Friday, 12 August 2016

From victory to defeat

News of the successful attack on the Stockade finally reached Melbourne in the early hours of Monday 4 December but it only partially relieved Hotham’s anxiety. The immediate danger may have been removed but it was possible that Eureka was the beginning of a larger rebellion and his immediate response was to request reinforcements from VDL. He also met a delegation of ‘influential’ citizens asking them to organise a defence of Melbourne as all his troops were in Ballarat and over 1,500 special constables were sworn in as a result. Hotham and his Executive Council proclaimed martial law in and around Ballarat. [1] In an effort to muster support, he presented his case to the Legislative Council on 4 December and to the squatters’ representatives two days later. [2] Both bodies pledged their support ‘to maintain the law and preserve the community from social disorganisation’. [3] Hotham unconvincingly attempted to blame the rebellion on ‘foreigners’ and the Irish. There was widespread contemporary criticism for the lenient ways in which Hotham treated American citizens who had been involved in the rebellion. This action reinforced the erroneous view that Americans did not play as active role. [4] Most of the movement’s leadership were still at large and out of the 114 arrested only eleven were ‘foreigners’ and around thirty Irish. Rewards were offered for the leaders of the insurgents. The authorities were under the impression that Vern was the rebel leader and a reward of £500 was offered for his capture and only £200 for the arrest of Lalor and Black, the ‘minister for war’ who had not been in the Stockade during the attack, for inciting men to arms. None were arrested. [5]

Reactions to the attack on the Eureka Stockade were immediate and led to an extraordinarilyEurer rapid reversal in public opinion. News spread quickly. The Ballarat Times printed a report with black borders on the day of the attack, the Geelong Advertiser the following day and on Tuesday, other major newspapers in the colony prominently displayed accounts. Before long however, disgust at the atrocities quickly turned Victorians against Hotham’s Government especially when it was clear Melbourne was not threatened. Sympathy was now with the defeated diggers and government forces were regarded as murderers and butchers. The Age stated:

There are not a dozen respectable citizens in Melbourne who do not entertain an indignant feeling against it for its weakness, its folly and its last crowning error. They do not sympathise with injustice and coercion. [6]

On 5 December, over 4,000 people attended a loyalist meeting called by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to consider the defence of the town against a possible outbreak of lawlessness and to give the people of Melbourne an opportunity to show their support for the authorities. [7] Both John Pascoe Fawkner and John O’Shanassy called for moderation but this was followed by a speaker in the audience calling upon the government to resign. The Lord Mayor tried to end the meeting by vacating the chair but, instead of leaving, the audience installed a new chairman. A number of speakers maintained that the Colonial Secretary, John Foster was responsible for the recent disaster. A motion that he should be removed from office received overwhelming support and Doctors Embling and Owens were instructed to convey this to Hotham. By Wednesday 6 December, public meetings were being called across Victoria, condemning the government’s actions and newspapers began to appear attacking Hotham. Around 6,000 Melbourne residents gathered outside St. Paul’s on 6 December and refused to support the government’s action, called for the diggers’ grievances to be addressed but condemned the act of rebellion. [8] Meetings were held calling for the release of the prisoners, public representation and liberty and justice. On 9 December, gatherings of about 600 people in Castlemaine and 2,000 in Bendigo opposed the license and condemned the attack on the Stockade. Within a few days, a comprehensive military victory had become a political defeat.

The turmoil in Melbourne was in stark contrast to the prevailing mood in Ballarat. On Tuesday 5 December, the commander of the colony’s military forces Major-General Sir Robert Nickle, who had been knighted in 1841 for his services during the Canadian rebellion, arrived to take command in Ballarat. [9] He successfully lowered the political temperature and his conciliatory manner helped restore public confidence and the Ballarat diggers quickly resumed their normal work. [10] The Argus commented:

The martial law administered by Sir R. Nickle is about as far superior to the Commissioner’s law, under which we have been so long labouring, as it is possible for anything human to be. Had Sir R. Nickle arrived here a few days before, the bloodshed of last Sunday would have been avoided. [11]

Though he condemned the rebellion, he showed his disapproval of the actions that had caused it. [12] Grievances were aired, tension subsided, arms were handed in and martial law was repealed on 9 December. [13] According to the Argus:

