James Peters

Captain James Peters. Two cannons fire on Batoche during the shelling that began the battle. 1885

This photograph appeared in the Globe & Mail a couple of weekends back – a notice about Michael Barnholden's newly published Circumstances Alter Photographs: Captain James Peters'  Reports from the War of 1885.

Peters was in the Royal Canadian Artillery in Quebec City and was sent to what is now known as the North-West Rebellion, where traditional British army practice met the guerilla war strategies of the Métis in now southwest Manitoba.  When Louis Riel formed a provisional Métis government to manage their lands which were being stripped of buffalo by the Hudson's Bay Company, John A Macdonald sent 5,500 troops to deal with him.  This might be compared to the 2,500 Canadian troops currently in Afghanistan.

It was a slaughter on both sides, Louis Riel was captured and hung for treason. Meanwhile, Captain Peters had brought with him a Marion Academy twin-lens reflex camera with a fast shutter speed and from his horse shot pictures of the ambush he led his troops into at Fish Creek.  One might think he ought to have been otherwise occupied, but hey, he was a keen photographer and so we have these images.  

There is a dog in the middle of the battlefield, of course.  Dogs see all, tell nothing.