May 11 - All the camp raised at the first peep of dawn, fearing an attack which generally takes place at this particular time. When I threw off my blankets, which I had completely over my head, a lot of snow fell on me, covering my face. On getting up I found that we had quite a fall of snow during the night and a hard frost. The surroundings were anything but comfortable. The enemy did not disturb us, they allowed us to eat our breakfast in peace.
After breakfast our men marched out and took up their usual positions: the Midlands on the left flank, resting our left on the deep ravine in which the Saskatchewan runs; to the right of our regiment were the Grenadiers, extended some distance away to the right in bush, and behind a low ridge to the right of them came the 90th, and the Mounted Infantry, dismounted, which consisted of Boulton's men, French Scouts, and the Intelligence Corps commanded by Dennis. The artillery remained in camp throughout the morning.
I stayed in the zareba for an hour or so waiting for the ball to open on the firing line. With the exception of an occasional shot now and again nothing of an exciting nature occurred for an hour or two. About 9:30 a.m. I took my rifle, revolver and ammunition, some hardtack in my haversack and struck out for our position. On arriving there, I found our men holding a good position under pretty fair cover in the woods, Capt. Grace in charge. Made my way among the men until I reached those fartherest [sic] in advance, near the edge of ravine.
Thought I would do some scouting on my own account, so advanced on all fours down into the ravine where the enemy was hidden, and reached a position within 200 yards of their advanced position, taking cover among low bushes but which afforded no protection as far as being bullet proof. Had a good survey of the surroundings, including the enemies' rifle pits, and was so close that I could hear them talking.
Several of the Indians and Breeds, I observed, crept up towards our position on the right of where I was lying, evidently to get a shot at some of our fellows. They came so close to me that I could hear them whispering, and if I had moved a twig they could have observed it and riddled me with bullets, but I lay perfectly still, hardly breathing. Our men on the high ground either heard them or saw them, however; they opened fire and soon drove them back to their original position about two or three hundred yards in front of me. As they got farther off and about disappearing I opened fire with my rifle and quickly rolled over, changing my position. Lucky thing for me I did, for they returned the fire, their bullets tearing the grass and shrubs about where I had been lying.
Soon our men began moving down to me, creeping through the bushes down the slope until we had a line formed from our left front, nearly to the river's edge. This protected our flank completely. In about an hour our commander, Col. Williams, came to us and complimented me on the position I had taken. Orders were given to have axes brought down and the bushes were cleared. Later two guns of the Winnipeg Field Battery were placed in position and shells were thrown into the ravine ahead of us and across the river at the houses and the Indians lurking in the woods. We were kept, about 20 of us, to support the guns.
We could hear the Indian yells and the war-whoops and some cries of distress, so we knew our shots were telling. Some of the houses across the river received shells right through the roofs, blowing them to pieces. A panic seemed to take place among the inhabitants, who seemed to run in all directions. Some took to their horses and scampered off, but the enemy lying in wait nearer to us were not idle. Quite a number of them began to creep up on us and when in a good position in their nearest rifle pits, began a sharp rifle fire on us at pretty close range. We took up the same idea and returned their fire with interest, but there was nothing to be seen but puffs of smoke, into which we directed our fire.
We could not dislodge them, and as we had little or no cover, Col. Williams extended us and ordered a charge right into them. This we did in gallant style, driving the rebels before us from one rifle pit to another, but they made no stand, only running and firing as they went. We advanced about 500 or 600 yards, keeping up a running fight, until we came in sight of the cemetery, from which we received a hot fire.
Having so few men, the Colonel decided that we should retire. Besides, it was late in the evening, and time to fall back on our entrenchments for the night. As we fell back the fire of the enemy slackened. They did not follow us, thinking, probably, that we would lead them into a trap. When going back to our camp, Col. Williams exclaimed, "Men, we can rush the enemy and take Batoche tomorrow."
If the day's work did not accomplish much in the way of advancing our position, it had the desired effect of giving us confidence in ourselves and our Colonel, for we knew where he would lead, we would follow. We also saw he was bent on new tactics. But there was the General's staff clique to reason with. This clique seemed to hold together, and do nothing decisive, and would allow no one else to do anything. We were all getting desperate from being held in check so long, doing nothing, but advance a little through the day, taking certain positions and then in the evening retire to our trenches having to do all the work over the next day.
We felt it was nothing but a lazy siege. We were losing men every day and did not know what kind of work we were doing on the enemy. We had so far seen nothing but puffs of smoke, and heard the defiant yells of the Indians. As we went to camp that night we felt disgusted with the whole business, and looked forward to the next day when surely something would be done.
I went over to the part of the entrenchments where Boulton's men were and had tea with Ted Brown, Billy Duncan, Sandy Stewart, and Joe Burton. Later I turned in with them, sharing Ted's blankets (poor Ted's last sleep on earth). We were all tired so went to sleep in spite of the firing that was kept up through the night. Casualties were about six killed and 12 wounded.