Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Friday 25 October 1867, page 6





Shortly after this we took Pat Connell up the gully for horse stealing, and another man for cattle duffing. B., and the senior man with us when we took Connell, were one day in Braidwood attending court, and as I always believed “the boys” camped very often about old Clarke’s place, I determined, the first chance I had, to scour the place well. So this day, being left in charge, I took the tracker out with me and started up the gully, some five miles, and showed myself to some of the bush “telegraphs”, and made enquiries about the nearest tracks across the ranges to where some more of Clarke’s friends lived. Then I doubled about and gave them the slip, and made back to the station quietly, got my dinner, and left my rifle at home on account of its being very wet. I then made round by old Clarke’s place — that is, two miles from the station, towards Braidwood — and began scouring a thick bushy scrub that is close to the place, and which runs about a mile along the river, in some places half a mile through.

After beating about some time I came to an old camp, and found where “the boys” had slept that night, and where they had fed their horses. The place was full of tracks, and it was a long time before I found the last track out. This led towards a high scrubby range, about a mile off, so we ran them about half way up the range, to a sort of basin, and very grubby. We were going very steadily, as it was getting dusk, and as I expected they would be making back towards the house for supper.

Just as we pulled up I saw a grey horse standing about eighty yards off. I was turning my horse round to get off when he trod on a stick and the sound started “the boys”, who were sitting down about twenty yards off their horses. I did not see them then, but heard them, so I rammed the spurs in and galloped to their horses. They both sprang up equally alert and made an effort to get on their horses. Tommy Clarke had hold of the reins of his, but my coming so quick upon him startled his horse which jumped round and threw Clarke to the other side of him. Tom Connell drew his revolver at me but I told him to stand! I could not see Tommy at this moment; but I stood over Tom Connell, covering him with my revolver, till the tracker came up. When he arrived I told him to stand over Tom Connell while I took Clarke. I thought I could depend on this tracker, for he said he would stick to me, happen what would. Just as the tracker came up I saw Clarke about forty yards off, running up the range. I pursued and called upon him to stand, but he replied that he would b— soon make me stand, and he stood as if he meant mischief. He had a Colt’s revolver in each hand. As soon as he went to raise them I let go mine at him. As soon as I fired my horse began plunging mad; but every time I got a chance I fired. At the fourth shot Clarke fell, and I thought he was shot; so I stood looking at the place for a few moments, thinking about it. I could not see him on account of a low scrub which grows about four or five feet high. At length I made up to the place and was in the act of getting off my horse when I heard a stick crack up the range where I saw Clarke running for his life. I made right this time, and as soon as he saw me closeing on him he made for a tree. I could have shot him then, but the other two chambers of my revolver missed. I think I must have knocked the caps off by holding it in my hand galloping about so much. Tom Clarke turned round at me then and was coming towards me, when I put that revolver in my boot and drew the other which, as the sequel will show, was a duffer which I got from sergeant T. in the clerk’s office, Braidwood, who told me to load it there, as it was quite clean, and I loaded it, without looking at the nipples. This nearly cost me my life, for on taking it out of my boot as Clarke was approaching I presented it at him, thinking I was quite safe. Tommy sprang behind the tree again, swearing vengeance at me, if I attempted to come and take him — he seemed like a savage. I had not time to look behind to see how the tracker was getting on. I thought he was still guarding Tom Connell until I heard him behind me call out to Clarke to stand. Tommy roared out to the tracker that he’d d— soon make him stand. The tracker fired his carbine at him, but though he had a good shot he missed him. In fact the bullet came very close to me. I called on Tommy then to surrender like a man, and kept talking to him, trying to coax him, but he told me he defied me and all the traps in the district to take him alive. I could see by his manner he would never surrender, but I was trying to gain time for the tracker to come up and help me; but instead of his coming up, to my astonishment I never saw him afterwards. Whether he ran back to Tom Connell, or whether he ran away, I cannot tell. All I know is he took my cape home with him which I had thrown off at the place where we first saw Connell and Clarke.

When I found the tracker was not coming, I attempted to dismount when Tommy advanced and presented both his revolvers at me. I tried to make a shot at him but my revolver missed. I tried five barrels one after the other, but they all missed. I called on him again to surrender, but he told me he would make me surrender before many minutes, and snapped his revolver at me pretty close, and I tried the other at him, but it missed. He then sprang at me like a tiger and was close upon me before I could wheel my horse away. As I turned round there was the limb of a tree and I threw myself down the horse’s neck just as Tommy tried another barrel. The horse jumped about four feet and from my position at that moment I was as much on as off. At any other time I should have fallen off headlong in doing the same thing, but death stared at me closely. And I suppose it made me exert my utmost agility.

When Clarke missed me he made a run to get on his horse. The horses were tied round the legs with a saddle strap notched so that if you sprang on them and rammed the spurs into them, the strap would slip. I rushed at the horses and started them, but they kept jumping for about thirty yards; and so desperate was Clarke that I expected he would shoot me from behind. I heard him, but had not time to look round, for if he once caught up to me it was a case. The horses broke lose at last, and I ran them about 200 yards. While I was running them I was trying to reach my revolver but I lost all the caps but one, and that I managed to put on. So I turned and galloped back to have another shot at him, but could not see him. I did not like riding about through the scrub for I now expected he would jump up out of every bush. I saw Tom Connell on the top of the hill making round to where the horses were, so I made a charge up towards him, but there were no signs of him when I reached the place. It was getting dark, and I could scarcely see for the heavy rain. My boots were running over the tops with water; so I made back to the place where I started the horses; they heard me coming and started at full speed for Clarke’s house, and it took all I knew to head them, and keep them out of sight.


My object then, was, to make for the barracks, much disappointed, but not disheartened, and if Sergeant B. was not at home to get some stockmen. I could not keep the horses straight for home. When I turned them they made for the river and jumped in, off a bank four feet high, into very deep water before I could stop them. They went right under the water at first, and then commenced plunging; Tommy Clarke’s horse had on a new pair of saddle bags. These turned round, so that if there was anything valuable in them it is now in the Shoalhaven River. I expected both horses would have been drowned, but they swam down the river about 100 yards to an old crossing place.

As soon as I returned to the station I mounted Clarke’s horse, Mr. John Wallace mounted Tom Connell’s and one of the stockmen mine, B. on his own. There were seven or eight of us altogether. So back we went full speed, searched Clarke’s house, but as they were not there, we went to where the encounter took place. When in the heart of this scrub we heard some one whistle in a peculiar way, like some of the bush birds, tried to imitate it, but they did not answer.


We were all riding abreast, at some little distance from each other when suddenly some of my mates galloped towards me saying, “There they are!” as two horsemen started away close to our lowest man on the range, who happened to be a half-cast. Those below could have shot one of them instead of turning towards me. I heard the direction the horses were gallopping, so rammed in the spurs, but I did not do this a second time, for I went like a flash of lightning over trees, logs, limbs, and every thing that came in the way. I could not hold my horse and went on for about a mile; was close up to them once, but could not see to fire. It was as dark as pitch. I could not see the horse’s head at times. All at once I lost the sound of them and pulled up, but could hear no sound, either of my mates or any one else. I waited for ten minutes, and then signalled for my mates, but the beating of my own heart was the only sound I heard. After beating about for some time I came across my mates, and we then went home and reported this affair officially to head-quarters.

When we got home George, the tracker, was there. He said when I fired the first shot at Clarke, his horse began to buck, and Tom Connell got away. He then got off, tied his horse to a tree, and was coming to my assistance, but when he fired his carbine at Clarke his horse broke loose again and he ran to stop him. When he came back to the place I had gone. He was riding a colt and a buck-jumper. I found the horse next day, saddle and all.

This state of things began to nettle the other chaps who were out night and day but could never come across “the boys.”


Tommy Clarke and his mate then went up to Michalago and stuck-up the post-office and store, and took two racehorses, saddles and bridles. If a stranger had come across Tommy Clarke and Tom Connell at this period the first thing that would have struck him in their appearance would be, that they were two squatters, sitting down to have a smoke and a nobbler. Tommy was dressed in a suit of grey tweed, well made. He looked anything but a bushranger.

Tom Connell was also dressed well that day, but he always had the cut of a bushman about him. Clarke’s turn out was complete. He had a beautiful brown horse of the Barebone breed, and the prettiest saddle I ever saw. In fact his turnout was as graceful and complete as that of any gentleman in Sydney.

Connell’s was not so good. He had a horse the property of Mr. Smith of Jinden. After some time Smith came down in a great fuss and claimed this horse of Connell’s, and took out a warrant for him. Now it seems Pat Connell borrowed this horse and gave him to Clarke to ride; but as he did not return it, and as things were beginning to look queer, Smith took out the warrant to save himself. I met Smith coming from Braidwood and he told me he had taken out a warrant for Pat for horse-stealing, but to let no one know till he was taken, as the police could take him easily before he knew he was “wanted”. This was agreed upon. Smith passed the barracks on his way home, and on the way met Pat Connell, about six miles beyond. So they rode together to Mick Connell’s, fed their horses, and got their dinner — Smith telling him to look out as there was a warrant out for him. They then went together somewhere, but Smith afterwards went home, while Pat took the bush and joined his brother Tom and Tommy Clarke.


From this period onward robberies were committed almost daily, and the people were becoming exasperated. Our party were out every day, and every other night, but we could see nothing of them. We would start and ride away, sometimes on tracks close on them, but it was all useless, we could never see them. Instead of picking our ground so as to make no noise we would blunder over everything that came in our road, but the “boys” would not do business in that way. They would ride to some grassy flat where the horses would not make a noise, and in such a manner as to enable them to hear any one approaching before they came too close; and thus they managed to elude our vigilance. As the country up there is all mountains and sudden ranges, generally covered with short, thick, forest oak scrub, and narrow boggy creeks, more of the nature of swamps, the utmost caution in riding ought to have been observed. Now, men brought up in the bush, like the Jingera people, could tell the meaning of the least noise. They could tell without seeing what it was. Many times these three bushrangers have been near a party of police and stood to let the police pass unmolested. Then they would turn sometimes and follow the police all day, and watch their “little game.” They had thus an opportunity of seeing where the police went to, and how they worked, and so managed their own movements accordingly. If I had had with me another native trooper that had any bush experience, I could have taken them before any serious harm was done. But it was not to be so. I was merely a trooper, and it was my duty to obey. If I could do ever so much, or knew ever so much, my superior officer, though a new inexperienced hand, was paid to know more. I could never reason with him. Tell him what I know, he knew better, and so things went on, and so crime went on, getting worse and worse every day. The bushrangers were getting more daring, the police more impotent, the people disgusted.


