William Fitchett

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Samuel Huyghue's Plan of Attack of the Eureka Stockade, 03 December 1854.


William H. Fitchett was a doctor. [1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Fitchett was an eyewitness to the Eureka Stockade.[2]

Post 1854 Experiences

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


EUREKA STOCKADE. STORY RETOLD. The whole story of the Eureka Stockade and of the circumstances which led to that deplorable conflict, is told, In very vivid fashion, by Dr. W. H. Fitchett, in the July number of thee "Cornhill Magazine." We quote the following passages , in which he describes the actual attack delivered by the troops. "Meanwhile, in this whole distracted scene there was one cool brain with a clear purpose in it. Captain Thomas was a capable soldier, who could form a plan, keep it hidden in the cells of his own brain till the moment for action came, and then carry it out with swift and unfaltering resolution. He had seen—it may be suspected with soldierly indignation—an armed fort, with a strange flag, and men drilling for combat—built within cannon-shot of the spot where the Queen's flag flew. But he also saw, with a soldier's glance, that the Stockade was for him an opportunity, To attempt operations in the open against tens of thousands of miners, scattered over many square miles of rough country, would have been a business at once perilous and useless. Moreover, the miners, as a whole class, were not committed to the rising. But the Stockade drew all the dangerous spirits of the movement to one, a spot within easy striking distance of the camp. "In the daytime there were thousands of diggers in the Stockade, or about it, and an attack would be hopeless. Thomas could not be certain that, when night came, the majority of the diggers would wander away to their own tents ; but he was reasonably sure that the night garrison of the Stockade was much less formidable than the huge crowd of drilling men which filled it through all the hours of daylight. And, moreover, a crowd of amateur soldiers, ill-armed, and under amateur leadership, would be very likely to go to pieces in the confusion and tumult of a night attack. "Thomas was not the man to waste time, for with every hour that passed the insurrection grew more formidable. He gave no whisper of his plan to anybody, but re-solved to make his leap on the Stockade before daybreak on Sunday. He waited till night fell. The sound of voices in the streets had ceased ; the lights had died out in the tents on the hillsides looking down on the town, the flame of a great bonfire in the Stockade sank. Then Thomas sent the whispered call to arms through the camp. His plans were business-like, but his force was small. It consisted of 65 men of the 12th Regiment, under Captain Quade ; 87 men of the 40th, under Captain Wise; 100 mounted police, 24 foot police—a total of 276 men ; and by 3 a.m. they moved out in silence on their adventure. The night was still black when the at-tacking force silently defiled from the camp and began its march towards the Stockade.
Thomas had made his arrangements cleverly. Part of the mounted police swept round to the left of the Stockade, to threaten its flank and rear. The direct attack was to be made by the detachments of the 12th and 40th; and, with a shrewd soldier's judgment, Thomas made his stroke at the Stockade where the slope was steepest. He judged that the attack would be least expected there, and that amateur troops, firing down a slope and in the dark, would be sure to shoot over the heads of his soldiers. "When the attacking party, marching in strictest silence, came within 300 yards of the Stockade, the detachments of the 12th and 40th extended them-selves in skirmishing order; and then advanced, still without firing a shot. Half the remaining distance had been covered when there was a stir within the Stockade; a dozen muskets flashed redly through the darkness on the troops. The Queen's troops had been fired upon, and the bugler, marching beside Thomas, at his word, sounded the call to 'commence firing.' Among the men in the Stockade was an ex-soldier, who had seen active service in India under Lord Gough. The sound of the bugle woke him. He cried to his mate, "That call means "Extend into skirmishing order." The military are here." "For a few minutes the darting flames of musketry fire lit up the darkness along the line of Thomas's men, and from the double breastwork of the Stockade. But discipline told at once. The firing from the Stockade was an in-termittent splutter, the volleys of the soldiers were a sustained blast of sound, that might have shaken more solid troops than those Lalor was trying to get into position. Raffaello, who was