The Last of the Tasmanians/Chapter 5
The Line, the most formidable part of the Black War, was formed towards the close of 1830. It was not like the celebrated Thin Red Line of the Crimea, seen and seeing all the way, but a cordon of more unequal character, to drive the Aborigines into a comer of Tasmania.
History is not without parallels of a Line operation. A levy en masse for a similar purpose took place in Governor Macquarie's time. The Natives of New South Wales had been very troublesome; and, in 1816, General Macquarie summoned the colonists, with all available military and constabulary, and drove the Blacks before him beyond the Blue Mountains, with great slaughter. This may have suggested to the authorities of Van Diemen's Land the scheme eventually adopted there.
As has been stated, a remarkably hopeful Government paper appeared in August 1830, which urged the colonists not to hurt the well-disposed Natives, but rather give them a dinner, with smiles, and let them depart with a blessing. A reconsideration of the subject, after loud complaints of his people, induced Colonel Arthur to qualify his statement, and quiet the surges of public opinion. This produced Government Order 166, Aug. 27th, 1830:—
"The Lieut.-Govemor has learned that the intention of the Government in issuing the notices Nos. 160 and 161, which appeared in the Gazette of last week, has been misinterpreted by some of the inhabitants of the districts in which the Natives have shown the most decided hostility.
"A friendly disposition having been slightly manifested by a tribe which had been hostile. His Excellency anxiously availed himself of the occasion to repeat the injunctions which have been uniformly expressed in the Orders and Instructions of the Government, that the measures which are indispensable for the defence and protection of the settlers should be tempered with humanity, and that no measure of conciliation should be spared; but it was not intended to relax the most strenuous exertions to repel and to drive from the settled country those Natives who seize every occasion to perpetrate murders, and to plunder and destroy the property of the inhabitants."
The closing paragraph runs thus:—
"Any wanton attack against the inoffensive tribes in the west and south-west districts of the colony, or against the tribe inhabiting the adjacent islands, or against any Aborigines who manifest a disposition to conciliate and to surrender themselves, will undoubtedly be rigorously prosecuted; but it is not expected, much less required, that the settlers are calmly to wait in their dwellings to sustain the repeated and continued attacks of the tribes who are manifesting such a rancorous and barbarous disposition as has characterised their late proceedings;—they are by every possible means to be captured or driven beyond the settled district."
No one can fail to be convinced of the genuine benevolence of the Governor's character. With all his strength of will, or the assumed despotism of disposition, there was the power of kindness. Toward the feeble and distressed he ever exhibited gentleness, and even affection. Sensible of the hostility of the Natives, he sought sincerely and persistently to avert their destruction. He could not have been indifferent to that "resistless fate" which seemed overhanging the future of the tribes, nor regardless of European opinion and the judgment of posterity upon his own part in the final catastrophe. When, however, the trumpet-tongued appeals of the colony called for more decided action, he came forth to do all that a Governor could do for the relief of his subjects.
After much discussion, it was determined to depend no longer upon the feeble operations of the Roving Parties,—the Five Pounds' Catchers, as they were called,—but to make a more decided impression upon the enemy in extensive and simultaneous action, by which they might achieve wholesale captures; for, of course, no allusion could be made to the possible destruction of many. The plan proposed was, to station the military in certain centres of the settled districts, and to call upon the people to volunteer their help in connecting themselves with any commander of these military parties they preferred. A charge was to be simultaneously made from these various foci of strength on the 7th of October, "one great and engrossing pursuit." No special rewards were offered, but sufficient inducements were hinted at by a Government known to possess the means to bestow prizes. This was not intended as a Line proceeding, though the forerunner of that military movement.
The Government Order calling for volunteers was issued from the Colonial Secretary's Office, September 9th, 1830.
"Colonial Secretary's Office,
Sept. 9th, 1880.
"The Lieutenant-Governor has considered with anxious interest the numerous representations of the settlers, expressive of their alarm, at the Increasing boldness of the Natives, and of the danger in which their lives and property will be placed, unless additional protection be speedily afforded by the Government.
"2. But it is in vain to expect that the country can be freed from the incursions of the savage tribes which now infest it, unless the settlers themselves come forward, and zealously unite their best energies with those of the Government in making such a general and simultaneous effort as the occasion demands. The Lieutenant-Governor, therefore, calls upon every settler, whether residing on his farm or in a town, who is not prevented by some over-ruling necessity, cheerfully to render his assistance, and to place himself under the direction of the police magistrate of the district in which his farm is situated, or any other magistrate whom he may prefer; and His Excellency is convinced, that on an occasion so important, a sufficiently numerous volunteer force will thus be raised, that, in combination with the whole disposable strength of the military and police, and by one cordial and determined effort, will afford a good prospect of either capturing the whole of the hostile tribes, or of permanently expelling them from the settled districts.
"3. In making this call upon the inhabitants of the colony at large, the Lieutenant-Governor trusts, that whosoever embarks in the service will do so zealously and firmly, and that he will devote his whole mind and energies exclusively to insure its success. For as services of this kind have on some former occasions been greatly perverted, His Excellency is desirous of cautioning all those who feel the necessity of coming forward on the present occasion, that it is not a matter of amusement or recreation, but a cause of the most important and serious kind, in which the lives and property of the whole community are more or less at stake.
"4. The utmost disposable military force will be stationed in a few days at those points in the interior which are most exposed to attack, or in which the Natives are most likely to be encountered. The whole force on the north side of the island is confided to the immediate charge of Captain Donaldson, who has already given the inhabitants of that part of the colony good reason to trust in the zeal and activity of the 57th Regiment. The force in the centre of the island, extending from Ross, north-east of St. Patrick's Head, and north-west to Auburn and the Lake River, is under the immediate direction of Captain Wellman, 57th Regiment The force in the Both well district, extending north-west to the Lakes, and south to Hamilton township, is under the immediate orders of Captain Wentworth, 63rd Regiment. The force in the Lower Clyde, extending from Hamilton township, south-east to New Norfolk, is under the charge of Captain Vicary, 63rd Regiment. The force stationed at the Cross Marsh, and the confines of the Oatlands, Richmond, and Bothwell districts, is under the immediate orders of Captain Mahon, 63rd Regiment, The force in the district of Richmond, extending north to Jerusalem, north-east to Prossor's Plains, and east to the coast, is under the orders of Lieutenant Barrow, 63rd Regiment. The force in the district of Oyster Bay, extending south to Little Swan Port, north to the head of Swan River, and west to the Eastern Marshes, is under the orders of Lieutenant Aubin, 63rd Regiment; and, in order to give unity and vigour to the measures of the Government, the direction of the whole of the combined force thus employed, is confided to the charge of Major Douglas, 63rd Regiment, who is stationed at Oatlands, as the most central point of communication.
"5. The stations and residences of the several police magistrates are already well known, and with this general information no individual can be at a loss to decide to what party he will attach himself, so as to give the most effectual aid to the common cause.
"6. Any volunteer parties from Hobart Town will render the most essential service by joining the force in the district of New Norfolk, or the Clyde, or Richmond—those from Launceston, by strengthening the police to the westward of Norfolk Plains, or on the west bank of the Tamar, or in the country extending from Ben Lomond to George Town; while still more desirable service will be given by any parties who will ascend to the parts round the Lakes and Western Bluff, so as to intercept the Natives if driven into that part of the country; and any enterprising young men, who may have been accustomed to make incursions in the interior, and to endure the fatigues of the Bush, will most beneficially promote the common cause by joining the small military parties at the out-stations, and in making patrol expeditions with them, and the services of all such will be readily accepted by the military officers in command of the several stations.
"7. To give time for the necessary arrangements, and to meet to the utmost the convenience of the community, His Excellency directs, that the general movement shall commence on Thursday, the 7th of October next; and in the meantime, every settler is enjoined to state to the police magistrate of his district, the number of men he can furnish properly equipped for the service, who will cheerfully conform to whatever instructions they may receive.
"8. The present roving parties will be augmented to the greatest possible extent; for which purpose, all the prisoners holding ticket-of-leave who are capable of bearing arms, are required to report themselves to the police magistrate of the district in which they reside, in order that they may be enrolled, either in the regular roving parties, or otherwise employed in the public service, under the instructions of their respective employers.
"9. The Surveyor-General will immediately issue orders to all the officers of his department, directing them to confer with the police magistrates and military officers of the districts in which they are employed, to impart generally every species of local and useful information, and to co-operate with their utmost zeal to give the best effect in their power to the measures of the Government.
"10. Though the native tribes of this island are well known to be, with few exceptions, extremely timid, flying with precipitation at the appearance of two or three armed persons, yet the numerous attacks they have made on defenceless habitations, and the cruel murders they have committed with impunity on the white population, have had the effect of rendering them daily more bold and crafty, until at last they have become so formidable, that the strongest possible united effort of the community is imperiously called upon to come forward and subdue them. All minor objects must for a time give way to this one great and engrossing pursuit; and as the combined forces of the volunteers, the military, and the police will be sufficiently numerous, almost immediately to ensure the perfect safety of a large portion of the interior, though every master of a family will be careful that the females and other defenceless inmates are nevertheless sufficiently protected in case of alarm, yet, at this season, between seed-time and harvest, every one will be able to contribute a certain number from his establishment, in order to increase the strength of the effective parties.
"11. Should success crown the contemplated measures, the Lieutenant-Governor earnestly enjoins, that the utmost tenderness and humanity may be manifested towards whatever Natives may be captured, and, when in custody, that they may be dealt with as beings who have been deprived of the blessings of civilization, and have been actuated in their hostile attacks by a distressing misconception of the amicable disposition entertained towards them by the white population.
"12. On an occasion of this general nature, no individual is to expect any specific reward; but His Excellency hopes it is now well understood in the colony, that a service rendered to the public is never overlooked or forgotten by the Colonial Government.
"By His Excellency's command,
The Colonists were pleased with the decision of the Government. The Hobart Town Courier, of September 11, already saw, "by anticipation, crowds of these poor, benighted creatures marched into town." The editor sagely recommends the volunteers and military to seize upon the women and children, and then the men would surrender themselves. Perhaps he half fancied that the native males would place the tender ones in front, as the Persians did with the cats against the Egyptians. It was, however, admitted that at least thirty, that had been previously caught and well initiated in all our excellent English customs, were then with their Bush countrymen, and taking the lead by reason of their superior enlightenment.
But before the invitations of Colonel Arthur could be issued, a change in the arrangements occurred. The press and others had contended that it would be comparatively useless to have the war made at so many points, affording opportunities for the Natives, and by their superior Bush craft, to pass between the forces hither and thither, and so keep the colony in constant terror. Still, the inhabitants were anxious to co-operate with their rulers in any project offering relief.
A public meeting took place on September 22d, in the Court of Requests Room, ostensibly to make arrangements for the formation of a town-guard. The chairman of that court, J. Horne, Esq., brother of the celebrated English writer of that name, was requested to preside. The old gentleman has more than once told me his tale of the past Anthony Fenn Kemp, Esq., one of the earliest officers in the colony, gave the audience some particulars of the first attack, at Risdon, in 1804. Mr. Gellibrand, attorney, admonished the colonists not to shoot any Aborigines when they should be flying before them. Mr. Hackett doubted the ability of the dark race to know the wishes of Government, as not five white persons could speak their language.
The first resolution passed declared it the duty of every man cheerfully to contribute to the common cause every assistance in his power. The second suggested the means; that of personal service in the field, or performing the duties of the military during the absence of the latter from town. The third pledged the meeting to five weeks' service in the capital, dated from the 2d of October. The fourth urged the propriety of the inhabitants selecting their own particular scene of duty, and the election of their officers. The last resolution was concerning the nomination of fifteen persons to form a committee, six of whom were to wait upon the Governor. Two dozen gentlemen, however, volunteered to take the battery guard, if independent of this general committee.