…the moral force party, now that they are relieved from the threats and intimidations of the armed agitators, are fast assuming a preponderance. [14]

In the days and weeks that followed the decisive military victory at the Stockade, there was a groundswell of public indignation in Melbourne as well as in Ballarat against what was seen as a brutal over-reaction to a situation largely brought about by the actions of Gold Commission and government officials. Rede, who made the vital decisions in the few days before Eureka, though never blamed by Hotham, was moved from Ballarat remaining on full pay until late in 1855 when Hotham arranged for his appointment as deputy-sheriff of Geelong and commandant of the Volunteer Rifles. He became sheriff of Geelong in 1857, Ballarat in 1868 and Melbourne in 1877. On 16 December, Inspector Foster of Ballarat reported that threats had been made to the lives of several police officers and recommended that most of Ballarat’s pre-Stockade police should be moved out of the area for their own safety.

There were also casualties in government. The public meeting in Melbourne on 5 December called for the resignation of Colonial Secretary Foster. [15] In fact, he had done this the previous day although Hotham did not announce it for a week. Foster had been under relentless attack in the press for several months and every problem in the colony’s government was blamed on him. This was both unjustifiable and unfair since, under Hotham, he had already been deprived of much of his authority. Whether Hotham used Foster as a scapegoat for Eureka is questionable but he was certainly glad to see him go. He could now appoint a Colonial Secretary with whom he could work and who had the people’s confidence. This was clearly evident in his choice of William Haines as Foster’s replacement with whom Hotham quickly developed an excellent working relationship. [16]

What of Hotham’s responsibility for Eureka? To his credit, but to his own detriment, he always accepted full responsibility for the policies that had been followed on the goldfields. However, his action in pursuing the 13 rebels charged with High Treason while protecting government officers at Ballarat with an Act of Indemnity was unpopular with many in the colony. On 10 January 1855, the Gold Fields Commission wrote to Hotham recommending a general amnesty for all those connected with the Stockade, a suggestion he flatly rejected. [17] In addition, Hotham tried to restrict the Gold Field Commission by directing it to avoid the Eureka issue, something it overruled as a violation of its independence. This incident ‘was indicative of the barrier of hostility that was building up between the Governor and the colonists’. [18] Until Eureka, Hotham had retained a degree of public support and, although there was a growing hostility to the government, it was not directed against the Governor. After Eureka, if Hotham had had the ‘instincts of a politician he could easily have salvaged his popularity at this stage’. [19] If he had announced a general amnesty for the Eureka prisoners and waived the gold license pending the Royal Commission’s report, he would have been largely freed from personal blame. By refusing to do both, Hotham found himself the focus for the increasingly emotional reaction to the tragedy of Eureka leading to a very public humiliation when the Eureka prisoners were acquitted of high treason in March 1855.

The Royal Commission released its report in late March 1855 and was scathing in its criticism of the handling of events at Ballarat. Unsurprisingly, it agreed with all of the diggers’ demands, mindful that rebellion might reoccur in the colony. It decided that the causes of the Eureka rebellion included a lack of political rights, the diggers’ inability to buy land and the way the mining license was collected. Although the license was the trigger that led to the unrest, by itself it was not the main cause. The Commission recommended that the license be abolished and replaced with an export duty on gold and that diggers would pay an annual £1 miners’ right. [20] The local courts replaced the hated and corrupt Gold Commission and regulated conditions on the goldfields. On the 14 July 1855, just eight months after the Eureka rebellion, nine members of the mining community, including Raffaelo Carboni, were elected unanimously at Bakery Hill to the local courts. The diggers’ control of the local courts was seen by the mining community as the ‘blood bought rights’ of the Eureka rebellion. The right to elect members to the Legislative Council led to two of the digger leaders, Peter Lalor and John Humffray join the Council in November 1855, less than a year after the massacre. The Commission of Enquiry also recommended that the squatters’ control of the land be broken, and the diggers have the right to buy land. The resultant subdivision of land around mining sites led to the development of some of Victoria’s most important regional towns and cities. ‘The day of arbitrary or despotic rule in Victoria was over’. [21]

