Ben Hall Pt 2

This website is designed, researched and written by Mark Matthews. It may alter with updated information and research as it comes to hand. This section is a work in progress...

"Ben Hall! Stockman, Squatter, Bushranger, from these personas, his character has remained an enigma. From a man held in high regard by all who knew him to a man through his own actions became one of the most hunted in colonial history, and who would ultimately die a violent and bloody death at the hands of his pursuers..."- Mark Matthews.

This website aims to provide a comprehensive, chronological account of Australian bushranger Ben Hall's calamitous life. Gathered through the accounts of eyewitnesses, former gang members, government documents, as well as the reproduction of historical newspaper and N.S.W. Police Gazette records of Ben Hall and his associates' bushranging activities. (All related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured and transcribed as published.)
                                              BEN HALL 
"He was a popular man in the district."

A typical bushrangers

Courtesy NLA

In the midst of a relentless manhunt led by Sir Frederick Pottinger, Ben Hall's uncanny ability to evade capture stood as a testament to the cone of silence of his numerous allies. The local settlers, who often found themselves under the oppressive scrutiny of Pottinger, were frequently threatened with legal repercussions for allegedly harbouring the bushranger. However, these heavy-handed tactics only served to solidify their resolve in protecting Hall.

Amidst this challenging backdrop, Pottinger received intelligence that Hall had ventured further south, relocating from the Lachlan region to the more secluded and rugged terrain of Cootamundra. This area, characterised by its dense scrub and remote stations, provided Hall with an almost impenetrable refuge.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the locals and the challenging landscape, Pottinger managed to track Hall to this district. Reports surfaced of Hall engaging in robberies at stores and along the roads in the area. In an effort to maintain communication with his superiors in Sydney and demonstrate progress, Pottinger dispatched a telegram in April 1863. He confidently reported that he was close on the heels of Hall, underscoring his unwavering determination to capture one of the most elusive bushrangers of the time:

On the 14th instant I received information from two men that I met between Gundagai and Jugiong that Ben Hall and Johnny Mealy were in the bush between the latter place and Murrumburrah, I started next morning and scoured the bush through to here. After consulting with Superintendent Zouch, I determined to push on to the Weddin Mountain and scour the country thence to and through the Levels. I arrived at Cootamundra on the 25th, and "found that Barnes' store had been, stuck up on the 21st, by three men supposed to be Gardiner, Gilbert, and Mealy. My horses were very tired, so I wrote to the Flat for assistance. I received two men. My horses being a little fresher next morning I scoured the bush for two days without success and arrived here last night. I have received certain information which I believe will be the means of finding out how the gang got rid of the goods. I am also certain that they have a camp in the scrub between Berthong and the Merool Creek. Tomorrow being the end of the month, I would like to have your permission to remain in the bush for a fortnight longer. (Reply quickly by telegraph.)⁹¹

Following the transmission of his telegram, Sir Frederick Pottinger found himself unravelling a complex web of rumours and mistaken identities in the bushranging world. His investigations led him to confirm the prevailing speculation that Frank Gardiner, Halls mentor, had indeed left the Lachlan area. This departure had created a mix-up in the identification of bushrangers, with Ben Hall frequently being misidentified as Gardiner.

This period of confusion and misinformation also coincided with a significant development in the bushranging circles. The telegram disclosed that Fred Lowry, a name soon to be well-known, had joined the ranks of Hall & Co. This addition marked a new chapter in the already tumultuous narrative of bushranging in New South Wales.

Pottinger's efforts to keep track of these elusive outlaws were crucial in his role as a front line officer. His determination to disentangle the complicated threads of information and misinformation underscored the challenges faced by the police in their pursuit of these notorious figures. This phase of Pottinger's career highlights the dynamic and often murky world of informants and settlers knowledge:

It was stated in town yesterday that Lowry, — who escaped from Bathurst gaol some time ago and has since been concerned in various robberies in company with Gilbert and O'Meally.
NSW Police Gazette.
April 1863.

Sir Frederick Pottinger's relentless pursuit of Ben Hall led him to a crucial breakthrough when he interviewed two gentlemen who had sighted the bushrangers camping in the scrub near the Cootamundra district. Their accounts proved to be accurate, guiding Pottinger to Hall's latest whereabouts.

In a bold move that epitomised their audacious style, Hall and his gang targeted the property of Mr. Ryan, a well-regarded landowner in the area. The gang, notorious for their resourcefulness and continuous need for fresh resources, descended upon Ryan's station. There, Ryan and his workers found themselves at the mercy of the bushrangers.

During this encounter, Hall and his associates demonstrated their typical modus operandi. They were always vigilant for opportunities to replenish their supplies, particularly focusing on acquiring fresh horses and weapons, essential for their continued evasion and survival. On this occasion, they successfully commandeered new mounts and a shotgun, further equipping themselves for their ongoing bushranging exploits.

This incident at Mr. Ryan's station not only underscored the gang's resourcefulness and daring but also highlighted the tangible threat they posed to landowners and settlers in the region, constantly keeping them on high alert:

On Saturday last Mr Ryan's station, Berthong, in the Lachlan district, was stuck up and robbed by an armed party of bushrangers. They took three horses, two saddles, one of the former being the property of the Rev. Mr Bermingham, a double-barrelled gun, all the clothes belonging to the men, and a cheque for £10, No 1009, dated March 9th 1863, drawn by Edward Ryan in favour of Edward Michael Ryan on the Commercial Bank, Yass. It is supposed that the robbers are Johnny Gilbert's party.⁹²

In the aftermath of the audacious gold heist of 1862, John Gilbert emerged as a prominent figure in the bushranging world, initially seen as the heir to the notorious Frank Gardiner, often nicknamed 'Darky'. As 1863 unfolded, however, a shift in perception occurred within the press. The press began to recognise Ben Hall as the de facto leader of the gang, which prominently included Gilbert and O'Meally. This group, known for their daring escapades, was occasionally joined by others like Fred Lowry, drawn by the thrill of adventure or connections of friendship and kinship.

Among those affected by the bushrangers' activities were numerous cattle station owners, including Mr. Ryan. These proprietors often found themselves at the crossroads of these outlaws' paths, either through visits being tired and hungry or outright robberies. The reporting of these incidents by journalists was marked by a notable prudence in language. Terms such as 'supposed', 'thought to be', or 'can be identified' frequently peppered their articles when referring to the identity of the bushrangers involved. This cautious approach in naming the culprits was likely a strategic decision, intended to safeguard against possible reprisals directed at those who might explicitly identify the bushrangers.

Such reporting practices reflected the complex and often dangerous relationship between the press, the public, and the bushrangers. It highlighted the careful balance journalists often only local correspondents obtaining local activities,  sought to maintain in conveying news while navigating the risks associated with the bushranging phenomenon of that era.

Nagle (Ned) Ryan

Private Source.
In the aftermath of Ben Hall's raid on Mr. Ryan's station, a young man named J.E. Richter, then only 23 years old, had an unexpected encounter. After a long day of travel, Richter had set up camp for a peaceful evening when he was visited by four men who struck up a conversation. It was only later that Richter discovered these men were Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Fred Lowry.

In the twilight of his life, Richter took the opportunity to share his vivid memories of a bygone era in an article titled "Random Recollections VIII," published in the 'Sydney Mail' in 1913. Among these memories was a particularly striking encounter with none other than Sir Frederick Pottinger, the lawman famed for his relentless but luckless pursuit of the bushranger Ben Hall.

During their unexpected meeting, Richter was initially oblivious to the true identities of the men he came across, as they had presented themselves merely as drovers. This encounter revealed a side of these individuals that sharply contrasted with their infamous reputations. Despite being well-known for their bushranging activities, Richter observed that they were 'pleasant in their habits.' This remark offered a glimpse into the complex personalities of these figures, who, away from their criminal exploits, could display a demeanour that was surprisingly amiable and ordinary.

Richter's reflections in his article not only provided a personal account of a unique historical moment but also shed light on the multifaceted nature of individuals like Pottinger and the bushrangers. His recollections served to humanise these figures, offering a perspective that diverged from their established public images and highlighting the nuanced reality of their characters.

While seeking a place to make camp, I found water over half a mile from the road. On the bank above the waterhole was a small fire, four saddles and other outfits, no horses or men being insight. The horses having been unsaddled and hobbled, preparation was made for the evening meal, when four men made their appearance with the explanation that they had put their horses on some good grass further down the creek — that they were drovers and were returning to the Bogan River country to bring forward another lot of fat cattle. They seemed jolly fellows, and nothing about their habit, language or belongings indicated anything other than that they were drovers. The evening was spent in congenial conversation and story-telling they taking me for a shearer or gold-digger as I was at that time. If they were in possession of firearms their presence was concealed from view. They were all smart horsemen apparently and their build and habits indicated that they were natives of the colony.

Next morning, they were bestirring early, had saddled up and left at a few minutes after sunrise, a hasty action for which no positive necessity was apparent. After they had gone a faint suspicion arose in my mind that, though they were drovers they might also be horse-stealers, but my horse was found undisturbed. Two hours later I was on the road again making toward Burrowa, when I was accosted and questioned by an overseer on Nagle Ryan's run who suspected me of being a horse’s stealer. His insinuations annoyed me and had he stayed any longer there might have been a fight. As the overseer disappeared seven mounted policemen hove in sight coming at a canter. Sir Frederick Pottinger was the commandant. On meeting me they pulled up short and questioned me rigorously. I told them that I was bound for the Tuena goldfield and that I had been camped the night before with four drovers whom I had casually met at the river. These drover’s I was asked to describe minutely. I was then informed that it was the Gilbert gang of bushrangers I had camped with! I was ordered to unroll my blanket swag to show if I carried firearms or other articles that might incriminate me as a spy or abettor of the gang. Finding no clue they allowed me to proceed on my way, with apologies for the detention. Then they started, on again at a gallop in pursuit of the gang, with the usual result of no capture — the very name of Pottinger having become synonymous with non-arrest.

NSW Police Gazette.
April 1863.
It was reported in 'The Goulburn Herald,' of Ben Hall maintaining his presence in the vicinity of Cootamundra. Hall  targeted Thomas Barnes, a local shopkeeper, in the heart of the township on the 21st of April, 1863. This incident was mentioned at in the above telegram sent by Sir Frederick Pottinger.:

We understand that these notorious bushrangers, in company with John O'Meally and Lowry, stuck up, on Tuesday, 21st ultimo, a store belonging to a Mr Barnes, at a small village about forty miles from this township on the Wagga Wagga road, and robbed it of about £100 worth of goods. They had pack-horses with them, which they loaded with stolen property. All of them were well armed and mounted, Gardiner [sic] especially, who had a splendid horse. Gilbert gave one of two pieces of stolen print to a woman he knew, and who begged it from him, but returned it immediately afterwards to the storekeeper. Some hats were found on the road belonging to Mr Barnes, supposed to have been thrown away by the ruffians, which were brought back to the store. The bushrangers got away unmolested with their booty. There is no doubt that Gardiner was one of the robbers, as more than one recognised him.⁹³
John Frederick Barnes
Thomas Barnes (Right)
Sons of murdered
John Barnes by O'Meally.

Private Source.

Thomas Barnes, a merchant residing in Cootamundra, became a direct witness to the daring nature of the bushrangers Ben Hall, John Gilbert, and John O'Meally. In an act that showcased their brazenness, the trio boldly raided his store, making off with goods and equipment worth approximately £200. This event, later reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', not only highlighted the boldness of these outlaws but also clarified a misconception surrounding a previous robbery at Barnes' establishment.

Initially, Frank Gardiner had been implicated in an earlier theft at Barnes' store. However, the report in the newspaper shed new light on the incident, confirming that it was Ben Hall, not Gardiner, who had been involved in the burglary on April 21, 1863. This revelation served to underscore the audacious behaviour of Hall and his companions and the palpable sense of terror they instilled in local business owners. Their actions not only impacted the livelihoods of these merchants but also contributed to their notorious legacy: 

Barnes' store, at Cootamundra, was stuck up yesterday evening by three armed men, supposed to have been Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall. They took away with them £200 worth of property. This store was stuck up by the same party very recently when £8 worth of property was stolen.

The bushranging saga involving Ben Hall and his companions took a turn with revelations that suggested Hall was either being misidentified as Frank Gardiner or was deliberately impersonating him. This tactic of misdirection became recognised as a common ploy among bushrangers to confound their victims and authorities. Following their raid on Barnes' shop in Cootamundra, the bushrangers further escalated their recklessness by starting a fire. They spilled kerosene and set it ablaze, a tactic presumably aimed at diverting the shopkeeper's attention and hindering any immediate pursuit.

Despite Cootamundra's distance of 40 miles from Lambing Flat, a region often frequented by Hall, the bushrangers' infamy had spread far and wide. This widespread recognition was evident when a woman in the area identified Gilbert. Cootamundra, established in 1861 alongside Muttama Creek, soon found itself repeatedly targeted by these outlaws. Over the ensuing months, the bushrangers terrorised the local settlers, their actions culminating in the shooting of a shopkeeper. In some instances, while holding up remote homesteads, the gang claimed that Gardiner was observing from a nearby hill, likely using his feared reputation as a means to intimidate and control their victims.

In response to the attack on his son's store, Thomas Barnes' father, John Barnes, penned a letter to the editor of the 'Yass Courier.' His letter conveyed a deep-seated frustration with the ineffectual police response and a scathing critique of the law enforcement authorities. His words mirrored the sentiments of many settlers who were disillusioned with the police's inability to curb the bushrangers' reign of terror. This communication not only highlighted the community's anguish and fear but also underscored the growing discontent with the law enforcement's handling of the bushranger menace.

Mr John Barnes has forwarded to us the following letter - Sir, Bushranging and sticking-up seems to be the order of the day in this district. On Tuesday morning last, at sunrise, my son's store at Cootamundry was stuck up by four armed and mounted men and the property valued at about £100 was stolen and taken away on pack horses. I believe the same four men were on the road between Wallenbeen and Cootamundry on Saturday last, apparently courting the appearance of the police, who of course could be seen going the other way, the usual course being to put in an appearance about a week after the commission of a robbery.⁹⁴

Mr Barnes' letter would all too frequently become the standard view of locals whose respect for the police diminished daily. (Not Gardiner, but Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally and the evidence indicates their newest member Fred Lowry.)
John Hurley's Station, 1866.
In the aftermath of Ben Hall's flurry at Cootamundry, another local reporter questioned what steps the police were implementing to curb bushrangers. The writer's perception was that the police were fat, dumb and happy. Reported in the Yass Courier:

A correspondent writing from Cootamundry, under date April 21st, says: — Would you inform me what does Captain Battye do with his troopers in this district, as there is bushranging daily going on? Not later than yesterday, there were several parties stuck-up at Cootamundry, and the bushrangers had even pack-horses with them. Why could not the troopers track them? The fact is they are too well housed and clothed to stand bush work.
Basil Bennett Jnr.

Private Source.

Life in Cootamundra during this period was fraught with danger, as the residents soon realised that Ben Hall and his gang were far from finished with their lawless pursuits. On April 29, 1863, they set their sights on the station store at Cootamundra Station, owned by Mr. Hurley, a well-known landholder from Campbelltown. The station, unprepared for such an attack, quickly fell under the menacing shadow of the bushrangers.

As Hall and his accomplices initiated their raid, a male employee at the store made a desperate attempt to escape the scene. This act of defiance triggered an aggressive response from the bushrangers, who immediately opened fire on the fleeing worker. Miraculously, all the shots missed their target, but the incident served as a chilling demonstration of Hall's readiness to use violence, even against unarmed residents.

After ransacking the station store and loading their ill-gotten gains onto their pack horses, the bushrangers swiftly departed. Yet, their trail of crime was not to end there. As they continued their journey, they encountered a bullock dray. Without hesitation, they confronted the carrier with a forceful "bail-up" and proceeded to rob him, further extending their spree of robberies and instilling fear in the hearts of the local populace.

These incidents at Cootamundra Station and along the road vividly illustrate the boldness and ruthlessness of Ben Hall and his gang. Their actions not only disrupted the peace of the area but also cemented their reputation as some of the most audacious and feared bushrangers of their time.

On Wednesday night Mr Hurley's store, at Cootamundry, was stuck up by four armed men and robbed of a quantity of provisions and clothing. On their entrance, the storeman, alarmed at their formidable appearance and number, rushed from the hut, and, although fired on by the robbers, effected his escape. Shortly afterwards, Mr Basil Bennett, of North Wagga Wagga, who was travelling with his bullock team from the Lachlan, and had with him a saddle horse, was accosted by a man, believed to be one of the robbers of the store, who demanded his money. Mr Bennett replied that he had no money, and had been so unfortunate as to lose one of his bullocks that morning the bushranger then said that "he would not search him as one misfortune was enough in one day" but that he must take the horse which he required for a pack-horse; and that if Mr Bennett was travelling in that neighbourhood again it would very likely be returned to him. In addition to the pack-horse stolen from Mr. Basil Bennett, they had also appropriated another animal, and the two horses being laden with about £120 worth of property, started with their booty in the direction of the Weddin. They were tracked by the police for many miles, and owing to their plunder having probably been badly packed, a number of articles stolen had fallen from the horses and were recovered.⁹⁵

An eyewitness account, from the Cootamundra district reported by a correspondent from Young in 'The Albury Banner and Wodonga' on May 23, 1863, added a dramatic flair to the bushrangers' raid on the town. The narrative painted a vivid picture of an intense exchange of gunfire, enveloping the area in dust and smoke. In a surprising turn of events, as the chaos subsided, the bushrangers, seemingly content with their day's achievements, unexpectedly commended the townspeople for their bravery. With a nonchalant farewell, they wished the locals a goodnight, leaving behind a bewildered and shaken community.

This account, filled with tension and unpredictability, highlights the complex nature of the bushrangers' character. They were not just ruthless outlaws but also individuals capable of acknowledging and even admiring courage in others. This paradoxical behaviour added a fascinating layer to their story, painting them as more than mere criminals, but as figures with an unexpected depth of character and a peculiar sense of honour. Their actions and the reactions they elicited from the people they encountered contribute significantly to the intricate tapestry of the bushrangers notoriety:

Bushranging is the order of the day around Murrumburrah and Cootamundry township. On Friday night, a messenger came into Murrumburrah, while I was there, and informed the two members of the police force stationed at that place, that Mr. Barnes's store had been stuck up about two hours previously by three bushrangers, who in addition to the horses they rode, had three pack-horses with them. They bailed up every one in the township (Cootamundry) and proceeded to fill three three-bushel bags with goods of their own free selection.

Whilst this was going on in the township, two other men belonging to it armed themselves, and proceeded a short distance away and getting behind a tree, awaited the freebooters, who in a short time approached. They fired at the bushrangers and the latter returned the compliment. Twenty-seven shots were exchanged, and then the ammunition of both sides being expended, without any injury being done, except to one of the pack-horses, which came in for a stray shot, each party turned its own road, bidding the other good night, the bushrangers complimenting their opponents on their being so game.

Information having been given to the police, senior-sergeant Hough and constable Cane proceeded in all haste to track the robbers, but up to the time of the mail leaving at two o'clock, no news had arrived of their capture. This is the second time, Mr. Barnes has been the sufferer, to the tune of several hundred pounds.

In the tumultuous period marked by the increasing activities of Ben Hall and his gang, local correspondents played a pivotal role. They meticulously reported each incident involving the bushrangers, committing themselves to both informing the public and dispelling any circulating falsehoods. This commitment to accurate journalism, however, had unintended consequences. It instilled a palpable sense of fear among those who were secretly complicit in the bushrangers' operations. Journalists often faced threats and intimidation from these individuals, who resented the exposure of their illicit dealings.

In the communities that frequently encountered Ben Hall, it was an open secret that certain locals were covertly working with the bushrangers. These collaborators, acting as informants or intermediaries for the distribution of stolen goods, played a crucial role in the bushrangers' network. In return for their services, which included offering safe havens, these individuals were often compensated with items from the bushrangers' loot.

This symbiotic relationship between the bushrangers and their secret supporters was one shrouded in mutual benefit yet marred by a shared fear of exposure. These collaborators, understanding the implications of their actions being brought to light, were particularly averse to the publicity that the local press was generating. This aversion underscores the complex dynamics at play within these communities, where loyalty, fear, and self-preservation were intertwined in the shadow of the bushrangers' presence.'The Empire' 22nd April 1863:

Last mail but one I received an anonymous scrawl of a threatening nature, purporting to be from some of the bushranging fraternity, though at the same time I don't believe it, as I think those anti-respectable individuals have got enough to do just now to hold their own; but if any of them did write it, I have the honour to inform them that I have an excellent revolver at their service; and, if necessary, I will not hesitate a moment in repeating the dose so effectually administered by that worthy magistrate, Robert Lowe, Esq., to the Mudgee bushranger. But I believe in my heart that the vile scrawl in question was in reality written by a still viler inhabitant of this district, simply to annoy me, who may thank his extreme caution, and not his scoundrelism, for being out of the strong grasp of the law so long as he has been. 

Author's Note: Robert Lowe, J.P., shot dead a bushranger near Barney's Reef, Mudgee, in April 1863 after he and his servant were bailed up. Lowe shot one of the two bushrangers with a shotgun in the throat, and after riding a short distance, the offender fell from his horse and died. Lowe was declared a hero and, in 1875, was presented with a gold medal for his bravery.

Amid widespread criticism of the police's perceived ineffectiveness in dealing with bushrangers, numerous officers stood out for their relentless pursuit of these outlaws. Notable among them were Sgt Sanderson, Trooper Hollister, Insp Pottinger, and Sgt Condell, who invested considerable effort in their quest to apprehend these criminals. Their endeavours, however, were frequently impeded by a network of local sympathisers, often referred to as the 'Cone of Silence,' who provided support and protection to Ben Hall.

Hall, remembered by many locals as a once quiet and hardworking former squatter with a likeable personality, received considerable support and shelter from the community. This local allegiance posed a significant obstacle to the police, who braved challenging terrains and conditions, risking their lives in the process. Their missions, launched from towns like Yass, Young, Forbes, and Cowra, were often conducted under the cover of darkness to evade the vigilant eyes of informants loyal to Hall.

In a tactical shift, the police began to emulate Sir Frederick Pottinger's strategy of disguise, dressing as bushmen or stockmen to blend in. Pottinger's philosophy was clear: to catch the enemy, one must resemble the enemy. This approach introduced a new challenge for the bushrangers, who now had to discern friend from foe amidst their encounters.

Another driving force for the police was the lucrative bounties placed on the heads of the bushrangers. For instance, John Gilbert had a bounty of £500 on him, dead or alive. In the context of 1863, there was no ethical dilemma regarding the method of capture; killing a bushranger was deemed as laudable as capturing one alive. This sentiment and the ongoing efforts of the police were captured in 'The Empire' newspaper on April 22, 1863, reflecting the intense and often morally complex landscape of law enforcement:

A portion of our patrol, consisting of Messrs. Swan, Hughes, Foley, and M'Gill, started early this morning well disguised and strongly armed, upon a secret expedition, consequently further particulars are unknown at present; but good luck attend them, and may they capture one, if not both of the £500 prizes. A subdivision of this nice little sum would help considerably to soften their hard life of late; for, without exaggeration, I can safely assert that for some weeks past almost their whole time has been spent in the bush and saddle, and I'm sure I need not inform the contented and comparatively luxurious citizens of Sydney that eight or ten consecutive nights in the wilder and colder parts of the Weddin and Abercrombie Mountains, with nothing but a saddle for a pillow, and the stars and sky for a quilt or counterpane, is not so very pleasant after all.
Charles Sanderson, a retired police officer, shared a unique perspective on the life of a lawman in the bush hunting Ben Hall in a 1903 interview conducted shortly after his retirement. The account laid bare the rigours and demands of their pursuit, elucidating the resilience required for the relentless task.

Bush life was a rough but a healthy one. I’ve often been out a month, and during all that time we never lit a fire after dark, and when we camped we always slept a good distance from each other, in case of surprises. I’ve had plenty of exposure in all sorts of weather, but it has never affected me. I’m just as free from rheumatism and kindred ills as I was the first day I made my acquaintance with the Australian bush.

Ex-Sergeant M Hanley's reminiscences, as published in the 'Old Times' in May 1903, offered an intriguing look at the sartorial choices of the bushrangers. Notably, these men, many of whom were erstwhile former stockmen, developed a distinctive style of their own, adorned with various trinkets, rings, and silk sashes. Gilbert was particularly extravagant in his adornments, often seen with an assortment of watches hanging around his neck, an array of jewellery pieces, and brightly coloured silk sashes, making a flamboyant statement of his bushranger status.

The flash stockmen of that day somewhat resembled the Mexican cowboy. They wore their hair long, had the most expensive riding boots, while their vests were generally trimmed with blue velvet, with a red sash across the waist. Their fingers were covered with rings, and they sported as much Jewellery as possible across their shirt and vest.
"Roll up Roll up"

In the tumultuous gold rush era of Australia, Ben Hall, driven by a relentless need for financial resources, often preyed upon Chinese miners. These miners, who were generally viewed with disdain by many Europeans, were considered vulnerable targets for Hall's raids. The significant influx of Chinese labourers into the Australian goldfields, initially in Victoria and later in New South Wales, had already created a backdrop of tension and hostility among European miners, leading to violent confrontations and riots.

The government, attempting to curb the flow of Chinese immigrants, imposed a £10 arrival tax in both Victoria and New South Wales. Yet, determined sea captains circumvented this restriction by landing Chinese labourers in South Australia, particularly in Robe, where no such tax existed. From there, these miners embarked on arduous overland treks on Shanks' Pony to reach the goldfields.

Amidst this climate of animosity, Chinese labourers often found themselves relegated to the more isolated and treacherous parts of mining areas like Lambing Flat. Left to work in abandoned mines and forsaken claims, they faced not only physical hardships but also social isolation. Their presence in remote areas, combined with a general reluctance to confront aggression, made them easy targets for bushrangers like Hall and other nefarious elements.

Tragically, the violence inflicted upon these Chinese miners, which included acts of murder, was frequently overlooked or ignored by the authorities and the wider community. The grim reality of their plight and the lawlessness that they faced in the Australian goldfields were highlighted in reports such as those in 'The Empire' newspaper on April 7, 1863. The narrative of their struggle is a poignant reminder of the harsh and often brutal conditions that characterised the gold rush period:

Sticking-up continues to a very alarming extent, notwithstanding the steps taken by the Government to check it, and the presence of Captain Zouch does not seem to have had any effect, apparently, on the lawless depredator. My telegram on Saturday informed you of that sticking-up, at Little Wombat, of about fifty Chinamen; the attack upon them was made at about nine o'clock on Friday morning, but at present little is known of the affair, as the Chinese are averse to speak of the matter; but it is believed they were robbed to a very large extent. The Chinese are little prepared to act on the offensive against armed men, and it is a matter for the serious consideration of the Government as to whether steps should not be taken to procure them better protection from attack from the lawless class of men now infesting the district; for the camp of the Chinese is away from European dwellings, and some miles from any town or police station, and therefore, in the event of any resistance being shown, the probability is that many lives might be sacrificed by the plunderers in order to secure booty.

The day after the above entry a further notice from the 'Goulburn Herald' of Wednesday 8th April 1863, cast the culprits of the attack of the fifty Chinese by Hall and Co:

We are informed upon good authority, that three ruffians, of whom is supposed to be Ben Hall and Johnny Gilbert, stuck-up and robbed about fifty Chinamen and some Europeans, yesterday morning, between eight and nine o'clock. Information having been sent to the police at Murrumburrah, one of the force stationed there immediately started for the camp here, and gave information to the police authorities, when a number of the mounted troopers were at once dispatched with the black tracker in pursuit of the desperadoes. For the ends of justice, we hope they will be apprehended without delay.

Indeed, following brazen atrocities the gang retreated to the confines of the Weddin Mountains or those who aided and comforted them. O'Meally's family had a grog shop Hall had his brother William at the Pinnacle five miles from Hall's former farm. During these quiet periods, Ben Hall and his associates were likely replenishing their supplies, plotting their next series of raids, or simply laying low to avoid detection. Separation was at times due to differences of opinion on tactics. These seemingly calm phases would invariably give way to renewed bursts of criminal activities, much to the alarm and dismay of the local communities. Many locals wondered, "Who is next."

Furthermore, despite the apparent lull, the overall sense of fear and insecurity never truly dissipated. The bushrangers' unpredictable patterns of behaviour and their ability to strike without warning ensured that the citizens remained on edge. It was common knowledge that Ben Hall's gang could reappear at any time, ready to unleash a new wave of robberies, violence, and chaos. The populace, knowing this all too well, would have braced themselves for the inevitable return of their tormentors.

It is very satisfactory to know that we are really receiving some benefits, in exchange for the money expended by the government in sending up extra police to look after us. The Lambing Flat road is well patrolled; the neighbourhood of Wheogo and Weddin Mountain is rendered safe to travellers and dangerous to bushrangers.

Furthermore 'The Empire' 2nd May 1863 informed the locals that:

Bushranging is quiet just now, the spasmodic efforts made by the police to capture the members of the firm of Gardiner and Co. making it necessary for those pests to keep close to their haunts.

