Canada · Executions · Famous Last Words

The slow execution of Thomas Scott

March 4, 1870
Upper Fort Garry, Red River Colony,
Rupert’s Land (modern-day Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)

Thomas Scott is executed for his role in an assault against the Métis by being struck with several non-fatal shots, prematurely placed in his coffin for approximately 10 hours, and finished him off with either another shot or with a butcher knife

The Métis people were a group of mixed race people, descended from Natives of the Hudson Bay Area and Europeans; Scott’s contempt for these “half-breeds” (the socially acceptable and widely used term for those of mixed ancestry at the time) led to his execution while his compatriots were allowed to live.

Charles Boulton, leader of Scott’s party, was one such prisoner allowed to live, and his accounts of Scott’s death are brutal, though likely exaggerated due to his bias against his captors.

Boulton wrote:

Six soldiers had been chosen to shoot Scott. I have here again to write the name of a man whose behaviour in that circumstance reflects on him the greatest honour. Augustin Parisien, one of the six soldiers, declared openly that he would not shoot at Scott; in fact, he took off the cap from his gun before the word of command ‘present’ was given. Of the five balls remaining, only two hit the poor victim, one on the left shoulder, and the other in the upper part of the chest above the heart. Had the other soldiers missed the mark undesignedly, or had they intentionally aimed away from Riel’s victim, it is not known. However that may be, as the two wounds were not sufficient to cause death, at least sudden death, a man, named Guillemette stepped forward and discharged the contents of a pistol close to Scott’s head while he was lying on the ground. This ball, however, took a wrong direction. It penetrated the upper part of the left cheek and came out somewhere about the cartilage of the nose. Scott was still not dead, but that did not prevent his butchers from placing him alive and still speaking, in a kind of coffin made of four rough boards. It was nailed and plated in the south-eastern bastion, and an armed soldier was placed at the door. This would seem like a story made at one’s ease, if there were not several credible witnesses who, between the hours of five and six in the evening, heard the unfortunate Scott speaking from under the lid of his coffin, and it was known that he had been shot at half-past twelve. What a long and horrible agony, and what ferocious cruelty was this on the part of his butchers. The words heard and understood by the French Metis were only these ‘My God, My God!’ Some English Metis, and those understanding English, heard distinctly these words: ‘For God’s sake take me out of here or kill me.’ Towards 11 o’clock — that is, after ten and a half hours of frightful agony — a person, whose name I shalt withhold for the present, went into the bastion, and, according to some, gave him the finishing stroke with a butcher’s knife, with a pistol, according to others. After having inflicted the last blow on poor Scott, that person said, as he was coming back from the bastion: ‘He is dead this time!’ The corpse was left for a few days in the south-eastern bastion, being guarded by the soldiers, relieving each other in turn.

Photo credit: “The Execution of Scott”, in, Lépine, Ambroise Dydime, Preliminary Investigation and Trial of Ambroise D. Lepine for the Murder of Thomas Scott: Being a Full Report of the Proceedings in this Case Before the Magistrates’ Court and the Several Courts of Queen’s Bench in the Province of Manitoba / Specially Reported and Compiled by Messrs. Elliott and Brokovski of the Canadian Press. Montreal: Burland-Desbarats, 1874. University of Manitoba Libraries – RBR FC 3217.1 .L47 L47

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