The rebels at Eureka found themselves caught up in events that were fast-moving and had armed themselves for defence against the authorities. Yet, their use of the Southern Cross and a defiant rhetoric that went beyond the popular constitutionalism of previous protests led Hotham, with some justification to regard them as involved in rebellion. Unlike the rebellions in the Canadas and in South Wales, there is considerable disagreement about what sort of rebellion Eureka actually was and what it came to mean. For Bob O’Brien:

The attack on the miners at Eureka was something like the slaughter carried out by the Chinese regime on human rights demonstrators in and around Tien An Men Square in 1989…In a sense, the slaughter at Eureka was a riot by administrators, soldiers and police representing the old order of privilege and patronage. They were making a last-ditch attack on the gold-rush immigrants who foreshadowed a new order in which human dignity would be respected. Eureka is ultimately about human rights. [22]

By contrast, Audrey Oldfield suggests:

If viewed as a revolution to gain redress of grievances and greater democracy, it was certainly more successful than most of the greater revolutions in Europe and the uprising in Ireland six years before! [23]

Geoffrey Blainey commented:

Eureka became a legend, a battle-cry for nationalists, republicans, liberals, radicals, or communists, each creed finding in the rebellion the lessons they liked to see…In fact the new colonies’ political constitutions were not affected by Eureka, but the first Parliament that met under Victoria's new constitution was alert to the democratic spirit of the goldfields, and passed laws enabling each adult man in Victoria to vote at elections, to vote by secret ballot, and to stand for the Legislative Assembly. [24]

The extent to which the Eureka Stockade was instrumental in precipitating change and the extent to which change was inevitable remains a point of contention. There can be no doubt however that the Eureka affair has echoed and re-echoed in the national political consciousness down to the present day. The Eureka affair has been variously characterised and mythologised as the cradle of Australian democracy, as a revolt of free men against imperial tyranny, of labour against a privileged ruling class, of independent free enterprise against burdensome taxation, as an expression of multicultural republicanism, and so on. Notwithstanding, this enduring if ambiguous legacy was not apparent in Ballarat in the immediate aftermath of Eureka. The inclination among officials and the Ballarat community alike was to forget the incident. There were also mixed feelings in the general community. Some remained antagonistic, seeing the Stockade episode as the result of the extreme actions of a few hotheads. Indeed, a number of the Stockaders themselves, including Lalor, were quick to move on in respectable and profitable new directions. As a result, the event soon faded from public consciousness, the materials used in the construction of the Stockade were reclaimed for other purposes and its physical trace disappeared. Nevertheless, people did not forget. Geoffrey Blainey again:

It seems to me that Rede and Hotham were determined to push protest into a resistance that be called rebellion and justify suppression…Tragedies like Eureka have occurred and will be repeated across time and throughout the world when governments fail to heed the voice of the people and ignore their needs and rights. [25]

The events that took place at the Eureka Stockade in December 1854 have achieved a privileged status within Australian national mythology. As Stuart Macintyre observed:

The Eureka rebellion became a formative event in the national mythology…its celebrants saw it as a belated counterpart to the Declaration of Independence of the American colonists eighty years earlier, without which a transition to nationhood was incomplete. [26]

The diggers’ resistance at Eureka and the brutal actions of the colonial authorities in suppressing it have taken on a significance exceeding the actual events and accounts of Eureka in various histories of Australia have a tendency to elide the specific details of the incident in favour of situating the event in a narrative of the nation. [27]


