Charles Knight

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.

Background

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

The Eureka Stockade.

THE RIOT AND WHAT LED TO IT.

An interesting contribution to the fund of personal reminiscences of the Eureka Stockade fight has been made by Mr Charles Knight, of Lal Lal. Mr Knight was working in his own claim in 1854, and was there when the police and troops were brought down to disperse the mob. He was present at Bentley's trial for the murder of Scobie, and the police had to escort Bentley to his home, the diggers being so incensed at the verdict that they tried to take the law into their own hands, he was also in Bentley's hotel the night of the murder of Scobie, and had several games of skittles. Samuel Waldock was playing also. Fleury's Brass Band enlivened the evening with selections. When he left the hotel "that night Mr Knight saw suspicious characters about. Four men tried to get into the hotel for drinks. Bentley came out, attacked the men with a shovel, and, it is claimed, killed Scobie. The morning after the hotel was burnt out a large body of Police and troopers came down to the spot to protect Bentley from the mob, large bodies of diggers being about at the tune trying to get hold of him. The troopers got Bentley out the back way, and he rode away on a tropper's horse. The diggers began to attack the hotel. The troopers had loaded muskets ready to fire, but the diggers, in spite of this, got into the house and searched for Bentley, and not finding him, they set fire tn ohe place. Mr Knight saw the first match applied to the walls of the place, and in a minute it was in flames. Fleury had an orchestra staying in the hotel, and it was amusing to see the big bass viols and drums, &o., being thrown down to the mob to save the cherished instruments from the fire. A great scene of disorder ensued after the burning, a lot of the diggers getting to the cellar, and soon whisky, wine, and beer were being freely indulged in. Bentley, after his escape from the mob, was taken charge of by the police, and | sent to Melbourne, where a fresh trial took place, and he was convicted of manslaughteir, and sentenced to a term of unprisonment. After the Bentley incident the diggers began to organise and drill, and supply themselves with guns, pikes, and all classes of weapons. They built the stockade of mining slabs, and entrenched themselves behind their defences, having previously all burnt their licenses, thus throwing down the gauntlet to the Govern ment. Mr Knight says the scene at the burning of the licenses was an eloquent one. Rough, eloquent speakers addressed the crowd, working them up to a pitch of excitement. Then each man walked up to the fire, cast his right into the flames, and knew then that he was virtually committed to resist the op pression of the authorities by force of arms. Mr knight was at the stockade till midnight the night previous to the struggle between the miners and troops. It was just about day break when ths troops made then charge on the stockade. A lot of the diggers had been decoyed away in another direction by a false alarm of troops coming up the Melbourne road ; conseqivntlv the stockaders did not have more than a third of their number ready to repel the real attack. A body of troops charged from the north, and mounted men charged on the south side. Just before the charge of the troops Captain Wise rode up to the barrier, and asked the miners to lay down their arms. On this being refused he retired to his own men, who fired the first volley in the air. The diggers responded with one which killed and wounded several of the soldiers, Captain Wise being shot. The troopers then charged the stockade, and cleared it of all the opposing force of miners. Mr Knight assisted to convey some of the wounded and killed away from the scene. After the struggle the police harassed the diggers considerably, hunting men up and down gullies, and threatening them with the sword. Mr Knight says that, he and his mates were so badgered about, their licenses being asked for at all times, that they fastened them to the front of their hut, so that all who ran could read. After the not martial law was proclaimed. The post office was an old tent., just about where the present post office stands. A body of police stretched across the bottom of Camp Hill, and only two men at a time were allowed to proceed up the hill to the post office for their letters. The reason of this pre caution was that the police camp was near the post office, and the authorities were afraid of another attack on the former. All lights had to be put out at 10 o clock at the diggers' camp. To show the state of panic the authorities were in — A shot was accidentally bred one night ori Barkly (Sic) Hill, and the police immediately fired a volley down the hill into the midst of the tents, windlasses, &c., fortunately without killing anyone, but apparently reckless whether their shots had a fatal effect or otherwise.[1]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also

Eyewitnesses

Eureka Hotel

Fleury's Band

James Scobie

Henry Wise

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

References

  1. Mount Alexander Mail, 07 December 1904.

External links