Troops at Upper Fort Garry 1846-48 by Adam Sherriff Scott, ca. 1944

The painting Troops at Upper FortGarry 1846-48, by Adam Sherriff Scott, was published for the first time on the Company's 1946 calendar. It commemorates the one hundredth year of the arrival of British troops in Red River. It shows a captain of the 6th Regiment of Foot driving on a winter morning through the old gate of Upper Fort Garry. On the left are two of the three buildings reserved for the Company; on the right is the house reserved for the officers, which stood in the centre of the fort. This gate and wall were demolished in the 1850s.

On Christmas Eve of 1845, Sir George Simpson sat down at his desk and wrote a letter to the Governor of the Company. “Two problems weighed heavily on his mind. Reports reaching him from Red River told of growing unrest among the half-breeds of the settlement, while from below the border came ominous threats of war over the Oregon boundary dispute.” [The Beaver, December 1945, p. 14].

In May 1846, three companies of the Sixth Foot totalling 300 men set sail from Cork, Ireland, and arrived six weeks later at York Factory on the shore of Hudson’s Bay where they were met by Chief Factor Donald Ross. Ross was to lead them down to the Red River settlement, seven hundred miles and thirty-four portages away. Seven weeks later, on September 17, the “Redcoats” arrived at Red River and were divided between the Lower and Upper forts. While the arrival of 300 soldiers was bound to create tensions in the small community, so many idle men soon became an opportunity for trading and gambling. One Mr. Mosse is reported to have walked from Upper Fort Garry to the Lower Fort, a distance of some 30 km, in 3 hours and 39 minutes, for £5 sterling.

The order to depart in 1848 was received as a blessing by the restless soldiers, yet with consternation by the settlers. For the next 13 years, soldiers or special police forces tried to maintain a presence in the Red River, but by 1861 the Imperial authorities deemed the presence of troops was no longer required.

About the artist: Adam Sherriff Scott was born in Perth, Scotland in 1887. He studied at the Edinburgh School of Fine Arts from 1904 to 1906, the Slade School of Art in London, and at other art schools. He immigrated to Canada in or around 1910 and was reported to be in Calgary in 1911, painting scenes of the Canadian West. He established himself in Montréal in 1912. In 1917-1918, he served in the Army as a war artist. In the 1920s he spent six years living with the Inuit in the Arctic. He was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy in 1935. Due to his specialisation in historical subjects, he was commissioned to paint several historical murals, including twenty of Old Montréal for the Montréal Board of Trade, two in the Bay downtown Winnipeg store, and several pieces to decorate the Canadian Pacific Railway’s “The Canadian” transcontinental trains. Adam Sherriff Scott died in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec in 1980.