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Title: Samuel Bruce, Manitoba to James [Bruce, Belfast?].
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileBruce, Samuel Jr/16
SenderBruce, Samuel Jr
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationfisherman & hunter
Sender Religionunknown
OriginManitoba, Canada
DestinationBelfast, N.Ireland
RecipientBruce, James
Recipient Gendermale
SourceT 2919/1/31: Copied by Permission of Michael R. Bruce Esq., Corriewood, Castlewellan, Co. Down.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.9405008
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 27:04:1994.
Word Count5485
TranscriptTo: James [Bruce?]
[Belfast, Ireland?]

From: Saml [Samuel?] Bruce jr [Junior?],
Fort Garry, [Manitoba, Canada?],
19 September 1862.

Dear James,

I arrived here the day before yesterday, late in the evg. [evening?]
after a most eventful journey. For since I last was able to write you we
have been besieged by the Sioux Indians and prisoners among the
Chippewas - but I had better begin at when I last wrote and tell you
all that has occurred since or at any rate give you an outline of it.

In the first place I hope you received my letter dated 24th
August from Georgetown; I think very likely you did not as the mail
carrier was chased for 10 miles by the Indians. In that letter I told
you of the rising of the Sioux Indians and of the massacre at Fort
Ridgley, and of our drive across the Prairie to escape
them, which we did by just 3 hours; this we heard afterwards, however,
As I told you in my last letter, we were to leave Georgetown the day
after I wrote, in the steamer for Fort Garry, where we expected to
arrive in about 4 or 5 days, and I got my things on board, and went
down to sleep on board as it was cooler there than on shore. I had
not got right asleep when I was disturbed by talking in the next
cabin (the Captain's) and I heard the words Sioux, and Attack us, so
I got up to hear what was the matter, when I found that two soldiers
had just arrived with a message from Fort Abercromby that the Sioux
were round there and in great number, that they were killing all the
whites they could lay hands on, that the Coach (or Stage as they call
it here) which crossed us at Breckenridge had been stopped within 5
miles of that place, the passengers all killed and the horses taken,
that then the Sioux had gone on to Breckenridge and had killed all
the people there, and had then gone on to Fort Abercromby. We had
stopped all night at Breckenridge, and so had the other stage; we
both started from [B----?] at the same time; within 5 miles they were
stopped and killed, and in less than 3 hours they were at Breckenridge
and killed the people there, so that if we had been a little
later in starting that morning we would all have been killed also.
After the Indians had killed the people at Breckenridge they set
off for Fort Abercromby to try and get hold of some oxen and wagons
of goods which were going up to make a treaty with the Chippewas, but
we had overtaken them at Fort A. [Abercromby?] and the last wagon was
just into the Fort as the Sioux came up. This much the two soldiers were
able to tell us had occured [occurred?], but they also told us to
prepare for an attack as we might expect the Indians any minute. What
would have seemed the most natural thing to do would have been to start
the steamer at once and get every one [everyone?] on board and make for Fort
Garry, but the water was so low in the river and it is so winding and the
steamer gets aground so often, that we would have been in a very bad
condition on board her, especially as all her upper works were only
half-inch plank, so that every shot would have gone through and
through her; besides there was a lot of property at Georgetown, which
no one liked to throw into the hands of the Indians without making
some show of defence. So we all set off to the house of a Mr Murray
of the Hudson's Bay Co. and set to work to barricade it. There was a
good deal of 2 1/2 inch oak plank all ready [already?] cut, so we set to
and barricaded the windows, leaving loopholes to fire out of. We had
about 4 hours hard work to get the house prepared for an attack, and
by this time other settlers who lived round and to whom we had
sent messages began to come in, bringing all the Arms and ammunition
they could muster. We were now about 45 men, 35 of whom had guns and
some of us revolvers. Everyone who had spare guns of course lent them to
those who had none; my arms were the best there were and were looked
upon as a great stand-by in case of an attack. I kept my breech-loader
and revolver myself, and lent my double rifle to a Mr Kittson, also an
agent of the H.B.C. [Hudson's Bay Company?] and a very old Indian trader.
After we had got the house barricaded, we got a lot of barrels filled
with water and got some pemmican & some biscuits into the house, so
that we were prepared to stand a pretty long siege. By the time all this
was done it was nearly daylight, the time at which Indians almost always
make their attack, so we all got our guns ready and except one or two
scouts, kept in the house ready for anything that might occur.