[1] Victoria Government Gazette, 4 December 1854 ‘Martial Law at Ballaarat’, Argus, 5 December 1854, p. 4.
[2] ‘Legislative Council’, Argus, 6 December 1854, pp. 4-5, detailed the address supporting Hotham in the Legislative Council.
[3] ‘The Legislative Council’, Argus, 8 December 1854, p. 4.
[4] See, ‘The Governor and the Foreigners, To the Editor of the Argus’, Argus, 22 January 1855, p. 5, and ‘Amnesty to Americans’, Argus, 23 January 1855, p. 4, was highly critical of what it termed as ‘favouritism towards American citizens…displayed by Sir Charles Hotham’.
[5] Ibid, MacFarlane, Ian, (ed.), Eureka From the Official Records, pp. 205-207, contains a list of those arrested.
[6] The Age, 5 December 1854.
[7] ‘Defence of the City, Great Public Meeting’, Argus, 5 December 1854, p. 7.
[8] ‘Meeting for the Protection of Constitutional Liberty’, Argus, 7 December 1854, p. 5.
[9] McNicoll, Ronald, ‘Sir Robert Nickle (1786-1855)’, ADB, Vol. 5, pp. 339-340.
[10] On the return to normality in Ballarat, see ‘Ballaarat’, Argus, 7 December 1854, p. 4, and a report a week later, ‘Ballaarat’, Argus 18 December 1854, p. 5.
[11] ‘Geelong’, Argus, 9 December 1854, p. 5
[12] SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 6 December 1854, p. 145, echoed this view: ‘He [Nickle] stepped out of his carriage as the troops were on their way to the Camp & addressed them in very sensible & politic, he seemed to deplore the late sacrifice of life & expressed him anxious to do all in his power to restore confidence & tranquillity’. On 8 December, Evans wrote: ‘The temperate attitude assumed by Sir Robert Nichol has done a good deal toward restoring confidence & the majority seem earnestly desirous of peace. The late lamentable occurrences have been most disastrous to both diggers and storekeepers -trade has been all but suspended…’
[13] This was announced in the Government Gazette, 6 December 1854, ‘Revocation of Martial Law in Ballaarat’, Argus, 8 December 1854, p. 5.
[14] ‘Geelong’, Argus, 9 December 1854, p. 5
[15] ‘Mr Foster’s Resignation’, Argus, 7 December 1854, p. 4.
[16] ‘Causes of Revolt’, Argus, 6 December 1854, p. 6, attacked Foster.
[17] ‘Ballaarat’, Argus, 11 January 1855, p. 5, ‘The Approaching Trials’, Argus, 13 January 1855, p. 4, ‘The Amnesty’, Argus, 20 January 1855, p. 4.
[18] Ibid, Charles Hotham, p. 159.
[19] Ibid, p. 163.
[20] Connelly, C. N. ‘Miners’ Rights’, Curthoys, A., and Markus, A., (eds.), Who are Our Enemies? Racism and the Australian Working-class, (Hale and Iremonger), 1978, pp. 35-47.
[21] Ibid, Molony, John, Eureka, p. 175.
[22] Ibid, Massacre at Eureka.
[23] Oldfield, Audrey, The Great Republic of the Southern Seas: Republicans in Nineteenth-Century Australia, (Hale & Iremonger), 1999, p. 195.
[24] Ibid, Blainey, Geoffrey, The Rush that Never Ended, pp. 56-57.
[25] Blainey, Geoffrey, ‘The Significance of Eureka’, 2004, quoted in The Eureka Echo, Vol. 23, (4), (2004).
[26] Macintyre, Stuart, A Concise History of Australia, (Cambridge University Press), 1999, p. 90.
[27] Elder, Catriona Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity, (Allen & Unwin), 2007, pp. 23-40.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Defending the Stockade

Heavy and continuous fire between the rebels and soldiers lasted for about ten minutes during which the men of the 40th wavered. At this point several of the men held in reserve, who appeared to think the attack had stalled, rushed forward and managed to get into the Stockade although they were promptly chased out by rebels armed with pikes and retired to their own lines. Blake’s explanation for this is that either the soldiers acted on their own initiative or that an unnamed officer in the reserve decided to take matters into his own hands and ordered some soldiers from his own regiment to rush the Stockade.[1]

 
Peter Lalor

The rebels were well protected by their fortifications but the volume of fire on the Stockade increased. The group of about 40 assault troops from the 40th Regiment, under the command of Captain Wise, attacking the Stockade from the north side, gradually edged forward. In addition, the soldiers on Stockyard Hill and at the Free Trade Hotel also brought fire to bear on the rebels. About 70 mounted troops from the 40th approached from the northeast, 112 foot soldiers from the 12th and 40th Regiments from the west and 70 mounted police rode from the south-west. The Stockade was now flanked and within ten minutes of the initial attack, it had been breached on its northern and western flanks. [2] The Argus commented:

Had the diggers fired longer the losses to the military would have been immense, and they, as it was, acted with a precision and regularity admired even by the officers of the military. [3]

Peter Lalor attempted to bring order to the confusion but soon recognised that the rebels had lost any tactical advantage they had and that their position was tactically untenable but that they no option but to fight. Lalor’s emphasis on the paucity of weapons and ammunition is contradicted by the military reports that spoke of the level and regularity of fire from the rebels:

There were about 70 men possessing guns, 20 with pikes, and 30 with pistols, but many of those firearms had no more than one or two rounds of ammunition.