Shortly after this Sergeant B. went into Braidwood for something, and I was at home getting ready to go* up the gully, when young Connell came galloping up to the station reporting that his father’s store at Stoney Creek was stuck up, and a lot of goods taken away. I and Mr. John Wallace and the tracker started, post haste, to Stoney Creek, and observed where the store had been broken into. It rather puzzled me to understand this move. To think it possible that Pat Connell should stick up his brother, or that Clarke would stick up his uncle, was a little bit too strong for me. Mick Connell was in Braidwood, and his wife could only describe but not swear to any of the stolen property. Of course she did describe it all. Well, the property was all found! Before I got there it bad been taken about a quarter of a mile down to the bend of the river the junction of Stoney Creek and the Shoalhaven. The goods were all there except some socks and a comforter. I took a description of this property, and gave it up, Mr. Wallace being witness. I had a suspicion these goods were not right, but I was laughed at when I expressed my suspicions at the police barracks. I said I believed the goods were part of the stolen property from the Foxlow station, taken to Mick Connell’s to be sold again. I was asked if I was mad to think that a man so highly respectable and well off as Mick Connell was going to throw a chance away? I believe then, as I do now, that I was right in my conjectures.

Well, we picked up the tracks and ran some of them for seven or eight miles up the range between the river and the gully; then the tracks turned and went down the range the other way, till within a mile of old John Connell’s where they scattered, one going towards the house, the others going up the range again. All at once I heard a low whistle from John Wallace who was motioning me to look towards the creek, where I saw John Connell cantering up a little gully, with a tin ”billy” on his arm, and a “swag” in front of him. He had been to the hut for grub. The tracker was on the colt still, and he was done up. I made a start to cross the creek, but could not go very fast as I ran foul of a number of rooks, and my horse went all roads at once, but once over the creek my efforts were made to overtake John Wallace who had met with a more favourable crossing place higher up. When I had got up to him two more men came out from behind a spur of the ridge and joined John Connell, and handed him a gun. They then raced for the scrub which was about 400 yards up the range.


We rammed in the spurs and flew after them in pursuit. As Tommy Clarke was turning in his saddle to fire, I fired at him. He was just galloping under an oak tree; the bullet cut the bush and left it sticking on his hat. His friend told me afterwards that my bullet took the button off his hat; the button was half off previously, and sticking up. I threw the rifle strap across my shoulder and drew my revolver. I had my fire arms clean and in order this time, and made a dash in the scrub after them. You could hear the limbs and sticks cracking like pistol shots. Before proceeding far I heard a shout. My mate’s horse had stood with him, and he called, thinking I should be murdered by proceeding alone, which was very likely. The tracker, George, could not face his horse up the range at all; he was completely done up. I went on for about half a mile further but could not hear or see anything of them, and it occurred to me that I was doing wrong by leaving my mate alone, with only one revolver, for at this time they had sworn to shoot John Wallace. I therefore returned and we went to where Clarke and Tom Connell had come out. We there got two horses they had been riding, for the saddle marks were quite wet; in fact these horses were pretty well done up. If we had been half an hour sooner we should have caught them on these animals, which were racing ponies, belonging to Mr. Hyland near Araluen. I put the tracker on one of these horses and we started for the barracks, for it was no use then following “the boys” with the horses we had, or rather the horses they now had, for I had, myself, as good an old screw as could be desired; but one was of no use against three, and they were all well armed with guns and revolvers.

We had not left our horse behind for more than ten minutes when “the boys” came down, from the hill and cut his throat. They must have caught him first and blind-folded him then hit him on the head with a riverstone, then when he fell,they cut his throat. At any rate, I found him the next day dead, with his skull smashed in, and his throat cut.


[Links to other chapters here]

Spotlight: Country News (14 November 1863)

Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Saturday 14 November 1863, page 6




THE POLICE AND THE BUSHRANGERS.— Superintendent McLerie and seven or eight troopers have returned safe and sound to Albury. The gallant fellows are looking remarkably well, and they do not report having been stuck-up or ill treated by the bushrangers, although we believe some of them “sighted” Gilbert or O’Meally, or what is much the same, Gilbert and O’Meally “took sights” at them.

PROCEEDINGS OF A BUSHRANGER.— On Monday morning last, Morgan the bushranger made his appearance at Burrumbuttock, the station of Mr. Gibson, who was absent. He went into the house, ordered breakfast, and he sent one of the men to fetch up Mr. Gibson’s favourite horse. Meanwhile, he turned out all the drawers, &c., and provided himself with a full suit of Mr. Gibson’s clothes. Having breakfasted, he led the horse away, and went to the publichouse at Piney Range: there he remained some time. On remounting, he proceeded to Walbundrie, and at the stockyard stuck up Mr. Thomas Kidston and four men who were inoculating cattle. He said he wanted the chesnut horse Euclid, and said he would shoot Mr. K. if he did not get the horse up. The stockrider went, and brought the horse in, and Morgan took him away, refusing some pressing invitations to go inside the house. Shortly after leaving Walbundrie, he let Mr. Gibson’s horse loose, having ridden him as far as he wanted. He then went to Bulgandra lower station, where Mr. Gibson was busy shearing. Morgan appeared before him in the suit of clothes which he had taken from Burrumbuttock, which was the first intimation Mr. Gibson had of what had been going on at the upper station. After remarking that “he was now Mr. Gibson,” he ordered all the shearers out of the shed, and told the overseer, Smith, to prepare for death, as he would not see the morrow’s sun. The overseer’s wife told him if he killed her husband, he must kill her and the child too, and have three murders to account for. Whether this consideration influenced him or not, he let the overseer off, and went into the house, took a pair of pistols, smashed the overseer’s gun, and made Mr. Gibson sign nine cheques of £30 each, which he gave to the shearers, and told them they were discharged. He also made Mr. Gibson sign one for £95 for himself, and another for £15 to pay a man to go in to get them cashed. He then took leave of Mr. Gibson. That was one day’s work. Early next morning, he called on Messrs. Stitt Brothers, of Walla Walla, and helped himself to various articles which struck his fancy.

Thomas Rogan’s death mask and other missing objects

Could this unassuming photograph of three plaster casts be the vital clue to a long-standing case of mistaken identity?
These death masks were photographed in 1975 in the police academy in Redfern. The one on the far right is Andrew George Scott (Captain Moonlite), while the one on the far left is the casting that has been attributed to his accomplice Thomas Rogan.

However, not only does the face on the attributed cast not resemble Rogan at all, the middle, unnamed, casting matches the mugshot taken of Rogan after his capture at McGlede’s farm quite closely. Furthermore, the middle death mask matches a description of Rogan’s death mask from a newspaper article published in 1913.

They have even secured plaster casts of the heads of that notorious couple Scott, alias Moonlight and Rogan, which were taken after their execution in Darlinghurst for the murder of Constable Bowen, at Wantabadgery. That of Rogan possesses all the characteristics of the criminal. The lips which are extraordinarily thick, are open, showing a set of vicious-looking teeth.

The Chamber of Horrors, Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), Monday 28 July 1913, page 4

The article quoted here is a write-up on what was then called the Sydney Police Museum. Within the article it describes, and even includes some photographs of items in the collection including Ben Hall’s Tranter, a book of poetry belonging to Frank Johns (another of Moonlite’s accomplices), and part of a pistol taken from the ruins of the Glenrowan Inn.
The collection in the museum in 1913 was taken from the 1910 New South Wales police museum, which served to educate police officers on the history of law enforcement. That same collection forms the basis of the current iteration, now called the Justice and Police Museum, housed in the former Water Police building in Sydney.

A detail from Rogan’s prison record.

It is also worth noting that the middle cast in the photograph matches the style of Moonlite’s more closely, only extending as far as the neck, while the third mask includes part of the collarbone and shoulders, which would indicate a different manufacturer had accomplished it. But if it’s not Thomas Rogan on the end there, who is it?

“Some of the artefacts, Including death masks of Captain Moonlite and Thomas Rogan, Ned Kelly’s 44 Webley Scott revolver, Captain Moonlite’s 38 Pin Fire, and the noose used on many early bush rangers. Death masks, truncheons, court records and knuckle dusters.” [Source]

It may seem like trying to correctly label the plaster cast of an executed bushranger is far from a pressing matter, but it is a symptom of the bigger problem with lost and incorrectly labelled items in archives.

It wouldn’t be the first time an object in a collection was mislabelled. In fact, it is not uncommon for items to sometimes go completely missing, as was the case with a collection of death masks from the early 19th century. Among the masks were casts of Jack Donohoe, murderer John Knatchbull and other minor bushrangers. All that remains of the collection is a single photograph taken in the 1860s. It seems unlikely that such a huge collection could simply be misplaced, but apparently that is precisely what happened as it appears to have vanished without a trace after being given to the Museum of Anatomy at Sydney University in 1897.

A detail of the 1860s photograph, showing Donohoe’s death mask (top, centre) among scores of others, some of which are duplicates. [Source]

Alas, similar stories are all too common. Many items related to the Kelly Gang, for instance, have disappeared over time, either through theft, misplacement or plain neglect. A prime example is the modified carbine that Ned was believed to have used to kill Constable Lonigan. Photographs exist of it from when it was displayed with his armour at the Royal Exhibition building, but supposedly it was consumed in the fire that destroyed the aquarium housed there.

