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Title: Samuel Bruce Jr., Manitoba, to "My Dear James", Belfast.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileBruce, Samuel Jr/24
SenderBruce, Samuel Jr
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationfisherman & hunter
Sender Religionunknown
OriginManitoba, Canada
DestinationBelfast, N.Ireland
RecipientBruce, James
Recipient Gendermale
SourceT2919/1/32: Presented by Michael R. Bruce, Co. Down
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, N. Ireland.
Doc. No.9501348
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 26:01:1995.
Word Count3475
TranscriptTo: James [Bruce?]
[County Antrim?]

From: Saml [Samuel?] Bruce, jr [junior?]
Fort Garry,

Fort Garry, Nov. [November?] 3rd. 1862

My Dear James,

I hope you received all right my last letter from
this, left here to be forwarded the first opportunity, and
giving you an account of all my Indian adventures both among
the Sioux and the Chippewas. If you have not received it yet
I am sure you will, as it went to St. [Saint?] Pauls by
private hand, so I will not tell you anything that was in it
except that I ran the gauntlet through the whole of the
country in which the Sioux massacres, of which you have of
course heard, took place. I shall however now give you an
account of my hunt; my usual luck sticking to me all through.
We started from this on 23rd Sept. [September?], just
a month later than I had intended, and after about a
fortnights travelling came to the Country of Buffalo. I had
4 men with me, Block, the Pole I mentioned in my last letter,
Baptiste Morins, a French half-breed a man about 3/4 Indian
as my man. As the weather was so cold we took an Indian lodge
instead of a tent. When we started from this Saviard was so
drunk that he was not able to to come with us, but he
followed us and caught us up before we left our camp the
next morg., [morning?] and after he was once started I had no
trouble with him; indeed he was about the best man for work
that I had. Before we got to the Buffalo country we had as
much prairie hen and duck shooting as any man need wish for,
and a good many geese, a swan and other small game.
After we had gone about 9 days from the fort 2 of
our horses my best buffalo runner and another horse were
stolen by Indians; we did not think there were any Indians
about as we were on the open prairie, and one of the men had
gone out just before daylight to see that they were all there.
He then came in and got breakfast, and when he went out an
hour after two of the best were gone. While we were looking
for the horses Lord Dunmore's party came up on their return;
They had had a bad hunt. They were all very civil and gave me
some things I had omitted to bring with me. Lord D [Dunmore?]
lent me his saddle which I was very glad to get, as my own had
been sent astray at Chicago on coming. I shall however get
paid for it when I go back to Chicago. They had started to go
to the Cypress mountain near the Saskatchewan, but had to turn
as they found the whole country in a state of war among
themselves, and the Indians not very friendly even to the
whites. They then struck across the country to the Souri
River, where I was going to hunt, and hunted all along it and
although they had the best guide and best hunter in the
settlement, they got no sport. Of course they had as much
buffalo hunting as they wanted but nothing else; they
afterwards got one or two elk and a blind cow moose and a bear.
This was a poor look-out for me, although as I was
only one and they were four, the same country which could not
give them good sport might yet be good for me. I found them all
very nice fellows; they staid [stayed?] and dined at my camp
and gave me a quarter of fresh meat which, as we had been
living on ducks, prairie hens and [pemmican?] for some time, was
very acceptable. They all asked me to go and see them and dine
at their different messes when I got back to Montreal. Two of
them are in the Fusilier Guards and 2 in the Grenadier Guards.
They will be pleasant fellows to know if I remain long in
Well after having spent 2 days looking for the horses,
we had to give up the search, for as the prairie was burned we
could not follow the trail. We had now only 6 horses and one of
them was amiss, so I had to ride my other runner which I was
very unwillling to do as I wanted to keep him as fresh as
possible. Block had to ride a hack and got no running at all.
After we had gone about 3 days from where we lost the horses,
we found an Indian trail, and we supposing it to be that of the
Indians who had stolen the horses set off to follow them. The
trail led to the Turtle Mountains and then kept along the side
of them; about the middle of the second day we saw with the
telescope for out in the prairie, something I was not sure
whether it was buffalo or horses, but I thought it was horses,
so we took our rifles and revolvers and set off to the place
prepared to fight for our horses if necessary, or if we saw
that would not do Baptiste said he would go at night and steal
our horses and all the others also. However when we got to the
place we found only about 12 men and Btste [Baptiste?] knew
them all and from the account they gave of chief was very
civil and had a feast prepared at once for us, after which
we smoked a pipe of peace. They were very much astonished to
see how quick I could load and fire my breech-loader. the
second chief then told us he could find us moose, so Btste
[Baptiste?], he and I set off on horse-back to the mountain,
to sleep out and hunt the next day. We were just preparing to
make some kind of a shelter for ourselves when the chief [Cocock]
came and told me to come quick, as he had a moose. I ran as
quick as I could and just in time to get a shot about 200 yards
off; he ran on but the Indian said he was hit and the next morg.