If they attempted to surrender, they would have been cut down by the withering fire that was directed at them. As the soldiers fixed bayonets, charged and clambered into the Stockade, many rebels fled. Although Lalor’s account is suspect in many respects, he later wrote:

About three o’clock am on Sunday morning the alarm was given that ‘the enemy’ was advancing…on discovering the smallness of our numbers we would have retreated, but it was then too late, as almost immediately, the military poured in one or two volleys of musketry, which was a plain intimation that we must sell our lives as dearly as we could.

 

Beryl Ireland, Eureka Stockade, 1891
 
Lalor then jumped up on a mound and ordered the diggers to stop firing, and save their ammunition until the soldiers and police were within range. He ordered the pikemen forward, but it was only a few minutes before he was shot in the shoulder and ordered his men to save themselves as he was hidden under some wood:

About ten minutes after the beginning of the fight, and while standing on the top of a hole, calling on the pikemen to come forward, I received a musket ball (together with two other smaller bullets) in the left shoulder, which shattered my arm, and from the loss of blood I was rendered incapable of further action. Soon after, I was assisted by a volunteer out of the enclosure and placed in a pile of slabs out of view of the military & police. While in this position, the latter passed several times within feet of me. I remained there about an hour, when, thanks to the assistance of some friends I was able to leave… On the approach of night I returned to the diggings, and through the kindness of a friend, procured the assistance of surgeons, who next day amputated my arm. [4]

Ross, whose company of rebels defended the northern part of the Stockade, fell soon after. About 30 pikemen, under the leadership of Patrick Curtain tried to hold the advance long enough to allow many of the diggers to flee the stockade but at a dreadful cost and only a handful survived:

After several volleys had been fired on both sides, the barrier of ropes, slabs and overturned carts was crossed, and the defenders driven out, or into the shallow holes with which the place was spotted, and in which many were put to death in the first heat of the conflict, either by bullets or by bayonet thrusts. The foot police were first over the barricade, and one, climbing the flagstaff under a heavy fire, secured the rebel flag. [5]

The remaining 20 or 30 Californian Rangers under the leadership of Charles Ferguson had left the Stockade at around 1.00 am to look for a cache of arms. Fearing that they had been lured out of the Stockade, Ferguson returned with his men just before the Stockade was attacked by the government forces. [6] By now, many of the diggers lay wounded:

When Captain Wise fell the men cheered, and were over the Stockade in a second, and then bayonet and pike went to work. The diggers fought well and fierce, not a word spoken on either side until all was over. The blacksmith who made the pikes was killed by Lieut. Richards, 40th Regiment. Honour to his name, he fought well and died gloriously. It was rumoured that at this time the police were cruel to the wounded and prisoners. No such thing. The police did nothing but their duty, and they did it well for men that were not accustomed to scenes of blood or violence. To my knowledge there was only one wounded man despatched, and he kept swinging his pike about his head as he sat on the ground. His two legs were broken, and he had a musket ball in his body. He could not live, and it was best to despatch him. His name was O’Neill, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland. [7]

Those who tried to escape were run down by the cavalry that had now surrounded the Stockade. Within 15 to 20 minutes of the first shot been fired, the back of the rebellion had been broken, the troops and police were in complete control of the Stockade. What had been a gallant defence now became a rout as rebels fled for their lives.

