EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cypress Hills Cover Up?

When I was a young cadet in the Canadian Black Watch I used to wonder why the NorthWest Rebellion didn't appear on our battle honours. I understood that there had been concern about sending  French Canadians to fight the metis but the Fusiliers de Montreal (65th Battalion at the time) were sent to Edmonton to chase Big Bear. None of the Montreal English battalions were sent though, not the 5th Royal Scots (now the RHRC or Black Watch),  nor the Victoria Rifles nor the Canadian Grenadier Guards (then the 1st Prince of Wales and 6th Hochelaga Fusiliers).  However, I have come across two clues that suggest that perhaps these regiments did march west after all but that the evidence has been erased from the public record.

Britain's toy soldiers face each other again.
The first clue came with the discovery of a reference to one of of the rarest sets of Britain's toy soldiers ever released. According to my source it was titled Cypress Hills Expedition and contained a mix of British Guards, charging Highlanders, Riflemen, Cowboys and Indians. The second clue was a partial page out of an old book. On the page there is a fragment of a hand drawn map which shows the Canada US border and some hills along with the caption "ief of Fort MacDuff", the tear goes through the map and caption so there is no other context.

Now, I've never heard of a Fort MacDuff on the prairies but the Cypress Hills lie along the US Border in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta and is where the NWMP established Fort McLeod. The area was an ancestral battleground between Cree, Blackfoot and Piegan and the excellent hunting drew  Metis as well as the various tribes. It also drew American hunters and whiskey traders and is where Sitting Bull led the Sioux when they  crossed the border seeking protection from the US army.  Shortly before the Riel Rebellion there were a series of meetings between Cree and Blackfoot to put aside their ancient hostility and form a coalition so as to deal with the Canadian government from a place of strength.

The history books tell us that the warlike Blackfoot chose to stay home while the Cree fought, that the Sioux went meekly back to the US  and that none of the border tensions between Canada and the US ever resulted in a serious incident. But now I wonder........is it possible that there was a campaign in the Cyprus Hills that the governments wanted hushed up so badly that all evidence of the march west of the Montreal militia was destroyed? Did red coats and blue coats clash in a border incident? Was there a Fort MacDuff and was it besieged? Was it relieved or did it fall? Did the Hochelaga Fusiliers really wear their bearskins into action?

I will do my best over the next few years to discover what I can and share it with you.


12 comments:

  1. Interesting information Ross- no doubt in our own History there are incidents and events that have occurred which with the passing of time - any evidence is all but erased....as often nothing seemed to have been documented and if it were- those records have been altogether lost. Good Luck. Regards. KEV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kev it probably says something about our society that a government cover up is almost always an acceptable premise for a work of fiction.

      Delete
  2. Ah yes, the fabled Britains "Cypress Hills Expedition" set, often whispered about at collectors swapmeets yet never before seen, no doubt a mint boxed set will emerge one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes indeed, its not surprising that I happened to have painted up recasts for just these regiments since my original focus was the Fenian raids which did involve them. However, it was chance and coincidence that brought the original collection of antique toy indians, cowboys, guardsmen and highlanders into my hands. Not sure where the Naval brigade fit in, could be a coincidence......

      Delete
  3. Thought it was still under the Official Secrets Act 1890 along with the identity of 'Jack the Ripper' ! , Tony

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could be, could be, do you think he might have been there in disguise?

      Delete
  4. Ross Mac,

    What an interesting story ... and a great scenario for a small campaign! I look forward to reading more as the story unfolds.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its taken me 5 years to think this up! I'm glad I hung onto the figures.

      Delete
  5. In my youth I was with a young woman who cherished those "commemorative plates" that you find in some china stores.

    As I read your post I recalled her asking me if I knew anything about a Fort MacDuff as she was looking at one of those fancy plates. I had not and told her so and she did not purchase that plate (and I lost track of her decades ago) . . . still I suspect that somewhere there is a piece of china that could settle the matter . . . unless there was another Fort MacDuff.

    I hope that this clue helps, Ross.


    -- Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your scholarship is impeccable, sir.
    When we were stationed at CFB Suffield we would camp at the excellent provincial park at Cypress Hills. If only I'd known about these rumours of Fort Macduff then!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I will be following this with interest. RAFM does some Riel Rebelllion figures in 25mm and the Perries have some ACW era British intervention figures that might be useful for Fenian raid games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Pat. I used to have a couple of small units of the RAFM Canadian infantry although they usually ended up volunteering for service in Africa vs my friend Ron's Zulus or Mahdists. Long gone along with my 25mm Sudan collection. I've been tempted several times to do the real Riel Rebellion in 40mm since I can home cast most of my needs but I also still have a few of my 54mm Fenian Raids Brits and some antique figures I acquired and this is really excuse to put them on the table while scratching an old itch.

      Delete