During these intermittent spells in Hall's activities, where even Gardiner almost a year after his disappearance was linked were often a misleading calm before the storm. These phases of apparent tranquillity were merely a prelude to the inevitable resurgence of their criminal exploits, plunging local communities back into a state of alarm and unease. However, in light of Hall's activities the gang disregarded any form of disguises. There notoriety and ability to travel great distances on some of the best thoroughbreds in the western districts notably the best of the racing stock allowed them unaffected free movement:

I am sadly afraid that a new class of bushrangers are springing up in this neighbourhood, and the great pains they take to preserve their incognito seems to prove it; the older members of this abominable corps, such as Gilbert, J. O'Meally, Hall, Lowry, &c., have so many certain convictions hanging over them as to prompt them to dispense with all facial disguise, as being in their case perfectly useless.

NSW Police Gazette,
April 1863.

Ben Hall withdrawing from the field of combat sought sanctuary in the secluded reaches and back country of the Bland region and its environs. This was a landscape with which he was intimately familiar, providing him a perfect hideaway. Hall's former wife and son Henry lived in this district. Whether or not Hall made his presence known or interacted with his son is speculative. But with all the turmoil about him it is not from the realms of possibility that Henry did not see his father.

During this same period, a significant development unfolded, as reported by the 'Goulburn Herald': the arrest of James Taylor, the man who had been the catalyst for the dissolution of Ben Hall's marriage to Bridget Hall.

Taylor's arrest took place near the Fish River, an area where his sister, Mary Fogg, and other relatives resided. Inspector Pottinger, while on a routine patrol, encountered Taylor herding cattle. Something about Taylor's demeanour or the situation raised Pottinger's suspicions. Despite Taylor's attempts to explain his actions, Pottinger remained unconvinced and apprehended him, suspecting him of cattle rustling.

For Pottinger, individuals like Taylor represented a 'low character' class, and his mounting frustrations in failing to apprehend Ben Hall only intensified his resolve to clamp down on those he deemed unsavoury. This frustration often manifested in the arrest of individuals whom he believed were associated with or similar in character to the bushrangers. Taylor's arrest was not just a matter of law enforcement; it was also a reflection of Pottinger's increasing desperation and his aggressive approach towards those he perceived as part of the bushranger network or class:

At the police office, Forbes, on May 5th, James Taylor, who had been captured by Sir F. Pottinger and the police at the Fish River, was again brought up on remand. The depositions taken at Cowra were put in and read. Several charges of cattle-stealing and highway-robbery were therein alleged to have been committed by him, but the proofs were not forthcoming. Sir Frederick Pottinger applied for remand of seven days, which was granted. Mr. Redman and Mr. James appeared for the prisoner.⁹⁶

The case of James Taylor, entangled in the web of law enforcement due to Inspector Pottinger's suspicions, took a fortunate turn in the courts. Despite Pottinger's diligent efforts to compile evidence against him, Taylor was released after a week. The charges crumbled due to insufficient proof, marking a judicial counterpoint to Pottinger's conviction of Taylor's guilt.

In this era, the rampant bushranging activities, particularly around the goldfields of Forbes and Lambing Flat, inadvertently opened doors for deceptive practices by some individuals. The frequent holdups by bushrangers became a convenient scapegoat for various misdeeds and misfortunes. There were instances where employees, having lost their employers' money or having sustained injuries often due to inebriation, conveniently blamed bushrangers for their predicaments.

Such claims of victimisation by bushrangers were met with a degree of scepticism by employers. Inspector Charles Sanderson, reflecting on his experiences, shed light on this phenomenon in his 'Reminiscences of Ex-Superintendent Sanderson,' published in 'Old Times' in May 1903. He pointed out the ample opportunities that existed for employees to engage in theft and subsequently attribute their actions to bushranger attacks. This insight highlighted a less-discussed aspect of the bushranging era, where the line between truth and fabrication was often blurred, leveraging the widespread fear and uncertainty that bushrangers instilled in the community.

Bushranging often led to bogus sticking-up cases. There was nothing easier than for anyone entrusted with money or valuables to say that he had been stuck up and make away with the property himself. In two cases I was able to bowl servants out who tried this sort of thing, as I proved that the men who were supposed to have robbed them were hundreds of miles away at the time; but there were undoubtedly many cases that were never found out.⁹⁷

Inspector Charles Sanderson, in his reflections, underscored the prevalence of misinformation and deceit during the height of the bushranging era. A notable example of this was Mr. John Keogh, who attempted to exploit the climate of fear and uncertainty surrounding bushrangers for his own ends.

Keogh found himself embroiled in questionable activities, likely of a dubious nature, and in an attempt to divert suspicion away from himself, he concocted a story. He claimed to have had an encounter with bushrangers, a narrative that, given the times, was plausible enough to potentially mislead. However, this alleged encounter did not go unnoticed or unchallenged. His employer, perhaps dubious of Keogh's account or concerned about the implications of bushranger activity, reported the incident to the police.

This report prompted an investigation by law enforcement into Keogh's claims. In an era where bushrangers were both feared and often sensationalised, the police were keen to scrutinise every reported encounter. Keogh's case, therefore, became a focal point of inquiry, not just for its potential links to notorious outlaws but also as a test of the veracity of claims made in the shadow of the bushranging threat. This investigation into Keogh's story is illustrative of the complex social dynamics of the time, where the line between fact and fiction was frequently tested, and the motives of individuals were often scrutinised:

Sticking-Up at Warrego, near Marengo. The correspondent of the Yass Courier, at Marengo, relates the following audacious case of sticking-up. As an elderly man by the name of John Keogh, or Kew, was travelling from Yass to Mr George Campbell's station at Warrego in a covered cart, when crossing the creek within gun-shot of Mr John Chew's head station he was set upon by three armed and mounted men who ordered him immediately to "shell out;" he thought to make himself heard at the Gap station (for the roof of the house was to be seen) proceeded to shout lustily for assistance, whereupon one of the ruffians seized him by the collar, dragged him out of the cart and the others made him insensible by striking him on the head with the butts of their pistols. Some hour or so afterwards he recovered consciousness and found his pockets ransacked and £6 gone. He managed to crawl as far as Mr Chew's, where he received every possible attention by having his wounds washed and dressed and being put to bed. Mr Chew instantly caused two horses to be saddled, sending his son off to the Warrego station with one, and himself riding the other into Marengo, for the purpose above stated, and as Messrs. Swan, Foley, and McGill have not returned, of course, the result of the search is yet unknown. It is thought by the residents in the district that only for fear the report of firearms might be heard at the Gap station, the ruffians would have shot their victim dead upon the spot.⁹⁸

The alleged incident involving John Keogh was reported in the 'Empire' on Wednesday, 22nd April 1863. Upon further examination, the true circumstances surrounding the supposed attack, robbery, and assault on Mr. Keogh were investigated, exposing the actual details of the unfortunate episode.

Our patrol have returned from the search after the bushrangers who stuck up the man near the Gap on the 7th instant. Their leader, Swan, says that they were unsuccessful, simply because it was a case of "no-stick up" at all, but that the man spent his money, got drunk, tumbled out of his cart, cut his forehead, and subsequently hatched up the yarn. Certainly, the man was seen drinking with one or two of the Marengo "roughs" the day before; but, on the other hand, the man positively swore to Mr Swan that he was robbed by three mounted and armed men, and previous to the stated robbery Mr Chew's men saw three suspicious looking horsemen pass the station, and they did not pass Marengo or any of the intermediate stations, as they ought to have done; so, the affair still remains a mystery. Mr Woodbridge's man is very much bruised and sick, and if he was "stuck-up," he deserves to be pitied, and if not, he deserves to be horsewhipped when convalescent.

A representation of
ladies travelling by buggy.
c. 1860's.
After a brief hiatus, Ben Hall resurfaced on the 9th of May, 1863. Accompanied by John O'Meally and the young John Jameison, the trio targeted another police inspector, robbing him of all his valuables. The incident was reported in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' the following week:

On Saturday, Sub-Inspector Shadforth, stationed at Bogolong, in the Lachlan district, with a stockman, offered to show two ladies who were making their way in a buggy to Forbes, a short distance on the road; after proceeding a mile Shadforth's horse bolted a short distance into the bush, when he came upon three men who levelled their guns and revolvers at him and ordered him to dismount. They were Ben Hall, John O’Meally, and another not known. (John Jameison) Hall held a revolver at Shadforth's head while one searched him, taking his money, watch, rug, saddle, bridle, and horse, telling him to proceed with the ladies. He returned to camp today somewhat chagrined.

Inspector Shadforth, who was in charge of the Pinnacle Police Station that Hall had previously robbed in February, was the victim of this latest incident. A postscript detailing the brave inspector's ordeal was published in 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' on May 16th, 1863:
It seems strange that the gallant sub-inspector should have selected a bodyguard of Amazons to protect him in his pursuit of the enemy, and still stranger that his charger should have bolted with him straightway into the hostile camp. It must have been a very knowing kind of horse, possibly one trained for the exploit, and subsequently disposed of to the gallant officer with a view to this little adventure. Verily our bush commanders are being played with like children by the joke-loving desperadoes.

However, the ridicule of Inspector Shadforth over his encounter with Ben Hall prompted a clarification in the press. In what could only be construed as a case of spin as a means to prevent any further loss of respect by the general public for the Inspector and police in general; 'Lachlan Miner' 3rd June 1863:

In our account of this rather funny case of bushranging, we unintentionally committed some blunders, which are quite as well corrected, now that we know the truth; Mr. Shadforth was not escorting the ladles; but, while exercising his horse, had merely accidentally joined them, Mr Charles Mylecharane, with a stockman, was showing Mrs Rawsthorne and Miss Morris a shortcut through the bush; but Mr Ben Hall and his mates molested no one except the police officer, though the leader inquired who the ladies were.

William Jamieson.
c. 1860.
Author's Note: John Jamieson, the son of the late Mr William Jamieson who had previously criticized Sir Frederick Pottinger over the burning of Ben Hall's home, was later identified as the 'unknown' bushranger involved in the holdup of Shadforth. Jamieson would eventually stand trial in September 1863, alongside O'Meally's first cousin Patrick Daley. Both men were sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor on the roads.

However, for Jamieson, this fall from grace had severe consequences. As reported in the 'Otago Daily Times', Jamieson, who had recently inherited £22,000 (equivalent to $1.9 million today) following his father's death, would see his fortune pass to the Crown due to his conviction.

Interestingly, Jamieson's mother was the older sister of Emma Downer, the lawful wife of James Taylor, whom Taylor had abandoned for Bridget Hall. The Jamieson family property at Back Creek was just a day's ride from Ben Hall's station.

However, the claim about the inheritance was highly misleading. Jamieson had younger siblings, and as the eldest, any inheritance would naturally be divided according to Mr Jamieson's will. The principle of primogeniture, where the firstborn inherits everything, was not applicable under Australian law. (See Gang page)

S.M.H. 21st May 1863.
Inspector Pottinger repeatedly demonstrated his relentless determination in tracking Ben Hall in the bush. This prompted a series of telegrams to the Inspector General, outlining Sir Frederick's pursuit of the bushrangers who were skillfully evading him. Telegram 16th May 1863:

This minute received message subjoined from acting sub-inspector, Messrs. Young. Yesterday evening, 15th, three bushrangers, supposed to be O'Mealy, Gilbert and Hall, robbed the store of Mr Barnes, of Cootamundra. This confirms the report of my last telegram of this morning that the bushrangers had doubled back out of this district towards the levels, and shows the extraordinary rapidity of their movements. Sub-inspector Morrow and party are out in that vicinity.

The flurry of telegrams exchanged among law enforcement officials vividly illustrated the impressive agility and strategic acumen of Ben Hall, John Gilbert, and John O'Meally. Their ability to cover vast distances at a rapid pace while evading capture was a testament to their meticulous planning and resourcefulness. A key aspect of their strategy involved the strategic placement of fresh horses along their carefully concealed escape routes, ensuring they could quickly and efficiently distance themselves from pursuing troopers.

This constant flow of communication among the police not only underscored the bushrangers' elusiveness but also corroborated earlier reports that 'The Darkie' — a nickname for Frank Gardiner — had relinquished his role as a leader among the bushrangers and had vacated the district.

Of particular interest in these police communications was the mention of Jameison. He was the son of the late Mr. Jameison, who had previously written a letter protesting the police's burning of Hall's homestead. The connection between young Jameison and Ben Hall was deeply rooted in their shared history. Hall had known Jameison since his youth, a relationship fostered through Ben's friendship with Jameisons' father, William, and his close association with John Warrigal Walsh, also known as 'The Warrigal.'

This intricate web of personal connections and relationships added a layer of complexity to the bushranging narrative. It highlighted not only the bushrangers' tactical savvy but also the personal ties that influenced their lives and actions. (See note above.)

Tracked Hall, O’Meally, and Gilbert to Strickland's stockyard and recovered Mr Shadforth's horse and two others; the fugitives pushed on, taking three fresh horses; but, tracks being spoiled by a muster of horses at the station, relinquished pursuit to parties out in immediate vicinity, and returned to Forbes by Wheogo, picking up at latter place Sanderson and party, and Mr Superintendent M'Lerie, (son of the Inspector General) who that morning, with Superintendent Zouch's approval, left Bogolong with Sanderson and men.

The police of the district tracked the bushrangers sixty miles in twenty-four hours, recovering two relays of stolen horses besides other property; one of the horses was stolen from Mr Roberts's training stable, near Burrangong, £50 being offered for his recovery. The accounts in the papers false; neither Gardiner nor Lowry are, or have been for months in this district. Hall, O’Meally, Gilbert (with perhaps Jamieson) are the only three who are still actively at large and have been doing all the robberies lately about Young, Yass, Wagga Wagga, &c., &c.

They are probably making back by the Levels, towards the Flat and the Fish River. Permanent police stations absolutely wanted on the Fish River, and towards the Levels. Spell here for two or three days, and then return with Superintendent M'Lerie (with your sanction) to Young, to their personal concert measures with Superintendent Zouch.¹⁰⁰

However, returning to Cootamundra, Ben Hall again stuck up Thomas Barnes' store:

Barnes' store, at Cootamundra, was stuck up yesterday evening by three armed men, supposed to have been Gilbert, O'Malley, and Ben Hall. They took away with them £200 worth of property. This store was stuck up by the same party recently when £8 worth of property was stolen.

On a day marked by a brazen encounter with the bushrangers, Thomas Barnes was absent from his shop, leaving his brother, John Frederick Barnes, in charge. John Frederick, who would later rise to prominence as the first Mayor of Cootamundra and a member of the NSW parliament, found himself facing a dire situation. The bushrangers, led by Ben Hall, had their guns trained on him as they proceeded to raid the store, taking several hundred pounds worth of stock.

Enraged by this violation, John Frederick, in a bold and impulsive act of defiance, armed himself and emerged from the shop. He took aim at the retreating figure of Ben Hall and fired. His shot, though missing Hall, struck the lead horse that was laden with the stolen goods.

As Hall and his companions hastened out of Cootamundra, taking a road that led into the scrub, the sudden sound of gunfire shattered the air. The horse that Hall was leading faltered, having been hit by a shot from the shopkeeper's gun. Hall, caught off guard, witnessed John Frederick raising his gun for another shot, which narrowly missed O'Meally's head.

Confronted with this unexpected resistance, Hall made a strategic decision to avoid a direct confrontation. He spurred the wounded horse forward, intent on escape. After some distance, Hall dismounted to transfer the items from the injured horse to another. In the process, some of the stolen goods were dropped and later recovered, eventually being returned to the shop.

This dramatic confrontation between John Frederick Barnes and Ben Hall, emblematic of the fraught tensions of the era, was recounted years later, capturing the courage and defiance displayed by the shopkeeper against the notorious bushranger. The incident, detailed on Saturday, May 16, 1863:

Mr Barnes, who had gone to Cootamundra to relieve his brother, who then kept the store at that place, was ''stuck up' and robbed by the notorious outlaw, Ben Hall and his gang, and afterwards had a combat, with them just near the store in the bush, at the very spot where now stands, the stock dam in the town of Cootamundra. Mr Barnes missed his aim when firing at Ben Hall and shot the horse which the outlaw was leading— a horse the bushrangers had just stolen from Mr John Hurley, of Cootamondra station; The outlaw O'Meally was present at this encounter, and narrowly escaped with his life.

Later the 'Sydney Mail' of the 23rd May 1863 reported a follow-up highlighting the lackluster police search for Hall:

Mr Superintendent M'Lerie and Sub-Inspector Morrow, having made a fruitless search for Gardiner and Co., have, we understand, been visiting Lambing Flat, and have also been devoting their energies and those of their troopers to the discovery of the perpetrators of the late robbery near Hurley's station, on the Levels. It appears that the robbers, in addition to the pack-horse stolen from Mr Basil Bennett, had also appropriated another animal, and, the two horses being laden with about £120 worth of property, started with their booty in the direction of the Weddin. They were tracked by the police for many miles, and owing to their plunder having probably been badly packed, a number of articles stolen had fallen from the horses and were recovered. The whereabouts and identity of the bushrangers are still uncertain. 

However, as previously mentioned, returning horses, such as Mr Bennett's, was a common practice for Ben Hall. He was well known for eventually returning a previously stolen animal to its rightful owner, albeit after it had been thoroughly used and, in Mr Hurley's case, was dead. In response to the criticism from townsfolk and shopkeepers, the police made it clear that although:

The Police have not yet succeeded in arresting the robber Gardiner and his mates, although they have made strenuous efforts on that behalf, and for a long time kept pretty close on their tracks. They are supposed to have retreated to one of their fastnesses, to which a flying visit will shortly be paid by the troopers.
NSW Police Gazette
The description fits
Fred Lowry
 & Ben Hall.

The escapades of the Weddin Mountains gang, led by Ben Hall and his associates, had captivated the colony of New South Wales, turning bushranging into a sensational phenomenon. In Sydney, newspaper editors eagerly awaited updates from their country correspondents, who were often local residents with a deep understanding of the district's events and a close watch on bushranging and police activities. The intense competition among newspapers for the latest and most sensational news about the gang's exploits drove sales to unprecedented heights, with city dwellers devouring these stories as their primary source of entertainment.

These correspondents, much like the police, faced the daunting task of keeping pace with the frequent incidents and ensuring the accuracy of their reports, particularly regarding the identities of the victims and the descriptions of the perpetrators. Consequently, many robberies were still mistakenly attributed to Frank Gardiner, even though they were more likely the work of Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Lowry, who operated in various combinations.

Despite Gardiner's departure from New South Wales in October 1862, his legend persisted, with his name frequently linked to criminal activities involving his former associates. This enduring reputation often led to false sightings and reports of his involvement in various crimes. Victims and witnesses, convinced of Gardiner's participation in the hold-ups, provided descriptions that reinforced this belief. The widespread conviction of his omnipresence was so strong that it became a point of incredulity in the press, with commentators noting the impossibility of Gardiner being in so many places simultaneously.

These misattributions might have been fueled by the victims' desire to be associated with the notoriety of a Gardiner encounter. Sir Frederick Pottinger, through his investigative efforts, had already discerned that Gardiner was no longer actively involved in the bushranging activities plaguing the area. Despite this, reports of Gardiner sightings continued to be taken as fact, adding to the mythology surrounding his life:

The Shamrock & Thistle Inn
Bowning was built in 1840. 

One of the many hotels
the Gang frequented.
Private Source. 
Very little authentic information has recently been current respecting the movements of Gardiner and the more notorious characters with whom he is associated. Almost the last scrap of news apprised us that the "General," and Johnny Gilbert were scouring the bush near Jugiong, after having stuck up Mr Barnes' store, an account of which outrage appeared on the 29th April in our columns. On Wednesday last, Gardiner, in company with Lowry, Johnny Gilbert, and O'Meally, again appeared upon the scene, and, as far as it is prudent to enter into particulars, the following are the circumstances connected with their appearance:- It would seem that a little before daylight on the morning we have mentioned, while the Gundagai mail was near Bowning, four men, well mounted, and equally well-armed, passed through the township at a leisure pace, and owing to their appearance those who saw them considered that they were a party of police on patrol. The same horsemen subsequently passed the Binalong mail before it reached Bowning on its upward journey, and in the vehicle there happened to be a passenger who well knew the four equestrians, whom he at once recognised as Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Lowry. The horsemen passed on without interrupting the progress of the mail but were sufficiently near to enable the passenger, who had upon a previous occasion been stuck-up by Gardiner and Gilbert, and who knew the other two equally well by sight, to recognise and identify the four men beyond all doubt. On the arrival of the mail at Binalong, information was given to the police, and the word was passed on to Murrumburrah and Lambing Flat for troopers. Senior-sergeant Brennan, with constables O'Mara and Costoley of the police stationed at Yass, on receiving intelligence of the circumstance, started off for the purpose of scouring the bush. Since then many rumours have been afloat, to most of which we should be sorry to give currency. It is, however, generally believed that the four horsemen were seen near Yass, subsequent to meeting the Binalong mail. All the men are described as being mounted on fine upstanding horses, admirably fit for speed and endurance. At the offside saddle-bow of each a double-barrelled gun was slung with the muzzle resting in a leather bucket, and in each man's belt was a brace of Colt's revolvers. Gardiner is described as being dressed in a drab coat, the same coloured hat, and Napoleon boots.¹⁰²
Fred Lowry.

The narrative of Frank Gardiner's involvement with Ben Hall's gang continued to captivate the public and the press, despite Gardiner's actual whereabouts. An illustrative example of this was seen in the media coverage of Hall's activities in the Yass district, following the robbery of Inspector Shadforth on May 9th, 1863. Senior Sergeant Brennan led the pursuit, demonstrating the police's unwavering commitment to capturing the notorious bushrangers.

However, the fascination with Gardiner persisted in the newspapers, overshadowing the realities of the situation. Unbeknownst to many, the man they referred to as 'The Darkie' was actually in Queensland, at Apis Creek, far removed from the crimes attributed to him. This fixation on Gardiner often skewed the perception of the bushranging activities taking place.

The press coverage, particularly by the 'Empire' on May 19th, 1863, highlighted not only the ongoing pursuit of Hall but also the grueling conditions faced by the police. Led by committed officers like Senior Sergeant Brennan, these law enforcement officials endured fatigue, harsh environments, and the relentless challenge of tracking elusive criminals like Hall. Their dedication to their duty, often under trying circumstances, was a testament to the arduous task of maintaining law and order during a time marked by notorious outlaws and widespread public fear. This period in history was characterised by a complex interplay of media narratives, public perception, and the harsh realities of policing in the bushranging era.

On last Wednesday afternoon, says Saturday's Yass Courier, "Senior-sergeant Brennan, accompanied by constables Mara and Hale, returned to Yass after a week's search for Gardiner, Lowry, Gilbert, and O'Mealey, whom we reported as having been seen early on the morning of the previous Wednesday on the Port Phillip Road, near Bowning Hill, The police at Yass first received information late in the evening of the last-mentioned day, and early next morning started in the direction of the place where the marauders had been seen. The bush in the direction of Wargiela and the neighbourhood was well scoured but without any trace of the wanted parties. A clue, however, was at last obtained, and there remained then no doubt that the four bushrangers had after meeting with the Binalong mail turned off under Bowning Hill, passed at the back of Mr Cusack's, Belle Vale, made the Yass River and crossed not far from its junction with the Murrumbidgee.

The police after making some necessary arrangements for the pursuit, took the course which had been disclosed by the information received, crossed the Murrumbidgee, touched on the Coorradigbee and well searched the country towards Tumut. From thence they in part retraced their steps, crossed the river near Taemas, and obtained a clue that the fugitives had been seen twenty miles ahead of them, making towards Queanbeyan. To that direction, the sergeant and his party directed their chase and followed it to the borders of Jingery, where the trace was lost. 
Unfortunately, Mr Brennan had by this time become almost perfectly blind from exposure to the humid night atmosphere in the ranges but luckily met with Captain Battye with a party of police and two black trackers who were prepared to follow the scent. After the second time that the Murrumbidgee was crossed, Mr Brennan could learn at various stages confirmatory statements of the passage of the bushrangers, although acting with great caution they avoided calling at any places for refreshment. They were provided with hobbles, quart pots, and provisions, travelling by night, and camping in some secluded spot by day. At several places, the police came upon their camps and found the remains of a repast, with tracks of four horses having been turned out in hobbles. As the pursuit was taken up and will be followed in earnest, it is probable that it will not turn out fruitless. Considering the great difficulties encountered and the scant information which kept up the thread of the tracking, Sergeant Brennan and his party are entitled to much praise for their perseverance and ingenuity. They returned to Yass by the way of Bungendore, Brookes' Diggings, and Bungonia.

However, on this occasion, Brennan's pursuit was significantly off target. Ben Hall had managed to double back and reappeared in the vicinity of Cootamundra.

Interestingly, the implementation of a new method for cash transfer, known as the "Money Order System," was beginning to gain widespread acceptance.

The increased action of the Money Order Office in the interior is already telling against the trade of highwaymen. People travelling on the roads do not carry so much money with them in cash as they used to do.
Sub Insp Brennan
c. 1870's.

In the era of Australian bushranging, the pursuit of justice was a driving force for law enforcement, but the substantial financial rewards offered for the capture or death of bushrangers presented an additional, powerful incentive. For police officers, the bounty placed on notorious bushrangers represented a potential fortune, often exceeding their annual salaries, and promised a transformative impact on their lives.

This blend of duty and financial motivation was exemplified in the case of Senior Sergeant Patrick Brennan of the Yass police station. His commitment to justice was highlighted in a May 21, 1863 report. Brennan had previously made headlines in February of the same year for killing a bushranger, an action that earned him a considerable reward. This event enhanced his reputation and likely fueled his and his colleagues' resolve to apprehend other infamous outlaws like Ben Hall.

The incident involving Brennan, reported on February 28, 1863, from Yass, is a notable example of the times. It underscored the high stakes in pursuing bushrangers, where success in capturing or eliminating these criminals could bring professional acclaim and a significant financial windfall. Such dynamics added layers of complexity to the motivations and actions of police officers during the peak of bushranging in Australia:
Saturday, evening, two bushrangers went to a public-house a few miles from this town, last evening; with a view of rifling it. Sergeant Brennan happened to be at the house. The bushrangers recognised him and attempted to get-away. Brennan fired on them and shot one dead. Subsequently, he captured the other and brought him to the lock-up today.¹⁰³

Sergeant Patrick Brennan of the Yass police station was known for his stern and uncompromising approach to law enforcement. His reputation as a no-nonsense lawman was firmly established prior to his lethal engagement with a bushranger. An incident that exemplified Brennan's strict approach occurred in a confrontation with a man named Coady outside the 'Telegraph Inn' in Yass.

In this encounter, Brennan accused Coady of idleness and time-wasting. Demonstrating his intolerance for what he perceived as misconduct, Brennan dealt a forceful blow that knocked Coady to the ground. This incident clearly indicated Brennan's unwavering stance on law and order and his readiness to enforce it with a firm hand.

Brennan's actions in this and other situations cemented his image as a formidable figure in law enforcement. His reputation for being tough and decisive was well-known and likely contributed significantly to his effectiveness as a police officer. His demeanour and methods, while perhaps seen as harsh, underscored the challenges and attitudes prevalent in policing during an era marked by notorious outlaws and widespread lawlessness:

Coady began to talk big about his prowess, delicately apprising the police that on two occasions, while at home, he had dispatched a "peeler" to his long home; and afterwards expressed a desire to give Sergeant Brennan "a throw for a pound." Brennan, happening to be in the humour, accepted the challenge. Mr Coady found that he had pitched on the wrong man, the sergeant doubling him up "like a cod in a pot" in the course of a couple of minutes. Thus ended a case of misleading the police and its consequences.¹⁰⁴
Sergeant Patrick Brennan, a name synonymous with unwavering law enforcement in the bushranger-infested territories, was not alone in his pursuits. Accompanying officers like him were Aboriginal trackers whose skills were invaluable in the hunt for outlaws. Among these trackers, Billy Dargin stood out for his exceptional talent in trailing and capturing fugitives, earning significant rewards for his efforts.

With his formidable reputation, Brennan was regarded as a formidable adversary by bushrangers, cattle thieves, and troublemakers. Locally, he was feared and respected, known for his relentless and often fierce approach to policing. His reputation was such that he earned a nickname that perfectly encapsulated his persona - the "fire-eating little devil."

Brennan's dedication and effectiveness were duly recognised after confronting the bushranger. He received a reward that was a testament to his commitment to maintaining law and order and indicative of his profession's perilous yet potentially lucrative nature.

This period in Brennan's career highlights the challenging and dangerous environment in which law enforcers operated during the bushranging era in Australia. It was a time marked by constant threats and the need for a resolute approach to policing, a role that Brennan epitomised through his actions and the reputation he cultivated among allies and adversaries.