‘It was not in the Stockade that they killed the majority of diggers, but in the running away’

A lot of diggers commenced to run away, and after the shooting was done I saw Ned Flynn run into an old chimney, and a soldier ran up to him and stuck him in the neck with a bayonet. Everyone they caught they slaughtered. It was not in the Stockade that they killed the majority of diggers, but in the running away.[8]

Charles Evans wrote in the immediate aftermath of the attack:

Cowardly and monstrous cruelties such as these made up the bloody tragedy of this morning. It is a dark indelible strain on a British Government – a deed which can be fitly placed side by side with the treacheries and cold blooded cruelties of Austria & Russia.[9]

The correspondent of the Argus reported:

When the soldiers had once tasted blood they became violent, and had not the officers used every exertion the prisoners would have been murdered on the spot. [10]

Peter Lalor wrote three months after the massacre:
As the inhuman brutalities practised by the troops are so well known, it is unnecessary for me to repeat them. There were 34 digger casualties at which 22 died. The unusual proportion of the killed to the wounded is owing to the butchery of the military and troopers after the surrender. [11]

This was repeated in following years by other Eureka rebels who insisted that most of the killing took place outside the Stockade after all resistance had ceased. It is only recently that Eureka has been described as a massacre. Although the atrocities were widely reported in the Australian press, this element of the attack had been neglected. [12] This is surprising since contemporary reactions to the massacre resulted in the authorities’ use of armed force diminishing not enhancing their authority. The problem, Blake argues, is that this means accepting ‘at face value so-called eyewitness accounts of a massacre.’ [13] There is no dispute about the carnage caused after the soldiers fought their way in the Stockade when man-to-man contests and the bayonet replaced the more anonymous nature of volley fire. This was conflict at its most personal and bloody and was not unusual in the heat of battle. It was recognised by contemporaries such as Huyghue who wrote that ‘that men when generally let loose upon an enemy are not angels’ and by John Molony who correctly argued that men ‘in the fury of battle, commits atrocities which the so called logic of war renders inevitable’.

Between 5.00 am when the diggers’ defence crumbled until 7.00 am, the killing continued. [14] The police were at the forefront of the atrocities burning everything within the Stockade and shooting at whatever moved. Even the Irish priest Father Smyth was denied access to the wounded, some of whom were Catholics and was forced out of the Stockade at pistol point. The killing went on for over an hour after the diggers had surrendered and occurred up to half a mile from the Stockade. People were killed who were not involved in the protest and had not taken up arms against the colonial authorities. Bodies were mutilated; one digger’s corpse had 16 bayonet wounds. Henry Powell a digger from Creswick, whose tent was well outside the Stockade, was surrounded by around 20 mounted police. He was struck on the head with a sword by Arthur Akehurst, the Clerk of the Peace who had enlisted as a special constable and then shot several times by the police, who then rode their horses over his body. [15] However, Powell survived long enough to make a statement before he died on 9 December.[16] An inquest’s verdict concluded that Akehurst had killed him, something he denied. Akehurst was charged with murder but the case was dismissed when Powell’s dying deposition was ruled inadmissible. [17]

There was however, no evidence to connect Akehurst to the murder except the dying statement of the deceased; but before this statement could be received and admitted as evidence, it be shewn that the deceased believed he was in a dying state, and should be taken before magistrate, and ought to be, if possible, taken in the presence of the accused.; and His honor would have to decide as to the propriety of admitting this statement. The Solicitor-General himself felt doubts as to the admissibility of this evidence, and would call the attention of the court to it without knowing what the feelings of the accused might be in the matter, or calling on counsel on the opposite side to make an objection. [18] Raffaelo Carboni was among those who believed Akehurst got off on a technicality.

It was reported that three soldiers jumped a digger after he had been shot through the legs, one knelt on his chest, one tried to choke him while the third went through his pockets looking for gold. ‘Foreigners’ bore the brunt of the attack. Two Italian diggers, who had not taken part in the rebellion, were killed. One who had his tent a quarter of a mile from the Stockade was killed by mounted police and troopers. The other whose tent was in the Stockade was shot through the thigh and as he lay wounded, told the troopers that he would give them his gold if they left him alone. After taking his gold, they bayoneted him through the chest. One of the most unlikely targets in the early hours of Sunday morning was Frank Hasleham, a reporter for the Melbourne Morning Herald, a newspaper that had consistently supported the government in its fight against the diggers. A quarter of a mile from the Stockade he was met by mounted police who shot him through the chest. As he lay wounded, he hoped the ‘diggers would desist from their madness’. [19]

