THREE DAY ROAD - OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENT:
In a two page (maximum) comparison paper, discuss the similarities between the two fictional characters (Xavier Bird and Elijah Weesageechak) from Three Day Road and the real native Canadian sniper named Francis Pegahmagabow. Ensure that you can source the pages in the text that prove the similarities between this real-life hero and the fictional warriors of our story. The assignment will be graded out of 10 marks. 8 marks will be awarded for accurate content. 2 marks will be awarded for writing style and adhering to proper writing conventions.
To assist you with your comparison paper, I've included some information about Francis Pegahmagabow below. Good luck!
Native Soldiers - Foreign Battlefields
A Peaceful Man
Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow of the Parry Island Band in Ontario was decorated three times for the marksmanship and scouting skills he displayed in Belgium and France. Known as 'Peggy' to other members of his battalion, he survived the war and later became chief of his band. This portrait of him by artist Irma Coucill was commissioned for the Indian Hall of Fame collection, housed in the museum of the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. (Woodland Cultural Centre)
The most highly decorated Canadian Native in the First World War was Francis Pegahmagabow.26 An Ojibwa from the Parry Island Band in Ontario, he was awarded the Military Medal (MM) plus two bars for bravery in Belgium and France.27 Soldiers who had been awarded the MM and later performed similarly heroic acts could receive bars to it, denoting further awards. Pegahmagabow was one of 39 members of the CEF who received two bars to the MM.
Pegahmagabow enlisted with the 23rd Regiment (Northern Pioneers) in August 1914, almost immediately after war was declared. Previously, he had worked along the Great Lakes as a marine fireman for the Department of Marine and Fisheries. Within weeks of volunteering, he became one of the original members of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, which, along with the rest of the 20,000-strong 1st Canadian Division, landed in France in February 1915.
Sniping was the specialty of the man his fellow soldiers called "Peggy." It has been written of him, "His iron nerves, patience and superb marksmanship helped make him an outstanding sniper."28 In addition, Pegahmagabow developed a reputation as a superior scout.
The 1st Battalion experienced heavy action almost as soon as it arrived on the battlefield. It fought at Ypres, where the enemy introduced a new deadly weapon, poison gas, and on the Somme, where Pegahmagabow was shot in the leg. He recovered and made it back in time to return with his unit to Belgium.
Pegahmagabow served overseas for almost the entire war and remained in Europe an additional five months after the Armistice. Back home, he would join the militia. Here Pegahmagabow’s fellow non-commissioned officers of the 1st Battalion pose two months after the end of the war (he is not in the picture because he was in England receiving medical treatment at the time). (DND /NAC /PA-3831)
It was during his first year on the Western Front that he became one of the first Canadians to be awarded the MM. The commendation reads:
“For continuous service as a messenger from February 14th 1915 to February 1916. He carried messages with great bravery and success during the whole of the actions at Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy. In all his work he has consistently shown a disregard for danger and his faithfulness to duty is highly commendable.”
In November 1917, the 1st Battalion joined the assault near the village of Passchendaele. Here, roughly 20,000 Allied soldiers crawled from shell crater to shell crater, through water and mud. With two British divisions, the Canadian Corps attacked and took the village, holding it for five days, until reinforcements arrived. The Allies suffered 16,000 casualties at Passchendaele, and Corporal Pegahmagabow earned his first bar to the MM.
At Passchendaele Nov. 6th/7th, 1917, this NCO [non-commissioned officer] did excellent work. Before and after the attack he kept in touch with the flanks, advising the units he had seen, this information proving the success of the attack and saving valuable time in consolidating. He also guided the relief to its proper place after it had become mixed up.29
Pegahmagabow would earn his second bar to the MM during the final months of the First World War in the Battle of the Scarpe (part of the 2nd Battle of Arras). The commendation reads:
"During the operations of August 30th, 1918, at Orix Trench, near Upton Wood, when his company were almost out of ammunition and in danger of being surrounded, this NCO went over the top under heavy MG [machine gun] and rifle fire and brought back sufficient ammunition to enable the post to carry on and assist in repulsing heavy enemy counter-attacks."
