Sir Frederick Dobson Middleton

Sir Frederick Middleton is best remembered as the commander of the North-West Field Force which was sent to suppress the Northwest Resistance of 1885. Middleton was born on 4 November 1825 in Belfast, the third son of Major-General Charles Middleton and Fanny Wheatly. He was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was given his first commission in 1842.

Middleton served in many parts of the British Empire, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Burma, Gibralter, and Malta. He distinguished himself as a staff officer in India, during the 1857-1858 Mutiny, and was recommended twice for the Victoria Cross. His overseas service included a a stay in Canada (1868-1870) where Middleton married his second wife, Eugénie Doucet of Montreal. In the 1870s Middleton served as executive officer at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

In 1884, Middleton, now a Colonel, accepted the position of general officer in command of Canada's militia. This normally quiet position became a difficult one for Middleton when, at age 59, he had to assume the leadership of the suppression of the resistance in the Northwest Territories in 1885.

Middleton's approach was a cautious one. He faced considerable logistical difficulties and an army composed almost exclusively of poorly trained militia. He divided his forces into three, reserving for himself the main force which was to attack the Métis stronghold of Batoche. The Métis forces under Gabriel Dumont engaged Middleton's forces at Fish Creek on 24 April. Although the battle was something of a victory for the tiny Métis and Indian army, it was not decisive. Middleton proceeded with caution to Batoche. After a four day engagement, the greatly outnumbered and ill-equiped Métis were overrun on May 12. With the capture of Louis Riel on May 15, the surrender of Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker), and with the recovery of whites held by Indians, Middleton returned home at the end of June.

Middleton was granted a gift of $20,000 from the Parliament of Canada and given a knighthood by Queen Victoria. He resigned as head of the Militia in 1890 when a select committee of the House of Commons criticized him for the misappropriation of furs from a Métis named Charles Bremner during the resistance. He returned to England where he was appointed keeper of the crown jewels. He died on 25 January, 1898.

Photograph courtesy of the Public Archives of Canada/PA-26732

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