SBS > Gold > Literature > Raffaelo Carboni: eyewitness to the bloodshed

Raffaelo Carboni: eyewitness to the bloodshed

"This maiden appearance of our standard, in the midst of armed men, sturdy, self working gold-diggers of all languages and colours, was a fascinating object to behold. There is no flag in old Europe half so beautiful as the 'Southern Cross' of the Ballarat miners, first hoisted on the old spot Bakery Hill."

At dawn on December 3 1854, over 250 police and soldiers charged on 120 protesting miners in the Eureka Stockade. In the only eyewitness account of the Eureka Stockade, Raffaelo Carboni sheds light on the bloodshed of the attack. His book The Eureka Stockade was originally self published and sold through subscription. Today it is in wide circulation and Carboni’s legacy is fully appreciated. Historian Brian Fitzpatrick described Carboni’s book as belonging to "the stuff of Australian History, and why, as an accurate account of the incidents which he describes, it merits being 'prescribed reading' in every Australian school, and self-prescribed reading for every Australian citizen". W.B Withers, author of The History of Ballarat, states: "Raffaelo was possessed of a warm poetic temperament, with considerate shrewdness of observation and faculty for description", and that, "his narrative has colour and fire and incisiveness, and will make itself read".

Italian born Carboni was a professor, interpreter and translator, and was fluent in Italian, French, Spanish, German and English. He came to Australia, like many others, to find his fortune on the gold fields. Instead he found unrest amongst the diggers due to the tyrannical administration of the licensing system. A natural born leader, Carboni took charge and led the miners in their protest against the injustice that was occurring.

The bloodshed of the attack

Carboni describes the indiscriminate targets of the troopers. If you were not hidden away, you were in danger.

"On crossing the gully to return to my tent, an infernal trooper trotting on the road to Ballarat, took a deliberate aim at me, and fired his Minie rifle pistol with such a tolerable precision, that the shot whizzed and actually struck the brim of my cabbage-tree hat, and blew it off my head. Mrs Davis, who outside the tent close by, is a living witness to the above."

Many miners were killed, and many more were injured, on December the 3rd 1854. Carboni describes what he was faced with upon returning to the site of the bloodshed.

"I hastened, and what a horrible sight! Old acquaintances crippled with shots, the gore protruding from the bayonet wounds, their clothes and flesh burning all the while."

Eureka Stockade by Beryl Ireland
Courtesy of the La Trobe Collection
State Library of Victoria

"A book must stand or fall by the truth contained in it"

Following the uprising the Government sought to blame those who had been involved. Being a prominent leader of the diggers Carboni was arrested. He was placed in gaol where he stayed for four months until his trial. The charge was high treason.

Raffaelo Carboni was acquitted by a Melbourne jury and once released he began to write his book detailing his experiences before and after the attack on the Eureka Stockade. He published his book exactly a year after the bloodshed had occurred.

"I undertake to do what an honest man should do, let it thunder or rain. He who buys this book to lull himself to sleep had better spend his money in grog. He who reads this book to smoke a pipe over it, let him provide himself with plenty of tobacco – he will have to blow hard. A lover of truth – that’s the man I want – and he will have in this book the truth, and nothing but the truth."


By Lisa Breen


Raffaelo Carboni, The Eureka Stockade, Lloyd O’Neil Pty Ltd, 1984.


| Top | Home  | About the VCC  | Contact us |