There was not unanimity of opinion. Mr. Gregson, a barrister of no mean talent and oratorical power, had been opposed to Government on political grounds, and took legal exception to their mode of procedure, contending that such a warlike demonstration was uncalled for, and that the Natives, as real masters of the soil, ought not to be forced from the territory bequeathed to them by their fathers, and now usurped by the British crown. He would not, therefore, go himself, nor would he permit one of his servants "to follow to the field some warlike Lord." His opponents professed to be surprised that a gentleman owning such dignified, moral, and correct sentiments, should continue to hold a fine estate, as he did, upon a title granted by public robbers of a nation, and urged him to leave a land desecrated by such violation of the rights of man and honour of civilization.
The Governor felt himself strengthened by the moral support of his subjects, and modified and expanded his original views. Instead of a number of separate and unsupported, though simultaneous, operations over the whole of the settled districts, comprehending three-fourths of the island, it was resolved to make one grand, united effort to capture the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes, by drawing a line from Waterloo Point on the east to Lake Echo on the west, and driving the Blacks into Tasman's Peninsula.
An inspection of the map of Tasmania will enable the reader to understand the position, and comprehend the scheme developed in the order of September 25th, 1830. A more careful study of the map will enable him to trace the operations of the several divisions during the period prescribed. He cannot fail to be struck with the military sagacity of the authorities, and their care to avoid the risk of failure.
The Survey Department was severely taxed on this occasion, as everything depended upon a knowledge of the country. But therein lay the weakness of the scheme. It was long before the days of trigonometrical survey in the colony, so well conducted afterwards by Governor Denison. Notwithstanding such zealous officers as Messrs. Evans and Frankland were then at the head of that department, little progress had been made. Men took up land before survey, and the adjustment of acreage between neighbours was an established source of contention. Even prominent points of physical features were incorrectly laid down and we have but to compare the map of the period with the one issued by Messrs. Walch of Hobart Town, to comprehend the survey difficulties of Colonel Arthur. As it was impossible to do better at the time, the leaders of parties were each provided with a copy of the little map published by Dr. Boss, editor of the Courier, by which they were expected to guide their march. To appreciate the obstacles meeting the adventurous trackers, the nature of the country should be understood.
To illustrate the difficulties of Bush exploration in Tasmania, the relation of an experience of the writer may be pardoned. It was in 1842 that much excitement prevailed in Hobart Town, about a Fall two hundred feet in depth, which was almost in sight of the settlement. Accompanied by my friend Mr. George Washington Walker, the ex-Quaker Missionary, so called, and others, under the guidance of Mr. Dickenson, the florist, I went to visit this wonderful sight. The only way then known, and that which we had to follow, was first to ascend Mount Wellington, climbing over dislocated masses of greenstone rocks, crossing fallen trees of huge magnitude, and piercing a thicket that was an enemy to broad-cloth. Passing over the mountain, we came to a narrow river, issuing from the Saddle, and finding it« exit in North-west Bay. There was little water, fortunately, as our only path was in its bed, leaping from rock to rock, and occasionally dropping into its icy stream. Again and again we tried the margin, but were repulsed at every trial. So dense was the scrub, that the guide assured us that with a tomahawk, in a similar place, he could make but a quarter of a mile's progress in eight hours.
It was while resting at the summit of the Falls, surrounded by the wild triumphs of Nature, that I heard the story of a lost one. A young acquaintance of mine had gone to sea. In one voyage he came to Hobart Town. Attracted by the beauty of Mount Wellington, and believing it easy of access, he and a mate started away from the vessel, carrying a few biscuits with them. Five days had passed without their return, though soldiers were sent from town with bugles, and constables with fire-arms, to attract the ears of the lost sailors. At length a man ploughing near Brown's River, quite on the other side of the range, observed a human form slowly creeping through the forest. It was the unfortunate young man, in almost senseless exhaustion. Two days passed before he was capable of telling his story. They had gained the top, but missed their way downward. The biscuits were soon consumed, and the hunger of the Bush assailed them. After losing their clothing, and experiencing severe wounds, from the sharp rocks and thorny forest, they came to the head of a great waterfall—the spot where our party were camping. There one of them, whose mind had been wandering for some time, suddenly shrieked out "Mother!" darted on one side, and was never seen again. His skeleton has not been discovered. How the survivor got down he knew not; but the effect upon the poor fellow was sad enough for years after.
This was partly the sort of country to be threaded by three thousand people, with inadequate appliances, in an enterprise requiring the utmost circumspection, and against a people sagacious as Indians in forest lore, and whose dark bodies would be indistinctly observed in the obscurity of a Bush so impervious to sunlight.
The Government Order, here printed in extenso, described the routes as well as they could be indicated then. The study of these will interest too few to need further remark. The object was to drive the Natives from other parts into the county of Buckingham, then forming the southern, settled side of the island, and through that to the neck of Forrestier's Peninsula.
This isthmus of land, called East Bay Neck, is rather flat, and only a few hundred yards in width. It could, according to the scientific opinion of Sir William Denison, be easily cut through, and so save a dangerous passage to Hobart Town round Tasman's Peninsula, and through the Storm Bay. It unites to the main the peninsula of Forrestier, so called by Commodore Baudin after the French Minister of Marine. That again is connected with Tasman's Peninsula by Eagle Hawk Neck, a smaller isthmus than the other. At the time that Tasman's Peninsula was occupied by convict penal stations, to prevent runaways getting into Forrestier's Peninsula, and so on to the main, fierce dogs were chained across Eagle Hawk Neck, in addition to the guard of soldiers. East Bay Neck was placed in Admiral D'Entrecasteaux's charts as a channel, connecting Tasman's Frederick Heniy Bay and the Storm Bay, and making Tasman's Peninsula, Tasman's Island. Though flat, its immediate neighbourhood is high land, and scrubby, miserable country. The rocks are chiefly silurian and carboniferous strata, broken by granite hills, pierced by greenstone veins, or altered by basaltic contact to a geometrical parallelism, like the tesselated pavement of Eagle Hawk Neck. A bay divides the Forrestier s Peninsula from the granite land of the east coast, terminating in Schouten's Island, two-thirds of which consists of granite and one-third of greenstone. Its neighbouring peninsula, Tasman's, exhibits the volcanic element in great force, causing disruptions among its anthracitic coal beds.In the arrangements of the Line, Mr. Dodge was to be despatched to the peninsula for observation on its coast. But, said Colonel Arthur, "Mr. Dodge is on no account whatever to make any movement which could by chance drive back to the main a single Native, who would otherwise have gone on to the Peninsula. He is not to run such a risk even for the sake of capturing a few on the Neck; for should one Native escape back, he would be the means of preventing others from attempting to pass the Neck." It so happened that Mr. Dodge was spared the temptation. However, the few settlers on the Peninsula were compelled to withdraw.
The Government Order expressed a desire for the magistrates to get the force organized in parties of ten, with a leader and guide. The military commanders were to be accompanied by some of the roving parties that had been out after the Blacks, and who were, therefore, judged valuable auxiliaries to the movement. The Ticket-of-Leave men, as occupying the first social step toward freedom, were to be treated with more distinction than the ordinary convicts, who would be in the field as assigned servants of patriotic settlers; magistrates were to give each prisoner a written pass with his division described, and exercise discretion about entrusting some with fire-arms. Fires were to be kept burning on certain hills, as marks to steer by.
Mr. Surveyor-General Frankland has the credit of forming the general outline of the scheme, though ably assisted by Major Shaw.
The change of policy astonished many, while approved of by most. The idea of the Line was a source of merriment with those who were the political enemies of Government. One of the heroes of the times, whom I knew in Melbourne afterwards, explained the scheme thus: "Look here—it was just like this. Suppose I said I would catch all the fish coming down the Yarra, and put a little net in the middle, leaving all the rest of the stream open, I guess I wouldn't catch many." Mr. Gregson ridiculed the whole affair, as like climbing up Mount Wellington, 4,000 feet high, for an easy way to get whales by harpooning from its summit. The Launceston Advertiser was delighted to have an opportunity of attacking the authorities by a hit at the editor of the semi-official paper, the Hobart Town Courier, that had just then, by arrangement, announced the plan that should be adopted, and which was gazetted a day or two only after.
"While we give," says the Advertiser of September 27th, "to the kind-hearted, and worthy, but invisible editor of the Courier every credit for his advice of a Cordon to catch the Blacks, and then to place them on Tasman's Peninsula, we must just say that it is one of those visionary schemes to be wished for, but not practicable. It no doubt reads very prettily thus: 'Let a cordon be drawn across the island early in the morning, and before night drive all the Blacks in that division up in one corner; and mind, men, do not shoot or hurt one, but catch them all alive, oh! and be very careful you don't hurt them, and if they should attempt to run away from you, tell them to stop or you will certainly shoot, and the bare words will arrest them, only you must first learn them the language in which it is spoken.' It is little better than idiocy to talk of surrounding and catching a group of active naked—mind, naked—men and women, divested of all burdens of all sorts," &c.
The English reader must not be harsh in his judgment upon the condition of the colonial press, after reading the paragraph just quoted, as that, in all probability, was the work of the proprietor of the paper, a political tradesman of Launceston.
The Sydney Australian of October has the following article upon that month's intended movements in the southern isle: "We call the present warfare against a handful of poor, naked, despicable savages, a Humbug in every sense of the word. Every man in the island is in motion, from the Governor downwards to the meanest convict. The mercer dons his helmet, and deserts his counter, to measure the dimensions of the butcher's beef, or the longitude of his own tapes with his broadsword. The farmer's scythe and reaping-hook are transmuted to the coat of mail and bayonet! The blacksmith, from forging shoes for the settler's nag, now forges the chains to enslave, and whets the instruments of death!! These are against savages whose territory in point of fact this very armed host has usurped!! Savages who have been straitened in their means of subsistence by that very usurpation!!! Savages who knew not the language, nor the meditations of their foes, save from the indiscriminate slaughter of their own people."
The Sydney Gazette of October 30th asks the pertinent question: "Are those who sneer at the measures adopted by the authorities of the Sister Colony, prepared to say that atrocities like these, and numerous others which the public journals record daily, should not be put a stop to?" The editor declares that our islanders were different from the Blacks of New South Wales, being "fierce and vindictive, shunning the society of the settlers, and seemingly conscious that their territory has been usurped."But no longer to keep the particulars from the reader, the official document is herewith furnished. Its date, as has been mentioned, is September 25th, and the proceedings of the Line were to commence twelve days after:—
"Colonial Secretary's Office,
September 25th, 1830.
"1. The community being called upon to act en masse on the 7th October next, for the purpose of capturing those hostile tribes of the Natives which are daily committing renewed atrocities upon the settlers; the following outline of the arrangements which the Lieutenant-Governor has determined upon, is published, in order that every person may know the principle on which he is required to act, and the part which he is to take individually in this important transaction.
"2. Active operations will at first be chiefly directed against the tribes which occupy the country south of a line drawn from Waterloo Point east to Lake Echo west, including the Hobart, Richmond, New Norfolk, Clyde, and Oatlands Police districts,—at least, within this county the military will be mainly employed, the capture of the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes, as the most sanguinary, being of the greatest consequence.
"3. In furtherance of this measure, it is necessary that the Natives should be driven from the extremities within the settled districts of the county of Buckingham, and that they should subsequently be prevented from escaping out of them; and the following movements are therefore directed:—First, to surround the hostile native tribes; secondly, to capture them in the county of Buckingham, progressively driving them upon Tasman's Peninsula; and thirdly, to prevent their escape into the remote unsettled districts to the westward and eastward."4. Major Douglas will, on the 7th October, cause the following chain of posts to be occupied, viz. from the coast near St. Patrick's Head, to the source of the St Paul's River, and by that river and the South Esk, to Epping Forest and Campbell Town. This line being taken up, the parties composing it will advance in a southerly direction towards the Eastern Marshes, and will thoroughly examine the country between their first stations and the head of the Macquarie, and on the afternoon of the 12th of October they will halt with their left at a mountain on the Oyster Bay Tier, on which a large fire is to be kept burning, and their right extending towards Malony's Sugar Loaf. To effect this movement, Major Douglas will reinforce the post at Avoca, and this force, under the orders of Captain Wellman, will be strengthened by such parties as can be despatched by the Police Magistrate of Campbell Town, and by the roving parties under Mr. Batman, and will receive the most effectual co-operation from Major Gray, who will, no doubt, be warmly seconded by Messrs. Legge, Talbot, Grant, Smith, Gray, Hepburn, Kearney, Bates, and all other settlers in that neighbourhood.
