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Books in the series: From Musket to Maxim 1815-1914

Journey Through the Wilderness

Journey Through the Wilderness

Author: Paul McNicholls Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 15/11/2019

In the spring of 1870 an Anglo-Canadian military force embarked on a 1,200 mile journey, half of which would be through the wilderness, bound for the Red River Settlement, the sight of present day Winnipeg. At the time the settlement was part of the vast Hudson's Bay Company controlled territories which Canada was in the process of purchasing. Today Canada is the second largest country in the world, but at the time it was a recent creation made up of three British North American colonies. The British government of the day, focussed on financial retrenchment and anchored on anti-imperialist values, would have happily severed its ties with its North American colonies. The dynamic American republic, resurgent after the cataclysm of the Civil War, aspired to take control of all of the British North American territories, including Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company lands. Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald knew that for his new country to survive and prosper it would have to expand across the continent and incorporate the Hudson's Bay Company's lands, and ultimately the colony of British Columbia on the Pacific Ocean as well. The HBC was in decline and wanted to give up the responsibility for its vast territories. Macdonald would have preferred Britain to take on this responsibility until Canada was ready, but Westminster was unwilling. Ready or not, Canada would have to act or risk the United States getting in ahead of them. In all of this, the interests of the indigenous people received scant consideration, and this included the residents of the Red River Settlement. The population here, about 14,000 strong, was mostly comprised of the descendants of the Kildonan Scots, farmers who had arrived under the auspices Lord Selkirk earlier in the century, the mixed race descendants of English speaking HBC workers and First Nations women, and the mixed race descendants of French speaking North West Company workers and First Nations women. The latter group, known as the Metis, had long before the time of Canada's pending takeover developed a distinct cultural identity, referring to themselves as A New Nation . In 1869 the Metis were nervous of the pending Canadian takeover. They feared their property rights, the most tenuous in the community, would not be respected. They also worried that their culture would be overwhelmed by an influx of English speaking settlers. Their concerns were reinforced when Canadian surveyors and road builders arrived in the community. The Canadians behaved exactly as the Metis had feared prompting the beginning of an opposition with demands for guarantees. The man who rose to lead the Metis opposition was Louis Riel, and while his demands were just, during the winter of 1869/70, supported by the organized military power of the buffalo hunt, he rode roughshod over the views of the other communities in residence at Red River. These included not only the Kildonan Scots and English-speaking mixed race people, but also Metis opponents and the much smaller and troublesome Canadian Party. Prime Minister Macdonald had been lax in acting to accommodate the interests of the Red River residents, but there was in fact little interest in Canada for the events unfolding there. Matters were transformed when Riel approved the execution of a member of the Canadian Party in March of 1870. Much of English speaking Canada found its voice and demanded a vigorous response. Macdonald, under considerable pressure, wanted a military expedition dispatched and he was adamant that the British should lead it. Even after a deal was completed, resulting in the creation of the new province of Manitoba, he remained firm in his belief that a force should be sent to assume control. Despite having already announced the withdrawal of its Canadian garrison, the British government reluctantly agreed to commit imperial troops to the venture. The completion of the deal between Canada and the Red River settlement was in fact a precondition of British involvement in the affair. It was also critical that the British troops get to the settlement and back again before the winter set in. Colonel Garnet Wolseley was chosen to lead the expedition, and as such, though in many respects an obscure and minor operation, it is an important subject of study given that it was his first independent command and he would rise to become Commander in Chief of the British Army. It demonstrated an attention to detail that would be fundamental to his rise up through the army hierarchy and utilized a transportation technique that he would attempt to replicate in his more famous Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884/1885. It also introduced a number of the personalities who would later become firmly entrenched as members of the Wolseley Ring. There was no good route from Canada to the Red River Settlement. The expedition, comprised of British regulars and Canadian militia, travelled first by steamer to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior and then by an incomplete road to Shebandowan Lake. The state of the road would become one of the major talking points of the whole affair. From Shebandowan Lake they went by row boat utilizing the old North West Company's canoe highway, carrying all the supplies they would need for the journey. They suffered the challenges of having to cross 47 portages, run multiple river rapids, and weather significant storms on some of the larger lakes of the interior. It rained, frequently torrentially, for roughly half of the days between their arrival at Thunder Bay and their reaching of Fort Garry at the Red River Settlement. On the days it didn't rain, they were feasted upon by the billions of insects resident in the woods of the Canadian Shield. Many historians have written on the events of the troubles at Red River in 1869/70, but the expedition itself is usually treated as a footnote and given a few lines or at most a paragraph. The author has found only one relatively recent account (published in the 1980s) that dealt with the expedition in detail and he has frequently, though respectfully, disagreed with many of the assertions and conclusions found therein. Consequently, it has been found necessary to go to the expeditionary force documents and first hand accounts of the men who took part, to properly understand exactly what the Red River Expedition was about and what the men who made up the force actually went through. By doing this author believes he has come up with a lively and original recounting of this little known story in British Imperial and Canadian history.

