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Some insight in to the Castle Hill district, an uprising of Irish rebels at Toongabbie known as the Vinegar Hill uprising.

Back to the New South Wales Corps. ( Rum Corps. ) "Renamed 102nd Regiment

 

Following the 1798 rebellion in Ireland, nine convict ships left Ireland and England in 1800 arriving the
same year in Sydney Cove. Of the 1070 convicts on board, 780 were political Irish exiles. Elizabeth Paterson whose husband, was at the time Governor, expressed in a letter to home her fears. She wrote the following, " I fear they will be a troublesome lot, I cannot say I like the colony near so well as I did before they arrived ".
By 1803 more than 25% of convicts were Irish, this vastly out numbered the military. The colony
became a very uneasy place. The Irish convicts became uneasy with their English guards and eventually became rebellious.
Problems began in February of 1804. The Irish convicts began to talk of rebellion. This was confessed by a
dying leader William Johnson to Reverend Samuel Marsden. Their intention was to take control of the badly guarded settlement of Castle Hill, take as many weapons as they could gather and meet with convicts at Parramatta, following which they would all march on Sydney, steal a ship and sail out of Australian waters. Their communication was poor,they set a pass word for the uprising " Saint Peter " which was to be used as the signal to begin the rebellion. However no evidence has been found confirming the password was ever used.
One convict. " Keogh " had caught wind of the impending rebellion and promptly reported this to
the Parramatta Barracks
At 7pm on the 4th of March 1804 the rebellion began in a convicts house at Castle Hill . To announce
the beginning they set fire to this house ,then ran from house to house seizing what they could before burning it to the ground. Phillip Cunningham called to his fellows "Now my Boys Liberty or Death" .With this cry they marched on Parramatta. They came across the Government flogger " Duggin" they attacked and beat him to within an inch of life. Finding kegs of rum, the rebels began to drink. The rebels became known as " The croppies "
The rebels reached the Parramatta Government Farm and over powered the Military Guards, seized the
guards weapons and armed themselves against the military. The rebels left the prison farm and headed towards the Hawksbury area in the hope of seizing a ship and returning to Ireland. As they marched the rebels gathered more recruits and weapons on the way and confiscated any Rum Barrels they could find. The Rum was consumed as soon as it was seized.
Governor King learned of the rebellion at midnight and issued orders for the immediate mobilisation of the
New South Wales Corps. With the mobilisation of the corps, Sydney was left virtually unprotected. The alarm was raised on board the ship "HMS Calcutta". in turn 140 seaman and marines were placed on alert. The New South Wales Corps were to be sent to the area and quell the uprising. King declared marshal law throughout the colony. Two officers and only 52 privates were despatched to the area. Under the command of Major Johnston the detachment arrived at Parramatta at 1:30am on March the 5th 1804, where one further officer and 14 privates added to their strength. One detatchment marched to Castle Hill while the other marched to Toongabbie. The rebels were in neither spot.
The soldiers pursued the rebels for another 10 miles before catching them at a small knoll. This knoll was
to be known as Vinegar Hill ,so named after the rebel battle of Wexford six years prior.
 
