We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

"The Chilcoaten Expedition

Diary of a Volunteer"

Colonist, October 14, 1864

This expensive and unfortunate expedition, which has dragged its slow length along for the whole summer, has at length been brought to a termination, and so far as appears at present, with the most barren results. Our New Westminster contemporary briefly sums up the fruits of the undertaking as follows: "While everyone will regret that the practical results of an undertaking which must have cost considerably over $100,000 are so meagre, yet it is matter of great thankfulness that it has been attended with no loss of life." The whole conduct of the affair has been thoroughly mismanaged; only a small number of Indian murderers and their abettors have been captured, and of these the majority seem likely to escape their just punishment; and the effect of the expedition will in all probability only be to create a still more hostile feeling among the interior tribes, with a strong leaven of contempt both in them and their Coast allies, for the helplessness of the whites in their futile attempts at retaliation for the many outrages perpetrated on their countrymen.

We have been favored with the perusal of a copious diary kept by one of the volunteers of Mr. Brew's party during the progress of the expedition, from which we extract the following information as to the management of the affair, incidents by the way, nature of the country, and the ultimate failure of the undertaking:

The departure of Mr. Brew's party of twenty-eight volunteers and their arrival at the head of navigation on Bentinck Arm, have already been fully narrated in our columns. The first few days' travel were chiefly taken up with getting the pack-train--a lot of wild, half-broken , unmanageable cayooshes --into good working order, which was a task of no little difficulty; on the fourth or fifth day out the whole calvacade stampeded, resulting in what the diary humorously describes as "a Bull Run on a small scale; pack-saddles here, ropes there, flour, blankets, bacon, beans, buckets, and a heterogeneous mass of itkas scattered along the trail in the most admired confusion," all caused, as the writer quaintly remarks, "by starting before we were ready and stopping before we wanted to." The pack horses, instead of about 150 lbs., were loaded down with from 200 to 350, and consequently would occasionally endeavor to lighten their grievances as well as their loads by lying down and kicking till every thing "went flying." About this time some Indians were seen on the opposite side of the river, and were said to be Chilcoatens, which caused considerable excitement among the volunteers, who were just then strung out along a narrow winding trail. One of the gallant fellows, who occupied a place near the rear of the file, doubtless anxious to have a brush with the redskins, came rushing up carrying his rifle -- a Government Lancaster -- at full cock, and the consequence was a twig caught the trigger, bang went the rifle, and the ball, after passing through the wrist of the man immediately before him, went whizzing close past about twenty more, some of whom had a very narrow escape. This was the first and only casualty which happened to this branch of the expedition. The Indians proved, when spoken to, to be Ansinies, the tribe who murdered poor Robert McLeod last winter, and a good opportunity was offered to make them give up the murderers, but the matter was not even broached to them. On the 28th June the party arrived at the foot of the great slide, which has been held up as an insurmountable barrier to travel on the Bentinck Arm route. The diary briefly described it as a steep, rough trail, covered with broken stones, which proved a considerable [seven words illegible] for horses, but would have offered no serious difficulty to mules. A rather startling incident occurred at this point, which probably gave rise to the rumor which reached Victoria shortly after that time, that the expedition had been attacked at the Great Slide and hurled over the cliffs. As the packers were toilsomely wending their way up the steep, they were startled by the sudden appearance of a stalwart savage, painted and plumed, who springing up from behind a clump of fire, fiercely shouted Kar mika chako! After glaring on them for a few seconds, the "brave" sunk down behind the bushes to the great relief of the packers. The same dodge was tried by the Siwash on Lieutenant Stewart of H.M.S. Sutlej, who happened to be some distance behind the train but, the gallant officer at once brought his revolver to bear on him, and marched him off a prisoner to head-quarters. He stated that he was the chief Aneham's brother, and was recognized as one of the party, who demanded powder from Ellis' store at Bella Coola. On being questioned, this Indian stated that there were three tribes implicated in the attack on McDonald's pack train; the fighting party numbered twenty, and a great many others were in the bush round the spot to see the "braves" shoot the white men. The plunder was distributed among all the three tribes. After a variety of mishaps in fording torrents, crossing