Senior Sergeant Brennan, of Yass, who has recently displayed great activity in apprehending a number of desperate characters, has been presented by the Government with the sum of £20 ($1680 today) from the Police Reward Fund, in acknowledgement of his services.¹⁰⁵
Painting, Yass township
c. 1854, 
St Clements Anglican Church
Note, no spire,
it was added in 1857.
Rossi St looking SW.
Sergeant Patrick Brennan's career in law enforcement during the tumultuous era of Australian bushranging serves as a classic example of ambition and success within the police ranks. His journey to higher echelons in the force was fueled by his relentless dedication and courage and by the allure of the benefits of promotion, including prestige and a significant salary increase. For an officer like Brennan, rising to the rank of Sub-Inspector, with its accompanying salary of over £300 per year, was a substantial achievement, given the economic context of the time.

A series of courageous and successful operations against bushrangers and other criminals marked Brennan's ascent from Sergeant to Sub-Inspector. His unwavering commitment to justice and the effective enforcement of the law made him a standout figure within the police force. This well-deserved promotion cemented Brennan's reputation as a formidable lawman and made him a symbol of success and an inspiration for his peers.

His career trajectory, characterised by bravery, tenacity, and remarkable achievements, painted Brennan as an exemplary figure in the law enforcement community. His story likely inspired many of his contemporaries and successors to emulate his approach and dedication, aiming for similar recognition and advancement within the police force. Brennan's legacy, therefore, extends beyond his own accomplishments, influencing the aspirations and careers of other law enforcement officers in the era of bushranging in Australia.
We understand that the Government, having taken into consideration the conduct of acting sub-inspector Brennan in the apprehension of bushrangers of late, have promoted the officer named to the rank of sub-inspector, with the fall pay attached to that rank, as a mark of the Government's appreciation of the zeal and bravery displayed by Mr. Brennan on the occasion above alluded to. This mark of approval, in addition to the large reward that will be paid, by permission of the Government, to the officer named, will, doubtless, have the effect of stimulating every member of the police force to use the almost exertions to distinguish themselves in the detection and suppression of crime.

'Old Tom' Gin.
A favourite of the
In bushranger-infested territories' perilous and uncertain environment, the police officers stationed there often faced immense stress and danger. The constant threat of a confrontation with notorious figures like Ben Hall and his gang weighed heavily on their nerves. In some cases, this pressure led to instances where officers sought solace in alcohol, occasionally resulting in unintended, albeit comical, outcomes.

A notable example of this was an incident involving a pair of troopers, as 'The Sydney Morning Herald' reported on May 25, 1863. After indulging in alcohol, these troopers spun grandiose tales about their supposed confrontations with bushrangers, particularly O'Meally and Ben Hall. They boasted of their bravery and heroism, claiming to have engaged in fierce gun battles that left their gun barrels smoking.

However, upon closer examination, it was revealed that their stories were greatly exaggerated, mere products of their inebriated imaginations. This humorous episode was a stark reminder of the psychological toll that the constant threat of bushrangers took on law enforcement officers. It also illustrated the lengths to which some officers would go, fueled by a mix of alcohol and anxiety, to project an image of courage and valour, even if it was far removed from reality.

The incident not only provided a moment of levity during a tense period but also offered a glimpse into the human side of these officers, who, despite their responsibilities and bravery, were not immune to fear and the need to prove themselves in the face of danger.
The other day, according to the Lachlan Miner, Neilson and Chambers, both troopers, were brought up at the Police Office, Forbes, by Sir Frederick Pottinger, on a charge of misdemeanour, and laying wrong information to the police. Sir Frederick Pottinger deposed that the prisoners started from the Forbes barracks on Friday last for Eugowra, a distance of twenty-six miles, to meet the escort; and on Friday night, between half-past nine and ten, prisoner Chambers rode up to his (Sir Frederick Pottinger's) quarters, and informed him that, as he and prisoner Neilson were riding between Roger's public-house and Eugowra, Neilson being about 100 yards ahead, he heard from fifteen to twenty shots; he rode up as quickly as he could, but his horse being fagged, he could not get him beyond a walk; he saw no bushranger, but Neilson's horse was bleeding from wounds on the neck; Neilson told him that five armed bushrangers had asked him for his jacket, and he (Neilson) had, of course, refused; one of the bushrangers then said, " I'm ------ if you take that horse into town," and fired; Neilson then exchanged shots with them. Chambers further reported to Sir Frederick that he had found traces of blood close up to the Southern Cross, and prisoner stated that he believed two of the men to be John O'Meally and Ben Hall, and concluded by expressing a hope that he would be kept in the district, as he would like to have a go-in at the rascals. The prisoner had evidently been drinking, and he was told to hold himself in readiness to accompany the police out when the moon got up. About one o'clock Mr. Sanderson, two troopers, the tracker, and the prisoner Chambers were sent in the quest.

Mr. Sanderson returned the same night with the prisoners, but without any information about bushrangers. On the information of Chambers, Sir F. Pottinger deposed to dispatching orders to Bogobogolong, the Pinnacle, and other police stations, which orders, on the return of Mr. Sanderson, had been cancelled. Prisoner Neilson here stated that he was drunk at the time, and he did not know what he was doing. Prisoners were at this stage remanded for three days. Bail allowed themselves in £80 each, and two sureties in £40 each. This case (adds the Miner) appears to have arisen out of a love of nobblers and the chase. Mr. Neilson, who rode a good horse, saw an emu, and feeling in himself equal to anything, he turned and fired at the bird. An unsteady hand, however, caused the bird to escape, and the charger to suffer. We hardly know which most deserves trouncing- the emu-shooter or his mate, who came to Forbes and told the lies for him.

John Chamber's police
employment and
The sensational encounter between officers Neilson and Chambers and the alleged bushrangers O'Meally and Hall sparked considerable discussion and speculation. Yet, the tale took an amusing twist when it was revealed that the suspected 'emu' involved in the chase was in fact a local pet. This intriguing detail was recounted in the 'Bathurst Free Press' on 16th May 1863, which published a detailed account of the events involving the notorious bushranger.

According to the account, the gunfight was as thrilling as any, filled with gunfire, daring chases, and narrow escapes. However, the revelation that the emu was a well-known local pet added a dash of comedy to the otherwise tense narrative. In an attempt to flee, the pet emu had become entangled in the chase, causing some confusion and ultimately aiding in the bushrangers' escape.

This unexpected twist in the story served not only to entertain the public but also to highlight the unpredictable and often chaotic nature of police attempts to apprehend the elusive bushrangers. As law enforcement continued their pursuit, stories like these served as a peculiar and humorous aside to the harsh reality of bushranging during this period.

The following is on extract (kindly handed to us for publication) from a letter received by a gentleman in Bathurst. It is a fine illustration of the fitness for duty of the officials to whom the protection of our lives and property has been committed. The incidents related are amusing, but there is something in the concoction about the bushrangers which disposes us to treat it with ridicule. Had the affair ended with an escape from the attack of their long-legged visitor, we might have looked at it in the light of a good joke, and have spoken of it accordingly; but when well-mounted troopers, armed at every point, convert a pet emu into eight bushrangers, and a journey of fifty miles is undertaken for the purpose of depriving honest men of their liberty, it goes beyond a joke, and ought to draw the attention of the authorities for the purpose of investigation. "Joe," the hero of the tale, we ought to remark, is a large pet emu belonging to the brother of the gentleman who has favoured us with the extract, which is as follows: -"Joe (the Emu) has had a great lark and tremendous battle, in which he has come off victorious. He followed the bullock driver when out looking for bullocks; when they got to Marara Plains they saw two policemen, whose white caps and shining accoutrements attracted Joe's attention so that he made up to them for inspection. The police charged him when the bullock driver called to them not to hurt him as he was my pet emu; if they heard, they did not heed, and one of them fired, Joe, did not mind the report, as he is well used to the cracking of stockwhips, he kept on running close to their horse’s heads; - two other shots were fired, with the same effect, so far as Joe was concerned, not so the constable's horse, the last ball having taken effect in his neck. The two policemen came to their barracks much excited, saying that they had been attacked by eight bushrangers, who had shot the horse, one of them galloped to Forbes (nearly 36 miles), and reported the attack. Four troopers came out, but the yarn was too lame, added to which the bullock driver and Billy Lambert saw the whole fun. When he heard the story he went to inquire the truth of the matter and saw the mark of the powder on the horse's mane and neck. The men were both arrested and taken to Forbes. No doubt they would have sworn to the tale of the bushrangers if it had not been proved to the contrary.  "Joe" came home this morning as well as ever. 

Both troopers were dismissed from the force.

Inspector Sanderson
c. 1896
The ever-present threat and anticipation of encountering Ben Hall and his associates led to a mounting sense of tension and frustration among the police force. Even the most respected officers were not immune to these pressures. This was exemplified in an incident that occurred in June 1863 involving the well-regarded 'Hero of Wheogo', Inspector Sanderson.

Mrs Allport, who owned a lodging house in Forbes and had formerly operated Allport's shanty, where Daley and Hall had been pursued by Constable Hollister and Billy Dargin in February 1863, lodged a complaint against Inspector Sanderson. She alleged that Sanderson had unlawfully broken into her home, physically harassed her tenants, and caused damage to her property.

Mrs Allport, who was known to have had previous dealings with Ben Hall, represented one of many challenges that law enforcement officers faced in their pursuit of the bushrangers. These complications, combined with the constant threat of encountering Ben Hall and his gang, created an environment of high stress and pressure for the police. As a result, even highly esteemed officers like Inspector Sanderson found themselves in situations that tested their judgement and conduct. The incident was reported in 'The Lachlan Miner' on 24th June 1863:
The Lachlan Miner of June 24 gives us a rather amusing account of the freaks of inspector Sanderson, of the police force. It appears the gallant inspector was charged before the Police Magistrate with going to the house of one Margaret Allport, drunk and threatening to burn it down. He first said, he was a bushranger, Ben Hall, then O’Meally; he broke in the door, smashed some crockery and then made a tour of inspection through the sleeping rooms, dragged one man out of bed by the hair, &c. The bench, however, did not believe that Mr. Sanderson intended to burn the house and decided that the action was stale from effluxion of time, three weeks having elapsed, and concluded by this remarkable observation—"The police had a very onerous duty to perform, and, in carrying out their instructions, did no doubt at times bring about some inconvenience. The defendant paid for the crockery." If the onerous duty of the police consists of following Sanderson's example, we think the sooner they are relieved of it the better.

In the midst of these challenging times, the anxiety and fear incited by the menace of the Weddin Mountains gang had permeated far beyond the police officers actively patrolling the bush or the inspectors conducting invasive searches. Even officials stationed in distant districts found themselves affected, leading to behaviours that served only to tarnish their reputations further among their peers and the broader public.

This collective apprehension was so profound that even the mere utterance of the term 'bushranger' could trigger an intense response. This phenomenon was humorously illustrated in an incident where the mere mention of the term provoked an immediate and somewhat comical reaction, revealing the pervasive anxiety that had permeated the ranks of law enforcement during this tumultuous period. Reported by the Goulburn Herald:

An exceedingly good story is current in Braidwood which is very creditable to the gallantry of a certain sub-inspector in one of the coast districts. It is reported that this worthy and some of his subordinates, armed at all points exactly cap-a-pie, were returning some time ago from the Gulf diggings, when the chief's revolver which was swung very closely to the caparisons of his steed, exploded. Upon the first shot being discharged, the alarmed inspector, who in happier times was noted rather for the culling of simples and black draughts than for meddling with cold iron, rushed frantically into the bush, believing that General Gardiner and his mob of brigands, were upon him. "Mercy! mercy!" he ejaculated as pop went another barrel of his tormentor. "Would you shoot me down in cold blood?" was the terrified response at the next discharge, and so on until the whole contents of the revolver were spent, amid the suppressed laughter and ill-repressed jeers of his accompanying corps. Fortunately, however, the inspector, whose every hair was blanched with fear at the unexpected occurrence, came out of the affair unhurt; but it is said the effect upon his imagination has been such as to render him very chary of all bush duty since. In every bush, he fears a Gardiner. His dreams by night and reveries by day are tinged with gloomy reminiscences of the ridiculous misadventure he once experienced, and which he is loath to fancy, malgre the assurance of his doughty companions in arms, can have been anything but a veritable encounter with the terrible darkie of the Weddin Mountains. 

Sanderson's court appearance and the verdict is linked below.
Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle
Saturday 11th July 1863
NSW Police Gazette 
17th June 1863.
The police force, despite its ranks and numbers, was at a constant disadvantage against the bushrangers. The knowledge of the land, the expertise in bushcraft, and the superior quality of their horses and firearms gave the outlaws a critical edge. Even the Aboriginal trackers aiding the police were far behind the bushrangers' deft navigation of the terrain.

Adding to the police's woes, they were frequently met with a 'Cone of Silence' from locals, who refrained from betraying the outlaws that often ensured their livelihood. This, combined with severe criticism over the police's failure to prevent the murder of Mr Cirkel, created an image of the police force being tainted with cowardice.

In response to this criticism, and in an attempt to honour the promises of the Colonial Secretary, Charles 'Slippery Charley' Cowper, the authorities in Sydney bolstered police presence in the Western districts. The intent was clear - to arrest or shoot down any bushranger, sending a strong message to the renegade outlaws:

Townspeople are really so uncharitable as to call the police a lot of muffs and cowards, and that they ought to wear crinoline.

However, this mobilisation spurred Ben Hall and his gang to even bolder, more audacious acts of lawlessness. By mid-May 1863, authorities found themselves in the throes of the gang's escalating violence, their brutality reaching far and wide across localities, sparing no one. The gang, often riding on the finest thoroughbreds, would frequently taunt the police, engaging in verbal altercations and daring them into futile chases. John Gilbert often led these rounds of ridicule.

The authorities suffered yet another setback on the 29th May 1863 when the charges against Henry Gibson, an accomplice of Ben Hall who was apprehended with the help of an informant, Charles Zahn (also known as Herring), were dropped due to lack of evidence. The Attorney-General ordered Gibson's release. However, Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was present at the proceedings, immediately re-arrested Gibson, taking him to Forbes to face a different charge.

Aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute. 

In the Sydney Morning Herald of 2nd June 1863, Gibson's circumstances and link to Hall were reported: 

The supposed notorious bushranger, Henry Gibson, alias "Parker," against whom a charge of "suspicion of highway robbery" had been preferred by detective Coward on the 8th of April, and also a further charge of attacking (in company with others) a station near Marengo on the 26th March last, belonging to a Mr Broughton, on which latter occasion it appeared by the evidence that the supposed bushranging party in question had simply demanded breakfast, which had been accordingly prepared for them by the inmates at the hut, when they left, bidding each other "good day" - and who had been committed from this place for trial at the next Goulburn Circuit Court on both of the supposed serious offences, the full particulars of which appeared in your several issues of the 17th and 27th April - suddenly made his appearance in the town in propria persona, to the no small astonishment of many persons. I have been given to understand that the Attorney-General had directed his discharge, not, however, without good grounds for so doing, as on reading over the depositions there was nothing upon which he could file a bill - either this step or an acquittal could alone have been anticipated, and no doubt a very proper course had been taken by the Attorney-General in adopting the former alternative.

However unfortunately for Gibson, the presence of Sir Frederick Pottinger here had no very great advantage in his favour, inasmuch as he was speedily deprived of the sweets of liberty before he had enjoyed many hours of fresh air, having been arrested on a warrant issued by the police magistrate, and brought before him on Tuesday, charged with "having on or about the month of March, and divers other occasions, harboured, aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute."

Sir Frederick Pottinger, who sat on the bench, and not only acted in the capacity of a prosecutor but appeared in the witness-box against the prisoner, to prove that he knew the prisoner before the court, had frequently seen him at Ben Hall's house and had tracked him to a place where he was in company with Mrs M'Guire (supposed to be the wife of another notorious bushranger), urged that he might be remanded to Forbes, where there was a witness who would prove that he was actually in company with the before-mentioned notorious characters. Mr Prendergast, who appeared for the prisoner, vainly endeavoured to show that there was no ground for the prisoner's arrest, that the warrant was informal, because no specific charge was laid against the prisoner, and neither time or place alluded to. As a matter, of course, the prisoner was remanded to Forbes in order that there might be a charge with a specific offence proved against him. 

With the heightened police presence, several locals known to be associated with the bushrangers sought their chance at infamy. These were often youths seeking quick money or notoriety. But as quickly as they appeared, they vanished, leaving Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally, and Fred Lowry as the core of the bushranging group in Lachlan.

Unabated, Ben Hall and his companions continued their reign of terror. They rampaged through local stores with a startling intensity, the police struggling to keep pace. Lambing Flat Goldfields and its surrounding settlements bore the brunt of these attacks, with the gang often firing indiscriminately and abusing innocent citizens and business owners without remorse.

On June 9th, 1863, Hall and his gang, accompanied by several unknown youths, attacked several stores in Lambing Flat. One of the shopkeepers who suffered under Hall's onslaught was named M'Connell. During this attack, Hall brazenly fired his revolver, spraying M'Connell's establishment with bullets and narrowly missing the inhabitants who were sleeping inside. It was reported:

How the besieged escaped death is a miracle.

A report of the attack appeared in 'The Sydney Morning Herald', Tuesday 9th June 1863; 

Last night there was a general attack made by bushrangers on several stores situated on the Main Creek. O'Brien's and McCarthy’s stores were stuck up. M'Connell's was also broken into, but before they succeeded in obtaining an entrance, the bushrangers actually fired sixteen bullets through the galvanized iron with which the store is built. A considerable sum of money and stores were taken. Heffernan’s public-house, distant about five miles, and Regan's, about twelve miles, were afterwards visited. The well-known trio, GILBERT, O'MEALLY, and HALL were recognised amongst the mob, which consisted of six or seven men. 

A correspondent was soon on the scene and reported the number of gunshots fired by Hall:

Bushranging has again broken out in all its former audacity-in fact, eclipsing any previous performances. M'CONNELL'S store, which bore the brunt of the attack, is perfectly riddled. I counted twenty-one bullet holes through the bedroom.

For the M'Connell's, it was truly a close call and only through a miracle no one was killed, even their sleeping child! 'Courier' 24 June 1863:

M'Connells having shut up their store, and not feeling over desirous in coming in contact with armed bushrangers at that time of night. M'Connell, in spite of their threats to blow the place down, positively refused to let them in, and thereupon they fired upon the premises no less than twenty-one shots, all of which perforated through the walls, the material of which is of zinc manufacture and passed into the premises, one of the bullets which were handed to me having passed through no less than four sheets of that material, and afterwards into adjoining premises over the head of a child, who miraculously escaped any injury, although the ball passed within a few inches of where it was sleeping.

Failing in gaining admission after firing at the store, the party set to work to break in the front door, which was easily accomplished, and as resistance was now useless, and no police were at hand, one of the M'Connells, in reply to the demand of "Your money or your life," handed over the contents of the cash-box (about £15).

It is only surprising that some lives had not been sacrificed to the daring villainy of this gang - many bullets must have passed within a few feet and probably inches of where the M'Connells were located in the store, two of them being there at the time, as they might reasonably have expected every minute to meet their death. A coat which belonged to one of them, and which was hanging up at the time, was entirely riddled with bullet holes, and how they escaped injury is a miracle.

Full details of the attack are linked below.
Sydney Mail
Saturday 20th June 1863.

Typical Colt revolver
cylinder with
percussion cap nipples.
In stark contrast to his reputation as the so-called 'Gentleman Bushranger,' Ben Hall exhibited a willingness to use violence to get what he wanted. As illustrated by the above incidents, he did not hesitate to fire his revolvers at properties, or even at people who staunchly resisted his demands for their valuables. It was a grim game of chance, resembling a 'Turkey Shoot,' where victims were left to the mercy of providence to escape unscathed. This violent tendency challenged the romanticised image of Hall, revealing a more ruthless and dangerous character underneath.

The prevalence of misfires, a common problem with the firearms of that era, was a major concern for both the bushrangers and the New South Wales police. Misfires could happen due to a number of reasons, but they posed a significant risk, often turning the tide in gunfights and affecting their outcomes.

The weapon of choice for most bushrangers and police officers in New South Wales was the .36 calibre Colt 1851 Navy Revolver, a six-shot, single-action, percussion-cap revolver. This firearm was favored due to its availability, brought into the Australian goldfields by American miners from the mid-1850s. This revolver's ammunition load included a round lead ball weighing around 80 grams, ignited by a crimped fulminate percussion cap that ignited roughly 30 grains of black powder. The bullet's velocity was about 1,000 feet per second when fired.

Carbines were also used, which included a ready-made paper cartridge that was ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber, similar to the revolvers. Despite the potential for misfires, these weapons were crucial to both the bushrangers and the police, often determining the outcome of their encounters.
(See video link below for a demonstration.)
This short video is a great illustration of how the bushrangers loaded their revolvers.
Courtesy of  DrakeGmbH channel YouTube.
Reputed revolver of Ben Hall,
five-shot, .31 calibre, 5" barrel
1849 Pocket Colt revolver.
The sighting system of these revolvers was rather primitive, relying on a tapered brass cone located at the front end of the barrel and a V-shaped notch grooved into the back of the hammer's head. Despite its simplicity, when used by a practiced hand, these revolvers could be devastatingly accurate and destructive.

However, misfires were a common problem due to several reasons. For instance, the percussion cap might not be crimped onto the nipple correctly, or the black powder could be under-loaded or damp, which would prevent the firearm from discharging properly. Overloading the cylinder with black powder was equally problematic and could cause the cylinder to explode.

The safety mechanism on these revolvers was basic and consisted of positioning the hammer between the nipples of the cylinder. This prevented the hammer from striking a percussion cap unintentionally. It was also common for bushrangers like Ben Hall to carry multiple pre-loaded cylinders that could be quickly interchanged, allowing for rapid reloading in the heat of battle.

Apart from the popular Colt revolvers, Ben Hall also sought after the highly prized English-made Tranter and Adams revolvers. These firearms, particularly those with double triggers, were considered superior in terms of their reliability and accuracy.

This clip is the sound of an 1851 Navy Colt firing.

NSW Police Gazette
 3 June 1863.
While Ben Hall was in ascendance in the Lachlan. At Murrurundi, another of his siblings, older brother Edward Hall, was again arrested for 'Compounding A Felony'.

Note: A criminal offence consisting of accepting a reward or other consideration in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute or reveal a felony committed by another. Compounding a felony is encompassed in statutes that make compounding offences a crime.

However, after the robbery at M'Connell's, Ben Hall boasted that:

They did not fear the police who they said, we're afraid of them and declared that they would never be taken alive, in their own words, that, as they knew they would have to swing-when taken, they would sell their lives as dearly as possible.¹⁰⁶

NSW Police Gazette
 11th June 1863.
Indeed, having siblings or close family members in the area would have provided Ben Hall with an additional layer of support and protection. Although there is no record of Robert Hall's direct involvement in any of Ben Hall's bushranging activities, his presence in the area during Ben's criminal activities may have been a source of familial support or perhaps even an attempt to persuade his elder brother to abandon his life of crime.

In the same area, the presence of his other brothers, William and Thomas, might have further offered Ben Hall aid or at least a form of passive support by providing information about the police's activities or other useful intelligence.

However, it is also worth noting that family members might not have approved of Ben Hall's criminal lifestyle. It's entirely possible that their presence was a source of tension, as they may have attempted to convince Ben to cease his bushranging activities.

In many ways, the involvement or presence of family members could have added another layer of complexity to Ben Hall's life as a bushranger. They might have provided support, but they could also have been a source of potential risk if they chose to cooperate with the authorities or if they were targeted as a means of reaching Ben. The reality of the situation likely falls somewhere in between these scenarios, with the relationships between Ben Hall and his brothers characterized by a mix of familial loyalty, personal conflicts, and practical considerations related to survival.
Robert had been released from Maitland Gaol after serving a six months’ sentence for:

Illegally using 2 bullocks the property of Alexander Brodie J.P. and Fred White J.P.

Robert Hall Maitland Gaol Entrance Book December 1862
Police Gazette, the horse, stolen by Robert Hall.
John Gilbert
c. 1861.
Coloured by me.
An article appeared in the 'EMPIRE' covering the latest in bushranger atrocities in the Young District where once more the correspondents were incredulous at how easy Ben Hall moved from one business robbery to another, June 9th, 1863:

Bushranging has again appeared in all its pristine vigour and reckless audacity. Unmolested, proceeding down the Main Creek to Heffernan's public house, where they had drinks, taking with them a revolver, a silver watch, and seven bottles of brandy. They then visited Regan's Hotel, near White's station singing as they approached the house, the very appropriate song of O'er the hills and far away.
Such is a true and correct account of this said, of which I was, as far as the Flat is concerned, an eye witness. The camp being less than one mile from the scene of this outrage, a body of police arrived about midnight, being nearly an hour and a half after the robbers had decamped, (a strong proof of their alacrity and usefulness,) expressed their wonder at the bullet holes through the store. Looked for foot-prints, asked a lot of stupid questions, accompanying them with a sapient nod or a cunning look, but never attempted to move one step in pursuit of the ruffians. Why in heaven's name are the people of the colony taxed heavily to support such a useless, stupid, herd of fellows? On the Monday previous, Gilbert and Co., as I informed you, stuck up two stores, not one-quarter of a mile from the camp, now they plunder four stores, and several men, less than one mile, and ride off with their booty without the slightest attempt being made to pursue them. That clever detective, Inspector Singleton asked why did not the miners keep fire-arms, and use them on the bushranger’s when they paid a visit, but never attempted to do what a man would do, follow them. We have been promised for some time back great performances by the police, well-laid traps were being laid for the various gangs who infest the district; the police were gradually but surely "hemming them in," and in a few weeks would show what a plover fellow Superintendent Zouch was; when the word bushranger was used in the presence of the police, it was sure to evoke an expressive wink or a sapient nod. But this pitiful humbugging has been rudely exposed, and the glorying incompetency of the present police force to repress this species of crime by the outrages committed by the gang of ruffians under the leadership of Johnny Gilbert.

Goldfield miners meeting.
c. 1863.
Courtesy NLA.
Does it require more lives to be sacrificed ere the people of this district obtain that security for life and property which should be characteristic of every British community? I tremble for the consequences of another murder such as Cirkel’s. Retribution will follow that will strike terror to the heart if every ruffian who has outraged law and society, for the last eighteen months with impunity. The pent-up indignation of an outraged population will rush forth in such a stream as will carry before it the feeble barrier now existing between constituted authority and Judge Lynch. I will say no more, but utter a solemn warning to the Government, to be warned in time to take proper measures for the repression for this tide of crime before it is too late. A very cheap offer to capture Gardiner, Gilbert, and the other less distinguished members of this firm, was made by a goldfields official, whose plethora of pluck led him to accompany that brave body of police who visited the scene of action. The following is the offer verbatim-"I am a 72-inch native. If the Government will give me £1000, I will resign my gold commissionership, and guarantee to hand Gardiner over to them in one month, the others to soon follow. I recommend this cheap offer to the earnest consideration of Mr Cowper, as an easy way of ridding himself and us of so great an annoyance. I can give no guarantee, but I hope his native youth will not be like a Pottinger, a Norton, or Shadforth, great in words but contemptible in deeds. At all events as his energies appear to be misdirected, why not transfer him to the police force station, at the Weddin Mountains, and let him try his hand at thief catching.¹⁰⁷

(See Gallery page for the song or click the link below, a fun ditty.)

NSW Colonial Secretary
Charles Cowper.
However, the Cowper Government, already facing no-confidence motions in the NSW Parliament regarding the struggling reforms of the new Police Act of 1862. Included accusations over financial mismanagement. Mr Cowper faced the June 1863 Parliamentary Sessions under close scrutiny. The press also continually harassed the government and brought the question of settler safety to the forefront of the public mind.

Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, with Gilbert reported to be leading the trio, appeared nonplussed over the government's difficulties and attempt to seize them and continued to ride roughshod over the small towns and outlying stations procuring all that they fancied day and night. Satisfied in their work, the bushrangers holed up for days at the homes of many friends, only too willing to offer them a safe harbour. For an innocent local, just going about the countryside in 1863 was fraught with danger:

THE approaching session of Parliament is no doubt looked forward to with great interest by an important section of the community the gentlemen with grievances. Prominent among these stands the people of Burrangong. For many months past, they have almost enjoyed a monopoly of the terror and panic created by the bushrangers. The place seems to have become the headquarters of all the ruffians in the district. Making every reasonable allowance for exaggeration in the reports which have poured in upon us, there remains no room to doubt that life and property are utterly insecure. The most audacious outrages are still committed with impunity. There is hardly a store which has not been plundered. None of the ruffians who have gained so much vile celebrity has yet been brought to justice. The promise of their bright career remains as fresh and cloudless as ever. A short time ago, we were told that the Government was in motion at last and that the fate of these scoundrels was decreed. Troops of police were to be despatched at once, and the whole district was to be effectually cleared. Days and weeks, however, have rolled away, and things remain just as they were. The police are as powerless, the bushrangers as bold and daring as ever. The local paper informs us of a series of outrages which, after all, that has been said, may fairly be considered startling.