It is interesting to "note" Phillip Cunningham and William Johnston under the flag of truce, met with Major
George Johnston at Vinegar Hill. It would have been the intention to discuss options open to both sides, keeping in mind that the flag of truce is intended to afford safe passage and safe discussion until such time both parties separate and return to their ranks. Once the return is carried out the truce is broken and battle or surrender begins.
Phillip Cunningham uttered the words to Major Johnston " Death or Liberty".
It was with this statement that Major Johnston captured William Johnston and Trooper Anlezark captured Phillip Cunningham. Both men were forced to the Military Ranks. Major Johnston ordered his men to charge and open fire.
As the battle began William Johnston and Phillip Cunningham were lead to the rear . According to an
eyewitness named John Byrne, Quartermaster Laycock drew his sword and stuck Phillip Cunningham on the left side of the head. Reasons for his act of aggression against a prisoner have never been made clear as they have never been recorded in any official reports.( Laycock was known to have had a violent temper & had been in trouble for a similar act of aggression against a settler) Cunningham was left for dead and was not recovered until the next morning in such a state that he was only just still alive.
Major Johnston declared that the just alive Cunningham should hang from the stair case of the Public
stores at Greenhill's. Phillip Cunningham was subsequently hung without any trail from this place.
Another item omitted from the official reports is that Major Johnston had to threaten his own men with
death by holding his loaded pistol and aiming it at his troops. This threat was to prevent the murder of captured rebels. The soldiers and military had in a sense been out of control.
The following is a factual report written to Lieutenant Colonel Patterson by Major Johnston
Major Johnston to Lieutenant-Colonel Patterson
Headquarters, Sydney
9th March 1804
"Sir, - I beg leave to aquatint you that about half-past 1 o'clock on Monday morning last I took the command of my detachment marched from headquarters accompanied by Lieutenant Davis consisting of two officers, two sergeant, and 52 rank and file of the New South Wales Corps and by his Excellency Governor King's orders, I proceeded immediately to Parramatta, where we arrived at the dawn of day. I halted at the barracks about 20 miles to refresh my party, and then marched to the Government House, and agreeable to his Excellency's orders, divided my detachment , giving Lieutenant Davis the command of half and taking Quartermaster Laycock and the other half, with one trooper, myself, having the Governor's instruction to march in pursuit of the rebels, who, in number about 400, were on the summit of the hill. I immediately detached a corporal, with four privates and about six inhabitants, armed with muskets, to take them in the flank whilst I proceeded with the rest up the hill, when I found the rebels had marched on for the Hawksbury, and after a pursuit of about ten miles I got sight of them. I immediately rode forward, attended by the trooper Mr Dixon, the Roman Catholic Priest, calling them to halt, That I wished to speak to them. They desired I would come in the middle of them, as their Captains were there, which I refused, observing to them that I was in pistol shot, and it was in their power to kill me, upon which two persons advance towards me as their leaders, to whom I represented the impropriety of their conduct, and advised them to surrender, and I would mention them in as favourable terms as possible to the Governor. Phillip Cunningham replied they would have death or liberty. Quartermaster Laycock with the detachment just then appeared in sight, I clapped my pistol to William Johnson's head, whilst the trooper did the same to Phillip Cunningham and drove them with there swords in hand to the Quartermasters and the detachment, whom I ordered to advance and charge the main body of the rebels then formed in line. The detachment immediately commenced a well-directed fire, which was weakly returned, for, the rebel line was soon broken, they ran in all directions. We pursued them a considerable way, and have no doubt but many of them fell. We have found 12 killed, and 6 wounded, and have taken 26 prisoners.
Any encomiums I could pass on Quartermaster Laycock and the detachment I have the honour to command would fall far short of what their merit entitles them to, and I trust their steady perseverance, after a fatiguing march of up to 45 miles, to restore order and tranquillity will make their service acceptable. Return of arms taken from the rebels; 26 muskets, 4 bayonets on poles, 8 reaping hooks, 2 swords, a fowling piece, and a pistol.
 
The consequences of the rebellion were severe, Phillip Cunningham and 9 others were hung .
Many were severely flogged. The rest sent to various places to stop another uprising from ever re-occurring. This ended the only convict uprising on the mainland.

During our research we believe we may have identified those soldiers who were in Johnsons detatchment. It is more than likely some were the soldiers who pursued the rebels. Following is a list of these men.

Marched from Sydney
 
Major, Goerge JOHNSTON
Lieutenant, Thomas DAVIS , . Lt John BRABYN
Quartermaster Sergeant, Thomas LAYCOCK
Sergeant , James MCMULLIN
Corporals , Samuel PORTER , . Charles WHELAN (WHALAN) , . John WIXSTEAD , .
Drummers , Nathaniel  GRIFFIN, , . Samuel Richards , .
Privates , Robert ANDERSON, , . Joseph AXTELL , . Samuel BAXTER , . Felix BEARCROFT , . Gregory BELLOW , . George BENSON , . James BRACKENRIG , , . John BRADBURY , . James BRADOCK , . James BULL , . Thomas BURNE , . John BUTTLER , . Charles CARTEY , . Henry COLE , . Michael COLLINS , . Samuel COOLLEY , . William CORNICK , . Frederick COYLE , . CUPIT George , . Peter DARGIN, (also Dargan) , . James DAVIDSON , . John DAVIS , . Michaehl DINAN , . George GORDON , . George GORE , . John HADOCKS , . Richard HARDING , . William, KING , , . John LAWRENCE , .  eorge LAWSON, . Jeremiah LEARY , . Edward LOVEDAY , . James MANNING , . George MELLIN , . Charles MELLON , . William MITCHEL , . Joseph MOORE , . George MORRISON , . Michael MURRY , . John NEVAN , . William PARKER , . James PLOWMAN , . John PRICE , . Luke RALPH , . Richard LAWRENCE , . James RICHARDSON , . Patrick SEXTON , . William WATKINS , . Thomas WHITTLE , . William WILKINS, . James WILKINS , .

"NOTE" the soldiers below have been confirmed as taking part in the battle

Major, Goerge JOHNSTON
Lieutenant, Thomas DAVIS ,
Quartermaster Sergeant, Thomas LAYCOCK
Corporal , . Charles WHELAN (WHALAN)
Drummer , Nathaniel  GRIFFIN,
Privates , Robert ANDERSON, , James BRACKENRIG , ,CUPIT George , .William, KING , George LAWSON. Thomas WHITTLE ,
 
The Recorded Rebels. Civilians. Loyalist forces
 
Family Members,  Military records  ,Pay rolls, Pay Musters, Cemetery Records, Church Records & General Muster Records, Mitchell Library ,Sydney Australia
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Last revised: April 29, 2008.