The Ovens and Murray
... part of the KellyGang story
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THE COMBAT AT GLENROWAN
THE terrible drama which was witnessed by so many persons at Glenrowan on Monday last was a fitting sequel—although the curtain has to rise upon still another scene—to the mournful tragedy which was enacted on the 26th October, 1878 , at Stringybark Creek. As poor Kennedy, on the last-named occasion, lay wounded on the ground, begging mainly for his life, that he might, per-chance, see his wife once more, NED KELLY ruthlessly standing over him, with his rifle to the dying man’s heart, little foresaw, in the pride of his strength and ferocity, that he also at some not far distant day would be prone and helpless, surrounded by his justly infuriated captors, and praying for mercy. Such, in fact, he did. When Kelly fell, crying “I’m done! I’m done!” after he was rushed upon and seized by Sergeant STEELE and Senior-constable KELLY—Constable MONTEFORD, HEALY, railway-guard DOWSETT, and others, running up at the same time—KELLY asked STEELE to spare him “Don’t finish me,” he said, “I’m done for. Let me see it out.” And when at the scene of the encounter we saw NED KELLY riddled with bullets, crushed and broken, when he thanked us in the tones of a sick child for some little act of courtesy, all his strength and daring gone; when we behold the dead body of BYRNE, with his left arm stiffened upwards towards Heaven, and the murdered SCANLON’S ring upon his finger; when we subsequently witnessed the removal of the hideous and unrecognised remains of DAN KELLY and HART removed from the still smouldering house in which they fell, we might have exclaimed, as the woman left childless by the guillotine said to ROBESPIERRE as he lay with shattered face and hopeless searching eyes, “Yes, there is a GOD.”
Terrible as the whole scene at Glenrowan was, after the last shot was fired there hung in the very air of the place that sentiment “Yes, there is a GOD, a GOD of Vengeance as well as a GOD of Mercy.” To those who believe in the special interpositions of Providence it might really seem that the whole of the last act was written when KENNEDY was hopelessly beseeching these wretches to spare him that he might embrace his little ones before he cried. BYRNE shot down with the glass of liquor to his lips; HART and DAN KELLY sinking despairingly together in the perhaps already burning house, and the arch villain himself reserved to be dealt with by the still more impressive solemnities of the law, would really seem to point to a special retribution from Heaven. But, coming down to the merely human part of this immense catastrophe, it is a matter of astonishment; that the attacking party, the numbers of people in the besieged house, and crowd of spectators, escaped with so few casualities. For eight hours, and in the small space to which the fight was confined, the air was literally alive with bullets. And yet, melancholy as the casualities were then, it is marvellous that beside the three outlaws killed, there have been only two deaths, and a few others more or less injured.
The unfortunate man Cherry was only dragged wounded out of the conflagration to receive the last rites of his church from the Rev Father GIBNEY, who was the first to enter. The poor lad JONES, son of the Woman who owned the house has since died in the Wangaratta Hospital; Inspector HARE was rendered hors de combat early in the fight, being badly shot through the wrist; one of the blackfellows had his forehead grazed by a ball; Miss JONES had her temple ploughed by a bullet; and young REARDON was shot in the shoulder, but is likely to recover. This is, we think, the entire list, although some four or five hundred bullets must have traversed a few acres of ground during the siege. Coming now, to the attack itself, we think it will be admitted now that the police, not only when the fatal trial came, fully answered the expectations of their friends—and we claim to be in that category—but that their precautions all through the protracted search were so conducted as to prevent the possibility of the escape of the outlaws from the district. Had it been otherwise, they would have been away long ago. All who saw them under fire—and nine-tenths of them had never seen a shot fired in anger before—admit their gallantry and coolness. And yet, there are some who fall back on the objection that they should not have set fire to the house.
We can only say there were dozens of them ready at any moment to storm it, and were only restrained by Mr Superintendent SADLEIR. Mr SADLEIR himself informed us that he ordered the firing of the house in order to prevent the inevitable further bloodshed that must ensue were the remaining outlaws still alive. And we think he was right. Because if still able to move, the fire would have forced the outlaws out; or, if wounded, they had still till time to call for quarter, which undoubtedly would have been granted them. All doubt upon this point, however . ? . ? . been set at rest by the fact that when Father GIBNEY entered the burning building he saw both the remaining outlaws lying together, that he touched them, and found that both were dead. But why should such men get any more consideration than soldiers give to each other in war.(Words missing as part of page is torn off.) To set fire to a defended . ? . is a recognised mode of warfare. Still further: When . ? . ? . ? President LINCOLN, . ? . ? . ? the United States so? . ? . ? . but, although he was . ? . ? . ? . alive and unable to . ? . ? . ? act of mercy, but it . ? . ? . . In the Glenrowan case, Ned ? . ? . ? the police that the gang were ? . ? surrender, and up to the last ? . ? . conduct confirmed that idea. . ? . ? . repeatedly challenged, and answer . ? . ? by volleys. Their own argument ? “We will kill you, because you would kill us.” And let us remember that although we look upon the firing of the house as an act of war, and not an act of vengeance, there cannot have been amongst the men who surrounded that house that day any particular tenderness for the men who had shot their own comrades in cold blood.
It is quite evident, from the extraordinary preparations of the outlaws, that they meant to fight the police at the earliest opportunity, and to kill as many of them as they could, with the least danger to themselves. Nor did they intend to fight fairly. It is considered disgraceful for any soldier except the cuirassiers to wear armour in the field, and is, in fact, contrary to recognised principles. It is true, in one sense, that the KELLYS would be fools to throw away any chance of preserving their lives in their intended encounter; but in wearing armour, did they give the police such a chance that the attacking party should have any particular consideration for them? Certainly not, and we declare, without fear of any logical contradiction, that under such circumstances no soldier would have received in the field that quarter which the police gave to NED KELLY. It is almost idle to argue such a question; in fact, had the KELLYS defended themselves in the house with mattresses, which would have been fair, as well as armour, which was unfair, they might have shot fifty policeman without getting a hair singed. The police, like WARREN HASTINGS, may well be surprised at their own moderation. In conclusion, we may presume that Sergeant STEELE will receive a well-deserved promotion. He has already won his spurs over and over again, and acquitted himself on this occasion, as we always fully expected he would when occasion presented itself. On the side where NED KELLY put in an appearance, Senior-constable KELLY, Constables MONTEFORD and HEALY, and railway-guard DOWSETT (?) also greatly distinguished themselves, and Senior-constable Johnstone, of Violet Town , in setting fire to the house under momentary expectation of death, did an act of daring worthy of recognition. But in naming these men, we only speak of those who appear most forward, for all behaved in the most gallant manner on the eventful day.
MELBOURNE , Wednesday
The Government have appointed a board to consider how to divide the proper distribution of amounts of the reward for sweeping away the Kelly gang.
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