1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

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1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

Postby Bushman » 27 Jul 2014 12:12

A little known operation of British forces is the Goldfields riots of 1860-62. Most people have heard of Eureka but few have heard of the Lambing Flat or Burrengong Goldfields riots. Those Australians who do, generally know nothing of British forces involvement concentrating today on its implication as a racist incident in Australian history. Primarily but not exclusively involving the 12th Regiment. As the narrative is extensive I will put an account up in three parts
a. Feb - May 1861
b. July 1861-September 1862
c. The fallout and spectacular court martial revealing poisonous interpersonal relationships in the Regiment
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Re: The 12th Regiment and the Goldfields Riots 1860-1862

Postby Bushman » 28 Jul 2014 01:47

The 1st Battalion 12th Regiment had been at Eureka with the 40th. The 12th’s commanding officer at this time was Lieutenant-Colonel John Francis Kempt, a cousin of General Sir James Kempt could not deploy as he was the administrator or acting Governor of New South Wales at the time.
Young is a regional town in New South Wales, of about 7000 people and today the cherry capital of Australia 372 km (231 miles) south-west of Sydney. In the 1860s it was known as Lambing Flat or the Burrengong gold district and consisted of quaintly named locations as Wombat, Lambing Flat, Spring Creek, Tipperary Gulley, Back Creek, Stony Creek and Blackguard Gulley. From Eureka stockade onwards there had been increasing hostility shown by European miners to Chinese on the goldfields. There had been increasingly serious disorders including the Buckland River riots, Victoria 1858. From November 1860 disorder began to grow in the Lambing Flat area. For a while, whilst Chinese remained in designated areas, problems were minor.
With the failure of the New South Wales government to pass anti Chinese immigration provisions in 1860, tensions began to rise. In February 1861 they boiled over, all Chinese were visited by gangs of white miners and handed eviction notices. Chinese men were assaulted and many had their pigtails cut off. Chinese vehicles were hijacked and burnt in the streets and even white businesses known to have done business with the Chinese were burnt. The local police in the face of a more than a thousand armed miners were powerless to act. A military force was hastily assembled in Sydney and dispatched on the 25th of February 1861 to restore order. It consisted of 130 soldiers of the 1st Battalion 12th Regiment under Capt Richard Atkinson, the senior captain of the 12th in Sydney, Three 12 pounder guns under Capt Charles Neville Lovell RA, 20 mounted police as escort to the artillery and assorted ammunition, stores and forage wagons. Capt Atkinson had commanded the reserve at the Eureka stockade. About 80 of the 12th had only just arrived in the colony as a reinforcement draft.
Additional mounted police were sent in from surrounding districts. The whole force was under the command of Capt Atkinson with Lt Saunders 12th regiment acting as the Commissary. As this took almost all of the regular force away from Sydney, companies of the New South Wales Volunteer Rifle Regiment were mobilised to undertake guard duty at Government House, the Mint and other duties including a reaction force to quell any riots at Cockatoo Island or Darlinghurst prisons on a 24-hour duty basis. Getting to Lambing Flat was no mean feat, the railway only went as far as Campbelltown 51 km (32 miles) from Sydney. The troops under Captain Atkinson marched from Sydney’s Victoria Barracks, down Oxford St to Redfern station a distance of about 5km headed by the regimental band. Two trains were used to carry the force the first with two engines, 10 carriages and thirteen horse boxes. The train, due to load restrictions, had to be split into two at Liverpool before reaching Campbelltown
From there on it would have been on horseback or foot for the next 320 km (200 miles). Someone had a flash of genius and 10 horse-drawn Sydney buses were hired to move the infantry. Thus the troops reached Lambing Flat in eight days from the railhead rather than 14. What a bone shaking ride it must have been. The buses presented a strange sight travelling the country side with Sydney name boards such as Glebe or Wynyard Square still up. After a pause at Yass, 100km from Lambing Flat, the main body reached the town on 11 March 1861. Headquarters were set up on Camp Hill and the digging of trenches and fortifications in the vicinity of Campbell and Berthong streets began. Arriving with them was the New South Wales Premier, Charles Cowper who went in and spoke at the miners meetings and with business leaders. The town was quiet and it seemed to have done the trick. After firing a Royal salute on Queen Victoria's birthday 24th of May the troops withdrew to Sydney, the peace however was not to last.
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Re: The 12th Regiment and the Goldfields Riots 1860-1862

