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AUSTRALIA's FIRST WAR (NZ - 1860-1861) Click here for details of a recent book (August 2005)
A government force consisting of detachments of British Regiments, the 12th and 40th, plus mounted and foot police of the Victoria Police, attacked an entrenchment of aggrieved gold miners at BALLARAT at daybreak on 3 December 1854. The resulting action, the attack on the Eureka Stockade, is today among Australia's greatest legends.
For two days earlier the gold-miners in revolt seemed to hold the future of Victoria in their grasp. A well-armed group of 'Californians' and Canadians were among parties of 'foreign anarchists' set upon achieving Parliamentary democracy -- and nothing less. But the Irish seemed to predominate, and English Chartists, Scots, Swedes, at least two Italians (one, Raffaello Carboni, fresh from revolutionary Rome), a Jamaican, and an African-American said to be from Baltimore, Maryland, were involved in the uprising. The Ballarat Reform League gave some semblance of organisation to these strands of indignation about gold licensing fees, a desire for political reform, and the general disorder at Ballarat.
To complicate matters, a further force of 800 troops. including a Naval Brigade from HMS Fantome and HMS Electra, with howitzers and shrapnel ammunition, was on its way from Melbourne.
Gold Commissioner Robert Rede (who later officiated as Sheriff during the 1880 hanging of bushranger Ned Kelly) decided to strike quickly without waiting for the large reinforcement from Melbourne. Captain J. W. Thomas (40th Regt) and a scout led the combined government force to the Stockade in the early hours of 3 December. The Stockade was all but deserted, few miners believing it would be attacked on the Sabbath. The Stockade was thus taken with minimal casualties, but these increased when mounted police attacked bystanders.
The Eureka Memorial said to be on the battleground itself. There has been considerable debate in Ballarat about where the battle actually took place. The State Trials map exhibit (in the State's Public Record Office) seems to show a site about one kilometre North-West of the Eureka Memorial.
Of some 120 men captured at the Stockade, only 13 were committed for trial. The State Treason Trials commenced in February 1855. Successive Melbourne juries refused to convict any of the defendents. Democratic reforms ensued, with peace being eventually restored on Victoria's goldfields.
Research in the 1990s has led to many interesting discoveries about the Stockade, and circumstances leading up to the attack. Included among these are the Charles Doudiet watercolour sketches, purchased at auction in 1996 by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (home of the original Eureka Flag). Doudiet, a Canadian miner, was apparently at the Stockade. He helped carry away the fatally wounded Canadian leader, 'Captain' Henry (according to letters and information supplied by a Canadian source) Ross. Other than a watercolour by J. B. Henderson, showing the attack, and supposed to be contemporary, the Doudiet sketches may provide the only genuine images of Eureka available today.
'Captain' Henry (or Charles, according to official documents in Victoria, Australia) Ross is believed to have been the designer of the famous Eureka Flag. It has been suggested that his flag design might have been influenced by the flag of Quebec, Canada.
You can decide for yourself.
The Eureka Flag was also described as The Southern Cross and is thought to resemble that constellation. The flag has been used since by both sides of Australian politics for various purposes.
A gravestone to drummer boy John Eagan of the 12th Regiment in Ballarat's old cemetery has been shown to be a mistaken gesture well after the event. Drummer John Eagan, born Athlone Ireland in 1839, enlisted as a Boy on the 10th February 1852 aged thirteen. He was promoted to Private shortly after the Eureka Rebellion and re-appointed Drummer in May 1856. Between 1854 and 1860, Eagan had been confined to cells on a couple of occasions and had also been on Sick Report in February 1860.
Eagan, aged twenty-one and single, died on the 8th September 1860 at Victoria Barracks Sydney and was interred in the Roman Catholic burial grounds (details kindly supplied by researcher Ken Larbalestier of Sydney).
Drummer Boy John Egan's empty grave in the old Cemetery.
Interestingly, only two people -- one killed, the other captured at the Stockade -- were Australian born. Both were from New South Wales. That colony (now State) was also the scene in 1804, of Australia's first serious armed uprising (of Irish convicts) at Vinegar Hill near Parramatta.
The password at the Eureka Stockade on the night of 2-3 December 1854 was 'Vinegar Hill'.
SON OF A STOCKADE LEADER TRIED FOR TREASON !
You can discover how the son of a Eureka Stockade leader was tried for Treason in London in 1903 by visiting this external website.
BALLARAT'S SPLENDID NEW EUREKA STOCKADE CENTRE
Exterior of Ballarat's new Eureka Centre, and (inset) the entrance foyer. Inside visitors will find a series of vivid displays that tell the Eureka story. There are special programs for school excursions. The architecture and interior design of the building are splendid and in keeping with the grand legend of the Eureka Rebellion.
A world-class attraction. Larger than life figures--like this British soldier of the 40th Regiment--help heighten the experience and fire the imagination.
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