|Chapter Title||A FEATURE IN TASMANIAN HISTORY.|
|Newspaper Title||Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899)|
|Trove Title||The Maxwells of Bremgarten|
THE MAXWELLS OF BREMGARTEN. A STORY OF TASMANIA. [Founded on Facts.] (ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED.) CHAPTER L, (Continued from 4th July.) A FRACTURE IN TASMANIAN HISTORY. At this stage of the proceedings the line formed a large semicircle, though in some places necessarily incomplete, in consequence of reinforcements not having arrived. Its right wing extended for many miles to the west and south of Oatlands, and its left rested on the banks of the Sand Spit river, opposite Maria Island. While in this position Colonel Arthur rode rapidly along the line, encouraging the volunteers, praising them for their patience, and exhorting them to renewed efforts. He issued fresh con- mands at every stop, rebuked those who were tardy in supplying provisions, and con- vinced all who saw or heard him that he was thoroughly in earnest in this great effort to rid one of the fairest of British colonies from a frightful incubus. The commanders of divi- sions and captains of tens came in for a special share of his attention. Amongst the rest he instantly recognised and shook hands with Charles Maxwell, enquiring particularly after his parents and fair sister. By Charles, Mr. Juniper was introduced to his Excellency, and the gratified surveyor had the satisfaction of receiving the thanks of the representative of royalty for his fidelity to the good cause. Mr. Juniper took off his hat and made a low bow to the greatest man in the island, and the high functionary addressed him to this effect—" You will be good enough to impress upon the minds of the men under your com- mand, Mr. Juniper, that I will severely punish any individual who may be guilty of shedding blood needlessly, or inflicting any wanton barbarity on the aborigines, and I will reward those who are brought under my notice for using every forbearance towards them, and giving their best assistance in taking prisoners alive and unhurt." And with a few words of compliment and farewell the Governor continued his ride. A great extent of country had still to be traversed before the narrow isthmus which connects Forrestier's Peninsula with the mainland could be reached. Across this isthmus, now called East Bay Neck, it was fondly hoped that the dismayed natives would be easily driven, where, enclosed on all sides by the sea and by the convict prison, Tasman's Peninsula, they should be at the mercy of the Government. The "gentlemen of England who sit at home at ease" will not be able to form an adequate idea of the difficulties and dangers which the army of Tasmania encoun- tered in this memorable war. Wet and stormy weather continued at intervals, in- creased in severity a hundred fold by the dripping leaves overhead, and the saturated scrubs and sodden grass under foot. The mountains to be scaled were not covered with green grass soft to the tread as a Turkey car- pet, but were fortified at all points by huge, uneven, and sharp pointed rocks which might well blister the feet and damp the enthusiasm of another Leonidas and his famous three hundred. When the summits were gained under the influence, of bruises innumerable, habiliments flying off in rags, and knapsacks and opossum rugs soaked with rain, what was before them ? A smooth and easy descent into a vernal Paradise ? Nothing of the sort. An almost perpendicular steep, a seemingly endless succession of sharp rocks and loose shingle, down, down into the depths of Tar- tarus where, one would think, the aid of Pluto could scarcely be invoked in vain. Crossing such barriers as these, and rivers that were swollen by the recent rains, were not the worst evils that the army had to endure. The long and dreary nights passed in an indescribably miserable condition, struck terror into the hearts of many, and conjured up in lively imaginations visions of future disease, and consequent poverty. The light tents with which some of the parties had pro- vided themselves, were but a slender protec- tion against the inclement weather. Anxiety of mind, with its sleepless and exaggerated train of horrors, took possession of many. Rumors of the enemy being in the rear, inflicting terrible vengeance, were whispered in the camp ; and it was soon known to be true that a settler had received a wound and had killed his assailant with a pitchfork. The party to whom the slain savage belonged, to revenge their comrade's death, speared in the breast an amiable young lady, Miss Peters, who, feeling herself mortally wounded, calmly resigned herself to her fate. Intelligence of the murder of Mr. Gildas, a settler on the banks of the Tamar, who was alone, having sent his men to the line, arrived and was soon confirmed : his house was plundered and the pictures on the walls defaced. Some of the volunteers, confounded by these alarming tidings, harassed both in mind and body ; and picturing to themselves the difficulties and privations yet to be sustained and sur- mounted ;—despaired of success, felt their courage fail, and, to use a forcible expression adopted by a newspaper of the day, " crawled home." Colonel Arthur, naturally obstinate and proof against fatigue, vented his displeasure against deserters in no very measured terms. His own exertions were wonderful, and it is an undoubted fact that by the influence, of his example hundreds were induced to re- main at their posts who would have gladly declined sharing in the honors of the ap- proaching victory. If, on the other hand, the suffering and privations