The Furthest Garrison

The Furthest Garrison

Author: Adam Davis Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 31/10/2019

The Furthest Garrison focuses on Imperial Forces in New Zealand, with particular reference to Auckland. Existing work has focused solely on the conduct of the New Zealand (Maori) Wars between 1846 and 1866. While this in itself is of undoubted significance, there is an additional unexplored aspect of the conflict in terms of its impact upon the garrison and, in turn, its impact upon the civilian population. Auckland was the hub of the British military presence in New Zealand and the barracks played an integral part in local colonial society from sports such as cricket and horse racing to entertainment, and to the provisioning of regimental supplies. Civil-military relations also encompassed the provision of aid to the civil power, while the discipline and health of the garrison also had the capacity to impact upon civilians. The issue of provisioning in particular has not been studied in detail in the case of any other imperial garrison at this period. Many soldiers stationed in New Zealand after their service remained as settlers, working on farms and in other trades, helping to shape colonial society. This book aims to address the neglected area of the social interaction between the British army and the civilian populace within the British Empire by reference to New Zealand between 1840 and 1870. Publications within this area remain limited with many being unpublished. Some more general works exists for earlier periods the American War of Independence as well as the study of the garrisons in the West Indies between 1792 and 1825. India has been relatively neglected. Published studies of the white dominions in this area of study are also relatively limited, the Australian experience has been restricted to popular works. While Canada and South Africa have been served with scholarly studies on Garrison life within these colonies. The book will appeal to the academic historian whether military or colonial, and to the general reader who has an interest in British history as well as civil-military relations, or who wishes to better understand how the Army operated outside of Great Britain. It will add materially to the historiography of colonial New Zealand and to the increasing interest in the interaction of garrisons with civilian populations.

Victory Over Disease

Victory Over Disease

Author: Michael Hinton Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 22/07/2019

This book presents fresh analyses of unpublished, published and significant primary source material relevant to the medical aspects on the Eastern campaign of 1854-1856 - commonly called the Crimean War. The aim has been to produce an account based on robust evidence. The project began with no preconceptions but came to seriously question the contributions made by the talented and well-connected Florence Nightingale and the suitably-qualified Sanitary Commissioners. The latter had been sent by the government to investigate matters on the spot. This may prove an unexpected and possibly unsympathetic conclusion for some of Nightingale's many admirers. Rigorously weighing the evidence, it is unmistakeably clear that there is very little proof that Nightingale and the Sanitary Commissioners significantly influenced the improvement in the health of the main Army in the Crimea. The principal problems were at the front, not in Turkey, and it was there that matters were gradually rectified, with the health of the troops beginning to improve during the early weeks of 1855. The historiography of the campaign has tended to concentrate on the catastrophic deterioration in the health of the Army during the first winter and the perceived incompetence of the heads of department. The contributions made by Nightingale and the Sanitary Commissioners have been greatly over-emphasised. As a consequence, the medical aspects of the war have been inaccurately portrayed in both academic works and popular culture. The author's analyses should alter existing preconceptions or prejudices about what happened in Crimea and Turkey during those fateful war years. The 'Victory over Disease' took place in the Crimea, and not at Scutari - and this was not due to the contributions of any one person, or even a group of individuals. Rather it represented the involvement of many people in many walks of life who worked, possibly unwittingly, for a common purpose, and with such a gratifying result.

The Battle of Majuba Hill

The Battle of Majuba Hill

Author: John Laband Format: Paperback / softback Release Date: 15/11/2017

The ignominious rout of a British force at the battle of Majuba on 27 February 1881 and the death of its commander, Major General Sir George Pomeroy-Colley, was the culminating British disaster in the humiliating Transvaal campaign of 1880-1881 in South Africa. For the victorious Boers who were rebelling against the British annexation of their republic in 1877, Majuba became the symbol of Afrikaner resistance against British imperialism. On the flip side, Majuba gave the late Victorian British army its first staggering experience of modern warfare and signalled the need for it to reassess its training and tactics. Based on both British and Boer archival and contemporary sources, this balanced and fresh appraisal of Majuba situates it in the closely interlocked operational and political contexts of the Transvaal campaign. It analyses the contrasting military organizations and cultures of the two sides and clarifies how a Boer citizen militia with no formal training, but that handled modern small arms with lethal effect and expertly employed fire and movement tactics, was able to defeat professional-but hidebound-British soldiers. The book explains how a British field commander, such as Colley, already subject to the factional politics of command, also found his conduct of military operations subject to the close supervision of his superiors in London at the other end of the telegraph wire. His strategic objective was to break through the Boer positions holding the passes between the colony of Natal and Transvaal and to relieve the scattered British garrisons blockaded by the Boers. However, his defeats at Laing's Nek on 28 January and at Ingogo on 8 February alarmed the British government already concerned that the war was stirring up dangerous anti-British Afrikaner nationalism across South Africa. It instructed Colley to cease operations and open peace negations with the Boers. But the general, a highly talented staff officer holding his first independent command, was determined to retrieve his tattered military reputation. He side-stepped his orders and, in an attempt to outflank the Boer positions and win the war at a stroke, seized Majuba with disastrous consequences. Although British reinforcements were now pouring in and the suppression of the Boer rebellion still seemed feasible, Majuba was the last straw for the British government. To the disgust of the military who burned to expunge the shame of Majuba with a resounding victory, the politicians insisted on restoring the Transvaal Boers their independence.