sleeping within the Stockade, was awakened by the sound of shots fired from the Stockade, and answered by the scream of the bugle from the attacking force. He ran out, and, in the light of the fires still burning in the Stockade. saw the red line of the soldiers, with the little bugler in front, bugle to his mouth. He caught a sight, too, he re-cords of 'long-legged Vern' running across the Stockade, eastward, to escape, while one of the insurgent captains was directing someone to fire at the running figure. "At that moment, says Raffaello, 'the old command, "Charge !" was distinctly heard.' There was a sound of running feet, and then then the red-coats—with the gleam of bayonets sparkling through the line of red—were scrambling over the barricade. There was a moment of hand-to-hand fighting. One of the 40th was killed by a pike thrust clean through his body. The German blacksmith, who had spent the day in forging pikes, tried to use one of the weapons he had forged, and attacked 'Lieutenant Richards fiercely. The soldier, however, parried the thrust of the pike with his sword, and replied by a stroke which literally sliced off the top of the unfortunate blacksmith's skull. The firing of the soldiers was deadly. Lalor had his left shoulder shattered. Ross, another leader, was shot in the groin. Yet another, Thonen, was killed by a bullet through the head. A group of pikemen stood together, and were shot down| almost to a man. "In a few fierce minutes the fighting was ended. Of the insurgents 16 were killed, eight others lay, dying of their wounds, and probably others, who were carried off by their friends and concealed, shared the same fate. Four of the sol-diers were slain and eleven wounded. Captain Wise, who commanded the men of the 40th, was wounded by one of the first shots fired from the stockade, but he still led on his men, and, while clambering over the barricade, received a second and mortal wound. One of the 40th, describing the struggle long after-wards, says, 'the diggers fought well and fierce; not a word spoken on either side till all was over.' As showing how in-adequate was the armament of the insurgents, a loaded pistol was picked up in the Stockade after the fight, but it was charged with quartz pebbles instead of a bullet. Lalor refused to be carried by his flying comrades from the Stockade, and was hastily concealed beneath a pile of timber. He lay here in safety for some hours; then, when the troops and police had marched away, he was rescued by some of his friends, and carried to a hut. where, for a time, he was sheltered. Medical attendance was secured, and his arm amputated at the shoulder. He was smuggled to Geelong later, and lay there undisturbed—although £200 was offered for his arrest—till the abandonment of all proceedings against the insurgents made it safe for him to emerge. "The list of the slain in the Stockade makes it quite clear that if some foreigners took an active part in the oratory before the actual shooting began, they had a very small share in the fighting itself. In the list of killed there are only two foreigners. The rest is made up of one native of New South Wales, two Canadians, two Scotchmen, three Englishmen, and ten Irishmen. The fighting impulse in the Irish blood, and the readiness in the Irish temper to take any part in proceedings against constituted authority, serve to explain the fact that more than half of the killed on that historic Sunday morning were Irishmen. "The troops marched back to the camp carrying their slain and wounded, and the captured flag of the insurgents. They took, in addition, no less than 125 prisoners, the majority of whom were dismissed the following day. "The moral effect of this resolute and well-planned assault was overwhelming. It was shown in the unresisting way in which the prisoners were secured. But, the effect of the capture of the Stockade on the whole mining community was also great. The miners, as a class, stood aloof from the politics of the Stockade; they had too much solid sense, and a respect for the law too deep-seated, to take part in what was practically an insurrection. The storekeepers, again, resented being harried by delegates from the rebels, who levied contributions of arms and ammunition and stores from them, and gave no better equivalent than an ill-spelt receipt in the name of 'the people.' It was with a sense of relief that they witnessed the disappearance of the flag that waved over the Stockade, and knew that social order was restored."[3]

See also

Further Reading

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


  1. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate, 7 August 1909.

External links

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Caption, Reference.