However no attack came and in the morg. [morning?] everyone set to
work to get the house better barricaded, for we had no doubt in the
world that we would be attacked.

About the middle day there was an alarm of Indians; some one [someone?] saw
what he said was an Indian within 1/4 mile of the house, a German settler
called Probtsfield and another fellow & I set off on a scout but could
see nothing, and as all about was so trampled by cattle we could make
nothing of the trail.

In the afternoon all the men were mustered and we began to make
some kind of organisation so that we might not be all in confusion
in case of an attack. We elected Mr Kittson Captain, and then told
off men to each window with guns and those who had not guns were
told off with axes to guard the doors in case of a rush. I had the
range of the whole of the back of the house, as it was the
nearest place to the cover and the place from which an attack was most
apprehended, and as I had a good breech-loading rifle, I had the
felicity of being put in one of the posts of greatest danger. We then
appointed guards, and a relieve [relief?]; we had 5 men on guard at a
time and the guard was relieved every two hours, and we had two
Captains of the Guard. The Captains took the watch from 8 till 2,
and the other from 2 till 6 a.m. and they took it night about to have
the long watch. I was some days afterwards put on as a third
Captain, as it was found too hard for two men to do all the work of
the Captains. I was on guard the first night and my post was again
at the back of the house and on the borders of the woods. I lay always
flat on my face behind an old log of wood with my ear on the ground,
so that I could hear the least noise. The guards as I said were
relieved every two hours and the same men were on guard twice the same
night, so that there were 10 men every night on the guard not counting
the Captains. Everything however passed off quietly that night and the
most of the next day, when one of the men came in, Probtsfield who was
about the best man we had, and told us he had seen two men, Indians,
skulking round the timber about 3 miles off, and that whanever they saw
him they separated and hid in the brush; he saw them quite close and was
sure about it. However he saw no more of them and we were not going to
be frightened for two Indians. In the evg. [evening?] a party of 4
Chippewas came in; they knew nothing about the trouble with the Sioux
and are their deadly enemies. They told us they were out on a war trail
against the Sioux, but when they heard they were all round in such
numbers as we supposed they got rather frightened.

As however we at this time supposed the Chippewas to be quite
friendly we fed and lodged them for the night, and the next day they
started for home but came back again in the evg. [evening?], as they
had made up their minds to go home another way. I was up a good part of
the night again as we (about half a dozen of us) volunteered to double
the guards for the morning watch. On Thursday night, 26th Aug.
I was on guard again as we could not out of the 45 get more than about
24 reliable men, some were useless old men and some were such cowards
that we could not trust them. This night as almost every night afterwards
when I was on guard Probtsfield and I made a scout away out into the
woods at the back of the houses to try and find any signs of Indians.
You may think it was rather a foolhardy thing to do, but we knew that if
the Indians were there intending to attack the house they would not
attack us two by ourselves, for fear of giving the alarm to the rest
and Indians always try to take people by surprise, so that if they
attacked us they would put all the rest on the alert and then they would
find it harder to take the house; Besides we had always a good dog with
us, and at any rate it was far pleasanter to run a risk for half-an-hour
or so and then to know that you might be pretty secure for the rest of
the time of your watch than to be apprehensive all the time.