"5. Major Douglas will also, on the 7th October, form a chain of posts from Campbell Town, along the south-west bank of the Macquarie to its junction with the Lake River. These parties will then advance in a southerly direction, carefully examining the Table Mountain range on both its sides, and the banks of the Lake River, and they will halt on the afternoon of the 12th, with their left at Malony's Sugar Loaf, and their right at Lackey's Mill, which position will already be occupied by troops from Oatlands. In this movement Major Douglas will receive the co-operation of the Police Magistrate of Campbell Town, who will bring forward upon that portion of the line extending from the high road, near Kimberley's, on the Salt Pan Plains, to Malony's Sugar Loaf, the force contributed by Messrs. Willis, W. Harrison, Pearson, Jellicoe, Davidson, McLeod, Leake, Clarke, Murray, Home, Seardon, Kermode, Parramore, Harton, Scott, Dickenson, R. Davidson, Cassidy, Eagle, Gardiner, Robertson, Hill, Forster, with any other settlers from that part of his district, while that portion of his line extending from Lackey's Mill to Kimberley's will be strengthened by Messrs. G. C. Clarke, G. C. Simpson, Sutherland, Ruffey, Gratenby, G. Simpson, C. Thompson, H. Murray, Buist, Oliver, Malcolm, Taylor, Mackersey, Bayles, Stewart, Alston, Bibra, Corney, Pletcher, Young, O'Connor, Yorke, and any other settlers resident in that part of the district, who will on their march have examined the east side of the Table Mountain.
"6. In order to obviate confusion in the movements of this body, the Police Magistrate will, without delay, ascertain the strength of the force which will be brought into the field, and having divided it into parties of ten, he will nominate a leader to each, and will attack to them experienced guides for directing their marches, and he will report these arrangements to Major Douglas, when completed. The remainder of the forces under Major Douglas will, on the afternoon of the 12th, take up their position on the same line, extending from the Oyster Bay Range to the Clyde, south of Lake Crescent, over Table Mountain; its right, under the command of Captain Mahon, 63rd Regiment, resting on the Table Mountain, passing to the rear of Michael Howe's Marsh; its left, under Captain Wellman, 57th Regt., at a mountain in the Oyster Bay Tier, where a large fire will be seen; its right centre, under Captain Macpherson, 17th Regiment, extending from Malony's Sugar Loaf to Captain Mahon's left; and its left centre, under Captain Bailie, 63rd Regt, extending from Malony's Sugar Loaf to Captain Wellman's right.
"7. Major Douglas's extreme right will be supported by the roving parties, and by the Police of the Oatlands districts, which, together with the volunteer parties formed from the district of Oatlands, will be mustered by the Police Magistrate, in divisions of ten men, and he will nominate a leader to each division, and will attach experienced guides for conducting the march, and he will report his arrangement, when completed, to Major Douglas, in order that this force may he placed in the right of the line, to which position it will file from Oatlands, by the pass over Tahle Mountain.
"8. Between the 7th and 12th October, Lieutenant Aubin will thoroughly examine the tier extending from the head of the Swan River, north, down to Spring Bay, the southern extremity of his district, in which duty he will be aided in addition to the military parties stationed at Spring Bay and Little Swan Port, by Captains Maclaine and Leard, Messrs. Meredith, Hawkins, Gatehouse, Buxton, Harte, Amos, Allen, King, Lyne, and all settlers in that district, and by Captain Glover and Lieutenant Steele, with whatever force can be collected at the Carlton, and at Sorell by the Police Magistrate of that district.
"In occupying this position, the utmost care must be taken that no portion of this or any other force shows itself above the tiers south of Spring Bay, before the general line reaches that point, and that the constables at East Bay Neck, and the settlers on the Peninsula, must withdraw before the 7th October, in order that nothing may tend to deter the native tribes from passing the Isthmus. On the 12th Lieut. Aubin will occupy the passes in the tier which the Natives are known most to frequent, and will communicate with the extreme left of Major Douglas's line, taking up the best points of observation, and causing at the same time a most minute reconnaisance to be kept upon the Schouten's in case the Natives should pass into that Peninsula, as they are in the habit of doing, either for shell-fish or eggs in which case he will promptly carry into effect the instructions with which he has already been furnished.
"9. Captain Wentworth will, on the 4th October, push a strong detachment under the orders of Croly, from Bothwell, towards the Great Lake, for the purpose of thoroughly examining St Patrick's Plains, and the banks of the Shannon, extending its left on retiring to the Clyde, towards the Lagoon of Islands, and its right towards Lake Echo. This detachment will be assisted by the roving parties under Sherwin and Doran, and by the settlers residing on the Shannon."10. Captain Wentworth will also detach the troops at Hamilton township under Captain Vicary, across the Clyde, to occupy the western bank of the Ouse. For this service every possible assistance will be afforded by the parties formed from the establishments of Messrs Triffith, Sharland, Marzetti, Young, Dixon, Austin, Bum, Jamieson, Shone, Risely, and any other settlers in that district, together with any men of the Field Police, who may be well acquainted with that part of the country.
"11. A small party of troops under the command of Lieutenant Murray, will also be sent up the north bank of the Derwent, to scour the country on the west bank of the Ouse. This detachment will be strengthened by any parties of the police or volunteers that can be supplied by the Police Magistrates of New Norfolk, and from Hobart Town.
"12. These three detachments under the orders of Captn. Vicary, Lieut. Croly, and Lieut. Murray, after thoroughly scouring the country, especially the Blue Hill, and after endeavouring to drive towards the Clyde whatever tribes of Natives may be in those quarters, will severally take up their positions on the 12th October, as follows: viz. Lieut. Croly's force will rest its left on the Clyde, where Major Douglas's extreme right will be posted, and its right at Sherwin's. Captn. Vicary's left will rest at Sherwin's, and his right at Hamilton; Lieut. Murray's left at Hamilton, and his right on the high road at Allanvale, and his whole line occupying that road.
"13. The parties of volunteers and ticket-of-leave men from Hobart Town and its neighbourhood, will march by New Norfolk, for the purpose of assisting Captn. Wentworth's force, in occupying the Clyde; and they will be rendering a great service by joining that force in time to invest the Blue Hill, which will be about the 10th of October.
"14. The Police Magistrate of New Norfolk will reserve from among the volunteers and ticket-of-leave men, a sufficient force to occupy the pass which runs from the high road, near Downe's by Parson's Valley, to Mr. Murdoch's on the Jordan, and on the 9th of Octr. he will move these bodies by the Dromedary mountain, which he will cause to be carefully examined towards that pass, which, on the afternoon of the 10th, he will occupy, taking care so to post his parties, as to prevent the Natives passing the chain on being pressed from the northward.
"15. Captain Donaldson will, with as little delay as possible, make arrangements for advancing from Norfolk Plains towards the country on the west bank of the Lake River, up to Regent's Plains and Lake Arthur, driving in a southerly direction any of the tribes in that quarter. He will also push some parties over the Tier to the Great Lake, so as to make an appearance at the head of the Shannon and of the Ouse; and on the 12th of October his position will extend from Sorell Lake to Lake Echo, by St. Patrick's Plains. In this important position he will remain, with the view of arresting the flight of any tribes towards the west, which might possibly pass through the first line. And as the success of the general operations will so much depend upon the vigilant guard to be observed over this tract of country, the Lieutenant-Governor places the utmost confidence in Captain Donaldson's exertions, in effectually debarring the escape of the tribes in this direction ; for which purpose he will withdraw, if he thinks proper, the detachment at Westbury, and will concentrate his forces on the position described. In this service Captain Donaldson will be supported by all the force that can be brought forward by the Police Magistrates of Launceston and Norfolk Plains, in addition to that which can be contributed by the settlers in those districts.
"16. It may be presumed that, by the movements already described, the Natives will have been enclosed within the Settled Districts of the county of Buckingham.
"17. On the morning of the 14th Octr. Major Douglas will advance the whole of the northern division, in a south-easterly direction, extending from the Clyde to the Oyster Bay range; Captain Mahon being on his right, Captains Macpherson and Baillie in his centre, and Captain Welham on his left, while Lieutenant Aubin will occupy the crests of the Tiers. The left wing of Major Douglas's division will move along the tier nearly due south, to Little Swan Port River, the left centre upon Mr. Hobbs's stock-run, the right centre upon the Blue Hill Bluff, and the right wing to the Great Jordan Lagoon.
"Having thoroughly examined all the tiers and the ravines on its line of march, the division will reach these stations on the 16th, and will halt on Sunday, 17th Octr.
"18. A large fire will be kept burning on the Blue Hill Bluff, from the morning of the 4th until the morning of the 8th as a point of direction for the centre, and by which the whole line will be regulated.
"19. On Monday, the 18tb, Major Douglas's division will again advance in a south-easterly direction, its left moving upon Prosser's River, keeping close to the tier, its centre upon Prosser's Plains to Olding's hut, its right upon Mosquito Plain and the north side of the Brown Mountain, which stations they will reach respectively on the evening of the 20th, and where they will halt for further orders, taking the utmost care to extend the line from Prosser's Bay, so as to connect the Parties with the Brown Mountain, enclosing the Brushy Plains, with the hills called the Three Thumbs, in so cautious a manner, that the Natives may not be able to pass them.
"20. From the morning of the 18th to the 22nd, a large fire will be kept burning on the summit of the Brown Mountain, to serve as a point of direction for Major Douglas's right and Captain Wentworth's left.
"21. On the morning of the 14th of October, the western division under the orders of Captain Wentworth, formed on the banks of the Clyde, will enter the Abyssinian Tier, and after thoroughly examining every part of that range, will move due east to the banks of the Jordan, with its left at Bisdee's, Brodribb's, and Jones's farms. Its centre at the Green Ponds, and its right at Murdoch's farm at the Broad Marsh, which stations they will severally gain on Saturday evening, the 16th of October, and where they will halt on the 17th (Sunday).
"22. Whenever Captn. Wentworth's forces move from the Clyde to the eastward, those settlers who do not join him will invest the road of the Upper and Lower Clyde, and will keep guard on it during the remainder of the operations, extending their left through Miles's opening, to Mr. Jones's farm.
"23. On Monday, the 18th, the western division will advance its left, which will connect with the right of the northern division by Spring Hill, the Lovely Banks, and the Hollow Tree Bottom, to Mr. Rees's farm, on the west side of the Brown Mountain, its centre over Constitution Hill, and the Bagdad Tier, and by the Coal River Sugar Loaf to Mr. Smith's farm at the junction of the Kangaroo and Coal Rivers, its right over the Mongalare Tier, through Bagdad and the Tea Tree Brush to Hyne's and Troy's farms on the Coal River, which stations they will respectively reach on the afternoon of the 20th, and when they will halt till further orders.
"24. Whenever the right wing of Captain Wentworth's division shall have reached Mr. Murdoch's on the Jordan, Mr. Dumaresq will abandon the pass at Parson's Valley, and will extend itself on Captn. Wentworth's extreme right, advancing with that force until it occupies the Coal River, from Captn. Wentworth's right to the mouth of the river. A post of observation will be stationed on the mountain called 'Gunner's Quoin' near the Tea Tree Brush.
"25. The Assistant Commissary General will provide rations at the undermentioned stations, viz.:—
"The arrangement at the different depots, for the conveyance of rations and stores to the parties employed, will be undertaken by Mr. Scott, Mr. Wedge, and Mr. Sharland; and as the leader of each party will he a respectable individual, he will keep a ration-book, in which he will insert his own name, and the names of all his party, which on his presenting at any of the depots, stating the quantity required, the respective store-keepers will issue the same, taking care that no greater quantity than seven days' supply, consisting of the following articles per diem, viz., three ounces of sugar, half an ounce of tea, two pounds of flour, and one pound and a half of meat, for each person, shall be issued at one time to any party.
"25. The inhabitants of the country generally are requested not to make any movements against the Natives within the circuit occupied by the troops, until the general line reaches them; and the residents of the Jordan and Bagdad line of road will render the most effectual assistance by joining Captain Wentworth's force while yet on the Clyde.
