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

Seymour to Cardwell, No. 25

30 August 1864

[ Alexis Map, Benshee Lake Campsites, Detail from the Alexis Map showing Cox's and Brew's camp at Benshee [Puntzi] Lake. From map originally drawn by Indians Alexis and Ualas as interpreted by Mr. Ogilvie, signed W. Cox, Benshee Lake, 22 July 1864., Alexis and Ualas, Public Record Office, Great Britain MPG6541 ]

On my return to New Westminster after an absence of nine weeks, I find so great an accumulation of work that I am unable by, this Mail to give you full particulars respecting the recent Indian insurrection, and the means taken for its suppression.

2. The Chilicotens who massacred Mr. Waddington's road party at Bute Inlet, as mentioned in my despatch No. 7 of the 20th of May, marched into the interior, were joined by other members of the tribe, and succeeded in murdering or expelling every white person from the sea to the Upper Fraser.

3. The country in the hands of the insurgents might be described as about three hundred miles from East to West by one hundred and fifty North and South. It was inevitable that steps should be taken for the assertion of our authority, and two parties of Volunteers were started for the interior. The one, under Mr. Cox, a Police Magistrate of Cariboo, from Alexandria. The other, under Mr. Brew, Police Magistrate of New Westminster, from Bella Coola at the head of Bentinck Arm. This latter force I accompanied.

4. These two small bodies had to make their way to Benshee Lake in the heart of the Country. Mr. Cox's party of sixty men would then be one hundred and twelve miles from Alexandria, the base of his operations, and Mr Brew's band of forty, two hundred and fifty miles from Bella Coola, from whence only he could draw his supplies.

5. It is hardly necessary for me to say that the communications with the civilized portions of the Colony were closed to these parties as soon as they were in the hostile country, or at least could only be kept up by detaching a large proportion of either force. Thus isolated in the bush our fate became a matter of speculation throughout the Colony and the most painful rumours circulated.

6. The two forces met at Benshee on the 6th of July and on the following day Mr. Cox's party was sent by me down towards the Bute Inlet Mountains. They travelled over a Country, presenting every natural difficulty, for a fortnight, pursuing the trails of the Indians and occasionally exchanging shots with them. Mr. McLean, the second in command, fell a victim to his excess of zeal.

7. In the mean time the head quarters of Mr. Brew's party, with which I remained, occupied the important post at Benshee where all the Indian trails converge. We were then but ten in number, having despatched a party in pursuit of the natives and another to escort a provision train. The force was so disproportionate to the value of the position we held, that it was with satisfaction we saw the return of the flying party of twenty-five men who had left us in the preceding week, after the natives.

8. The supply of provisions with us began to run extremely low, as the provision train did not arrive, yet perfect discipline prevailed in Camp, and no murmurs were heard respecting the smallness of the rations of such supplies as remained, or the total absence of many things usually considered almost indispensable to existence.

9. By means which I shall describe another time, Alexis, one of the principal Chiefs of the Chilicoten people, who had refrained from joining the hostile movements of the tribe, was induced to present himself to me, and after many days negotiation, promised to accompany the attack, in full force, which we determined to make on the Indians in the direction in which Mr. McLean was killed.

10. The details of the arrangements we made before my indispensable return to the other duties of my office I shall state in another despatch. I enclose an extract from the official Gazette showing the success which has already attended them.

11. It appears to me creditable in the extreme to these two small bodies of white men, that they should thus have scoured the vast territory of the Chilicotens so well as to remain victors in a contest in which famine fought on both sides. I do not however venture yet to predict that the victory will be absolutely complete.

I have etc.

Mr. Elliot

Though complete success has not yet resulted from Governor Seymour's proceedings to catch the murderers of the road making party Mr. Cardwell will perhaps think that enough has already been accomplished to entitle Governor Seymour, all concerned with him, to commendation.

It is a great satisfaction to learn that the life of only one man of the Expedition has been lost.

Abd20 Oct

Mr. Cardwell

It will be for you to decide what topics should be embraced in the answer. The following occur to me for consideration.

We might say that you think it highly creditable to the Europeans engaged in these operations that they should have traversed so vast a Territory in search of the offending Indians with the loss of only one life, and with a perfect maintenance of discipline and content in the midst of the privations to which they were unavoidably exposed. Express a sense of the zeal for the public service and spirit of personal gallantry which led the Governor to share the hardships and dangers of one of these expeditions.

It is satisfactory to see that these vigorous measures have been attended with so much success, and express a hope that the ulterior results will be such as to produce a good impression on the minds of the Indians, and to contribute to the future safety of Europeans travelling or working in remote parts of the Colony.

TFE 27 October

Mr. Blackwood

See Mr. Cardwell's separate minute. Draft to be framed accordingly, in the terms of that minute.

TFE 28/10

await his fuller report.[sic] In the meantime express my great satisfaction that he has safety returned to the duties of his Government that so much discipline & good order was maintained & so little loss of life incurred. Hope that in the result security will be re-established friendly relations with the Indians presently not disturbed.

EC 28


Extract, Government Gazette, 27 August 1864, reporting the capture of some of the Indians involved, and subsequent events.


Draft reply, Cardwell to Seymour, No. 39, 29 October 1864.

Source: Great Britain Public Record Office, Colonial Office Records, CO 60/18, p. 52, 9648, Frederick Seymour, Letter to Cardwell, No. 25, sent August 30, 1864, received October 20, 1864.

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