I’m continuing the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, first cousin of my great-great grandmother Marie Louise Bernardin.
Drolet’s Zouaviana, about the Papal Zouaves, does not give a date for Taillefer’s joining the Red River Expeditionary Force that came to Manitoba. However at least two sources state that he came in 1870. The MHS Memorable Manitobans site states:
“Coming to the Red River Settlement with the Wolseley Expedition, he stayed behind at the conclusion of the engagement, took up farming, and married Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of merchant Andrew McDermot.“
The second source was the Dictionnaire historique des Canadiens et des métis français de l’Ouest
Now I was confused! The Wolseley Expedition was sent to Red River to keep the peace after the Riel Resistance. It was headed by Colonel Garnet Wolseley who led a force of 1200 men across the Dawson trail, some 600 miles, arriving at Fort Garry on August 24, 1870. However, if the Zouaves didn’t return until November of 1870, how could Taillefer have been part of a force that arrived in Red River in August of that same year?
Also, why would he join the Wolseley Expedition? It was, by most accounts, quite a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-French contingent, with many Ontario members seeking revenge for the murder of Thomas Scott. The Papal Zouaves were staunchly conservative Catholics. Why would Joseph join this?
So, I set out to learn more about the Wolseley Expedition. On Google Books I found an excerpt to the book Toil & Trouble: Military Expeditions to Red River by George F.G. Stanley. The Winnipeg Public Library has the book, so I borrowed it. It had two references to Ensign Joseph Taillefer “a former Papal Zouave”.
It turns out that the Red River Expeditionary Force was made up of more than just the contingent commanded by Wolseley in 1870. Joseph Noel Taillefer was one of the officers in charge of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles that came in 1872, the third contingent to come to Red River.
Footnotes in Toil & Trouble led me to search out two specific sources. One was an article entitled “Dawson Route Military Expedition”, published in the Manitoban in 1872. Luckily I found it online at the OurRoots website.
It includes a humorous incident involving Taillefer. He had forbidden the men to race their boats, but having his boat “passed” by a boat made up of Ontario men, he
“hurls a diminutive Frenchman from the oar and taking his seat at it –a Hercules in strength and size – gave one tremendous stroke and breaking the thwart pin, went on his back with heels in the air with the momentum of a battering ram.”
The second reference was to “The Journal of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles at Fort Garry” (PAM, MG6, B5) in the Province of Manitoba Archives. A visit to the Archives allowed me to read this for myself.
Further research on the Red River Expeditionary Force led me to the website The Canadian Military Heritage Project where I learned that Fred J. Shore had written a PhD Thesis at the University of Manitoba in 1991 entitled “The Canadians and the Metis: The Re-Creation of Manitoba, 1858-1872.” I was able to access this thesis online through the University of Manitoba Libraries. This, in turn, led me to Library and Archives Canada documents from the Department of Militia and Defence: Register of service, Red River Rebellion, 1870–1877. I found Taillefer here.
All of the above confirmed that Joseph Leon Taillefer did not arrive in Fort Garry until October of 1872, and that he resigned on the 24th of July 1874. His joining the militia in 1872 makes more sense to me, as by that point it may have seemed just a career choice, or a chance to homestead, or perhaps just an adventure.
Just for good measure I looked to see if I could find him in the 1871 Census. Not only did I find him in Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec, where he was an “avocet” (lawyer) and living with his widowed mother and his brother Alfred, but I discovered he was the enumerator for the census which was taken in April 1871!
On the 3rd of September 1871 his mother Angelique died, and Joseph signed the burial record.
So far, I’ve confirmed that Joseph Noel Taillefer was related to our family, that he was a Papal Zouave, and that he came west with the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1872.
I’ll continue Joseph’s story in my next post.