The next night, Friday 29th, I was off guard and as I had been up
two whole nights and a good part of the third I turned in, expecting to
get a good night's sleep, but after I had been in bed or rather had
lain down on a buffalo robe for about an hour Kittson came in and
awoke us all and turned us out under arms. As he had been sitting at
the door about 12 at night he had heard about a mile of, he thought,
about 30 shots fired and immediately after he heard Indians' yells;
this declared a party of Indians close by but what they were firing at
we could not tell; we supposed it must be a party from Fort Abercromby
coming to us which had been caught in an ambush. But as no attack
followed and as our scouts could find no signs of a fight the next day,
we made up our minds that a party of Indians had come to Georgetown to
attack us, but, when they found us so strong and so well-prepared for
them they were afraid to come on, so they held a council and made up
their minds to leave, and that after the council they had fired the shot
we heard. This may or may not have been the reason, but it was the most
probable we could find. This was the 4th night and the next night as I
was on guard made five nights that I was up nearly all night.

Sat 30th. Today the mail carrier arrived from Fort
Garry; he had passed by Pembina on his way; He said there were about 200
Chippewas there who were waiting for the steamer and who said they would
sack her and kill the crew and passengers, as she had no right to be on
their river. It was to make a treaty with these and some other Indians
that the goods, which I mentioned as, having being got safe into Fort
Abercromby, were coming up. This was very bad news as it cut off our
retreat and set us with an enemy behind and before. We sent off a
messenger today to Fort Abercromby to try and find out the state of
things there.

Sun 31st. Our messenger returned from Fort A [Abercromby?]
today. He had a near shave getting to the Fort. It had been surrounded
by Indians all day; they had driven off between 200 & 300 head of cattle
and killed one soldier; they had also got a lot of mules. There had been
an attack on the Fort during the night while he was there, but there had
not been much harm done, & immediately after the Indians had gone off
to the plains to secure the cattle they had taken. One of our scouts
heard some shots again today when he was out scouting.

Things went on like this till Thursday 4th Sept. when
they were getting very much disgusted with watching constant alarms
and nothing coming of it; some of them began to talk of going off,
so Kittson and the Captain of the steamer made up their minds that it
was best to load a flat boat that was there with all the freight of the
steamer that they could and sent the rest by land in a lot of wagons
which were there (there were about 30 wagons in all). This would lighten
the steamboat so much that, although the river was very low, they hoped
she might get down. So the men were set to work and everything was got
ready for a start the next day; during the evg. [evening?] another
message arrived from Fort A. [Abercromby?] to say that we had better
look out for ourselves as the Sioux were still there and in greater
numbers than ever, that they had made a most determined attack on the
Fort and that after about 6 hours hard fighting had been beaten back;
that they fought as Indians had never been known to fight before and
we could not hope to hold Georgetown for an hour against them. This news
made everyone work harder than ever to get ready for a start, and now
the question came - were we not making bad worse by going among the
Chippewas? But we made up our minds to risk them and we started, about
15 of us, with the wagons by the plains and the rest on the steamer. I
went with the wagons as although it was the most dangerous still it
would be the quickest in the long run, as the steamer was sure to lose
so much time getting aground. Besides as soon as ever all the danger was
over, I intended to go on fast on horseback to Fort Garry, and get my
arrangements made. So accordingly on Friday evg. [evening?] or rather
night 5th Sept. we started by moonlight and went on till
about 11 a.m. the next day, Sat. when we stopped to breakfast
and dinner in one. We had only made about 18 miles, so you may imagine
the rate ox wagons travel at; just as we were starting a messenger came
up from Fort A. [Abercromby?]. He told us a messenger had arrived there
from below with accounts of the most fearful massacres among the whites
upwards of 500 people killed in the neighbourhood of St. Cloud, that all
the stations between Fort A. [Abercromby?] & St. Paul's had been sacked
and the people killed and a lot more which I suppose you have read in
the papers at home yourself & know more than we do, for although we were
in the middle of the scene of action still we are so cut off from all
communications still we know nothing certain of what is going on. The
messenger had come through by Georgetown and finding us gone had gone
down the river till he overtook the steamer; he found her stuck fast
about 5 miles from Georgetown and not any hope of getting her off till
the river should rise.