"26. The Assigned Servants of settlers will be expected to come to muster, provided each with a good pair of spare shoes, and a blanket, and seven days' provisions, consisting of flour or biscuit, salt meat, tea, and sugar; so, also, prisoners holding tickets-of-leave; but these latter, where they cannot afford it, will be furnished with a supply of provisions from the Government magazines.
"27. It will not be necessary that more than two men of every five should carry fire-arms, as the remaining three can very advantageously assist their comrades in carrying provisions, &c.; and the Lieutenant-Governor takes this opportunity of again enjoining the whole community to bear in mind that the object in view is not to injure or destroy the unhappy savages against whom these movements will be directed, but to capture and raise them in the scale of civilization, by placing them under the immediate control of a competent establishment, from whence they will not have it in their power to escape and molest the white inhabitants of the Colony, and where they themselves will no longer be subject to the miseries of perpetual warfare, or to the privations which the extension of the settlements would progressively entail upon them were they to remain in their present unhappy state.
"28. The Police Magistrates, and the masters of Assigned Servants, will be careful to entrust with arms only such prisoners as they can place confidence in, and to ensure regularity, each prisoner employed will be furnished by the police magistrate with a pass, describing the division to which he is attached, and the name of its leader, and containing the personal description of the prisoner himself.
"By His Excellency's command,
The field command was placed in the hands of Major S. Douglas, with divisions under the authority of the following captains:—Donaldson, Moriarty, Wentwortb, Mahon, Vicary, Baillie, Wellman, Macpherson, Glover, Maclaine, and Clark; aided by Lieutenants Aubin, Barrow, Steel, Croly, Murray, Pedder, Ovens, Champ, and Groves. Lieut-Colonel Logan was left in charge of the head-quarters in Hobart Town, Mr. D. A. C. G. Browne and Mr. Lemprière were in charge of the commissariat department Dr. Bedford, the able son of the chaplain, was appointed medical officer to the expedition.
In the beginning of 1830, Major Douglas was stationed at the capital with three captains, three lieutenants, two ensigns, eleven sergeants, seven corporals, nine drummers, and one hundred and fifty-five privates of the 63d Regiment There were also there a major, and a comparative number of officers, with one hundred and seventy-six privates of the 40th Regiment. At Launceston there were a captain, a sergeant, three corporals, and forty-three privates of the 57th Regiment. Of the latter regiment eleven were at Perth, seventeen at George Town, and thirty at Westbury. In addition to those of the 63rd in Hobart Town, there were sixty-three at Macquarie Harbour, thirty-four at Ross, twenty at St. Paul's Plains, thirty-four at Oatlands, thirty at New Norfolk, thirty at Hamilton, forty at Bothwell, twenty-five at Pittwater, and forty-seven at Oyster Bay. In all, there were two field-officers, eight captains, seventeen subalterns, four staff-officers, forty-two sergeants, thirty-two corporals, eleven drummers, and seven hundred and eleven privates. They were distributed over the island, so as to control the penal establishments, and protect the settlers from the incursions of Bushrangers and of the Aborigines. That year an addition of part of the 17th Regiment arrived.
Among the leaders of parties co-operating with the military and magistracy were Messrs. Walpole, G. Robertson, Wedge, Emmett, Brodribb, Sherwin, J. Batman, H. Batman, Tortosa, Pearce, Massey, Myers, Hobbs, Semott, Layman, G. Scott, Monisby, Allison, Franks, Flaxmore, G. Evans, Hunison, Cox, Allison, Armytage, Eussell, Thomas, Jones, Patterson, Kimberley, Espie, Lackay, Stansfield, Cawthorne, Cassidy, Mills, Proctor, Stacey, Steele, Symott, Shone, McDonald, Gatehouse, Dodge, Currie, Kirby, Lloyd, Billett, Cottrell, Ritchie, Moriarty, Herring, Lawrence, Gray, Gibson, Brumby, Pyke, Griffiths, Darke, Campbell, Henderson, Saltmarsh, Christian, Bonney, Giblin, Collins, Smith, White, Ealston, Adams, A. McDonald, H. McDonald, Hayse, Laing, Spratt, Geiss, Eamsey, Caesar, Clark, Barker, Heywood, Brown, TuUy, Ring, C. Walker, Shulty, Donaghue, Hawthorn, Cunningham, Doran, Brodie, Allardyce, Ballantyne, Colbert, Milton, HoweUs, Green, Nicholas, Fisher, Mason. Captain Vicary and Captain Moriarty were supposed to be in charge of the roving parties. Mr. Franks was chief guide in the Oatlands district.
There were 119 leaders of parties, with a guide to each, making other 119. In addition to the array of soldiers, and hundreds of constabulary, there were 738 convict assigned servants attached to the line. A considerable number of free labouring men ranged themselves in the parties. Ticket-of-leave men assembled. Altogether, there were about three thousand men engaged in the Line operations. A noble gathering of Tasmanian born youths took an active part in the field, as skirmishers in front, and proved their excellent Bush qualities.
The commissariat arrangements were efficiently managed by the Deputy Assistant Commissary General Browne, more successfully than by his namesake in the Crimea. Drays and pack-horses were engaged for the conveyance of provisions, and peremptory orders were issued that none were to leave the Line for rations. Several days' allowance was carried by each man. There were, however, instances of persons being a day or two with empty knapsacks, but less than the difficult character of the country might have been expected to occasion. Boots were in great demand, though due notice was given for each man to bring a couple of pairs with him. The rocks played sad havoc with the leather. Thus we have Captain Mahon writing to Major Douglas on the route: "I have worn out two new pairs of strong boots since I left Oatlands, and in a few more days I shall, I fear, be as naked as the men." Trousers and jackets were also in heavy demand. I copied a hastily-written note of the Governor's to the Colonial Secretary in town, begging for speedy transmission of 140 pairs of trousers, 90 pairs of boots, and 50 jackets, with this remark: "The men employed in the roving parties I find almost destitute of clothing, from their having been employed almost incessantly in scouring the scrub." There was an allowance of a quarter of a pound of tobacco a week; and, after some complaint, half an ounce of soap a day was issued.
Due provision was made for warlike materials. In addition to the weapons taken on the route, there was a depot established at Oatlands, as a central station, containing a thousand stand of arms, thirty thousand rounds of cartridge, and three hundred handcuffs; the last named being in excess of the whole number of Aborigines, for whose capture such formidable preparations were made. Mr. Lloyd had a contemptible opinion of the muskets, declaring that five out of twelve would not go off.
It was a very anxious time for Colonel Arthur. He had but just succeeded, after years of trouble, in putting an end to the exploits of the Dick Turpin gentry, that used to ride across the country in bands, like the moss-troopers of old. And now, in calling out so large a number of the able-bodied men of the colony, he could not but feel concerned about the security of life and property in a penal settlement. There were many suffering the penalty of double conviction, and requiring close retention; here were others only just subdued by the strength of Government, who would be too ready to recommence their predatory employment in the confusion of affairs. Another cause of anxiety lay in the arming of assigned servants, and permitting them to roam the Bush without adequate oversight and guard. Some had assured the authorities that such men would embrace this favourable opportunity to rise in rebellion, and establish, as had more than once been threatened, an island home for the prisoner class, emancipating themselves, ejecting the free, and establishing an independent government of their own. A more probable difficulty lay in the engagement of convicts, dead in the sight of the law, as guardians of the public peace; for nearly all the constabulary belonged to that condition of society. One who was a bondman thus refers to the condition of such parties: "The Government had placed them in a situation different from that which the law had directed; they had acted as free men, and with free men; and when once permitted to do so, could the law or any known power compel them to return to their former servitude?" But the Tasmania Review is delighted to acknowledge that "Fifteen hundred men of that class are now with arms in their hands, anxiously desirous of showing that they are trustworthy upon all occasions." The Review was the advocate of the Emancipatists.
The town, at least, must be secured. The gaol must not be freed of its inmates, nor the treasury looted of its contents. A Town Guard was inaugurated; Major E. Abbott was nominated Commandant. Eight divisions, of seven men each, paraded the town two hours at a time, and there were sufficient to give them six days of the seven without duty. There was a guard over the Commissariat stores at a public-house—a convenience for what a paper derisively called "a grog-selling regiment." The order-preservers in charge of the gaol were removed, with great civility, but much to the relief of the sheriff, because of the opportune arrival of some soldiers from England. The people professed indignation at this slight upon their valuable services.
It was a jolly time for the Hobart Town citizens. Government was the liberal source of supply, and an open-house was established. Ration rum was pronounced of good quality, and was in full demand. A worthy tailor assured me that it was the merriest time he ever spent. The officers established themselves at Mr. Hodgson's celebrated Macquarie Hotel. The speech of one, after a mess dinner, has been bequeathed to posterity, and exhibits the chivalrous patriotism of the period. "Gentlemen," said Captain Kemp, "you see before you a sample of what this colony can produce, which we are now one and all making an unanimous effort to ensure the enjoyment of in peace and comfort;—if, when not only the necessaries, but many of the luxuries of life, are thus bountifully supplied us, we are not loyal, we shall never be loyal. Fill your glasses, gentlemen: the health of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, and success to the volunteers! Hip—hip—hip—hurrah!"
Some were disposed to throw odium on these brave defenders of the town, and styled them the "Dirty Buffs," &c. A reporter of the press, anxious to do honour to the heroes, had the following paragraph: "The guards have different cognomina. The two first divisions of the main guard are called, by way of preeminence, the 'King's Own' and the 'Elegant Extracts.' The former is composed chiefly of the mercantile body; the latter certainly is as fine a set of young men as ever took arms. It is well known that the gallantry of the Hussar Brigade, composed of the most dandified of the London 'exquisites,' was proverbial throughout the whole Peninsular army."
An old soldier, hearing the officers talking largely of their office, could not forbear saying, "Gentlemen, you may call yourselves marshals, generals, or colonels, but the duties assigned to you are usually performed by a corporal's guard."
When all were getting ready, the Governor thought it proper that the blessing of Heaven should be implored upon the expedition. Prayers were ordered to be offered up for this object on the Sunday before the setting out. While those employing freedom of language in public ministrations were left to their own mode of carrying out this obligation, the Episcopalians of the colony were agitated upon the propriety of the form to be adopted. As their spiritual head—their Bishop—resided several thousands of miles off, at Calcutta, and the Archdeacon in another country, this additional call upon their devotions was committed to the care of the Chaplain, the Rev. W. Bedford. That good man, without doubt, prepared a very suitable form of supplication, but which, nevertheless, subjected him to public criticism.
While entreating the Divine favour on behalf of an enterprise which would, if successful, be attended with the blood-shedding of the Natives, an urgent request was offered for their speedy conversion to Christianity. This was held to be slightly inconsistent with the principles of the New Testament, though admitted to be agreeable to the practice of all Christian governments. It might not be unlike the conduct of the warlike Bishop of Norwich, who, after making Wat Tyler's rebels kneel and confess their sins, very episcopally gave them absolution, and afterwards very baronially ordered their throats to be cut.
But pretended exception was taken as to the prayer itself. It was called by one paper "a great constitutional error." Then there was blame attached to the chief clerk of the Colonial Secretary's department for not transmitting it to the Government printer, or to that functionary for not publishing it. It was declared "of importance to know who were the clergy by whom the English Bench of Bishops were represented." The ritualistic fervour of the writer led him further to say, "However unimportant may be the mere wording of such a prayer, yet it is of importance that the public should know by whom it was composed. There is nothing connected with the Church, not even the Articles of its Faith, so jealously looked after as the Liturgy." Another political moralist, at the end of this unfortunate expedition, referred to the blasphemy of this Address to the Deity, and the hypocritical hope of engaging the services of Heaven in the cause of injustice and cruelty, and added, "the very arrogance, presumption, and impiety of this special prayer ensured its defeat."
An encouraging circumstance occurred just before the expedition left Hobart Town, and afforded an opportunity for another special Gazette. A prisoner, one Benfield, had succeeded in catching three Aborigines at Whiteford Hills. After securing the goodwill of the hungry fellows by a liberal present of bread, he prevailed on them to accompany him on a moonlight hunt for opossums, and then very adroitly led them to a military post, where they were safely housed. A conditional pardon was at once conferred upon the fortunate deceiver, and it was regarded as a favourable augury for the success of the Line.
