# 41347

BURGESS, Francis (1793-1864)

[TASMANIA; BUSHRANGERS] Francis Burgess, Chief Police Magistrate, Hobart Town : autograph note signed, to the magistrate at Richmond regarding the dispatch of mounted policemen to help in the pursuit and capture of bushrangers in the Prosser’s Plains district. 29 November, 1843.

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Manuscript in ink, single sheet (225 x 185 mm); signed ‘Fras. Burgess’ and headed ‘Police Department [Hobart Town], Nov. 29 1843’, the note is addressed to ‘Chas. Schaw Esq., Magistrate’; endorsed at Richmond ‘Recd. 1/4 past 2 of pm’; verso docketed ‘CPM, 29 Nov ’43, “Bushrangers”‘; two original horizontal folds, extremely well preserved.

An interesting item of police correspondence from the Chief Police Magistrate at Hobart Town, Francis Burgess (1793-1864), to the Police Magistrate at Richmond, Charles Schaw (1785-1874), regarding the deployment of mounted police troopers in the hunt for a group of bushrangers – escaped convicts from Port Arthur who were now at large in the Prosser’s Plains district.

Burgess had only recently arrived in Tasmania from England. Although he does not explicitly refer to them as ‘natives’ or ‘blacks’, it seems reasonable to speculate that the mounted policemen to whom he refers were two of the Aboriginal trackers from the New South Wales Native Police whose skill and tenacity proved invaluable in hunting down bushrangers in Van Diemen’s Land during this period.


I send you a mounted policeman for Richmond. Send the one now there immediately on to Prosser’s Plains district to Buckland, there to remain under orders of the Assistant Police Magistrate ’till further orders. Til [then] every dispatch be used in forwarding express, so long as the Bush Rangers [are] around….’

The following eyewitness account of the pursuit and capture of the bushrangers, supplied by Richmond Chief District-Constable Edwin Lascelles, was published in the Colonial Times (Hobart Town), 12 December 1843:

‘THE BUSHRANGERS from PORT ARTHUR. We have been kindly favoured by Mr. Edwin Lascelles with the following statement of his pursuit and capture of the bushrangers; with a party of constables belonging to the Richmond Police, accompanied by the two New South Wales blacks, whose ingenuity and perseverance in following up the tracks for so long a distance, and in such a rough country is truly astonishing. We publish it in Mr. Lascelles’ own words:- “Having been joined by the two blacks, on Monday last, I with a party of constables and them proceeded from Prosser’s River, where we had been stationed in pursuit of the bushrangers, who had attacked the house of Mr. Harrison of the Sandspits, where one of them was killed and two others wounded; we shortly afterwards obtained information from Mr. Iles, District Constable at Spring Bay, that they had robbed the premises of a Mr. Francis at Prosser’s Plains, of a quantity of provisions and other articles ; we immediately proceeded to his premises and arrived there about twelve o’clock ; the blacks immediately took up the track, which we followed for upwards of three miles in a westerly direction, and then found the bushrangers had turned towards the east, in which direction we also proceeded for about sixteen miles, tracking them the whole of the way ; it now came on to rain and continued for eleven hours ; the track of the bushrangers was now lost, but the blacks after persevering for about three hours succeeded in finding it again, and we came up to a place where the bushrangers had stopped the night before, which was about three miles from where we had encamped ourselves; next morning at four o’clock we proceeded in the track for about five miles, tracing their steps into a gully, when they re- traced their steps and turned into another gully, bearing to the left; here we found a fire had been lighted the embers left being quite hot; we continued the pursuit tracking them the whole of the way at the rate of about four miles an hour until seven o’clock in the evening, when Hamilton, one of the blacks, being fatigued and it getting dark, desired to encamp for the night, to which I agreed. Next morning at four o’clock we proceeded in the track, and after having gone about a couple of miles, we perceived a tent, and being satisfied in our own minds the bushrangers were there, we immediately made for it ; they were asleep ; we surrounded them, and secured the whole of them without any difficulty; they had one double-barrelled and two single-barrelled pieces loaded, but had no opportunity of using them, we came upon them so suddenly ; having safely secured them, we proceeded to Mr. Stanfield’s hut, a distance of about eleven miles, at the Eastern Marshes, where I procured a cart and bullocks, in which they were placed, and conveyed to Jerusalem, where we arrived about one o’clock in the morning. We were here provided with every accommodation by Mr. Smith, the landlord of the Lamb Inn, and on Friday at one o’clock we arrived at Richmond, with our prisoners safely secured in a cart, and two horses which I obtained from Mr. Bonney, of Jerusalem, and they are now safely lodged in Richmond gaol. I have not words to express the skill displayed by those blacks tracking in the bush the steps of the bushrangers from the commencement of our journey, which was at least sixty miles, and that through the most rugged part of the country, and I do consider the whole credit is due to the blacks for the apprehension of the bushrangers. I, at the same time, cannot omit to state, that the conduct of the constables under me was most praiseworthy ; they were always on the alert, and ready to act at a moment’s notice, from the time they went out until the bushrangers were apprehended.- EDWIN LASCELLES, C.D.C.”‘