This is a frightful state of things; We appear to be surrounded by these desperadoes; the roads, in all directions, are infested with them; safe travelling is almost impossible; life and property are insecure; the business of all kinds will, ere long, be completely paralysed; and what is done will have to be confined to the township alone. If this is to be the result of the famous New Police Act, the sooner it is repealed the better, for it appears to be a curse instead of a blessing to the colony. The ridiculous, military parade attached to it is looked upon with contempt. We do not attach the blame to the police. They are obliged to obey the orders they receive and do their duty. Even supposing they captured any of these noted robbers, the reward does not go to the individuals, but to the police fund. The heavy expense of the prosecution in attending the Criminal Courts, either in Goulburn or Sydney, fall upon them, for out of their small pay they must disburse it. The time has now arrived when some alteration in the police system must be effected. It is scarcely, necessary to add any comments of our own to this. At the outset, we prophesied the failure of the New Police Act. Every incident in connection with it has conspired to expose its fallacy. Eighteen months have now elapsed. We were told that the new system required time in order to develop the full bloom of its beauty. It has had time enough. There is nothing which can be urged in its favour, we trust, for the credit of the colony, that the approaching session will witness a radical alteration in its provisions.¹⁰⁸

Furthermore, on information the police received of bushranger activity through their sources, Inspectors arrived at various towns not only in pursuit of the criminals but for the town social functions. These events were predominately horse race meetings—Ben Hall and John Gilbert's known favourite pastime. Horse races throughout Australia were exceptionally well attended, with local citizens pouring onto the bush tracks. A welcome distraction from the mundane life of bush settlements or remote farms.

The events often ran over three days with different monetary purses up for grabs, some above 100 guineas (£210). The highlights of these well-attended meetings were the popular one on one races between local champion horses with side bets abounding. The festivities didn't end at the track with evening dancing, dinners and ale's flowing. 

It was, as well, a chance for the ladies to adorn their most elegant fashions. Not only locals turned out, but the bushrangers arrived incognito in search of prospective thoroughbred mounts or to place wagers and enjoy their notoriety shielded from police by those who held sympathy towards them. For John Gilbert, the races were a chance to wear his most stylish female attire as a disguise. As reported:

Gilbert, it is well known that he attended the last Young races, mounted on horseback, disguised in a lady's riding habit, hat and feather. His smooth, good-looking face much assists him in this respect.

However, in hope of securing the bushrangers, the police also checked in as well, and in many cases, acted as race stewards and officials. Sir Frederick Pottinger was one such officer who would not let a good race meeting pass him by. Arriving at one such event at Lambing Flat simultaneously as the bushrangers were looting some of the local stores; 'Empire', 13th June 1863.  However, for Sir Frederick, the love of a good race would in the future, cost him dearly:

The three days races passed off very quietly, although the sport was very fair, and the attendance pretty numerous; yet the scarcity of money threw a damper on that hilarious spirit so necessary to enjoy a race meeting. Sir Frederick Pottinger, as usual, created much amusement by appearing on the racecourse with blankets, strapped on before him on the saddle; a quart pot, a pair of hobbles; and a pair of handcuffs, being artistically arranged around other parts of his saddle. His man Friday, in the shape of a black tracker, followed him. The who o, to use a much-hackneyed phrase "forming a unique sight which must be seen to be fully appreciated. 

Ridicule of the good inspector was ever-present since the fiasco with Gardiner at Kitty Brown's in 62.

Furthermore, race meetings aside, the Australian bush for the uninitiated was an unforgiving environment. Whereas for the native-born Australian bushranger, the landscape was hearth and home. However, many police were recruited from Ireland and England. Therefore, the  Australian bush for those men could be an unrelenting nightmare. Police recruits were also drawn from as far afield as America and Canada. As a result, these raw immigrants were often referred to as new chums. For some troopers, their bushranger work in an unfamiliar scrub cost them their lives as they succumbed to impenetrable hills and valley's or while fording flooded streams. 'The Sydney Morning Herald' Wednesday 4th March 1863: 

On Wednesday last a trooper, named Jeremiah O'Horregan, was drowned in the Lachlan River, in the immediate vicinity of the baths. Deceased had been on special business, and was returning from the Weddin Mountain to Forbes. On reaching the crossing-place at the Lachlan River, he found the river flooded; but, heedless of the danger of attempting to cross under such circumstances, he pushed his horse into the stream. It appears the horse was carried down a short distance by the current, when O'Horregan (who had very little experience in swimming a horse) checked his charger with the rein, instead of allowing it to make for the opposite bank, according to its own instincts. The result was the horse rolled over, and the rider was pitched into the river. O'Horregan, being unable to swim, sank immediately, and was drowned, notwithstanding the effort of a couple of blackfellows (who happened to be on the bank at the time) to rescue him. The body was recovered by the blacks about three hours after; and an inquest was held on Wednesday evening before D. W. Irving, Esq., where a verdict of accidentally drowned was returned.

The naivety of other migrants' understanding of the Australian interior's wilds was also prevalent, as these new chums often travelled alone through the bush from Goldfield to Goldfield, town to town and wrestled with the vast dryness or flooded plains and its dangerous creatures. It was, to say the least, intimidating. Inexperience could be life-threatening, as was the case of a migrant miner from a faraway land crossing from one digging to another who lost his way. From the 'Pastoral Times' 9th June 1863:

One of those too frequent cases, being lost in the bush, occurred some short time since beyond Booligal, on the plain between the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers. A few days ago, the police at Booligal received information that the remains of a man were found on the plain, on preceding to the spot the bones of a human being were found, with a Passport in the German language, and a slip of paper, on which was written in pencil, "Died want of water" It is supposed the unfortunate deceased attempted to cross from river to river, and perished in the effort for want of water, This sad result should be a caution to others not to venture beyond a certain distance on dry plains.

The same was said of the police as a newspaper observed of the lack of experience faced by the new Police of New South Wales up against those native youth 'Born in the Saddle':

The troopers are, for the most part, unacquainted with the country, as a rule, the men were not good bushmen, nor were they good Bush riders, in fact, unless men were trained to bush riding they would never be good at it, for it was a very different thing from riding in the streets of Sydney.¹⁰⁹

Robert's 'Currowang Station'
stables. c. 1863.
Courtesy Young Witness.
Subsequently, for those new to the outback, death was everywhere. On the 18th June 1863, Ben Hall with John O'Meally stole the racehorse's Mickey Hunter and Chinaman from Mr Roberts' 'Currowang station'. Unfortunately for Mr Robert's over the next few years, he would receive numerous raids for good horses by the gang:

These lawless desperadoes are carrying on their depredations with such barefaced impudence in the district surrounding Lambing Flat, that people begin to imagine that the police endeavour to their utmost to avoid an encounter with them. The last exploit that has occurred, or rather that we have heard of, is the entrance of two of the gang, well-armed, upon the premises of Mr James Roberts, at Currawong, near Murrumburrah, on last Thursday evening, at seven o'clock. They forced an entrance into the stables and rode off with the race-horses, Mickey Hunter and Chinaman. It is only a short time since the latter animal was stolen and subsequently recovered by Inspector Shadforth. Gilbert seems determined to have his bodyguard well mounted.-- Yass Courier. (A telegram to Empire states that Sub-inspector Wolfe was in the house at the time the horses were stolen.) Mr Sub Inspector Wolfe was at the time enjoying his pipe and glass in Mr Robert's hospitable parlour, but, on the appalling discovery, he gallantly rushed out, and with the presence of mind equal only to the rashness of his valour-locked the stable door! Verily all our police Wolves are innocent Lambs!¹¹⁰

NSW Police Gazette.
Having escaped with two valuable racehorses under the very nose of a visiting police inspector. On the 21st of June 1863, Ben Hall's associate, John Gilbert, was associated with murder. John Gilbert was named as an accomplice along with another of the gang, Fred Lowry. Gilbert and Lowry's heinous offence was the mortal wounding of a favourite miner named M'Bride, shot after M'Bride was mistaken as a police trooper:

It is with feelings of the deepest indignation and humiliation that I forward you the particulars of the outrage perpetrated on last Sabbath morning by those two archfiends Gilbert and Lowry, which, I regret to say, has resulted in the death of Mr John M'Bride, a highly respected miner resident on the Twelve Mile Rush. It appears that, while on his way to Young, and when near Duffer Gully, he was "stuck up" by Gilbert and Lowry and having, unfortunately for himself, a revolver with him, he showed fight, and sold his life bravely. He fired five shots at the two ruffians, but without any apparent effect; and, having but one more shot left, he made for a tree and stood his ground nobly. The bushrangers separated one each side of the tree, and fired nine shots at him, the sixth shot wounding him mortally in the thigh. Poor M'Bride still stood up, moving around the tree, marking his tracks with his life's blood, till, firing his last shot through Lowry's hat, he fell exhausted and dying. Gilbert then dismounted, rifled the dying man's pockets, and, taking his revolver, the two rode off, laughing.¹¹¹

Croaker's Inn, NSW Police
Gazette, 8 July 1863.
A few days after, Gilbert and Lowry had mortally wounded Mr M'Bride, who died during a rough cart ride to Lambing Flat hospital in agony and suffering for many hours from the inflicted wounds. Gilbert, later at a shanty, attempted to sell the pistol of M'Bride's. However, there were no takers.

When informed that M'Bride was no policeman, a stunned Gilbert maintained that he shot at the man's pistol arm and hit him in a vital spot by accident. Gilbert is to have said afterwards:

I'm sorry for this, I've never wanted to kill a man, especially a brave bloke like this feller.

O'Meally was wrongly reported at the miner's confrontation. However, O'Meally was in company with Ben Hall on Sunday, 28th June 1863. The pair robbed Gordon’s coach at Croaker's Inn. (See right.) Next, they held up a shopkeepers boy:

A storekeeper's assistant was stopped while crossing the Main Creek, about half a mile from the town, about noon to-day by two armed men, well mounted. He was ordered to get off his horse and deliver up his cash.¹¹²

NSW Police Gazette
8 July 1863.
On the 29th June, it was reported in the NSW Police Gazette regarding a perpetrator closely fitting Ben Hall's description, of being alone riding the stolen racehorse 'Mickey Hunter' and robbing an employee of Young storekeeper Miles Murphy of 11½ dwt of gold, a £1 note and 27s in silver. (see article left)

To disseminate the bushranger news effectively, the telegraph, much like the veins of a body carrying oxygen, issued instant reports of the bushrangers daring deeds. In an effort to thwart information of their operations, the bushrangers commenced cutting down the telegraph wires and the poles supporting them. For the first time, the bushrangers were taking an active part in limiting the new power of information reaching authorities.  'Sydney Mail', 4th July 1863:

Another precaution taken by the desperadoes on Sunday morning was that of cutting the telegraph wires which communicate with this district and the metropolis by way of Forbes, at a place about eighteen miles from Bogolong, and carrying away some portion of it, which accounts for my not getting my telegram through on Sunday; and there is no doubt that if the present state of things exists much longer telegraphic communication will be entirely stopped.

Furthermore, as alluded to earlier the bush telegraphs employed by the bushrangers were the primary source of information on the comings and goings of persons carrying valuables. Many storekeepers who traversed the country roads sweated on circumventing contact with Ben Hall and his mates whereby with the towns' remoteness and an inadequate police presence was worrisome. Many kept their movements secret. On top of that, many people searched for fellow travellers whose company often provided protection or, if very lucky, the possibility of them joining a police patrol heading their way. 

It was reported of one such occasion, where a storekeeper from Lambing Flat had procured some gold at Wombat, a small settlement eight miles south of Young and faced a dilemma for his transit to Young and a safe return to his home. Luckily to his good fortune, a local police patrol appeared like saviours, and he immediately joined the troopers. However, a secret is only safe between two people if one of them is dead therefore for the traveller Ben Hall was undoubtedly appraised of the good shopkeepers' secret and movements, and his rich purse were with his mates in tow Hall waited near the road ready to pounce. For the traveller, the sudden police protection became invaluable:

About four days ago a certain Lambing Flat storekeeper went to Wombat to purchase gold; having been rather successful, he, under the existing state of the highway, naturally became anxious about his precious charge, consequently looked around for protection, when he, fortunately, espied trooper Murphy and three others proceeding towards Young. When near the Stony Creek, one of the police exclaimed: "By Jove there they are," looking in the direction pointed out, where, sure enough, were seen to be four bushrangers, viz., Gilbert, J. O'Meally, Lowry, and Hall. The rascals were on the side of a rather thickly timbered range, and were lying flat on their horse’s backs, gazing at their wished-for prey (the storekeeper) and, I've no doubt, licking their lips and cursing their bad luck and the escort. However, Murphy and his mates dashed at them helter-skelter, over hill and dale, the troopers occasionally taking a snapshot with their carbines. The police, being pretty well mounted, for the first mile-and-a-half held their ground bravely, but ultimately got distanced and had to pull up with their cattle completely blown. An eye-witness informs me that the pace of the bushrangers' horses was tremendous, particularly Gilbert's Jacky Morgan, which went like the wind.¹¹³

'The Darkey'
Mid-1863, newspapers still heralded the name of Frank Gardiner despite the fact he was long gone. However, Gardiner's disappearance was treated in the press as some sort of CEO resignation of a major corporation. The 'Illawarra Mercury' reported the following tongue-in-cheek comment regarding the transfer of bushranging duties from Frank Gardiner to the gang's new CEO John Gilbert. Promoted to the leadership of the South Western districts in July 1863. Gilbert's wide notoriety as Gardiner's lieutenant naturally had the press give the rogue the group's title of the heir apparent:

It appears that the famous bushranger, Gardiner, has somehow backed out of his bushranging business, and retired from public life, leaving his associate Gilbert at the head of the concern. "Bell's Life" in Sydney, not unhappily hits off this change in the following notice:- "The public is respectfully informed that the partnership hitherto existing between Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, and John O’Meally, 'Road Contractors,' trading in the South-Western districts under the style of 'Gardiner, Gilbert, and Co' was this day dissolved by mutual consent; and that the business will in future be carried on by the said John Gilbert and John O’Meally, as 'Gilbert and Company,' who will pay all debts of gratitude due by the late firm, and collect all outstanding accounts. In retiring from business, Mr Frank Gardiner begs respectfully to tender his acknowledgements to the Government for the 'liberal' measure of support (the new Police Act) accorded to him since he has been in business. Mr Gardiner has also to express his sincere thanks to his friends, the 'gentlemen' of the police, for patronage they have ('unwittingly') bestowed upon him, and solicits a continuance of that support for his successors, in whom he has every confidence that the business will be conducted by them with the same promptitude and energy that distinguished the late firm. "In reference to the above, Messrs. Gilbert and Company beg to assure their friends and the public generally that no exertion shall be wanting on their parts to merit a continuance of the confidence placed in the late firm of Gardiner, Gilbert, and Co. Messrs. Gilbert and Company respectfully announce that whilst diligently attending to the Mails, it will be their constant study to treat the females with every courtesy and gentlemanly consideration. "**Racehorses purchased or exchanged on liberal terms." N.B.-Gin, of the finest quality, supplied to travellers gratis. "Weddin Mountain, 6th July 1863.¹¹⁴

Mrs Hammond.
 c. 1860.
However, M'Bride dead. The suspected killer Fred Lowry quickly bolted back to his old haunts at the Fish River. Gilbert and O’Meally, without Ben Hall, ventured together further south to the small farming community of Junee 'Bailing-up' some shops and farms. The first Junee raid occurred on the 7th July 1863;

Gilbert and O'Mealley stuck up a store and public-house at Junee on Wednesday last. They got away with their plunder. The police are now in pursuit.

While the two haunted Junee a new player, unknown to the gang, named Daniel Morgan, commenced his appearance in the Wagga Wagga region. However, in a letter from one of the victims of Gilbert and O'Meally's foray, Mr Hammond wrote to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' outlining the events regarding their Junee robbery dated 13th July 1863. John Hammond wrote:.

On Saturday, last Mr Gwyne, of the firm of Gwyne and Hammond, received from the latter gentleman a letter, in which he gave some particulars of the sticking up of a store at Junee, about twenty miles from Wagga Wagga, by Messrs. Gilbert and O’Meally. The letter is dated Junee, 7th July, and the passage referred to is as follows: -"It is but two hours ago, that the public-house store at Junee was stuck up by Gilbert and O’Meally, who robbed the place of goods and money to the amount of £50 or more. Mr Howell was also bailed up, and Albert just went to the store while they were there, and got bailed up too He, however, went outside and gave the robbers the slip, running down here as fast as he could. (Albert is the brother of John Hammond) We got a horse and started. I got two men, each armed with a gun, and we went up to see if we could take them; but we were too late, as, when they missed Albert, they galloped away. It being quite dark, they could not be followed till morning, when expecting the police will be too late. I got Arden to stop with Mrs H., while I was away, but she would, however, rather have gone with me.

NSW Police Gazette.
2 September 1863.
I do not think they will visit us, but we are on the alert. These are the men who are supposed to have shot a digger a few days since at Lambing Flat. They are well mounted and do not seem to stick at anything. I hope they will be taken, as no one is safe in this neighbourhood. They searched Albert, but got nothing; it was fortunate they did not see him escape, or they would probably have shot at him. 

Fred Lowry dead.
The photo was taken at
Goulburn Hospital. 1863.
Moreover, after M'Bride died from his wounds, Fred Lowry shot through from the Lachlan. Lowry bolted back to his familiar territory, the Abercrombie District. It was the second time Lowry had drawn an innocent man's blood.

Upon returning, Lowry re-joined his old Abercrombie comrades Larry Foley and Lawrence Cummings. Shortly after, the trio made their way to the foot of the Blue Mountains, and on the 13th July 1863, robbed the Mudgee Mail making off with £5000 ($420,000) in cash. However, when Fred Lowry separated from Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally it would be the last they would ever see of their compatriot, as within a few weeks after the Mudgee robbery, Fred Lowry would be cornered and mortally wounded by Senior Sergeant Stevenson on 29th August 1863 at Vardy's Inn, the Cook's Vale Creek. As Lowry lay dying and his lifeblood drained away, he wheezed the immortal last words! "Tell 'em, I died Game".¹¹⁵ (see Gang page.)
Lambing Flat Goldfield.
For enhanced view open
in New Tab.
Courtesy Young Historical Society.

M'Bride's murder had instigated a sudden split within the gang. Accordingly, rumours of constant disagreements between Hall and Gilbert regarding operations or who was calling the shots spread. Either way, Ben Hall bid adieu, resulting in Gilbert with O'Meally going out on their own. However, in the wake of the recent M'Bride killing, it had made the area around Young, as it had become for Lowry, too hot for the two wild colonial boys. Therefore, they shifted their swag sixty miles east to the Carcoar area. 

Arriving in the new operating area, Gilbert and O'Meally soon made their presence felt. The pair quickly sought out a local lad named John Vane, who was on the run and had been a former acquaintance of John O'Meally when stock-riding at the Weddin Mountains sometime earlier in 1861 was tapped on the shoulder to provide some help. As a consequence of renewing their mateship, Vane join-up with the two bushrangers and whose general knowledge of the surrounding countryside greatly benefited the two visiting bushrangers.

During the separation between Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall, Vane revealed in his biography that Ben Hall had moved to a locality outside of Young camping on a large sheep station named Mimmegong. When Vane eventually met Hall, he commented that Hall had him accompany him from Mimmegong to Young to retrieve some washing held at a lady's home:

Ben Hall asked me to accompany him to a place some miles distant, where he had left some shirts there to be washed, we rode there together and returned early afternoon.

Suffice to say, Ben Hall's former girlfriend Susan Prior and his daughter Mary, now almost five months old, had returned to Lambing Flat area with her mother Mary and younger sister Charlotte. Susan would, in due course, move to Burrowra.

When Ben Hall began a romance with Susan Prior her mother Mary had been in an abusive relationship with one George Pentrow. When the opportunity arose to flee the wretched man the women took the opportunity to live at Sandy Creek. However, with the home's incineration in March of 63, the women returned to Young and Pentrow was soon lurking. Unfortunately, Susan's youngest sister Charlotte, an eleven-year-old, was sexually molested by her mother's partner before their move and where terrified the young girl said nothing of the attack. However, upon revealing her violation George Pentrow was arrested on the 23rd of January 1863. Consequently, Pentrow was found Guilty and sentenced at the end of March 1863 to five years of hard labour on the roads. Pentrow had previously arrived from Hobart in company with Susan's mother. Upon sentencing, the judge commented:

Upon the scandalous behaviour of the prisoner, and observed that, if he was not misinformed, he had been formerly convicted in Tasmania, and had obtained some remission of his sentence. He was a person not fit to be at large, and it was necessary he should be secluded from society for some considerable time. The sentence of the court was that he be kept to hard labour on the roads or other public works of the colony for the term of five years.

For Charlotte, the horror of the events saw her take her own life at the age of 14 in 1864.

While Susan Prior was residing at Sandy Creek, her mother Mary had arrived with her unfortunate daughter Charlotte following the harrowing episode with Pentrow. The home also includes Susan's brother William. There were reports when the police believed that Ben's mother Eliza was living at Sandy Creek. Pottinger had attested, too, after the incineration of the home that left the women destitute. However, this was not the case!

The house was at the time occupied by Henry Gibson (notorious villain since committed), also illegally at large from Victoria, Mrs McGuire, and Hall's mother, and was daily frequented by bushrangers.¹¹⁷ 

Unfortunately, Pottinger's assessment was well off the mark as all evidence indicate Susan's mother Mary Prior was residing at Sandy Creek. No doubt to support Susan during the birth of Ben's daughter Mary in January 1863. During the trial of Pentrow, Mary Prior shed light on her knowledge of individual criminals stating that while living at Wheogo, she knew Ben Hall and the O'Meally's and other frequent visitors associated with bushranging.

Diggers at work c. 1862.
(Coloured by Me) 

Courtesy NLA.
In early 1863, Lambing Flat was still a booming goldfield with thousands of diggers scrounging the elusive metal. For Ben Hall, although notorious by reputation, was not as well known by sight.

Whereby Hall no doubt blended in smoothly amongst the large mining populace. An article was printed on the state of the goldfield demonstrating the easiness with which Hall could mingle amongst the multitudes while also conducting highway robbery at will against hard-pressed miners and storekeepers living in a rough and ready environment:

The total population numbers between four and five thousand, sufficient to support a large township if they were in any way centered or habituated within a reasonable distance of each other; but such is not the case. The population is scattered over a great extent of country, reaching (east and west) from Wombat to Blackguard Gully, a distance of fourteen miles, and from Back Creek to the last new rush (north and south) a distance of eighteen miles. This includes the whole of the Burrangong diggings. The diggings north of the Main Creek-consisting of Back Creek, Wombat, Little Wombat, Stoney Creek, Spring Creek, Victoria Gully, and Petticoat Flat were the first worked, and may now be said to be deserted; the European population generally working on the south side of the creek,-either on the Main Creek, Chance Gully, Three-mile Bathurst Hood Rush, Five-mile Bathurst Road Rush, Tipperary Gully, Duffer Gully, Hurricane Gully, or the last rush, named the Twelve-mile Rush.¹¹⁸ 

Furthermore, the miners were acutely aware of Ben Hall's presence, even if they were not sure of his appearance. Many were at their 'wit's end' in the wake of the bushrangers' most recent murderous actions by Gilbert, O'Meally and Lowry. Accordingly, the miners were stunned at the impunity with which these bushrangers wielded their six guns.

Impunity from justice as men sweated in the dust, dirt, and mud for hours, even days or weeks a few specks of gold, or the euphoria of a Eureka strike. All through backbreaking work. Then, as a result of all their hard-won reward and yakka to then be accosted at the end of a revolver, brandished by Ben Hall, who cared not a fig for their dogged effort and where Hall would have if needed shoot them as dead as a crow. The usual cry of the diggers was, "Where were the police!" However, the miners' anger over Hall's presence, then robbed without adequate police protection, was easily understood. 

As such there can be no honour in a man such as Ben Hall, who, through the vehicle of fear and abuse, stripped away the hard-won miner's reward, earned with their blood, sweat and tears. It would be enough to make anyone's blood boil. Not just the miners. As a result of the recent depredations of Hall, a general meeting of miners was called at the Burrangong Gold Field on the 4th of July 1863, for 3 pm, to petition the Colonial Secretary Cowper's New South Wales Government to take stronger action in defence of their lives and property:

The present position of this gold-field demands the instant attention of every inhabitant. An appeal to the Executive would be, no doubt, answered, and new dandies and new horse marines be sent, but these are not wanted. It depends upon the people to organize what is needed, they at least, in their selection will not abuse patronage, or count on prostituted votes. To meet this emergency, and exterminate these murderous Ishmaelite’s, we doubt not that good men and true will be found in our midst, who by this last outrage will be simulated to provide, at their own cost, a remedy, and leave us not even the opportunity of thanking the present administration. 

So frustrated were the correspondents over the police's lack of information and the general malaise amongst the troopers. An editorial covering the last few months of Ben Hall's activities was published and countered much of the misinformation from authorities. (See the link attached below.)
Saturday 4th July 1863
However, from the above articles glossing over it became apparent that the miner's subtle message demonstrate that the Lambing Flat goldfield populace had lost faith in the NSW Legislature. Therefore, a new vigilance and determination to extirpate Ben Hall's depredations were rising. The miners implied that they will take matters into their own hands by lynch law if their demand for punitive action and a better effort from the NSW police was not brought about. The debate led by prominent locals highlighted the fact that:

No person could leave his tent to go to a rush without being almost certain to be stuck-up and if he showed fight would perhaps be murdered. This feverish state of existence cannot be tolerated much longer.

Ben Hall, regardless of the miner's agitation, continued holding the roads and three days after the miners meeting on the 7th of July, 1863, Captain Zouch arrested two men who were in Ben Hall's company during a recent robbery:

Captain Zouch returned this afternoon, after being several days in the bush. He brought with him two men, who, in company with Ben Hall, had stuck up and robbed some teams on the Lachlan Road on Saturday last, 4th July 1863. Tuesday, July, 7th.—Chambers and M'Carthy, the bushrangers, were charged with sticking up, near Yass, were, brought up by the Police office, and remanded until tomorrow for further, evidence.¹¹⁹ 

Chambers was the former police constable dismissed in May, with Neilson, who it must be remembered, were the two troopers who had the gunfight with an Emu named Joe. The irony is that Chambers fell into crime with the very man he thought the Emu was, Ben Hall. Chambers was sent down for Highway Robbery, three years of hard labour.

Captain John McLerie
 of Police.

c. 1862
By July 15th, whilst bailing up travellers around Burrangong in the company of various miscreants, Ben Hall learnt that his archenemy, Sir Frederick Pottinger, had arrived at Young in time for another local race meeting:

Sir F. Pottinger arrived here this evening from the Lachlan. It is reported that two Chinese were stuck-up near Back Creek, but there are no other particulars about the robbery.¹²⁰

With Pottinger's arrival at Young, Hall withdrew to the remote back country of Mimmegong station. Sir Frederick Pottinger in constant contact with HQ in Sydney, forwarded the following telegram to the Inspector General’s office regarding his arrival and of the matter of the impending miner's petition, where he fibbed about the numbers present. Nobody wants to be seen in a bad light:

Arrived here last night at half-past six. Mr Zouch and Mr Singleton out with party since Thursday last, and not yet returned. I am unable as yet; and until Mr Zouch's return, to report fully to the Government on the state of the district. No report of any outrage has been received since my arrival; Saturday and Sunday have hitherto been favourite days for sticking up. A meeting was held yesterday at the Twelve Mile Rush-about 120 present-at which it was resolved to draw up a petition for signature by the miners, to be forwarded to the Government, relative to the prevalence of crime in the district.¹²¹

Consequently, Pottinger’s presence forced Ben Hall to depart his living arrangements with Susan Prior. Hall headed into the bush to Memmigong station to await the pending rendezvous with Gilbert and O'Meally Whose return had no doubt been bush telegraphed to Hall. Unknowing that Gilbert and O'Meally had recruited two new members John Vane and Michael 'Micky' Burke, to their merry band.

Furthermore, the wretched life Ben Hall had adopted in 1863 was summarised in the 'Sydney Mail' and gives a fantastic insight into his grim life outside the warm embrace of society which not only Hall but his contemporaries were suffering. 

Bushranging seems to be as rife as ever, at least so far as Gardiner and Gilbert and their followers are concerned. These scoundrels move from place to place, helping themselves wherever they go, and always successfully eluding pursuit. They are a great nuisance to the country as well as a great disgrace. Yet they are not to be envied even by those who are dazzled by a display of mock heroism. To be hunted about—never able to stay long in the same place—to be always in fear of treachery—to know none of the enjoyments of civilised life, none of the comforts of home—to be alarmed at the sound of every unexpected tread— to have no livelihood except what comes from fresh robbery, and to be always in danger of a struggle which may end in murder—this can hardly be a very jolly life. No doubt they are pretty well conscience hardened and try to cheat themselves as men in their circumstances will do. But in the bottom of their hearts, if the past could be all wiped out, they would be glad enough to be in a position to get honest wages by honest labour—to return to that enjoyment of society from which by their crimes, they have cut themselves off.¹²²

Unfortunately, a reversal of fortune was now out of reach for Hall, and with the onset of winter, the bitterly cold nights would have made the outdoors most uncomfortable for the bushranger; therefore, a remote Sheppard’s hut or cave would be a welcome relief:

Winter is now fairly upon us, and during the last week we have had the first instalment of snow, accompanied by a bitingly cold wind, and all the catarrhal afflictions such a state of weather usually induce.¹²³ 

Venturing out from Memmigong the following report appeared of a robbery at Possum Flat, Young on Monday 13th July, which after the recent arrest of Hall's two mates the bushranger was reported acting alone and in a desperate state for cash for his harbourers:

MESSRS. Throsby and Murphy were stuck-up this afternoon, on Possum Flat, near this township, by a man supposed to be Ben Hall. Fortunately, they had no money with them. The bushranger only exchanged his saddle for Mr Murphy's, and complained of the hard times, stating that he was very hard up, from the fact that no one now-a-days carried any money with them.¹²⁴

However, Pottinger’s presence had now become a hazard for the sticking up trade. Hall's comment on the lack of ready cash also alludes to the success of the 'Money Order' system. A system for the transfer of cash throughout the colony was starting to bite. This lack of cash being born by travellers was now impeding Ben Hall. After all, his need to pay his harbourers was ongoing.