He had also when passing through Georgetown seen 5 Sioux walking
along the river; he believed them to be the advanced scouts of
a large party. He brought us a note from Kittson who was on the steamer
to get us to send back some wagons for the women and children, that
the steamboat was deserted and that they were all going on in the
flat-boat. This we did and then moved on a few miles to where we
could get a good camping-place for the night and to wait for the wagons
with the women and children. The night passed quiet and the next
morg [morning?], we were delighted to see a party of about 14 mounted men
coming towards us as hard as they could split; they were some white men
who had heard of the troubles and were come off to help us. One of
them was a celebrated half-breed guide called Burchinaw. He did not
like the place we had chosen to camp, as it would have been hard to
defend in case of attack, so while a lot of the others went off to
see about the wagons with the women, which had not arrived yet, he
got us to change our camp to a first-rate place which he showed us.

Here we made a koral [corral?] with the wagons, and camped till the
others came up; a koral [corral?] is a large circle made by bringing the
ends of the wagons together and getting the off hind wheel of one locked
with the near fore wheel of another; this makes a first-rate extempore
fort and if your camping-ground is good you can make a good fight
behind such a barricade. It was late when the wagons with the women
arrived, so we did not start until the next morning, Monday Sep. 8th.
We travelled hard all the day and camped late and on
again the next morg [morning?]. We now knew that we were pretty safe, as
far as the Sioux were concerned, as we were within a few miles of a
place called the Grand Forks where there were about 2500 Chippewas
assembled, besides a great many half-breeds, who were there to make the
treaty I before mentioned. A good many of our party left us here and set
of for Fort A. [Abercromby?], and we were reduced to about 15 men with
the wagon train, and of those 15 men only about 6 were armed. However we
were not at this time at all apprehensive, as we supposed that as the
Chippewas were assembling to make a treaty they were quite friendly.

We soon however found our mistake. On Tuesday the train was
stopped to camp, about 8 miles from the Grand Forks, and Kittson and
I and one or two others went on to the Indian encampment there, and
staid [stayed?] there all night. The next day I bought a horse from a
half-breed. During the evg. [evening?], and next morg. [morning?]
Kittson began to be afraid there was something wrong, so he sent off a
messenger to stop the train and not to let it come near the Indians'
camp. He then went round among the chiefs and talked to them, and
thought they were all quite friendly inclined, and then sent me off to
the train to tell them that they need not be alarmed as there would not
be any trouble. I had however hardly got to the camp when a large party
of Indians came up and surrounded us where we were all sitting at
supper, not one of us with a gun near us, and told us they wanted us to
bring the train up to their camp at Grand Forks. Mr Murray of the H.B.C.
[Hudson Bay Company?] told them we could not do so tonight. Very well,
said they, we will take off the cattle now, but we will send them back
in the morning, to bring the train up to Grand Forks. Well, they took off
the cattle and left a lot of Indians to take care of us as they said, and
to see that no one got away. By and by Kittson came down to our camp and
told us not to attempt any resistance as the Indians were there in such
numbers that we could not hope to succeed, and that the only chance
we had of saving our lives was to humour the Indians as much as
possible. He also told us to examine all the wagons and spill all the
liquor we could find, as if the Indians once got drink we would all
be done for to a certainty. Kittson is a man who has had great
experience among Indians and has the name of being one of the coolest
and most determined men on the Frontier, so we are all content to follow
his advice.