Even Ned Kelly’s boot, which is on display in the State Library of Victoria, was missing for decades following it being misplaced in a storeroom, which was the same fate as what has been identified as one of his armoured shoulder plates. The plate was in the possession of the organisation that is now known Museums Victoria, and was hung from the bottom of what was then thought of as the backplate (since identified as Steve Hart’s breastplate). When the armour was given to the State Library, the shoulder plate was not included as it had been lost in storage. It wasn’t until many years later that it was relocated, but it still remains in the collection of Museums Victoria, which has caused issues recently. The contract between the SLV and Museums Victoria that allowed the plate to be displayed with the rest of the intact armour expired during the 2020 lockdowns. This meant that legally the SLV could not display it until a new agreement was made, forcing the library to display the incomplete suit in the new dedicated gallery space. It was only after the agitation by Ned Kelly die-hards who wrote to politicians that the negotiations were settled and the plate once again restored.

Ned Kelly’s armour, missing a shoulder plate, on display in Melbourne.

There are also written accounts testifying to the existence of other death masks that have seemingly vanished, including casts of Ogden and Sutherland, Robert Burke and Johnny Gilbert. The fact that these items were often described but have never been photographed or identified in any collections has occasionally put doubt in their existence.

Even more macabre souvenirs that are known to have existed have gone absent, such as Dan Morgan’s flayed beard, which was to have been pegged out like a possum skin to dry, ostensibly to make it into a pouch. It was also rumoured that Morgan’s scrotum had been made into a tobacco pouch, which cannot be verified as no such object has ever been recorded.

Michael Howe’s journal of dreams, bound in kangaroo skin and rumoured to have been written in blood, was in private hands following its seizure after Big McGill and Musquito ambushed Howe, but it too has seemingly vanished. Howe’s earlier journal – a gardening book he had stolen, bound in kangaroo skin and annotated by the outlaw – was also in a private collection, where it was viewed by James Erskine Calder who wrote of Howe in the 1870s after in-depth research, wherein he consulted contemporary records and interviewed people linked to the story. This earlier relic has also long gone.

Researchers and historians often tear their hair out when going through archival material only to find what they were looking for has been misplaced, damaged, or stolen. In fact, where the Kelly story is concerned, documents, or parts thereof, purloined from archives is a big problem, and a major contributor to dead ends in research, allowing myths and falsehoods to occasionally run rampant.

Add onto this the sheer number of firearms, clothing items, letters, photographs, and so on, that have either gone missing, remain in private collections or have simply had their identity lost to the sands of time, and you have a lot of potential to find very important items in all sorts of places.

If indeed the newly identified death mask is Rogan, it begs the questions of where this mask is, why it was so easily mislabelled without correction, and who the death mask claimed to be Rogan is actually of? It seems possible that with a bit more probing and detective work we could see one of the few artefacts of the Moonlite saga brought back to light; and if we can do that for Thomas Rogan, the possibilities for other historical items seems endless.

Morgan and the Magistrate

After his release from prison, the man known as John Smith was compelled to head to the Ovens district in compliance with his parole conditions. He never arrived. Instead, he travelled through Victoria and New South Wales as a tramp, picking up odd jobs where he could, usually shifting or breaking in horses, for which he had a natural affinity. He assumed many names and in time his true identity was forgotten. It was years before he would re-emerge with a new trade and a new name: Dan Morgan; bushranger.
Morgan ventured into New South Wales, where he soon teamed up with a man known variously as “German Bill” and “Flash Clark”. The man who would become Morgan’s off-sider was as much a mystery as his confederate. Likely he was one of the many visitors to the colony that had headed to the goldfields in search of fortune but only found disappointment. Perhaps it was destiny that brought these two mystery men together, but the pair seemed to have a common desire to take to bushranging for excitement and easy money, rather than desperation, which was worryingly common in the 1860s. The success of the gold rush had made highway robbery surprisingly lucrative as a career and many young men saw it as a preferable alternative to backbreaking labour.

The first confirmed offence by the pair was the sticking up of two young men who were taking their horses to a race meeting. Subsequently, the pair were connected to a series of other robberies throughout the Riverina. Always on the move, the bushrangers utilised abandoned huts in the bush and natural structures such as caves, particularly around the Piney Ranges, or built themselves shelter out of bark and saplings. Armed with pistols and shotguns, and mounted on grey horses, Morgan and his mate quickly established themselves as a public menace.

On 20 August, 1863, police magistrate Henry Baylis was riding along the road from Bullenbong to Brookong Station in order to attend court in Urana when he encountered the two bushrangers. Due to his position as a magistrate, Baylis regularly ventured between Wagga Wagga, Urana and Narrandera to perform court duties. Upon seeing Baylis, Morgan and Clarke attempted to bail him up, armed with pistols and double-barrelled shotguns. They were on foot, their horses evidently hitched nearby. The bold magistrate was not one to be waylaid by bushrangers. He turned and took off back through the bush, one of the bandits, likely Clarke, firing at him, until he found a small camp a couple of miles away. A drayman, to whom the camp belonged, seemed rather surprised by the arrival and queried as to whether Baylis had been accosted by two armed and mounted men in the bush. Baylis replied in the affirmative. The traveller elaborated that the figures were none other than the notorious Morgan and his mate, who he had encountered the previous day. Morgan had procured an axe from the drayman to use in cutting down telegraph poles. As if on cue, Baylis heard the sound of hooves and spotted Morgan moving through the bush on a grey horse. Baylis dug his spurs in and took off through the scrub, the ground perilously soft after recent rains. Morgan and Clarke gave chase. Baylis was knocked out of the saddle multiple times by rogue saplings that brushed against his mount, but he managed to regain his seat, hurtling through the bush for a mile and a half. The magistrate’s reluctance to be bailed up seemed to signify to the bandits that he must be carrying a good haul of cash or valuables, and his haste in attempting to evade them only served to excite the bandits further, like hounds chasing a fox.

The superior mounts and riding abilities of the bushrangers saw them not only catching up to Baylis, but overtaking him and cutting him off with cries of “Pull up! Pull up! or I’ll fire!” They finally succeeded in bailing up the magistrate and held him at gunpoint, demanding he dismount and give up his money. Morgan appeared to have dropped his shotgun in the scrub during the chase but Clarke kept his trained on their target, one barrel had already been discharged but the other was cocked and ready. Baylis refused to comply with the demands. Morgan was impressed by Baylis’ pluck but chided him for his folly in trying to escape them and risk being shot. Baylis finally gave in and did as he was told. He handed over £4 and his watch with much chagrin. Morgan and Clarke were unconvinced when Baylis stated that he had nothing else of value. Morgan enquired as to his victim’s identity. When Baylis introduced himself as the magistrate of Wagga Wagga, Morgan was sceptical. Baylis went so far as to present a valise with official papers to prove the truth of his claim and Morgan was satisfied. He handed the money and watch back to Baylis and stated that as his goods had been returned he had not been robbed and therefore, he reasoned, one good turn deserved another. The request was that if ever the pair came before Baylis in court that he would be lenient. Baylis responded that he had to do his duty irrespective of the circumstances, which disappointed Morgan. Morgan respected the magistrate’s position, but asked that Baylis not make a report of their meeting. Baylis also refused to agree to this demand and was sent on his way without further molestation. As Baylis left, Morgan and Clarke cut down the telegraph poles with the stolen axe to stifle communications about the attempted robbery.

The parley had been in close enough quarters that Baylis was able to take in many details about the assailants. Morgan was about six feet tall with long black hair to the nape of his neck, and a long black beard. He had a sallow complexion and was incredibly lean of build. Baylis noted that Morgan was weak in the knees and looked as if he’d been gravely ill or injured from his stance. He was dressed in a drab overcoat with only the top button fastened and had on a cabbage tree hat. His mouth twitched and his hands were shaky and when he spoke he did so in a slow drawl, which Baylis took to be an attempt to hide his nervousness. Clarke he would describe as a stout man of thirty-five years dressed in a cabbage tree hat and black overcoat with a short beard of a light colour. Both men appeared to be quite nervous, but Morgan was better at hiding it, Clarke trembling violently as he kept Baylis covered. This was hardly the image of two bold outlaws, but rather a pair of nervous and timid men who seemed increasingly unsure of how to approach their situation. Certainly it shows no hint that Morgan was a maniac who would kill and torture for his own amusement as many would later claim from second and third hand accounts.

Baylis continued his ride to Brookong Station where he gained a fresh horse and rode of to find police. He made a report and formed a posse to capture the offenders. In the party were Constable Brown, Constable Charlton and Sub-Inspector Morrow. The following day they set out and searched the surrounding bushland for clues, focusing on the areas around Mittagong and Urangeline. It took several days of searching before they found the first signs of where the bushrangers had been. On 26 August, stumbling across the remains of a campfire with a billy can full of tea, the police discovered the mia-mia where the pair of bandits had been staying. Comprising two forked saplings as support beams for another sapling against which bark sheets rested, the empty lean-to allowed the police to lay in wait for the offenders to return in relative security. Here they found supplies and items belonging to the bushrangers such as Morgan’s black and red-striped poncho, a Bible, blankets and rugs, as well as items that were more than likely stolen, ranging from bottles of gin to a silver snuff box.

When Morgan and Clarke returned, they kept their distance, walking barefoot around the camp, and watched the police in case they were noticed. Constable Brown was the first to notice the sounds of movement in the scrub outside. Baylis scoffed and stated that it must have been a possum, though he would later turn the tables in his memoirs, claiming he was the first to notice the footsteps and it was the others that insisted it was a possum. Baylis went outside to investigate. Two shots were fired from the scrub without effect and Baylis called on the bushrangers to surrender. The offenders refused and a shoot-out began, Baylis opening fire on Fancy Clarke.

In the chaos Baylis was injured, a bullet from Clarke striking his right thumb and ricocheting back to hit him in the right breast, where it passed through his body obliquely to the left side, exiting by his left shoulder blade, and getting tangled in his shirt. A shot from Constable Brown struck Baylis’ sleeve and when Morgan suddenly appeared he fired close to Baylis’ face, singeing his eyebrows and blackening his face with gunpowder. Baylis succumbed to his injuries and collapsed. Morgan and his mate scampered into the darkness, chased by Brown and Morrow, but Clarke had been injured in the firing. It was unclear whether the wound was the result of police fire or friendly fire, though it would later be asserted that Morgan shot his mate as a distraction, despite him helping Clarke escape, which would have slowed him down considerably. Brown and Morrow lost them in the darkness and doubled back to assist the wounded magistrate. Baylis was evacuated and taken for medical treatment.