of the martial band were severe, their sources of amusement were many, and have been remembered and related by veterans, proud and happy enough, at their firesides in subsequent years. A father whose recollections of the black war made him rub his toes with a twinge of mental agony, is able to relate to a group of laugh- ing children how he and other young men sorely pinched with hunger, and with boots worn to shreds, agreed to shoot a few opossums to strengthen their inner man and to provide warm slippers for their bleeding feet. A few of the grinning marsupials are shot accordingly, but the reports alarm the sol- diers : the word is passed along—" The natives are breaking through the line ?" and a rush takes place to the spot : the consequent confusion and angry remonstrances may be readily imagined. A leader of a company goes to the field of battle carrying on his back a favorite feather pillow which attracts the attention of a naval officer who had been nominated for the nonce a general of division. " What is that pillow for ?" asked the General. " Why, to keep my head from the stones, answered the captain of ten, " and I intend to use it as a breastplate when we find the natives, feathers, you know, will resist a spear." " Now, to carry your wisdom to its full extent," replied the General gravely, " if I were you I would divide the feathers
into two portions, the black ones to protect your breast, and the white to stuff into your breeches." The aborigines, at least those who were enclosed within the cordon, were now evidently aware of the net which was being drawn around them. Two desperate attempts to escape were made at different places within a few hours. On the southern bank of Prosser's River, about five miles from the sea, a sentinel observed a black man with a fire-stick in his hand, creeping by in a stooping attitude. The night was wet and stormy, and the soldier was alarmed to see a great number of lights following the first one. He gave the word instantly to his nearest comrades, and a general charge being made to the place the blacks were driven back. In the forenoon of the next day at a rocky hill the sentry had put down his musket, and was in the act of putting wood on his fire, when he was speared in the leg. He threw a billet of wood at the savage, and ran for his musket, but he was again speared through the breast and shoul- der. He fell instantly, but gave the alarm to the next party, who drove the enemy away, but did not kill or take any of them. There were only six men seen on this occa- sion. One carried a bundle of spears, and two had blankets round their shoulders. Parties were formed and sent in pursuit, but no capture was then effected. It revived the drooping spirits of many waverers to know that the enemy was still within the net, and was not likely to escape. At this time strange stories were circu- lated amongst the busy critics and gossips with which the army abounded, that the natives were in alliance with runaway con- victs under arms. It was confidently re- ported in the British camp that numerous tracks of the savages had been seen ; and in friendly juxta-position the impressions of English boots with big, hob nails and tips at the toes ; where, in fact, English boots had no business to be. A man named Savage told a story to the Governor, which procured for the narrator the reputation of having in- vented a romance. He was at work with a fellow servant, when he heard at a short dis- tance a very soft coo-ee ; and thinking his Excellency was coming he went to meet him, but very slowly, as he was afflicted with rheumatism. He had scarcely gone a hun- dred yards when he was in a moment sur- rounded by natives, who assumed hostile at- titudes and threatened him with death ; but a white man who was with them, armed with a double-barrelled gun, interfered and made them desist. This stranger Savage immediately recognised as one Brown, who had been with him in prison three years be- fore. Brown promised to protect him from injury, and while they were talking six more black men came out of the bush, one of them an European in feature though black, and to him Brown commanded Savage to surrender his shoes. One of the new comers was laden with a newly killed sheep. Re- moving to the distance of a mile from Mr. Bisdee's house they stopped to light a fire, but hearing the report of a gun Brown ordered a retreat. They crossed the Jordan and continued marching towards the tiers, when Savage received his dismissal, and de- parted after shaking hands with his captors all round. He had received an inestimable benefit in the adventure—fright drove away his old enemy the rheumatism. There were twenty blacks in Brown's party, with a number of women, amongst whom the white leader had a wife near her confinement. Colonel Arthur sent off parties in pursuit of Brown's gang, but no trace of them could be discovered. The grand cordon, weakened in some places by frequent desertions and strengthened in others by fresh accessions of volunteers, was again ordered to advance. Some very fine level tracks of grassy land were passed, and so long as the march con- tinued over theses the fatigues of the men were comparatively light and cheerfully borne. But the rough, rocky tiers and deep, scrubby, ferny glens had to be again en- countered ; and difficulties, such as have already been described, were renewed, and ap- peared magnified in proportion as the time seemed unnecessarily spun out, and the strength of the heroes began to fail. Occa- sionally, too, the jaded and heavily laden recruits felt the pangs of hunger, as the pro- vision depôts were