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Halifax Provisional Battalion, Medicine Hat, District of Assiniboia (1885)

The Halifax Provisional Battalion was a military unit from Nova Scotia, Canada, which was sent to fight in the North-West Rebellion in 1885. The battalion was under command of Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Bremner and consisted of 168 non-commissioned officers and men of the 66th Battalion, "Princess Louise Fusiliers", 100 of the 63rd The Halifax Battalion of Rifles, and 84 of the 1st "Halifax" Brigade of Garrison Artillery, with 32 officers. The battalion left Halifax under orders for the North-West on Saturday, 11 April 1885 and they stayed for almost three months.[1]

Prior to Nova Scotia's involvement in the Rebellion, "Canada's first war", the province remained hostile to Canada in the aftermath of the . The celebration that followed the Halifax Provisional Battalion's return by train across the county ignited a national patriotism in Nova Scotia. Prime Minister Robert Borden, stated that "up to this time Nova Scotia hardly regarded itself as included in the Canadian Confederation... The rebellion evoked a new sprit... The Riel Rebellion did more to unite Nova Scotia with the rest of Canada than any event that had occurred since Confederation." Similarly, in 1907 Governor General Earl Grey declared, "This Battalion... went out Nova Scotians, they returned Canadians." The wrought iron gates at the Halifax Public Gardens were made in the Battalion's honour.[2]

Part of a series on the
Military history of
Nova Scotia
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Battle of Port Royal 1690
Conquest of Acadia 1710
Battle of Jeddore Harbour 1722
Northeast Coast Campaign 1745
Battle of Grand Pré 1747
Dartmouth Massacre 1751
Bay of Fundy Campaign 1755
Fall of Louisbourg 1758
Headquarters established for Royal Navy's North American Station 1758
Burying the Hatchet ceremony 1761
Battle of Fort Cumberland 1776
Raid on Lunenburg 1782
Halifax Impressment Riot 1805
Establishment of New Ireland 1812
Capture of USS Chesapeake 1813
Battle at the Great Redan 1855
Siege of Lucknow 1857
CSS Tallahassee Escape 1861
Departing Halifax for Northwest Rebellion 1885
Departing Halifax for the Boer War 1899
Imprisonment of Leon Trotsky 1917
Jewish Legion formed 1917
Sinking of HMHS Llandovery Castle 1918
Battle of the St. Lawrence 1942–44
Sinking of SS Point Pleasant Park 1945
Halifax VE-Day Riot 1945
Walter Callow Wheelchair Bus established 1947
Notable military regiments
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Gorham's Rangers 1744-62
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84th Regiment of Foot 1775-84
Royal Fencible American 1775-83
Royal Nova Scotia Volunteers 1775-83
King's Orange Rangers 1776-83
1st Field Artillery 1791-present
Royal Nova Scotia 1793-1802
Nova Scotia Fencibles 1803-16
The Halifax Rifles (RCAC) 1860-present
The Princess Louise Fusiliers 1867-present
78th Highlanders 1869-71
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Nova Scotia Rifles 1914-19
No. 2 Construction Battalion 1916-19
West Nova Scotia 1916-present
The Nova Scotia Highlanders 1954-present

Swift Current

Provisional Halifax Battalion at Swift Current

The battalion arrived at Winnipeg, Manitoba, on 22 April, at 5 a.m. On the 29th the battalion received orders to go to Swift Current, District of Assiniboia, and marched on same day at 4 p.m. The battalion arrived at Swift Current at 8 p.m. on the 30th, and next day it camped beside the 7th Battalion and a portion of the Midland Battalion.[1]

Halifax Provisional Battalion Plaque, Main Gate, Halifax Public Gardens, Halifax, Nova Scotia - Wrought Iron Gates made in tribute to the Battalion

Medicine Hat

On 5 May a telegram was received to hold the 63rd contingent of the Halifax Provisional Battalion in readiness to repel an uprising of the Blackfoot and other Indians. Further, the battalion was warned of a possible attack on Medicine Hat, District of Assiniboia. As a result, the headquarters of the Halifax Provisional Battalion with the 66th contingent was ordered to Medicine Hat, where it arrived early the next morning. Also encamped on the South Saskatchewan River was a company of Stuart's scouts (the Rocky Mountain Rangers), a body of mounted cowboys. All the parties remained at Medicine Hat until the end of the rebellion.[1]

Saskatchewan Landing

Shortly after the headquarters of the battalion left Swift Current for Medicine Hat two companies of the 63rd contingent were ordered to Saskatchewan Landing, where they were employed loading scows, forwarding supplies, and assisting in transporting across the river.[1]

Moose Jaw

Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Bremner

One company of the 63rd and the Halifax Garrison Artillery remained at Swift Current whilst it continued to be the base of supplies. The troops moved to Moose Jaw when it became the base, and the two companies from the Saskatchewan Landing shortly afterwards joined them. On these two detachments fell the labour of handling and transferring all the supplies going to the front, and furnishing the necessary guards, so that they were kept fully employed, at times of necessity the non-commissioned officers voluntarily doing the fatigue duties of privates. The men expected that their work was the prelude to being allowed to take part in the fighting at the front, as other corps preceding them had been relieved in due order. To the disappointment of many of the battalion, the war finished before they were required to go to the frontline.[1]

Lieutenant-Colonel James J. Bremner


The headquarters of the Halifax Provisional Battalion left Medicine Hat on the night of 30 June, and arrived at Moose Jaw early on 2 July, the battalion being now re-united entire. After remaining at Moose Jaw a week the battalion was ordered to Winnipeg, where it arrived on 10 July, and went into camp.

The battalion left Winnipeg on 10 July for Halifax. Along the entire route the battalion was met with “continued ovation; the kindness of the people of the towns of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec being beyond description”. The reception at Halifax two weeks later on July 24 was “most enthusiastic, the whole population apparently having turned out.” [1]

See also


  • David A. Sutherland. "Halifax Encounter with the North-West Uprising of 1885". Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. Vol. 13, 2010.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Mulvaney, Charles Pelham; Riel, Louis (1886). The history of the North-west rebellion of 1885: Comprising a full and impartial account of the origin and progress of the war, scenes in the field, the camp, and the cabin; including a history of the Indian tribes of North-western Canada. A. H. Hovey & Co... p. 410. 
  2. David A. Sutherland. "Halifax Encounter with the North-West Uprising of 1885". Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. Vol. 13, 2010. p. 73

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