A TETHERED GOAT – JOHN McENTIRE- 10 DECEMBER 1790

‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by December 1790. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: Governor Phillip summoned Marine Captain Watkin Tench attend him at Headquarters on 13 December 1790.

Tench was given orders to march for Botany Bay at ‘day-light to-morrow morning…to put to death ten[10] we were to cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain,  for which purpose, hatchets and bags would be provided [and] if practicable, bring away two [2] natives as prisoners.

I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in, in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1790 – 14 December: Tench’s party consisted of; ‘two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers’.

Phillip made a spurious claim that he ordered the raid in response to an ‘unprovoked’ wounding of convict John McEntire by the warrior Pemulway at Botany Bay on 10th December 1790.

Diversion, it does not take a military strategist to smell a rat; take off the heat – emphasise an enemy and give the guys with the guns something to do. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

Phillip, to keep starvation at bay, sent out official hunting parties of marines and convicts to forage for food and shoot kangaroo, of which the hunt of 10 December 1790 was one. All evidence points to Phillip’s inclusion of McEntire his own game-keeper, as deliberate provocation.

‘From the aversion uniformly shown by all the natives to this unhappy man he [McEntire] had long been suspected of having, in his excursions, shot and injured them’. Professor G. A. Wood, Lieutenant William Dawes and Captain Watkin Tench, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1924

Phillip’s original General Order had been; ‘put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain…two [2] prisoners to execute in the most public and exemplary manner’.

At Phillip’s invitation Tench suggested moderation; ‘bring in six [6]…out of this, part might be set aside for retaliation; and the rest at a proper time, liberated, after having seen the fate of their comrades.

This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding if six [6] cannot be taken let that number [6] be shot. Tench.ibid  

The two (2) friends, Captain Tench and Lieutenant Dawes, had a very different response to Phillip’s orders.

According to Professor Wood; ‘Tench had been perfectly willing, after discussion with the Governor, to lead the expedition, and heartily enjoyed the humour 0f its adventures. But Dawes, whose tour of duty it was to go out with that party, refused that duty by letter” and persisted in his refusal, even after the Governor had “taken great pains to point out the consequences if his [Lieutenant Dawes] being put under an arrest’. G.A. Wood. ibid.

Tench no doubt counselled Dawes of the ‘consequences’. If Marine Major Robert Ross his Commanding Officer had not been evacuated to Norfolk Island in March 1790, he [Dawes] would now be facing court-martial and, if found guilty of gross dereliction of duty, would hang as a traitor.

Did Marine Captain David Collins the judge-advocate, not a lawyer, know Dawes should be spared drawing and quartering while still alive?  That additional barbarity had been legislated out as punishment for treason in 1782.

Despite the pressure Dawes persisted in his refusal. However he approached Reverend Richard Johnson the First Fleet Chaplain who counselled him on his military obligation. Adjutant Lieutenant Lowe instructed Dawes to put his objections in writing.

Dawes did so and ‘informed Captain Campbell that the Rev. Mr. Johnson thought he might obey the order, and that he was ready to go out with the party, which he did’. Tench. ibid.

1790 – December 14: At dawn on the 14th of December Tench’s detachment, including Lieutenant Dawes, moved out for Botany Bay with; ‘three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners, and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’. Tench. ibid. 

The raid failed – no heads, no prisoners.

1790 – December 17: ‘We bent our steps homeward; and after wading breast-high through two arms of the sea, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, were glad to find ourselves at Sydney, between one and two o’clock in the afternoon’. Tench. ibid.

The detachment returned from Botany Bay to find a very different Sydney settlement from the one they had left only three (3) days before. The place was wild with excitement; air filled with the heady smell of cooking and the landing stage crammed with bales and barrels of supplies.

That very morning at first light Waaksamheyd a ‘Dutch Snow’ from Jakarta had sailed down the harbour. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

Dawes wrote to Governor Phillip through Captain Campbell who, in March 1789, replaced Major Ross as commander of the marine garrison when imminent starvation forced Phillip evacuate 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island giving Major Ross command of the island settlement.

1790 – December 19: ‘[Dawes] informed the Governor that he was sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order and very clearly showed that he would not obey a similar order in future’. Tench. ibid

The necessity for such a letter may have been prompted by Governor Phillip’s initial order that specified;‘ my [Phillip’s] fixed determination to repeat it, whenever future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

Or there could have been a very different reason.

Waaksamheyd’s arrival had opened up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities; among them escape, capture of the foreign vessel with its armaments, thereby enhancing a pathway to insurrection.

The first of these possibilities was realised when eleven (11) convicts stole Governor Phillip’s cutter and, in one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas rowed to Coupang, West Timor. Thence by various means to Batavia, thence to Cape Town, thence to Portsmouth, thence to London’s Old Bailey. See: Boswell Goes Into To Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees. 

Phillip deftly averted the second scenario, capture of Waaksamheyd and the third – rebellion – by ordering a second raid against the Bidjigal peoples of Botany Bay.

1790 – December 22: ‘Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second; and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me. The orders under which I was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last. A little before sun-set on the evening of the 22d we marched’. Tench. ibid.

However Lieutenant William Dawes was not among their number. See: William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’ (coming shortly)

As Tench recorded; his orders ‘differ[ed] in no respect from the lastand, in so saying, clarifies Governor Phillip’s stated intent ‘infuse universal terror…kill…cut off…bring in the heads of the slain…two [2] prisoners to execute’. See: Terror – Arthur’s Algorithm

But what definitely had changed was Captain Tench’s attitude. It differed markedly from what Professor Wood assessed as a ‘humour[as] adventure’ claimed for the first raid. 

‘It was now determined, being full moon that our operations should be carried on in the night, both for the sake of secrecy, and for avoiding the extreme heat of the day.

A little before sunset on the evening of the 22d, we marched. Lieutenant Abbot and ensign Prentice of the New South Wales Corps were the two [2] officers under my command, and with three [3] sergeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates completed the detachments’.

I [Tench] resolved to try once more to suprise the village beforementioned. And in order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design by promulgating it, we feigned that our preparations were directed against Broken Bay, and that the man [Willamarin] who had wounded the governor [September 1790 at Manly] was the object of the punishment’. See: Manly Location, Location Location

It is from this second raid that Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near destruction.

‘A smokescreen of legal confusion and argument covered up a continuing pattern of killings at the frontiers of the Australian colonies. Kercher. ibid.

Phillip’s orders put no limit on brutality. They demonstrated clear intent; ‘whenever a future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’.  

It must be emphasised, other than Marine Captain Watkin Tench, the detachment assembled for the second raid would have been made up almost entirely of infantry-men from the New South Wales Corps.

‘Twenty five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 17870…ensuring the literal survival of white settlement.

They fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire, and for the first half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa…[frontier] war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986.

EPILOGUE

The first contingent of infantry troops who arrived with the second fleet in June 1790 came without Major Francis Grose their commanding officer. The vacuum was filled by a rogue junior officer Lieutenant John Macarthur, the Roger Rogerson of his time.

 


 

 

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