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3 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

BUSHRANGING.

ITS PROPER TREATMENT ILLLUSTRATED BY TWO

CASES MENTIONED IN THE EARLY ANNALS OF NEW SOUTH WALES.

In these days, when bushranging bids fair to become once more the temporary fashion owing to the fascination which the exploits of Mr Edward Kelly and his gang exercise over the ill-regulated minds of certain charm-   ing youths of Australian parentage, it may not be amiss to gather from the records of the past some idea of the spirit in which law- lessness of this sort should be met and put down. Turning over the leaves of an old scrap book the other day containing extracts from the public newspapers dating back as far as the "twenties" of the present century,   we came across some interesting accounts of how bushrangers were treated in "the brave days of old," when the country was more thinly populated than at present, and therefore more open for the uninterrupted operations of these in- teresting gentlemen. Who knows but the   story of the heroism and determination dis- played on certain occasions may animate the next "stuck up" township to resistance, and   incline it to the belief that men may do something better with their hands and arms under such circumstances than "throw them   up" at the word of command.  

The first account of an encounter with bushrangers which arrests our attention in the ancient collection aforesaid is headed "The Bushrangers at Bathurst." In select- ing the scene of their operations these gentle creatures may have had an eye to the allitera-   tion which occurs in this title. The narrative

however, gives us no clue as to whether the selection of Bathurst was due to a per-   verted literary taste, or whether it was merely the result of chance. The narrative is in the form of a letter dated "Bruce Dale,   October 7, 1830," from Mr G Suttor, to his son, Mr E B Suttor, of Baulkham Hills." A rising amongst the convicts appears to have taken place, but "the object of the     men who have thus disturbed the country" was a complete mystery to our correspondent.   The outbreak appears to have given great alarm. "It was the most sudden thing that   ever happened, says Mr Suttor to his son "and they are the most formidable, desperate   set of ruffians that ever infested the country."

At one time the band numbered 134 men some of whom were said to be pressed but there were rumours about that a general rising might be expected. The ruflians appear to have been utterly reckless. and well supplied with ammunition, arms, and horses. It may be thought that the imminence of the danger struck terror in the hearts of the Bathurst people, that they immediately began to talk in whispers to know nothing to shun the police like a pestilence and to be extra civil to those who might possibly be in league with the desperadoes. But, ap-   parently, the men of Bathurst in those days did not know what personal fear or criminal sympathy was. Instead of attempting to make themselves safe they set to work at   once to restore peace and order to the dis- trict. On Monday, the 27th September 1830 a meeting of the magistrates and inhabitants was held in the court to concert measures, whereat it was resolved to form as many as   chose to volunteer "into a corps of well-   armed cavalry." Twelve men at once came forward for enrolment but some of them subsequently withdrew, send- ing substitutes, in some cases mounted, to take their place. No time was lost. A leader was chosen in the person of Mr W H Suttor, and at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the   party was ready to start. Just then the news of another robbery [at Arkells] arrived, which appears to have fired the indignation of this "corps of well armed cavalry," for   we read that "the volunteers pushed on at a   smart pace, and a little before day next morn- reached Arkell's house on the Campbell   River," where they fortified the inner man, and again went forward. Fortunately, Mr Suttor met two natives whom he knew and

whom he persuaded to accompany him as

guides.

After this they soon came upon the tracks of the game they were after and followed them up until they saw the scoundrels they wanted encamped in a rocky glen near the Warragambie River. This was on the Tuesday afternoon, about an hour before sunset or not above from 30 to 32 or 33 hours after the meeting had been held to determine on what steps should be taken. Nothing like hesitancy was displayed now that the quarry was in view. Immediate action was decided on. Mr Suttor made up his mind to attempt a surprise and dismounting his men de- spatched a small body to take the ruffians in the rear, while he with the remainder of the volunteers attacked them in front. Unfortu-   nately, one of the men told off for the rear   attack tumbled over a stone, which in falling aroused the attention of the bushrangers. They immediately took to the trees and opened a heavy fire, which the volunteers are said to have stood well, and to have returned with steadiness. Mr Suttor was mis- taken by the bushrangers for another gen- tleman named Evernden who seemed to be particularly obnoxious to them as they con- siderably proclaimed their intention of hav-  

