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WHY WAS SAM STEELE OF THE NWMP OVERLOOKED AS THE “TOP COP”, OF CANADA’S POLICE FORCE IN THE LATE 1800’s?

HELLO COLLECTORS,
 

 

CAN YOU ANSWER THIS QUESTION? 
 
WHY WAS THIS MAN OVERLOOKED AS THE “TOP COP”, OF CANADA’S POLICE FORCE IN THE LATE 1800’s?
 
WAS IT POLITICAL?.... or WAS IT INCOMPETENCE?.... or WAS IT THE CANADIAN WHISKEY?

YOU DECIDE !!
 
Here is a little bit of Canadian History and a number of accomplishments that warranted a better fate or “second look”, for Sam Steele of the N.W.M.P. North West Mounted Police. Late 1800’s.

                                                
 
1.  Sam was 16 years old, at the time the American based Fenians (Irish) were initiating “raids” of warfare on (British) soil Ontario.
 
The Irish were intent on having Britain release control, or withdraw from Ireland.
 
It did not work.
 
At that time, obviously aware of the atrocities of war, Steele joined the 5th (Simcoe) Battalion of Infantry (Ontario). 
 
At 16 years of age, Sam was a quick learner with a barrel chested frame, and the kid was fine tuning his trade and  physical strength, to fulfill the demands of intense military training. 
 
A leader in the making, the young Sam Steele was soon training his own military troops to combat the aggression of the Fenians. 
 
In other words, Sam was prepared to fight for his country, The Dominion of Canada. The year was 1881.
 
Confederation was on its rocky start.
 
2.  In 1873 at the inception of the N.W.M.P., Sam accepted the commission of Sergeant- Major under the direction of George French, the first “Top Cop” of Mounted Police.
 
By the way, George French appears on a postage stamp issued 1973  by Canada Post.

                                       
 

Sir John A. MacDonald, first Prime Minister of Canada who some say was deemed with the reputation of a sly lawyer, particularly at the London Conference England .......did, let’s say appoint G. French to lead the Great March of the N.W.M.P. (Dufferin, Manitoba to Fort MacLeod, Alberta) About 800 miles or 1,300 Kilometres.
 
Now just for clarification, many thought that Confederation with Sir Johnny A. at the “top”, was not the resolution to many of Canada’s problems.
 
G. French as a political appointment by Big Mac for example, fumbled and stumbled almost every “inch” of the way westward Ho!!
 
 Now, 800 miles is just over 50,000,000 inches.
 
That’s a lot, I mean a lot, of stumbling. Wouldn’t ya think? 
 
Did you know that Johnny A. sought the approval of Queen Victoria, to establish a Mounted Police Force in Canada?
 
Yup apparently true.
 
So let’s take a step or two backward, and then if you are still awake......or if you want to fall a sleep in record time, read on.  
 
Now, the man who exemplified leadership in all respects of this “not thought out so well” trail ride by Management, was Sam Steele, the overlooked Top Cop. 
 
Why were the NWMP going out west?  
 
It turns out that Johnny A. was getting all sorts of reports. Frequent massacres, the illegal and ruthless “whisky trade” homesteaders were in constant fear of their lives, railway construction workers needed protection and frankly, the border of Canada was in jeopardy. 
 
Why? The hardened core of American Revolutionary soldiers, with camps in the Montana area had other ideas. 
 
One idea of theirs, “let’s expand the American boundaries, now Canada, and take total control of the lucrative Fur Trade. Hmm......
 
As such there was a desperate need for Law and Order with a Police Force, in the North West Territories.
 
Now back to the Great March of the N.W.M.P. in 1884. 
 
Who went? What went? ...... and NO it wasn’t just like jumping on a horse and singing, “ride Sally ride”. 
 
As I throw this stuff at you, let your mind drift, and visualize exactly what was happening at that moment.
 
Two hundred and seventy five (275) mounted police constables, 310 horses, 143 draught oxen and 187 Red River carts/wagons. If you had lined them all up, it would be about 2.5 kilometres long. Now that’s quite a stretch isn’t it?
 
But, there’s more. Two (2) field guns, 2 mortars, cattle for food and 2 hay making machines.  

                                        
                                                Julien, Henri, 1852-1908 
 
G. French, the Top Cop at the time also seconded a writer, to tell the predicted very positive outcome of the journey.  However, the outcome was far from positive. 
 
Did you know G. French resigned from the Force in 1886? 
 
You do have to give the guy credit, as he was “Knighted” for his military commitment to Britain.
 
The March was on, headed west and covering 15 miles the first day. Pretty good let’s say. 
 
At this time a detailed double check was made, nothing forgotten, everything and everyone totally prepared.  
  
But, before I go on I must be perfectly clear, particularly for the U.S. readers.  
 
When I refer to Johnny A. I’m not referring to Johnny Appleseed, the kingpin of the Apple world.  
 
I am of course referring to Sir John A. MacDonald, first Prime Minister of Canada.

                                              
 
Another thing that got me thinking was, if there were 275 riders on mounted horses and they were all in a single line, being 2.5 K and if you were the very last in line....

What if? what if?  
 
Nature calls for those 274 horses and..and.......are you in it deep?
 
Moving on, and adversity started with numerous mud holes and quicksand. Horses and cows were getting stuck, deeply stuck in a pounding rain. 

One reference in Sam Steele’s journal, was that a horse was up to his neck in quicksand.
 
How do you get them out? 
 
Well, in this case one or two strong men with large poles, rope under the girth of the horse and another man holding and prying up the head of horse.

The horse, who by now is obviously in distress and panic. 
 
One lunge, then another and another and the horse is out. Everyone with a beating heart is exhausted. Animals and men must rest a day or two or more.
 
Stay tuned, next week a lot more adversity for the N.W.M.P.
 
 
Take care,
John Bucci
 
*Newsletter images courtesy of Wikipedia and rcmpveteransvancouver.com.*
 

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