rotten bridges and clambering over steep, rocky trails, with such damaging effect to their ill provided pack train, as to draw from our journalist, who is an experienced woodsman, the bitter remark that "the whole business is botched from the first from want of a proper leader." The expedition passed Nacootloon Lake and arrived at the scene of the murder of McDonell's party. The ground in this vicinity still showed many traces of the desperate struggle. "The first indication seen was an aparejo, some straps, a half keg of nails and some augers; a little further on we saw some broken boxes, matches, &c., strewed about, and in a few steps more, lying by the roadside, we came on the remains of poor McDonell. The clothing was all stripped off, and the body very much eaten by wolves, only the thigh-bones, ribs, back and head being left; both legs were off half way down from the knees, and both hands were also gone, the fingers of one being found near. On examining the clothes which lay around we found that he had been shot under the left arm, and through the right wrist -- the latter shot having been fired so close as to singe the clothes -- also through both legs. Some two hundred yards further on we found the body of Higgins, much eaten by wolves; he had also been shot under the arm and through the right wrist, and also in the stomach with buckshot. He had been dragged off the trail by the feet, and his head, the back of which was battered to pieces, lay in a hollow surrounded with hair, as if he had been pounded with axes and muskets. Still further on, we came to some dead horses; next to a box of candles and a quantity of broken ones strewn round, --and then close to a little pond near the trail we found the body of McDougall, full of bullet holes and horribly mangled." From the Anaham Indian the party learnt the particulars of the attack, and of the determined, although unavailing bravery of poor McDonell. The savages had prepared an ambush at a point on the trail a little further on than the scene of the attack, but Mcleod and McDonell hearing of it turned back, so the Indians ran rapidly round Nacootloon Lake and got to the rear of the train, where they crouched behind logs till the packers came up, when they commenced their murderous onslaught. At the first fire McDougall and Higgins fell dead. Grant, who was walking with Mr. McDonell, raised his gun but it missed fire, so he called to the latter to run, but McDonell, saying he wanted to give them all he had first, discharged his double-barreled gun, loaded with ball and heavy shot right into the crowd of savages, who by this time had sallied from their ambush. McDonell, who was perfectly cool, then stept behind a tree, and resting his six-shooter on a limb, began popping over the red rascals. A tall, brawny savage, between whom and McDonell there existed an old grudge, rushed up with a frightful yell and levelled his musket, but before he could pull the trigger a bullet from McDonell's revolver pierced his heart. His revolver discharged, McDonell then seized his gun, but before he could load it he was surrounded by a crowd of savages, and fell riddled with balls and shot. Grant, seeing his fate, fled, shooting down on of his pursuers and receiving a ball through his own arm. The escape of Barney and Johnston was cleverly effected. He started off at full speed through the bush, followed by several Indians, firing as they ran. Seeing a small lake ahead, Johnston headed for it, and his pursuers having stopped to load, he threw his hat into the water and secreted himself in the bushes. The Indians soon came up, and seeing the hat floating in the water imagined their victim was drowned and gave up the chase, when Johnston crawled out and made good his escape. The volunteers found the graves of two Indians close to McDonell's body, and a third a little way off. After carefully interring the remains of the unfortunate packers, the party came on to Sitleece, July 2d, over a very good trail. In the words of the diary, " this is the route for comfortable travelling, and no mistake." Some excitement took place, caused by the discovery of fresh "Indian signs." The party followed it for some distance, treacherously led off to the old trail by the Anaham Indian, whom Mr. Brew, contrary to the advice of the most experienced men of his party, allowed to guide the party. The rascal led them into a big swamp up to the thighs in mud and water, and then said he did not know the trail, and so they were obliged to go back to camp. Next day the party again went out scouting, leaving the Chilcoaten Indians to take care of the horses, but on returning in the evening found that the wily savage had skedaddles with their best pack-horse. Two of the party took up the trail of the runaway, and after a hard chase came up with the horses, but saw no more of their quondam guide. "So much," says the diary, "for Mr.Brew's maudlin sympathy for the Indians, and his orders that the Chilcoaten rascal should not be treated as a prisoner!" (to be continued.)

Source: "The Chilcoaten Expedition, Diary of a Volunteer," British Colonist, October 14, 1864.

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