At 7.00 am, it was decided to round up all the diggers left inside and outside the stockade. Captain Pasley, sickened by the carnage, saved a group of prisoners from being bayoneted and threatened to shoot any police or soldiers who continued the indiscriminate slaughter. 114 diggers, some wounded were rounded up, marched to the Camp where they were firmly convinced they would be summarily hanged but were herded into a space that was normally used for six. Even so the authorities were concerned about people’s reaction if large numbers of rebels died in custody and at 2.00 am on Monday morning Rede moved the prisoners to the camp storehouse. His problem was that it was no longer possible to distinguish between those who had been taken in or about the Stockade and those who had been apprehended in the vicinity. The Melbourne Herald gave a graphic account of the scene after the battle:

I was attracted by the smoke of the tents burnt by the soldiers, and there a most appalling site presented itself. Many more are said to have been killed and wounded, but I myself saw eleven dead bodies of diggers lying within a very small space of ground, and the earth was besprinkled with blood, and covered with the smoking mass of tents recently occupied. Could the Government but have seen the awful sight presented at Ballarat on this Sabbath morning- the women in tears, mourning over their dead relations, and the blood-bespattered countenances of many men in the diggers’ camp, it might have occurred to His Excellency that ‘prevention is better than cure’. [20]

The battle had been decisive but the ‘massacre’, whatever its military explanation, once know so revolted the community of Victoria that any return to the old ways was impossible. [21]

Many of the leaders in the Stockade fled though Timothy Hayes and John Manning were arrested and Carboni who was not in the Stockade at the time of the attack remained to help tend to the wounded until he too was arrested around 8.30 am. Kennedy and Black, in disguise, made for Geelong but apparently got lost, Kennedy ending up as a bullock driver whilst Black eventually reached Melbourne. Esmond, whose original discovery of gold started the rush, was among those in the Stockade, and he too made for Geelong. There were many accounts of Lalor’s escape but the account by Stephen Cummings, a close friend is the fullest:

After the soldiers and police retired, Lalor was put on Father Smyth’s horse, and he rode into the ranges and got shelter in a tent near Warrenheip…I suggested that his arm would have to come off and that Father Smyth’s house would be safer…The next thing was to get a doctor, and I went for Doctor Doyle of Golden Point, who said it was a case of amputation. ‘All right’ said Lalor, ‘let’s know the worst’. He was a very brave man, with all his defects. Dr Gibson and Dr Stewart and I were there while Doyle performed the operation…A few days after that a messenger came to me from Lalor. I went and found him in a bed in a small tent on Black Hill Flat, where there was only just room for a man to lie down. We got him shifted to a nice large tent belonging to Michael Hayes at the foot of Black Hill. He stayed there until he got a carrier named Carroll and little Tommy Marks to take him to Geelong. [22]

How many rebels died or were wounded in the initial battle and subsequent carnage is far from clear. [23] As at Newport, some of the wounded managed to find their way home to die later. Lalor’s estimate was fourteen killed, eight wounded and twelve wounded but recovered. [24] However, as he admitted, he did not include Powell and Rowlands who were killed near their own tents and who played no part in the movement. [25] The list of those killed at Eureka and registered on 20 June 1855 by Ballarat’s Registrar, William Poole, numbered twenty-seven. Information about casualties among the military is more precise. Three privates lay dead or dying, Michael Rooney, Joseph Wall and William Webb, twelve more were wounded and Captain Wise was also wounded and subsequently died. Unlike the military, the actual location of the burials of diggers killed at the Eureka Stockade was not precisely recorded in documentation that has survived. One of the officers later informed Withers:

The number of insurgents killed is estimated as from thirty-five to forty, and many of those brought in wounded afterwards died…The bodies of the insurgents, placed in rough coffins made hurriedly, were laid in a separate grave, the burial service being performed by the clergyman to whose congregation they belonged.[26]

John Molony states, ‘The diggers were initially put to rest near the spot where Scobie fell, while the soldiers were interred at the cemetery near Yuille’s Swamp off the Creswick Road’. [27] Some of those wounded in the Stockade lingered on, Frederick Coxhead, for example did not succumb until May 1856. [28] In 1857, Captain Ross, James Brown, Edward Thonen, the lemonade seller and the blacksmith were re-interred with the other bodies of those killed at Eureka. [29]