Captain Zouch.
c. 1860
The two men captured earlier by Captain Zouch on the 6th July were subsequently named, including a court appearance of Ben Hall's earlier accomplice, young Jameison: 

Jamison, Smith, and Simpson - the latter two apprehended by Captain Zouch for sticking up drays in company with Ben Hall have been brought before the police court and remanded.¹²⁵

Furthermore, speculation was raised as to the whereabouts of unsighted Frank Gardiner and indicates the reporter had good sources and states finally what was now widely believed, that Gardiner had departed NSW:

The letter would not be perfect were I not to make mention of Gardiner. It has been the rule for many months to head paragraphs in the various country newspapers with "Gardiner and his gang", without any wish to shield Gardiner or the vagabonds who have committed these robberies, I think, if the fact is ever proved as to the whereabouts of Gardiner, it will be found that for at least the last nine months Gardiner has never been in New South Wales. This statement may astonish many, and without wishing to appear particularly knowing in these affairs, such I believe to be the case.¹²⁶ 

This also appeared:

It is said that Frank Gardiner is in California. As we hear nothing of his exploits now I suppose he has left the colony, but I don't believe anyone knows where he is.¹²⁷ 

Gardiner's fame knew no bounds when this was reported from The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser

Drunkenness. -An aboriginal, who gave his name to the police as Frank Gardiner, but who, on being brought before the bench at West Maitland, on Tuesday, changed his name to Frank Edwards, was cautioned against drinking to excess, and discharged.¹²⁸

Bush telegraphs for Ben Hall were still as pivotal as ever, as per this statement in Parliament on the use of those telegraphs and harbourers:

Their own community supplied the machinery by which these depredations could be planned and executed, property disposed of, and felons concealed. Their command of horses presented no ground for suspicion, and their familiarity with all the byways of the country gave them an advantage over any strange constabulary however active or skilful they might be. They were enabled to establish a bush telegraph which, by signals known only to the initiated, could secure the more active members of the commonwealth of thieves from pressing danger. We have heard of one contrivance which will remind our readers of signals of the most ancient times. A boy upon a horse is dispatched to a certain place for some trifling object. He is not trusted with the secret of which he is really the bearer, but as he passes in a certain way, or upon a particular horse, the bushrangers understand that the road is or not clear for their operations that the constables are present, or that they are gone. Thus, by various signs and tokens, the people who were entitled to be unsuspected are really the most effective abettors of robbery and pillage.¹²⁹

However, the bush telegraphs were a problem for the authorities. Many others from the upper echelons of Sydney society held a widespread belief that some of the larger squatters in the troubled districts were complicit in turning a blind eye. To the point of even supporting bushranger activities to minimise exposure to raids by not reporting some horses and equipment losses. These perceived scoundrels were also thought to be journalists as well as Parliamentarians who for one reason or another were soft in their censure of the rogues:

The highwaymen who act with the coolness of leisure and authority, when they gather together a penful of travellers as if they were a flock of sheep, know that their scouts have ascertained that the "enemy," the constabulary, is at a distance and that the communications with the road are kept open. The Thiefdom has its correspondents, its journals, and its representatives. We have received several letters from its scribes, giving us false news about the movements of distinguished robbers, evidently calculating on our simplicity. The telegraphic intelligence which has appeared in some quarters has evidently been circulated by the agents of Thiefdom. They fancy, too, that speeches delivered in the Assembly have been inspired by agents of the same origin. There is good reason to believe that persons of property are in league with the thieves, so far as to permit the use of the various retreats found on their land, and even to supply the robbers with necessaries. We are not to believe that this is altogether voluntary.¹³⁰

Joseph Jehoshaphat
In light of the above article's suspicion generated by one such member of parliament, Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur (1810-1878), Bridget Hall's stepmother, Sarah Walsh's son gave much grief to the sitting government over the failures of the police force.

Harpur also had a personal feud with Sir Fredrick Pottinger, whom he had slurred as a coward under parliamentary privilege. Harpur often defended Hall and his plight and others whether bushranger or not deemed by the inspector to be of low character via an obviously biased view and his intimate knowledge of the bushrangers directly from his mother and her distaste of Pottinger after the horrific events surrounding her stepson John Walsh and his tragic death.

In doing so, Harpur drew suspicion to himself as a sympathiser of the Lachlan Bushrangers by many diligent anti bushranging members. However, Ben Hall, not eager to engage Sir Frederick Pottinger, remained quiet at Mimmegong and awaited Gilbert and O'Meally. On the 22nd of July, Pottinger forwarded another telegram to Captain McLerie. Reporting a lack of news on Hall:

Take on M'Fadden as a detective, the man arrested for embezzlement, who reported having been stuck up, has been committed for trial. Rain all night and today. Everything quiet. No appearance of our friends in the neighbourhood, and no reports from absent patrols.

(I have used John Vane's spelling of 'Mimmegong' from John Vane, Bushranger,-Memagong-which is about 9 miles West of Young and spelt Memagong today.)

Mimmegong Station

c. 1889.
Courtesy NLA.
Wet weather had placed a dampener on Hall's operations, with Hall last seen on the 20th July 1863 loitering near Mimmegong station riding the racer Mickey Hunter, who had been observed as being reduced a nag. However, a police patrol had happened across Hall, and two others commenced a chase catching the three by surprise. The troopers out from Lambing Flat attempted to cut them off in the fading light. Pursued by the constables for some distance, the bushrangers abandoned their mounts:

One of the robbers, whose horse was knocked up, threw himself out of the saddle and escaped into the scrub; his two companions were equally fortunate, although fired at several times; but the increasing darkness of the evening favoured them and baffled the troopers.

Once more, all the police saw were the bushrangers fleeing with their tail between their legs. Subsequently, one of the abandoned horses proved to be:

Mickey Hunter, Mr Robert's racer, some time since stolen from his stable at Currawong. The poor animal is in a most deplorable condition, nothing but skin and bones, with scarcely a leg fit to stand on. He has been restored to his owner.¹³¹

Ben Hall had abandoned the horse taken in hand by the pursuing troopers in a deplorable condition. Hall's earlier report doing it tough also reflects on the neglect of Mickey Hunter as Hall scrounged for food and money. A later report stated Hall had been resting and was totally surprised by the troopers and in the melee was deprived of his swag:

The capture of the racer "Mickey Hunter", took place about nine miles from the township near Mimmegong station. The three mounted troopers found the horse hobbled in the charge of a bushranger. They fired at him, but he escaped amongst the rocks, leaving his horse and another one, saddle, bridle and poncho behind. The police secured the horses and brought them to camp. It was nearly dusk when the troopers came upon the horses, &c.¹³²

Later that evening alone and remounted again, Ben Hall came in contact with a lone trooper, who called on the bushranger to 'Stand in the Queen's Name'. Hall's hesitation had the trooper reputedly challenge Ben Hall to a fistfight for his freedom. However, brave Ben Hall declined and in 'boastful defiance', bolted as the trooper opened fire:

On the same evening, and about the same time (sundown) a trooper stationed at Wombat fell in with Ben Hall and told him to surrender; but as the latter kept edging away, the trooper called on him as a man to be as good as his word in his boastful defiance of the police, and to come to fair single-handed combat; but Hall made a bolt for the bush when the trooper fired, and on following up discovered the bushranger's horse (a grey one, with switch tail, a Roman nose, and long back) without his rider, and also the hat and poncho worn by Hall when first seen. In this case, too, the darkness favoured escape; but so confident was the constable that he must have wounded Hall, that a party went out next morning to search the bush, but without success. The hat, poncho, and horse referred to, are now in the possession of the police, at the Camp, Young.¹³³ 

Native Police Force,
Rockhampton Qld.
c. 1864.
Courtesy NLA.
The police flooding the district appeared to be gaining the upper hand. Hall had almost been captured twice, as well as being unsuccessful in replenishing his wallet. On the 20th July at Young, it was subsequently reported that:

There is nothing new in robberies this week since that of Murphy's.

However, bushranging was still the subject of Parliament. The Colonial Secretary Cowper stated on 18th July 1863 that:

The only three or four bushrangers at present giving all the trouble about Young are John O'Mealy, John Gilbert, Ben Hall, and perhaps Lowry.

Consequently, a letter sent to the editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' in July 1863, countenance the idea of using the old aboriginal 'Native Police Force' to bring a halt to Ben Hall, John Gilbert O'Meally's rampant depredations. The Aboriginal 'Native Police Force' had been founded in NSW under the leadership of Frederick Walker, who had arrived in Australia in 1844 and held the position of Clerk of Petty Sessions at Tumut and was also linked to the celebrated explorer William Wentworth by way of Superintendent of Wentworth's Murrumbidgee River station 'Tala'. Under Walker's leadership, however, the Native Police Force gained a fearsome reputation for shooting first and asking questions later. Furthermore, Frederick Walker was one of the first to engage the local Aborigines, understand their culture, learn to speak their local language, and use this knowledge to help secure peaceful harmony between Aboriginal and European settlers.

The Native force consisted of a dozen or more 15 to 25-year-old Aboriginal locals, who then trained to become troopers. The Aboriginal's were originally employed from four different Murrumbidgee tribes. The force was well-drilled and highly disciplined. It would be a cohesive police detachment utilised mainly in Queensland and Northern NSW newly established state from 1848 to 1905 to quell disturbances. They also participated in the eventual capture of Frank Gardiner at Apis Creek QLD in 1864. The letter of advice is as follows. To the Editor of the Herald:

Sir,- A letter in your paper of this morning signed 'Bosun's Mate,' reminds me that the following is the way "to catch bushrangers" shortly. Set Walker and his native police on their tracks, or of course a man like Walker, they'll do the work in their own unscrupulous way; and "terrible evils" require as "terrible remedies." What can your police, that has to learn the country first, do against native lads, able to ride from their cradle, and now mounted on good racehorses? A good black tracker with mates-not without-will run the tracks day after day when once fairly on it, then, when it comes to the close, there's little about taking alive, I dare say; they'll be taken dead, only a question of time-a few days, more or less. Do this, and do it effectually, Gilbert and the others will not very long trouble us. Mind I tell you now how this business is to be done, and, this is my fair share of it, as I have before told you, and, through you, the people in other matters.

I am, Sir, yours obediently,
W. B.¹³⁴

The NSW government, however, chose a different path. After the capture of a few of his part-time helpers, Ben Hall, including one of his most frequent collaborators, young John Jamieson the bushranger, laid low in the backwoods of Young. During this time, a peculiar if not humorous comment regarding the police effort was reported on the 31st July 1863, of a close encounter, not with Ben Hall but with Hall pursuing the police:

Last evening three bushrangers espied a large body of troopers and immediately gave chase. The darkness of the evening favoured the escape of the troopers and baffled the bushrangers. The appetites of Captain M'Lerie and Sir F. Pottinger continue in undiminished vigour.¹³⁵

It was also reported at Young on the 3rd of August of Ben Hall's retreat:

I cannot, as usual, commence with the details of a murder or robbery, for strange to say, no robbery of any note had been committed here for more than a fortnight, a blessing that has not been vouchsafe to the people of this district for the last eighteen months. Having been rather hard worked lately, the scoundrels are, now taking "a spell", dissipating the fruits of their labour, and enjoying themselves until the Inspector-General returns to Sydney.¹³⁶

The reason for the lack of effort in sticking up by Ben Hall was reported as;

During the past fortnight, we have had heavy rains and gales of wind- Business dull.¹³⁷

"Have you seen the Traps?"
A typical Watch Box.
Courtesy NLA.
Ben Hall retired to the back country of Mimmegong station about 9 miles west of Young. The area surrounding Mimmegong consisted predominantly of open country and many small hills littered with granite rock and stretches of thick scrubby trees. The terrain was also favoured with many well-watered creeks and water holes, and in 1863 the large station had remote Shepherd huts, sometimes referred to as Watch boxes. These could be found in those areas far from the Head Station. For the bushrangers, these Shepherd's huts would have enough victuals to survive for some months before restocking, a blessing for Ben Hall, as a feed was at times hard to come by. An insight was expressed regarding Shepherd's environment, including wages and victuals stored for them:

The country at that time was mostly open country, with very few fences. Sheep farmers had to employ shepherds. The pay was usually 10/ per week and rations, which consisted of 8lb. meat, 8lb. flour, 2lb. sugar and 6lb. tea.

Henry Hickles, 
NSW Police Gazette.
7 September 1863.
Furthermore, these Shepherd huts and outstations were rendezvous points and layup destinations where in due course, Ben Hall would be re-joined by Gilbert and O'Meally, who were currently still front and centre of various press reports around the Carcoar/Bathurst region of NSW. On the 1st of August 1863, the pair had appeared in a newspaper report stating that they had attempted to hold up the Commercial Bank at Carcoar on the 30th of July 1863. As the pair was proceeding to the town, the two 'bailed up' and tied Mr Henry Hickles to a tree to prevent the unfortunate man from raising the alarm at Carcoar. However, the Carcoar bank attempt fell well short of success. Therefore, to compensate for the failure of the two bushrangers, followed up with the robbery of Mr Hosie's store at nearby Caloola:

Yesterday two men rode up to the Commercial Bank in Carcoar, and went inside. They presented a cheque to the teller, and while he was looking at it they suddenly presented a revolver and ordered him to remain quiet. The manager, who had been out, was coming into the bank at the time, and seeing what was going on, turned, and ran for the police. The teller, Mr Parker, by a sudden movement, dropped behind the counter where a revolver was concealed, and, to give the alarm, fired two shots. The bushrangers, being thus frustrated, rushed to their horses, and, though followed soon after by the police, escaped. The two men are supposed to be the same who stuck-up Mr Hosie's store at Caloola, whence they took to the value of £300 in money, and goods consisting of silk dresses, boots, shoes, and two horses on which to carry their booty. Throughout these two proceedings, the bushrangers were quite self-possessed and rode away leisurely. Policemen are dispatched hence in pursuit.¹³⁹

Micky Burke & John Vane.

The attempt at Carcoar had introduced two new chums to the gang, John Vane and Micky Burke. Vane had been a former acquaintance of O'Meally and was also being sought by police over an affair of sticking-up at a local district hotel. Although Vane did not participate in the bank fiasco at Carcoar, he had contributed to some of the planning.

However, to impress their seasoned veterans, Burke and Vane robbed 'Coombing Park' station's stables of the top quality racehorse 'Comus II' and a fine horse of a visiting police inspector Mr James Henry Davidson. 'Coombing Park' was owned by the Icely's, a prominent family of the district. (Once again in Vane's narrative 'John Vane, Bushranger' as told to and transcribed and edited by Charles White and printed after Vanes death. Here Vane denies involvement in the robbery, but historical evidence directly involves Vane.) During the nabbing of the horses, a stable hand known as 'German Charley' surprised the two, and Burke fired shooting the stable hand in the head; 'Bathurst Times', of 6th of August 1863:

Information has reached us of a most daring robbery and cold-blooded attempt at murder, committed on Sunday night last, at Coombing, near Carcoar, the residence of T. R. Icely, Esq., J.P. It appears that, during the night, a noise was heard in the stables by an old man, who at once proceeded to ascertain the cause. Arrived at the stable door, in which Mr Icely's horse, a very valuable animal, and a charger, (also a splendid horse) belonging to Inspector Davidson, who had left it there in place of a fresh horse, whilst in pursuit of the villains who attempted to rob the Carcoar Bank, the old man saw two men busily engaged in saddling the horses above mentioned. He hailed the men and asked them what they were doing there when one of the scoundrels deliberately fired a pistol at him. The ball took effect in the old man's mouth and laid him prostrate. The robbers quickly concluded their preparations and rode away on the stolen horses. We learn that a number of settlers and townsmen of Carcoar have been sworn in as special constables, and are now scouring the country in pursuit of the robbers. The above facts have come to us indirectly, but we have no reason to doubt their authenticity. With reference to the wounded man, we have the satisfaction to add, that the bullet had been extracted from the wound and that he is progressing favourably, though his advanced age renders his ultimate recovery extremely uncertain.

Meanwhile, Ben Hall remained encamped at Mimmegong, Gilbert and O'Meally with the two new recruits Vane and Burke in tow, laid low for several days as the police searched in the surrounding scrub in vain. John Vane's memoirs disclose that they "kept quiet for a time:"

Winter had set in, and as rain and snow were frequent, we made a good camp and kept quiet for a time.
A short video of Teasdale Park, filmed by Craig Bratby, author of 
John Vane, Biography of a Bushranger.
Frederick Sutton.

Private Source.
Soon after Gilbert, Vane and O'Meally attempted to rob a coach, Constable Sutton was wounded in the gunfight. Later a letter appeared describing the actions of the bushrangers and who rode what: Reported on 9th August 1863:

O'Meally rode Comus, John Vane Davidson's grey, and Gilbert a racehorse called Matheroo, stolen some ten days since from Grant—three first-rate horses, and Edric says all in splendid condition. Comus seemed to have been taken great care of and he said looked as well as he ever saw him but became unmanageable, and almost brought his rider to grief. The attack doubtless was daring, but I don't think the bushrangers showed much pluck. They each had a double-barrelled gun and a brace of revolvers, but they seem only to have used their guns—the only shot fired from a pistol was the one that wounded Sutton. 

Returning to their camp, O'Meally and Gilbert were not the friendliest toward each other and were noted to quip insults at each other over bravery went at it again:

Gilbert told us later that O'Meally had called him a coward for running away up the ridge, and he replied that if he had not done so he would not of got the 'Bobbies' revolver.

Vane continues:

At this O'Meally growled and said to Gilbert, "if I hadn't followed you the 'trap' would of shot you in the back, and that is the way you will be shot yet..." Vane states further, "more than once Burke and I had to act as peacemakers for the two often used to have little growls, and we had to step in when they were getting too hot on the job.

Vane also remarked;

Gilbert was certainly fond of 'turning tail' and we all occasionally had a peg at him for dodging in that fashion.
The link above shows the place where O'Meally, Gilbert and Vane attacked the Police as described above, narrated by Craig Bratby. (see link page for Craig's book on the life of John Vane.)
By early August 1863, the four bushrangers realised that it was now too hot in the Carcoar district with the heavy police presence and fearing the deft and swiftness of the black trackers in getting on to their trail decided to head back to familiar territory. Therefore, whilst resting in their camp, the bushrangers discussed their next move, and as Vane explains, O'Meally was for re-joining Ben Hall:

Well re-joined O'Meally, what do you say to a quick run-up to the Lachlan? Ben is keeping his end up over there, although the police and papers say he's over here with us. I only wish he was. My oath! wouldn't he make things lively if he was here now?

Gilbert, conscious of the skill of the black trackers, stated:

I'm not afraid of the police, said Gilbert, it’s those bloody black hell-hounds of trackers that we have to fear-they pick up tracks and follow them so devilish quick, but I think with Jack that we ought to make a move soon and give this quarter a rest.

they all agreed except Burke, who was reluctant to depart his home turf. Gilbert and O'Meally, in company with Vane, placated Burke, and they deserted the Carcoar district and made their way toward Young and Ben Hall. Local gossip of their whereabouts abounded:

A report was freely circulated through the town yesterday, that Gilbert, O'Meally, and Vane, had been seen in the neighbourhood of Cowra, apparently wending their way to the "Weddin Mountains"; the neighbourhood which they have lately been infesting having become too hot to hold them. It is to be hoped that Sir Frederick will shortly be on their heels and secure the villains.¹⁴⁴

Inspector James Henry
It was noted in the 
'Sydney Mail' as the four bushrangers were en-route to Young that Inspector Davidson had suffered a self-inflicted wound. Inspector Davidson:

A report reached here yesterday that this gentleman, while fixing his gun, accidentally shot his toe-off. This accident is very much to be regretted, as Mr Davidson's services can be ill spared at the present time, for since Gilbert and his gang made their appearance about here he has exerted himself to the most in trying to find out their haunts. Davidson was not at Coombing when his horse was stolen but had left him there to rest for a few days.¹⁴⁵

The Carcoar district swamped with troopers following the wild affray with the coach created the necessity for O'Meally, Gilbert and their two new members to expedite their return to the Lachlan and re-join Ben Hall. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Thursday 20th August 1863:

A report was freely circulated through the town yesterday that Gilbert, O'Meally, and Vane had been seen in the neighbourhood of Cowra, apparently wending their way to the Weddin Mountains, the neighbourhood which they have lately been infesting having become too hot to hold them. It is to be hoped that Sir Frederick will shortly be on their heels and secure the villains.

Superintendent Morrisset
c. 1860.
Superintendent Morrisset, after unsuccessfully searching the bush for the four bushrangers, returned to Bathurst to refresh his horses and men. A quick respite set out once more on the hunt now accompanied by Sir Frederick Pottinger. The pair ventured to pick up the last known trail of the gang. However, a local reporter was embedded with the tracking party and followed up with a report highlighting the evil of harbouring; 'Sydney Morning Herald', 11th August 1863:

The following is an extract from a letter, dated Carcoar, the 9th instant, referring to the lawless state of the country in that neighbourhood;-"We are all here upon our mettle, and in a state of considerable excitement. The attempt to rescue the prisoners from Morrissett and the three troopers shews that there are men not many miles from us prepared to do almost anything. Pottinger and Morrissett are here and six troopers, and a black tracker, and we are just starting out again. This part of the country really is in a frightful state, and will, I am sure, get worse and worse. I am satisfied, from what I have seen during the past week, when in company with the police, that it will be impossible to put bushranging down unless the harbourers are punished with the greatest severity. I believe there is scarcely a house between Mount Macquarie and the Abercrombie that will not afford any criminal shelter when required, and I am satisfied that there are hundreds of lads in that neighbourhood, under twenty, that would give one of their eyes to have the same notoriety as Gilbert or Gardiner. They never work, never have worked, and they are, without exception, the flashiest lot I ever saw. Something must be done by the Government or things will become worse and worse, and what will be the end of it no one can tell. You may depend upon it if the Government do not take the most stringent measures to punish most severely all harbourers, bushranging and its accompanying evils, not only never will be suppressed, but will daily, monthly, and yearly get worse and worse, until consequences will follow, which I believe it would be difficult to over-rate.

John Vane.
c. 1898.
The winter weather was setting in, and the bushrangers and police were now subjected to the cold and freezing conditions. The gang sought out any shelter or hut, or harbourer that could provide warmth and a hot meal. Having re-joined, Hall accepted the two new men into the fold. Vane recounts the trip and arrival at Mimmegong Station:

Our appearance there (Carcoar) had the effect of drawing the police to that centre; and while they were hunting for us in the Carcoar and Abercrombie districts, we crossed the Lachlan and kept quiet for a time, certain of our friends paying us occasional visits, and keeping us posted on all the movements of the police. Having learnt that most of the Young police had been brought over, we made a start for the back country moving very cautiously and keeping to the wildest and more sparsely populated places, in due course and without mishap we reached a place called Mimmegong sheep station, beyond Young and it was while at this place that we met Ben Hall, who from that out became our leader. The five of us camped together on Mimmegong Creek, where we formed two camps-one for the day, and one for the night.

As for the police out in the cold conditions, they too approached any settler that could provide information, shelter and a hot brew. In turn, the police also had to pay for those services:

The weather for some time past has been very changeable, and while I am writing it is very boisterous, the wind blowing hard and likely for rain.¹⁴⁶ 

John Vane canvassed the hardship being faced by them as winter marched on and the gang returned to the Lachlan. Vane comments on their effort in avoiding the police:

Our custom was to make tea before nightfall, then travel on for an hour or two, leaving easily discerned tracks, and afterwards double back and camp a little of the course we had followed. Our object in doing this was, of course, to mislead the police. If we found they were on our tracks we would let them pass on, and at once change our course. It goes without saying, that we made no fire when camping, and in winter, it was all we could do to keep our blood in circulation. Sleeping under a simple break wind (a few boughs’ leaned against a fence or a sapling), with feet frozen, and limbs stiff with cold.

Author's Note: John Vane's memoirs were recorded forty years after his short and exciting time with Ben Hall. (August 1863-November, 1863.) As a result, some of the events Vane describes are out of context chronologically against the police and press's valid reports at the time, but nonetheless are factual. Sadly, Vane doesn't record dates, just events. Therefore, I have attempted to provide a historical chronology of those events from the relevant reports and Vane's own verbal account of that period highlighting  Vane's own bird's eye view. In the following paragraphs, I make extensive use of his work in that it is as close as one can get to the mechanics of life and doings within the gang.

As Gilbert, O'Meally and the two new recruits arrived in the Young area for their rendezvous, there appeared in a Tasmanian newspaper an article again ridiculing even scoffing at the inadequacies of the NSW police and the appointment of a somewhat overweight Inspector, Mr Black, who had replaced Captain Battye at Young; The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 5th August 1863:

The Police after the Bushrangers—a long way after them. Captain M'Lerie has not yet been captured. Sir Frederick Pottinger is still at large. Black has been presented with a magnificent "white feather" by the Insurgent Chief.

Unlike Inspector Black, Captain Battye had been held in the highest regard by the miners and the broader Lambing Flat community. However, much to the citizens' befuddlement, Captain Battye had recently been transferred to the south coast of NSW at Kiama. Where Battye was zealous in his scouring the scrub for the bushrangers. Inspector Black new fame extended into the NSW parliament where he was ridiculed by both the Parliament and the press, not only for his reluctance in chasing bushrangers but for the size of his girth as well, 'Parliament Hansard', 20th August 1863:

It was then said that Mr Black was too heavy — that he killed all the horses he rode. But there was no reason why he should be employed in that particular service; or if there was, there was nothing to prevent the Government from getting an elephant for him if necessary (Laughter).

The sentiment regarding Black was again followed with another observation and derision directed at the leaders of the police; 'Empire' 25th August 1863:

As it has been stated that some of the police horses are too weak to carry the heavy troopers, and also that one at least of the police inspectors now engaged in the endeavour to capture bushrangers is too fast and too eager in the pursuit, we are happy in being enabled to suggest a means of overcoming both difficulties. There is now on view at the Menagerie in Pitt street an elephant of sufficiently physical proportions to carry even Inspector Black, and we can bear testimony from a personal inspection of the animal that its deportment is sufficiently quiet and gentle to restrain even the arduous impetuosity of Sir Frederick Pottinger. It is to be regretted that the Inspector General of Police is absent from Sydney, otherwise, we feel assured that the Government would be recommended to purchase this valuable animal for the use of one or other of the officers whom we have named.

Ben Hall c. 1862.

the table cloth in the
previous Susan Prior
As Ben Hall was awaiting 'The Boys' return, a letter was picked up by the Brisbane 'Courier', dated 24th July 1863, regarding Ben's fall from grace and rise to notorious bushranger. The letter was signed off by a person titled 'One Who Knows'. Although the article had some valid points, it is fraught with falsehoods and assumptions. 'One Who Knows' obviously knew Ben Hall well. Furthermore, the impression through the letter appeared to be an attempt to conjure public sympathy for Ben Hall's current plight.

However, it is nevertheless, from all current research and historical assessment mostly contrived spin. Therefore, its contents can potentially be seen as part of the foundation that has fed the misinformation that has been widely perpetuated regarding Hall's fall from grace. Even still espoused today by some lazy historians and others. However, it declares some true and false statements within the letter starting with Ben Hall was born Maitland; True. Well, Educated; Not True, His father a free and wealthy settler; Not True. Bridget's lover Taylor was the cause of Ben Hall's arrests; Not True. Participated in the Gold Escort Robbery; True. Daniel Charters lied on behalf of Ben Hall; True. Ben Hall's friends were suspicious of his associations with bushrangers; True. Ben Hall's station was neglected, and stock losses; Not True. The eventual loss of Sandy Creek; True. Also true is that Ben Hall had been a very well respected grazier in the Wheogo district." It is also true that Hall's then business partner John Maguire had bribed a witness in 1862 at Hall's Orange trial that set him free. Finally, Norton's entry, which states that he did not know Hall, is also inaccurate and refers to Norton not knowing Patrick Daley. He certainly knew Hall by sight. However, the reader can draw their own conclusions. Ben Hall was 26 yrs old in 1863; A correspondent signing himself, "One Who Knows," writes to the "Courier" a letter about bushrangers, in which he thus sympathetically speaks of the now notorious Ben Hall.