[morning?] we found him dead about 100 yards from the place with
the ball right through his heart.
I hunted all day that day till about 1pm. from 5 am.
without anything to eat; when we came back and roasted a bit
of our moose. We had in the meantime got a shot at another in
the thick bush and wounded him badly, but we could not follow
on as it was getting late, and we were so hungry, but I believe
the Cocock found him the next day I was out hunting buffalo, I
had a little trouble here with my men about camping among the
Indians when I told them not to, so I made them move to another
place about 3 days further off, and where I knew they did not
want to go for fear of the Sioux. We staid [stayed?] here a
couple of days hunting buffalo, and then went back to the Turtle
Mountain, where we had appointed to meet the old Cocock and to go
and hunt the mountain with him for bear and moose and elk,
but by some mistake we missed him, and although I offered the
men all sorts of rewards we could not find any bear. Indeed
till the snow falls it is almost impossible to pass through
it without making a dreadful noise. I managed however after 3
days very hard work without getting anything to get 2 elk on
the fourth day. I was almost forgetting to give you a
description of buffalo running. It is capital sport and very
exciting, especially when you get a savage old bull. The way
you manage is, when you see a herd, you get to leeward of
them and then try to get as close as you can without their
seeing you for although they do not set off if they do not
smell you, still it is well to get as near as possible
without disturbing them. When they do see you, you start at a
jog-trot in a single file towards them; when you get about
100 yards off they run a little way and then stop to look
again. When they run you must go fast till they stop and then
you must trot again till they commence to run again and then
off you go as quick as you can after them. and I can tell you
it neds a good horse to catch them; When you are about 3 or 4
yards off, you fire at him behind in [if?] possible, but it
is not easy to hit the exact spot when at full gallop.
My first run I killed a bull With one shot right in
his lungs and heart; he was a very big one: I ran him till I
got him into the corner of a river and just as he turned to
me I fired; he threw up his head, blew about a quart of blood
from his nose, ran about 20 yards and fell dead. It is not
often however you kill them so quick as that. baptiste after
disabling one came after me and when we went back to his one
we found him still alive, and we fired 20 bullets into him
and could not kill him. when we did kill him we found balls
in his brain, or rather where his brain should be, for the
brain itself was blown away. His heart must have been a
perfect sieve, but as he was an old brute we did not cut him
up but left him to the wolves as he was. The men used always
to tell me I would get to dreadful grief sometime or other the
way I ran them. I always made for their heads and ran them
till they turned to charge me and then I fired. They always
ride a little behind, and when they turn to charge they turn
also and run, but I liked to see the brutes get savage and
fire at him.
We got 9 buffalo altogether, but I might have had as
many as I wanted but I would not run them after the first few
days, as I thought it a pity to kill them and take nothing but
the tongue and marrow-bones. it may perhaps give you some
idea how little we cared for buffalo when I tell you that the
last day I was among bufffalo I was twice within 50 yards of
a herd and once rather than fire at them I fired at a fox
which was running past about 150 yards off, so that as far as
buffalo are concerned I had enough, but in every other
respect I was disappointed and look on my hunt as a failure.
We started to come back on the 10th Oct., and met
with some very cold weather. We were almost caught too by a
prairie fire. We had to light an opposition fire and by
managing to beat it out with branches to keep it from coming
back on us, so that we managed to make a little island of
grass in the middle of the prairie. A prairie fire is a most
splendid thing to see if you happen to be, as I was on the
top of a hill and see the country burning for miles round,
and long lines of fire rolling on wave after wave like the
sea in a storm, while the roar and crackling of the fire is
tremendous. Every now and then you can see long flashes of
fire flame up to the height of 20 or 30 feet and run along
the whole line of fire. But though the fire itself is
magnificent, there is nothing magnificent in having to cross
a burned prairie. We were two days without grass for our
horses, and the weather was intensely cold. On Friday the
24th Oct. [October?], the thermometer was 22* below freezing of
fahrenheit inside the lodge with a blazing fire. I had one of
my horses frozen to death that night; the next day the cold
was so great we could not ride but had to walk with great
boots on, hoods up and fur caps. This was not a very pleasant
costume for a walk of about 20 miles to our next camp. I
started to walk in moccasins as the prairie was very
slippery, but it was so hard that my feet got sore at once
and little icicles formed under my heels, so that after
walking about 3 hours my feet gave out so I had to put on
English boots. These however I found worse, for the prairie
was in such a state that it was like walking on thick ice,
and with the boots I kept slithering and sliding in all
directions. After about 3 hours walking we got to some water
and a little grass; we stopped here for dinner. It was the
same place where our horses had been stolen. I sat down here
but my legs got so stiff with the sliding about that to get
up I had first to get on my knees and then raise myself with
a stick, using it like an Alpenstock. I felt the stiffness
much more than I would have done, had I been walking more but
we hardly ever walked at all; we always rode.
Then we started after dinner, I was hardly able to
put one leg before the other, but with a great effort I
started to run, and before very long was able to walk pretty
well. We started 12 miles more that evg., [evening?] but if
anyone had told me at starting I would have done so, I would
not have believed them.