Postby Bushman » 04 Aug 2014 03:05

Almost as soon as the military had left problems began again this culminated in the riots of 30 June 1861 where Chinese men were attacked, some having their pigtails cut off with scalps attached. A mob of about 3,000 European miners drove the Chinese off the Lambing Flat field, and then moved on to the Back Creek diggings, destroying tents and looting possessions. One European woman married to a Chinese man had her belongings burnt and both herself and her children threatened with death. Miners this time took the opportunity to burn the businesses of local traders not only for being involved in Chinese but those regarded as ripping off the general mining community. The Chinese population of about 1000 withdrew to the south-east to Murrumburrah where they were given shelter by grazier Mr James Roberts of ‘Currawang’ station, 20kms from the Goldfields. Fifty additional mounted police with swords arrived and arrested three of the alleged ringleaders.. Gunfire came from both sides leaving three troopers wounded and two horses dead. Mounted Police patrols were fired on and in turn returned fire. Thousand miners stormed the lock-up. A police mounted charge on 14 July killed 1 miner and injured many more but on the 15th the police were forced to withdraw to Yass. Ultimately the rioter’s casualties appear to have been three killed and 40 wounded.
Once again the regular military forces were dispatched this time under the command of Col John Francis Kempt commanding officer of the 12th and consisted of one company of the 12th, a 12 pounder field piece of the Royal Artillery (Lt Pitt RA), a naval brigade of 72 and 12 pounder supplied by HMS Fawn (Capt R P Cator RN sometimes spelled as Kator at the time and later I believe an Admiral), along with assorted supply wagons. However the rioters seem to have thought better of taking on the military and the reoccupation of the town was peaceful
This time buses were not used. Were they unsuitable or merely too expensive? Instead soldiers were transported from the Campbelltown railhead by mail coach at the rate of 50 personnel per day. No mails could be carried and the population of the Goulburn district were quite put out that the mail ceased while the troops were deployed. A large mounted police force was commanded by the superintendent of the Goulburn district, Capt Zouch, himself an ex-soldier, (unit not known). Once again the New South Wales Rifle Volunteers stood up to back fill the positions left by regular soldiers. The 12th was officered by Captain J Wilkie, Lieutenants Dawson and John Soames Richardson (later a Major General and commander of the NSW Defence force and the contingent sent to the Sudan in 1885) and Ensigns Saunders and Cooper with Mr Squire as surgeon
This time, the military would not be leaving so quickly and a company (number 8 company of the 12th) remained on garrison duty with the gunners of the Royal Artillery for 12 months until August 1862. Evidence shows that both the 12th and RA conducted range practices during that period of time. The naval brigade were released by Colonel Kempt and returned to Sydney on 7th August 1861. Captain John Lunan Wilkie, of the 12th, aged twenty-eight years, died at Lambing Flat on the 1st February 1862 from natural causes (appears to have been a heart attack). His widow remained on in the district and was highly regarded by the community for her social work and would remarry there. The miners honoured her by giving her a bag of gold dust. So was she a colonial or English born? The first Anglican church would be dedicated to Wilkie.
The town was renamed Young in honour of the state’s governor, Sir John Young.
Lt Morley Caufield Saunders seems to have been promoted captain in Wilkie’s place (by purchase??)
The deployment was to have a further serious codicil for the 12th regiment as the company commander left at Young, Captain Saunders, was court-martialled on return to Sydney.
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Re: The 12th Regiment and the Goldfields Riots 1860-1862

Postby colsjt65 » 08 Aug 2014 01:49

Thanks for this detailed narrative. It has prompted me to do some more research about the officers involved, in particular Lieut. Richardson. His potted biographies missed his time at Lambing Flat. I had recorded him as being in New Zealand the entire time from 16 April 1860 to 1 Aug. 1864, doing service in the field force in Waitara and taking part in actions there, then garrison adjutant in New Plymouth in Dec. 1860. I have now tracked down that he sailed back to Sydney on 14th Jan. 1861 in the Prince Alfred and didn't return to NZ until 27th Dec. 1863 in the ss Auckland.

[Bvt] Colonel Kempt, after years of serving as senior officer in NSW and sometime caretaker Administrator of NSW Govt., finally rejoined his regiment in New Zealand (commanded there by Col. H. M. Hamilton) arriving 20th Feb. 1865 in the Otago. He promptly died on 28th July while in command of Queen's Redoubt, Pokeno and was buried in Auckland.

Captain Wilkie also served in New Zealand, but I find no record of him taking part in the Waitara war. He left for Sydney in the Kate on 9 April 1861.