Benjamin Hall is now about twenty-eight years of age born near Maitland, and his father, who was a free immigrant, cultivated his own farm on the banks of the Hunter, and gave his son a good education. About eight years ago the young man went to the Lachlan district to take up a station and settled at Wheogo, where he won the friendship and good opinion of all the settlers in the neighbourhood. He was honest and obliging, of good appearance and address, and was what he professed to be-a gentleman. About four years ago Hall married and fortunately in an evil hour; and after the birth of his first child, his wife eloped with another man. This person, afraid of Hall, went to a certain officer, and told him that Hall was connected to the gang of Gardiner; and shortly afterwards at the Lachlan races, Hall was given in charge of the police, and taken to the watch-house. In a question put to him by Hall as to the reason of his arrest, the officer in question replied, riding a good horse, and none but bushrangers ride good horses now-a-days." The man was then heavily ironed, his hands were fastened behind his back, and he was pushed into a damp, dark cell whence he was not let out for three weeks, but where, he was taken, once every seven days, to the court to be remanded again and again, in order to allow the police to find out whether there was any charge against him or not. During the many weeks of his incarceration Hall's horse was ridden as a hackney by the officer referred to, who appeared to have taken a fancy to the animal, and at the of three weeks two witnesses were brought in to swear that Hall was like a man who was with Gardiner, and he was on this testimony committed for trial. Although several Squatters and Settlers in the neighbourhood offered bail to a large amount, none was accepted, and the man was then sent back to one of the filthiest watch-houses in New South Wales, into the company of men whose society he loathed, to await his trial. That came about in time, and, there not being the shadow of evidence against him he was discharged. In the meantime, many of his horses and cattle had been stolen, his farm had suffered from his unjust incarceration and he had expended over £500 in-law expense, in procuring witnesses, and in satisfying the harpies that preyed on him when he was down. When he was discharged he taxed the police officer with riding his horse while he was imprisoned, and that threatened to lock him up again if he did not immediately be off. Hall went back to his farm and was just getting his disordered affairs to put right and had collected his remaining cattle and horses when the escort robbery took place. Advantage the opportunity was taken, and poor Hall was again remanded on suspicion, and kept in the lockup for a considerable time heavily ironed, although the two approvers, Charters and Richards, declared he had nothing to do with the affair, either directly otherwise.

There being no charge against Hall, he was dismissed by the magistrates at the request Mr Inspector Sanderson. His ill-usage was at an end even then. After being out of the lock-up only for a few days he was a third time chained to the lock-up on the same charge. By this time intimate friends began to regard him with suspicion. They could not fancy such injustice could be perpetrated without a shadow of a cause, and be he lay a long time in the watch-house before anyone would come forward to bail him out. At last, one ventured to do so, and then a second. But the latter received a large pecuniary consideration for this action for this act of friendship. By this time, the man of gentlemanly appearance and fine healthy countenance looked years older, was care-worn and haggard, also ruined in pocket and in spirits. It may suit some views of the New South Wales police to magnify the villainy of particular bushrangers, but they have not been able to find a single case against the fortunate Hall. It was said that he fired at Inspector Norton, but the inspector says he never saw the man before, and therefore could not know him then. The power of arresting on suspicion is not safe in the hands of such an officer as we have referred to, and whose picture will be recognised no doubt; and the right of remanding prisoners from week to week and from month to month, without any specific charge being preferred against them, should not be deputed to such magistrates as those who administer justice in the Lachlan district. Any man is liable to suspicion, but all are not on that account deserving of punishment. One of the members of the present New South Wales Assembly was three times apprehended on separate charges of highway robbery. He is about the last man who would commit such a crime; but, notwithstanding, he was arrested once near Berrima, a second time between Kiandra and Cooma, and again near Goulburn, on suspicion of having stuck up a man and woman, who were driving a horse and cart. Of many more of the notorious bushrangers that live in the Lachlan, district tales might be told similar to what has been said of Hall. They have been hunted out of respectable society by impudent officers in the pay of the state, who consider a piece of gold lace of more value than a man's reputation or his life; and having he been hunted out, they herd together for mutual protection and make war upon society for revenge. Brisbane. ONE WHO KNOWS.

Image of the Weddin Mountains,
Google Earth.
Through the barrage of press reports, the inhabitants of Sydney were continuously provided with Ben Hall's exploits. So much so that the NSW Parliament was consumed with debate on how to combat the districts' lawlessness. Some Parliamentarians had tabled in the Legislature a Bill for special laws to be passed to provide the police with extraordinary powers of arrest. It encompassed moves to separate the Lachlan and the Weddin Mountains from the surrounding districts and the colony's general laws and enforce a version of Marshall Law to curb the widespread outbreak of bushranging. However, although many of the Parliamentarians agreed with the proposal. The prospect caused great angst amongst the more fair-minded and their English sensibilities.

However, legislators charged with the population's safety, such as the local member for the Weddin Mountains, Mr Deas Thompson, believed that as a liberal-minded MLA, he thought the move was uncalled for unnecessarily branded all the good citizens of the district as complicit in bushranging activities. In the Parliamentary Hansard that:

He did not see how, as representing a liberal Government, the could have advised that a special law should be enacted for the Weddin Mountains. There was nothing but vague general reports about Ben Hall and some others, upon which the Government could have proceeded to place under a special law all the peaceable people dwelling about the Weddin Mountains.

The following extracts from the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st August 1863, concerning the ongoing debate and a call for the police to recruit local bush lads of the Weddin into the police:

The proposal to withdraw parts of the colony from the usual system of government, and to place them under special administration and exceptional laws, must be taken as one evidence at least of the reality and force of those evils we are required to combat. No one would assent to these changes unless it should be found absolutely necessary for the repression of crime. But when we are told by the Postmaster-General that contracts are taken with reluctance, because they involve risk of life; when we hear that the aid of the printer is required to multiply forms for the purpose of transmitting notices of mail robberies; when we learn that commercial intercourse is already in some cases impossible, from the want of safety in the high roads; a very strong case is certainly made out for new laws or new methods of enforcing them. It is obvious that those who are most strongly impressed with the present dangers and have suggested new remedies have only uttered the feeling of all respectable colonists, and that they are right in believing that nothing can so deeply stain or effectually retard the colony as the continual success of marauders and the large arrears of unpunished crime.

Is it not possible, however, to make those districts which furnish the robbers yield the means of repressing them? It is said there are large numbers of young men who are acquainted with every nook and corner in the bush, and whose superior knowledge enables them to baffle pursuit. They are not all equally, criminal, perhaps many are not so by choice. Would it not be possible to enlist some of these last into the service of the country, and by giving them the position inspire them with the feelings of honest men? The police are said to be incapable of contending with their superior agility and skill, and we can easily imagine the helplessness of any man, whatever might be his other qualifications, if new to the country. He could not pursue, because he must keep the high road or be lost in the bush. He could not make enquiries, because, not knowing the people, he might be only letting out information to an accomplice. Wherever he might move he would find all unintelligible and trackless. If, however, a score of young men who hover about the Weddin Mountains could be brought into the service of the police, they would probably do more for the detection of the offenders, and for the prevention of robberies, than five times the number of policemen collected from the four quarters of the globe. 
Every man who now countenances criminals must be himself a felon in heart, probably in history. There may be excuses in quiet times for indolent toleration for loose language and idle declamation, but it is infamous now. If the slightest right feeling remains in those districts, the false admiration of robbers must have been subdued by the evidence of their cowardice and cruelty. They spare none who are not accomplices, and rob the hard-working digger with as little remorse as they rob the banker. Many a family in this colony have deeply suffered by the interception of letters, and the loss of small remittances, as well as from the personal injury inflicted by criminals in their career of crimeMr DEAS THOMSON, Mr KEMP, and Sir WILLIAM MANNING have had too much experience of the colonies to be led away by a mere cry of danger, and the strong language they have employed in reference to the state of the country demands the serious consideration both of the Government and the Legislature. As to the colonial reputation, nothing could be more damaging than such speeches except the facts they attest to. They have done well to state the case boldly without regard to those who would imitate that foolish bird which endeavours to get relief from the cries of the hunter by sticking its head in the sand.

Although the powers in Sydney were debating various solutions to the halting of bushranging. Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, with their two new recruits, continued on and started to venture out at will. Consequently, they were spotted in Yass, and as a Catholic Priest was also in town tending his flock, a local pointed out the gang to him as they were resting nearby. Undeterred, the man of the cloth strode over to the men and attempted to counsel their lost souls. The priest ardently stated that only one fate awaited them in the course of their wayward unchristian lives, thereby urging them to consider surrender and that his duty was to place a right word to the government for clemency. However, Gilbert said they would ponder over his kindness if the government ensured they would only receive a gaol sentence. The priest passed on the information to the government in July 1863; Yass Courier, 5th August 1863: 

We understand that some short time ago, while a reverend gentleman, the pastor of the Catholic portion of the inhabitants of a large district near Yass, was engaged in visiting a portion of his charge in the locale of the tract of country now in the possession of Gilbert and his companions, he was somewhat surprised to have the outlaw pointed out to him at a short distance from where he was staying. The rev. gentleman at once approached the bushrangers and entered into conversation with them. He took advantage of the opportunity to point out to them the inevitable fate of their lawless career, the enormity of their offences against God and man, and strongly urged them to discontinue their reckless life. The outlaws listened attentively to the admonitions of the rev. gentleman, thanked him warmly for his kindness in addressing them and stated that they were prepared to give themselves up if the government would guarantee that no worse fate would be awarded to them than imprisonment. They dreaded being hung, although the life they were now compelled to lead was a most unhappy one. We understand the rev. gentleman promised to lay the matter before the government, and that he has already done so.  

As Ben Hall kept one step ahead of the police at Lambing Flat his former house guest and Susan Prior's mother Mary and sister Charlotte and an Ellen Morris were arrested for vagrancy and gaoled for six months. Ellen Morris would be sort after in 1864 for child abduction after taking Charlotte to Braidwood. 'The Yass Courier' Wedneday 5th August 1863:

Prisoners' Escort. — The following prisoners were escorted to gaol on Monday last from Lambing Flat; Mary Prior, Charlotte Prior, and Ellen Morris, severally under six months' imprisonment for vagrancy.

NSW Police Gazette
 August 1863.
When the above article appeared, Ben Hall's brother Robert Hall, upon returning to Murrurundi, was arrested for horse stealing. At first, it was reported that Ben Hall himself had been captured; 'Singleton Times' 11th August 1863:

We are indebted to Mr R. S. Holmes, who was a passenger by the mail from Armidale yesterday, for the following particulars:-It appears that Ben Hall and two mates were in Murrurundi on Monday afternoon, incog, as they thought when the police got on their track. Before they were able to complete their capture of all three, however, one of the men mounted his horse and made off, but, after a chase of half a mile, he was taken. They were all safely lodged in the lockup before five o'clock when the mail left. Mr Holmes having been a witness of the whole affair, almost from the commencement. The capturers were, we understand, two troopers and three constables, all of whom were mounted. Although there is no doubt in the minds of the police, it is just possible that there may be a mistake in the identity of Ben Hall; but, even so, the satisfactory fact still remains that there are three ruffians the fewer at large. 

Robert Hall. 
c. 1875.
Even though the press published the capture to be the notorious Ben Hall, it turned out it was his brother; 'The Star' Ballarat, Victoria on the 18th August 1863:

The bushranger whose capture at Murrurundi was recently reported has turned out to be a brother of the notorious Ben Hall.

Robert Hall. Soon after the confusing press reports, the following letter to the editor of the 'Maitland Mercury' appeared, and from the frankness of the letter, it seems to have been composed by a close friend or family member of the Hall's;

(Letter to the Editor of the Maitland Mercury.)

Sir- A paragraph is going the round of the papers stating "that the notorious Ben Hall" and some of his bushranging companions have been captured at Murrurundi when they were on a visit incog. This information seems to have been communicated to the Singleton Times by a daydreamer of the name of Holmes, who stated that "he witnessed the capture of Ben, the successful chase of a trooper after another of the banditti, and their safe incarceration." Now, although I do not know this Mr. Holmes, I would advise him to be more particular the next time he carries any information to a public journal, for in the above statement there is not one word of truth, as neither Ben Hall nor any of his associates have been seen, chased, or caught in Murrurundi consequently are not in our lock-up. We have had several cases of mail robbery in this district since the present "Dick Turpin" mania commenced, and although our policemen may be smart fellows for all I know, they have as yet failed to put salt on any bushranger’s tail. I may at the same time mention that rumour with her hundred tongues has it that there is a mystery connected with the recent Murrurundi branch mail robberies which call for a thorough investigation."

NO HUMBUG. Murrurundi, 18th August, 1863.¹⁴⁸

However, Murrurundi was a red hearing as the local correspondent at Marengo noted the gang's recent escapades without Hall. 'Empire' 22nd August 1863:

In my communication of the 28th ult. I stated that I was nearly certain the temporary lull in bushranging in this neighbourhood was only occasioned by the rascals being engaged in recruiting their stud in the Bathurst district, and, when once that was effected, they would again visit us; also warning the owners of all celebrated horses in those parts to keep a sharp eye on the same. About seven days after, that statement appeared, the public heard of the sticking-up of stables and the stealing of horses by the bushrangers, among others the taking with violence and bloodshed of a racer, called Comus, the property of a Bathurst J P, and also another fine animal belonging to Sub-inspector Davidson. By the by, Mr Cowper read in the House the other day a letter from Superintendent Morrisett to the effect that that gentleman was fully convinced that he, in the late conflict between himself and Gilbert, Meally, and, Vane, had seriously if not mortally wounded Gilbert's horse, viz, the above stolen racer; but, unfortunately, such could not have been the case as that scoundrel, mounted on the identical horse, stuck up in conjunction with Meally and Vane (only, three hours after the fight with the police, one public-house and two stores, at Teesdale, which place is eighteen miles distant from the scene of Superintendent Morrissett's encounter; consequently, neither the bushrangers' horses nor themselves could have been wounded on the first occasion-worse luck; also, no later than yesterday, a band consisting, of four finely mounted robbers, headed by Gilbert, riding the racer Comus, was seen in this neighbourhood.

Subsequently, the five bushrangers remained camped for several days:

It is stated that bushranging is in the decline in the vicinity of Lambing Flat, but this is accounted for from the fact that the bush is swarming with police, and that it would be next too impossible for a bushranger just now to escape detection.¹⁴⁹

Not the case! Well rested, Hall now acquainted with Burke and Vane, the gang emerged, and on the 18th of August, O'Meally and Gilbert were chased by troopers close to the O'Meally's home at the Weddin Mountains. However, without a worry, riding top-class horses, the gang could cover considerable miles in a dash leaving the struggling police on their inferior mounts in their wake. As a means of facilitating their escape, at various points in the bush, the bushrangers had deposited goods, horses and equipment in localities known only to themselves to help expedite their escapes. Unfortunately, on some occasion's those plants were discovered by the troopers. Furthermore, the gang was often reported together or in pairs and observed at different Western districts where they conducted operations separately, re-joined and split the booty. John Vane commented on one such separate raid to replenish equipment and the subsequent splitting of the proceeds and cash within the gang:

O'Meally, Gilbert and Burke, taking two spare horses with them as 'packs' started for the township to get a new fitout. Hall staying behind with me to look after the horses. The three excursionists returned about 4 o'clock next morning fully equipped with an abundance of blankets, clothing, gunpowder and caps and a new revolver they had taken from one of the stores in the township. They had made a successful raid without molestation, as the police were still in the bush trying to pick up our tracks. Gilbert handed me the new revolver, and also seven £1 notes, which he said was my share of the previous night’s spoils.

This division of funds taken from the raid and the questionable fair divvying up appeared somewhat dubious to Vane, who appeared to hold some doubt as to the true amount obtained by his compatriots. Honour amongst thieves:

So they must have taken at least £35 in addition to the stores, although I didn't ask for the particulars.

No doubt the two wily foxes, Gilbert and O'Meally, knew how to hoodwink their new chum.

Mr Steele Caldwell,
Moonbucca Station.
c. 1880's.
As the gang navigated the rugged roads, scavenging whatever they could find, tensions arose over the allocation of their spoils, particularly with the inclusion of two new members. Meanwhile, newspaper reports consistently mocked the police efforts, eroding their morale. For some officers, the pursuit turned personal, their patience fraying under the prolonged hardships endured in the wild. Despite the challenges of navigating nearly impenetrable terrain, the police remained undeterred in their mission. Leaning on the expertise of black trackers, they frequently found themselves on the heels of the elusive bushrangers. Yet, more often than not, their expeditions ended with a return to town for supplies and a rotation of weary troopers, but without a captured bushranger: 

Two hours ago Mr Inspector Singleton with some troopers and a black tracker arrived in Marengo; he only waited long enough to get reinforced by part of the patrol here, and they, rode away into the bush. The public may daily and hourly, expect to hear of an affray, and, if the bushranging dogs will only stand their ground, and not bolt, as usual, I'm confident that the said affray will be a Sanguineous one; for as far as my experience is concerned, I know that the feeling of the police against the robbers is getting one of intense hatred; consequently, it partakes of all the bitter animosity of a private personal quarrel. In the meantime, all storekeepers in this district, whose premises are in the least degree in an isolated position, are advised to be on the qui viue and at once make arrangements in case of an attack for opening a quiet yet speedy communication with the police camp for, taking the number and ferocity of the desperadoes into consideration, all resistance on the part of small and badly armed parties of civilians is worse than useless.¹⁵⁰

It was again followed up by another report of the Police patrol:

Yesterday a party of troopers come across some suspicious-looking tracks near Mr Steel Caldwell's station; they put the black tracker on them and followed the same for about three miles when they sighted about 400 yards off, two horsemen supposed to be Gilbert and O'Meally. A sharp chase ensued, but the bushrangers cunningly led their pursuers through a very boggy country consequently the troopers got repeatedly stuck, thereby losing much ground; the continuation of these tactics ultimately got the robbers clear off, the tracks being lost near the Weddin Mountain.

The gang were now ranging some distance from Mimmegong. On the 19th, the bushrangers were once more tracked by the police, now wearing bush clothing as recommended by Sir Frederick Pottinger and which was being widely adopted by the patrols:

This morning a party of six troopers and a black tracker, headed by Inspector Singleton, again passed through here. They were the best-equipped party I have seen, all the men being dressed and armed more like bushrangers than troopers they had a pack-horse, carrying tent, provisions &c &c. This is the way that bushrangers ought to be hunted.¹⁵¹

The police, unfortunately, were again and again one step behind the elusive bushrangers as another party of police were seen returning to Marengo, unsuccessful:

Last night Sub-inspector Roberts, a black tracker and a party of five troopers, looking wet and weary, yet still determined, arrived in Marengo and remained the night, but again struck out into the bush early this morning. The party also seems admirably equipped for the style of work it has to do. Good luck.¹⁵²

By mid-August, the weather was continuing to turn cold, making life in the bush difficult not only for the gang but the troopers as well. Yass Courier, 8th August 1863:

Although only a few flakes of snow fell in Yass on Tuesday last, we learn that in some parts of the district the fall was considerable. It is singular that at Binalong and in its neighbourhood, where the atmosphere is, generally speaking, some degrees warmer than at Yass, snow fell pretty copiously on the day we refer to. At Bowning, also there was snow; but the heaviest storms were on the other side of the Murrumbidgee. The drift there was considerable. Wheogo, also, was visited with a sharp shower of flakes, and the mountains in the direction of the Abercrombie are said to wear their winter robes of white. We have heard of the blossoming of the wattle much nearer to Yass than Gundagai.

The following telegram was relayed from Inspector Pottinger to the Inspector General on the 19th August 1863 was tabled in parliament by Mr Cowper:

Inspector Pottinger returned here at six o'clock last night and reports that having left Cowra at noon on Friday, he proceeded towards the Wedden, and on Sunday, between that mountain and the Levels, he got upon the tracks of five horses, which he followed till dark. His party, consisting of three mounted men and two trackers, remained at this spot under an incessant rain all night, holding their horses by the bridles, and on daylight, next morning again took up the tracks with difficulty, and after following them about five miles, saw, about a quarter of a mile in advance, the horses and riders. The bushrangers, seeing the police, at the same time mounted and galloped off, followed by Pottinger and his party, who did not succeed in getting nearer than three hundred yards, in consequence of his horses having been all night exposed to the pelting rain without food, and the superior horses ridden by the gang, Gilbert riding Icely's grey horse, and O'Maley the racehorse stolen from Mr West, the other three men were Mick Burke, Ben Hall, and John Vane. Every available man and horse is now absent from the town formed, in parties, and watching localities in the bush likely to be visited by the gang, but the continued rains have rendered the bush almost impracticable for riding. Their movements are consequently much impeded, and accidents occurring, one of the trackers having come in yesterday with a broken collar bone. No depredation is reported to have been committed by the gang since their return to this district.

After the above telegram as relayed by Sir Frederick Pottinger, this appeared in the 'Burrangong Star', 21st August 1863, of the efforts of Sir Frederick Pottinger:

We are informed that Sir Frederick Pottinger and his troopers, lately pursued seven of the bushrangers, amongst whom we have heard mentioned, as forming part of the gang, the names of Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, Burke, and Vane, from Carcoar to Cowra, and from that town to Cootamundra. They were tracked by the black trackers to their camping place, and sighted by the police; but escaped through the fleetness of their horses, those of the police having been knocked up with hard and constant work for the last three weeks. It was then reported of another attack on Mr Robert’s Currawang Station; Bushrangers Stealing more Horses from Currawang. -Last Tuesday night a party of bushrangers, seven in number we are told, amongst whom were Gilbert and O'Meally, paid a visit to Mr Roberts' stables at Currawang near Murrumburrah, and forcibly took away four excellent hackneys, one of which had only been a short time before been brought out of the bush. The bushrangers compelled the ostler to remain up with only his shirt on for upwards of an hour, telling him they had seen Pottinger and his bloody traps that morning, in all likelihood mistaking Sub-inspector Roberts, who, our Marengo correspondent says, sighted Gilbert, for the gallant baronet.

NSW Police Gazette of
September for August 1863.
In the earlier report above sighting, no depredations did not last for long, as the five bushrangers were soon holding the road between the township of Young and the goldfields and hoping that the bush telegraph information recently relayed to them was accurate. Therefore, on the 24th August 1863, the gang waited patiently for some local shopkeepers to pass their way headed for the diggings to settle outstanding accounts and purchase gold and to seize the money meant for that purpose:

It is generally thought that the bushrangers supposed the storekeepers went to the Rush on Mondays to purchase gold, and they stuck them up on their way; thinking, they would get the money they would have with them for the purchase of gold.

As time passed while waiting, other travellers were taken into the bushrangers custody but remained unmolested to not raise the alarm. The 'Burrangong Star' reported five days after the robbery on 29th August 1863 the known facts. However, in this article, Burke and Vane are unknown:
Between ten and eleven o'clock on Monday morning, Messrs. T. Watson, John Murphy, T. Coupland, and B. Emanuel, of Burrangong, wore stuck-up by five bushrangers. This daring affair occurred on the road leading to the Ten and Twelve Mile Rushes, about a mile and a half from the former, near Duffer Gully, and not far from where poor McBride was barbarously murdered. They were robbed of their horses, saddles and bridles; each of them was most carefully searched, being compelled to take off his coat, vest, and boots. Mr John Murphy had a valuable gold watch and chain stolen from him; Mr Emanuel a £1 note; Mr Watson was more fortunate, as a cheque for £200 and 10s. in silver, which they found on his person, were returned to him, the bushrangers refusing to take either the money or the cheque. Mr Coupland had an opportunity of slipping down one of the legs of his trousers a £5 note, unobserved by the robbers. They threatened to knock Mr Watson's brains out because he would not quietly give up his horse and said he was too cheeky. One of them observed to Mr Coupland— "This is the saddle you had when you were stuck-up down the creek." On the hill, somewhat nearer to the Tipperary Gully road, some miners were bailed up, with another of the bushranging fraternity keeping guard over them, whilst the remainder of the gang were quietly robbing the storekeepers. They did not, however, plunder the diggers; but prevented them going, or rendering any assistance to the first party of victims to their lawlessness, We are informed that the ruffians asked the miners captured to join their gang, offering to supply them with horses, arms, and ammunition, but they, to their credit, most indignantly refused all their offers they were then suffered to go at large without being further molested, Mr Watson, as soon as he regained his liberty, procured a horse from a man he met on the road, and proceeded to the Ten Mile rush and gave information to the police stationed there, who proceeded to this township and reported the robbery to the police authorities at the camp, Mr Watson returned to town on horseback, and the other gentlemen came in one of the coaches. Three of the bushrangers are supposed to be Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, the two others are unknown. We believe four of them can be identified.

By the time the shopkeepers hove into sight Ben Hall had detained upwards of 60 or 70 locals, John Vane remarked in his narrative:

When the gold buyers hove in sight Ben Hall warned the crowd that he would shoot any one of them that gave warning or raised an alarm.

It was also reported of the gang in ‘The Golden Age’, Thursday 10th September 1863, of telling the unfortunates:

That they were sorry that there was no more cash among the crowd, and that they would be happy to meet them some other day when their pockets were better lined, rode off, taking also their ponchos.

Soon after the robbery, the report reached the town and Sir Frederick back in the district began pursuit:

Sir Frederick Pottinger and his troopers lost no time in giving chase, and having pursued the bushrangers to Mimmegong, tracked them, with the assistance of a black tracker, to a cave there; On approaching this place they saw, at a short distance, the parties they were in pursuit of, who, upon observing the police coming, immediately mounted fresh horses that stood ready saddled and bridled, and galloped off; leaving behind five horses which were taken possession of by the police. The troopers then pursued the bushrangers for about eight miles, and fired several shots at them; but they ultimately escaped, through the fleetness and freshness of their horses. One of the horses recovered, belongs, we understand, to Mr Icely, and another to Mr Roberts, and are a portion of those lately stolen from these gentlemen.¹⁵³

Consequently, another report of the bushrangers run down by Sir Frederick Pottinger at Mimmegong was also reported in ‘The Golden Age’, Thursday 10th September 1863, stating:

It appears that he followed on the tracks of the outlaws from near Duffer Gully, through White's station, over the Lachlan road, by Mr Beckham's across Meroo Creek, and three miles beyond Mimgong, he described horses at the bottom of a rocky elevation. On approaching closer he discovered one of the horses to be that lately taken from J. Robert's Esq., Currawang stables, and another, the race-horse Comus, taken from Mr Icely. On the horses were a saddle belonging to Mr Roberts, and the one taken from Mr J. Murphy, and the one taken from T. Coupland, which wanted a rein, besides blankets and ponchos. Quite adjacent was a cave, to which they were wont to resort. While securing the horses, the black tracker espied the bushrangers riding away on the fresh horses they had captured. The party consisted of Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, John Vane, and Bourke. On seeing Sir Frederick and his men, they took flight in various directions, each trusting to the speed of his quadruped. Sir Frederick, we are told, kept close on Michael for about an hour, and was once within shot; but as Ben Hall came to Bourke's aid, and Sir Fred alone, he thought it better taste to decline to fire, and return to his men, who were in pursuit of the other three. As the highwaymen had better horses and soon got out of sight, the police were compelled to return and be satisfied with the booty they had already seized. A fresh body of troopers started on the tracks on Tuesday evening, but with what greater success their return will tell.

However, with the police's recovery, the following appeared in the bushrangers' newspapers, daring plan to get their horses back and consequently successfully attacked the police camp at Young to recover the captured horses. A reporter so admired Gilbert's bravado said he should depart Australia for the Civil War now raging in America, commenting that Gilbert would be handy on the Confederate side:

One of our correspondents writes: — On Sunday night Detective Inspector Orridge’s party of troopers left their bush camp in the neighbourhood of Wombat with only one man and a black tracker to guard it, and went on foot and surrounded a suspected settler's hut. It is probable they were decoyed away by some false information, or else the bush telegraph must have been put in immediate operation, for before the troopers returned Gilbert's gang made a descent upon it, riddled the tent with balls, and ended with galloping off with the trooper’s horses. Talk about the ubiquity of Gardiner, why this Gilbert beats him hollow: for he seems to be here there and everywhere: in the morning leading, the onslaught upon Haughey's party, and in the evening attacking the police camp; really this fellow’s talents are prostituted in Australia, he ought to, go to America and join some marauding cavalry regiment. General Stuart would take him and ask no questions, for as a guerrilla officer, he would be invaluable.¹⁵⁴

John Vane recounts his version of the fracas after Sir Frederick Pottinger's pursuit at Mimmegong:

I was in the act of putting a bridle on him when I heard a voice calling on me to "Stand!" The voice was that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was in charge of the police in that district, and as soon as he heard it Gilbert fired, the firing still continued, but no further damage was done, and Gilbert and I were soon galloping side by side down a steep hill and into a thick scrub, making round to where Burke had been planted, then O'Meally who came around from the other direction suddenly galloped down and fired, getting together, however, we soon outdistanced our pursuers, and, crossing a flat, we turned and kept them at bay with our rifles which had a longer range than their revolvers. O'Meally secured one of the horses on the other side of the camp, and Burke having changed the saddle to the fresh horse, we all easily got away from the police, who then returned with their two black-trackers set themselves to rifling our night camp, removing everything they could carry away with them and not leaving a blanket behind them.

