At magistrate Robert Lowe’s farm, Birling, a small detachment of soldiers had arrived and Lowe was busy gathering ‘all the arms and ammunition in his district’. Then came news that three of the Macarthurs’ servants at Upper Camden had ‘fallen victim to the dreadful atrocities of the savage natives’. The armed party ‘immediately distributed the ammunition … which afforded but a small proportion to each man’.
In Hassall’s account, they ‘mustered about forty armed men, some with muskets some with pistols some with pitch forks some with pikes and others with nothing’. Lowe’s force marched to Lower then Upper Camden where a ‘small company of the more friendly natives’ said they could guide them to the warriors who had committed the ‘dreadful atrocities’. They also warned the militia that these warriors ‘would show fight whenever attacked’.
This indeed proved to be the case. They had not travelled far — probably somewhere on the nearby Razorback Range — when ‘their enemy was upon them’ and the warriors, as Hassall described it, ‘began to dance in a manner daring our approach’. When the militia ‘advanced toward them … they threw a shower of spears’. Lowe’s men commenced firing ‘but to little affect owing to the disorder of our men’ and with ‘the enemy … posted on a high perpendicular rock’, ‘spears and stones came in great abundance’.
According to Hassall, ‘the natives would fall down as soon as the men would present their muskets to them and then get up and dance’. He could not but wonder that ‘a great number of us’ were not killed. In this ‘bad and dangerous situation’ the militia began to retreat, and the retreat then turned into a rout. Hassall, on horseback, ‘could scarce keep up with some of them’, who ‘even threw off their shoes to enable them to run fast’.
The desperation in Hassall’s letters is palpable. He describes how settlers and shepherds were ‘leaving their flocks behind to the mercy of the storm’. After their victory, the warriors broke off pursuit and Lowe managed to rally his men. But bands of hundreds of warriors had been seen in the area. Groups of refugees from various scattered farms had gathered at Narellan and were told to flee as ‘the natives had obliged us to retreat’.
One defiant woman said ‘she would not go till her husband went with her, or she would die with him’. After returning to Macquarie Grove, Hassall found to his ‘very agreeable surprise’, ‘a reinforcement’ and ‘ammunition’. Now the defensive militia was in full swing. That night they ‘stood armed on watch, taking turns all night long’. Hassall remained ‘in daily expectation’ of the warriors ‘paying another visit’.