Site Name Risdon Cove, River Derwent
Aboriginal Place Name
Language Group Big River [Leenowwine; Pangerninghe]
Colony VDL
Present State/Territory TAS
Police District Hobart
Coordinates (imprecise to approx. 250m) -42.812,147.314,0
Date 3 May 1804
Attack Time Late morning
Aboriginal People Killed 30
Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M 30 - 50 unspecified F; Probable: M F; Possible: M F; Wounded: M F; A 2 year old boy taken prisoner.
Non-Aboriginal People Killed 0
Non-Aboriginal People Killed Notes Killed: M F; Wounded: M F
Attacker Category Military /Police / Settler
Attacker Details 15 armed soldiers from 102 Regiment led by Lt. William Moore, 15 armed convicts led by magistrate Jacob Mountgarrett and 2 settlers.
Motive Alleged attack on settler
Type Of Motive Reprisal
Weapons Used Muskets, bayonets, four pounder carronade loaded with grape and canister shot.
Notes This comprised three separate engagements over three hours on the same day.
Narrative A large group of Big River men, women and children suddenly appeared late morning on top of a hill behind the Risdon outpost on a kangaroo drive. Lt Moore, the officer in charge, ordered two detachments of six soldiers to fire at the Big River people in two separate engagements in which at least two Big River warriors were killed. Then in a third engagement, the magistrate, Jacob Mountgarrett, ordered that a four pounder carronade be loaded with grape and canister shot and fired at the Big River people to disperse them. He then led a group of armed soldiers, convicts and two settlers in a charge ‘some distance up the valley’ where ‘more were wounded’ and ‘a fine Native boy’ about two years old was captured after his ‘Mother and Father were both killed’. Three witnesses recorded their experiences of the massacre. Two of them were the leading perpetrators, Moore and Mountgarrett provided reports in the immediate aftermath. They claimed that Big River warriors threatened the outpost and began the affray by attacking a settler and that two Big River people were killed. The third witness, Edward White, was interviewed about the incident 26 years later. He said that the soldiers began firing first and that a great many Big River people were ‘slaughtered and wounded’.
Sources Nicholls 1977: 51; HRA III, I: 237-8; BPP 1831:37, 51-54; Ryan, L. 2012: 47-62.
Corroboration Rating ***