From the British Colonist of September 3, 1874

Daily Colonist, September 3, 1874.

“Teaching the Young (Siwash) Indian How to Shoot.”

Captain C. E. S. Macdonald, a wealthy Scotch resident of San Francisco, has been in our midst for some days on a errant both unique philanthropic. We understand that his object is, briefly, to organize a body of young Indians of the Western and Eastern prairies and Vancouver Island, and instruct and perfect them in the science of arms, firmly believing that they will furnish the finest material for soldiers, and to demonstrate to the Government and others that the ill-used and hitherto considered useless Indians, now a burden and a vast expense to maintain, can, under a proper system of instruction and discipline, be utilized for the public benefit and made a serviceable and efficient branch of Government troops, thus advancing civilization among them and elevating their moral and physical condition, so that instead of being the victims as they are now, of the fraud and rapacity of the speculator and hunted like wild beasts, the poor Indians will find shelter and protection among us and become our friends and faithful allies. We are glad to learn Captain Macdonald’s object will be forwarded and aided by the officials and other prominent citizens of this province. We believe the intention of the projector is secure six Indian youths from different tribes on the island with the consent of their parents or guardians, furnishing ample security for their proper treatment and safe return to the Province, and take them to San Francisco, where with 24 other Indians they will be taught to read and write, and instructed in the art of arms as originated by Captain Macdonald, who took a company of San Francisco Zouaves to the East a year ago and won the most flattering enconiuma from experienced military men in the largest cities-appearing at times before 200,000 spectators on the continent, and travelling over an area of 10,000 miles, giving frequent exhibitions blindfolded. An idea of Captain Macdonald’s system may be gathered from the following extract from the New York Sun, which we select from a score of others in leading papers:

“The San Francisco Cadets gave their first exhibition in this city in the Seventh Regiment Armoury last evening. They are the guests of the Seventh, and that fact was sufficient of itself to assemble a hall full of spectators. The cadets number ninety-three men, commanded by Captain Macdonald and Lieutenant Bigley.

The drilling squad last evening consisted of 20 files. They entered the large drill room in a column of twos, and after exhibiting their proficiency in changing from twos to fours while on the march and even in the act of facing about, their particular skill of drilling blindfolded was exhibited. Captain Macdonald says that the theory of executing maneuvers by rule and not by sight enables men to operate as efficiently by night as by day. His success in drilling a chosen few under this theory was pronounced as marvellous by the military men who witnessed it.

The first particular evolution was executing the manual of arms blindfolded to the tap of the drum. The men were drawn up in column of fours, with wide spaces, and after executing every order of handling arms order, carry, support, right shoulder, shift, present, arms at port, loading, aiming and back to order again no variation of the alignment was noticeable. Blindfolded marching to the word of command was next exhibited. Starting in close columns of twos the alignment was changed to fours, sixes and eights, their front line, and back to close column of twos, with as little variation as though the men were puppets responding to the wire. The more difficult wheelings were next executed. Right wheel on centre pivot and about facing, left wheel in two ranks and four ranks, were repeated several times, and when the command halted finally into perfectly dressed ranks, applause was showered upon them.

After more marching evolutions, which were executed with precision, bayonets were fixed and the skirmish drill was performed. Bearing in mind the necessity for keeping the spacing accurate in this drill, their remarkable proficiency will be seen in the fact that in the loading and firing on the face and back, and single and in four ranks, there was no bad alignment, no mistake. When the command took off their blindfolds in two ranks, their dress was as near perfect as if they had measured every step of the various evolutions by eye.

The rifles were next exchanged for Springfield muskets, with the old-fashioned bayonet, and the bayonet exercised was performed, also blindfolded. This drill, in its rapid changes, with the greater variety of positions in which the musket is held, demands more movement than the skirmish tactics. They were so successful in the thrusts and parries, guard and lunge, that a stormy encore demanded a repetition. The closing performance was the skirmish drill with the blindfold removed. The movement of rallying around the flag in hollow square and in eights, with ranking fours, was introduced for effect, and was executed with wonderful precision.


Daily Colonist  Sept 9, 1874

Capt. C.E.S. Macdonald with seven stalwart young Vancouver Indians, for the native military corps that he is forming in San Francisco, sailed yesterday by the mail steamer. We have already explained the object the Captain has in view. His efforts to advance the laudable purpose have been seconded by Colonel Powell and others, In the hands of Capt. Macdonald we shall expect to hear good tidings of the raw recruits British Columbia has lent him.


Daily Colonist, December 10, 1874.

Our Native Soldiers and Their Instructor 

Letters from San Francisco state that the native soldiers are being rapidly instructed in their manual of arms by Captain C. E. S. Macdonald, and are making astonishing progress. They are obedient, industrious and prompt, and are complemented by everybody. Captain Macdonald with his Cadet Zouaves went through the Lightning Drill before the King of the Sandwich Islands on the 14th inst., and the King was so well pleased with the evolutions that he desired his thanks to be tendered to Captain Macdonald. The Call says: Captain Macdonald has resigned the captaincy of the San Francisco Cadets for the reason that his other engagements so occupy him that he cannot for the time necessary to the command of the Cadets. Within a short time we shall have an opportunity of seeing the degree of success which this most indefatigable officer and drill-master has achieved in reducing to military discipline the representatives of savage tribes now under his charge.


Daily Colonist, December 12, 1874.

MACDONALD’S BRIGADE.  On the 18th inst. Captain Macdonald will give an exhibition of his Indian braves before representatives of the San Francisco Press, after which he will give several public exhibitions during Christmas week. In addition to the thorough military training Capt. Macdonald is giving these Indian, he has employed an accomplished master to train them in athletic exercise and feats of agility, and we learn that already their performances on the trapeze are perfectly wonderful.

