Strathcona's Horse Weekly Reports
Lt. Col. S. B. Steele
Lord Strathcona and Mt. Royal
The following pages contain the Weekly Reports sent by Lt. Col. Steele to Lord Strathcona during the period 17th February 1900 to 12th February 1901. They have been transcribed from the original draft copies of the reports and letters which are on microfilm held at the Glenbow Museum Archives, Calgary, Alberta. These being draft copies, I have left the spelling mistakes and have shown the sections that have been crossed out by Col. Steele as follows: [These lines were deleted from the—final—letter or report]. For any Boer war Historian or Collector, I am sure they will prove to be fascinating reading.
Ottawa, 17th February, 1900
From: Lt. Col. S. B. Steele, Commanding "Strathcona's Horse"
To: The Right Honorable Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, G.C.M.G.
17, Victoria Street,
London, S.W., England
As requested by your Lordship I have the honor to submit this my report upon all matters in connection with the organization of "Strathcona's Horse".
When I was in Halifax on my way to South Africa with the Second Contingent from Canada, I received a telegram from the Honorable the Minister of Militia offering me the command of your Corps, namely: "Strathcona's Horse". I accepted, and proceeded to Ottawa forthwith. At Ottawa the Minister, Major General Hutton, and I discussed the organization of the Corps and selected some officers from names presented, for your approval.
Personnel - Officers
Major Belcher: 2nd in Command, was 5 years in the 9th Lancers where he won prizes as the best swordsman and lancer the year he left. He joined the N. W. M. P. when the force was established and is still in the prime of life. He has great force of character and tact.
Major Snyder: is 36 years of age. He has been an Inspector of the N. W. M. P. for fifteen years, passing through the schools of instruction, and is well qualified.
Major Jarvis: is 36 years of age. He has been an Inspector of N. W. M. P. for 19 years, having risen from the ranks. He belongs to a well-known family in Toronto, and has had a very varied service in the Force.
These Officers stand high in the estimation of the N.W.M.P. Department.
Major Laurie is 38 years of age. He is a graduate of the R.M. College, Kingston, from which he passed at the head of his class and was offered a commission in the Royal Engineers, which he did not accept. He took part in the suppression of the rebellion of 1885, and was engaged in the actions at Fish Creek and Batoche.
Captain Hughes is Lt. Colonel in Command of the 45th "Victoria" Battalion of Infantry and is on leave at the present time in South Africa. Captain Hughes will join the regiment at Cape Town. He holds R. S. Infantry certificates.
Captain Howard is an Inspector in the N. W. M. P. of 10 years standing. He was engaged in the action at Batoche in 1885, serving with the 10th Royal Grenadiers.
Lieut. Cameron is 35 years of age. Has been Major in the 5th Battalion, "Royal Scots of Canada" stationed at Montreal, since March 1897. He has a 1st class grade "A" certificate of the Royal School of Infantry, also equitation. He is at present Senior Major of his Battalion.
Lieut. Cartwright is 27 years of age. Inspector of N. W. M. P., in which Corps he has served for four years. He was a Captain in the 14th Battalion Rifles, and has taken a first class long course certificate.
Lieut. Mackie joined the 90th Battalion of Rifles in May, 1893, was gazetted in 1896, and was appointed Adjutant in 1898. He holds 1st and 2nd class grade "A" Infantry certificates and 1st and 2nd class grade "A" Cavalry certification.
Lieut. Parker is an ex-Captain of the 15th Regt. of Foot. He retired on gratuity, and has resided for some years in British Columbia. He is a capital shot, and horseman, and has served on the staff of General Sir Charles Reid in India.
Lieut. Courtney is a graduate of the R. M. College. He has served in the West and taken part in surveys in the Northern part of Canada. He was also attached to the 6th Fusiliers for upwards of 5 years.
Lieut. Leckie is a graduate of the Royal Military College and has had experience in Western life. He is now a resident of British Columbia. He has served in the 72nd Battalion since 1895.
Lieut. Magee is a graduate of the R. M. College and has served in the Imperial Army. For the past two years he has been attached to the 14th Battalion, Kingston. (Hythe Officers Extra -7th April, 1896).