ing his life. The firing, we are told was kept up with great spirit on both sides for about an hour, the parties taking deliberate aim at each other. No great damage how- ever was done as the trees afforded cover. Two of the banditti were wounded and fell

but rose again and went to the rear. On the   otherside there were no casualties. A ball passed through Mr Suttor's hair, but luckily   missed his head. As night was coming on and nearly all his ammunition was expended the leader determined to draw off his men. This was a matter of some difficulty, but was eventually accomplished successfully under fire, the robber captain calling to his men not to be flurried, but to "pick their men,"

naming those he particularly wanted to have "potted." We have been unable to discover what became of the band or to learn whether   Mr Suttor and his volunteers had "better   luck next time." The sequel, however, is comparatively unimportant as the prompt- ness with which civllians in those days   turned out to repress crime, and the readi- ness with which they risked their lives rather than tamely sit down and give up their dis- tricts to the domination of a few insolent freebooters are the points which we wish to bring into prominence.

Passing on we come across an account of another encounter with bushrangers dis- tinguished by the exhibition of individual bravery which we venture to think could hardly be surpassed. The hero of the story is a Mr Charles Fisher   Shepherd, and it appears to us that if his breed had survived and spread, "sticking up" would have fallen into disrepute as a dangerous and unprofitable game. Men of an ingenious and active disposition would have turned their attention to other branches of the rogues' profession in which if the profits are small, the swindle is comparatively     safe. Shepherd-than whom a more plucky man assuredly never stept in shoe leather - was overseer on a station called Micalago at Maneroo, New South Wales, owned by a Mr Catterall who was resident. There were several men employed about the place among the hands being two men named John Ball   and Thomas Pearson respectively. These

two, as we shall see, were evidently "sympa-           thisers" with villany, and as such played an important part in the fray we are about to describe. In December, 1834 it was known at Micalago that the bush- rangers were in the neighbourhood, plun- dering and terrorising after the manner of their tribe. One day Shepherd and Ball were in conversation, and the talk turned upon the marauding ruflians who were about Ball said, "They will be here next;"  

whereupon the overseer replied, "If they come I will give give them a benefit." It is     important to remember these few words, as their repetition afterwards showed clearly that treachery was at work. Not long after- wards, Shepherd was awakened in his tent,

which was an open one, by hearing some one moving about. He at once jumped out of bed in the dark only to find himself confronting the muzzle of a gun held within a foot of his breast. The intruder said, "Keep your hands down, and come out of the tent." No   sooner had he (Shepherd) complied with these directions than some one added, "Secure him, he is a dangerous character." Shepherd then   found that the place had been "stuck up"

by a gang whose leader rejoiced in the euphonious name and title of Jack the Rammer, the other members being called Boyd and Keys. Directly he had left the tent Jack the Rammer accosted him with - "What a benefit you have given us," and at   once the fact flashed across his mind that Ball had been in communication with the ruffians. At Shepherd's request they gave

him his clothes, after first examining them  

for arms. They then led him away captive

to the hut, where Mr and Mrs Catterall lodged. They made Mr Catterall get up and light a candle, and having placed Shepherd

in one corner and the two Catteralls in another, they sent down to the men's hut, and brought up all the hands, preparatory to pillage. Having packed up everything valu- able in the hut, the leader or captain helped himself to Shepherd's pocketbook, con- taining papers and letters from England. ln answer to a request to return the letters, this considerate gentleman said he would keep them, as they would do to light fires with. They also took his double- barrelled gun, but gave it up afterwards in   return for a lesson in the use of the compass. They then cleared out.