It wasn’t until the following morning that Constable Brown was able to reach Wagga Wagga to alert people of what had happened. That same day, the Gilbert-Hall Gang struck Hammond’s store in Junee, causing panic in the district. The era of the bushrangers was now in full swing in New South Wales, and what would follow would be nearly a decade of intense lawlessness never seen before or since in Australia, or perhaps indeed in the British Empire.

Henry Baylis wearing his bushranger medal and lucky chain fob containing the bullet that passed through him.

Fortunately, Baylis’ injuries were not ultimately life threatening, though severe, and could be operated on. When his coat was removed, the bullet that had put a hole through him tumbled out of the sleeve. Baylis would later have it turned into a chain fob and wore it as a lucky charm. He suffered intense pain from the wound for years after the battle, even suffering bone fragments working their way out of his body as late as June 1866. The wound would cause him trouble for the rest of his life and he was eventually paid compensation by the government for his injury. However, the initial payout in 1876 of £1500 was argued over for some time and the respective committee decided to reduce the payout by £300 in order to discourage other people that had been injured in the line of duty from seeking a payout. Beyond this, Baylis was presented with a bravery medal for his actions. Baylis continued to perform his duties as magistrate, but he would never have to worry about Morgan or his mate coming before him in court.

Things would not go so well for Morgan and Clarke. Mortally wounded, Clarke was not able to travel far. In a panic, he told Morgan that he wanted to turn himself in. Morgan slung his wounded friend onto his horse and rode to the Mahonga Run. There Morgan tried to make his friend comfortable as he died in the bush. A severely decomposed body was allegedly found on the run two years later, still wearing the same black coat as Fancy Clarke.

Morgan was beside himself and began looking for answers. He settled on a shepherd named Haley. He suspected Haley had supplied the police with the information that allowed them to find the camp. When he located Haley the day after the battle, he shot him in the back, perforating the shepherd’s lungs. Haley would never recover.

In response to the events, a reward of £200 was offered for Morgan’s capture on 31 August. Morgan’s crimes would quickly escalate over the following two years to include three murders and multiple counts of arson and robbery. Morgan’s mastery of the bush and horseriding meant that he was easily able to avoid capture. In the end his biggest vice, alcohol, would lead to his undoing at Peechelba station.

Morgan as he appeared in later life.

Wantabadgery: 140 years on

On a stormy November night, six rumpled figures try to shelter inside swags. The grey woollen blankets that trap the rapidly depleting warmth from the quivering bodies are hardly protected by the oilskin sheets that form a waterproof crust and are heavy with rain water. One figure alone remains upright as rain pelts down in sheets. The darkness obscures his features beneath the curled brim of a drab coloured felt hat. As clouds shift and briefly allow light in from the moon, the man’s pale blue eyes seem to blaze. There’s a wild look about them, as if something animalistic were emerging. His normally sensual lips are tightened into a lupine snarl. He feels an ache in his limbs, old war wounds excited by the cold night air. Through the darkness, he stares with simmering rage at a handsome whitewashed homestead below him. The last plumes of smoke drift from the chimneys as the lamps are extinguished and the occupants retire to their beds to sleep in warmth and comfort. The amber glow fading in the windows mocks the men on the hill. It taunts them by leaving domestic comforts in plain view but frustratingly out of reach. The man with the lupine snarl fingers something in the folds of his threadbare coat, something hard and cold. His spidery fingers curl around the grip of a revolver. The walnut grip is unusually warm and inviting. It wants him to hold it, to feel its heft in his palm. He turns his gaze to the heavens. There is no moonlight visible in the night sky but on the ground is a different matter…


The story of the Wantabadgery siege is one of the most remarkable in bushranging history. There are equal measures of farce and horror, pathos and bathos. We see the figure of Andrew Scott/Captain Moonlite flip-flop between violent desperado and whimsical larrikin. There is a vibe that is reminiscent of the capers of bushrangers like Ben Hall and Bluecap and it reaches a peak with a gun battle wherein, miraculously, there was no bloodshed. Sadly, the same could not be said for what happened at McGlede’s farm afterwards, but here we will examine what happened at Wantabadgery Station on 15 November through to 17 November, 1879.

It is easy to dismiss the story of Andrew George Scott as not really being that of a “bushranger” at all. After all, he and his band of followers robbed no mail coaches, they didn’t gallop through the mountains on thoroughbred stallions waving pistols, and there were certainly no killings attributed to them prior to the clash at McGlede’s. The popular perception of what constitutes a “bushranger” is only really applicable to a small portion of people who fall under the banner. As one looks back through the stories of bushranging, even going back to the very beginning with Black Caesar in 1788, the common themes through them all are the rejection of society and a retreat to the wilderness. The romance of the bushranger comes from the idea that rejecting the confines of civilisation brings freedom, but the reality is naturally a far cry from that ideal. In the case of the Moonliters, as they will be referred to for the sake of brevity, they rejected society because they had all become outcasts in some aspect. In essence, they rejected the society that had rejected them. They were not bushmen seeking to return to their roots in the wilderness, they were the disenfranchised and discarded who has been beaten down by what referred to itself as civilised. In essence, what happened at Wantabadgery is a lesson about what happens when you push people too far and they go over the edge.


That night as exhaustion trumped his rage, Andrew Scott fell into a fitful slumber. His mind became a swirling Hibernian fog, with the spectres of his past lurching out at him. The echoes of his father’s sermons that he sat through as a boy in Rathfriland rolled around him as he recognised the smell of gunsmoke and a shadowy mound before him coagulated and morphed into the brassy-skinned body of a Maori warrior, a pool of crimson seeping out from under his outstretched arm. He saw the monolithic form of a poppet head looming from a mine at Mount Egerton and felt the chill of a winter in his former cell in Pentridge. All the while there was presence behind him pushing him deeper and deeper into the mist. He turned and came face to face with himself!


Andrew Scott had the most incredible fall from grace, going from a well educated high society man to a penniless tramp hawking the clothes off his back for enough money to buy bread. It all fell apart after he provided a suspicious alibi for the son of a Bacchus Marsh squatter who was up on stock theft charges. The following scandal resulted in the church sending him to fulfil his duties as lay reader in Mount Egerton. It was then that he became embroiled in the robbery of a bank. The evidence that supposedly linked him to the crime was flimsy and Scott would always protest his innocence. However, it was after moving to Sydney when an unpredictable chain of events saw him going to Fiji and agreeing to establish an agricultural company on an island there, before returning to Sydney and living the life of a debauched libertine off the money he was meant to be using on tools and supplies. His penchant for alcohol and pleasures of the flesh was out of control and he soon found himself in gaol over valueless cheques. He would spend the next decade of his life bouncing around prisons where he met James Nesbitt, which would be the trigger for him to sort his life out. When he was released in 1879 he decided to use his oratory prowess and his experience being at the mercy of the police and prisons to benefit others in the same predicament. His lecture tour on prison reform ground to a halt as police interfered and caused multiple performances to be shut down, which caused quite a stir among the press and public alike. Police would haul Scott and Nesbitt in on any crimes they could and this harassment saw Scott elect to leave the colony in the hope that he could find honest work north of the border, seeing as all he found in Victoria were closed doors. It seems to be indicative of the commonality of the disenfranchisement that he managed to gather a group of four to accompany him over the border.

James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt had met Scott in Pentridge while doing time for his involvement in a mugging and would soon become his partner in all things. It was left ambiguous as to whether their relationship had a romantic element, but there were enough hints in witness accounts and Scott’s own words and actions to indicate that there was indeed more to the pair than simply a platonic connection. Nesbitt was vital to keeping Scott going. Whether it was emotional support or taking care of Scott’s medical needs, Nesbitt was an attentive and devoted partner and Scott reciprocated in his own fashion.

Accompanying Scott and Nesbitt were Frank Johns alias Thomas Williams, a former confectioner with a crippled left hand who had joined Scott on his lecture tour as an assistant; and Gus Wernicke, a fifteen year old grocer’s assistant whose father had recently remarried to his aunt, with whom he had such an awful relationship that he ran away from home. As they travelled, they added Geelong native Thomas Rogan (alias Baker, alias Brown) to the mix. Rogan was a cobbler who had done two sentences for horse stealing and larceny served in Beechworth, Pentridge, Williamstown and Sandridge, but seemed keen to chuck his lot in with the gang and joined them near Sandhurst. It wasn’t until nearing the end of the journey that they adopted the impish Graham Bennett, who had been tramping the Riverina looking for work. The quintet had crossed paths with Bennett while he was residing in an abandoned hut on the edge of a farm. It didn’t take much pressuring to convince him to join them. However, by that time the group were starving, unkempt, broke and horrendously low on provisions. Their smart city clothes had been sold to get money for supplies and the men resembled animated scarecrows. Bennett began to grow edgy when he saw a pistol tucked under Scott’s coat in a pouch. Scott tried to convince him it was a telescope. The journey was gruelling and morale was at a low ebb when they reached the fabled Wantabadgery Station, desperate for a helping hand. Scott had been informed that here they could get work or at least food and shelter for the night.


Sunshine tickled the leaves around the boys as they arose from what slumber they had managed to snatch out of sheer exhaustion. Scott was already awake and standing to attention, the rage of the previous night still charging through his veins. Bennett approached Scott with a miserable expression.

“I hope you won’t be offended, sir, but after last night I think I’ll be better off on the tramp alone as before.” Scott responded by brushing open his coat and showing the boy his revolver.

“I’m Captain Moonlite,” Bennett’s eyes widened and he stumbled slightly as Scott brandished the weapon. “You must do one of two things, either join us of your own accord and we will all share alike, or you must join us by compulsion.