[1] Ibid, Blake, Gregory, To Pierce The Tyrant’s Heart: A Military History of The Battle for The Eureka Stockade 3 December 1854, pp. 156-157.
[2] Ibid, Blake, Gregory, To Pierce The Tyrant’s Heart: A Military History of The Battle for The Eureka Stockade 3 December 1854, pp. 164-172, considers events in the Stockade once the troops breached its defences.
[3] ‘Fatal Collision at Ballaarat’, Argus, 4 December 1854, p. 5.
[4] Argus, 10 April 1855, reprinted in ibid, ‘Eureka Documents’, Historical Studies, p. 11.
[5] Letter from Government Officer printed in ibid, Withers, W. B., The History of Ballarat, p. 106.
[6] Ibid, Blake, Gregory, To Pierce The Tyrant’s Heart: A Military History of The Battle for The Eureka Stockade 3 December 1854, pp. 144-150, examines the significant contribution of the Californians to the defence of the Stockade and why this was air-brushed out of subsequent accounts of the action.
[7] ‘With regard to the Attack on the Stockade, the author has a letter signed ‘John Neill, late of the 40th Regiment’, and dated from Devil’s Gully on 7 February, 1870, printed in ibid, Withers, W. B., The History of Ballarat, pp. 123-124.
[8] Evidence of Shanahan, a storekeeper in the Stockade printed in ibid, Withers, W. B., The History of Ballarat, p. 117.
[9] Evans gives a graphic account of the aftermath of the attack on the Stockade. Other than what he assumed was a dream of the sound of volley fire, he appears to have slept through the whole assault. SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 3 December 1854, pp. 131-138, at p. 137.
[10] ‘Geelong’, Argus, 5 December 1854, p. 4.
[11] Argus, 10 April 1855, reprinted in ibid, ‘Eureka Documents’, Historical Studies, pp. 11-12.
[12] Ibid, O’Brien, Bob, Massacre at Eureka, includes a previously unpublished eyewitness account by Samuel Douglas Smyth Huyghue.
[13] Cit, ibid, Blake, Gregory, To Pierce The Tyrant’s Heart: A Military History of The Battle for The Eureka Stockade 3 December 1854, p. 187.
[14] ‘Geelong’, Argus, 5 December 1854, p. 4, give a succinct account of the ‘massacre’. Ibid, Blake, Gregory, To Pierce The Tyrant’s Heart: A Military History of The Battle for The Eureka Stockade 3 December 1854, pp. 186-203, considers the ‘massacre’.
[15] Dunstan, David, ‘Arthur Purssell Akehurst (1836-1902)’, ADB, Supplementary Volume, pp. 6-7. SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 11 December 1854, p. 153, discusses Powell’s inquest.
[16] Ibid, Carboni, Raffaelo, The Eureka Stockade, pp. 107-108, prints Powell’s deposition; see also, ‘Ballaarat’, Argus 15 December 1854, pp. 4-5, for a further attack on the behaviour of troopers: ‘the tyrannical and arbitrary treatment to which the people have been subjected to by the troopers.’.
[17] Akehurst was the only Ballarat official brought to trial as a result of the massacre. The inquest into the death of Henry Powell occurred on 11 December and, because of the unsworn statement made by Powell, Akehurst was brought to trial on a charge of manslaughter. On 18 January 1855, he was found not guilty.
[18] Argus, 19 January 1855, p. 3.
[19] Ibid, Carboni, Raffaelo, The Eureka Stockade, pp. 109-110, prints Hasleham’s deposition.
[20] Melbourne Herald, 5 December 1854.
[21] Ibid, Molony, John, Eureka, p. 165.
[22] Argus, 1 July 1899.
[23] Wickham, Dorothy, Deaths at Eureka, (Ballarat Heritage Services), 1996.
[24] Argus, 10 April 1855, reprinted in ibid, ‘Eureka Documents’, Historical Studies, pp. 12-13.
[25] Ibid, ‘Eureka Documents’, Historical Studies, p. 11.
[26] ‘Letter from Government Officer’, printed in ibid, Withers, W. B., History of Ballarat, pp. 106-107.
[27] Ibid, Molony, John, Eureka, p. 166.
[28] Melbourne Herald, 12 May 1856.
[29] Melbourne Herald, 2 December 1857.