The question then arose in Shepherd's   mind-what was to be done? Prudence suggested, nothing. The bushrangers had taken away all they could get, and were not likely to return. Why incur any danger by molest-   ing them when they had done their worst?   Besides, what could be more rash and fool- hardy than to attempt aggressive measures when there was too much reason to believe   that there were traitors in the camp? True   courage, however, does not always take coun-       sel with prudence, when strongly provoked to     action, so, soon after the scoundrels had gone, Shepherd called for his horse, saying he would follow them. On examination, how- ever, he found that he had no bullets or slugs wherewith to load his gun-nothing but No. 4 shot-so he abandoned the idea of pursuit. However, his change of intention did not prevent the encounter for which he was evi- dently longing. In a very short time he saw two of the robbers return. They were Jack the   Rammer and Boyd. They parted when they saw him, the former taking up a position on his left, and the latter on his right. When within 12 yards of him, Boyd stopped, knelt down, and deliberately taking aim, fired and missed. Shepherd then looked rapidly at the man on his left (Jack the Rammer), whom he found in the act of covering him with his musket. There was no time to stand on ceremony, so raising his gun (which luckily he had loaded with the No. 4 shot in the absence of anything   better), he shot the scoundrel dead. Having effectually disposed of this redoubt- able freebooter, he at once turned his atten- tion to Mr Boyd. No sooner, however, did he present the other barrel at him than he held up his hands and said, "Don't fire," at     the same time beating a hasty retreat in the direction of the men's hut. Shepherd   followed him up, when Ball (with whom he had the conversation we have narrated) came out, and said, "Don't shoot him, sir." But   the overseer's blood was up, and he only replied, "Not shoot him! By God, I will;     he has fired at me." Where upon the "sym- pathising" Ball made answer- "If you shoot him, I'll shoot you." "If both barrels were loaded," returned Shepherd without hesita- tion, "I'd shoot the pair of you." Ball then   said, "Leave him to me," and Shepherd, with       what appears to us perfect recklessness, know- ing what he did about the man, agreed to leave Boyd in his charge. Boyd then laid down his musket and after being searched to see if he had any more arms concealed about him, was left in the men's hut in charge of Ball. A very pretty pair! So ended the     second episode in the raid.

Thinking that he had satisfactorily ac- counted for his opponents, Shepherd started to look at the man he had shot. But if he imagined he had done all his fighting for that day he certainly reckoned without his host. As he was going along he heard some one fol-

lowing, and looking round, saw Keys (the third member of the gang) coming up with a double barrelled gun in his hand. Perceiving that he was discovered, Keys got behind a water barrel, and Shepherd sought cover behind a bell tent close at hand. As Shepherd had only one charge to de- pend on, it was necessary to be cautious. His object was, of course, to draw his opponents' fire in order that he might have him at an advantage, or be able to close with him. For this purpose he deliberately exposed himself from time to time- "waving backwards and forwards from behind the tent," as he called   the manouvre he practised. At last Keys fired and hit him in the left arm. The wound does not appear to have been very serious, but it caused Shepherd to drop the muzzle of his gun, and the shot not being properly wadded, rolled out. He then quitted the shelter of the tent and got behind a hut, where Pearson, the other station hand we have named, came to him armed with a musket and a sword. Instead of assisting his overseer, he merely requested him not to fire. On being asked why not he had nothing to say, but went away to the other corner of the hut only returning presently to prefer the same request. Here, again, was pretty clear proof of treachery, but Shepheid, although wounded, did not lose heart. He saw Keys levelling at him, he   could see his left eye between the hammers of the gun. Although he thought there was nothing but powder in his remaining barrel