The next day we got to the timber, and got all right
and comfortable, for we had plenty of firewood for the lodge.
To give you some idea of the cold, a river which in coming
[sic] we had to unload the carts to cross bore us across on
the ice after two nights' frost. And every day our beards and
moustaches had not icicles, but were frozen in solid masses
of ice. However after we got the timber we were all right
and indeed the weather got fine again and after a few more
days very hard travelling we
arrived here without anything worth telling you occurring,
except that one day after leaving the place where we had lost
the horses we saw the tracks of two horses in the snow; Btste
[Baptiste?] followed them thinking perhaps they might be
At last he came up within sight of them and saw a bay
& a grey, and he came back to the camp to get a horse and one
of the men to go and help him catch them, making sure they
were ours. But when he brought them into camp we saw they
were not ours; we have since found out that some Indians from
another part of the Turtle Mts. [Mountains?] stole ours and
indeed I believe they have been recovered, but as I knew as
long as they were mine we would never hear anything of them I
gave them, one to Btste [Baptiste?] and the other to St.
Germain. St. Germain set off to look after them and I hear
has got them.
I commenced this letter a fortnight ago and have
written two or three times at it, but have not put the
different dates, but this is now Nov.[November?] 19th. There
is as yet no communication through, but Kittson who I
mentioned as having been Captain at Georgetown and I with
some others are going to try and make our way through to St.
Pauls in a day or two if we reach Fort Abercromby all right,
we expect to meet an escort there going through for
provisions and ammunition, and that we may reach St. Pauls
that way, but there is a good deal of risk. But we all go
armed to the teeth. We have had one mail through from St.
Pauls since I came here; I got your letters of the 8th and
28th Aug. [August?] by it, but those are the only letters I
have had from home since I got Robt. [Robert] Dunville's
letter at St. Pauls. I hope that when Hopkins heard the state
of the country he did not send any more, and that I may find
all my letters safe when I get to where I can telegraph to
London, C.W. Dec.[December?] 24th. I have brought my
letters on to herewith me as you would not get them sooner
had I posted them at St. Pauls, but I must have them all
ready for this evg. [evening?]. in my letter to robt.
[Robert?] which I have just finished I have given an account
of my journey down from Red River so I need not give you an
account of it over again. I was dreadfully disappointed when
in reply to my telegraph to Hopkins I heard that he had sent
all my letters only a few days before to Fort Garry, as he
did not think I would venture across the plains at present,
so here I am without news from home of any kind; the last
letter I got was 28th Aug. [August?]. So disturbed has the
country been that when I left Red River ther [there?] had
been only one mail in 4 months, and there had [sic] no mail
left Red River except one by private hand since I arrived
there, so that it is not my fault nor yours either that we
have not had any letters from one another.
I hurried over the last part of my journey as much as
I could, to be here for Xmas and to be with the fellows I
know. Graves is here; he talks incessantly about Miss A.
Tennant. From what he says H. Harrison must be going to the
devil very fast. He told me too about H.S. Crawford's
wedding. I got my photograph done at St. Pauls inexactly my
hunting rig, leather shirt and leggings and fur cap. I send
you one for yourself and one for Wm. [William?] Robert. My
next letter must be to him, and now that I am got back to the
world I shall be able to write again regularily [regularly?].
As I have no news from home, I can not say just what my
movements may be, but I intend to go and see Uncle Fredk.
[Frederick?] next week, and shall go on to Montreal from
that, where I hope I may get letters. I had by the by one
letter dated Nov [November?] 21 from M. [Maria?] Hutton, but
of course she did not tell me much of what I wanted to hear.
Mr. Kittson who was with us at Georgetown came down
with me to St. [Saint?] Pauls; when there he introduced me to
General Sibley who is in command of the district; in
introducing me he told the General that I had placed them all
under great obligations to me for having stuck by them at
What sort of hunting season have you had? and what
horses? what sort of man? and all those sort of things have
you got? You must tell me all those things when you write,
for you know I have not heard a word for so long. Write to
care of Hopkins as usual. I am sure the letters he has sent
to Fort Garry to me will all be lost. Wm [William?] must have
had a very pleasant trip to Italy. I must go there sometime
or other.
I must now close this as I have still some letters to
write. Give my love to all the farm people. Graves desires to
be remembered to all Belfast people, the Tennants and Mrs.
Harrison in particular. You will of course show this to Robt.
[Robert?] Dunville, and he will show you mine to him. I wish
I was at home for Xmas; I many a time wonder what you are
about at the particular time. I know the difference of time
between where I am and home, and often think of you on
Saturdays hunting and on Tuesdays and Thursdays down at
Carrickfergus. If I have nothing else in particular to do, I
intend trying to go down to see the Army in the field if I
can get a pass which I hope to be able to do.
I shall write again very soon, but must now close.
Ever your affectionate brother,
Saml. [Samuel?] Bruce jr [junior?]