considerable distances apart, and no man could manage to carry more than four or five days' rations. The farm-houses that were passed on the way were sometimes besieged with eager appli- cants for the necessaries of life ; and com- paratively high figures were paid, from the private resources of the officers and men, for loaves of bread and pounds of butter, to say nothing of chickens, bacon, and cheese. Mr. Juniper, whose stomach frequently gave him admonitory hints that it was suffering the evils of idleness, bore down fiercely one afternoon upon a farmhouse at Presser's Plains, and was seen returning to his post in triumph the happy proprietor of two loaves of bread and five dozen of eggs. His com- rade Baxter greeted his return with a roar of applause, and lost no time in boiling the tempting provender, dancing round the fire, and whistling a lively air ; and when all was ready he and his captain took their seats on the grass to eat their eggs and bread. " May good digestion wait an appetite." Egg after egg disappeared. In half a dozen hours after this substantial meal, the surveyor and the carrier were observed rolling about on the grass, and the latter was heard to exclaim —" Oh gracious mother of Moses—Oh them infernal eggs ?" To which Juniper replied by way of echo, albeit with an unnecessarily pro- longed growl—''Oh—!'' The forces still continued to advance, though hourly expecting orders to halt and take up a new position to await the arrival of Captain Donaldson's division from the north. As they left the verdant Prosser's Plains behind them, their enthusiasm and alacrity sensibly diminished. The week and fainthearted saw no end to their sufferings ; the brave and hardy were compelled to admit that the result of the great under- taking was extremely doubtful ; and many began to pine for the comforts of home, and the society of the dear ones who bewailed their absence in solitary sighs. The termi- nation of the war therefore became a matter of anxious and general expectation. The dense scrubs through which it was necessary to penetrate, severely tried the patience of the most ardent admirer of his Excellency's plans. Military officers had taken the pre- caution of arranging their persons in coarse material called Maria Island cloth ; but the rank and file, civil as well as military, we are sorry to record, bestowed many a bitter malediction upon the gem of the Southern Ocean, and upon the legion of devils who led them such a dance through its merry green woods. Frequent stoppages and delays in
waiting for parties who lagged in the rear— then sudden rushes into the forest in front, under the impression that the natives were there, and would be bagged at last, were the causes of glorious fun to the light-hearted ; and serious apprehension to the experienced tactician. In the evenings while the men took up their quarters for the night the alarm was continually being sounded, though not, as we have seen, always false, and volley after volley of musketry was wasted upon black stumps. When things were quiet, friends and acquaintances off duty mingled together, and rambled from fire to fire com- forting one another, and wondering when the abominable war would be at an end. One evening an amusing incident occurred, which had nearly alarmed a large portion of the ad- vancing force, and by thus disturbing the arrangements of the General-in-Chief might have been attended with serious results, es- pecially as from the fact of a man having been speared on the previous evening the guards were more than usually alert. Young Mr. Snowywull, of the Saltpan Plains, felt uncomfortable at night because the rain found its way into his tent ; and thinking it probable that the army would remain for some days in the position they then occupied, he determined to remedy the evil, and cut a few sheets of bark wherewith to fortify him- self against his insidious enemy. Inside the line, therefore, though contrary to orders, he went with his axe and pistol, and commenced chopping at a goodly tree, having first laid the pistol on the ground at his foot. But the watchful eye of his captain—Walker, of Blanket Bottom—was upon him, and that careful officer at once determined to teach his subordinate a lesson which would be likely in future to keep him in wholesome remem- brance of the orders of the General-in-Chief. Armed with the very spear which had flown from an invisible foe on the previous evening, the rigid disciplinarian stole cautiously round and placed himself in the very position which the natives would be likely to occupy had they been near the place. Snowywull was not unmindful of the danger to which he was exposed, for now and again he would pause and peer behind him into the scrub in which the sly Walker had concealed himself ; he now chopped the bark, now looked over his shoulder, and now at the pistol on the ground, and again resumed his chopping, when sud- denly he heard a sharp crack in the tree, and lo ! the dreaded spear quivered in the wood close to his very nose. " Murder !" shouted Snowywull, stooping like lightning to pick up his pistol, and bouncing away from the tree. " Murder—treachery—the natives- the devils—murder !" Walker was terrified at the storm he had raised, and called out loudly, " Don't make that noise, Snowywull —it is I—Walker." " Come out—come out ?" roared Snowywull, who heard his leader's voice, but hesitated what to believe ; " come out, you villain, or I'll shoot you dead on the spot." And it is the belief of Walker of Blanket Bottom to this day that Snowywull would have shot him dead if he had shown himself before that gentleman's