and care with which their trenches had been constructed. The weakness of the vanquished would enable the victor to indulge in some flag-waving, but 40 years after these events the Métis Historical Society accurately foresaw that "the time is not far off when the Canadian West will salute [the Métis of 1870 and 1885] as precursors and liberators." 24

Middleton would give an accounting of his expedition. Five years after serving as a witness at Louis Riel's trial in 1885, he appeared before a special Commons committee to explain his actions in connection with a North-West Mounted Police seizure of furs. The furs belonged to a Métis who was unable to reclaim them on his release following the events at Batoche because they had vanished. Based on the plaintiff's statement, the trail led right up to Middleton, who claimed he had had the right to order the seizure of pelts stolen by someone else. The committee pronounced the seizures unjustified and unlawful, and Middleton's conduct in the affair was characterized as unspeakable. Middleton left Canada under a cloud of almost universal disapproval. He was not the first of Canada's military "heroes" to be judged for both what he did - conduct a campaign - and what he did not do - steal furs. In 1896 the British government gave him the prestigious office of Keeper of the Crown Jewels - "sweet revenge on those who had driven him out of Canada like a thief." 25