When the gallant forces got away from town at last, the radical Colonial Times could not forbear a remark upon the aspect of some of the warriors. "Of all the banditti," it observed, "we ever recollect as coming before our eyes on the stage, none have equalled the mob which left Hobart Town on Tuesday last, in pursuance of the proposed operations in the interior; their very appearance brought to mind the former bushranging times, and happy it is for us that our present situation will prevent the likelihood of danger arising from placing arms and ammunition in the hands of such a set of men."
The several parties were at length got under weigh. It is inexpedient to follow in their individual routes, and detail the conspicuous events of their progress. That which gained the most applause was the Launceston corps, under the command of Captain Donaldson. Nearly three hundred and fifty men were led forward in good fighting condition, for they were the only division fully supplied with guns and ammunition. They passed westward to Westbury, and then made their course southward toward Lake Echo, threading their way amidst the rocky intricacies of the basaltic interior, and sighting the Bluffs of Quamby, Dry, and Miller, keeping the Macquarie River to their left, and the snow-clad western ranges to the right.
From the Hon. J. H. Wedge, who was one of the leading performers in the movement, I learn that the captain's detachments kept admirably in order, and met at Kemp's hut, by Lake Sorell, the source of the Clyde, and one of a series of noble sheets of water on the elevated basaltic plateau of the centre of the island. He commenced throwing out his line of encampments toward Lake Echo, still further southward, where they were to remain till further orders; but before that could be accomplished, commands were received to hasten downward towards Hobart Town, as a new line was to be formed from the township of Sorell to the east coast. Obedience being the duty of a soldier, and not discussion of the views of his superior, Captain Donaldson performed his great and toilsome march, and appeared at Sorell before his chief; who, to show his appreciation of his services, issued the following Order:—
"Camp, Sorell Rivulet,
Nov. 2, 1830.
"The Colonel Commanding cannot allow the Division under the orders of Captain Donaldson to join the Camp at Sorell, without expressing the sense he entertains of the zeal which has distinguished the proceedings of the whole Division in the rapid march which has been made from the Lakes to the position before Sorell. His Excellency is fully aware of the great privations and inconvenience which the Leaders, as well as those serving under them, have been suffering by so protracted a separation from their families and homes, and the cheerful and ready alacrity which has animated them in striving to accomplish the present important undertaking is beyond all praise.
"The Colonel Commanding begs Captain Donaldson will make these, his sincere sentiments, known throughout his division.
(Signed) "George Arthur."
And well did they earn the glory of such a notice. From a veteran shepherd, who had been guide to a part of the captain's forces, I gathered some information of the trials of the road. He conducted a party of eighteen from near Deloraine to the top of a bluff some 4,000 feet high. Torn by the scrub, hungry and wet, their camp was most miserable. Without tents, they had to pass an inclement night on that bleak hill, around the fire, or stowed away in the hollow of trees. He told me that several wanted to go home, their sense of discomfort overcoming their love of adventure and their devotion to duty. The roaring of a grand cascade, 300 feet in height, would have given them more pleasure had they the advantage of fine weather, dry boots, better rations, and less aching limbs; as it was, few of the wearied men would turn aside to see the spectacle. Old Hughes picked up a twelve pound bag of flour there, which had probably been dropped by some marauding fugitive.
The other divisions had probably fewer miles to travel than the north-west one, but some had a more fearful country to pass. One had to go from Quamby's Bluff of the Western mountains, eastward to Campbell Town, then along the lovely valley of the Avoca, still more eastward by St. Paul's river, and southward and eastward to the sea at Swanport. Another pressed from Broad Marsh to Russell's Falls of the Derwent, thence upward to Hamilton, Bothwell, and the Crescent Lake of the basaltic plateau. Captain Wentworth reached Brighton by the 16th inst, and walked along the banks of the Jordan to Jericho. There he was met by Major Douglas, and both made their way to Little Swanport on the coast. On the 20th of October there was a connexion from Richmond to Prosser's Bay; and, four days after, from Sorell through Brushy Plains and White Marsh to the Bay. But further remarks on the respective lines of march would not be so agreeable to the reader as more interesting details of incidents by the way.
Every care was taken by Colonel Arthur to keep his forces in order. Minute regulations were issued nearly every day. Copies of General Orders were sent to the different commanders, who had to put their signature to the official document as an evidence that they had perused the same. Indeed, so active was the pen of the Governor, that some merriment was occasioned from the frequency of the missives and their occasional contradictions.
Mr. Melville, editor and proprietor of the Colonial Times, declared that "during the advance of the Line, the dispatches received and sent equalled in number those forwarded by the allied armies during the last European wars; in fact, everything was carried on as if it were a great war in miniature."
The Colonel's presence was seen or felt everywhere; none travelled more than he, none wrote more than he. He has been known to ride, in such a country too, for fifty miles in one day, to see his orders executed. An old hand described the sunshine of a visit, when the party were very dispirited from the vexatious difficulties of the route, and the Governor smiling and saying, "Cheer up my lads." Such was his attention to duty that, though a devoted and an anxious husband, he refrained from running up to town at a season of conjugal solicitude; and when the news of a birth came to him, he repelled the natural impulse to return, and stayed at his post. During one of his excursions along the Line, he got lost three days in Paradise! This celebrated region of impracticable travelling, lying between Sorell and the coast, received its appellation from a Bushman disgusted with its wretched country.
Rumours about the Blacks were circulated with celerity, as they were invented with facility. The extreme solicitude of the Governor for news, and the desire of commanders to humour his passion, originated some remarkable and not very reliable stories. There was one that became the subject of the subjoined Government notice:—
"Colonial Secretary's Office,
October 18, 1830.
The attention of the Colony, at present, being so much alive to every circumstance connected with the aboriginal Natives, the Lieutenant-Governor has directed the following narrative to be made public, which His Excellency feels satisfied will be received with much interest.
By His Excellency's command,
"Mr. Bisdee's Farm, White Hills,
October 16, 1880.
"On the afternoon of Friday, the 16th inst., about half-past 4 o'clock, as Thomas Savage, an overseer in the service of Mr. Bisdee, of the White Hills, was at work splitting timber with another man, he heard a noise which attracted his attention, and he proceeded in the direction from whence it came, supposing the Lieutenant-Governor, whose arrival was expected, was approaching, and who, in fact, did arrive just about that time—from that moment Savage's companion saw no more of him. On Saturday morning. Savage had not returned. Mr. Edward Bisdee thought it probable that he had gone to Mr. Jones's to enquire after a cow, which had strayed away, and therefore he was not particularly anxious; but as, up to the middle of the day, Savage was still missing, some search was made on foot, and about 2 o'clock a vague report was brought in that Savage had been taken by the Natives, who had let him go again. At this time the Lieutenant Governor was on the point of mounting his horse to visit the several parties which were formed on the Jordan, and on his arrival at Jones's hut he learned from a shepherd that Savage had been there, and that he had been with the Natives, and had proceeded with a small party up the Tier leading to Miles's Lagoon. The Lieutenant-Governor, accompanied by Mr. Frankland, Mr. Charles Arthur, and Mr. Edward Bisdee, instantly proceeded up the Tier, which was rapidly ascended, and on their arrival at the Lagoon, named Miles's Lagoon, there they met Savage, half naked, who accounted for his absence nearly in the following words: 'I was working with my fellow-servant, between 4 and 6 o'clock, yesterday afternoon, when I heard a soft coo-ee, and thinking it was the Governor coming, I went to meet him, but very slowly, being bad with the rheumatism; I walked a very little way, when—as it were instantaneously—I was surrounded by a mob of Natives, who raised their spears at me, and I should have been dead in a moment, had not a white man, who was standing by with a double-barrelled gun, called out, and they immediately desisted. The white man then spoke to me, and said, "Don't be afraid. Savage, you was very kind to me in jail, about three years ago, and I won't suffer you to be hurt." The man I immediately recognised to be a convict named Brown, who was in prison about two or three years ago, and when I was in Mr. Bisdee's service I used to be civil to him, and take him now and then something to eat. Brown is a fine stout man, well-dressed, and shaved, rather light hair, rather pale complexion; he had on a good pair of shoes, cord trowsers, dark waistcoat striped up and down, short jacket, and was carrying a double-barrelled gun. Presently, while he was talking to me, six more of the Blacks came out of the bush, and joined us, and Brown then said, I must go a little way along with them. I was so bad with rheumatism before, that I could not walk; but the fright cured me, and I could walk as well as ever, and I began to consider how I could slip away; however, we walked along, talking. Brown told me, he had been with the Natives about three years, and said he was surprised at so many parties being out. I said, I had remarked the same thing, and believed the Governor was determined to take all the Bushrangers. I then said, "Brown, you know the Governor has promised to be kind to all these poor people, if they will be quiet—you had better bring them in." He said, "No, he had been twice deceived, and would not be deceived again; but he might let the Governor know the Blacks should commit no murders whilst he was with them;" (remember, their spears were raised to kill poor Savage, had they not been restrained in this particular instance by the ever-powerful interposition of Providence!) and turning round he appealed to the mob: "You never knew me kill, or commit a robbery?" to which they all replied, shaking their heads, "No! No! No!" Savage had on a cap and a good pair of shoes which Brown was not restrained by gratitude from making him take off and give to one of the men, whose face indeed was black, but his features were evidently those of a white man. He had on a shirt and trowsers, with a single-barrelled gun in his hand—the name of Moore was on the lock. This man never spoke during the whole time Savage was with the mob. Brown had evidently the complete control over the mob, which did not exceed fifteen or twenty. One of the women was Brown's Gin, and he seemed very fond of her. She was quite big with child, and looked to be confined every hour. All the mob was very fond of Brown, and did everything he told them. Brown said, "He was afraid to go to Launceston, he was so well known there; but he had frequently been in Hobart Town, and there he bought the clothes for the women," pointing to some petticoats which the Gins had on. When the six men came out of the bush, one of them was carrying the carcass of a sheep over his shoulders, and half round his neck, just as they carry a kangaroo. The animal had just been killed, and soon after Savage fell in with them, not more than a mile from Mr. Bisdee's house, they stopped to make a fire, and hearing the report of a gun. Brown said, "We must not stay here, let us be off;" and accordingly they crossed the Jordan, and continued marching until about 11 o'clock at night they reached Miles's Lagoon, where Brown said, "Now, Savage, you may go," and we shook hands very comfortably all round.'
"On being asked whether he afterwards stopped to watch them, he said, 'No, he was half frightened to death, and was happy to get away.' By the time this information was given, it was nearly dark; but the Governor descended the Tier with all despatch, and in the course of an hour and a half four parties were sent off, with orders to proceed, during the night, ten miles beyond the Lagoon, as far as the Quoin, and then to spread themselves out and scour the bush thoroughly; and supposing the Natives to be tired with their long march the day previous, and especially so the woman with child, it may be hoped that they will be surrounded, or at least driven to the south-ward and eastward, if that has not already been effected by the parties which came over the Tier at daylight this morning. This singular occurrence has brought to light that, although the Natives have been guided by men worse than savages, they have had more than savage instinct for their guide in the various murders and robberies which they have committed. The tribe had no dogs with them."
As may be well understood, this "Savage yarn," as a wit called it, excited the imagination of many. Other and similar stories came rolling into camp. The print of heavily-nailed boots had been seen, which was distinctly shown to be those of a white man out with the tribes. Some were sure that they had heard an English voice by night in the Bush. One came with an exclamation of horror, as he had traced the mark of the butt end of a gun on a discovered track of the Blacks. The Bushrangers had perhaps allied themselves with their old foes of the forest. Runaway assigned servants were doubtless, from hatred to officialdom, sympathising with the hunted ones, and had gone to warn them of their danger, and assist them in their escape. Several were quite ready to swear that they had heard a whistle at night-watch, and had seen something just like a white man flit hastily through the dense foliage. A shivering terror ran along the Line; for who knew how many might have left the cause of White dominion for Bush freedom and Black Gins!