In the early 1860s, Dan Morgan had gained the nickname “the traveller’s friend”. His notoriety had struck fear into the hearts of the owners and superintendents of farms throughout the Riverina, which meant that they were all too afraid to refuse to help any scruffy looking swaggie that asked for assistance or work. If they refused, they risked raising the ire of Morgan, who was known to burn buildings on the farms of those he felt needed a comeuppance. However, Morgan had been killed in 1865 so his reputation no longer held any sway. Swaggies were frequently turned away or employed for little more reward than table scraps for dinner and the least mouldy hay in the barn as a bed. Sadly, desperation led many men, forced into itinerary habits by economic depression, to settle for whatever they could get. Unfortunately for the Moonliters, they had the additional headache of police dogging their movements and riding ahead of them into towns and farms to tell people not to employ them. In 1879, it didn’t matter if you had done your time in prison and paid your debt to society; the convict stain would determine the rest of your life and follow you everywhere, and it spread to all those who associated with you. For Scott, not only was he struggling, but he was responsible for the five young men who had followed him on foot from Fitzroy to Wantabadgery. It was his silver tongue, after all, that had lured them there. Hopes were high on Saturday, 15 November, but when they had been made to wait outside the homestead at Wantabadgery Station for two hours only to have the door slammed in their faces by Baynes, the superintendent, something inside Scott snapped. No work, no food, not even permission to sleep in the cowshed to stay out of the rain had been offered – the things he was promised were no more than words. For a former preacher, it must have been soul destroying to experience the milk of human kindness as little more than a fairytale. This made Scott a very dangerous man indeed. If there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s never make an enemy of a man with a gun and nothing to lose. That night as the boys slept on the hill overlooking the station, drenched by the rains, Scott plotted his revenge.

And therefore,–since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,–
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

– Richard III, Act 1, Scene 1


The young men spread out, each one armed with whatever firearm they could muster from the collection they had brought with them. Scott, now embracing the persona of Captain Moonlite, was armed with his Colt revolver and a Bowie knife. He tugged his beaten felt hat so that the brim shrouded his face in shadow. He stood up onto the verandah of Wantabadgery station, his crippled left foot making a scuffing, bumping sound as it dragged behind him along the boards. He balled his fist and thumped on the door. There was the sound of movement inside and the door opened slowly to reveal the station owner’s wife peering back from behind the door. The presentation of an octagonal bluesteel muzzle to her face immediately telegraphed Captain Moonlite’s intentions.


When the gang descended upon Wantabadgery Station at 9:30am on 16 November, all had code names and weapons. Scott, obviously, used Captain Moonlite to distinguish himself but Nesbitt, Williams, Wernicke, Rogan and Bennett were identified through the numbers 2-6 respectively. It is interesting to see how Scott embraced the persona of Captain Moonlite when he bailed up Wantabadgery Station. He was cooly methodical in how he directed his boys, and gave them numbers instead of referring to them by name in an effort to shield them from recognition. Accepting that he was now officially the villain, he stopped inhibiting himself and allowed his rage and whims to dictate his actions. The others seemed to feed off the energy and became quite animated and almost unruly from time to time; Wernicke in particular, which was marked difference from only a few days earlier when he had attempted to leave the gang to find his own way back to Melbourne out of frustration. The exception was Nesbitt who was almost timid and appeared to be the only person that could keep Moonlite grounded. This would be vital to ensuring that things did not escalate too wildly during the gang’s occupation of the homestead.

Over the course of the day more captives were added to the collection. An infamous and unpleasant incident was when Moonlite took a shine to a mare belonging to the McDonalds. As he attempted to mount the skittish horse it became wild with fright and Moonlite shot it dead, claiming it was too dangerous. It was a massive overreaction and an indication of how far Scott would allow the Moonlite persona to take over if unchecked. Among the workers captured by the gang was a Chinese man named Ah Goon, whose watch Scott stole. Scott was vehemently opposed to the Chinese workers being brought in on farms and taking jobs away from white men simply because they were willing to work for obscenely low wages. The practice was not only exploitative on the part of the farm managers, but in Scott’s opinion it was calculated by the Chinese to disempower the white labour market.

When Percy Baynes finally made an appearance it triggered Moonlite’s rage and almost made him lose control. The way Baynes had mistreated the group the day before was singularly responsible for the wrath being brought down upon the station and Moonlite threatened to murder and disembowel Baynes, but relented when Mrs. McDonald intervened. Baynes was unrepentant and continued to antagonise Moonlite throughout the day and even attempted to turn the gang against him. Such behaviour was ill-advised in the least and horrendously culpable at worst when dealing with armed bushrangers, and had it not been for the gang keeping Moonlite from carrying out his threats it is likely there would have been bloodshed and more than likely a grisly end for the curmudgeonly Baynes.

The gang took advantage of their unique position of power and helped themselves to new clothes to replace the rags they were in, as well as taking any weapons and ammunition they could find. They ate heartily, with Moonlite killing two fowl to cook and feed both his gang and their captives, except for Baynes. The relative success of their operation left them in good spirits. Throughout the day they took it in turns to sleep and guard. It seems remarkable that apart from Baynes there was no real attempts to attack the gang or escape to raise help.

The prisoners sat around the parlour, weary and subdued. The children fidgeted and grumbled as Bennett thumped tunes out on the piano and Moonlite sang with gusto. For the bushrangers it was a celebration of conquest, but for the captives it was demeaning. When all had settled, Moonlite finally acknowledged the strain the young ones were under and permitted them to be put to bed. He may be a vicious cutthroat but there was no need to make things uncomfortable for the children, he reasoned.


The way that the stick up of Wantabadgery station played out was a farce in the tradition of Johnny Gilbert and Ben Hall. Scott always had a flair for drama yet had been able to wrangle his compulsions effectively, but Captain Moonlite was his id let loose. At no point was this more apparent than his spur of the moment decision to go to The Australian Arms hotel. It was here that his thought process seems to have been quite difficult to follow. When confronted with the unattended pub, he helped himself to booze and the rifle behind the counter, but then went looking around the building where he found the children of the proprietors asleep and decided to take them with him. A modern mentality immediately assumes that he had very nefarious intentions in taking the children, yet Moonlite left a note for the parents and seemed simply to want to take the children to where there would be adults to look after them. It was a bizarre thing for him to do. Moonlite lacked the conscience of superego to define his choices, and somehow also appeared to be lacking in the judgement and mitigation of his ego. He was operating based on pure impulse and it seemed like he was enjoying it far too much.

Captain Moonlite

At 8pm word finally reached the police in Wagga Wagga that something was amiss in Wantabadgery. Despite the urgency of the situation, it wasn’t until 4am that a party consisting of Constables Rowe, Hedley, Johns and Williamson went to investigate. According to Rowe, they had been informed that 20-30 people were being held hostage by a gang of seven armed criminals. Given that the police murders in the Wombat Ranges was a fresh memory – only 13 months previous – it is little wonder that such a small police party should delay in getting involved.


The rumble of hooves tumbles through the darkness – tuttle-tut, tuttle-tut, tuttle-tut, tuttle-tut. As the riders come closer, the outlines of their uniforms become apparent; white belts and breeches catch the glow of the waning moon. The arrivals outside alert the dog, who bolts to the garden and begins to bark furiously. Now is the time for action and the bushrangers all gear up like mechanical toys, ready for battle. Nesbitt takes up a shotgun, the others arm themselves with pistols. Moonlite’s heart races as he prepares his Snider Enfield rifle. He flips open the receiver and feeds a cartridge inside. He takes a deep breath as he shoulders the rifle, memories come flooding back of preparing for battle against the Maori; the ache of the wait, the infernal calmness of the world around. The police arrive and hitch their horses to a fence. Constable Hedley sees a figure lurking in the shadows and calls on him to stand in the name of the queen, but he may as well be shouting at the wind. Scott’s finger tightens on the trigger. There’s a crack and a kick as he reels off a warning shot. The tangy smell of gun smoke fills his nostrils. The ball skims between Constables Rowe and Williamson. Moonlite watches the police scurry for cover. A smirk tickles the corner of his mouth. He tugs his pocket Colt out of its holster and steps into the light. The police return fire, hands trembling with anxiety and adrenaline. The barking of the dog is drowned by the barking of rifles as the rest of Moonlite’s men join the conflict. Moonlite strides out into the crossfire, caring naught for his own safety.


The account of what unfolds after the arrival of the police varies in many aspects depending on who tells the story. However, it is reasonable to suggest the following as an accurate summary. After Scott’s initial shot, the police sought cover and returned fire. A volley from the rest of the bushrangers served to let them know they were outnumbered. There was further exchange of gunfire and the police became overwhelmed. During the chaos a fire was lit in the barn then quickly snuffed out. The police hid in a forest of thistles then their horses were stolen by the gang. Very likely, at least one gang member rode a horse towards the police from a flanking position, prompting the constables to evacuate through swampland nearby on foot, pushing through water four feet deep. The bushrangers continued to fire after them, the shots hitting the trees. There were no deaths and no injuries, excepting the constables’ pride.

The police were demoralised but determined to regroup and make another attempt on the bushrangers once they had back-up. They headed to James Beveridge’s farm at Tenandra Park where they would acquire horses and before teaming up with police from Gundagai at 11am.

Though the battle that unfolded at Wantabadgery station is a deadly serious event, the lack of bloodshed allows us to appreciate the absurdity of the situation. Four police rode from Wagga Wagga expecting to be met with a few of rowdy swagmen or shearers, and ended up in a heated exchange of gunfire with half a dozen desperadoes and were hopelessly outclassed. Despite all their training, the police were no match for the untrained bandits.

While the police licked their wounds at Beveridge’s farm, the bushrangers were elated at their first victory. It was a victory that would be very short lived. As the sun rose over the Riverina, the Moonliters only had several hours of liberty left. By the end of the day two would be dead, the rest captured alive.