Lieut. Christie served with the Midland Battalion in the suppression of the Rebellion in 1885. He is at present a resident of Moosomin, Assa. This officer is late of the 38th Battalion and holds 2nd class "A" R. S. I. certificate.
Lieut. Falls is a qualified officer in the Manitoba Dragoons and at present a resident of Oak Lake, Man. He served with the 75th Gordon Highlanders, the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry Cavalry, and was also in the North West Rebellion of 1885. He holds a 2nd class grade "A" Royal School of Cavalry certificate.
Lieut. Pooley is a qualified officer in the Garrison Artillery, Victoria, and was gazetted in 1897. He holds 1st and 2nd Class Infantry and Artillery certificates from the Royal School of Instruction, England. He has also won Public School Rifle Competition prizes.
Lieut. Strange is a graduate of the School of Gunnery, Kingston, and is a son of Major General Strange. He has had experience in the Western Provinces, having resided on his Ranch, near Calgary, for a number of years. He also served in the suppression of the Rebellion of 1885.
Lieut. Parker. Quartermaster is 46 years of age, and has served in the N. W. M. P. since 1874. He took part in the suppression of the rebellion of 1885 in General Strange's column, and was present at Frenchman's Butte.
Surgeon Keenan is the medical officer selected by Dr. Stewart of Montreal, and he reported for duty on the 16th February.
The Captaincy of "C" Squadron is still vacant and Transport and Veterinary Officers are yet to be obtained.
The men enlisted are composed of the very pick of the cowboy, cowpuncher, rancher, policeman and ex-policeman of the Territories and British Columbia, the balance are westerners of varied experience, especially qualified with rifle and horse.
Notes Preliminary to Organization.
Doctor McEachran proceeded me to the North-West for the purpose of purchasing horses.
Clothing. I arranged with Mr. Clouston to have some necessary improvements made in the uniform. Unfortunately there was a considerable portion of the clothing being made when I arrived at Ottawa from Halifax. This fact made it difficult for me to make any changes, or to have and distinguishing badge inserted (with your approval) but I believe it has been arranged to have a representative badge attached to the collar and hat.
Rifles. The very long range rifle is not in use, to any extent, in the Territories, but for all that the men, as a body, can shoot well at ranges at which objects can be seen with the naked eye.
Recruiting and Medical Examinations.
In the Territories the men were examined by the Surgeons, and Assistant Surgeons of the N. W. M. Police, and Officers of the same force were employed to superintend the recruiting in their respective localities.
In British Columbia, Inspector Morris of the N. W. M. Police Force recruited for me at Nelson, Captain Parker recruited at Fort Steele and Cranbrooke while Inspector Wilson of the N. W. M. Police did the recruiting at Golden, Revelstoke, Kamloops, Vernon; and Major Laurie carried out, in like manner, the enlisting of recruits in Victoria and Vancouver.
Other Surgeons than those of the Force were employed in British Columbia, but great care was taken that the recruits were of fine physique, good shots, and capable horsemen, the latter quality especially was looked after. To make assurance doubly sure I have directed, since I returned to Ottawa, Surgeon Keenan of "Strathcona's Horse" to make another very strict medical examination of the men.
With your permission, My Lord, I will now proceed to report the following detail of my work in organizing your Corps, and to enclose herewith a Nominal Roll of all ranks, showing the places in Manitoba, the North West and British Columbia, where the men enlisted, date of enlistment, and the names of Officers chosen to command each troop from the different districts.
Organization and Recruiting Officers
I left Ottawa en-route west on Tuesday, the 30th, January, and upon my arrival in Winnipeg I immediately notified the different districts that recruiting for the corps would commence on the 5th, February. I then appointed Lieut. Mackie, (late Captain and Adjutant of the 90th Rifles, Winnipeg) to undertake the recruiting for Manitoba under the supervision of Inspector Snyder of the N. W. M. Police, who is to be Major in command of "A" Squadron "Strathcona's Horse" and who was on his way to Halifax, arriving in Winnipeg shortly after my departure. Proceeding west the same day (2nd) I appointed Lieut. Christie to recruit at Moosomin under Major Snyder, and arrived at Regina on the 3rd, where I stayed over that day. I regret to say that, here, I found Major Belcher, N. W. M. Police, who is to be 2nd in command, ill in bed, where he has had to remain for the last ten days, but word received today is to the effect that he has greatly improved. This left me single handed in the command so far as he was concerned, but I arranged with the Assistant Commissioner (N. W. M. Police) so that the Regina District got their full share of good men recruited, also under Inspector Snyder, who completed his work to that point on the 8th inst.