Although Vane's recollection from his narrative that the police failed to catch the horses and stated:

They could not catch the loose horses, and that night we returned and shifted them, and then rode in towards the township of Lambing Flat.

"getting together, however, we
 soon outdistanced
 our pursuers.."

John Vane.
The police were swamping the districts in search of the gang as reported in the 'Yass Courier' of the numbers and the unlucky disposition of the police in their failure:

It is the general impression here that the bushrangers days are numbered-at least, if they are not, they ought to be, for there are now scouring the bush of this district no less than five parties of troopers, each party consisting of six or seven men, headed by an officer, and accompanied by a black tracker. The officers commanding these detachments are Messrs. M'Lerie, Pottinger, Singleton, Orridge, Roberts and Tippon. These officers have properly dispensed with all military trappings, arms excepted, and have adopted the costume of ordinary squatters and their men that of rough bushmen or stock riders; also on a pack-horse, each detachment carries a tent and provisions. Some parties of foot police are likewise performing their share of the programme, which, being of a highly strategic nature, must be kept dark for the present. Sufficient to say that we all think in fourteen or twenty days the majority of the desperadoes will be either killed, taken, or compelled to retreat to their other stronghold, viz., the Abercrombie Ranges; for I am sure they have or soon will find the Weddin Mountains far too hot. I suppose you have heard of the last attack made by the bushrangers: if not here it is:- For some time past, Mr Roberts' men had reengaged in mustering, picking out, and breaking in per order of the inspector-general, some fine horses for the express purpose of bushranger hunting; but the bush telegraphs having conveyed information this to their general, he, i.e. Gilbert, followed three or four of his men-at-arms, made, the night before last, a descent upon the thrice stuck-up Currawang station, stealing therefrom four or five the best of the above horses. Yesterday, Mr Sub inspector Roberts recovered one of them in the Black Ranges, between Mayo's and Irish Jack's, but unfortunately, he saw none of the robbers. Last Sunday Sir F. Pottinger and his men came upon a party of bushrangers encamped near Marshall's in the Weddin Mountains; the rascals immediately rushed to their horses, and notwithstanding in the scamper that two of the thieves had to gallop off on the one horse, yet ultimately they all managed to escape.¹⁵⁵

After this close encounter, the five once more split as attested to by John Vane:

We stayed together for several days on the Black Range, and then parted, Gilbert, Burke and Hall started for Borrowra, on the Yass side, and O'Meally and I remaining at Peter O'Meally's place (O'Meally's uncle) at Black Range, the arrangement being that we were all to meet again at Demondrille Station, near Murrumburrah.

Of note here is that Susan Prior had relocated as a domestic servant to a property near Burrowra. In 1864 Susan gave birth to a son Alfred. The father was named Alfred Stonham. However, at the same time, Alfred was still married to Mahala Stonham nee Dengate. Could this child be another son of Ben Hall? In 1867 Alfred and Mahala had a child named Ambrose Stonham. In 1932 Alfred passed away from medical complications and was interred with his mother Susan at Rookwood cemetery.

"..make for the scrub"
John Vane.
A newspaper article appeared reporting another close encounter and escape by Ben Hall, Vane, Gilbert, O’Meally and Burke, who had now fully regrouped and had formed the formidable gang which was to set the Western Districts alight again and again. After the escape from the clutches of Sir Frederick Pottinger, and whilst relaxing in one of their bush camps, the gang were again detected by the Inspector and his patrol of troopers who rapidly closed in on the unsuspecting and startled bushrangers. During the pursuit and frenzied escape, John Vane came a cropper from his mount, reported as follows; The Carcoar correspondent of the Bathurst Free Press writing on the 5th instant, says:

These ruffians have not been seen again about this district since they were hunted by superintendents Pottinger and Morrissett and the troopers, although they have been robbing every person they could meet. Sir F. Pottinger and several of his men sighted Gilbert, Vane, and others. Gilbert was mounted on Mr Icley's grey; Sir F. and his men immediately gave chase, and after running them some miles Vane's horse fell with him when Gilbert instantly pulled up, and the young Vane jumped up behind. The gallant grey bore both Gilbert and Vane along at a rattling pace, but as they found the police were gaining on them they jumped from their horse’s backs, and rushed on foot into a thick and extensive scrub, and made their escape, the police making prizes of their horses, saddles.¹⁵⁶

John Vane recounts his version of the encounter:

We were disturbed by the sound of horses galloping, and Gilbert jumped up to look, calling out immediately that the police were coming across the Flat, headed by two black trackers. There was quite a crowd of them, but I didn't stop to count them, we at once rushed to our horses, but when I placed my foot in the stirrup, forgetting that I had not girthed up properly, the saddle slipped, by this time the police were quite near, one of the police whom I recognised as Sir Frederick Pottinger, rode quite close up to me. He was wearing a poncho and I could hear him swearing because he could not get at his revolvers. He then tried to get his poncho off by throwing it back over his head, meanwhile, I had run to a large tree where our rifles and carbines were stacked. Seizing one of these, I called out to Sir Frederick "Go back, or I'll shoot you" at the same time Gilbert galloped back and told me to jump up behind him, which I did and we then galloped off at top speed, whilst the bullets from the police fire whistled around us very uncomfortably, Gilbert was troubled a little about the speed at which we were going, for the horse was a rattler from the stables of Mr T. R. Icley, as we reached the top of the hill, I said to Gilbert, make for the scrub.

After this event and narrow escape, it was discovered by the gang that they had been betrayed by none other than, no doubt, young Jameison. However, Vane only refers to the snitch a J, who had been the one to leave a trail that led the police to their haunt, as Vane explains: 

When we made our bolt from the camp, Jameison accompanied us, riding with his hat in his mouth and his revolver held out in his right hand. When we afterwards came to think of his actions we could see plainly enough that his object was to show the police which man they were not to fire at, we doubled behind the police, and then I told him to get down off his horse and put his revolver on the ground. He obeyed at once without a demur, I then picked up his revolver and mounted the police horse which he had been riding. He at once speared into a clump of thorn bushes and said "They won't find me here; you come back for me when they are gone"- still wanting us to believe that he was on our side, instead of the spy he was, Gilbert wanted me to shoot him there and then but Ben Hall said no as the police would hear the shot," we saw the police coming back, Jameison being with them on foot.

It was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald', 16th September 1863. It is interesting to note that before Jamieson's was released on bail, it was reported that Jamieson had been released as a police spy or runner and that he was to help the police in the apprehension of Ben Hall &c. which corroborates Vane statement that Jamieson was a spy for the police as follows:

Some time ago, two drays laden with produce from Tumut, were stuck-up near Young, by a young man named Jamieson, whose father, was a settler on the Levels, Jamieson was subsequently concerned in another highway robbery, and at the request of his family and some of their friends he surrendered to the police, such being considered advisable, as the youth was rapidly fulling into ways that would in all probability lead him to a disgraceful death. Jamieson was committed to take his trial on both cases of robbery, but from some cause, he was permitted to become a police runner, the Inspector-General possibly considering that his services would be more valuable in that line than in geological pursuits. Jamieson was only a short time in the service of the Queen before he made his escape, and we have now to record two fresh robberies against him, one at Messrs. Webb and Crego's store, Burrowa, and the other at Mr McGregor's, on the Levels. His career has been brief, for, as we have mentioned, he was reapprended a few days ago at the Weddin Mountain.

This encounter was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald' on the 26th September 1863 many weeks after the episode and that Jamieson was in the hands of Inspector Pottinger:

The re-taking of Jamieson; however, I was right in stating that Sir Frederick Pottinger escorted on the 9th instant the bushranger Jamieson through Marengo; but the officer who re-arrested the supposed robber was Sub-inspector Roberts.

NSW Police Gazette for
Daniel Morgan, August 1863.
Ben Hall resumed working the roads with Gilbert, O'Meally and the two new recruits. 'The Boys' were soon to learn of another bushranger operating to the south of their area near Wagga Wagga by the name which would become synonymous with brutality and torture, Daniel Morgan, or better known today as 'Mad Dog Morgan'. Morgan was described as follows:

Aged 33, 5 feet 10 or 11 inches high, black hair worn down to his shoulders, black moustache, and black beard, with brown tinge on points about his mouth, long nose very sharp straight down his face, sallow complexion with brown spots like freckles, loose-jointed seems to have weak knees; speaks very slow and quietly, inter-lards his conversation with the words "of course"; insolent and overbearing in his manners. 

Although Morgan was not his real name it is believed that his name was Jack Fuller, born around 1830 at Appin NSW.
Prison Hulk "Success" c. 1900
Daniel Morgan.
Morgan drifted to Victoria around the first Gold rushes without success and turned to highway robbery, where he was soon apprehended and sentenced to 12 years. Some time was spent on the prison hulk 'Success' moored at Hobsons Bay, Melbourne. Morgan was released on a 'Ticket of Leave' in 1860 and returned to NSW. He soon found work as a station hand breaking in horses. Before long, Morgan stole a prized horse and was tracked by the owners and was shot and wounded but managed to escape and recover. By mid-1863, Morgan was soon conducting hold-ups and robbing stores in the Riverina district, some robberies were attributed to Ben Hall and Co. However, there is no evidence that the two camps ever came into contact with each other. On the 21st of August 1863, Morgan fired upon Magistrate Henry Bayliss, seriously wounding him and a £200 reward for Morgan's capture was soon offered.

John Hammond
 c. 1860

However, during Vane's statement, the group was to re-join at Demondrille Station. While still in company with O'Meally, Gilbert, Ben Hall and Micky Burke, the gang revisited Old Junee following Gilbert's earlier spree in June 1863. The trio arrived on the afternoon of the 26th of August 1863. Once more the raid was reported in more detail as they raided Mr Hammond's Station 'Wyoming' at Old Junee, (not the current township) a short distance of 47 miles from Lambing Flat:

A messenger came galloping into town with the information that the rangers had paid another visit to Junee, going this time to Mr Hammond's station. About three p.m., while the family were at dinner, three men rode up to the door dismounting they enquired of the servant girl for the "Superintendent,'' and without hardly waiting for a reply, pressed past her into the dining room, where were seated Mr Hammond, his brother, Mr Gwynne, Mrs Hammond and children. They introduced themselves in their usually courteous manner by the muzzles of three-pointed revolvers. One of them the inmates recognized as Gilbert, and from the description of the others, it is to be supposed that Vane was of the party, and even perhaps that lately mythical, personage Gardiner. Gilbert remained in the room holding the inmates in agreeable conversation while the two others went and searched the place, the result of the foray being watch, some jewellery and all the powder there was in the house, and two horses, the qualities of which, they tried. They informed the family that three horses they had, had been taken by the police; they had ridden Jacky Morgan to death; they particularly wanted the animal that had been ridden into Wagga Wagga by Mr Hammond's brother, on the occasion of the sticking-up at Harris's, as they had perused the columns of the papers, and learnt what a capital steed it was. One of the two horses they took was this very steed. They stated that the primary object of their visit was to punish the "Superintendent" for riding into Wagga Wagga with the information, on the previous occasion, and asked which of them it was, but Mr Hammond denied his being there; they declaimed on said Superintendent's ingratitude, in so doing, when, they had not, taken anything from him, and promised him fifty lashes for the first offence, one hundred if he repeated it, and a bullet for the third time. After joking with the family for a short time longer, they rode off with their booty, saying the horses they were mounted on would do well enough to travel with during the night. The scoundrels, it appears, had well-chosen their time of visit, for there were none of the station men about the place during the present, busy time. Mrs Hammond was of course very much alarmed at the sudden inroad, but they told her to calm her fears, as none need be entertained. Immediately on their, departure, our informant mounted and rode off full speed into Wagga Wagga to give information to the police; but us our police party, is at present out in the Galore scrub, sergeant Carroll had neither men nor horses at command, and all he could do was to telegraph to Lambing Flat and Gundagai.¹⁵⁷

Another report of the hold-up at the Hammond's residence appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald, a week after the event on 1st September 1863, and refers to horse thefts from Mr Robert's 'Currawong Station' and fleeing Superintendent Morrissett at Carcoar:

Yesterday (Thursday), the 27th, about four o clock pm, a horseman, bloody with spurring, fiery red with haste, thundered across the bridge and galloped along the street in the direction of the police quarters. the appearance of 'The Firman' did not more surely convoy to the ancient Arab the token of the advancing foe, than did the appearance of this heated rider indicate to the inhabitants of our peaceful village that some other act of violence had been perpetrated. The people drew rapidly together, and we ascertained from the messenger that about two o'clock, whilst the family were at dinner, three mounted bushrangers rode up to Mr. Hammond's, at Junee and dismounting walked into the dining room. Two of the robbers were recognised as Gilbert and Vane, and the third, strange as it may seem, is said positively to be Gardiner, -and I believe it, notwithstanding the reports of his having left the country. The rascals made particular inquiries for the person who had ridden in to give information to the police of their former robbery of Junee store and public house, stating they knew he had gone from Mr Hammond's. They assured the family that if they found him they would punish him severely by the infliction of fifty lashes with a stock whip, which they had brought with them for the purpose! As the person they sought for was not present the scoundrels were foiled but they stated the existence of a recent law passed among them, by which anyone giving information to the police is to be punished by fifty lashes for the FIRST OFFENCE! one hundred for the SECOND!! and by Death for the Third!!! Gilbert, who leisurely leant against the sideboard whilst the family dined, was the mouthpiece for this new class of lawgivers, the other two men being engaged ransacking the rooms.

They took outfits of wearing apparel, a watch, some jewellery, and all the gun powder they could find but got no cash. They then stated that their principal object in coming to Mr. Hammond's was to procure horses, as they believed he had good ones, and, particularly they wanted that horse which had on the occasion of the former robbery carried his rider into Wagga Wagga in an hour. (The distance is twenty-four miles) They said they had read the account in the newspapers and "were pleased with it!" Also, that "they had seen the horses in the paddock, and believed this horse was amongst them." Gilbert asked for a late paper and entered into a loose and careless conversation on the subject of bushranging in general. He referred to the late discovery of their gang by the police at the Weddin Mountains and said that Mr Morrissett had reported he had wounded his (Gilbert's) horse when the attempt was made to rescue the prisoners at Carcoar, but that was untrue, for the horse had carried two of themselves away from the police when discovered near the Weddin Mountains (Vide account in your paper) He also remarked that "Mr. Roberts, of Currawong, was a first-rate old fellow, as he furnished both the police and the bushrangers with horses!" This was a facetious allusion to the circumstance of the horses ordered by Mr M'Lerie, from Mr. Roberts, for the public service being stolen by the bushrangers. The robbers stated they had latterly lost five, of their best horses by the police. Gilbert remained on Mr Hammond's premises whilst the other two brought up the horses from the paddock when having procured the fine animal they "particularly" wanted and having given another ''a trial gallop" against one of their own in the paddock, "just to try its foot" they decamped going in the direction of the Junee store and inn, which it will be they robbed in June last. As the messenger, I have referred to as bringing the report of the robbery at Mr. Hammond's, left directly the robbers did, he could tell us nothing but a gentleman has come in this morning from Junee and reported that the inn and stores were robbed by the rascals, the latter to a most serious extent.¹⁵⁸

NSW Police Gazette
2 September 1863.
After leaving Hammond's but before departing the Junee area, Ben Hall and Gilbert revisited a previous victim's store as reported:

On Friday morning we received a fresh piece of information which shows that this gentry have no intention of doing things by halves. On leaving Hammond's place it appears Gilbert's party wended their way to the scene of their former exploit (Harris and Williams' public store). This time they entirely ransacked Williams' store, loading their horses with the booty, and absolutely despoiling him of the coat on his back. They served Harris' place somewhat in the same fashion, taking one of his best, horses and thus ends our one day’s record, which will do doubt occupy its appropriate niche, in the archives of crime A.D.1863, to be hereafter compiled.¹⁵⁹

A century after the raid of August 1863 on the Hammond's home 'Wyoming' Albert Hammond's encounter was recounted in the 'Junee Southern Cross' in July 1973 and recounts the story of the gang seeking the lad who rode to Wagga on 'Fireman.' When discovered Ben Hall informed him that if O'Meally was present he is life would have been over, as follows:

He was in the house with his parents when they heard someone walking up the hall. The door was pushed open and they found firearms covering them. Hall was seeking the man who had gone to Wagga to inform the police but Albert had ruffled his hair and turned up his collar and the bushranger did not recognise him. Mr Hammond tried to put it over Hall by telling him that Albert was his brother and that he had gone to 'Mimosa Station' on business.

The maid offered the bushrangers a meal which Hall and his men accepted, telling the Hammond's to remain seated in the lounge. Albert unwisely crossed the room and was testing a muzzle-loading gun with a ramrod to see if it was loaded but Hall took it from him and asked: "What do you think you're doing?" Young Hammond tried to joke it off by saying "I thought I might have been able to hold you, people, up." Afterwards, while Hall's men were testing the station's horses to see which ones they would take, Hall approached Albert and said: "Young fellow, you thought I did not know you were the one who told the police, you are a very foolish fellow, if O'Meally had come with us today he would have shot you down like a dog.

Hammond's Home
 'Wyoming' near
 Old Junee c. 1870's.
Courtesy Junee Historical Society.
An interesting circumstance occurred during the Old Junee hold-up which appeared in the Goulburn Herald’, Wednesday 23rd September 1863, a few weeks after the event which stated that during the robbery and before departing, the three bushrangers would have a mind to spend the evening enjoying with the Hammond's the already prepared dinner. The article also demonstrates how the bushrangers were very conscious of their dress and appearance:

It is often said that bushrangers are regardless of personal appearance, and care for nothing but fingering the cash of their unfortunate victims, but the following incident shows that some of them do not think "small beer of themselves." A short time ago the station of Mr Hammond at Junee, was stuck-up by three desperadoes. At the time of their arrival, the family were at dinner, and accordingly one of the gang kept guard over the inmates of the house whilst his mates proceeded to ransack it, during which proceeding, they rigged themselves out in Mr Hammond's clothes, and having washed themselves and oiled their hair proceeded to the dining-room and relieved their mate from a guard while he proceeded to do ditto. This accomplished, the whole three sat down to dinner and refreshed themselves to their heart's content, after which they decamped with everything they could lay hands on. After this, who will say that bushrangers have no regard to etiquette, it being quite clear that they did not like to present themselves at the dinner table until they had dressed; and therefore preferred adopting the course they did, to sitting down without having previously invited themselves in such a manner that the ladies could find no fault with them.

It was well known that the bushrangers Gilbert and Ben Hall took great care in their appearance and often adorned themselves with colourful sashes and hat ribbons and stylish apparel, boots and all, and were often referred to as 'Flash'. Whereat one future robbery Ben Hall was referred to as downright fat. (This article will appear later.) At the time of this event, Morgan, as previously mentioned, was reported for the shooting of a Magistrate, Mr Bayliss:

Later in the evening another telegram, from Wagga Wagga, reported that Mr Bayliss, police magistrate, had been shot by the bushrangers Morgan and Mate, while he, with the police, was watching the camp of the bushrangers, which they had discovered in the scrub. The bullet went into Mr Bayliss' right breast and came out at the left, but the wound was not considered to be fatal. 

The recent outrages were once more raised in the NSW Legislature. The Colonial Secretary, Mr Cowper, responding to questions on Hall's outrages, stated that:

Mr COWPER believed the information was strictly correct. He was sorry to say these depredations were still going on. This afternoon he had received another telegram from the same quarter stating that another establishment had been stuck up and three pack-horses and some goods stolen by these scoundrels. He had ordered superintendent Chatfield to take all the men he could spare from Campbelltown, Inspector Wiltshire to take all the men he could spare from Parramatta, and proceed at once to the scene of these outrages, and sub-inspector White would go also. The Inspector-General had telegraphed to say that he had ordered superintendent M’Lerie to proceed to the place and that he himself intended to go there. He (Mr. Cowper) had not been aware that Gilbert, O'Meally, and their gang were in this district, but it now appeared that they were. He had this morning communicated with Captain M’Lerie, intimating that nothing as regarded police or any assistance beyond, should be wanting to put a stop to the outrages. The Government, by rewards and every means in their power, were inciting the police to do all they could, and induce others to aid them in capturing these scoundrels. There was another telegram received from the sub-inspector at Yass, stating that he had succeeded in capturing some of these scoundrels.¹⁶⁰

As Mr Cowper reiterated the government and police's efforts to apprehend the bushrangers, moves were afoot in the Legislature to unseat the Government by renowned lawyer Mr Martin over not only bushranging but public expenditure:

On Thursday afternoon Mr Martin has given notice of another vote of censure embracing not less than twenty-six resolutions, which he proposes to submit seriatim, and having reference to the unauthorised expenditure of public money. So I suppose that we shall have a second edition of the late jawing match which so disgraced our Assembly the other week or two.¹⁶¹

Within the political arena of New South Wales Parliament, a significant challenge to Mr. Cowper's leadership emerged, spearheaded by Mr. James Martin QC, a formidable figure and a former Attorney-General of New South Wales. Martin frequently criticized the government for misappropriating public funds, particularly targeting the financial burdens imposed by the new 1862 police act. This legislation, which led to the formation of a new police force, was a contentious issue for many, including Martin. Among the most vocal critics was Harpur, who relentlessly assailed the police administration for its ineffectiveness, singling out Sir Fredrick Pottinger for his inability to curb the bushranging threat. This tumultuous period was also marked by external scrutiny, notably from the Victorian newspaper 'The Argus', which not only underscored the NSW government's failings but also took the opportunity to deride the rampant crime in NSW and mock the Colonial Secretary. (See link below.)
The Argus
Monday 27th July 1863
Concerning the above article, the Melbourne 'Leader' also on the subject and with tongue in cheek advised how to handle the mail from falling into the bushrangers grasp:

The extreme lengths to which the exploits upon the road have gone has at length attracted the serious attention of the authorities at Sydney. The result is that bushranging is recognised as an established institution—in the department of but, unfortunately, not under the control of the Postmaster-General. As the new bureau is extensive in its transactions, a number of printed forms have been prepared in order to economise the time of the inferior officials. The following are two of the forms just printed for the use of the Sydney Post-office.

No. General Post-Office, Sydney, 1S6. I beg to inform you that the mail dispatched on the form to ....... was robbed on the ....... by bushrangers, and registered letter to your address stolen therefrom. I have the honour to be your obedient servant, W. H. Christie, Postmaster-General, General Post-Office, Sydney, 1S6. I beg to inform you that a cheque drawn by ....... in favour of ....... on ....... which was in the mail from ....... that was robbed by bushrangers on ....... has been recovered, and now lies at this office for delivery to the party who can claim it as property. I am your obedient servant, Postmaster-General. In due course, Mr. Martin would have his pound of flesh.¹⁶³

NSW Police Gazette
2 September 1863.
Leaving Old Junee, Ben Hall was next active on the 29th of August 1863. The five bushrangers had separated following a short stay at O'Meally's uncles home at the Black Range and made plans to rendezvous at the home of John Edmunds, Superintendent Demondrille Station:

O'Meally and I remaining at James O'Meally's place at Black Range, the arrangement being that we will all to meet again at Demondrille Station, near Murrumburrah. O'Meally and I stayed at his relatives place a couple of days and then started for the meeting place.

Newspaper accounts at the time point to Gilbert and O'Meally as entering the premises at Demondrille while the Hall and the others remained outside. The gang stole saddles, bridles, a revolver and a valise as well as two copies of the latest 'Yass Courier' along with some items of warm clothing and two horses, then departed Demondrille, whereby three of the gang, Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke departed from O'Meally and Vane. Separated, O'Meally and Vane called into the hut of harbourers named Tootles, where they took tea and were to spend the night:

Our next place of call was at a bark hut near Wombat, the occupant of which were an old man and woman, a girl and boy—their children—and an earner whose name I afterwards learned was Slater. The visit was a friendly one, and the brandy was brought into requisition—so much so that O'Meally got pretty nearly drunk, and I warned him not to drink any more.

NSW Police Gazette
2nd September 1863.
Subsequently, the news of the attack on Demondrille soon reached the newly established police outpost at Murrumburrah where senior constable Houghey prepared to take the field in pursuit of the bushrangers accompanied by three constables Pentland, Churchman and Keane as well as a blacktracker (unknown) and Mr Edmunds, the manager of Demondrille. At the time of the first report, it was thought that all the assailants were present at Tootles; 'Goulburn Herald', 5th September 1863:

It appears that Senior-constable Houghey, acting on information received, left Murrumburrah at a very early hour last Sunday morning, accompanied by three or four troopers, a gentleman who volunteered, and a black tracker, and went to a shanty situated about four miles from Demondrille on Sherlock Creek. As the police approached nearer they could discern that the horses belonged to the bushrangers, and while consulting as to what plan to adopt, the dogs about the house began barking and howling. Not an instant was to be lost, so the party surrounded the shanty before daybreak, and it was known that O'Meally and one of his mates were inside the hut. The bushrangers soon discovered how they were situated, and discharged a number of shots at the police, wounding two or three of the horses; they then endeavoured to escape unobserved through the back of the but, but Senior-constable Houghey caught sight of them, and hastily dismounting he rushed to the paddock where they were, and while in the act of getting over the fence he was fired at and seriously wounded. The bullet entered at the knee, and descended to near the ankle. Houghey fell and fainted; but how his companions afterwards acted we have not yet been informed. The bushrangers got off on foot. It becoming known in Murrumburrah that O'Meally and his mates were in the neighbourhood, one man succeeding in getting on his horse, escaped. The place being near a free selector's ground, the large amount of fallen timber and it being dark enabled the men to escape. The police brought in two men who were found in the hut besides several horses; the property taken from the station (Mr Edmonds') was also found.

With O'Meally and Vane having escaped, the two men arrested were the harbourers Walter Tootles and George Slater, quite possibly mistaken at first for Gilbert and Burke. However, John Vane, in his narrative of the affray, said that only himself and O'Meally were present. Vane description of the gunfight was reminiscent of the final scene of the film 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' except that, unlike in the film, the pair escaped alive under a fusillade of bullets:

We were startled by a sudden rush, followed by the command, which we knew came from the police, to come out, a threat being made that if we did not they would set fire to the hut. To throw ashes on the fire and put the candle out was the work of a moment and then the place was in total darkness. The old man and woman went into the backroom, the girl crawled under a bunk in one corner and the boy and Slater sought cover in some other place. The police called on us to come out, and as we made no sign they poured a regular storm of bullets into the slab walls, fortunately, without doing any damage, O'Meally and I took a revolver in each hand and suddenly throwing open the door we sent out a blaze of fire, discharging our revolvers simultaneously, and rushed out while the smoke-filled the doorway. I heard one of the policemen call out "I'm shot, but look after their horses.

When arrested, Tootles would be discharged, but Slater would receive five years.

George Slater entry at Cockatoo Island, 1863
However, leaving Brown's O'Meally and Vane confronted Mr John Barnes, a local businessman and well known who, in conjunction with his son's, owned stores at Murrumburrah and Cootamundra. Barnes was returning to Cootamundra with employee Mr Hanlow. When bailed-up by the pair. O'Meally demanded his saddle and horse. Consequently, Barnes refused, dug his heels into the horse taking flight, whereby O'Meally cursing fired off his revolver and commenced pursuit. As Barnes fled, O'Meally continued to fire, resulting in three of the gunshots hitting Mr Barnes in the back; 'Goulburn Herald', 5th September 1863:

John Barnes.
Mr Barnes, storekeeper, (whose son keeps a store at Cootamundry, and had been previously stuck-up) resolved to visit his son, and its occasion called for it, to assist in encountering the bushrangers should they again visit the store at Cootamundry. Mr Barnes was accompanied by some person whose name we have not heard, and on their reaching Wallendbeen, they fell in with the fugitives from the shanty, both of them on foot, one, leading a horse. They ordered Mr Barnes and his companion to stop; the latter set spurs to his horse and made off, Mr Barnes it is supposed was armed, and endeavoured to overcome the desperadoes. Be that as it may, shortly afterwards the body of the unfortunate gentleman was found on the road, with, it is said, no fewer than eighteen bullet-wounds-that causing death entering the centre of the forehead. The bushrangers secured Mr Barnes' horse, and deliberately searched the paddock at Wallendbeen for fresh horse', and failing to find any that suited their requirements they made off.

The news of Mr Barnes's shooting had a sobering effect on Ben Hall, who berated O'Meally. For Ben Hall, O'Meally's guns had twice killed innocent men:

O'Meally, I never thought you would be guilty of such a cowardly thing. O'Meally hung down his head and said, I am sorry now myself for it, but he would not stop when I called on him to do so.

For Ben Hall and his association with the recklessness of O'Meally took his bushranging to another level whereby the police gun-sight or hangman's noose began to draw closer. In his memoirs, John Vane highlights that Ben Hall was angry and devastated when informed of the killing resulting in O'Meally departing with Vane who as well drew the ire of Hall. The participation of Vane in Barnes' death had him also excluded from the gang:

Ben Hall did not say much in my hearing, but I could see he was greatly put out, and I saw him afterwards talking very seriously with O'Meally.

Vane comments that the group then split into two:

Shortly after this occurrence, our party divided for a time.