“I tried to leave the colonies but could not, and was persecuted with the surveillance of the police. The bread being taken from my mouth, and every prospect of honest livelihood gone, I came up the country and tried again to seek for work. As long as our money lasted we bought bread, and when our money was gone we sold our clothes and bought bread with what we obtained for them. We tried to get work but could not, and we fasted day after day. We have been without food for forty-eight hours. We went to Wantabadgery and walked up to the station. We were told the overseers and owners were out, but a servant came, and said that if we came in the morning we could see about work. The night was dark and rain was commencing, and we were told we could not see the superintendent then, but he afterwards came out and told us to go about our business, and we were insulted. We were refused admittance into a hut, and that night we slept on the hills, with nothing to eat and nothing to drink but the water that was falling around us. All our clothes were wet, and we hungry. Next day there was no work to be had, and we had nothing to do. Afterwards — and I admit it was foolish — we went and stuck up Wantabadgery. The police came down, and they fired on us and we fired on them. I will not say who fired first, but during the time I saw that the act that had been done would produce bloodshed and I courted death, hoping that a stray shot might end my life and that the prisoners, my friends, might give themselves up to the Crown. After the fight we left Wantabadgery station and took the police horses with us. Some of the police of this colony have behaved as brave men, but one or two have not.

– Andrew George Scott

Like the Bushrangers of Old: The Kelly Gang in Jerilderie

Despite their infamy, the Kelly Gang were hardly prolific in any sense as far as bushrangers are concerned, but perhaps it’s a matter of quality over quantity. The second raid they undertook was one of the most audacious in history and definitely ranks with anything performed by the likes of Ben Hall or Dan Morgan. Yet, there are many conflicting accounts that vary in small details so creating an accurate and concise account is no small feat.

Since December 1878 the Kelly Gang had gone to ground and, despite the best efforts of the police, they had avoided capture easily. A change in police leadership saw Superintendent Hare take the reins from Superintendent Nicolson with no noticeable change in effect. The gang meanwhile were plotting. A morally dubious undertaking by the police saw scores of people arrested and imprisoned indefinitely on remand as suspected sympathisers. This no doubt put a strain on many of the poor farms in the region and would have infuriated Ned Kelly, who had already identified himself as a figurehead for the struggles of the smaller farmers against the oppressive influence of certain squatters and police.

The gang had a plan to ride across the border into New South Wales and rob a bank. The banks in Victoria had all been allocated guards since the Euroa robbery and the New South Wales police had bragged that the Kelly Gang wouldn’t last 24 hours in their colony. The gang were determined to prove them wrong. They used Joe Byrne’s best friend, Aaron Sherritt, to create a diversion by telling the police the gang were headed to Goulburn. The police fell for it and the gang were able to pass into the neighbouring colony unmolested while the police were distracted elsewhere.

On 7 February 1879 the Kelly Gang crossed the border into New South Wales. Splitting up, Dan and Steve going one way, Ned and Joe the other, they made their way into the Riverina. Ned and Joe stopped at the Woolpack Inn where they spoke and drank freely with Mary Jordan (aka Mary the Larrikin), a popular barmaid. The pair were able to glean some information about the township of Jerilderie, specifically about the police, and this helped to cement the game plan. What other shenanigans they got up to at the Woolpack Inn one can leave up to their imagination.

On the 8 February the gang moved into the township of Jerilderie. It was a town primarily concerned with agriculture and pastoral industry, flat and close to Billabong Creek. At midnight they approached the police station. Inside Senior Constable George Devine and Constable Henry Richards were just settling into bed. Mrs. Devine, who was pregnant at the time, had related to her husband that she had had a dream that the Kelly Gang were there but the annoyed husband dismissed it as rot. Suddenly there was a racket outside. “Devine, Richards, come out! There’s been a row at the hotel!”

Snr Const. Devine [Source: The Daily News, 20/05/1926, p.1]

When the police exited the building they were greeted with the Kelly Gang brandishing revolvers. The gang had split up to cover the front and rear and they closed in on the shocked officers. The troopers were taken prisoner then locked in the cell behind the station usually reserved for drunks and freshly arrested criminals. Mrs. Devine and her children were kept in the sitting room. Mrs. Devine was then sent to gather the firearms in the house. She begged Ned not to harm the men. Ned stated that if they didn’t misbehave then they would be unharmed. While Dan and Steve stabled the horses Mrs. Devine prepared a supper. When she moved to shift a bath full of water Ned refused to allow her to and did it himself, recognising that she was pregnant and in no condition for heavy lifting. In the early hours the gang took turns to rest and guard the others.

The following morning the gang set about putting the rest of the plan into action. The police ate breakfast with the bushrangers and then Ned and Dan dressed in police uniforms. Mrs. Devine expressed that she was scheduled to decorate the courthouse for mass and Ned, realising that her absence could arouse suspicion, allowed her to go, but she was accompanied there and guarded closely. Shortly after her return she accepted a delivery from the butcher, watched closely by Steve Hart and Ned Kelly.

Ned and Steve dressed in police uniforms to patrol the town, escorting Constable Richards and learning the lay of the land. Everyone assumed these new constables were reinforcements against the Kelly Gang. Mrs. Devine was guarded in the house with her husband by Dan and Joe.

A photolithograph of the town’s layout was procured and Ned and Joe plotted their exact movements for the following day. It was a remarkably domestic scene with Mrs. Devine bustling about doing chores while the outlaws made plans. Dan sat attentively and bounced one of the children merrily on his knee. Joe wrote a joke on the back of the photolithograph:

Q. Why are the Kellys the greatest matchmakers in the country?

A. Because they brought loads of ladies to Younghusbands (station), Euroa, Victoria.

As the night wound on Joe rode back to the Woolpack Inn and stayed there having a grand old time with Mary the Larrikin, until midnight when he was so sozzled Mary had to help him onto his horse. Meanwhile Ned had read a portion of the letter he and Joe had been writing to Mrs. Devine but it had all gone in one ear and out the other, her continued anxiety over the welfare of her family too dominant in her mind to pay attention.

Mrs. Devine [Source: The Daily News, 20/05/1926, p.1]

On Monday the 9th, the raid was put into action. The gang rode into town early and Dan and Joe, dressed as troopers, took their horses Rea’s blacksmith shop. They had the horses shod by blacksmith Andrew Nixon (all charged to the government account, naturally) and Joe left a loaf of bread. Next, Dan and Joe examined the telegraph wires that ran through town and noted them for later. Ned and Dan escorted Constable Richards through the streets with Joe and Steve riding behind on their horses. Ned and Dan ordered Richards to introduce them to Cox, the publican at the Royal Hotel. Ned informed Cox that his hotel was to be a prison for the day, but that if there was compliance there would be no bloodshed. Cox made the sensible choice to co-operate. Joe and Steve were placed in the front room, Dan on guard in the bar. As people entered the building they were bailed up.

Over the course of the day prisoners were rounded up and installed at the Royal Hotel where they were guarded by Dan Kelly, who remained in a police uniform. The gang had surmised that people are more likely to be compliant if you give them free booze. The hotel was connected to the bank by a walkway at the rear. It was not uncommon for drunks to go ambling in the back door of the bank, and with this in mind Joe began to pretend to be intoxicated as he wandered across the walkway into the bank. The bank staff were not alarmed by his intrusion but rethought their opinion when Byrne drew a pistol and stated “I’m a Kelly, bail up!”

Joe was soon joined by Ned and Steve. The till was emptied of just under £700 but Ned was not satisfied. “You must have at least £10,000!” he shouted. Edwin Living, the accountant, maintained that there was no more. Living was in his mid-twenties and spoke with a slight stammer. Just as Robert Scott had done at Euroa months earlier, Living was doing all he could to delay and misdirect the bushrangers. Not believing a word of it Ned located a locked treasure drawer. In order to open the treasure drawer the manager’s key was required. Joe suggested using a sledgehammer to get it open. Tarleton, the bank manager, had only just returned from a trip and was having a bath when Steve Hart burst in waving a revolver. The key was soon liberated. Steve was ordered to keep watch over the manager while he dressed and the cash was liberated, in all just over £2000. In the meantime, William Elliott the school teacher had wandered in and been bailed up by Joe Byrne. Ned told Elliot to return to the school and let the children go home as he was declaring a holiday in honour of the gang’s visit. Tarleton soon emerged freshly washed and dressed in a silk coat and smoking cap. The situation was one of great peril but no peril was too great to prevent him from indulging in selecting his finest haute couture for the occasion, it would seem.

The bank robbery as depicted in The Last Outlaw (1980)

Ned located a strongbox and while rummaging through it Ned came across the bank’s collection of mortgage papers, deeds and books. He decided that destroying the records of the bank’s debtors was a far more virtuous action than merely robbing the bank and announced his intention to burn the records. Edwin Living was permitted to rescue his life insurance policy. The documents were soon burned.

A trio of locals wandered into the bank at this time – the postmaster, his assistant and the newspaper editor – and caught the bushrangers in the act of robbing it. Two were seized but the third took off and kept running until he was out of town. It eventuated that this fleet-of-foot man was Gill, the newspaper editor, who Ned wanted to publish his letter. This letter was of huge significance to Ned. It was a 56 page document detailing much of his life, with emphasis on what he perceived to be injustices perpetrated against him and his family. It was his attempt to explain and justify his actions in killing three policemen and he wanted his message to be broadcast. With Gill missing the chance of Ned’s letter being published was effectively null. Edwin Living heard Ned’s grievance and offered to safe-keep the letter and forward it to Gill. Reluctantly Ned did so.

William Elliot in later life [Source: Weekly Times, 24/01/1931, p. 12]

Joe rode to the telegraph office dressed as a trooper and ordered the postmaster to dismantle the Morse key. He then examined the telegrams that had been sent that day to see if there was anything concerning.

With the bank robbed, everyone was herded into the pub. When Joe attempted to direct the hotel’s cook, a Chinese man, into the bar he was met with insolence and gave him a whack to make him compliant. With a captive audience, Ned gave a speech detailing his life, crimes and tribulations. At the conclusion of the speech drinks were had and the gang performed riding tricks in the street shouting “Hurrah, for the good old days of Morgan and Ben Hall!”

Ned set a group of townsfolk to work hacking down the telegraph poles with axes. He declared that if anyone touched the wires before the following day he’d return from robbing the Urana bank and shoot them all down like dogs. It was Ned’s typical hyperbolic, overly violent bluffing style and it worked. Many of the men continued chopping down the poles long after the gang were gone.