The shrewd ones suspected that a fertile fancy, and the hope of gain as well as notoriety, might have produced the narrative. It was certainly singular that the lost clothes were found in an old tree, where people believed Savage had planted them; that no Natives were ever known to be in that quarter; that the man Brown was proved to have been in quite another district at the time; and that Savage declined to take an oath as to the veracity of his statement.But where were the Natives? With thousands of men beating the Bush and scouring the Tiers, to what possible retreat could they fly? A tribe of forty, seen westward of Norfolk Plains, were chased by one of the Line parties till they crossed the Shannon, and were lost in the labyrinths of the scrub. The baffled Whites left a notice of the affair on a piece of bark, and nailed this to a tree. Among the spoils collected from the fugitives were a chemise and a little child's frock. Jorgen Jorgenson saw them under circumstances which he narrates in a letter:—"As I went this morning over the Brown Mountain, rising a steep hill from a very deep gully, my horse began to rear and snort. Everything was thrown off, saddle, and all. My trousers were literally torn to pieces; and, just as I had got the horse quieted, there stood over me three Blacks." Some men might have been nervous; but our heroic Dane informs us that he had but to draw his cutlass, when the warriors of the wilds scampered away.
There were, of course, the usual rumours, with and without foundation, of the appearance of the Aborigines. Some sentries had heard one dark night the rush of many in the scrub, but could not discern their forms. Several rushes were heard, and the firesticks of the people were seen in the gloom. A man laid down his musket, while he stooped for some firewood, and received a spear in his leg. He seized a firestick, and threw it at the enemy. Another spear penetrated his shoulder, when, without thinking anything of his musket, he shouted lustily for help. The approach of other sentries scattered the half-dozen Blacks.
Mr. William Robertson, a well-known and wealthy settler, quite shocked the Governor in describing the Line as worse than an Act of Parliament; for, while a coach-and-six could be driven through the latter, a waggon-and-eight might quietly pass the former. A force of Europeans could easily have got through the ill-regulated Line, much more the cunning foresters. Two or three instances were well known, after the completion of the movement, of Natives having burst by the sentries themselves. As the men could not possibly keep their lines, as many were too frightened to maintain the regulated distance from a neighbour, and as others loved companionship too well to smoke alone, the distance was not observed, even when practicable, and large gaps were left.
Jorgenson has an illustration of this irregularity in his account of the progress of his Oatlands corps. "We were," said he, "when properly formed, to steer S.E. for two days, and then S. for three days, and Mr. Pedder added verbally that he supposed, when steering S., each would have to do the best he could. Nearly at noon, when the sentries had begun to make their dinners. Captain Mahon suddenly came marching on with his section nearly in a compact body, and the Oatlands Civil forces had to throw away their tea, &c., pack up, and hurry on in great confusion, most of them being unacquainted with the particular manoeuvre intended." When our own highly-disciplined regiments could cross each other's path in the ascent of the heights of Alma, it ought not to astonish one that such disorganised masses should run foul of one another.
The Government Orders were precise about preserving a certain distance. On October 17th, the Colonel again urged attention to this regulation. He then requested them to camp in parties of three at night, with a fire between the separate gatherings, and that the sentries should walk from the fire to and fro, but so as not to meet each other. In some of the best-regulated parties, after proceeding through the Bush for half an hour, they would halt, for all to come up, and cry 1, 2, 3, 4, &c., to ascertain if any were adrift. So little faith had Mr. Brodribb in the security of the Line that he offered, as he assured me, to convey a letter for Colonel Arthur through any part of the Line without meeting an individual; and, not a little to the Governor's vexation, he accomplished the feat.
The Natives gave some proofs of their audacity. One came boldly in front of a party, threw his spear of defiance, and was off before a shot could reach him. Mr. Lloyd, in his "Thirty Years'" experience, has some good stories of the Line, or "Black String." One of his men fired at a cow for a Native. But an unexpected spear found its way into the pea-jacket of "Michael O'Brien, number ten." A tribe confronted the men of Mr. Peter Scott's, near the Western Tier, and then suddenly disappeared. One leader told me that, upon his first night's camp, which was in Michael Howe's Marsh, near Oatlands, the Black fellows crept noiselessly up, and stole all their pannikins: Mr. Batman came upon about thirty. Mr. William Emmett, the brother of Mr. Emmett of Sandhurst, came nearly in time for an aboriginal supper, but succeeded in seizing a quantity of spears left in the flurry of flight. A settler chased one fellow by moonlight, but missed him all at once near some fallen, dead timber. Despairing of seeing him again, he carelessly turned to go away, when one of the supposed charred branches was slowly lowered before his astonished eyes, and a black carcass rapidly rolled off into the thicket.
The best story of the Line is in connexion with Mr. Walpole, who has the merit of making the only capture, but at the cost of ruining the whole affair. The Hobart Town Courier has this account:—"Mr. Walpole had charge of a roving party, of ten men, and had been sent inside of the Line to scour the country along the sea-coast, to the southward of Prosser's Bay. On the evening of Monday the 25th instant he discovered the Natives hunting, and watched them making their fires and forming their encampment for the night, in a deep scrubby ravine, to the south of the Sand Pit River, opposite the south end of Maria Island. The dogs of the Natives made a great noise, howling the whole night, while Mr. Walpole and his party were concealed, at a short distance, not wishing to attempt taking any of the tribe until morning. No noise being heard near daylight, it was supposed the Natives had taken the alarm and gone in the night, and, in consequence, Mr. Walpole advanced to the first hut, where he very unexpectedly saw five Blacks all fast asleep, under some blankets, with their dogs. He seized hold of one of the largest of the five, which awakening the party, they endeavoured to make their escape. The man, whose feet he had hold of, made a violent effort to escape, and darted through the back of the hut, carrying Mr. Walpole with him, into the gully or creek behind. Here he again tried to make his escape by twisting his legs and biting, and would have succeeded, had Mr. Walpole not drawn a small dagger from his belt, and inflicted a slight wound, which so frightened him, that he was secured. The other taken was a boy of about fifteen years of age, and appears to be the son of a chief, from the ornaments upon his body, cut with flints or some sharp instrument into the skin. Two others were shot by the party in making their escape into the scrub, on the edge of which their huts were placed. This hut had been fixed as a vidette or outpost to a very numerous tribe encamped in the scrub, who took the alarm on the firing, and made a precipitate retreat, leaving a great number of spears and waddies behind, and baskets of their women. It is supposed that the tribe amounted in all to near 70 individuals. The boy, when taken, wished them to let him go, as he said, 'There are plenty more Black fellows in the scrub,' pointing to it. None of them have yet succeeded in forcing their way across the Line, although many attempts have been made upon the Cordon, in different places, in all which they have been repulsed and driven back. In one of these attempts, the sentry was speared in two places, and they again tried to force their way yesterday, at the same spot, which is a favourite crossing place of the Blacks over the Prosser's River."The name of the man so caught was Nichay Manick; he was recognised as the one who had previously speared horses belonging to the Van Diemen's Land Company, at Emu Bay.
Mr. Walpole himself furnished an account of his performance, in a communication dated October 29th, 1830:—
"I heard the Natives hunting, and, on going closer, saw their dogs. I watched them for four hours, and, on convincing myself that they were settled for the night, I returned for the rest of my party, and in the evening placed them within three hundred yards of the Natives, where we waited until dawn of day (26th), and crept to one of the Natives, without being perceived by the inmates, until I caught one by the leg. There were five men in the hut, and the other four rushed out through the back, while some of the party were stooping to catch them. One, however, was caught while jumping into the creek, and two others shot There were five other huts across the creek, in the centre of a very thick scrub."
Mr. Surveyor Wedge, in one of his letters, agrees with others that the precipitation of Mr. Walpole lost the Line an important capture. Instead of a man and a boy, the whole tribe might have been secured by giving proper notice to his superior officer. The subsequent fate of that tribe of forty individuals is thus mentioned by my valuable correspondent:—
"I am inclined to think that it warned them of their danger, and put them on the alert to escape from it; and this they accomplished, a day or two afterwards, at or near Cherry-tree Hill, unknown to any at the time, except to the party upon whose encampment they sneaked unobserved, rushed past in a body, and speared, it was said, one of our men slightly in the leg. Why their escape was kept secret I am at a loss to imagine, unless, as was suggested to me by my informant, the party in question thought that discredit would attach to them if the fact was officially made known. The Lieutenant-Governor, being in ignorance that the Natives had escaped, the force was kept in its position a fortnight or more longer. At length an advance was ordered to East Bay Neck."
The author of "Thirty-three Years in Tasmania and Victoria" has a story about the hero of this adventure:—"Singular to say, the only man who received a wound during the whole campaign was my clever friend Walpole, and that, too, at my hands. While seated in the Commissary's tent, he invited me to a spearing-match with one of the weapons he had recently taken from the Blacks, both for our own amusement and the edification of the numerous bystanders. Finding that I was a little too dexterous with the dangerous instrument, and objecting to my cutting off the sharp point, he retired behind the trunk of a tree, occasionally throwing out his long leg, crying, 'There! there! Hit that, my boy!' Unfortunately, his invitation was replied to in the next instant by the transfixing of his knee, the spear passing between the cap and the joint. The weapon was speedily extracted by a worthy medico, one of the spectators, who, to the surprise of us all, announced that not one drop of blood had been shed, nor did my esteemed friend suffer anything beyond a temporary inconvenience from the wound."
There being evidence of the Natives being within the Line, every place on the route supposed to afford extra means of concealment was well searched. The Blacks had never been known to move at night, from superstitious fears; but, being pressed by danger, they did not then hesitate travelling in darkness. A night of storm and an intensely black sky was selected for a rush at the Prosser's River, a few miles from the coast, and therefore not far from the East Bay Neck. Several were seen to pass by Lieutenant Ovens' division, though a vigilant look-out was maintained. The country was described by one of the parties as being most difficult of access from rock and scrub, and as heretofore unknown. Five roving parties of ten each were detached to search the locality believed to contain the Blacks, under leaders well understanding Bush duty. A rush was made upon that portion of the Line occupied by the Richmond force on the 27th of October, by six men, who were driven back again. One Englishman dashed onward after the fugitives, and would have brought one down, had he not, in the very act of cocking his piece, tripped against a dead tree, and got a severe fall. Of the six, two were observed with blankets round their shoulders, while another carried a bundle of spears. An opossum hunting-party might have been taken, had not an officious constable given an untimely coo-ey for support.
Great hopes were entertained of final success. The Courier gave forth a jubilant sound, and had "no doubt but several hostile tribes were now enclosed." The bugles were ordered to stop their noisy intimations, which might alarm the game from the preserves. The Governor directed the settlers towards the East Bay Neck to keep "free from everything that might create alarm, or interrupt the passage of the fugitive Natives." They were, furthermore, "to keep themselves within their homesteads, and to avoid collecting their cattle, lighting fires, hallooing, shouting, or otherwise making a noise in the Bush, in order that nothing may present itself to deter the Aborigines from entering the Peninsula." Unhappy settlers!
Still further to elevate the hopes of the sanguine ruler, a letter was brought to him, giving encouraging news from the prison depôt of Swan Island. Mr. Robinson thence announced his success with some people outside the Line, and not then intended to be trapped by the colonial forces, though a north-east expedition was resolved upon, if the southern one proved successful. The letter began: "I beg to acquaint your Excellency that a successful intercourse has been effected among those sanguinary tribes of Natives who have for so great a period infested the settled districts, and known as the Oyster Bay, Little Swanport. Ben Lomond, Cape Portland, and Piper's River Aborigines." Mr. Robinson further ventures to assert that" the whole aboriginal population could be brought together by the same means that has hitherto been adopted."