The next morg. [morning?] Thurs. 11th, the cattle were
brought back and we all went off to the Indians' camp. At first there
was no notice taken of our arrival, but after we had got everything
settled about our camp, the Indians began to crowd round us and to look
into the wagons and see what they could steal. I had got all my guns
hidden among the bedclothes of one of the sleeping-wagons, as Mr Kittson
had told us not to let it appear that we were armed; however all who had
them carried revolvers under their coats. There were soon about 300 men
round us and then the chiefs and headmen of the tribe came up. They
made all the others leave the wagons and sit down in circles in the
grass, every band by itself. The chiefs kept by themselves and would
take nothing to do with the whole affair; they did not approve of
what was being done, but they could not prevent it. Some of the
headmen then came forward and told Kittson they wanted to talk. One
of them then began a long rigmarole about Adam and how the redmen
had got the land and about the Spirit under the ground and the Great
Spirit, and the wrongs of the redmen and a tremendous lot of stuff and
nonsense, to which of course we listened. Then he began to come to the
point; he said he and his young men and their families had been
brought there by their Father at Washington (The Indian Commissioner)
to make a treaty, that they had been there for more than a fortnight
and that the Commissioners did not come, that they [were?] making fools
of them, that they did not intend to come. Then he began about the
steamboat and how it frightened away the game and that the white men
cut their wood to burn and a lot more in the same strain; then he said
they were hungry and cold, that they wanted something to eat and
blankets and ammunition for they were a long way from home; that he
saw here plenty to eat, pointing to the cattle and to the wagons;
that Kittson must give 12 chests of tea, 12 barrels of sugar, 12 boxes
of tobacco and blankets, powder and shot and hardware all in proportion,
12 of every kind. He then pointed to the Indians all round and
said, "You see here my braves; we are a great many, you are very few.
We must have what we ask for; if you do not give it, we will take."
Two others then spoke to pretty much the same affect, and then Kittson
got up and told them a lot of stuff, about how we had been chased by
the Sioux and that we had come to the Chippewas, expecting to find
friends, and that they would protect us against their old enemies the
Sioux. He told them that the Commissioners were coming to make a
treaty with them, that he had passed them on the way, but that they
were not able to come on because of the Sioux and a lot more which
it would take too much time to tell you now, but he ended by giving
them the tea, sugar and tobacco, and then it was getting dark, so the
old fellow who had spoken first said they would wait till morg. [morning?],
and in the meantime he would set a guard over us to see that
no one went away and that nothing was taken out of the wagons. They then
left about 40 Indians to watch us and then set off to their own camp.
Such a night as we had I never spent. The brutes kept yelling and
singing and dancing all night, so that it was quite impossible to sleep.

And in the morg. [morning?] they all came back. The old man had
promised to let us go at noon, so they were back early to get on with
their pillaging. Kittson had told them that there was no powder in the
train and that he did not know if there were any blankets or the other
things they wanted, so they now said anything that was wanting that
they had asked for must be made up for with something else. About a
dozen of the Indians now went round all the wagons and opened bails
to find what they wanted, and took everything they thought would be
of use. I got a half-breed to get all my things out of the wagons and
put them safe for me, but indeed the Indians did not take any private
property except what they managed to steal. I lost nothing at all.

Exactly at noon they came to Kittson and told him they had now
got what they had wanted, and for us to get the oxen harnessed and go
away, but that we must leave all the cattle which we did not require
for the wagons. Well we got under way and managed to get off 2 oxen
and two cows and a heifer. We made about 5 miles that night and
camped and killed the heifer at once to be sure of her, for we were
beginning to run short of provisions. That night a lot of the Indians
came and camped near us, and the next day passed us on their way home,
and as long I stayed with the wagons I saw no more of them.

You may imagine how mad we all were to have to sit quietly there
and see the hounds robbing the train, and we could do nothing; there
were only 15 of us and not half of us armed. If we had had about 50
well-armed men we could have licked the whole 500 of them, and would
have done so but as it was we had to submit, and Kittson says he
thinks that at one time the least thing in the world would have
set them on to butcher the whole of us. After the Indians had
taken all they wanted, it was amusing to go and see them dividing the
spoil, the ridiculous appearance they cut in fine cloth clothes and
all sorts of civilised dresses. However I have no time now to enter
into any further details of what went on; I have notes of it all so
that I can tell you all about it sometime.

