As soon as the news of the New South Wales outbreak (which had rapidly spread to the other colonies) reached the Federal Government, extensive preparations were at once made for its suppression. Many of the military had joined the insurgents, but there still remained a very large number who were willing to fight to maintain the old order of things. Most of these were massed in Victoria, where the outbreak had been, after severe fighting, temporarily quelled.
The defeat of the Victorian insurgents was, however, more owing to the smallness of their numbers and their want of sufficient arms and ammunition than to any other cause, for they fought with great courage, pertinacity and skill. The Brotherhood marksmen particularly distinguished themselves by the ease and accuracy with which, firing from the roofs and windows of houses, they picked off the various officers, and the men told off to work the machine-guns. The authorities had, with their troops,a number of machine-guns, termed "mob-quellers," an improvement on the old Gatling gun. The simple, yet delicate machinery of these guns was, however, soon put out of gear by well-directed shots from the insurgent sharpshooters.
Eventually, however, the insurgents had no alternative but to abandon the fight, and by a piece of highly creditable strategy they succeeded in making good their retreat.
After the Victorian flight both sides drew together their forces with the view to a decisive battle, which finally took place in the interior of the continent.
Prior to the federation of Australia a large portion of the interior of the country was unknown. Many attempts had been made by explorers to penetrate to the heart of this terra incognita, but apparently with but small success, as few of the explorers had ever returned to the coastal settlements to relate their experiences. After the Federation, however, it was determined by the Government that a large party should be fitted out for the purpose of thoroughly exploring the whole of the hitherto unexplored portion of Australia. The Government was rewarded by the discovery, in the north-western portion of the interior of a large settlement of white people, of whom further information will be given in another chapter. It was in that portion of Australia that the celebrated "Battle of Leichhardt" took place.
The Governments of Victoria, West Australia and Tasmania sided with the Plutocracy, while, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the newly-discovered State of Leichhardt were in the hands of the revolutionists. North Australia (formerly the Northern Territory) was considered doubtful, as that State was chiefly populated by Chinamen, who, though bitter against the white workers in the South, because of the large number of Chinamen who had been killed or maltreated by them, were yet strongly suspected by the Plutocracy of sympathy with Communistic principles.