Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What was the Australian Aboriginal War like GGGrandfather?

I'm putting this here for reference. It is a section from my great great grandfather's Reminiscences as written down in the third person by a bloke called Ogier in 1906.

It is surprising to me just how ignorant the Australian populace is generally to the fact that European colonisation of this land was resisted every step of the way. It wasn't just armed conflict it was a war. This section of his memoire describes not only an event but the general opinion of white settlers to the Indigenous Peoples as they stole the land by force. This post is a place I can point people when I'm trying to prove a point..

Excerpt from: Reminiscences of David Reid : as given to J.C.H. Ogier (in Nov. 1905), who has set them down in the third person. Reid, David, 1820-1907

It was some eighteen months after Mr. Reid had formed his station before he allowed any blacks to come there. One day he was sitting in front of a hut he had on the bank of the river, and the dogs began to bark furiously dogs having a great antipathy to the blacks and being able to scent them at a very great distance, and knowing this we were always on the alert when the dogs either growled or barked. Mr. Reid looked around at once and to his astonishment he saw two blacks approaching without war instruments and carrying a green bough in each hand, holding it up before them.

This he at once comprehended was a sign of peace, when within a distance of about twenty yards they stood, seeing which he beckoned them to come on. These men had been deputed by their tribe to make peace with the whites and they having had intercourse with the whites in some more thickly populated districts could speak English enough to make themselves understood, and they gave Mr. Reid to understand that it was the general wish of the blacks to make peace and be allowed to come upon the station and promising never to molest the stock if allowed to do so.

 The sequel will show how little they were to be depended upon and will also illustrate their character. Mr. Reid thought, at the time, that it would be advantageous to both whites and blacks to bury the hatchet, consequently he signified to them that they might come and camp upon the station with the understanding that they would not disturb the stock. Same two or three days afterwards, however, they began to assemble, not very many at first but gradually their number increased, but having their women and children with them no danger was anticipated.

It is the custom of the blacks always, when upon what is called the "War-path', never to have with then either women or children, hence the fancied security which was engendered. Those natives made their camps about one quarter of a mile up the river from the hut. It may be mentioned that the hut that Mr. Reid lived in was of a very primitive description, consisting of one large room with bunks around with a large chimney for cooking purposes -no outhouses. Inside the slabs of which the building was constructed the fire arms were so arranged as to be ready for immediate use if required. The building was loopholed all round in case of attack by having large holes bored through the slabs sufficient to admit the barrel of a gun. There was one window which could be opened if necessary, and which could be secured by the pieces of the two slabs being replaced so as to fill up the window space, this being hung up by the side of the window with hinges made out of green hide so it could be closed in a minute.

Their reason for being all together in one hut was, they being united in case of sudden emergency. Had there been two or three huts on the place there would have been much more difficulty in making arrangements for defence, and everything in those days had to be made subsidiary to safety. For some three or four weeks those natives appeared to be perfectly content in going and coming and made themselves useful in many ways about the station, no doubt with the intention of lulling suspicion and to enable them to quietly observe the means of defence which the station afforded and their best opportunity for attack as will be shown by the events which followed.

This season the first crop of wheat had been planted and which he believed to have been the first wheat ever grown on the Ovens River. This paddock of wheat comprised about nine or ten acres and was situate in the neighbourhood of the lagoons under a high bank in an angle of the river, and down the river from the hut some five or six hundred yards, so that the hut was about midway between the camp of the blacks and the cultivation paddock. During the time the blacks were there this crop of wheat ripened. Everything at this time was out by the hand, with a sickle. So when the wheat was ripe, Mr. Reid end three or four of the men started one morning to reap this wheat, and had been cutting it until about eleven o’clock in the day, and the weather being hot Mr. Reid determined to give the men a glass of grog each.

It used then to be the universal custom both in shearing time and in harvest to allow all hands employed their three glasses of spirits a day. Sometimes this consisted of rum, purchased in Sydney, or Whiskys made on the establishment, there being at that time no excise laws and everyone could brew and distill at his own discretion. Mr. Reid knows that at his father Dr, Reid’s establishment at Inverary they grew their own barley, made their own malt, and grow also hops and kiln-dried them and brewed their own beer and distilled their own whisky and made every year a quantity of poach brandy. Mr. Reid dispatched the overseer to bring down a bottle of rum from the hut paddock to give the men their grog. After waiting for his return for some tine and thinking he was somewhat long, Mr. Reid said in a Joke to the other men i- "I think Cosgrove must have broken through his oath" (he being a tea-totaller) "and I think I will go up and see what he is about", and on . proceeding from this paddock up tho high bank by the river, to his astonishment, instead of seeing Cosgrove coming baok with a bottle on his hand he was armed with a double-barrelled gun and appeared to be looking very intently across the river, on the bank of which they were both standing.

Naturally casting his eye in that direction at once Reid could perceive bobbing up and down amidst the long kangaroo grass on the other side of the river many black pipe-clayed heads, a sight that was enough to realise the exact positions of affairs. Consequently Mr. Reid immediately returned as quickly as possible to the men who were reaping in the field and exclaimed "Come on, my lads here are the blacks. Keep your reaping-hooks in your hands and follow me”. Of course that was sufficient for them to understand the danger and know the exact situation when they arrived at the spot where Cosgrove was standing, which occupied but a few minutes.

