Further particulars of the Ballaarat affray [Eureka Rebellion, 5 December 1854]

[Editor: A report on the Eureka Rebellion. Published in The Argus, 5 December 1854.]

Further particulars of the Ballaarat affray.

The facts of the unfortunate encounter at Ballaarat, as we have been enabled to gather them, in addition to the hurried statement received at a late hour yesterday morning, appear to be as follows:— Up to Sunday morning the officers and men attached to the Government Camp, after having fortified their position in as strong a manner as the time would allow, had remained closely ensconced behind their entrenchments. On that day, however, having received intelligence that the main body of the insurgents (as they now appear to be called) had started off to intercept the advance of the anticipated reinforcements of military from Melbourne, the authorities at the Camp determined upon taking the camp of the diggers by surprise; and consequently a short time before daybreak the troops and police were under arms, and just at the first blush of dawn they marched upon the camp at Eureka. The attack upon the Government Camp had been so frequently spoken of, that the officials determined to forestall any such attempt, and to take the initiative. From inquiries we have made we are led to believe that this threat of an attack upon the Camp is one of the many fabrications that have helped on the present entanglement.

At daylight rather more than three hundred men, military and police, marched upon the Eureka camp, the military forming the centre, and the troopers and police the two wings.

The police on the right and left of the main body of soldiers were enabled, under the heavy fire kept up, to surround or rather to outflank those who defended the insurgent position; the severe fire maintained by the troops soon obliged the diggers to withdraw from before it; and, as they retreated, they were pounced upon by the police, who had covered the flank and rear of their position. In this way, the discomfiture of the insurgents was most complete. It was reckoned that there were about two hundred and fifty men in the camp when attacked; and, when we reckon about twenty killed, one hundred and twenty-five prisoners, and perhaps three times as many wounded as killed, it will be found that only a very few of the number holding the camp can have escaped altogether.

On the two preceding days, during the skirmishes that had ensued between the diggers and the police, the diggers had appeared to have rather the better of the work, and this more than ought else induced the authorities to strike a heavy blow, not only to prevent the organisation that was going on, but to retrieve their lost honors before the arrival of reinforcements took the chance out of their hands.

The insurgents, as we learn, are all, with very few exceptions, diggers, and we regret to hear it reported, that very many of them are French, Americans, and Germans. Our informant tells us that great intimidation is used by those under arms towards the peaceful and industrious diggers, no work being allowed, and any man seen going to his hole being threatened with the consequences. At Creswick’s Creek this was more particularly the case. The men were all working steadily enough there, until the detachment from Eureka reached them and then they were told by the leader of this detachment that everyone of them that did not come out and fight would be marked, and would be sure to gain nothing in the end.

The principal leader of the insurgents has been apprehended. He is stated to have formerly been in the military profession, and has been, for the last few days, indefatigable in his endeavor to give something like organisation to the men under his command. He is stated to be an athletic and prepossessing young man, of about thirty years of age, with every disposition to enforce the most rigorous discipline. “Any man,” he is reported to have said, “who is found stealing, or in any way interfering with private property, may look to himself, for as sure as death my gun shall find him out.”

Our informant is of opinion that a main body of the insurgents are still lying in the Warraneed Ranges, unaware of the number of troops sent up against them, and consequently hoping to fall upon and cut them off very easily. Here they are lying in wait for the troops, stopping or firing on many passengers on the road, our own express having had two shots fired after him. In this they have been wofully deceived, for whilst they will meet (if they do meet at all with a detachment that on Sunday had reached no farther than Bacchus Marsh) with an enemy of far superior numbers to themselves, they will have left their comrades behind them to be cut off in detail, and thus complete their discomfiture.

All places of business in the camp are closed. The banks, stores, gold buying offices, — every place is shut up, men being too engrossed with the present movement even to read a newspaper, but walking about silent and sullen, as if staggered with the suddenness and weight of the present crisis. Those well disposed to the cause of order, who, we are given to understand, form the very large majority of the diggers, are praying anxiously for the arrival of the anticipated enforcement, as the sound of their tramp upon the diggings is expected at once to restore order; whilst a most anxious wish has been expressed that the Governor would go up on the ground, as it is thought that everything might be much more readily arranged on the spot between His Excellency and the diggers themselves, than it ever could be by the intervention of delegates, proclamations, or petitions. In another column will be found further particulars, which have been received by way of Geelong.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Tuesday 5 December 1854, page 4

Editor’s notes:
wofully = a variant of “woefully”

[Editor: Corrected “forestal” to “forestall”.]

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