Quartermaster Parker, (Late N. W. M. Police) was very careful with the recruiting at Prince Albert and selected first class all round men. Battleford only furnished one qualified recruit, the first contingent having stripped that district of those who were qualified.
Inspector Morris of the N. W. M. Police was detailed to accompany me west and I directed him to proceed via the Crows Nest to Nelson where in conjunction with Lieut. Leckie of "Strathcona's Horse," he soon obtained the number allotted and entrained for the east with 52 men on the 9th instant, picking up Lieutenant Parker and troop (42) of Fort Steele at Cranbrooke.
I left Regina on the morning of the 4th and proceeded to Calgary, appointing Inspector Harper recruiting Officer at Maple Creek, en-route. He completed his work on the evening of the 6th, Medicine Hat District furnishing 10 out of the 20 allotted the two places. I arrived at Calgary on the night of the 5th, and made this point my temporary headquarters. Inspector Wilson, who was advised beforehand, proceeded to British Columbia on the same train that I got off, and Major Laurie, who accompanied me from Regina, went to the Coast. I had to perform Inspector Wilson's duties at Calgary as there was no other Officer doing duty at that post, but this did not interfere with my work and I am pleased to inform you that with constant instructions sent, and answers received, I was enabled to close the enlistment on the night of the 10th, making up the necessary compliment in five days. Of course changes had to be made where districts were under the number allotted, and in such cases I arranged to have the shortage made up by qualified men from other points. Many of these places had three and four times the number of volunteers required; as instances, Victoria and Vancouver, Vernon, Nelson, Calgary, Golden, Kamloops, Edmonton, Moosomin, and even Winnipeg. I believe a Brigade could have been formed with ease; however, the best men were selected in each case.
Inspector Morris having reached Medicine Hat with the Nelson and Fort Steele contingents on the morning of the llth. instant, I sent him full instructions from Calgary and he proceeded east from Medicine Hat the same morning at eight, in command, picking up enroute. Medicine Hat, Maple Creek, Regina, Prince Albert, Moosomin, Virden, Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg Troops which made up the first train consisting of 7 officers and 286 men. The railway people provided the following equipment for our use: 6 Tourists cars, 50 men per car, 2 sergeants to a berth, others 4 to a berth. Rear half of a 1st class car for Officers, front half for non-commissioned officers. 1 sleeper and 1 commissariat attached.
The train is well handled, the commissariat being equally appreciated by both Officers and Men.
A banquet given at Winnipeg was successfully carried out, the train being delayed there about two hours only (7 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The men were marched to and from the drill shed and entrained without difficulty.
I left Calgary for Ottawa on the morning of the 12th being forced to come east sooner than I expected owing to Major Belcher's illness. Under the circumstances, I left instructions with Inspector Wilson N. W. M. Police and Lieut. Strange of "Strathcona's Horse" to assist Dr. McEachran who has been furnished with the necessary men to bring the horses east.
The first train arrived in Ottawa on the morning of the 15th. inst., and took up their quarters at the Exhibition Grounds where everything is now in shape, and drill and order carried on.
The second train carrying 3 Officers, 140 men and 96 horses left Calgary at 6:30 a.m. of the 14th. for Ottawa. They are expected to arrive Monday. Every provision has been made for them.
With the exception of Major Jarvis, Lieutenant Cartwright, en-route from Yukon, and a few who were granted passes to visit their homes, the establishment of your Corps is about complete.
My Lord, in concluding my report on the recruiting of your corps I have the honour to state that a better class of men, from a moral, physical, shooting and horsemanship point of view could not have been selected, and as a proof of such our Surgeon (Keenan) who has already examined one-half of the command, since I arrived, states that he was greatly surprised at their physique and intelligence. As I mentioned before Surgeon Keenan is to medically examine each man, although the western doctors recommended them all before leaving.
