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The Wolseley Expedition was a military force authorized by Sir John A. Macdonald to confront Louis Riel and the Métis in 1870, during the Red River Rebellion, at the Red River Colony in what is now the Canadian province of Manitoba. The expedition was also intended to counter American expansionist sentiments in northern border states.


Major General Wolseley

Under the leadership of Colonel Garnet Wolseley, the expedition set out from Toronto, Ontario, in an attempt to interdict Riel. The U.S. government had refused permission for the troops to cross U.S. soil, and many thought it impossible to move a military force into western Canada via an all-Canadian route, the Dawson Road having been mapped out only three years earlier and the railway still many years away.

The expedition travelled to Georgian Bay, then by steamer across Lake Huron to the U.S. Sault Canal where men and materiel had to be transported on the Canadian side of the river, across Lake Superior to the Department of Public Works station at Thunder Bay which Wolseley named Prince Arthur's Landing on May 25, 1870, in honour of Queen Victoria's third son. From there the troops carried small boats to Lake Shebandowan. Travelling further westwards, they passed through Fort Frances to Lake of the Woods. They proceeded down the Winnipeg River and across the south basin of Lake Winnipeg to the Red River finally arriving at Fort Garry in late August. Wolseley formed up his troops and immediately began his advance on Upper Fort Garry. Riel and his followers abandoned the fort with the result it was taken in a "bloodless" action.

An eyewitness account of the expedition's arrival at Upper Fort Garry, provided by a member of the expedition, William Perrin, appeared in the Manitoba Free Press in August 1900 on the 30th anniversary of the arrival. Perrin was a regular British soldier of the 60th (The King's Royal Rifle Corps) Regiment of Foot. The expedition is considered by military historians to have been among the most arduous in history. Over 1,000 men had to transport all their provisions and weaponry including cannon over hundreds of miles of wilderness. At numerous portages, corduroy roads had to be constructed. All this was endured for over two months, along with the summer heat and the inevitable plagues of blackflies and mosquitoes.

Following the successful completion of the expedition, Wolseley penned a tribute to his men in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

Imperial military forces in the Red River Rebellion

The Red River Expedition at Kakabeka Falls, by Frances Anne Hopkins, 1877.


The North-West Mounted Police, established three years later in 1873, did not take part in the expedition.


External links

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