Linda Ford and her Men in Uniform!

whoopuptrailmountieThere’s nothing quite like a man in uniform. And in my opinion, there is no uniform quite like that of the Canadian Mountie. Their official motto is Maintiens le droit… Uphold the right but most of us believe the unofficial one—the Mountie always gets his man.

It all began with the Whoop-Up Trail that ran north from Fort Benton, Montana, to near Lethbridge, Alberta, along which goods and people travelled back and forth.  Among the travelers were buffalo hunters, wolfers, gold hunters, natives and even early settlers.

Through a Royal Charter signed in 1670 the Hudson Bay Company had an exclusive trading monopoly over the area of western Canada that drained into the Hudson Bay. That included all of present day Alberta except for a small section south of the Milk River that drained into the Missouri River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) banned trade in alcohol and had the power to enforce the ban. But the Northwest Trading Company encroached upon the HBC territory and had no conscience against trading furs for a little fire water. Then in 1870, the HBC surrendered most of its lands to the British Crown, and the lands subsequently transferred to the Dominion of Canada. The land was wild and lawless.

By 1873, alcohol had become the principal trade commodity. This perhaps led to an event known as the Cypress Hills Massacre.

A party of wolf hunters was returning through the Cypress Hills to Fort Benton when their horses were stolen. The wolf hunters accused the Assiniboine Indians of stealing them (though it was never proven). Whiskey flowed freely that night and early in the morning the wolfers attacked the Assiniboine camp, leaving thirty dead and many wounded.

Order had to be restored to the area to make it safe for aboriginal people and settlers so Canadian prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, called for the formation of a military-style police force known as the North-West Mounted Police (later renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—RCMP for short). Their primary responsibility was to protect the aboriginal people from the atrocities of the white man. Eventually they became everything from judge to jury to teacher to referee.

July 1874 saw the first detachment of red-coated young men set off on an epic journey across what would become Western Canada. There were 275 policemen, 339 horses, 142 oxen, 114 Red River carts, 73 wagons and two cannons weighing a ton each. They crossed mile after mile with no roads, no bridges and few supplies. After traveling 14 days they reached the Roche Percee on the Souris River. Their supplies were depleted, the horses exhausted and many men sick. The NWMP Commissioner, George French, divided the group in two. The sickest and weakest were sent along the easier 800 mile route to Edmonton, Alberta. The rest took the shorter but more difficult 550 mile route toward the foothills of the Rockies where they established a base at Fort Macleod. It all sounds romantic but the accommodations were primitive and trying. I’ve visited a number of restored sites and am awed at the conditions they endured.

barracks2

barracks

The Mounties, also known as the Red Coats, wore the red uniforms both to emphasize the British nature of the force and to differentiate it from the blue American military uniforms. On the march they wore pillbox hats which did little to protect them from the sun. 

 

original-uniform

Thankfully they exchanged the pill box for a Stetson. Today they only wear the red for special occasions like marching in a parade. I have a picture of them marching down one of our streets.

marchingmounties

American Whiskey Traders from Fort Benton, Montana, had established a fortified trading post near what is now Lethbridge Alberta some years earlier. The post, called Fort Whoop-up, traded with the people of the First Nations for hides in exchange for guns and bad whisky. The fort was well armed and even had a cannon. However, when the traders heard the Mounties were coming, they abandoned the fort thus allowing the Mounties to take the fort without a shot fired.

In the months that followed, the whiskey trade was smashed and lawlessness sharply declined. By 1875, the police had erected additional posts at Fort Saskatchewan, Fort Calgary and Fort Walsh. Law and order was firmly established.

The Mountie is a colorful and interesting character who makes a noble hero in many books and films.

For sheer pageantry nothing compares to the musical ride that is still performed across the country.  (Photos of musical ride taken from the official RCMP site–www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/mr-ce/photos-eng.htm)

wagon-chariot-wheel-roue

 

dome

 

Just in case you’re wondering, and I’m sure you are 🙂 I do intend to write about the heroic Northwest Mounted Police sometime dakota-childin the future. In the meantime, my book, Dakota Child, has a different kind of hero—Big Billy Black. Be sure to check out this September release.

I’ll be giving a copy away this weekend, and I’d love to hear from you!

To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her website:  www.lindaford.org

+ posts

49 thoughts on “Linda Ford and her Men in Uniform!”

  1. My first exposure to Mounties…Dudley Doright on the Rocky & Bullwinkle show!!

    Love their story.. such honor & tradition. I too prefer the Stetsons!

    I recently read Kate Bridge’s book The Engagement featuring a mountie. She has an entire historical series!

  2. Good morning, Linda! I just love your blog this morning. The pictures were so informative. I think many of us here in America aren’t as familiar with the Mounties as we should be. They do make wonderful heroes!

    Thank you for visiting us here in the Junction!

  3. Hi!
    That’s quite the history update. I didn’t realize it was called Fort Whoop-Up! Learn something new every day…. Glad to see you spelled it as Sir John A. Macdonald (and not MacDonald); so many people get that wrong!
    Great pictures! I have been blessed to have watched the RCMP Musical Ride a few times. They really are quite astounding to see!
    And yes, Due South, was quite the tongue-in-cheek comedy. Paul Gross hasn’t changed much in all these years….
    “Thanks for the memories”! (No, I’m not Bob Hope!) It was fun going down Memory Lane.