As I already reported I left the west sooner than I would have liked to on account of my 2nd in command being seriously ill — (at the time of writing he has greatly improved and I well know his capabilities of endurance, should he be fit for service in time). This necessitated co-operations with Doctor McEachran by wire, but fortunately he arrived in Calgary in time to discuss the further purchases to be made. The doctor reported that the horses already purchased were all broken, of the proper standard in size, etc. He had purchased at MacLeod, Pincher Creek and High River, starting in at Calgary the next day after I left, where it is likely that he would have his pick of 200 at least. Medicine Hat, Maple Creek, Moose Jaw, Regina, Qu'Appelle, Red Deer were all prepared to exhibit their horses for his inspection.
About 300 horses are now en-route and the probabilities are that Dr. McEachran will have little trouble in selecting the balance. 14 hands 2 to 15 hands 2 is the standard worked upon, but only the very best 14-2, which are well known to be hard in the west, are being taken.
The Palace Horse Cars provided by the Company are excellent in comparison with the old stock cars and in every way the Canadian Pacific Railway people have met our wishes and carried out their part effectively
The officers have not been appointed, and the men have not yet been selected who are to compose the machine gun detachment, but I hold documents of qualification from a number of good men, and I intend having them parade, at once, so that I amy judge of their experience.
My Lord, in conclusion this my first report upon the organization of your Corps, I beg to state that the two days, that I have been in Ottawa, I have devoted to completing the organization, and seeing the men properly instructed by competent instructors of the force and you will not be surprised when I tell you that the westerner has again proved himself to be a likely learner.
The clothing may delay us, but everything is being rushed by competent hands and I am pleased to inform you that the organization is so far very satisfactory.
I have the honour to be,
Sir, Your obedient servant,
(Signed) S. B. STEELE,
Lieut. Col. Commanding
The Right Hon. Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
25th February 1900
Dear Lord Strathcona
Your kind favor was duly received
I am grateful for your expression of satisfaction at my appointment, and will do my utmost to make the Corps do credit by your name.
The organization is now complete, as far as the men are concerned, and the horses coming in fast. Over three hundred have arrived, and the remainder are by this time are on the way. The saddlery, all of which has to be made, is now complete and will be issued this week. The clothing and all stores have carefully inspected by a board of experienced officers, and the evidence of the experts in the corps taken. The uniforms are good and fit well. I have Master Tailor Creegan of "A" Battery doing the fitting. His experience has been great, and I find the advantage of it.
I have done my best in selecting officers and men. The great majority of the officers have a great deal of experience, and more than three-fourths are Western men. I was forced, on account of the lack of material, to get the remainder from the East, but they are good horsemen and possessed of certificates of qualification.
The men are a fine capable and highly respected lot; the physique such as to make them the beau ideal of what horsemen should be. A few men have enlisted in the East for special purposes, not for mounted work. Shoeing-Smiths, saddlers and buglers could not be got in sufficient numbers in the West.
The medical officer, Dr. Kegegan, was selected by Dr. Stewart. Dr. McEachran will select the V. Surgeons.
I find that our force is the backbone of the organization. Their experience in the West makes even the Veterinary Surgeon a better man.
The knowledge of discipline and advantage of it are plainly to be seen. I think the V.S. Will be selected from one of two men in the N.W.M. Police.
Drill has been going on daily, the thirteen shoeing smiths are hard at work.
The people of Montreal are anxious for us to parade there on our way. This could be done on foot as well, but the detraining of five hundred horses would be quite a task, and some might be injured. They are all new to the cities and although hard to frighten would give us a good deal of trouble.
I sent my initial report last week, and will of course continue furnishing your Lordship with all the information that I can.
(signed) S. B. Steele
March 16th. 1900
The Rt. Hon. Lord Strathcona & Mount Royal, G.C.M.G.
17, Victoria Street, London, ENGLAND
My last report was principally confined to the organization of your Corps up to the time of the concentration in Ottawa.
