Major-General T.B. Strange's column advanced eastward along the North Saskatchewan River. Barges laden with supplies and equipment kept pace with the troops as they marched along the north bank of the river. A detachment of North-West Mounted Police under the command of Colonel Sam Steele provided the column with a mobile force.
Chief Big Bear, leading a force of Plains and Wood Cree, confronted the Canadian force at Frenchman's Butte. The Cree had fortified the butte with a series of well-hidden rifle pits scattered throughout the woods. The initial Canadian assaults met with failure, but the Cree withdrew after Major-General Strange had deployed artillery and shelled their positions.
Major-General Strange was slow to pursue Big Bear's force. His caution was due to his concerns about being drawn into an ambush and, as he said in his own words, "committing Custer."