  4. Pam,
    Thanks for having me again.
    Our Canadian history is colorful and compelling. But I think the Mounties are one of the most unique aspects of it. They are so heroic. Sigh

  5. Hi Linda,

    A hearty welcome back to P&P! We always look forward to having you return. And what an interesting blog! I love hearing about the Mounties. They’re a hearty bunch and really dedicated to keeping law and order. I think it takes a special breed to be a Mountie.

    I, too, used to watch the TV series Due South. Can’t remember who played the Mountie but I thought he was really cute. Those fish out of water stories were hilarious. And there have been quite a few serious movies made featuring the Mounties. I watched one a month or so back that had Stewart Granger in it. He was trying to escape capture by the Mounties.

    And I always love Kate Bridges’ books that feature Mountie heroes.

  6. I forgot to mention that I read your last release called The Path to Her Heart. That was an excellent story. You portrayed the Depression era really well. The characters had so much depth. I love how you brought the H/H together and their journey of self-discovery.

    I’m looking forward to Dakota Child. Is it a continuation of Path to Her Heart?

  7. Hi Linda! It’s great to have you at Petticoats & Pistols. There’s nothing more impressive than a man in uniform, especially a red uniform. The bold color demands a special respect. Can’t wait for your book!

  8. Linda,
    Paul Gross played the Mountie on Due South. He’s Canadian and a perfect hero IMO.

    Thanks for reading and likein The Path to Her Heart. Dakota Child is not in that series. It is what I would call a prairie western story (1800s). I’m working on another Depression Era series though.

  9. Stephanie,
    You would enjoy the Calgary Stampede parade. Lots of cowboys and horses. The last one I saw had Paul Gross as the Parade Marshall. You can’t get much better than that.

  10. Hello Linda,

    Thanks for stopping by today. I’ve read quite a few books with men in uniform but never the Mounties. I love the idea and especially now that I know more about their history. Thanks. Have a great day.

  11. Hi Linda- what a great informative post! I did not know this history. I’m glad they changed hats – the pill boxes just don’t make it! I would love to see that musical parade. I would love to read a novel about the Mounties! For now – best wishes on your September release!

  12. Enjoyed reading the comments about the Mounties. Somehow, a book with a man in uniform in it has a special sense of what is a hero. Not too many books out there with men from Canada or the Yukon. Will watch for that one

  13. Joye,
    I remember reading Mountie stories when I was a kid. I can’t remember what they were or who wrote them though. Perhaps I should do a google search and see what I can come up with.

  14. Hi Linda, welcome to the Junction today! We’re so glad to have you here. The information and the pictures totally rock! Thank you! Some years ago I loved a show called Bordertown, with a handsome Mountie and a hottie American sheriff governing opposite sides of the street in, well, Bordertown. Oh, I loved that show. I still have hopes it’ll pop back up on Cable someday.

    I can’t wait for your latest book. Keep ’em coming. And yes, the Stetson does far more for me than a pillbox 🙂

  15. Thanks for the information about the Mounties!
    Dudley has always been a favorite in our house.
    Question: Is there any connection between the red
    uniform coats worn by the Mounties and the red
    uniform jackets worn by English military officers?
    Just wondering!!

    Pat Cochran

  16. Hello Linda! I really enjoyed this post, especially as I have a cousin who’s a Mountie. They have a proud and colorful history, and as an admirer of men in uniform and on horseback (Who isnt?) I agree that the Musical Ride is a sight to see. And thank heavens they got rid of those pillbox hats, lol!

  17. Okay it was Tanya about Bordertown. Sorry.
    Pat, yes there is a connection between the red coats of the Mounties and those of the English military. Because the Canadian west was part of the British Empire, the government wanted to make it clear to the natives who the Mounties were representing.

  18. Loved all the information. I fell in love with the Mounties watching black and white movies so very long ago. Also loved Rose Marie…… possibly not an accurate portrayal but that’s when I disccovered the red uniforms! And I love a man in uniform, any uniform. Shall be looking forward to your book about the Mounties and for Dakota Child.

  19. Connie,
    You guys really have me hyped about the Mountie stories. I want to pull out my research books and read but alas, I have other projects that must be attended to first.

  20. Hi Linda,
    Ditto on all the shout-outs about how great a man looks in uniform! The first one I ever saw was my father in his dress whites for the Navy. Sword and all. Oh my, was he handsome! I’ve been a pushover ever since for a man in uniform…

  21. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and his dog Yukon King. I loved that show when I was a kid. There probably aren’t too many that do. It is sad that Dudley Doright is who most are associating with the Mounties. Yes I watched him too. Grew up on the Canadian border and the Mounties were as familiar to us as the american constabulary. They were pioneers and had difficult conditions to deal with. The weather is very unforgiving. The American troops had hard conditions, but lets face it, the further north you go the colder it gets. They did a much better job of keeping order than the cavalry did in the US west.
    Have enjoyed your books, Linda. Look forward to reading this one and any you do on the Mounties.

  22. I always enjoy the blogs and I have learned so much about my favorite authors, Please enter me into the drawing for the book.

    May God bless

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

Comments are closed.