I have a cousin who fought at the battle of Eureka stockade. The Eureka rebellion is considered by some historians to be the birthplace of Australian democracy. It is the only Australian example of armed rebellion leading to reform of unfair laws.

On 3 December 1854 soldiers and police stormed a stockade erected by miners at the Eureka lead, Ballarat.

One of the mounted police was Samuel Stackpoole Furnell (1823-1880), my second cousin five times removed.

Samuel Furnell was born in Limerick, Ireland on 22 January 1823. He was the son of Samuel Furnell and Mary nee Cudmore.

In November 1852 Mr S. S. Furnell arrived in Melbourne, Victoria as a passenger on the Delagny, which had left London on 30 July. He had briefly served as a private in the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards from October 1850 to March 1851. At the time of his arrival he was 29 years old.

Shortly after this Samuel Furnell enlisted as a police cadet. The list of unclaimed letters at Melbourne Post Office for 31 December 1852 published in the Government Gazette of 26 January 1853 includes a letter for Samuel S Furnell Police Cadet.

In 1853, Samuel Furnell served as a policeman on the Beechworth goldfields. In July he was reported as being a sub-inspector at Spring Creek near Beechworth. In August sub-inspector Furnell was reported to be hunting for bushrangers between Spring Creek and the New South Wales border.

Mounted police 1853

“Mounted police, gold escort guard / sketched on the spot” by S.T. Gill 1853


I am not sure when he moved to Ballarat, but by November 1854 Sub-inspector Furnell was reported to have been on detective duty on the Ballarat diggings in November 1854. At that time the Catholic priest Father Patrick Smyth informed Sub-inspector Furnell, and through Furnell, the Gold Commissioner Robert Rede, that the Government Camp was in great danger of assault from disgruntled miners. Smyth knew Furnell from the Beechworth diggings.

Before dawn on 3 December 1854, 182 soldiers and 94 police were led by Gilbert Amos, Commissioner of the Eureka camp, to the stockade set up by the miners. The soldiers attacked at dawn. Samuel Furnell was one of four sub-inspectors in charge of the 70 mounted police.

Furnell and the mounted troopers were on the west of the stockade threatening the flank and the rear. The attack was made by the soldiers where the slope was the steepest. This plan, conceived by Captain Thomas (later Lieutenant General Sir John Wellesley Thomas, KCB ), was regarded as clever.

Samuel Hughye, clerk at the Government Camp, made a diagram of the battlefield.  The position of the mounted police can be seen to the right of the diagram.

Hughye battlefield map

It has been noted by the historian Peter Fitzsimons that there has been criticism of the role played by the mounted police in the Eureka battle. He states however the police were not soldiers and it was never intended that they should storm the stockade. Their task as described by Captain Thomas was to threaten the stockade’s flank and rear. Fitzsimons writes that in military parlance to threaten means to distract an enemy or to restrict his tactical options. It does not necessarily mean to charge into the fray. Fitzsimons also notes that the mounted troopers would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to cross the wall of slabs forming the stockade, particularly while the stockade was being defended.

After the battle, Samuel Furnell was called to give evidence and described capturing John Fenwick who was running away from the stockade. Although Fenwick was arrested he was not sent for trial. Furnell also described capturing Henry Reid who was sent to trial for High Treason.

In January 1855 Samuel Furnell gave evidence about the events of 30 November 1854:

Samuel S. Furnell, being sworn, said I am a Sub Inspector of Police. I recollect the 30th of November. I was on duty. I went down after the police had been assaulted, with another party, to aid them. I found the police drawn up in the road, and from 500 to 1000 people drawn up in front of them. Some stones were being thrown at the police. Captain Carter accompanied me with foot police. Captain Carter sent two men to ask a man for his license, one of them was struck down ; this was in presence of the crowd. The crowd showed approbation, I should fancy. I was present when the act was read. It was about half past eleven or twelve. The military had been called out. A shot was fired. Saw Campbell running away, with smoke around him. I rode after him, and took him. He had a revolver on him, of which one barrel had been fired off. I saw M’Intyre at the meeting after the riot act was read. I saw Bryant there, he was violent. He was there I believe.

Mr. Michie: Do not tell us, sir, what you believe. Is he the man ?

Witness continued: Well, I do not know. I will not swear he is the man. I decline speaking about Goddard.

In the trials for High Treason Samuel Furnell gave evidence of the capture of Jan Vennik and on another day spoke about being called a “Joe” and other bad terms. He stated he had been “Joe’d” for two or three years on the diggings and was now pretty well used to it.

By June 1855 Samuel Furnell was a sub-inspector at Castlemaine.

Furnell rose to the rank of Police Superintendent 1st class, in charge of the Geelong district.