Captain Macdonald expresses himself surprised and delighted at the progress in every branch made by the men, and it is his intention to visit this city with them next spring. He put them through their facings the other day in the presence of the King of the Sandwich Islands and His Majesty expressed great surprise when he was told how short a time they had been under drill. The success of Captain Macdonald’s experiment may possibly lead to important results.


Daily Colonist, April 14, 1875.

Captain Macdonald’s celebrated Band of Trained Indians at the Theatre Royal on Friday evening next, April 16th.  Box office  open on Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Go early to secure your seats.


Daily Colonist, April 15, 1875.

Macdonald’s Braves.

Less than six months ago Captain C. E. S. Macdonald left Victoria for San Francisco with seven or eight wild, uncultivated Indians  young, vigorous fellows, abounding in the brawn and muscle so greatly in request in a new country, but so raw and undeveloped that their lives were a burden to themselves as well as to their country. Tomorrow evening Captain Macdonald will present the same Indians, with the rough edges of their rude mode of life smoothed away, their wildness toned down to docility, and their brawn and muscle turned to useful account. And he will ask this simple question. “What are you going to do with the thousands and tens of thousands of just such material that is running to waste in your midst for want of proper direction?” He will show what splendid homegrown material there is in this Columbia of ours for soldiers; and if for soldiers, why not for artisans, mechanics, or the professions?


 Daily Colonist, April 17, 1875.


Last night’s entertainment will long be remembered by those who attended Theatre Royal, for Captain Macdonald’s trained Indians made their appearance before a large and fashionable audience, amongst whom were Sir James Douglas and family, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, the Adjutant General, and many others who feel an interest in the proper development and employment of Indian brawn and muscle. Introducing his nine braves Captain Macdonald told how he first came to be interested in solving the problem of what an Indian was fit for, through reading in a Washington paper that Indians could not be trained. He took the next steamer for Victoria, securing a splendid specimen the audience saw before them, and now, after four months’ training he had returned to show them how he solved the problem. The Indians, who were uniformed in white, with red facings and Zouave leggings, were then put through a series of manoeuvres and evolutions, executed so rapidly at the sound of the whistle that the eye could scarcely follow them, and so beautiful and stirring in their effect that the audience again and again burst forth in rapturous and long continued cheers, while the gallant Captain, delighted with those marks of approval, but occasionally cry with sarcasm, “Indians can’t be trained!” a sally that created great merriment. The Company were drilled in skirmishing, receiving cavalry, wheeling, charging, bayonet exercise, platoon exercise, manual drill. The wheeling and marching and defence of the standard were equal to any ever attempted. After the drill the braves went through acrobatic exercises. In ones of the scenes a little Cape Flattery Indian held five of his comrades on his shoulders with ease. At the close of the entertainment Captain Macdonald was called before the curtain and presented by Miss Martha Douglas and by Miss Flora Macdonald with bouquets. The captain stated that he would take his Indians to Philadelphia in 1876 and present them as British Columbia’s contribution.

Captain McDonald has consented to let his Company appear again this evening. There will, no doubt, be an immense house.


British Colonist January 17, 1877.

NOT TRUE  Lieutenant Duncan F Macdonald writes us from San Bruno, California, to state that the report that one of Captain C. E. S. Macdonald’s braves had been deserted in New York City, is untrue. The Indian was from Cape Flattery, W. T. He did not form one of the troupe, but followed them to New York, where his intemperance and general demoralization got him into trouble, and Captain Macdonald paid his passage back to San Francisco, where Lieutenant Macdonald received and has since supported him.


Daily Colonist, October 13, 1877.


Where They Are and What They Are Doing.

J. W. Meyers’ Great American Cirque. Tours, France, September 12.

Editor British Colonist:  It is some time since I wrote you concerning the trained Indians. From the heading you will see that what is left of the party is in France with J. W. Myers’ Great American Circus, where we have been engaged during the summer, travelling from one town to another. We average for different cities every week, so you can imagine the number of cities the Indians have visited in France since last May. Our engagement concludes in November next, when we shall arrive back in Paris. I am then in hopes of sending the remaining number back to their homes. The Indians have not proved a success, as the people in England and France say they are East Indians and East Indians can be seen daily in the streets of London and Paris, and far better -looking specimens of the Indian and the party I have.

When Captain Macdonald was in London the Indians requested him to allow them to remain in Europe, expecting, as I did at the time, that they would make money; but unfortunately the wheel of fortune turned against us, and up to the present time we have not realized our expectations. Although we have been unfortunate no blame whatever can be attached to Captain Macdonald by the Indians or their friends, as the captain did for them more than any other man on earth would do. He raised them from an impecunious position to one of luxury. Thousands of white people would give 10 years of their lives to have the same chance as the Indians have had in visiting Europe. Ever since they left California they have never know what it is to want for anything; but they are an ungrateful set. The more a person does for them the less thanks he receives. I shall feel happy when this engagement is concluded and the Indians return home. They long to return to their original sphere and the sooner they do so the happier I shall be.

The only remaining Victoria Indians in the party are “Anna Neigh,” (she is in the consumption), and “Luey Smith,” “Mary Jones,” and “Charles Pathle.” The last three are in the very best of health. John Smith was put in the hospital in Bordeaux in the consumptive ward. I have written letter after letter to the hospital and never received a reply. I heard the other day that he went to his home in Victoria some time ago. If such is a fact, no doubt that accounts for my not hearing from him in the hospital. If he has arrived home you will confer a great favour on me by letting me know by return of mail, as I do not want to leave him in Europe when the others go home. If you send me a copy of your paper you will also greatly oblige me, as I have not seen a copy for over a year.

I remain,

Respectfully yours,


James Armstrong.

And we leave to you the end of the story.