Saunders never left NSW before his downfall. Dawson came to NZ after Lambing Flat, appearing in newspaper records in Napier from Dec. 1865 until 1867.
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Re: The 12th Regiment and the Goldfields Riots 1860-1862

Postby Bushman » 09 Aug 2014 06:04

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 follows

First: 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; and

Fifth: 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.pdf
http://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
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Re: The 12th Regiment and the Goldfields Riots 1860-1862

Postby Bushman » 17 Aug 2014 23:38

I thought that the witness list from the court martial might be of interest

Witnesses For The Prosecution
Henry Mead Hamilton, Lieutenant Colonel 12th Regt
Campbell Thomas Morris, Lieutenant 12th Regt
James Inge Duncan, Ensign 12th Regt
Frank Richard Burt, Sergeant 12th Regt
Edgar Beckham JP, Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands
Robert Plumb, Publican Shelly’s Flat
John Soame Richardson, Lieutenant 12th Regt
Cornelius Hogan, Private 12th Regt
John Scaby, Sergeant 12th Regt
John Bevil, Private 12th Regt attached to Royal Artillery
William Cook O’Shaughnessy, Captain 12th Regt
David Cole, Private 12th Regt
Joseph Butcher, Sergeant (Gunner) Royal Artillery
Goymer, Private 12th Regt
William Kenny, Sergeant Major 12th Regt
Thomas Phillips, Sergeant 12th Regt
Mrs. Henrietta Hindmarsh Saunders (nee Howard)

Witnesses for the Defence
Richard Dyer, Constable Mounted Police
James Inge Duncan, Ensign 12th Regt
John Motley, Drayman
William Sall, MD Surgeon Major
Charles Morris, Hotel Keeper Campbelltown
William Campen, Telegraph Clerk Campbelltown,
Samuel Johnson, Senior Sergeant Police Campbelltown
Edward Fielding, Station Master Campbelltown
George Banks Floyer Arden, Assistant Surgeon 12th Regt
Frederick Mulholland, Publican Campbelltown
Daniel Burgon, Inn Keeper Bowning
Frederick Lockyer, Railway Guard
Evan Lloyd, Inn Keeper Paddy’s River
Lewis Levy, Inn Keeper Berrima
Joseph Butcher, Sergeant Royal Artillery
Kelly, Gunner Royal Artillery
Brooks, Gunner Royal Artillery
James Russell, Constable of Binalong
George Holmes Alloway, Staff Surgeon 12th Regt
Thomas Pike, Private 12th Regt
James O’Grady, Colour Sergeant 12th Regt
John Soame Richardson, Adjutant 12th Regt
Walter Olivey, Lieutenant (Paymaster) 12th Regt
Robert Laver, Quarter Master 12th Regt
Frederick Bourne Russell, Lieutenant Colonel 12th Regt
James Haydon
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Re: 1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

Postby walrus » 09 Jan 2017 03:07

You may have wished to comment on the amount of deserters(At least 9 are recorded) from the 11th and 12th to the Miners Camps, during this same period of time 1861-1862. The Battle Flag of the Diggers was flown during this period. It was very similar to that of the Confederate Forces (A St. Andrews Cross) used a few years later in North America.
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Re: 1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

Postby Bushman » 29 Jan 2017 23:29

Desertion was a fact of life for all Regiments stationed in Australia. The 12th for example had this occur in Queensland when a detachment was posted there. For successful desertion soldiers had to have support amongst the civilian population. This is why the miners would have been important to them. The numbers involved don't seem abnormal. Many soldiers of course settled in Australia or NZ at the conclusion of their careers.
It is important not to confuse the issues at Eureka and Lambing Flat. The 11th was not involved in the suppression of the Lambing Flat (or Burrendong) Goldfields riots as it had already returned to England (1857) The 12th was on the verge of returning as well as having its hands full in NZ

Of some interest the Adjutant of the 12th John Soames Richardson resigned his British commission relatively soon after the Court Martial and became a member of the NSW Permanent Military forces. Feared retribution from Hamilton perhaps or simply a better offer? He commanded the first Australian force on active service the NSW Sudan Contingent in 1885 and finished his career as a Major General commanding the NSW Forces and is buried in Sydney.
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Re: 1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

Postby QSVC » 07 Feb 2017 23:02

I agree....fantastic story....thanks for posting...

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Re: 1861-62 Australian Goldfields Riots & the 12th Regiment

Postby Bushman » 07 Mar 2017 01:12

I note that one reference to the 12th in Australia Wikipedia, shows the 12th leaving Australia in 1861 and no mention of Queensland service. The final part of the 12th did not leave Australia until 1866.
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