NOTE: This is one of three iconic prints of the Riel Rebellion – (1) Battle of Fish Creek, (2) Battle of Cut Knife Creek and (3) Capture of Batoche.
(After W. D. Blatchly. )
See a complete story at The Great Canadian Website
Fearing a general native uprising under Cree Chief Poundmaker, and more looting of the town, Gen. Middleton dispatched a column under Col. William Otter to relieve Battleford, Saskatchewan. Otter's column consisted of some 763 men from the 2 nd Battalion, ‘Queens own Rifles’, 'B' Battery, Regiment of Canadian Artillery, 'C' Company of the Infantry School Corps, a party of sharpshooters from the 1 st Battalion Governor General’s Foot Guards, a small party of North-West Mounted Police under the command of Percy Neale, and assorted teamsters.
The town was successfully garrisoned but under pressure by the townspeople Otter disobeyed orders and decided to take a flying column of 392 men plus two 7-pounder field guns and Richard Gatling’s machine gun (then under going experimental Canadian Field tests), to punish Poundmaker, the Cree and Assiniboine warriors.
The latter were encamped on their reserve west of Battleford at Cut Knife Creek. Behind the camp was Cut Knife Hill surrounded by coulées /ravines filled, with good cover bushes and trees. Otter arrived on the plateau (to the right) May 2 1885 and in unfamiliar territory. Anticipating a quick rout, he deployed skirmish order and opened fire with his artillery and Gatling gun. The warriors directed from the Hill (left) moved through the ravine cover and counter-attacked in small guerrilla groups on both sides of the plateau, trapping Otter's troops. After six hours of fighting, Otter decided to withdraw. As the soldiers were crossing the marsh, some warriors started mounting their horses to attack. Poundmaker asked them to let Otter's men leave. They respected Poundmaker and allowed Otter to return to Battleford.
Some historians believe that only this prevented an outright massacre of Otter's troops. Thus the Battle of Cut Knife was the natives' most successful battle during the North-West Rebellion. Fourteen of Otter's soldiers were wounded, and eight killed, including one abandoned to be mutilated by native women; three natives were wounded and five killed, Unlike the American Battle of Little Big Horn, Otter survived with a new respect for native warriors.
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