In April 1919, Pegahmagabow was invalided to Canada, having served for nearly the entire war. Afterward, he joined the Algonquin Regiment in the non-permanent active militia and, following in the steps of his father and grandfather, became chief of the Parry Island Band and later a councillor. A member of Canada's Indian Hall of Fame,31 Pegahmagabow died on the reserve in 1952.
Francis Pegahmagabow rarely spoke of his military accomplishments. However, his son Duncan recalls being told that his father was responsible for capturing 300 enemy soldiers. "My mother [Eva] told me he used to go behind enemy lines, rub shoulders with the enemy forces and never get caught."32 Duncan also remembers that Pegahmagabow "felt very strongly about his country." Mostly, he sees his father as a peaceful man: "He was always saying how we have to live in harmony with all living things in this world."
Francis Pegahmagabow's Medals
Corporal Pegahmagabow was awarded the Military Medal with two bars, in effect three Military Medals, for heroism on the battlefield. There is no specific documentation on when Pegahmagabow won the Military Medal and his second bar, but evidence suggests that he was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery at the June 1916 battle of Mount Sorrel and his second bar at Amiens in August 1918.
Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow (1891-1952) is one of the most highly decorated aboriginal soldiers in Canadian military history. He was an Ojibwa from the Parry Island Band in Ontario who was awarded the Military Medal plus two bars for his battlefield service during the First World War. Pegahmagabow was one of only thirty-nine men in the entire Canadian Expeditionary Force to receive the Military Medal with two bars.
Peggy, as his fellow soldiers called him, enlisted in August 1914 and was part of the First Contingent of soldiers to go overseas. He sailed overseas with the 1st Battalion and was engaged in fierce fighting at the desperate trial-by-fire battle of 2nd Ypres in April 1915 where the Germans unleashed chlorine gas for the first time in the history of warfare.
Peggy survived even though the 1st Battalion lost almost half of its strength in three days of bitter fighting. The front returned to its static nature and soldiers dug deeper trenches to avoid the murderous artillery and sniper fire. Cpl Pegahmagabow soon acquired a fierce reputation among his fellow soldiers as a deadly sniper. Establishing himself behind the front lines or slowly worming his way into No Man's Land at night, Peggy would wait for German soldiers to show themselves. He proved to be an effective and deadly marksman, and quickly began to account for dozens of the enemy.
In addition to his role as a sniper, Peggy exhibited great battlefield bravery at the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916 where he captured a large number of German prisoners. Several months later, while fighting on the Somme, he was wounded in the leg. Despite having clearly already done his duty in two years of difficult conditions, Peggy returned to his battalion. In November 1917, the 1st Battalion was again thrown into battle, this time in the soggy morass near the ruined village of Passchendaele. He won the first bar to his Military Medal here and the citation reads:
At Passchendaele Nov. 6th/7th, 1917, this NCO [non-commissioned officer] did excellent work. Before and after the attack he kept in touch with the flanks, advising the units he had seen, this information proving the success of the attack and saving valuable time in consolidating. He also guided the relief to its proper place after it had become mixed up.
Passchendaele was a battle of nightmarish conditions. Pegahmagabow would have spent the battle racing over land through the quagmire of mud under a hail of shrapnel fire. With the regular severing of telephone wires by artillery fire, it was only through the bravery of runners and scouts like Peggy that those in the rear had any hope of assisting the fighting men at the "sharp end" of battle. Through courage and determination, the Canadians eventually captured Passchendaele ridge, a position that had eluded the rest of the British Army for three months.
Pegahmagabow was one of those rare Canadian soldiers who enlisted in 1914 and fought to the end of the war. Throughout his service at the front, he became Canada's premier sniper of the war. Although there are no exact figures recorded, accounts of his "kills" vary to as high as 378.
Pegahmagabow returned to Canada in 1919 and lived on Parry Island. He continued to serve with the Algonquin [Militia] Regiment. From 1921 to 1925, Pegahmagabow was chief of the Parry Island Band, and a councillor from 1933 to 1936. His son, Duncan, recounted that Peggy always felt "very strongly about his country." He was also remembered for ensuring that the culture of his people was not lost and, while chief, he encouraged the study and practice of the band's traditions. He is a member of Canada's Indian Hall of Fame and died in 1952.