But the several members of the Line were not so inspirited. At first the novelty of the occasion, the fun of an encampment, the freedom of life, supported them in their march. But when the rain set in, and continued almost without intermission for some weeks, the chivalry of the expedition was not so apparent. A friend described to me the scene on the Blue Hills, near Bothwell, the first night of camp. The sky was so clear, the air was so bracing, the fellowship was so good, that laughter and song carried the hours away till midnight; but when, just before dawn, the mountain fog crept over the bivouac with its penetrating chill, and a steady, heavy, cold rain succeeded, all Nature's gloom was reflected in the faces of the campaigners. It did not surprise many to hear of such desertions from duty as a letter from the Macquarie River mentions, where the writer, who may have been one of the patriotic fair, indignantly exclaims: "I blush to the bone when I tell you that certain volunteers from this neighbourhood have crawled home from the Line within the last fortnight." Their ardour for the service had soon cooled, or they had lacked the spirit of the lame blacksmith of Sorell, who, being unable to carry his wooden legs along so rough a line, nobly offered to do any work gratuitously for every volunteer from his Richmond district.
To complete success in repelling any possible advance of the imprisoned tribes. Colonel Arthur, on the 25th of October, recommended the formation of abattis, along the rear of the Line, to entangle the fugitives. The forces were told to take advantage of long trunks of trees lying in a direction parallel to the line of position. By such they were to raise a palisade of sharpened sticks, cut from the Bush, which should be two or three inches thick, and driven into the ground behind the logs, so as to prevent the passage of a man over the same. The abattis of trees felled for the purpose were to lie in the way. To make sure of no mistake, a pictorial illustration of the two was sent to each commander.
On the 30th of the month another Government Order congratulated the officers on their zeal in constructing these obstructives, and cutting down scrub in front.
The "Three Thumbs" often appear before the eye of the reader of the Line proceedings. It was a district of singular advantage to a beleaguered enemy. The three hills were about two hundred yards apart, and were covered to the summit with huge Eucalypti trees, and a dense underwood, that made it almost wholly impervious to any but Natives. The surrounding scrub was seven miles long from east to west, and from two to four broad. It was situated half a dozen miles to the south-west of Prosser's Bay, and, therefore, not far from the Peninsula. This Malakoff of the foe must be stormed. As, according to the Courier's Special Correspondent, "into this ambush the great body of the Blacks have embowered themselves," the place must be turned. To quote still from the Dr. Russell of the period: "The difficulties in accomplishing this are of course immense, but we trust not insurmountable, and the thing must be done."
Accordingly, the siege was laid in due form. Three hundred of the very pick of the corps entered the Lines of the fortress, while others stretched themselves like a wall of circumvallation around the entrenched camp. The enemy were known to be there. The invading and advancing force came now and then upon native fires, still smouldering. They saw chippings from newly formed spears and waddies. But the persons of the savages were never to be seen. The Europeans, when unable to force the leafy, thorny breastworks, stood, like the modem artillerymen upon the Crimean heights, and threw a heavy fire upon the fortress which they could not gain. A continual discharge of musketry would, it was conjectured, drive out the concealed foe; and, once in the more open glade, his capture would be certain. The anxious Governor directed the assault here and there, with encouraging enforcements of Roman virtue, and hopeful expectations of a triumphant return with hand-cuffed captives.
Alas! when the exhausted troops entered this Sebastopol of the forest, they find it deserted of man, and silent but for the crackling of the flames. The enemy had yielded the fortification, and had retired to even stronger Redans.
This severe disappointment was not the only trial. As the few big, pattering drops give warning of the coming storm, so rumours of movements in the rear of the Line indicated the outburst of new and more appalling outrages. Word came that defenceless homes were attacked by the enraged and hunted Natives. A hut near Jerusalem was robbed, and a poor woman speared to death. Fires began to redden the sky, and shrieks of terror told the tale of woe. A letter from Perth said that one hundred and fifty had burst through the Cordon, and were plundering to the rear of Major Gray's, at Avoca. Thirty were seen and chased by the intrepid John Batman, who was successful in securing a good part of them, and without bloodshed.
The Launceston papers were annoyed at the defenceless state of the north, and asked why all the effort of the colony should be directed, to the alarm and desertion of settlements, fox the capture of two tribes—those of Oyster Bay and Big River—as if others were not as sanguinary elsewhere.
The settled part was then divided into the two counties of Buckingham on the south, and Cornwall on the north. Launceston, the old Dalrymple, once had hopes of supremacy over Hobart Town, and for a time had its Lieutenant-Governor, independent of the other Lieutenant-Governor on the banks of the Derwent. Disappointed ambition may have strengthened feelings of antagonism toward their more fortunate southern rivals, for the Cornwall colonists had little sympathy with the men of Buckingham. Hence we can appreciate the utterance of a northern magistrate, when two men were speared, a couple of miles side of Launceston, and two others on the Tamar; "I have no person I can send after these Blacks. I have not one man that I can spare, nearly all the constables being out of the county, catching at the Blacks in Buckingham."
Such stories increased the anxiety of the Governor to hurry on the movements of the East Bay Neck. Every officer was sure that, though some might have escaped the meshes of the net, the majority were still in front of the Line, and near the Forrestier's Peninsula. Forty parties of seven each, with four days' provisions, were sent forward. One of the Leaders told me that he saw in the Peninsula itself evidences that the Aborigines had been there, though not able to say how long before his reconnoitring. He saw sticks set up in the forest, stuck in the soil, pointing directions for those following.
At length the Colonel commanding believed that the time had come for the final charge—the "Up Guards and at them" stage of the war. On the last day of October he issued the following address to the Commanders:—
Camp, Sorell Rivulet,
October 81, 1830.
To The Commanders of Corps.
The Colonel commanding requests, that the commanders of corps will inform every leader under their orders that the advance of Captain Donaldson's division will, it is hoped, enable the final and decisive movement to commence to-morrow. That His Excellency, fully aware of the great privations and inconvenience which the leaders, as well as those serving with them, have been suffering, by so protracted a separation from their families and homes, has observed with real satisfaction the cheerful and praiseworthy alacrity which has animated them in striving to accomplish the present important undertaking.
The delay consequent on waiting for reinforcements has been unavoidable, for, to have advanced the whole force from its present position, would have assuredly risked the loss of the great advantage which the labours of the community have obtained in so successfully enclosing the two most dangerous tribes. A few days must now terminate the great work in the most satisfactory manner, and His Excellency earnestly hopes that the leaders will, for the remaining short period, continue to shew the excellent spirit which has all along been so conspicuous in their parties, for they will perceive that the advance of the scouring parties will render redoubled vigilance necessary on the part of those who guard the Line, as the Natives, when disturbed in the interior, will undoubtedly increase their efforts to break through the position.
This was followed by another Government Notice, relative to the final operations, and dated the same day.
Camp, Sorell Rivulet,
Oct, 31st, 1830.
The expected arrival of Captain Donaldson^s force this day, now enabling the Colonel commanding to make the final movement for the capture of the tribes within the lines, the following arrangements will take place:—
Major Douglas will form twenty-two parties of seven men each including leaders, and early on Monday morning they will take post fifty paces in front of the line, according to the following order, from the left, viz., and in front of Lieutenant Aubin's corps, will be placed at equal distances four parties, viz., Messrs. Walpole, Pearce, Thos. Massey, and H. Batman.
In front of Lieutenant Owens, two parties, viz., Mr. Byers, with half of Mr. H. Batman*s party, and Mr. M. Fortoza.
In front of Lieutenant Groves, three parties, viz., Messrs. G. Robertson, E. Blinkworth, and J. Moriarty.
In front of Captain Baylee, three parties, viz., Messrs. G. Scott, Layman, and Jemott.
In front of Captain McPherson, four parties, viz., Messrs. Allison, Cox, Helmslie, and Russel.
In front of Captain Mahon, two parties, viz., Mr. Doran (Peter Scott will be attached either to this party or to Mr. Evans's) and Mr. Thomas's.
In front of Lieutenant Pedder, four parties, viz., Messrs. Evans, Harrison, Flexmore, and Jack Jones, all four under the joint direction of Mr. Franks.
Captain Wentworth will also immediately form fifteen parties of seven men each, including leaders, and on Monday morning they will likewise take post fifty paces in front of the line, in the following order:—
In front of Lieutenant Croly, four parties, viz., Messrs. Paterson, Brodribb, Emmett, and Sherwin.
In front of Lieutenant Clark (Richmond force), Messrs. Kimberley, Copie, and Lackey.In front of Lieutenant Champ, two parties, viz., Messrs. Stanfield, junior, and Cassidy.
In front of Lieutenant Murray, three parties, viz., Mr. Proctor (if he shall not have returned, Stacy), Mr. Steel, and Mr. Synnott.
In front of Lieutenant Barrow, three parties, viz., Messrs. Cawthorne, Mills, and Shone; unattached, Messrs. Lloyd and Kirby. As soon as the advanced parties shall have been posted in marching order and with five days' rations, the vacancies in the line which their advance will have caused will be filled up by the whole remaining force closing to the left, and Captain Donaldson's force will take up the ground which has been heretofore occupied by Lieutenant Barrow, Lieutenant Murray, and by a portion of Lieutenant Champ's corps. This movement, regulated by the right, must be made with the utmost possible care, under the superintendence of Major Douglas, Captain Wentworth, and Lieutenant Aubin, so as to prevent the possibility of any gaps in the line.
By this movement, which should, if possible, be effected by 12 o'clock on Monday, the line will remain of its original strength, and the scouring parties will be in readiness to advance, which they will do as soon as the vacancies have been closed. These parties will then advance towards the south-east, driving the Natives in that direction, or capturing them, and on the fourth day, will reach East Bay Neck, where they will receive further orders.
The investing line which will remain in position, must, during these four decisive days, put forth every effort to prevent the possibility of the Natives passing through them, as the tribes will naturally redouble their attempts to pass when they are disturbed in the interior.
When the force was thus extended from Sorell to the sea, the "Long Black Line" extended thirty miles, and gave a space of forty-five yards between the men. The right wing was at Sorell, the left at Spring Bay, and the centre at the White Marsh. The Neck was gained. All were in excited expectation. Every possible precaution was taken to prevent escape. The very shore was watched. The capturing parties were told off. The Neck was crossed, the Peninsula entered, the search made, but nothing found! Not a Black was there!
The Line had proved so far a failure, though its indirect advantages were great; as the Natives were shown the formidable resources of Government, and the absolute necessity for their submission to authority.
Many were ready to discover their own want of faith in the enterprise, when its result was seen. Among those who volunteered their opinions, when counsels were too late, was the irrepressible Dane, Jorgen Jorgenson. This was his address to Colonel Arthur on the last day of November: "I know that Nature presented very serious obstacles, but I, also, know that these obstacles were partly foreseen; and, in proportion, vigilance and activity should have been exercised. I have not forgotten that the sections were never instructed in a proper manner during the time we remained idle,—that no proper patrols were formed in some of the divisions,—and when proper notice had been given of the dogs appearing in the Line, it was received as a matter of perfect indifference."
The work was over, and the labourers could leave the field. The Rev. Mr. West, in his "History of Tasmania," has expressively written: "The Settlers Soldiers returned to their homes, their shoes worn out, their garments tattered, their hair long and shaggy, with beards unshaven, their arms tarnished, but neither blood-stained nor disgraced."
The cost of this expedition to the Government was acknowledged to be thirty thousand pounds—a considerable and welcome expenditure to many of the colonists; though, considering other losses, and private outlay, Mr. G. A. Robinson, who was ever opposed to the project, spoke thus of it publicly: "The entire cost to the Colony was upwards of seventy thousand pounds, and the result was the capture of one Black."
An English paper afterwards made merry over the subject, having satisfied itself that the circumstances were these:—that a soldier had killed a Native, and, if punished for the fault, all would have been well; that as this was not done, the Blacks arose in wrath; and, lastly, that it had taken 6,000 Europeans to quell their revolt!!
But the worthy Governor was "game" to the last; and, conscious of having done his best, professed to be satisfied. He dismissed his army with dignity, acknowledged their service with gratitude, and foresaw their speedy deliverance with prophetic power. His parting Order was as follows:—
GOVERNMENT ORDER NO 13.
Colonial Secretary's Office,
November 26th, 1830.
