War by the Blacks

21 March 1833 The Sydney Herald

To the Editors of the Sydney Herald.


Last night was brought down in a cart from my station on the Murrumbidgee below Wondibadgerce, a man named Peter Carroll, who had been wounded with a spear by the natives at that place, under the following circumstances:-

About the hour of midnight of the 26th of last month, Peter Carroll, who was the watchman of the folds at one of my sheep stations, was .suddenly alarmed by the violent rushing of the sheep.

On looking towards the place he saw something black which induced him to call out to the shepherds in the hut.

He then discovered that about 30 natives had surrounded the folds and were endeavouring to steal a sheep, and exclaimed to them, if they did not go away he would fire on them. (Here I must observe, that he had no fire arms, but said so to deter them from what they evidently intended to do.)

Instantly he received a jagged spear in his belly, which, fortunately taking an oblique direction towards the right side, did not penetrate the abdomen, but was withdrawn by himself, leaving however a considerable piece of the weapon in the wound, which has not yet been entirely extracted.

Many more spears were thrown which did but little execution.

They then decamped taking with them one sheep and scattering the whole of the rest from the fold.

This is the fifth sheep they have stolen from me within the short space of two months; but they never used a spear before although they have threatened it, and actually surrounded one of the shepherds in the day time and were preparing to throw their spears, when they were prevented by the sight of a musket - on that occasion they carried off a sheep.

For some months past, the natives all along that River, from Warby's station to 50 miles westward have evinced a mischievous disposition, by spearing and killing cattle.

It first commenced at Warby's where they killed a fat cow which Mr. W. and his men traced to the camp of the depredators where he pounced upon them in the act of roasting and feeding on the flesh.

One of the party fired and wounded one of the tribe, who was suspected to be the ringleader, and the rest fled with precipitation leaving their wounded companion on the field, who I hear has since died in consequence.

Since that period they do not appear to have molested Mr. Warby's station a second time  but the practice has been extensively increased in other herds; and it has been not at all uncommon for proprietors of stock, when cutting and branding, to find large calves and full grown cattle with the broken end of a spear protruding from some part of the animal not immediately mortal.

This has occurred in all the herds, with few or no exceptions, now depasturing in that part of the Colony.

Now, however, the practice has assumed an alarming appearance. Success has so emboldened them that evident destruction threatens to annihilate property to a very serious extent.

My overseer writes, "the blacks took from Bamen, or Bammen, (native name of one of my stations) after endeavouring to kill the calves in the pen, but which ran off to their dams, one of the shepherd's pea coats, Carroll's bed, blanket, shirt, trowsers, and frock, and left us, threatening to come on us in the night.

They have done us a good deal of mischief, and have been very troublesome ever since you left us last shearing.

They have done Mr. M-----'s herd of cattle a great deal of injury, having killed and eat some - some they have speared, and many more (supposed about 60) they have driven quite away, where they are not to be found, and they still continue the practice.

They have laid in ambush to surprise and cut off the man who is in charge, and he is in danger of his life.

There is now (March 1) about a thousand of the blacks convenient to our stations; and the shepherds are afraid to graze their sheep, or to watch them at night, lest the blacks should come on them by surprise."

For, contrary to most other tribes, who appear to have a superstitious dread of darkness, these marauders commit their depredations during the night, which makes them the more dangerous.

What can be done in this case?

Will the Government afford any protection to the people who have ventured to those remote districts with their properly?

Or must the men in charge of that property be allowed, or be under the necessity, for self preservation, to take the law into their own hands, and avenge themselves against these savages - one or the other should surely be done; for is it feasible to suppose that men will tamely submit to wanton and unprovoked attack, where the law does not afford them any redress?

I am under the necessity of keeping fire-arms on the station for the protection of the place, by a shew of them, for they are almost always without ammunition.

The sending of them there has been hitherto considered by me more as a matter of form than one of absolute necessity; as I have generally found that the sight of a musket was quite sufficient to alarm these people, without having recourse to its use.

But will it be found that the continued disuse of the musket is politic? I fear not.

If the Government would take measures to protect British subjects and their properly without the line of colonization (for I have heard it argued in General Darling's time that it would not, not being bound to do so) from the maraudings of these people; then I advocate against the use of warlike implements (except in the case of immediate personal defence, such as is justifiable by British law) by men generally too prone to act upon the first impulse of their passions, and to resent the conduct of these poor savages, who know no better than that they have a right to destroy all whom they fancy stand in the way of their present gratification; and between whom and the lower class of the white population in this Colony, there exists on the part of the latter a grounded and unalienable hatred, contempt, and disgust.

Unless some measures are adopted by the Authorities, which would have for their object the restoration of tranquillity and conciliation of the native tribes, coupled with the dread of our power in case of hostility eviticed on their part, it is easy to foresee what may be the result ultimately.

The men generally employed at, and who occupy those distant stations, are people of a very low grade, who, if they possess the means of wrecking their vengeance on the savage tribes, by having fire-arms indiscriminately placed at their disposal, would not hesitate to do so; and the slaughter might be most sanguinary; for I believe there are very many who would esteem it as much sport as a day's fowling, to be allowed legally to destroy half the native tribes in the Colony.

But how are proprietors of stock to act?

If they do not afford their servants some shew of protection in the wilderness (in the absence of all other so far removed from the seat of justice) where they are hourly exposed to the treachery of its inhabitants, it not only evinces a want of solicitude for their safety, but implies a want of feeling also; for these men are too apt to consider themselves as only secondary objects of their muster's care, not-withstanding proofs to the contrary, and as despised and compulsory servants; and therefore it is the fashion with them to become careless, and in a proportionate degree, as they think, of their employer's interest.

It is besides impolitic to let servants in the interior be under the fear or danger of attack from the native tribes, as they will not attend to the care of the stock they have in their charge, while under the dread of their lives from so artful an enemy.

Now, should the Government not be able to extend sufficient protection to persons situated be-yond the limits of colonization (and I scarcely think it can) so as to awe into good order and sub-ordination the native tribes of the remote stations, and in consequence of such want of good order and subordination, the same work of depredation continues, those men take upon them indiscriminately to deal out vengeance on the blacks.

May I it not increase the evil by causing an inveterate spirit of hostility in them, and induce them to destroy all the property belonging to the master's of those men, - or, which is the same thing, treacherously to murder them, that they may enjoy unmolested the use of the animals as food?

These queries I merely put as reflections the case naturally give rise to.

It is for those who are better acquainted with the nature of the subject than I am, to answer them. I own that I feel very much interested, as I have a considerable property in sheep and cattle there, which is liable to spoliation, yet I am unwilling to yield to the urgent solicitations of my men to allow them the indiscriminate use of fire-arms, which may be the cause of much blood to be unnecessarily shed, and may render the only probable loss of my property a reality.

Having trespassed so much on your time, I must apologise for the intrusion, and merely add, that should you deem this letter worthy a place in your Herald, I shall feel obliged by its insertion.

I remain, Gentlemen, your most obedient servant,

March 17, 1833. C.T ------------