The final part of the Saga was played out on the return of the final elements of the force to Sydney. It is perhaps strange that no film maker has ever thought to put these events on film. However the Court Martial was even more extraordinary and surely is material for an epic film. It is hard at this distance to get to the bottom of completing claims. On one hand stands the company/detachment commander struggling in to Sydney after a march of heroic proportions. On the other is a brand new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Meade Hamilton, determined to show that he is a new broom restoring order after the obviously slack tenure of his predecessor. There is so much that we don't know here, so much which is inferable and above all how much of the charge and counter charge is true?
On 31st July 1862 after 12 months away the final elements began their journey back to Sydney. The detachment commander Captain Morley Saunders ( son of Lieutenant General John Stratford Saunders and nephew of Earl of Aldborough,) had his company of the 12th and a gun detachment RA approximately 52 all ranks. This time they marched to the railhead a journey which took 14 days arriving at Victoria Barracks late on the afternoon of 13th August 1862. With no urgency the authorities were quite happy for the soldiers to walk the 250 kms. The weather was appalling either very hot or constant torrential rain falling, that they made in 14 days seems remarkable. Like I suspect all units at the time, being quartered in or near public houses led to a great deal of drunkeness on the march. On arrival at the Barracks 7.30 pm, Saunders sought leave to stand his men down so they could clean up for dinner. Permission was refused by the new Commanding Officer, Hamilton who demanded an immediate report on the march and why the men were not properly dressed. The interview took place in the presence of the adjutant John Soame Richardson. It rapidly went down hill with Saunders refusing to remove his hat or shake hands with the commanding officer and allegedly having his hand on his pistol butt. Saunders apparently indicated to the adjutant that he believed that Hamilton had seduced or attempted to seduce his wife. Presumably, this if it occurred was in the absence of Saunders at Lambing Flat. A full parade the next morning (despite Saunders request to allow the men to refurbish their gear) showed the appalling state of the detachment's dress. By mid morning Saunders had been placed under arrest and the following day (15th)was relieved of duty by the medical officer on the grounds of delirium tremens and interestingly was sent out of the colony to recuperate despite attempts by Hamilton to prevent this from happening.
The court martial began 2nd April 1863
The Court consisted of the following Officers: Brevet Major Philip Dickson, Royal Artillery, (President); Major Edward Hungerford Regar, Assistant Adjutant General; Captain Charles Neville Lovell, Royal Artillery, Captain Thomas Clove Hinde, 40th Regiment and Lieutenant C. H. M. Hallett, Royal Navy. Captain William Haywood, (or Heywood) Major of Brigade 12th Regiment, acted as officiating Deputy Judge Advocate.
(Note: Captain Haywood is on attachment from 2/14th Regiment – reference PRO 2386 WO/12)
Colonel Hamilton conducted the prosecution without any legal adviser.
Captain Saunders was assisted by Mr Frederick M Darley (barrister and later Chief Justice and Lt Governor of NSW) Mr. T K Bowden (Solicitor), of the firm Messrs Allen, Bowden, and Allen.
The Charges were as followsFirst:
for having, on the line of march from Lambing Flat to Sydney, New South Wales, whilst in command of a detachment consisting of the Royal Artillery and the 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment, between the 31st day of July 1862, and the 13th day of August 1862, permitted the men of the said detachment to appear improperly dressed, and also to straggle;Second
: for falsely imputing improper conduct to Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mead Hamilton, 1st Battalion 12th Regiment as his Commanding Officer, on the following occasion namely: first,
in having stated, on or about the 2nd day of August 1862, New South Wales, that the Lieutenant Colonel had seduced Mrs. Saunders, and that he (Captain Saunders) would have a shot at him in Sydney, or words to that effect; Second
, for having, on or about the 5th day of August, 1862, on the line of march from
Lambing Flat to Sydney, stated to Sergeant Burt, of the 1st Battalion 12th Regiment of the detachment under his command that Lieutenant Colonel Mead Hamilton had taken improper liberties with Mrs. Saunders, and that if Lieutenant Colonel Mead Hamilton challenged him he (Captain Saunders) would have a shot at him or words to that effect;
third, for having on or about the evening of the 13th day of August 1862, at Sydney stated to Lieutenant and Adjutant John Soame Richardson, of the 1st Battalion 12th Regiment, that Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mead Hamilton, 1st Battalion 12th Foot, had endeavored to force the door of Mrs. Saunders’ room; and also that he (Captain Saunders) had come down perfectly prepared to shoot him, or words to that effect. He at the same time placing his hand on a revolver that he wore at his side;Third:
for having, on or about the 2nd day of August, 1862, whilst in command of a detachment, consisting of the Corps here-in-before mentioned, been drunk, and created a disturbance in a public house at Binalong aforesaid; and also for having on or about the 3rd day of August, 1862, when on the line of march from Lambing Flat to Sydney been drunk; again for having on or about the 13th day of August 1862 at Campbelltown, New South Wales, been drunk;Fourth:
for having on the line of march associated in an improper and familiar manner with the noncommissioned Officers and men of the detachment under his command; in having sat and taken meals with them on the following occasions, namely first at Shelly’s Flat on or about the 9th day of August 1862; second at Berrima on or about the 10th day of August, 1862; and third, at Campbelltown on or about the 13th day of August 1862; andFifth:
for having, at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, on the night of the 13th of August 1862, when called upon by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mead Hamilton, his commanding officer, to report the arrival of the detachment under his command, appeared before him in the ante room improperly dressed, and behaved in a contemptuous and insulting manner to him as his Commanding Officer; in refusing to shake hands with him; in keeping his hat on his head and walking violently about the room muttering in an unintelligible manner; and for having afterwards refused to account for his extraordinary conduct.
The whole of such conduct enumerated in the foregoing charges being unbecoming the character of an Officer, and to prejudice good order and military discipline.
There is not space here to follow the trial which often degenerated into farce.
Ken Larbalestier has written on the whole which can be read here;http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ance ... istory.pdfhttp://freepages.military.rootsweb.ance ... artial.pdf
Hamilton's actions themselves seem bizarre. When Saunders returned with his family to Sydney, Hamilton refused permission for the family to occupy quarters at the Barracks. In short the Saunders were subjected to constant petty harrassment.
He did not like the evidence given by one soldier so had him arrested on charges of lying.
He did not like the evidence of several civilian witnesses and repeatedly recalled them in an attempt to badger what he wanted from them.
The whole trial he allowed to be printed in the press ,it seems in attempt to justify his actions. It had the opposite effect. The public and press seems to have been behind Saunders.
At the end of the trial the Court Martial Board found Saunders not guilty some of the charges whilst guilty on others due to temporary insanity (ie a breakdown) therefore he was exonerated. Therefore overall Saunders had no case to answer
It was not the result that Hamilton wanted or expected so he took to the pages of Sydney Newspapers to attack the court martial and witnesses. This in turn brought counter letters from barrister Frederick Darley and other witnesses. It was the scandal of the decade and reflected poorly on the army