I have now the honour to report on the after events, bringing it up to the time when we are standing out in Halifax Harbour, ready to sail for South Africa.
On the date of my last report only a portion of the regiment had arrived in Ottawa, and I have now the honour to state that the Corps is at full strength -- Officers and men. But notwithstanding this fact it might be well to give your lordship a brief summary of the events which have occurred during the time we were quartered at Ottawa, and also, on the trip to Halifax.
Clothing and Stores.
When the stores were received at the Barracks at Ottawa, in accordance with Military Regulations, a board of officers, comprised of members of your own Corps, was appointed and sat upon the clothing and stores issued by the Department of Militia and Defence. The Board took expert evidence upon everything issued with the exception of the so-called Stetson hats, all the clothing, saddlery and equipment were found to be suitable for the campaign.
With regards to the hats, I may say that after a thorough test it was ascertained that they were not such as would resist the slightest moisture, and also, that they were not the hat used in the West.
When the finding of the Board was communicated to me I immediately took steps to replace the hats for a quality with which I was familiar in the West, but unfortunately, owing to the shortness of the time, I was unable to collect sufficient number, and consequently the original pattern was retained in the absence of something better. However, I understand Mr. Taylor is arranging to have a better hat forwarded to the Corps at Cape Town.
Since arriving in Halifax, I am in receipt of your despatch regarding the horses. In reply to the same, I stated that they were satisfactory, and I have now only to add that in my opinion they are perfectly suitable to the work expected of them.
During our stay in Ottawa, Mr. Beith, M.P., one of the best judges of horse flesh in Canada had a look over all the stables, and he expressed to me his opinion that they were best horses of the kind that could be found.
Although the regiment had been doing drill every day since it arrived in Ottawa, it was not until the 6th. inst., that I was able to have a full mounted parade which proved satisfactory in every particular. The horses behaved well, and the men showed an interest in the work which was encouraging. During the course of the parade we were visited, informally, be His Excellency the Governor General, who expressed himself as being well pleased. On this occasion we were presented, through Mr. Klock, M.P., with a beautiful flag, together with an address, a copy of which I herewith enclose.
On the following Thursday (8th March) the regiment paraded mounted - nearly full strength - and proceeded to Parliament Square where it was met by His Excellency the Governor General, the Members of the Senate and the House of Commons, the Mayor and Council of the City of Ottawa, together with thousands of citizens.
The regiment was presented by the Ladies of the Civil Service with four Guidons, exquisitely worked in silk and which show on them your lordship's crest and motto. I may say that the Guidons have been the admiration of people all along the line and the generous donation to the Corps by the Ladies of the Civil Service is very much appreciated by both the officers and men.
On Sunday the llth. inst. in accordance with orders issued by the Officer commanding the Ottawa Brigade, the regiment proceeded to church, full strength. I was exceedingly well pleased with the appearance of the men on this occasion. There was a steadiness and interest shown which was encouraging considering the limited time they had to pick up foot drill. But all along the men have shown a business front, fully realizing that they are on serious duty.
We commenced our departure for Montreal on Sunday, the above date, that is we entrained the horses, 539 in number, including three for General Hutton, in two trains, per C.P.R. for Montreal. A sufficient guard was detailed under the Veterinary Officer, and on the morning following we proceeded to Montreal. On Monday morning the 12th. inst. - after turning over the quarters occupied in Ottawa in a perfectly satisfactory condition your Corps entrained in two trains for Montreal . You have doubtless read in the newspapers a description of the enthusiasm with which we were received there but I do think it possible to adequately describe the demonstration beyond the fact that there was a cheering multitude, beautifully decorated streets, and everything to indicate the esteem with which you are held in the estimation of the people of that city, and the interest which they take in your Corps. A banquet was given by the City of Montreal at which eloquent and patriotic speeches were delivered.
The regiment entrained in three trains for Halifax at 9.30 on Monday evening, but owing to the heavy trains our progress was slow. This, however, did not prevent us from getting an enthusiastic reception everywhere along the line. At Campbellton, N.B., at 3 o'clock a.m., we were met by a large crowd and presented on behalf of the town with a fine silk flag. The same thing happened at Monckton (sic), and at Truro, N.S., late at night, an address was presented.