he instinctively took aim and fired. Luckily one or two shots remained in the charge which struck his opponent in the eye, and although he (Keys) immediately returned the fire, his aim was wild, and no harm was done. Shepherd then made sure of his man. He called out- "Now, I have you," and com- menced walking towards him. Keys levelled his gun again, but simply saying, "It-s no go       Joe, there is nothing in them," Shepherd seized hold of the barrels and was about to close   with the ruflian, when Boyd, who it will be remembered was left in charge of the honest   Ball, appeared again upon the scene, and snatching Pearson's musket from him, shot     poor Shepherd through the head. The ball went in over his left eye, and came out behind his ear. He naturally fell stunned, and laid hold of a cart wheel to support him- self. Recovering a little he made a rush for the hut of Mr Catterall, whom he reproached for his inactivity Mr Catterall had evidently no taste for powder. "Good God, Catterall,  

said the wounded man bitterly, here have I     been fighting and got shot all to pieces and you never came near to see what's the     matter." "What could I do?" was the only           answer he got.

However, there was no time for conversa-   lion. In a very short time Boyd, Keys, and Ball were after him, the two former loading as they carne along. Faint, bleeding, and   unarmed, Shepherd's first impulse was to hide   himself from the bloodthirsty rascals, who would bo satisfied with nothing short of his life, so he ran into the hut and stood behind the door of one of rooms. But the impulse to seek safety in re- treat only had momentary ascendancy. Keys and Boyd came into the passage together,   and not knowing where he had taken refuge, stood for a minute irresolute what to do, with their guns ready for action. In a moment Shepherd was out of his hiding place and had hold of the muzzles of the guns. But no amount of bravery can supply the lack of physical strength in such an encounter. His   wounded arm was partially paralysed, and he had to let go. The ruffians then dragged their victim towards the door, and struck him behind the ear a blow which felled him like a bullock. They then placed a gun against his body and fired. The discharge

set fire to his clothes, the shots entering   below the groin and passing out at the side.  

Whie under treatment 14 slugs and balls   were extracted from him. Thinking they had at last done for their formidable op- ponent the bushrangers decamped. To show the sort of people Shepherd was surrounded by when he made his gal-

lant defence, we may mention that after he fell no attention was paid to him until he came to himself, five hours after (when his wounds were all swarming with maggots from     fly blows), while the scoundrel who had been shot dead in the very act of endeavourmg to     take life unlawfully was washed clean, shaved, wrapped in a clean sheet and laid in a cart. About 12 o'clock Shepherd recovered     his senses and managed to attract attention. Catterall coolly sald, "I was just going to send two men for you. I thought you were       dead." Courageous and humane man! Ball   and Pearson were subsequently tried for com- plicity with the bushrangers, when the Chief Justice paid the valiant overseer a high com-   pliment from the bench His Honour said, that "during the time he had sat in that court he had heard of some very brave acts, but did not recollect ever hearing or ever reading of an act or series of acts of more cool, determined courage and bravery than had been related to them by Mr Shepherd that day."

It is not necessary for us to draw any moral from these two cases of determined opposi- tion on the part of civilians to the operations   of bushrangers. They speak for themselves.   Our readers, however may like to know what became of Mr Shepherd and his assailants. The plucky overseer did not succumb to his wounds. He was taken to tho Goulburn Hospital (distant about 150 miles) in a cart,   and having been successfully treated, lived for many years, let us hope in that honour which his conduct so richly deserved. Many     a man wears the Victoria Cross today for valour which will not bear comparison with the determined and sustained bravery we have been describing. Of the gang, Jack the Rammer was shot dead in flagrante delicto, as we have seen. Boyd was shot by a trooper a few days after the attack on Micalago, while en- deavourmg to escape by swimming the Snowy River. Keys got off on this occasion, but was taken within a very short time, and,   there is reason to believe, met his deserts at the hands of tbe common hangman. Pearson was found guilty as an accomplice, but as he was remanded for sentence we are not able to say how he expiated his crime. Ball, who seems to us to have been the most active "sympathiser," was apparently acquitted.   The report however, is rather confused on this point. If he got off we can only say the fact proves that wonderful are the ways of       juries occasionally.

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