excitement had cooled down. In a few hours after this event the order to halt and wait for Captain Donaldson's division arrived, and was hailed with great joy. The reinforcement was expected to make its appearance in forty-eight hours at farthest, and then it would require a few days' rest before it could join in the final and de- cisive movement so often rapturously dwelt upon by the great commander. It was judged expedient by that potent chief to send a few parties from the line, headed by men well acquainted with the bush, into the enclosed ground, and either capture the already imprisoned enemy by peaceful means, or compel them to retreat across East Bay Neck. Mr. Juniper's and several other par- ties were chosen on this service, but we will confine our attention to the movements of the experienced surveyor, and note the as- tonishing success with which his exertions were attended : and his exertions were cer- tainly disinterested, considering that he only thought occasionally of a reward—about a thousand or fifteen hundred acres of land. For a few days Juniper and his men cautiously beat about the bush. It was wild, intricate, and rough in the extreme. One evening as he was preparing to pitch his tent near the Sandspit River, opposite Maria Island, he suddenly discovered in the imme- diate neighborhood a large party of natives. They were hunting in joyous freedom, and apparently had no idea that their persevering foes were so near them. The English con- cealed themselves, and watched the savages taking up their quarters in a scrubby ravine, from which it would be a difficult task to dislodge them. Juniper and Baxter lay patiently on their arms during the greater part of the night, kept awake by the un- ceasing howl of the fierce dogs, which kept vigilant watch over the slumbers of their black masters. But towards morning all be- came still, and our martial friends began to fear that the foes had become aware of their danger, and sought safety in flight. Juniper, impatient to examine the deserted camp, hastened to the place, and at the first hut found to his amazement five savages under some blankets, with dogs lying beside them all fast asleep. At this critical period of our bachelor's life a lucky turn might have made his fortune, and it is pro- bable that had he retired quietly from the spot and waited for daylight he might hive captured the whole of the hostile tribe, and been for so doing handsomely rewarded. But the genius of mistake still pursued him ; he stooped down suddenly, and seized two of the ten foot that protruded from under the blankets. An immediate struggle took place. The sleepers started up in terror and fled ; the dogs set up an awful chorus of yelling ; the feet which Juniper held struggled fearfully to escape, but in vain. Baxter seized a boy who ran against him fairly bewildered ; and the rest of the party fired a volley after the runaways, and shot two of them dead. When lights were obtained it was found that Juniper's prisoner was a woman—a sable belle verging upon sixty years of age. Her efforts to escape had been so great that her captor had found it necessary to inflict a slight flesh wound on her shoulder with his knife ; but this he did in the dark not knowing her sex or age. She became quiet immedia- tely, and now stood amongst her enemies wondering doubtless what dreadful convul- sion of nature had brought them there in the dead of night to disturb her peaceful slumbers wirh fire and deafening explosions. Her long grey hair fell over her shoulders, her restless deep set eyes betrayed the uneasy state of her mind ; her limbs, covered with sores, shook with agonized terror, and soon the unfortu- nate and hideous creature burst into hysteri- cal screams, ejaculating in broken English— " Ringarooma ! Ringarooma ! O, yes, take to Ringarooma."
The other prisoner was about fifteen years of age, and seemed, from the various orna- ments cut into his skin by some sharp instru- ment, to be the son of a chief. When first taken he entreated to be let go ; and as a passport to his own liberty, informed his captor that there were plenty more black fel- lows in the scrub to which he pointed. When daylight appeared, the battle ground was carefully examined, and the spoils of victory, consisting of a respectable number of spears, waddies, and baskets were collected ; but a tribe of upwards of seventy people had escaped and left to poor Juniper the humili- ating tale to tell—" Two killed and two taken." A report of this occurrence was im- mediately dispatched to Colonel Arthur's head quarters at Sorell Rivulet. In reply the Governor indignantly commanded Juniper to return to his place in the line ; and intimated that should the undertaking ultimately prove a failure, his Excellency would attribute it to that leader's ill-advised precipitancy. The crest-fallen surveyor returned to the line, and he and Baxter had to endure as they beat might the sneers and horse-laughs of the strangers whom they were obliged to pass while seeking their proper place. There was something ludicrous in the sight of one old woman and a young boy led along as prisoners by ten men and a captain. It was late in the night when the wanderers lay down to rest, if not to sleep, over their troubles. They heard with indifference that Captain Donaldson's division had arrived, and that the final effort was to be made on the day after the morrow. Juniper's cup of bitterness was full, but he consoled himself with a hearty supper, laughed a little at a few of Baxter's feeble jokes, took off his boots to ease his swollen feet, and fell into a sound sleep. (To be continued.)