Therefore, with the death of John Barnes by O'Meally and Vane, a fracture had formed in the gang. As such tension over operations saw a split where O'Meally and Vane stayed near the Weddin Mountains and the other three Burke, Gilbert and Ben Hall remaining in the vicinity of Memagong before making their way towards Bathurst through the Carcoar district: 

Hall, Gilbert and Burke wanted to make back for the Bathurst district but O'Meally and I were not agreeable, so they left us at Memagong and we did not know where they were for several weeks, but we kept the game going on our side all the same.

Subsequently, at the Coroner inquest into Mr Barnes' death, it was reported in the 'Empire' 21st September 1863 that the jury found:

The Coroner of Young held an inquest on the body of Mr. Barnes, the storekeeper who was shot by O'Meally for refusing to submit to be robbed. The unfortunate man had three bullets in his body. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against O'Meally. 

The tragic death of Mr Barnes motivated another letter to the Editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' calling on the Government to employ Ben Hall's close friend Daniel Charters to help catch Hall. Charters had been employed at the police stockade at Longbottom in Sydney since the Eugowra Robbery trial of February 1863. The writer also expresses using the native police who should be brought down from Queensland, the letter is as follows:

To the Editor of the Herald.

SIR, —So many chimeras have been published on the subject of capturing the bushrangers, now infesting the Weddin Mountains and their vicinity, I, with all the diffidence of a civilian (though an old bushman) would suggest to the "powers that be" the feasibility of my plan.

In my younger days in the colony, I did a "leetle" amateur work in taking bushrangers, and a good deal in the capture of wild cattle. I am confident the same course might be equally successful with those wild and impracticable bipeds—namely, by tracking, and thus hunting them off their run. 
The manner I propose this should be done is simple. Let Captain Battye or Sir F. Pottinger be placed in charge of four troopers, lightly equipped and well mounted, procure two of the native police from Queensland; the six men should be selected as to weight, horsemanship, and proficiency with the rifle. Then take Charters, from Longbottom, or wherever he is indolently enjoying himself; mount and arm him equally well. He is a good horseman, and knows not only the country but the haunts of the desperadoes. Let this party get on the tracks, and keep to them. The bushrangers will be wearied out and forced to leave their favourite locality. Once expelled they will prove but easy victims to the numerous troopers patrolling the disturbed district.

It may be said the bushrangers can get fresh horses; well let this small force do as the old mounted police frequently did—press horses when in pursuit. If old sergeant Wilcox is alive he would verify and approve of this plan, and I believe few men have captured more bushrangers than that old soldier.

Bathurst, 4th September.¹⁶⁴

Authors Note: Hinc, Illinc, Ubique is Latin for here, there and everywhere.

Nevertheless, with the gang being hotly pursued and under constant pressure by the NSW Police, the bushrangers numerous and well-concealed camps were coming under police attack. Police vigilance, however, resulted on a few occasions catching the gang napping in their camp.

Inspector Orridge.
In a dramatic twist of events, as chronicled by the 'Illawarra Mercury' on Friday, September 11, 1863, the bushrangers, notably Gilbert and Hall, executed a cunning ploy against the police. They managed to deceive Inspector Orridge and his troop of officers with false intelligence suggesting that they were taking respite in a hut near Wombat. Orridge, acting on this information, led his men away from their camp in pursuit of the bushrangers. Unbeknownst to them, it was a meticulously crafted deception. Seizing the opportunity created by the absence of the police, Ben Hall and Gilbert boldly stormed the unguarded police camp. They unleashed a barrage of bullets, creating chaos and disarray. In a final act of defiance, they commandeered the police horses, effectively crippling the officers' ability to pursue them. This episode marked a significant moment in their ongoing battle against law enforcement:

On Sunday night Detective Inspector Orridge's party of troopers left their bush camp in the neighbourhood of Wombat with only one man and a black tracker to guard it, and went on foot and surrounded a suspected settler's hut. It is probable they were decoyed away by some false information, or else the bush telegraph must have been put in immediate operation, for before the troopers returned Gilbert's gang made a descent upon it, riddled the tent with balls, and ended with galloping off with the trooper's horses. Talk about the ubiquity of Gardiner, why this Gilbert beats him hollow: for he seems to be here there and everywhere: in the morning leading, the onslaught upon Haughey's party, and in the evening attacking the police camp; really this fellow's talents are prostituted in Australia, he ought to, go to America and join some marauding cavalry regiment. General Stuart would take him and ask no questions. For as, a guerrilla officer, he would be invaluable. 

America in 1863 was in the throes of a bloody civil war. In the early part, the Southern Confederacy was striking hard against the Northern Army of Virginia via a ruthless guerrilla war. Whereby, the correspondent above believes Gilbert's expertise in these matters could be put to great use.

Note: My G.G. Grandfather fought in the American Civil War on the Union side as part of Custer's regiment and was wounded at Trevillian station Virginia on 12th June 1864.

NSW Police Gazette,
Ben Hall with young
Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke on separating from O'Meally and Vane left the Burrangong district, proceeding towards the Carcoar district, where earlier John Gilbert had had some moderate success in the company of O'Meally.

Furthermore, Carcoar was home to new chum Mickey Burke and a district Burke knew intimately. The trio appeared next when they arrived at Burrowa 25 miles from Lambing Flat in the first week of September 1863 and conducted a robbery which was reported on the 1st September 1863: 

The store of Messrs. Webb and Crego was entered last night by four armed men, who presented pistols at Mr Webb's head and ordered him to stand still. They then marched him into a room where Mrs Webb was; afterwards brought the servant downstairs, and placed her in the same apartment. The robbers then ransacked five trunks of clothing, the whole of the store, cupboards, work-boxes, furniture, to discover if anything of value was planted. They were on the premises for half an hour and succeeded in carrying off £50 in cash, and about £220 worth of goods. During the time they were engaged in pillaging the store one man came in and was immediately shut up in the room with the other parties. Having thoroughly searched the premises, the robbers quietly rode away, but previous to doing so they removed the prisoners upstairs and told them not to move for ten minutes under penalty of death. Mr Webb, however, came down almost immediately on their leaving, and at once informed the police. The robbers had just crossed the street to their horses, but the police failed in their efforts to overtake them. A double-barrelled gun and two waistcoats were picked up this morning (3rd instant) on the road taken by the robbers. There were five or six police in Burrowa at the time the store was stuck-up.¹⁶⁵

Several days after the Crego robbery, a more detailed picture appeared in the press:

The desperadoes were evidently determined to carry out their plans of plunder (or murder if necessary to accomplish their object) at all hazard, for they entered the premises well armed, each man presenting a revolver at the first person he happened to meet. One-off them stood sentry while the others either helped themselves to what they required or searched for goods that could be best packed, and of the most value. The night being dark at the time, it was considered useless to follow them; but as soon as the moon rose, every man, of the force under Mr Black, took to the bush and scoured the country for twenty miles round, but unfortunately without any other success, than finding a gun and a waistcoat, which the robbers had dropped, and of tracking seven horses to a point, where they appear to have separated and taken different roads. It is so customary nowadays to hear of all sorts of slurs being cast upon the police force, that, no doubt, many of your readers, who seem to delight in all that, may tend to lessen our confidence in them, as well to mark the appreciation of Gilbert's lawless band, will feel greatly disappointed at hearing, that in this case at least, they did all that men could do under such unexpected and trying circumstances, and I firmly believe that, if the officer in charge had a sufficient force to follow the robbers up at once, without leaving the town unprotected, the property might have been recovered. Surely, after such a bold and successful attack as this, the government will see the necessity of increasing the force in this town, and of establishing some stations in the neighbourhood. Upon enquiry I find the particulars of the robbery to be, that about half-past six o'clock as Mr and Mrs Webb were at tea, three men coolly walked into the shop, thence into the parlour, where they ordered the inmates to deliver up their money and valuables. They took £30 in gold from Mrs. Webb and 3s. 6d. in silver from her pocket, and from Mr. Webb his gold guard and £50 in notes and gold.

A man, named Maher, came into the shop at this time, when the robber, supposed to be Jamieson, went out and marched him into the parlour. They then sent Mr and Mrs Webb and servant upstairs forbidding them making any alarm under pain of immediate death and commenced selecting from the store whatever they took fancy to, and called Mr Webb down once to show them where the Crimean shirts were, sending him back with strict injunctions to remain quiet for ten minutes, while they packed their swags. After some time, Mr. Webb, hearing a friend's voice below, came down and gave the alarm. Two troopers, who had just come in from the Flat, happened to be in a public house opposite, they rushed out and fired. The robbers being at that time on their way to the church, where it appears, by the remains of horse feed, they had been feeding their horses before the attack. It is said by a female who was present when the party entered the premises, that Jamison was one of them. She recognised him immediately, having lived on his fathers station. The others were supposed to be Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall. Further comment upon this daring feat is needless. I subjoin a list of the goods, stolen: --4 dozen cloth waistcoats; 2 dozen Crimean shirts; 1 dozen silk handkerchiefs; 8 dozen pairs of trousers; 1 dozen coats; 2 double-barrel guns; 1 revolver; 6 pair Napoleon boots; 2 boxes jewellery, in all £250. Cases of sticking-up and store-robbery are rife as ever.¹⁶⁶

However, O'Meally was not present at Crego's and was misidentified as Burke. The three were next reported a few days later plundering drays:

News arrived in town on Tuesday that three drays, conveying property belonging to Messrs. Moses and Son to Forbes, had been stuck up by three bushrangers, near the saw mills on the Lachlan road. From one dray they took a case of gin and half a chest of tea, from another three cases of merchandise.¹⁶⁷

Disgruntled at the effort of the police, Mr Webb wrote of his loss in a letter. 

A letter was penned by Mr Webb after Ben Hall's robbery of his store on the evening of the 1st September 1863 and illustrates the number of goods stolen, it also reveals that Gilbert and not O'Meally was present. (For best view open in new tab to enlarge.)
Snr-Const Cornett.
c. 1888.
However, to counter Mr Webb's accusations, the police inspector presiding at Burrowa, John Black, sent a memorandum to police headquarters disputing much of Webb's assertions. Furthermore, Black, contrary to perceptions of the behaviour of police, dragged those considered unfit for duty before the court where Webb as a witness recanted his earlier comments and paid the fines of the police found guilty of the charge; 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Saturday 3rd October 1863. Report from S. J. Black. Police Depot, Sydney, 28th September 1863:

Sir- I have the honour to report for your information that, at 7 20 pm. on the 1st instant, Mr Webb, of the firm of Webb and Crego, at Burrowa, came to my quarters at the Commercial Hotel and reported that his store had been stuck-up by Gilbert, O'Meally, and two others. I at once procured my revolver, and proceeded to the lock-up to muster the men, and at the same time requested Mr Webb to call upon sergeant Richards and direct him to come to me at once. There is no barracks at Burrowa, and the men, being scattered in different parts of the town, sometime elapsed before they were got together. Two men belonging to the Marengo station, named Swan and T. Foley, who had arrived at Burrowa that afternoon on escort, I found to be drunk and unfit for duty. Foley stated that he fired five shots at some men on horseback who he ran after. The five men belonging to the station were perfectly correct with the exception of the sergeant, who could not be found, although sent for several times. I afterwards ascertained he had been at Mr Webb's store in a state of intoxication. In consequence of the darkness of the night at the time of the robbery, I thought it useless to attempt to follow the robbers, as it was impossible to discover which way they had taken but sent the men to protect the stores and lock-up (which is very insecure), fearing an attempt might be made to rescue two prisoners, who were confined for highway robbery underarms.

At 3 o'clock in the morning, I proceeded with two men to watch and search the house of a person named Downey, a relative of O'Meally's, and suspected of harbouring bushrangers, but did not find them, although I have since ascertained they had been there two hours before the store was stuck-up (this house is situated about seven miles from Burrowa). Senior constable Cornett and one man was also sent to watch the house of another suspected harbourer named Lynch, but did not find them.

After scouring the bush for several hours and met with no tracks, we were compelled to return to Burrowa in consequence of the two prisoners referred to being remanded for hearing before the magistrates that morning, and who was committed for trial. The gun and clothing found by a boy, and referred to in Mr Webb's letter in the Empire, was picked up in daylight in the bush a very short distance from the store. The thieves appeared to have separated and to have taken two different roads, and their tracks were visible but for a short distance.

Inspector-General and Captain Zouch, arrived at Burrowa on the 3rd and after making enquiries, I was directed by them to suspend sergeant Richards, and have senior constable Swan and constable T. Foley to be brought in from Marengo, when the whole three were brought before the magistrates and charged with being drunk and unfit for duty when called upon; Richards and Swan pleaded guilty; Foley not guilty; the evidence was given against them by myself and Mr Webb.

The bench fined Richards twenty shillings, and Swan, from the good character he received from Captain Zouch, was only fined one shilling. Foley was discharged. I may state, that though Mr Webb had told Mr Hayes, one of the presiding magistrates, on the day after the robbery, and also stated in his published letter that the police were drunk when in the witness box he declined (although pressed hard upon the point by me) to swear that the men were either drunk or unfit for duty.

I was informed by senior-constable Cornett, that he expressed his sorrow to him for having said anything against the police, as he believed they had done all they could in the matter, he also paid the fine for Richards in the court, and in the presence of the magistrates. The stores of Messrs. Webb and Crego are situated at one end of the town and close to the bush. Constable Stewart reported that he passed it only a few minutes prior to the time the robbery was reported to have taken place, and saw nothing suspicious in the neighbourhood.

I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant, 
JOHN BLACK, Sub-inspector.
E. Fossbury, Esq. Secretary of Police, Sydney.

The bushrangers upon having stolen many items from the store, Ben Hall was reported to be seen flashily dressed, including being adorned with several red silk sashes wrapped around his waist. A customary dress of the diggers and stockmen of the Goldfields and the youth populace. At the time, an individual was not considered well dressed unless they were dressed up with sashes and trinkets as described during country towns festivities and horse races:

The diggers did not consider they were well-dressed without the red silk sash, with tassels shaped like bells hanging down below the pockets. There was usually a fiddler kept in every booth having a boarded floor at races, and they would dance nearly all day, then have a go at two-up and the thimble-and-pea game. All they knew about the races was what someone told them a week later.¹⁶⁸

Amidst escalating public criticism, Captain M'Lerie, the Inspector-General of Police, took decisive action during his visit to the embattled regions. He initiated a series of transfers involving several police officers stationed in various townships. One such relocation that sparked significant unrest was that of Sub Inspector Brennan from Yass. Brennan, recently appointed, had quickly established himself as a formidable law enforcer. His track record included the fatal shooting of a bushranger and the capture of several others. His reputation was that of a no-nonsense officer, a man whose presence alone commanded respect and caution. This reshuffle, particularly Brennan's removal, marked a critical point in the ongoing struggle against bushranging, as noted in the reports from August 21, 1863.

Sub-inspector Brennan has apprehended a bushranger named Druitt, one of the three armed men who stuck up and robbed Mrs Best's sheep station, on the 21st instant. Druitt put a revolver to the head of a man named Froy on the night of the robbery and threatened to blow his brains out. Information has been received of the capture at Yass, by sub-inspector Brennan, of a well-known thief named McGuinness. The proceeds of several robberies were found in his possession.¹⁶⁹

Brennan was, for the most part, an officer who Ben Hall had to keep his distance, but with the deterioration of the law at Young, Brennan was sent for from Yass. (McGuinness is the brother of the McGuinness shot dead after fleeing the gunfight with police at Brewer's shanty in 1862)

Sub Insp Brennan
c. 1870's
Brennan's arrival at Young, as well as a strong police presence, had Hall and Gilbert packing their swag for the Carcoar district. As reported: 

Sub-inspector Brennan of Yass, having been ordered to proceed to Young, the townspeople of the former place held a public meeting on Thursday last and agreed to memorialize the colonial secretary to keep him where he is. Mr Brennan having made himself thoroughly acquainted with the Yass district, and with the bad characters who reside in it, his removal to a part of the country where he is a stranger would be very injudicious; and the intention to do this is in direct contradiction to the rule by which Mr Cowper professed to be guided when he was defending the police administration. It is to be sincerely hoped that we may hear no more of these mischievous removals from districts well known to the officers to localities with which they are unacquainted, and where, however brave and energetic, they must for some time at least be comparatively useless.¹⁷⁰

The following was reported of the recognition of the brave efforts of both Brennan and Stephenson in their gunning down of bushrangers:

We understand (says the Empire) that the government, having taken into consideration the conduct of acting Sub-inspector Brennan in the apprehension of bushrangers of late, and that of Senior-sergeant Stephenson in the affray with, and capture of Lowry and his gang last Saturday, have promoted both officers named to the rank of sub-inspector, as a mark of appreciation of the zeal and bravery displayed by Messrs. Brennan and Stephenson on the occasion above alluded to. These marks of approval in addition to the large rewards that will be paid by permission of the government, to the officers and will doubtless, have the effect of stimulating each member of the police force to use the utmost exertions to distinguish themselves in the detection and suppression of crime.¹⁷¹

The fears of Sub Inspector Brennan posting from Yass were laid to rest when the petition for keeping Brennan at Yass was answered: 

The following answer has been returned to the petition sent to Sydney from Yass, praying that Mr Sub-inspector Brennan might not be removed from that district: -" Sydney, 5th September. The colonial secretary to H. O'Brien, Esq., Yass: -You need not be apprehensive that Sub-inspector Brennan will be shifted. He is only employed for a time on special duty.¹⁷²
William Yuill.
c. 1870's.

Never before published.
Private Source.

The strategic response to the rampant lawlessness in the Burrangong goldfields involved an overwhelming deployment of police forces, tasked with apprehending Ben Hall and his associates. This operation saw a notable shift in tactics, as advised by Sir Frederick Pottinger. He advocated for the police to abandon their traditional uniforms in favor of bush attire, a move aimed at blending in more effectively with the local environment.

Amidst this heightened police presence, O'Meally and Vane, members of Hall's gang, continued their criminal activities. They executed a series of minor robberies in the vicinity of Young and along the route leading to the Weddin Mountains, capitalising on the gang's decision to split up for their endeavors.

A notable incident occurred on September 10th, involving a bootmaker named William Yuill. While traveling the Young-Forbes road, Yuill unexpectedly found himself at the mercy of John O'Meally's revolver. Despite knowing O'Meally for years and believing that their acquaintance would spare him from harm, Yuill was proven wrong. Among Yuill's possessions was a pair of finely crafted Napoleon riding boots, which O'Meally seized, although Yuill's money was left untouched. This encounter, emblematic of the unpredictable nature of bushranging, was later recounted by the Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier:

Yesterday our principal shoemaker, Mr Yuill, was stuck up between here and the Twelve Mile Rush by John O'Maley and mates. He had on the pommel of his saddle four pairs of colonial boots, which took the outlaws fancy, and were appropriated accordingly. Mr Yuill has known O'Maley for a number of years, therefore he pleaded hard for one particular pair of highly finished napoleons to be returned; whereupon O'Maley jumped off his horse, pulled off his boots, tried on the good-looking napoleons, and found them each a capital fit, that he said with an oath he could not think of returning them; but, for the sake of old times, he would not search him, consequently Mr Yuill was allowed to ride on. This is, I believe, the first instance on record of any traveller leaving Johnny O’Meally’s presence with sound pockets.¹⁷³

Nobody was safe from a gang visit. Even in the quiet of a teamsters camp, the arrival of the bushrangers could not be deterred as they demanded a free feed and fodder for their stolen thoroughbreds. These raids often made for an uneasy and fearful evening for the carriers:

The small amount of fear they seem to have of being taken, we may state that some few days ago Mr Miles Murphy of Binalong, dispatched a load of cut hay to the Flat, and on the driver of the team camping for the night within a couple of miles of the 'Currawang Station,' he was visited by Gilbert and four of his mates; they remained all night, feeding their horses with the cut hay; and in the early dawn took their leave quite leisurely. One of the horses thus fed was a superior animal belonging to Mr Howard of Binalong; and was stolen from Mr Murphy, Jun., at Lambing Flat, eight or ten days ago.¹⁷⁴
Mr Eastlake
c. 1920's

In his autobiography, edited by Charles White, author of "The History of Australian Bushranging Volumes 1 & 2," John Vane sheds light on a significant misconception about the notorious bushranging activities in the Burrangong region. Contrary to popular belief and reports, it was Vane himself, not Ben Hall, who was responsible for two high-profile robberies at Lambing Flat – the Eastlake and Neismith robberies. In these daring heists, Vane was accompanied by John O'Meally, both brandishing revolvers.

The residents of Burrangong and the surrounding towns were engulfed in a cloud of uncertainty, unable to accurately distinguish one bushranger from another. This confusion often led to the misattribution of various crimes to Ben Hall, especially when O'Meally or Gilbert were involved. However, following the death of Mr Barnes, Hall and O'Meally ceased operating together, a fact not widely known at the time.

Despite the prevailing belief that Hall was involved in the Lambing Flat crimes alongside O'Meally, it was actually John Vane who participated in these robberies. This revelation, as confirmed through Vane's memoirs, highlights the complexities and misconceptions surrounding the identities and actions of the bushrangers during this tumultuous period in Australian history:

Mr Eastlake cannot identify either of the men, but he supposes them to have been O'Meally and Hall.

Charles White.
Courtesy Western
Newspaper reports also stated that John Vane was a new chum and unknown to Lambing Flat's citizens, unlike O'Meally. Therefore, it appears that the witnesses in the adrenaline-charged atmosphere of the gunfight in the two stores assumed and naturally so that it was O'Meally and Ben Hall. However, by the 10th September Hall was sighted in the carcoar area: 

Last Thursday evening, 10th September 1863 shortly after sundown, Mr Eastlake's store, of the Twelve Mile Rush, was entered by two men, one of whom asked to see some trousers, which were shown him, when he said he required some of another quality, and upon Mr Eastlake turning round, while behind the counter, to hand them to him, a revolver was pointed at him by the supposed customer. Mr Eastlake immediately put up the trousers before his face, at the same time calling out loudly to his man, to come to his assistance, whereupon the robber fired at him; the slugs from the pistol striking the shelves, breaking a bottle of oil, and marking sundry articles. How Mr Eastlake escaped is a mystery, for the shot seemed to have taken effect all round where he stood. Immediately upon hearing the call for assistance, the man in the inner room rushed out, when the other robber jumped on the counter and fired at him, the ball missing and lodging in the door-post at the height of his head Another man in the store now came out of the inner room, but in the scuffle, the lamp had gone out, and though he had a revolver, he could not see plainly enough to fire. One of the men who had come out of the inner room had retreated, and giving the alarm by calling out, 'Roll up;' and the bushrangers, finding probably that the affair was becoming critical for them, retreated towards the door, firing a parting shot, and, jumping on their horses, decamped, not having succeeded in taking a single article. The whole affair only occupied a minute or two, and it is entirely due to Mr Eastlake's call for assistance, his dodging the men behind the counter, and standing his ground, that he was not plundered. He risked his life, however, for the determination of the two men was plain enough to murder any who made the least sign of resistance.¹⁷⁵  

Subsequently, after the gunfire at the Twelve and Ten Mile rushes, O'Meally and John Vane retreated from the district and headed for Carcoar, searching for Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke. While preparing to head for Carcoar the pair were supplied by some local lasses. Vane recounted:

Once more the girls came to visit us, and as we learned from them that the police were looking for us along the Lambing Flat road we decided to remain at the camp until they returned to the Twelve Mile, as soon as they returned we left the camp taking a fond farewell of the girls who had proved such good friends to us and took the road the police had just left, four or five days after leaving the camp near the Twelve mile, we made a start back for the Carcoar district, first loading up two pack horses with the store goods, chiefly drapery, intended as presents for certain lady friends which we had accumulated. Necessarily, we did not travel very fast, leaving Spring Creek early in the morning we made for the mountain called Black Hill and there stayed for a day and a night, receiving shelter in the sawyer’s hut. We here made enquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke.¹⁷⁶


Following the death of Mr. Barnes, the gang, including notable figures like Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Burke, dispersed, igniting an intense public fascination in Sydney with the wild bushrangers of the Western Districts. The citizens, eager for any information about these outlaws, voraciously consumed articles and stories about their escapades. The demand was so high that booksellers frequently sold out of publications on Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, and Ben Hall, leading to the issuance of second editions that detailed the daring and sometimes triumphant adventures of these "wild colonial boys."

In the meantime, Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Burke resumed their bushranging activities, focusing their efforts in and around the Carcoar District. Their exploits once again captured the attention of the colony, as newspapers like 'The Sydney Morning Herald' diligently covered their renewed and resolute criminal endeavors.

By September 1863, the bushranging activities reached a new peak as O'Meally and Vane rejoined the group. The reunited quintet embarked on a relentless campaign of bushranging throughout the month. They embarked on a series of raids, robbing and shooting indiscriminately, leaving a trail of chaos and fear in their wake. This period marked a significant chapter in their notorious careers, as reported by 'The Sydney Morning Herald' on Monday, September 21, 1863:

Several policemen returned to Young on Tuesday 4th September 1863. With the search of the bushrangers reported they succeeded in sighting, but not in catching the men who stuck up the storekeepers. They succeeded in also capturing five horses taken by the bushrangers, brought them into the camp.¹⁷⁸

Ward Description,
NSW Police Gazette.
14th October 1863.
Ben Hall and the gang were unaware that on the 13th September 1863, another convict who after Daniel Morgan and themselves eventually seized the mantle of terror of the 
'Queens Highways.' As further north in the New England region surfaced Frederick Ward 
an escapee from Cockatoo Island. His name was who soon was to carry the sobriquet of Captain Thunderbolt:

On the master roll being called at Cockatoo Island on Sunday evening, two of the prisoners, named Britton and Ward, were found missing. On search being made, the leg irons of the former were discovered on the northern end of the island, and subsequently, Britton's clothes were found; but no traces of Ward could be seen. Ward was a Windsor resident, and was under sentence for cattle-stealing.¹⁷⁹

Frederick Ward, alias
Capt. Thunderbolt,
in death 1870.

As the bushrangers split into separate factions, a significant development occurred concerning John O'Meally's family. The NSW Government, acting under the 'Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861', forcibly removed the O'Meally family from Arramagong Station, located at the southeastern end of the Weddin Mountains. This action was taken at the request of the station's owner and marked a government effort to dismantle any support networks for bushrangers. The O'Meally family had been squatting on this land for two years.

Two months prior to the eviction, John O'Meally received a formal notice to vacate the premises, a directive his father, Patrick O'Meally, staunchly refused to recognize. Emboldened by his Irish heritage and sentiments, Patrick O'Meally dismissed the likelihood of the eviction being enforced. His defiance was palpable as he publicly proclaimed his belief that the police would never follow through with their threat. This incident not only highlighted the government's crackdown on those suspected of aiding bushrangers but also underscored the resolve and rebellious spirit of the O'Meally family in the face of authoritative pressure:

That he would stick to the house as long as there were two sheets of bark on it; that if forcibly ejected he would break in the doors, and remain till it should be burnt over his head.

The police applied a fire-stick to the building and stood by till the house was reduced to a heap of ashes as had befallen Ben Hall's home. They then ran the family 'out of town.' Yass Courier, 16th September 1863:

The day before yesterday a party of police, headed by a Sub-inspector (Roberts), surrounded Patrick O'Malley's public house in the Wedden Mountains; they searched the place for bushrangers but found none. The officer told O'Malley to clear himself, family, and chattels, out of the house, as he was going to burn it down; but the old man refused to budge an inch, saying, "the police have often threatened to burn us out, but they have never done it yet, and I don't believe ever will." Whereupon the sub-inspector took from the health a firestick, went outside, and instantly commenced the work of destruction; and in a very short time, naught remained of the once substantial inn but a heap of charcoal and smoking embers. This O'Meally is the father of the notorious Johnny O'Malley. The old man and a portion of his family are now living in a tent contiguous to their late homestead. The police who conducted the ejection were the following officers and constables present at the time; Sub-inspector Roberts, Sub-inspector P. Brennan, constables Hodson, Stepp, and Musgrove, and two black trackers, unnamed.

Ben Hall's sphere of influence and operation expanded to cover vast territories, including the districts of Forbes, Lambing Flat, Bathurst, and Goulburn. His trajectory seemed increasingly destined for a tragic end, either at the gallows or by a bullet. Yet, in the face of this ominous fate, Hall remained undeterred, seizing every chance to outsmart the NSW mounted police and undermine the government's authority.

Hall, along with his four armed and exceptionally well-mounted comrades, frequently left the police forces, often referred to as "traps," feeling demoralised and powerless in their encounters. This period was marked by the gang's escalating ferocity, which wreaked havoc across the Western and South-Western Districts of New South Wales. Their relentless campaign of bushranging not only sowed chaos and fear but also had profound political repercussions, ultimately contributing to the downfall of the government. This chapter in Hall's life encapsulates his enduring legacy as a figure who continually challenged and evaded law enforcement, significantly impacting the social and political landscape of the era.

 The map right is courtesy of Des Shields, Ben Hall, Bushranger.

 Continued on Part 3.

#-Reference notes and source material can be accessed on the EndNote page except where the book, author or newspaper title are named. Publications referred to can be found on the Links Page. For any research assistance no charge, contact is on the Home Page under Contact details or Email to For an enhanced view of photographs, click right mouse button and select 'open in new tab'.


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