As they left town, Joe and Dan paired up and headed off while Ned and Steve headed to the Traveller’s Rest Hotel. There Steve Hart stole a saddle to replace his own with then bailed up Reverend Gribble and took his watch. Gribble went to Ned and expressed his distaste for Steve’s behaviour. Ned responded to the reverend’s quibble by berating Steve and forcing him to return the watch. Steve complied and Ned berated him, though it was unclear whether he was more annoyed at the act of petty theft or the fact that the watch was far less valuable that what Steve had already taken that day. Ned had another drink, conspicuously placing his revolver on the counter and announcing that anyone looking for the reward could come and grab it and shoot him if they had the guts. Ned left with another of his famous threats, this time stating that if anyone were to raise an alarm then Jerilderie would be awash in its own blood.

Once the outlaws were gone Reverend Gribble attempted to form a posse to hunt them. He was met with a mix of apathy and strong rejection. Living and Tarleton mounted up and rode to Deniliquin to raise the alarm. By the time news had filtered out it was too late to catch up with he outlaws. They had performed one of the most successful bank heists in Australian history.

In the wake of the raid Sir Henry Parkes, premier of New South Wales, committed to doubling the already hefty reward to £8000. This was the largest reward offered to date for anyone foul of the law, equating to around $2 million AUD. The guards on the banks created a massive hurdle to any future robbery plans for the gang and they disappeared for the remainder of the year. They would re-emerge in a spectacular way midway through the following year when executing a masterplan in Glenrowan. Gill never published the letter.


The Hall Gang: The First Raid on Canowindra

Now well into the second half of 1863, Ben Hall’s gang felt as if they had the rule of the roost in the Lachlan. Towards the year’s end they began operating closer to Carcoar, deciding that homesteads were better targets than travellers and coaches. But it wasn’t simply ill-gotten gains the gang were interested in.

At 11.00pm on 29 September, the gang descended on John Loudon’s property at Grubbenbong. Mrs. Loudon was roused by a knocking at the door and asked “who’s there?” to which came the reply “Police”. Mr. Loudon was not convinced and asked who their officer was. The outlaws replied “Saunderson”. Still not convinced, Loudon refused the visitors entry. The gang grew tired of their own ruse and promptly fired six slugs through the door and burst in. They found Mr. and Mrs. Loudon with two men named Kirkpatrick and Wilson, as well as Mrs. Loudon’s niece. Word had reached the outlaws that police were stationed in the house of Loudon, himself a Justice of the Peace, so the men were handcuffed and taken onto the verandah and the women sent into a separate room while the gang searched the property. On discovering that there were no police in the household the gang then demanded food. Mrs. Loudon had the servants prepare ham and eggs for the bandits and apologised that there wasn’t anything more substantial to offer, though any disappointment in the fare was soon dissipated when a bottle of wine made its way to the dining table. After dinner the bushrangers smoked with their captives on the verandah, Gilbert suggesting the women might object to the smoke. The gang stayed until 3.00am whereupon they decided to search elsewhere for police and bragged that if they found them they would handcuff them and march them to Carcoar. They returned all of the objects they had pilfered in their search of the house and set off.


They next appeared at Limestone Creek at 11.00am. Sticking up the property of the aristocratically named Mr. Montague Rothery just as Rothery was sitting down to lunch. They restrained him and proceeded to eat his food themselves and called for champagne while partaking liberally in Rothery’s supply of brandy. Their bellies satisfied, they took to the piano and attempted to have a singalong before Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally and Vane  went outside to check out Rothery’s horses, intending to select the best of the three and a couple of saddles to take with them. Burke keeping watch over Rothery meanwhile showed him a breech loading rifle that he had pilfered from the police at George Marsh’s in a previous encounter. Hall and his companions made themselves at home and conversed freely with Rothery, informing him that they intended to find a magistrate named Icely and take him to task over his officiousness. Icely would reach Coombing on the Sunday afternoon, having luckily missed the gang and whatever mischief they intended to carry out upon him. The gang stayed until 2.00pm when, having completed all they desired at Rothery’s farm, they rode to Canowindra.


News of the stick up of Rothery reached Superintendent Morrisett at 5.00pm on Saturday and he immediately sent a party of five to follow the lead into Canowindra. The party was ordered to stop in at Clifden en route but instead arrived in Carcoar, where they stayed until 9.00pm gathering information that made it clear the outlaws were headed for Canowindra, which they already knew. The police were resolute and set off but without any sense of urgency.

Meanwhile, the first place the gang visited in Canowindra was the store of Pierce and Hilliar where they took £3 in cash and £30 in goods all the while bragging about their other exploits. Moving on, the gang called in at Daley’s Inn where they apparently found nothing of value, then they proceeded to the establishment of Mr. Robinson. They spent the night carousing at Robinson’s, playing piano and dancing. Mickey Burke got himself thoroughly intoxicated and flaked out on a sofa where he was abruptly roused by Gilbert at 8.00am. The gang paid for all they took except for Robinson’s horse. O’Meally spent the afternoon visiting relatives and the gang rode away from Canowindra without a care, having sent a strong message to the police and the locals that Ben Hall’s gang went wherever and did whatever they pleased.


At 11.00am the police party arrived in Canowindra only to be informed they had missed the gang by three hours. The police were much criticised for their tardiness, having taken fourteen hours to undertake a journey that should have taken eight. They had passed a series of teamsters on the road to Canowindra that informed them that the gang had indeed gone that route, yet for reasons unknown they dawdled and missed a golden opportunity. The affair in Carcoar was such an affront that the Sydney Morning Herald bewailed:

In brief, we may state that during the time specified, this band of freebooters have, in the most public and deliberate manner, been preying upon the inhabitants of this district – despoiling them of their property, laughing the authorities to scorn, and in every practicable and possible way, insulting the sacred form of justice! Were the thing not gravely serious, it would be absolutely ludicrous. If our social life and commercial security were not involved, the whole thing would be a huge joke. And where, pray, whilst all this melancholy farce has been enacting, were our police detachments – superintendents and inspectors to boot? Whilst these reprobates were leisurely pursuing their infamous traffic through the country, with their ten or dozen horses, which, owing to the softness of the weather, could be easily tracked, where were the men who are paid to protect our property – Echo answers where? – and the one universal impression is, that they were looking for the bushrangers and praying that they might not find them! We have no desire to deal unjustly by the police, but the whole business is now approximating to a crisis which can neither be ignored by the Government nor the country.

“THE REIGN OF TERROR.” The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 October 1863


“TELEGRAPHIC INTELLIGENCE” The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1893) 1 October 1863: 2. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18712393>.

“BATHURST.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 30 September 1863: 4. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30936754>.

“(From a Correspondent.)” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 9 October 1863: 3. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13087562>.

“THE BUSHRANGERS IN THE WESTERN DISTRICTS.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 7 October 1863: 5. Web. 19 Sep 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13090959>.

The Twilight of Moonlite: The Destruction of the  Moonliters


We had no intention of being bushrangers…. misery and hunger produced despair and in one wild hour we proved how much the wretched dare. It must be seen that Wantabadgery was the place where the voice of hunger drowned the voice of reason and we became criminals. – Andrew Scott

For years Andrew Scott had been at loggerheads with the authorities in Australia and had even toured the country lecturing on prison reform. Finally tiring of being dragged in on suspicion of every offence under the sun from robbery to assault simply because of his reputation after being convicted of the robbery of the bank at Mount Egerton, Scott decided to become Captain Moonlite once more and give the police cause to rue the way they’d bullied him. Taking his companions Jimmy Nesbitt, Tom Rogan, Graham Bennett, Gus Wernicke and Thomas Williams on the road, they decided to become bushrangers and make their way North.

Captain Moonlite, a former con man badgered by police until he decided to become a bushranger out of spite.

Tired of being unable to procure work due to the police scaring employers off hiring him, Scott decided to head north where it was unlikely that he would be recognised. The boys decided to join him, even though Scott tried to discourage them. Taking only what they could carry on their backs the Moonliters, as they would be known, set off on foot for New South Wales. Unfortunately their plans to seek work en route were foiled by police that were following the group’s movements and overtaking them to warn townspeople about the imminent arrival of Captain Moonlite and his crew. Things began to get desperate as the boys were forced to get by on damper and tea. Occasionally they would be able to shoot themselves a couple of koalas to cook up or even the odd sheep that had wandered too close to a fence. Scott soon heard of a station near Gundagai called Wantabadgery that was run by a benevolent farmer who would always help out swagmen by providing either work or rations, so it was decided they would head for there. As they approached they discovered a young man in an abandoned hut named Graham Bennett who joined the troupe on their quest. Passing through the township of Clarendon they visited David Weir’s store and purchased flour. Weir took pity on the miserable half-starved boys and gave extra than what Scott had paid for – an act of kindness that Scott would make note of.

The Moonliters: Andrew Scott, James Nesbitt, Thomas Williams, Thomas Rogan, Gus Wernicke and Graham Bennett.