The blacks from the opposite side of the river had advanced as far as the river’s bank, and to show how well they had chosen their ground immediately opposite the place where they had come to the bank a tree had fallen more than two thirds of the way across the 'river, and which, after they had waded in the river up to their waists enabled them to utilise as a natural bridge or causeway. This, of course, was well known to them before as they made directly for it, and wading up to their waists the first few yards they were enabled to get on to the trunk of the tree and cross in single file without, difficulty.

So one by one they came across all armed and in their war paint, some fifteen or twenty fine young men. Immediately upon the first blaok coming on to the tree Cosgrove said, "Shall 1 shoot him, Mr. Reid?" Mr. Reid at once answered "No, our only chance of safety and getting back to the hut, for we are all of us, except you, entirely unarmed and it is only your gun and the fear of it will prevent any attack, and enable us to return in safety because it is plain to see that the blacks had been intercepted in their arrangements for the attack". As they all, one by one, came across they formed in a sort of half-circle at a short distance from us, we at the same time moving towards the hut with Cosgrove protecting us with his double- barrelled gun.

Mr. Reid was near enough to some of them to make them understand that the cause of our leaving the field was that we imagined when we saw them coming over the river that they were "wild blacks" but we were glad to find that they were the blacks that were up on the flat. This, of course, was only policy en his part to ward off hostilities. During the time we were partially surrounded these blacks kept up an incessant talk, "yabbering", no doubt discussing amongst themselves whether they should attack or not. Mr. Reid thinks what decided them in their dilemma was a man who was left in the hut, sick, had risen up from his bed and having taken up a firearm came towards us, having seen the position of affairs from the window of the hut.

His appearance, Mr. Reid thinks, decided thorn not to attack, seeing that they were between two fires, Cosgrove on one side and this sick man on the other. We at last reached the hut without any fMrther attempt at molestation, and of course immediately on reaching the hut all aimed themselves. It is not for Mr, Reid to describe what followed, but there was soon a scatterment made of our sable foes.

Mr. Reid remembers well the circumstance of one of these blacks, in the melee, who was running for the high bank of the river and just as he got to the brink of it Mr. Reid fired and ran to the edge of the bank and, looking down, could see no trace of anyone and naturally thought that the firing had had a fatal effect and that he had sunk under the water. But in this idea he was mistaken as was proved to him some two years afterwards When the blacks became perfectly quiet and were allowed to corns round the station Mr. Reid had a conversation with this very man whom he thought he hod shot.

 It seemed that the moment he fired the black jumped, consequently instead of the charge of shot striking him in the back it struck him in the under part of the thigh. And where he fell in the water there was a small black dead tree which had been partially burnt and he gave Mr .Reid to understand that when he fell he immediately made for this tree and laid underneath it, under the water, except his mouth. He saw Mr. Reid looking for him on the bank that he expected every moment he would see him and send a bullet through hie head. He showed the scar where the bullet struck him and as it was only a flesh wound he soon recovered from its effects.

He then related the full design of the attack of the natives at the time and also the manner in which they had intended to carry it out, and as being another instance of the cunning and the strategy of the Australian natives it is here related as far as can be recollected in the words of this aboriginal. He said, in the first instance the blacks had made up their minds to attack the hut, but were undecided, not knowing exactly the means of the occupants for its defence. They had therefore determined to send two envoys in the first instance to pretend that they wanted to make peace with the whites so that they might be allowed to come on the station in a peaceable manner and by degrees ascertain the preparations and means of defence which no doubt they did during the three weeks in which they had camped on the river above the station.

They ascertained evidently that it was the intention of the whites to exit this crop of wheat, and thereby they laid their plans to intercept them during their harvesting, in their retreat to the hut. The evening before they had dispatched their lubras and all the piccaninnies across the river to an appointed place so as not to be inconvenienced by them during an attack and no doubt also to prevent their giving any warning of their intended movements, which black women frequently do after intercourse with white people.

He said that they intended crossing the river and recrossing between the hut and the paddock so as to out the whites off from their retreat to the hut. And if such a plan succeeded to sneak quietly into the wheat crop which was very high and spear all the whites while they were at work reaping. Having finished with those in the field they knew that they then only had a sick man and the hut-keeper in the hut to deal with, which they could easily accomplish with a little stratagem and their usual cunning. He said when they were coming across the log over the river they were quite taken aback on observing the whole party of whites opposite to them retreating from the paddocks and going towards the hut, so much so, that all their previous plans were frustrated and hardly any of them knew what was best to be dons under the altered conditions of circumstances, but thought it best to oesao across boldly and appear to be friendly to the whites.

They had some discussion amongst themselves during the time they were surrounding the whites as to whether they should attack them or not, but owing to Cosgrove having the double-barrelled gun in his hand in the first instance, and after «f • Lz.r -th? sick man coming down from the hut with another gun in his hand, thought it would be more prudent not to make any further hostile movements, and to disperse as quickly as possible towards where their camp had been before its removal in anticipation of this outbreak.

We, of course, after this took the precaution to take our firearms with us and to have a man on horseback riding up and down and keeping watch during the time we were getting in the harvest, which was the first crop and very nearly proved a very dear crop to all of those connected with it.

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