Cst. Patrick BURKE – May 3, 1885

  1. Reg. # 402, Cst. Patrick BURKE

May 3, 1885, Cut Knife Hill, NWT            Age: 33 years

Cst. BURKE was born in approx. 1852. He married Sarah at Boniface, Manitoba on October 16, 1871.   He engaged Reg. # 353, as a sub constable and trumpeter in the NWMP on May 12, 1975 at Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was discharged as time expired on May 31, 1978. He re-engaged at the rank of Constable, Reg. #402 at Shoal Lake on September 1, 1879.

In the Spring of 1885, the Metis had won the battles at Frog Lake and Fort Pitt, but things were not going so well for them elsewhere. General F.D. MIDDLETON was marching from Winnipeg with a column of 600 men to join up with the NWMP under Commissioner A.G. IRVINE at the Metis settlement of Batoche. Furthermore, the rebels did not have the support they had hoped for. Beyond Batoche many of the Metis were spread about the countryside and wanted no part of the rebellion. Also, many of the Indian tribes were widely scattered across the plains. Lacking unity and leadership, the natives declined to fight. What’s more, the powerful Blackfoot Confederacy, which was centered near Calgary, made it clear they would not participate in a revolt. There were; however, rumours that Saskatchewan Cree Chief Poundmaker and Plains Cree Chief Big Bear were going to join forces on the Cut Knife Reserve and from there go on to fight with Riel and Dumont at Batoche.

To combat that, on May 1, Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. OTTER led a force of 319 men, including 74 NWMP under Lt.-Col. W.H. HERCHMER and Captain P.R. NEALE, towards the Cut Knife Reserve. Forty-eight wagons were used to transport the infantry, their supplies, two field guns and a Gatling gun. The next morning, the column reached Cut Knife Hill and engaged in a furious six hour battle with a force of Cree Indians under Chief Poundmaker and his war Chief Fineday. Predictably, the Indians proved to be a valiant foe. They surrounded OTTER’s troops and drove them to retreat. Only Poundmaker’s orders to his braves not to pursue the fleeing government forces averted a tragedy for OTTER’s men.

From the beginning of the battle at Cut Knife Hill, the NWMP were in the vanguard of the column. Consequently, they drew a great deal of the Indian fire. The first Mountie to fall in combat was Cpl. SLEIGH, who was shot through the mouth while repulsing an attack on the guns. Moments later, NWMP Cpl. W.H. Talbot LOWRY and NWMP trumpeter Paddy BURKE were mortally wounded. Both of them died the following day. In total, three Mounties and five other government men died at Cut Knife Hill. All were buried with church services and military honours at Battleford on May 4.

The brigade surgeon, Dr. Frederick W. STRANGE, recorded that Paddy BURKE, the bugler from Ireland, died from a “shot through the body.” The sale of his personal kit brought $7.25. His widow, Sarah, received a pension of 37.5 cents per day until her own death in 1929. They had five sons, Joseph Edward (B: November 7, 1873), William Henry (B: March 11, 1875), Patrick (B: December 15, 1877), James Alexander (B: April 18, 1879), Frederick George (B: January 23, 1885) and one daughter. Mary Ellen (B: August 4, 1881. All of their boys went on to serve in the NWMP.

(Son) Joseph Edward BURKE (Reg. # 2814) served as a Special Constable with the Force prior to engagement at Prince Albert on June 6, 1892. He was stationed at Calgary and took his discharge on Nov 10, 1894. He died at Fort Smith, N.W.T. at the age of 75 on February 18, 1949.

(Son) William Henry BURKE (Reg. #3069), born at Winnipeg, Manitoba was a bugler for the NWMP from April 8, 1891 and engaged in the NWMP on May 16, 1894 as a Constable. He was discharged on May 16, 1900. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles from May 16, 1900 to January 9, 1901 serving in South Africa. He re-engaged on May 23, 190l. He was promoted to Corporal on

January 1, 1910 and Sergeant on December 1, 1912. He was married to Edith M. BURKE. He discharged to pension on October 31, 1917at Onion Lake. He was presented the Imperial Service Medal for his service in the Force. He died at Onion Lake on September 24, 1926.

(Son) James Alexander BURKE (Reg. #3101) served a short time as a Special Constable before engaging in the North-West Mounted Police on September 21, 1894, at Regina as a Bugler at the age of 15 years, 4 months. Subsequently, he was stationed at Fort Saskatchewan and after serving with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in the South African War, returned to the NWMP and was stationed at Regina. He was transferred to the Yukon in 1901 and was stationed at Whitehorse. Later he returned to Regina, was transferred to Prince Albert and back to Regina, where he took his discharge on January 32, 1904. He later served as a private with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (Reg. # 15451) and was killed or died, during the First World War. His pension went to his mother, Sarah.

(Son) Frederick George BURKE (Reg. # 3196), was engaged in the NWMP on October 1,1897 at Battleford at the age of 14 years and 10 months, and became a bugler like his father. Subsequently, he was stationed at Battleford, Regina, Prince Albert, and again at Regina, where he took his discharge from the Force on March 20, 1901.

(Son) Patrick BURKE was born at Fort Pelly, Saskatchewan on December 15, 1877 and engaged in the NWMP at Regina on March 15, 1896. Subsequently, he enlisted with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles for service in South Africa and was granted his discharge from the Force on October 5, 1900, while in South Africa, to join the Tranavaal Constabulary. He returned to Canada and applied for re-engagement in the Force in 1903, but was rejected because of an injury to his left hand sustained during his first period of service with the NWMP. Apparently, he took up dairy farming in British Columbia.

Sarah passed away on January 22, 1929.

Their daughter, Mary Ellen (called Molly), on July 26, 1898, married a NWM Policeman by the name of Charles PARKER (Reg. # 742), who served in the NWMP from March 30, 1882 to March 29, 1887, and from June 8, 1891 to July 31, 1906, on which he retired from the Force with the rank of Sergeant Major. He saw service in the North West Rebellion. Following his retirement, they resided in North Battleford, Sask. He died on December 25, 1948, at the age of 90 years.

Molly PARKER wrote to the Force in 1934 to claim the medal her father had won posthumously for his service to Canada at Cut Knife Hill. On November 2, 1952, she also unveiled the cairn at Cut Knife Hill that marked the site of the battle where her young father was killed.

(File reviewed on www.collectionscanada.gc.ca)