1. The first series of operations for the capture of the native tribes having been now brought to a close, by the military and civil parties to East Bay Neck, and as the length of time during which those composing the volunteer force have absented themselves from their homes, renders the Government unwilling to wish them to extend their period of service at this conjuncture, when to remain any longer in the field would prove so detrimental to their private interests, they will now disperse, and the assigned servants of settlers who have not been able to be present themselves, will be marched back to their respective districts, under the charge of constables appointed for that purpose, with the exception of a small body, whom the Lieutenant-Governor has judged it expedient to detain, for the purpose of protecting the settlements, and the further pursuit of the Natives.
2. The Lieutenant-Governor cannot allow the forces to separate without observing, that although the expedition has not been attended with the full success which was anticipated, but which from circumstances could not be commanded, yet many benefits have resulted from it, amongst which may be enumerated, the cordial and unanimous feeling which has distinguished every class of the community, in striving for the public good.
The knowledge which has been acquired of the habits of the Natives, and which will so much tend to insure success in future operations; the opening of communications throughout the country, which was before their secure retreat, but which can no longer afford them the same security or confidence, and above all, the proof which has been given of the great personal sacrifice which the whole population were not only willing, but most anxious to make, for the purpose of capturing the savages, in order by their being placed in some situation where they could no longer inflict or receive injury, that the race may be preserved from utter extermination; an event fearfully to be apprehended, so long as they continue to commit such wanton outrages upon the white inhabitants, and which every man of humanity and proper feeling would endeavour to avert.
3. In touching upon the merits of the individuals composing the force, the Lieutenant-Governor feels it difficult to attach to them the meed of praise which they have deserved, and when all have shown so much alacrity, zeal, patience, and determination to overcome every difficulty, it were invidious to extol any in particular, although it is quite impossible to avoid noticing the extraordinary exertions which have been so cheerfully afforded by the Surveyor General and every officer of his department. The conduct collectively of the whole community, on this occasion, will be a lasting source of pleasure in the mind of the Lieutenant-Governor, but His Excellency will not fail to bear in remembrance the separate merits of each in the proportion which his exertions have proved him to possess. In making this allusion to the conduct of the civil forces, he has the satisfaction at the same time to observe, that the orderly and soldier-like behaviour of the military, and the zeal and ability displayed by their officers, in organizing and commanding the civil levies, merit the highest encomiums. The difficulties which the forces have had to surmount in such an impervious country as that which has lately been the scene of their efforts, can only be understood by those who have seen it, and nothing but the excellent spirit of the parties could have enabled them to overcome so many obstacles.
4. The project of surrounding and driving the two worst tribes to a particular quarter had succeeded, to the furthest extent; and, but for their untimely dispersion by a party who too hastily attacked them before a sufficient force could arrive to capture them, the whole project would probably have been crowned with success.
5. The Lieutenant-Governor has, however, the satisfaction of announcing on this occasion, that a body of Natives have been captured without bloodshed, on the northern coast, where there exists every prospect of the remainder of the tribe being secured.
The recent treacherous conduct of a party of Natives who had been received and treated with every species of kindness, but who had endeavoured to repay their benefactors by murder and rapine, sufficiently demonstrates that it would be in vain to expect any reformation in these savages while allowed to remain in their native state. It will, therefore, be the immediate subject of anxious consideration with the Government, whether it is not proper to place those who are now secured, and who amount to about thirty, together with any others who might be captured, upon an island from which they cannot escape, but where they will be gradually induced to adopt the habits and feelings of civilized life.
6. The circumstances of the late military movements not having been attended with the expected success, will not, it is hoped, cast any despondency upon the public mind, for the activity and cordiality of feeling which have been recently shown by the community, afford sufficient earnest that the evil which has afflicted the Colony must in the course of the summer be removed.
The most active measures will be vigorously continued for pursuing the object in view; but, as the Lieutenant-Governor feels a strong persuasion that there are white men among the Natives, His Excellency does not consider it prudent to detail any future operations in public notices.
By His Excellency's command,
The conduct of the Governor was so loyal to the country, and the expenditure had been so liberal, that a general spirit of congratulation was aroused While the question of "What are we to do with the Blacks?" still perplexed the anxious, the first duty of the Colonists was to thank His Excellency for his noble response to their repeated and troubled appeals. The Sheriff, Dudley Fereday, Esq., was requested to call a public meeting for this object.
This heartily unanimous meeting took place in Hobart Town, on Wednesday, the 22d of December, 1830. Political strife was still, and the "Rights of Men " were postponed for the consideration of the Rights of the Government. The following were the resolutions of the day:—
" 1st. That the atrocious character of the Aborigines of this Island, manifested by their cruel and wanton murders of the white inhabitants, perpetrated without distinction of age or sex, and with increasing barbarity, renders the life of a Settler insecure, and operates as a most serious drawback to emigration to this country, and consequently to its commerce and prosperity."
"2d. That the magnitude of the present evil is beyond the power of the Colonists individually to grapple with, and calls imperatively for the immediate application of a remedy on the part of Government adequate to the evil."
"3d. That the Colonists have seen with gratitude the unwearied exertions of His Excellency Lieut-Governor Arthur to suppress the atrocities committed by the Aborigines, by capturing them, in order to place them in such a situation that their own civilization and the security of the colonists may be at the same time effected. And they respectfully, but most earnestly, solicit His Excellency that he will please to continue unrelaxed his efforts to accomplish so desirable an end."
The fourth resolution pledged the meeting to support the Government in their measures, and directed signatures to be procured for an address to Colonel Arthur.
Similar meetings were held in all the leading townships of the Colony. In the Richmond address occurs this passage:—" While we regret that natural obstacles have hitherto defeated every attempt for the capture or subjugation of the Aborigines," &c.
As Britons, it became the self-satisfied Liners to signalize their prowess in the campaign by the time-honoured formalities of a public dinner. At the grand festival, held at the Macquarie Hotel, Hobart Town, the enthusiasm increased in vigour at each successive elevation of the glass, until, from the intensity of their emotions, and the undue excitement of their gratitude, many of the guests exhausted their physical natures, and sank back helpless in their chairs. At this banquet, inflated with a grateful sense of a liberal expenditure, one gentleman had the coolness to propose that the forthcoming address to His Excellency be called "The Address of the Traders of Hobart Town." Such base imputation of motives was most virtuously repelled, and the document, laden with uncorruptible names, and redolent with the incense of flattery, was forwarded to Government House, and, in due course, presented at Downing Street, as an evidence of the approval of Colonial policy, and the warm affection of Colonists to the person of the previously calumniated representative of His Majesty.
In the reply of His Excellency, there is another exposition of his humanity and conscientiousness, when he says, in allusion to the Natives, "It is undeniable that they were lamentably neglected in the early colonization of the country, and have been treated with cruelty and oppression by the stock-keepers, and other convicts in the interior, and by the sealers on the coast; and, from the want of due discernment, their vengeance has been indiscriminately wreaked upon the unoffending settlers of the present time. This fact must continue to disarm us of every particle of resentment."
While the loud hurrah of exulting meetings, the jingling of convivial glasses, and the trumpet note of Government House, fell on the ear as symbols of rejoicing after victory, there boomed in the distance the sounds of conflict. From the depths of forests, and from the expanse of plains, a cry of horror was heard. Men returned to their habitations to find but smouldering ruins, and sought their families to behold but ghastly corpses. Wives waited the return of husbands, transfixed with spears. Mothers coo-ed for children, brained by waddies. The wrath of an infuriated race was unappeased, and the memory of their murdered kindred was unavenged. The country, scoured in vain for their presence, now echoed with the shrieks of their victims.
And what were to be the future operations against them? Were fresh commandoes in preparation? Were new and more vigorous assaults to be made upon those naked savages? If the thousands of men, with the thousands of pounds spent, were insufficient to overcome the feeble and dislocated bands of sable wanderers, were more men and greater expenses to be employed?
When all the power of a strong Government, and the warlike appliances of advanced civilization, were exhausted in the vain attempt, the simple influence of kindness in the heart of a brave man subdued these barbarians; and, bound with the mighty cords of manly sympathy, the brutal bloodshedders were conducted in triumph to the city of their enemies, and prevailed upon in peace to forsake the home of their youth, and the graves of their fathers.
Having been very recently favoured with the reflections upon this interesting epoch of Colonial History by the Hon. John Helder Wedge, I beg to publish the following extract from his letter:—
"A plan of the expedition, and the carrying it out in detail, was, as might be expected from the political feeling of hostility that was entertained against the head of the Government, criticised and commented upon in no measured terms: and these criticisms were not unaccompanied without a leaven of personal abuse. I thought at the time, and I still think, that the circumstances which imperatively required that an attempt should be made to put an end to the deadly warfare that was carried on between the occupiers of the out-stations and the Natives, and mostly to the advantage of the latter, were not considered with that liberality of feeling to which they were entitled. Frequent, and almost daily, representations were made to the Government of the depredations and murders committed by the Natives. Neither sawyers, splitters, shepherds, nor herdsmen could attend to their avocations with safety; nor could the solitary hut-keeper show himself out of doors, without the danger of being speared, even when not the least suspicion was entertained of there being anything to apprehend. A general feeling of insecurity was felt throughout the colony; and a demand, as with one voice, was made that the Government should adopt measures for the greater security of the colonists and their property. I believe there was scarcely any possessing a knowledge of the country and experienced in traversing the forests, and knew anything of the habits of the Natives, who anticipated any other result than a failure of the expedition, so far as their capture was concerned. And I was led to believe, being present when the Lieut.-Governor was speaking on the subject, that few were less sanguine of success than His Excellency."
He thus closes: "I could not at the time suggest, nor have I since been able to surmise, how the forces could have been otherwise employed, which would have afforded a greater chance of success—nor did I ever meet with any of the fault-finders who could do so."
A year had passed, and one of their great jubilees was approaching for the Aborigines. This was the season of swans' eggs, so favourite a food with the people of the forest. It was a time of tribal reunion, the anniversary of family greetings and festive joy. A wooded, rocky point of land projected into the eastern waters; it was known as the Schouten Peninsula. Too barren and rough for colonization, too distant for a visit, it was a secure asylum for the feathered race—a fitting scene for swan-like love. This was the place, the period, the occasion, of annual pilgrimages to the Aborigines. A large party, a mingling of tribes, had taken advantage of the lull after the storm of war, and had ventured by stealthy steps to the old spot. But their tracks had been sighted, their destination guessed, and their extermination was at once resolved upon.
The alarm was sounded. Nothing seemed easier than their capture. Here was the proper locality for Line operations. A Cordon could be drawn across the narrow isthmus, and the Blacks would be secured at leisure.
Troops, constables, settlers, gathered in joyful confidence at the gateway of the Peninsula. It was at the close of October, 1831, the loveliest season of the bright little island, the spring of beauty and hope. The Neck was but a mile across, and upon this the Europeans took up their position. It was a highly romantic region. Five cones threw up their forest heads far above the gigantic Eucalypti of the valleys. They stood as guardian genii to protect the last home of the wasted people. Their bastion-like masses were strengthened by intricate scrub and pathless woods, whose black shadows fell upon the hostile band in front. The enemy sought to gain the barbican by fire Soon the flames were seen penetrating the dark gorges, and climbing the rocky steeps. The colonial force constructed their huts, established their sentries, and kept up the vast fires for observation and destruction. Gradually long, black lanes were made through the thicket, and fresh arrivals from the townships around assured the Whites of victory.
It was full moon at the time of a visit of a friend, who described to me his admiration of this stirring scene. The soft light fell so calmly upon the roaring flames, as if to rebuke their violence, and each hilly cone, wreathed with fire, vainly, like Hercules of old, sought relief from the fatal robe.
But when nothing but charred timber or smouldering ashes remained, and when the moon had evening after evening decreased its light till darkness rested upon the encampment at night, then the time for watchfulness arrived, lest the imprisoned should escape. Troops were gradually assembling; and while some guarded the entrance with dogs, fires, and arms, others were to pass down the peninsula and seize or kill the egg-gatherers.In fear, but determination, the poor creatures waited for the favourable moment. A night of misty blackness came. They had crept as closely as they dared to the lines, their very dogs preserving silence, and then, with a bound and cry, followed by their yelping friends, they dashed by the fires and guards, and gained the dark forest beyond in safety. The only captures made by the formidable besiegers were a few young puppies, distanced by the tribe.