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The Australian Miners' War

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Salah ad-Din View Drop Down
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  Quote Salah ad-Din Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Australian Miners' War
    Posted: 20-Oct-2012 at 23:51
In 1851, gold was discovered in Victoria, in southeast Australia. The result was a gold-rush that drew fortune-seekers from across the world; Australians, Englishmen, Scotsmen and Dutchmen brushed shoulders with Americans, Jews, black Africans, and Italians. The result, not unlike the gold-rushes of contemporary America, was the development of a rowdy, near-anarchic frontier sub-culture that quickly became a terror to the established government.

Heavy license fees were levied against the miners, by a Colonial government worried at their rapidly increasing numbers and wild lifestyle. These fees were collected by British soldiers as well as policemen - the former were unsympathetic to the miners' cause, while the latter were commonly ex-convicts who displayed brutality and rank corruption in their behavior.

The real or perceived injustices suffered by the Victoria miners - who styled themselves 'diggers' - led them to form the Miners' Reform League, which by the fall of 1854 was headed by Irish immigrant Peter Lalor. Open violence began to break out. On October 6th of 1854, the Scottish miner James Scobie was murdered at the Eureka Hotel, very probably by its owner, James Bentley. Bentley was acquitted by a corrupt magistrate and as a result, a mob of diggers, possibly numbering as many as 10,000, came out to protest.

Several more protests and riots took place, and a column of British soldiers was attacked. Supposedly, the drummer-boy John Egan was killed by the diggers, though surviving military paperwork indicates that he died six years after the event. The government responded to the influx of violence by sending two regiments, the 12th and the 40th Infantry, to the Ballarat gold-fields, their numbers supplemented by an unscruplous police force.

On December 1st of 1854, Lalor and the diggers began to construct a stockade on the Eureka Plateau, overlooking the road to Melbourne. No less than 500 of them were sworn in under his newly-designed flag, the 'Southern Cross'. Lalor set about organizing an army for his miniature rebel state. Two of the best-armed units in his makeshift army were made up of American adventurers - the 'Independent California Rangers Revolver Brigade' and the 'American First Rifle Brigade'. Among them were many veterans of the Mexican-American War, as well as several black Americans.

After a false alarm the previous day (which may have been deliberately engineered by the government forces), the stockade was attacked on the morning of December 3rd, 1854. 276 soldiers and policement attacked somewhere between 150 and 200 men in the stockade. Within ten minutes, the 'battle' was over, and the soldiers had taken the 'Southern Cross' as their prize. Lalor was shot in the arm and later had to have it amputated.

Six of the government forces - including one captain - were killed during the skirmish. There is no reliable estimate for how many of the rebels were killed; the official number known to have been killed is 27 but likely it was much higher than this, especially considering some of the wounded fled from the site and died alone in the bush. The government forces behaved with unbecoming savagery, shooting and bayoneting some wounded men; what could have turned into a horrendous massacre was only ended when some of the miners' women began to cover the wounded with their own bodies, and when a British captain threatened to shoot any policeman who fired on a man who was wounded or had surrendered.

Though their brief uprising was crushed, the diggers enjoyed great public sympathy. When the survivors were brought to trial they were acquitted. The men put on trial were a diverse crowd - they included Italian Raffaello Carboni, black Jamaican James M. Campbell, Dutchman Jan Vennick, black American John Joseph, and a Scottish Jew, Jacob Sorenson. All were pardoned and enjoyed the status of local celebrities - a crowd supposedly carrying Joseph through the streets of Melbourne in a chair.

The miners also triumphed in the political sphere - within one year of the revolt, all but one of the Reform League's demands had been granted, and Lalor was beginning a long and prosperous political career.
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Nick1986 View Drop Down
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Oct-2012 at 07:09
I had no idea there were Americans involved. That might explain the desire to create a Republic of Australia. Could there also be a link to the 17th century "Digger" movement in England as the Australian miners wanted to create a more equal society?
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Nov-2012 at 07:59
http://www.survivallog.com/images/survivallogflag3.jpg
Eureka Stockade flag. The stars were incorporated into the modern Australian flag
Me Grimlock not nice Dino! Me bash brains!
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