We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Governor Seymour to Vice Admiral Kingcome

New Westminster
1st June 1864


I had the honor to receive last night your letter of the 28th Ultimo informing me of the Naval assistance which you proposed to furnish to this Colony.

I feel very much obliged for the promise of Stationing the “Tribune” under Viscount Gilford temporarily off New Westminster and I am much gratified at the prospect of seeing yourself and the “Sutlej” in Burrards Inlet.

Under ordinary circumstances I should simply confine myself to thanking you for these arrangements, but the Colony is now passing through a crisis the gravity of which we do not perhaps as yet fully appreciate.

The Indian massacres are increasing in number and it is difficult for me as yet to affirm that there is not a rebellion approaching to organization in the Chilicoten Tribe. In this uncertainty I would venture to suggest that perhaps ships of War less valuable and important than those above named might render more service to the Colony.

My intention on hearing of the massacre of the road party at Bute Inlet was to send three expeditions against the perpetrators of it – the Chilicoten Indians — one from Alexandria, a second from Bute Inlet, the third from Bentinck Arm; all to converge towards Benshee Lake as a centre. The first I trust is now in progress . The second failed as a measure for the enforcement of our violated laws owing to the natural difficulties of the Country, and has returned after affording decent burial to such of the corpses of the murdered men as were found and making a demonstration of force on the spot, where the death struggles of the white men took place. The third had to be abandoned for want of a vessel to convey the proposed expedition to Bentinck Arm.

I need scarcely point out to you the difficulties and enormous expense which an Indian War in this vast territory would entail on the Imperial and local Government and the total ruin which would befall British Columbia were access to the Gold Mines of Cariboo rendered impracticable. I am doing all I can to avert so serious a catastrophe, and I am dealing in a lavish manner with such resources in men and money as the Colony possesses. We are totally without troops, and until last night I considered that the Naval assistance we could depend on was confined to the services of a single Gunboat, a mere transport under orders to return to Head Quarters with as little delay as possible.

I earnestly protested to Her Majesty’s Government against a state of things so entirely dissimilar to that which prevailed during my administration of a Central American Government, but your letter encourages me to hope that the people of British Columbia will receive their fair share of the protection generally freely rendered by the Mother Country.

It is for me to make known to you the wants of this province. It rests with you to determine how far they interfere with the general duties of your command.

The Alexandria Expedition needs no Naval aid. But I feel that I should be neglecting my duty were I to abandon those which were to have the sea as their base, and I hope you will be able to assist me in carrying them into execution.

My intentions under present circumstances are to place a number of the friendly [Quaha?] Indians upon the town site at Bute Inlet, with instructions to keep up communiations with the ferry over the Homathco River, thirty miles from the head of the Inlet. We presume that the Chilicoten assassins are now on the lakes of the interior but it seems improbable that they can afford to give up for long their fishing grounds on the Homathco. When the Salmon season sets in it is likely therefore that they will be compelled to descend to the spot where the first violent death occurred. I propose when the Quahas inform me of the approach of the Chilicotens to send up an armed force of Constables from New Westminster to effect their apprehension or cause a hurried retreat to the Mountains. The Quahas will be transported at the expense of the Colony, but we have no Steamer to convey our civil force of white men. For this last purpose I have to request that you will furnish, should you be able to do so, a Gunboat. Time does not press. A fortnight hence will do well. The Salmon fishery on the Homathco will not commence until the end of this month.

I have to ask more particularly for your aid in despatching a strong force by way of Bentinck Arm to meet near Lake Benshee the overland expedition from Alexandria. In a climate such as this in June I cannot hesitate to request that some thirty or forty Marines or Sailors be furnished to assist a Civil force of a like number which I will furnish. It would be desirable that a Vessel of a larger class than a Gunboat should be detached for this service. The trail from Bentinck Arm to Benshee is represented to be perfectly practicable and the distance to be traversed easily accomplished in six or seven days. I would severely strain, if necessary the finances of the Colony in providing proper means of transport for such a party if so detached. An experienced Magistrate would head the party of civilians and endeavor to the utmost of his power to prevent a collision with the Indians.

It is the almost universal belief here that before an imposing force of this kind all chance of collision would disappear and justice would be allowed to take it course.

I am but doing my duty in making known to you my views as to the position of this colony. Each day that the Chilicotens continue to range the country loaded with the spoils of the murdered white men, increases the probability of an extensive rebellion and each new post from the interior will I anticipate bring me intelligence of further loss of valuable life caused by the Savages who have set themselves above all law. In the neighbourhood of Bentinck Arm alone are fifteen Englishmen scattered without means of defence.

It must, at all times be very gratifying to me to see in our waters H. M. Ships “Sutlej” and “Tribune”, with yourself and Lord Gilford on board, but I must frankly own that it is a gratification to which I should scarcely consider myself entitled so long as there is no ship of War upon the Northern Coast to secure our defenceless fellow country men and to help to crush a local revolt, which may not improbably lead to a formidable war.

I have &c.
(signed) Frederick Seymour

Mr. Cardwell
This appears to be sent for information and I do not see that it requires any action.
FR, 21 Nov.

I think a copy should go to Admiralty and [illegible] be informed
EC, 23

Source: Great Britain Public Record Office, Colonial Office Records, CO 60/19, p. 228, 10605, Frederick Seymour, Letter to Vice Admiral Kingcome, June 1, 1864.

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