A forensically detailed description of Garnet Wolseley’s 1870 Red River Expedition, that uses primary sources and the written accounts of many of the participants to tell the story of the 1,200-mile journey from Toronto to Upper Fort Garry, modern day Winnipeg, the site of Louis Riel’s rebellion. That the Expedition lost only one man during the three-month journey, largely by river and lake crossings, is a testament to the staff work carried out by Wolseley prior to departure together with the assistance provided locally.
The Expedition is interesting as it sees the first gathering of many of the subsequent Wolseley Ring members – Redvers Buller, William Francis Butler, George Lightfoot Huyshe, Hugh McCalmont and John Carstairs McNeill, who, between them, made a further sixteen appearances as members of Wolseley’s staff over the following 14 years. While the initial grouping is coincidental, as the members were largely already in Canada as the Expedition was being put together, it clearly gave the Ring members the opportunity to impress Wolseley sufficiently that he was to subsequently use them on later missions.
Helion’s production is up to its usual high standard with many excellent illustrations and maps included. The text is fully annotated and there is a good bibliography of the sources utilised.
It is hard to see how this analysis of a fascinating Expedition – the last time British troops carried out a military campaign in North America – could be bettered leaving McNicholls’ volume as the definitive text on the Red River Expedition.