(From our Correspondent)
‘Tis only ten hours since I closed my regular correspondence, but the events which have since transpired are so extraordinary as to demand an express, which I hope will arrive in time for tomorrow’s issue.
About 11 to day, a body, horse and foot, left the Camp, under the command of Mr Commissioner Johnstone. When they neared the Eagle Saloon, on the New Road, the people began to “Joe” them; the party so calling were surrounded and asked for their licenses. Some had them, some had not. Those who had none, bolted off and ran among the Gravel Pit holes. This fact was soon communicated to the Camp. Mr Commissioner Rede and more force soon arrived. This gentleman got among the crowd and remonstrated with them; he said that unless they separated , he would read the Riot Act, which he soon after attempted to do, but did not read through. By this time the whole force of the Camp was out on the Flat, or on the slope leading to the township; some four or five prisoners were taken and marched off, whether for resistance or want of licenses, I know not. One man who was in charge, attempted to escape; he ran among the tents on the Flat, and both police and military were ordered by an Inspector of Police to fire on him, which they did. This happened among tents where women and children were congregated in large numbers. I do not hear any deaths on either side, though some wounded. About twelve o’clock the force was withdrawn, and as I write all again is quiet. From where I am writing I see the soldiers under arms outside the camp. The police are all under arms in the camp, and the Mess Room Verandah is breastworked with bags filled with earth and sand. Work is knocked off, and the whole population is talking over the events of the morning.
The Resident Commissioner rode up to Mr Humffray, the Secretary of the League, and some others, and said, “See now the consequences of your agitation.” To which it was replied, “No, but the consequences of your impolitic coercion.” I wish that our local authorities had but a little common sense. Was it right, was it politic to go on a licence hunting raid in such terms and under such exciting circumstances? Mr. Humffray personally warned the Lieutenant Governor in town, and I have called his attention to the necessity of being prepared to act with judgement under the circumstances.
The Express waits-I must conclude by saying that rain has come on after the morning’s hot winds.
Event follows event here so quickly that unless each is narrated immediately on its occurences, it appears as if months old. However, I mean to run the risk of being charged with retailing old news rather than leave you uninformed of the main facts, of which not being present, till now I was unable to get a correct version.
Well then, our present state began, from one man on Eureka asking the favour of a word from an officer in command of the body of military, which came in from Melbourne on the evening of the 28th by Eureka to whom the officer replied “I hold no communication with rebels.” Soon after this a man with a blunderbuss happened to pass along the road, on which the military were marching, and from some cause, which I am unable to learn, had his weapon taken from him immediately after, some ten men of “the Bakery Hill mob”, set on the detachment, took from 20 to 30 stand of arms from the soldiers, hunted them, and then seized on the carts which were conveying the store of ammunition, ran them down a hill into some old ground and coolly searched them to see if there were any cannons stowed away in them, as had been reported; they found none but came on no inconsiderable quantity of cartridges which are now in their possession. It was in this onset that Capt. Young received his hurts, of which he is still in a very precarious state.
Information of the affair having been sent to the Camp, a body of mounted troopers were sent to the rescue to form a rear guard; these men covered the march of the military, every now and then whirling round and checking the diggers who hung in the rear. This operation had been gone through several times until when the bridge on the Flat was reached a determined stand was made, and on a volley of stones being thrown here as had been done several times before, a charge was made among the crowd. The swords were freely used which so provoked the men assembled who chanced to be armed that they fired on them; I believe the troopers fired in return, but ultimately made for the Camp. This is as far as I can make out from parties present what happened about 10 o’clock on the night of 28th.
Next day the meeting was held on the Bakery Hill as I have informed you, to which I may add that three cheers were given for Mr. Fawkner the tried friend of the diggers, and the same and a vote of thanks to Mr. Ireland and Stavely for their handsome conduct in the matter of fees in the defence cause.
Yesterday all was quiet up to 11 o’clock and would have been so yet had not the attempt been made to look for licenses; some of those who were first asked, instead of licenses I believe showed their cards of membership of the Reform League, and when about to be taken into custody escaped among the Gravel Pit workings; more force was sent for and arrived, they drew up on the New Road, when Messrs. Read and Johstone, advanced in front of them to a crowd, the former Gentlemen tried to persuade those assembled and still gathering to disperse, failing to do this he said he must read the Riot Act, and use force; several parties remonstrated with him, on the impolitic of the course he was following. Mr Rede replied that he was merely carrying out the law as it presently stood, and that he was determined to do so at all hazards. He then began to read the Riot Act, at which time I was standing near him, as a large body of troops and foot police were at some distance behind me, I considered it my safer course to shift my quarters, which I did, but soon found that the Riot Act had been got through at such a telegraphic speed, that notwithstanding a thrice repeated “God save the diggers, I was well nigh caught in the rush of troopers, consequent on the order “draw swords and advance”.
Although I am not very intimate with the Riot Act, still, I think that it is so long that there was an impossibility in the way of its being read in the time occupied by Mr. Rede.
I am borne out in the supposition by the information of several parties who assert that but a portion of it was read. If so I believe the consequent proceedings were illegal.
Immediately after the first charge, matters became so general and complicated that I can furnish but a poor narrative; there was rushing here, then back again, officers and orderlies galloped wildly along the new road, swords rattled, shots were fired, and single prisoners were taken, and marched to the camp. Some I hear are charged with having no licenses, other with attempted rescue, and a few with firing on the military and police. Monday’s Police Court will, I expect put me in possession of the real state of the facts. It was currently reported that one digger had been killed, but I cannot vouch for the truth of it. Several of the diggers I know were seriously wounded, and I saw blood marks on a few of the Police.
About half-past 12, the whole force was marched up to the Camp again. They were all under arms when the Express left, and there is still a large force employed in guarding every avenue to the Camp and patrolling every direction.
At 3 o’clock an impromptu meeting was held on Bakery Hill, when volunteers were called for, and instantly stepped forward to the amount of 500 men or so: many, though not all of these men, were armed. They assembled round the Australian flag, which has now a permanent flag staff, chose their leaders and