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Saturday, February 14, 2015

The murder that doomed Louis Riel

The Sarnia Observer, April 1, 1870
             NEWS FROM RED RIVER

The latest news of any importance from Red River, is the particulars of the shooting, by the usurper Riel, of a Canadian of the name Thomas Scot, for alleged faithlessness to the Provisional Government.  It appears Scott was one of the imprisoned Canadians, but had been released on condition that he would not take up arms against the insurgents, a promise to this effect having been extorted from him as the condition of his liberation.

This was during the time  the Boulton-Schultz movement was in progress, and it seems Scott, in all probability having his temper excited by the conduct of Riel towards those who had been his fellow prisoners, and anxious to secure their liberation, and the downfall of this upstart French half-breed, joined the movement referred to, on the evening of the same day on which his release took place. He was captured with others of Major Boulton's party, when the sally took place from the Fort a few days afterwards.

Being thus found in arms against Riel's usurped authority, it was determined to try him by Court-martial. The result, as might have been expected was, that he was found guilty, and sentenced to be shot; and on the 14th of March, he was actually brought out and shot in front of the Fort.

----  Since writing the above, we learn by the Globe of yesterday that four Canadians who left Fort Garry towards the end of February, had arrived in St. Paul on Tuesday last; and they report that the mass of the people have no sympathy with Riel or his revolution, and that nothing but the lack of arms and an authorized leader prevented the loyalists from putting down the insurrection.

They are on their way to Ottawa to urge upon the government the necessity of taking prompt steps to extend protection to the settlers, the bulk of whom are staunchly loyal. They state positively that Scott was not paroled, but an escaped prisoners (sic), who afterwards joined Boulton's party; and that Riel had him shot because he was an Orangeman and obnoxious to the priesthood, and that the priests favoured his execution.

(Halifax) Morning Chronicle, April 21, 1870

   Further Particulars of the Execution of Scott

The Toronto "Telegraph" which has gone wild over this Red River business, publishes the following statement of the manner of Scott's death, received from a gentleman just arrived from Red River: ----

Scott, who was a fearless, brave, manly fellow, was continually defying Riel. On one occasion he shook his fist in Riel's face , saying, "If we ever meet on equal terms I will take the worth of this imprisonment out of your hide."

One who was standing by at the time tells me that Riel's usual swagger dwindled into tremulous fear before the defiant words and gestures of young Scott.

His dispatch was shortly after decided upon, and a so-called military tribunal was convened, the members of which, with one exception, decided that Scott should be shot.  One Lepine, the adjutant, and, of course, the tool of Riel, was the presiding worthy of that tribunal. The decision was arrived at six o'clock, p.m., and it was decided to carry out the sentence at an early hour the next day.

Scott was not apprised of this until about an hour before the time fixed for his execution, and when he did hear of it he laughed at it, believing it to be but another specimen of Riel's previous unexecuted threats.

In the meantime Rev. Mr. Young had supplicated Riel, and had obtained a reprieve until noon, at which time Riel swore he must die. At noon he was brought out in front of Fort Garry blind-folded and placed in a kneeling position, his hands and knees bound together tightly, the hands being bound behind his back.

Six of Riel's half-drunken adherents were detailed to execute him. The words were given and the shots were fired intermittently, so bungling or so drunken were the murderers. This was further indicated by the fact that but four of the bullets entered his body, and none of these touched a vital part. Poor Scott fell over on his side on the snow, writhing terribly. When it was seen that life was not extinct, one of the fellows pulled out his revolver and placed the muzzle close to his right ear and discharged it, but the ball glanced through the jaw and emerged from the mouth without touching the brain; and while it probably increased the anguish, it did not hasten death. The writhing, contortionizing body was then picked up and thrown into a rough box, which was about a foot too short, and which was carried into the Fort and placed behind one of the bastions. This occupied about three-quarters of an hour.

At half-past six o'clock, nearly six hours afterwards, a file of men sent to bury him found so strong was the vital tenacity of the man that life was not yet extinct. and the intermittent workings and jerkings of the muscles denoted that his horrible pains had not ceased. One of the burying party ran away affrighted to Riel, who ordered them to blow his brains out and be d____d to him. This order was obeyed and poor Scott, who was the essence of bravery, manliness, and fearlessness paid his last reckoning and died for his country a death---which would have been considered a crime if rendered to a dog.

The unusual strength of the man was indicated by the fact the the spasmodic writhings of the nether limbs had broken the foot board of his coffin away from the nail fastenings. A more horrible death in these days of civilization is hard to conceive.

Father Richot was privy to his murder, and approved of it, if, indeed, he did not actually inspire it. I have had ample evidence of an indirect, but conclusive character that this is correct.  One word from him would have saved poor Scott's life. That word remained unuttered; and yet the Canadian government, I hear, propose to treat with Richot, who is quite as much accountable for Scott's murder as is Riel, and indeed actually and unconvincingly expresses his avowal of its necessity and its legality. He says that it was absolutely necessary for state reasons.

Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 11, 1904
                    GRAVE OF SCOTT 
   After 34 years Silence the Disposition of His Body is Confessed

Winnipeg, Jan. 19---The secret of the disposal of the remains of Thomas Scott, Riel's victim, has been revealed by a rebel lieutenant after 34 years silence.

This man is today a well-known Manitoban but there are reasons why his name should not be given.

He met Mr. McFarlane, who was a Hudson's Bay factor at the time of the Riel rebellion, at the funeral of Pierre D'Eschambault yesterday. Riel's confederate divulged to Mr. McFarlane that after the murder a grave had been dug within the fort, and a coffin supposed to contain the body lowered in the presence of a battalion of Riel's soldiers. But Scott's remains were not in that coffin, the mock interment being but a ruse on the part of Riel who did not choose to trust many of his followers with this knowledge. 

After the mock interment the body was dragged by a few trusty men to the bank of the Red River and at a point near where the Broadway bridge now stands was put through a hole in the ice and sunk by means of a weight tied about the neck. This weight was a Hudson Bay grindstone.

Mr. McFarlane believes that an investigation will reveal this grindstone and perhaps of bones of poor Scott.

It is likely an investigation will be undertaken.

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