Capt. J. W. Thomas report to Headquarters following Eureka rebellion

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Capt. J. W. Thomas report to Headquarters following Eureka rebellion (1854)
by John Wellesley Thomas

Report from Captain J. W. Thomas, 40th Regiment, to Major-General Robert Nickle, Head Quarters, Melbourne, following the quelling of the rebellion at the Eureka Stockade, 3 December 1854, as reproduced in Victoria: with a description of its principal cities, Melbourne and Geelong in 1856.

631393Capt. J. W. Thomas report to Headquarters following Eureka rebellion1854John Wellesley Thomas

"Camp, Ballaarat, December 3, 1854.

"Sir,—I have the honour to report, for the information of the Major-General, the following details relative to a collision that took place this morning between the troops under my command, and the Ballaarat rebels. The Major-General has already been made aware of the fact, that a large number of ill-disposed persons have, for some days, been openly organizing, drilling, and equipping themselves, with the undisguised object of attacking her Majesty's troops, and, if possible, subverting the Government. During the night of the 1st instant frequent signals were observed passing from tent to tent around the camp, and several shots were fired over the heads of the sentries. I, therefore, considered it necessary, on the following day, to issue a public notice, that no light would be allowed in the neighbourhood after 8 o'clock; that no discharge of firearms would be permitted under any pretence; and that persons disobeying these orders would be fired at. This notice produced the desired effect. Early on the 2nd instant information reached me, that the rebels were forming an entrenched camp at the Eureka diggings, about a mile and a half from our camp, with the absurd intention of intercepting the forces under the Major-General's command en route from Melbourne.

"In the course of the afternoon Mr. Commissioner Amos, in charge of the Eureka station, arrived here, and reported that an armed party of the rebels had marched up to his camp, taking him prisoner, and subsequently released him, but kept possession of his horse.

"During the whole of that day strong parties of insurgents were parading the diggings in every direction, many of them, in sight of the camp, robbing stores, collecting arms, and forcing people to join their ranks. I did not consider it prudent to attack them, as they were not collected in any one spot, and the safety of the camp would have been risked had a larger portion of the force been withdrawn. I determined, however, to attack their camp at daylight the next morning; for this purpose the troops were ordered to assemble at half-past 2 a.m. At 3 o'clock I left, with the following force, mounted: escort of the 40th regiment, thirty men under Lieutenants Hall and Gardyne; mounted police under Sub-Inspectors Furnell, Langley, Chomley, and Lieutenant Cassack, and seventy men; 12th regiment, under Captain Quade and Lieutenant Paul, with sixty-five rank and file; 40th regiment, under Captain Wise, Lieutenants Bowdler and Richards, with eighty-seven rank and file, and twenty-four foot police under Sub-Inspector Carter. The total number of troops were, one hundred mounted men, and one hundred and seventy-six foot; the remainder of the troops and police I left to guard the camp, under the command of Captain Atkinson, of the 12th regiment; having with me, Mr. Commissioner Amos, Mr. Hackett, P. M., and Mr. G. Webster, Civil Commissary, as the three magistrates to authorize my proceedings.

"In excellent order, and perfect silence, the force arrived in about half an hour in front of the rebel entrenchments, and about three hundred yards from it, and under cover of a rise of the ground. The detachments of the 12th and 40th regiments extended then in skirmishing order, each having its proper support. Part of the mounted force of military and police moved towards the left of their position to threaten its flank and rear; the remainder of the mounted force and foot police were kept in reserve. We then advanced quietly to the entrenchments, where the revolutionary flag was flying; at about one hundred and fifty yards, as we advanced, we were received by rather sharp and well-directed fire from the insurgents, without word or challenge on their part; then, and not till then, I ordered the bugle to sound the 'commence firing;' for about ten minutes a heavy fire was kept up by the troops advancing, which was replied to by our opponents. During this time I brought up the infantry supports and foot police. The entrenchment was then carried and taken by the point of the bayonet; the insurgents retreating, I ordered the firing to cease. All persons found within the entrenchment were taken prisoners, and many of the fugitives were intercepted by the cavalry. I then marched the infantry and a portion of the mounted police, in charge of the prisoners and wounded, to camp, directing the remainder of the cavalry to recover the Government camp at the Eureka, which was about five hundred yards distant from the place where we then stood, and which was reported to be in possession of the insurgents. They found it had been occupied by them during the night, and that it had subsequently been deserted; the whole force, accordingly, returned to camp.

"The prisoners brought in were in number 128; a few of them, however, I ordered to be released, as I was not satisfied of their being in the engagement, though they were taken in the immediate neighbourhood. Several have been taken since on the charge of insurrection, which makes the number now in custody to be 114.

"The behaviour of the troops and police, both officers and men, in this skirmish was very good; and whilst I hope the Major-General will be pleased to convey to his Excellency my appreciation of the conduct of the whole police force under my command, I feel it right particularly to notice the extreme steadiness of the foot police under Captain Garter, who were brought up with the supports to carry the entrenchment.

"I am most desirous of acknowledging the great assistance I received in this affair, and in all the arrangements connected with my command, from Captain Pasley, R.E., who was good enough to act as my aide-de-camp on this occasion, and joined the skirmishers in their advance. Mr. Webster remained under fire the whole time, giving me the benefit of his services. Mr. Hackett, the police magistrate. remained with the infantry; and Mr. Amos guided the cavalry to their position.

"I cannot omit from my dispatch the expression of my deep regret at the dangerous wound received by Captain Wise of the 40th Regiment, who, remaining at his post after getting a slight wound, fell on the inside of the entrenchment when conspicuously leading his company to the attack. Lieutenant Paul, 12th Regiment, also received a severe wound, but continued to do his duty in the ranks.

"The number of killed and wounded on the side of the insurgents was great, but I have no means of ascertaining it correctly. I have reason, however, to believe that there were not less than thirty killed on the spot, and I know that many have since died of their wounds. Amongst these and the persons in custody, several leaders of the insurrection appear, two of whom lie dangerously if not mortally wounded in hotels near the spot.

"The effect of this blow has been that the police now patrol, in small bodies, the length and breadth of the Ballaarat Gold Fields, without threats or insults. To such of the wounded as have not been removed, I have sent medical assistance, and have caused the unclaimed dead to be taken away and buried in the cemetery.

"I have the honour to be, &c., &c., &c.,

"Captain, 40th Regiment,
"Commanding troops at Ballaarat.

"Deputy Adjutant-General,
"Head Quarters."

"P.S.—Annexed is the list of casualties, copied from the surgeon's report:—

"'Ballaarat, December 3, 1854.

"'12th Regiment,—Lieutenant Paul severely wounded in the hip; one soldier killed, and seven severely wounded. 40th Regiment,—two privates killed; Captain H. C. Wise dangerously wounded; and six privates severely wounded. Of the mounted men and police we have no return.'"