After the Indians were all passed the wagons, I stayed with them
for two days till I thought I had seen them past all danger,
and then I got a light cart from one of the party and put my horse in
it, and with another fellow, a German called Block, started
ahead of the rest for Fort Garry. By the bye I was forgetting to tell
you that my horse was stolen the day after we left the Indian camp,
but an old half-breed who knew Kittson saw an Indian with him and
took him from him and brought him back to me. After we left the wagons
we soon overtook the Indians, but we put a bold face on it and went in
among them and let them see we did not care for them, so they did not
annoy us. When we got to Pembina, we found a H.B.C. [Hudson Bay Company?]
post there, so we got the loan of another horse and pressed on for Fort
Garry, where we arrived without further trouble on Wednesday evg. [evening?]
19th Sept nearly a month later than I intended to be.

I lost so much time at Georgetown and coming down with the ox-train;
I could have got through all right [alright?] from Georgetown at the very
first by following another trail, and I would never have seen an
Indian at all, and there was a man offered to take me through that
way at the time we first got the alarm at Georgetown, but as there was
a scarcity of arms there I did not like to leave them in such a
dangerous predicament and to take my guns away from them; besides I did
not at all dislike the idea of having a little Indian fight myself.
However it has thrown me so late that I cannot get to the Saskatchewan
this year, which is the only place one is certain of Grizzly bears.

However we have a fair chance to find some on the Mouse River,
which is about 8 days journey from this, and the guide says he can
insure [ensure?] me, Black bear, Buffalo, Elk, Antelope and Black-tailed deer
on it, so we have settled to go there.

I will now tell you what my arrangements are. I have got for
guide a man called Morins, a half-breed. Mr MacTavish, the H.B.C.
[Hudson Bay Company?] Governor here has known him for years; he considers
him one of the best, if not the best, guide in the settlement. He says I
am in luck to get him; he is just returned from leading one of the companies
[company's?] own expeditions; he will fight like a lion and will stick to one
through anything. MacTavish says the Indians in the country all know
him and will not take any liberties with any party he is with, as
they are all afraid of their lives of him. This is rather a good thing
as we are not at all likely to have some trouble as when one tribe
commences to commit depredations the others are very likely to take
it up and follow the example.

I have two other men hunters who are both quiet but very determined
men, and this fellow Block from Georgetown; he is the 4th. I
had to take 4 men and he is more of a companion than any of the others
would be and is a man I know I can depend upon. I only give him very
small wages as he is not regularly engaged to work, but he
is a willing fellow and will do as much as anyone else. We take two
light carts for our tents and provisions, &c., as two are better than
one heavy one and we can go so much quicker. The guide supplies 4
horses and I have got 3; they are buffalo-runners; the guides' one
are only hacks or cart-horses. I have to mount Block.

We start tomorrow and expect to be away about 6 weeks or 2 months,
so you will not hear of me again till I get back. But it is impossible
to say how long this letter may lie here before it is sent on, because
as I told you all communication is cut off with below by the Sioux,
and we do not know when the mails may be able to run again. This is
of course the reason why I have not written to you before this, so
it is not my fault not having been able to do so, but we are quite
in war times and on a war footing here, and I suppose shall be till I
get back to Chicago.

When I was leaving the wagons the other day, Mr Kittson and Mr
Murray and several of the others thanked me very much for having stuck
by them so long and were the more obliged to me for having done so
as they knew I was risking losing the sport I came out for.

I may now close this long affair; I have lots more to say
but I have no time to say it and I must write to Robert Dunville.

Ever your affectionate brother
Saml. [Samuel?] Bruce jr [Junior?]
Of course this letter must go the rounds.