The Corps arrived at Halifax early Thursday morning and the work of
embarking the horses was immediately commenced and successfully accomplished by evening.
The men were quartered for the night, one squadron at the Armoury and two squadrons at the Exhibition Grounds. A smoking concert was given in the evening by the City, and a dinner to the Field Officers at the Halifax Club. The same enthusiasm displayed in other places was shown here. A march of four miles was made through the city yesterday, previous to which Her Majesty's message was read to the regiment in thee Armoury. The regiment was also inspected by General Seymore.
The embarkation at Halifax was completed half-an-hour after the Corps reached the dock, and we are now ready to sail.
I shall let you have a report from Cape Verde should we call there.
I have the honour to be my Lord,
Your obedient servant
(Signed) S.B. Steele, Lt. Col.
Commanding Strathcona's Horse
(Note: Cape Verde report missing.)
The Right Hon. Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
16th. March 1900
Dear Lord Strathcona,
I am sending you to-day an official report of events since my last. The Regiment left Ottawa on the 12th. and arrived here yesterday. I hurried the embarkation of the horses as there was no place for them on shore. Dr. McEachran gave me every assistance and inspected each horse personally before it was placed on board. On our arrival in Montreal the men were detrained and we marched about four miles through both the French and English portions of the city receiving the greatest ovation that has ever been given a corps in our time. The streets were packed from one end to another with the houses and other buildings decorated in the most tasteful manner. Laval had the whole buildings (sic) decorated and the balcony and windows full of cheering students. McGill cheered the Laval men, and good feeling is the result. After the march we were given a luncheon in the Windsor Hall. It was attended by the majority of the leading citizens of Montreal, and the gallery packed with ladies. The Mayor and many of the gentlemen present made speeches, all of them eulogizing your patriotism and praising the efforts made by the Government and myself to carry out your wishes. I had the honor to reply to these giving a short account of the organization. The men, although treated with lavish hospitality behaved with the greatest sobriety and common sense, showing plainly my endeavours to fill the corps with a fine respectable lot of men had not been in vain. I left Montreal in the evening after a stay of six hours.
To-day the whole garrison of Halifax was represented in a triumphal march through the city. In the armoury speeches of a patriotic character were made by Lord William Seymore, Governor Daly, Dr. Borden and others. We then marched (headed by the Leinsters (Old Hundredth) through the whole city for four miles at least, the route being lined by an enthusiastic crowd of people. We embarked in an orderly way in twenty-five minutes from the time we went to the pier. I immediately published all the orders required by the Queen's Regulations and after consulting with the Captain made necessary regulations all of which will be strictly and I hope tactfully enforced. The men will be lectured on musketry, and drilled to stand to their boats, and are told off in crews.
The horses are first class and a great credit to Dr. McEachran. The draught animals were purchased in Montreal and are splendid ones. All have been shod as directed by the Queen's Regulations.
The men all through, since I took them to Ottawa, have behaved well. Lord William Seymore and all others admit that no finer, if as fine, a body could be found. All bronzed, hardy looking Fellows.
I am proud of the honor you have done me, and so are all concerned. I may add further that Lord William Seymore spoke highly of my brother officers saying that they went about their work in a most satisfactory manner with out a fuss.
Colonel Cotton of the Militia Department who commands in Ottawa, and the whole staff, treated me well and assisted me in every way. I am satisfied with the results.
The regiment was presented with four beautiful guidons. The people of Sudbury, Ont., of Campbellton, N.B., and Monckton (sic), N.B., gave us beautiful flags which I hope we may be able to hand over to your Lordship some of these days with credit. Every flag is of beautiful silk hand worked by the ladies of the Civil Service of Canada.
Dr. Borden, Lord William and many prominent persons saw us off to-day.
I cannot say too much of Dr. Borden's treatment of me. He left nothing undone and the Military Store Officer, Lieut. Col. Macdonald worked hard for us and has expressed himself pleased with the way in which our quartermaster pushed the work of his department.
Hoping that you are quite well again, I am,
(Signed) S. B. Steele