Wantabadgery Station

They arrived at Wantabadgery Station on 15 November, 1879, but were unaware that the station was under new management and when they were greeted at the gate by the new manager, Percy Baynes, after being made to wait for more than two hours they were unceremoniously told to leave without any assistance. This was the final straw for Scott who stewed as the group were forced to sleep on a hill overlooking the station during heavy rain. As the night went on he devised a plan – not a good plan, but a plan nonetheless – to stick up the station and make an example of the lack of charity that had been extended to he and his poor boys.
The next morning the group descended on the station once more with pistols drawn. Scott had given the boys code-names to conceal their identities. Nesbitt was Number Two, Williams was Number Three, Wernicke Number Four, Rogan Number Five and Bennett Number Six. The gang stuck up the homestead and held the employees of the station prisoner inside while Mrs. McDonald, the wife of the new owner, prepared food for the boys. As workers were brought in Scott noticed one of the workers was Chinese, a man named Ah Goon. Scott was indignant and believed this was proof of the insolence and greed of the station management as Chinese workers commanded lesser wages than their European equivalents and thus were hired by people looking to cut costs at the expense of their fellows. He stole a watch chain from the unfortunate man and considered it a fair trade for the job he was perceived to have stolen. The food was served and the gang ate all they could and as the day went on Scott tried to keep the atmosphere light.
When the station owners, Claude and Falconer McDonald, returned Scott took a liking to one of their horses. When he attempted to mount the horse it reared dangerously and Scott began to lose control so shot the unfortunate creature in the head. One of the visitors to the property that day was Weir, the shop keeper. As Scott recognised him, he made sure that he was treated kindly. There was a moment of terror when the station manager returned from a morning outing and Scott recognised him as the man that had refused his gang charity. He attacked the man with a horrendous verbal display and threatened to gut him or hang him. Baynes was not intimidated, and his insistence on spitefully riling up Captain Moonlite began to push the bushranger over the edge. Mrs. McDonald begged for Baynes to be spared and Moonlite relented for a time but Baynes had more guts than brains. Things flared up again when he called Nesbitt a “poof” and again when he tried to coerce Wernicke into mutiny. Moonlite’s fury rose to greater heights and it was incredibly difficult to calm him down.

The day wound on and as night settled in alcohol was passed around, making everyone merry. A turkey was cooked and served to all of the prisoners (though Baynes was pointedly excluded from this). At one point Andrew Scott took Claude McDonald with him in a buggy to a nearby pub called the Australian Arms Hotel. As the publican and his wife were absent, Scott decided to steal their rifle, raid the till, take some grog and the children who had been asleep upstairs. He left a note for the parents explaining that he had taken the little ones with him to the station. When the group returned to the station festivities were resumed. A piano was wheeled into the dining room and Graham Bennett, rather a fine tinkler of keys, played for the assemblage. Soon the women and children were sent to bed, then much later the men. Baynes was forced to sleep on the floor.
Meanwhile back at the Australian Arms, James Patterson and his wife, the parents of the abducted children, returned to find the pub ransacked and their children kidnapped. Mrs. Patterson was understandably inconsolable as her husband went to seek help. Word soon reached the police in Wagga Wagga and a party comprising of constables Howe, Williamson, Headley and Johns was sent out at 9:00pm.
It was 4:00am when the police finally arrived at Wantabadgery Station. There were no lights on inside, but there was movement. Captain Moonlite had been on sentry while his boys slept inside. He sent Falconer McDonald and Percy Baynes onto the roof of the house to give him a bird’s eye view of what was happening. The police tied their horses to the fence and proceeded towards the homestead but disturbed the farm dog who began to bark at them. Moonlite promptly opened fire with a double-barrelled shotgun. Nesbitt joined in and the police attempted to return fire, but found themselves outclassed. Moonlite threatened to burn the place to the ground if the police didn’t make themselves scarce, and Thomas Rogan started a fire in the barn. Shots continued to ring out as the police retreated through a swamp. Moonlite was furious at Rogan as he stamped out the fire that had been started without his direction. As the spoils of war the gang took the police horses, Wernicke attempting to mount one and having never ridden before almost went flying as the horse took off. The police meanwhile were forced to travel the two and a half miles to the home of James Beveridge, a local squatter.

Moonlite’s military background saw his gang overwhelm the police with seeming ease

McGlede’s Station

Weary after the confrontation with the police, Moonlite instructed the gang to prepare to move on. They took their supplies and loaded up horses and proceeded to take the road. With Moonlite riding with Rogan, the only competent riders, at the front of the pack it must have been a comical sight to observe these supposedly bloodthirsty bushrangers struggling to stay in a saddle.

As the morning wound on word had reached Gundagai that there were bushrangers out in Wantabadgery and the Wagga Wagga party had been overwhelmed. Senior-Sergeant Carroll decided to act and took a party of police to sort the rogues out. Consisting of himself and Sergeant Cassin and Constables Webb-Bowen, Barry and Gorman, the troopers had a wealth of experience dealing with bushrangers and other hostiles – especially Constable Webb-Bowen whose reckless bravery was well noted. The Gundagai party rode out to James Beveridge’s house where they teamed up with the Wagga Wagga police and got a rundown of the events from the previous night. As a combined force the police rode out to Wantabadgery Station to take care of the bushrangers.

As the Moonliters ventured down the path from the homestead they came upon a team of farmhands led by none other than James Beveridge. The men had heard that there were bushrangers nearby and had decided to pitch in. The portly Beveridge was surprised by the flash Irishman with the wild eyes that pressed him about the groups movements.
“What are you about?” Moonlite asked “We’re looking for bushrangers,” replied Beveridge, to which Moonlite glibly responded “Well, you’ve found them.”
Moonlite then forced the men to dismount and line up along the roadside. As they did so he explained that they were now on trial for illegally carrying firearms with intent to kill. He selected two of the farmhands and two of his own men to act as jury and the “verdict” was not guilty. Irritated by the outcome, Moonlite decided to leave with one more bit of vindictiveness and ordered Beveridge to shoot his own horse. Beveridge begged Moonlite to reconsider but the bushranger could not be swayed and shot the horse himself, wounding it and leaving Beveridge with no option but to put it down.
As the Moonliters rode awkwardly along the road, herding their new prisoners, they were alerted to the sound of hoofs approaching and saw the troopers thundering towards them. The party had found the dead horse on the road and knew they were close and had ramped up their speed. The gang opened fire, the prisoners ran for cover and the police returned fire. The gang rode to the nearest building which happened to be a farmhouse owned by Edmund McGlede. As the police continued to pursue the gang, a posse of local militia had also arrived on the scene and took up positions on the ridge overlooking the action. The gang attempted to tie up their horses as they arrived at the hut and their prisoners sought refuge in the McGlede’s underground dairy.

Spreading out around the tiny homestead and barn, the police quickly engaged the desperadoes. With the gang taking cover behind the trees and saplings around the house, Wernicke reeled off a few shots before being shot in the wrist and abdomen, his tiny, malnourished, teenage body no match for police bullets. He hit the ground crying out for his captain. Meanwhile Nesbitt, Bennett and Williams were moving behind trees around to the kitchen of the McGlede’s house. Scott was beside the chimney and Gorman was undetected on the opposite side of the very same. Scott heard Wernicke crying out but the gunfire was too heavy and he too retreated to the kitchen.

Now fairly trapped, the gang hunkered down. Bennett nursed his arm, a bullet having sliced through the flesh just below the left shoulder, with Williams clasping his pistol but making no effort to fire. Rogan was nowhere to be seen, a fact that undoubtedly played on Scott’s mind. Scott thundered up and down the kitchen cursing the police when Nesbitt pulled him aside and the men locked eyes. Nesbitt appealed to Scott’s humanity and made him promise not to kill anyone. The half-crazed Irishman did as he was told. At that moment the sound of hooves outside caught Scott’s attention and he ran to the window and fired with a revolver. The shot hit the flank of Constable Barry’s horse and the trooper leaped out of the saddle as the horse fell. Scott moved away from the window, satisfied. As he turned he saw Bennett look out the window and take aim with his pistol and reel off a shot. Outside Constable Webb-Bowen had made the poor decision to reload in the open and Bennett’s bullet struck him in the neck. The bullet tore through muscles and sinews, driving into the constable’s spine and paralysing him instantly. Webb-Bowen fell yelping “Oh God! I’m shot!” before being dragged to relative safety by Gorman. Gorman was resolute and got as close to the building as he could.

Inside the kitchen Nesbitt took Scott’s Snider rifle and positioned himself at the far end of the room near the window. Just outside, officer Gorman was positioned just underneath that exact window. He flung open the shutter and wheeled around coming face to face with Nesbitt who put up his hand defensively. In a split second Gorman fired through the window, the bullet striking Nesbitt in the temple and driving through his skull and brain and out near the base of his neck. Nesbitt collapsed as Scott bounded across the room. Scott slumped to the floor and cradled Nesbitt in his arms, kissing him passionately and trying in vain to stop the bleeding by wrapping cloth around Nesbitt’s mangled skull. Nesbitt died slowly and silently in Scott’s arms. From this moment on Scott would put no value in his own life except to try and save the boys that had foolishly followed him into the mouth of doom. It was at this time that Scott heard, through the gaps in gunfire, the Wernicke was still alive and still crying for help. Scott tore himself away from Nesbitt’s corpse and ran outside. He could see Wernicke struggling with Sergeant Cassin who was trying to take the boy’s rifle away. Unable to pry the gun away he clubbed Wernicke in the head with his rifle to such a degree that the stock shattered. Scott growled as he approached and firing intensified. Somehow dodging bullets, Scott scooped Wernicke up and cradled him as he ran back into the kitchen. The wounded fifteen year old must have taken a slight comfort in the fact that his captain had not left him behind after all, but as Scott cradled him he died with a whimper. Wernicke left the world with nobody to care about his passing except the man who had thoughtlessly engineered the situation that killed him.


With Wernicke’s death the rest of the Moonliters gave up the fight. The police burst into the kitchen with no resistance. Williams was clubbed in the face as he was handcuffed and Bennett put up no resistance. With Bennett, Williams, and Scott accounted for the hunt was on for Thomas Rogan. It wasn’t until the next morning that Edmund McGlede would find Rogan armed with a pistol and knife cowering under the bed in the master bedroom. The bushrangers and the mortally wounded Constable Webb-Bowen were transported to Gundagai where the policeman was treated in a makeshift hospital and the bushrangers given a rushed committal hearing. Within a week Webb-Bowen died of his wounds. The premier of New South Wales, Sir Henry Parkes, had sent the wounded constable a letter commending his bravery that reached him just before he died. Webb-Bowen’s widow wrote back to the premier thanking for the gesture, which had given the dying man much comfort as he lay dying.

Constable Webb-Bowen collapses from his wounds at McGlede’s Station in 1879

The police at Wantabadgery were instant celebrities, with the papers singing their praises and a special meeting of the New South Wales police held in Sydney to celebrate the force finally clawing back credibility after the media drubbing they had received thanks to the Kelly gang’s visit to Jerilderie earlier that year.