TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Moonlite Gang hits road (Oct 1879)
Moonlite sets out on foot with a band of young men (Nesbitt, Williams, Wernicke and Rogan) to Wantabadgery Station via Wagga Wagga in NSW, to find work.
Moonlite and his men they reach outskirts of Wagga Wagga.
Wantabadgery and McGlede’s Farm (Nov 1879)
Fri 14 Nov 1879
Moonlite and his gang knock at the door of Wantabadgery Station expecting shelter and work from an owner with a reputation for benevolence. They don’t know the station has been sold and the station’s new manager Percy Baynes was not so friendly. He refused them work and ordered them off property. They are cold, tired and hungry.
Sat 15 Nov 1879 – The hold-up at Wantabadgery
3.30pm Moonlite and his men return on foot to Wantabadgery Station, this time armed. They seize weapons, ammunition, food, clothing, and hold everyone captive. In the evening the manager and the owners arrive, they too are held captive.
Sun 16 Nov 1879 – The siege continues
Throughout day, several people arrive and are imprisoned in the dining room. In a fit of frustration, Moonlite shoots the horse of one of these men, after admiring it.
There is a trip to the Australian Arms Hotel, where more weapons and hostages are collected.
By evening there are between 35 and 40 prisoners in the homestead.
Sun 16 – Mon 17 Nov 1879 – The police notification and arrival:
A young boundary rider Alexander McDonald hears about what is happening at Wantabadgery station and rides off to alert the police at Wagga Wagga.
He arrives at 7pm on Sunday night with news of siege, and 4 police head out – Constables Rowe (leader), Headley, John and Williamson. They arrive at Wantabadgery Station at 4am on Mon 17.
Mon 17 Nov 1879 – Part A: The shoot out at Wantabadgery Station
4am the four Wagga police dismount and approach the homestead quietly on foot.
Moonlite runs out with a gun in hand; Hedley orders him to surrender, but Moonlite fires in response. A shoot-out ensues, and police retreat on foot.
Constable Rowe sends Alexander McDonald to Gundagai for police reinforcements; Rowe, John and Williamson leave Hedley behind at Wantabadgery while they make their way to the station of Mr Beveridge.
News of the ‘siege’ reaches Gundagai police Monday morning. A party of Gundagai police set out about 9.30am Monday. The party consists of Senior Sergeant Carroll, Constables Barry, Gorman and Webb-Bowen, along with Sergeant Cassin of the Adelong Police Station.
The Gundagai police reach the station of Beveridge (4 miles from Wantabadgery) at about 11am. They join up with the party of Wagga police who are all on foot, having travelled from Wantabadgery. The combined police party then head for Wantabadgery station.
Meanwhile, at Wantabadgery Station, Moonlite’s gang packs up clothes, blankets and rations and prepares to leave. They return confiscated valuables, set the prisoners free, and mount police horses and ride off. It’s worth noting that only Moonlite has riding experience, and their departure is laughably slow.
They head in the direction of Edmund McGlede’s farm (about 5kms away).
Arriving at Wantabadgery Station, the police discover that the bushrangers had left 2.5hrs earlier.
They then head to Patterson’s Australia Arms Hotel and from there are directed to McGlede’s Farm.
Part B – journey to McGlede’s
En route they meet up with various people including McGlede and Constable Wiles of Bethungra. Moonlite disarms them & takes them hostage.
Moonlite conducts a bizarre roadside mock court martial where his hostages are tried for intending to shoot him. The men are found ‘not guilty’ and are spared punishment, but he makes them kneel, beg for pardon, and as they rise he kicks them.
Moonlite threatens violence to Beveridge and shoots Beveridge’s horse.
The gang destroys their prisoners’ weapons; then sets off taking their prisoners with them.
Part C – at McGlede’s farm
Moonlite and his gang make it to the McGlede’s farm, where Hannah McGlede gives them milk and bread. Before they can leave, the combined Wagga-Gundagai police party arrives.
The Police surround the bushrangers, who retreat and take cover behind a fence. A large crowd of spectators gather on nearby hill to watch.
Moonlite, Williams, Nesbitt and Bennett shelter in the small McGelede’s kitchen behind the main homestead.
Moonlite rushes out and fires while the others stay inside and reload his weapons.
In the exchange of gunfire, Gus Wernicke is shot through the spine and dies in agony.
Constable Webb-Bowen is felled by a bullet through the neck – he is paralysed by the wound and will die six days later.
Other bushrangers want to surrender but not Moonlite.
Constable Gorman fires through a kitchen window and Nesbitt is killed. Bennett is wounded and Williams retreats to the fireplace crying, “I surrender”.
Moonlite weeps openly over the unconscious body of Nesbitt.
Moonlite, Bennett and Williams are captured.
18 Nov 1879
Rogan is found by Hannah McGlede – terrified, he had been hiding under the bed. He’s arrested.
The four surviving bushrangers are taken to Gundagai
21 Nov 1879
NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes writes a personal letter of thanks to Constable Webb-Bowen whilst he is in hospital, congratulating him for his heroism.
20 Nov 1879
Moonlite, Bennett, Williams and Rogan are taken to Gundagai Police Court where the charges against them were heard. When the hearing finished on 22 November they were then committed for trial at the Central Criminal court in Sydney.
23 Nov 1879
Webb-Bowen dies from his injuries aged 28, leaving a wife and young son. Webb-Bowen is buried in Gundagai cemetery on 24 Nov 1879.
The bodies of Nesbitt and Wernicke were buried in unmarked graves in the paupers’ section of the Gundagai Cemetery.
27 Nov 1879
Moonlite, Bennett, Williams and Rogan are brought into court . The Judge, Mr Justice Windeyer appoints Mr Want for the defence, but Scott politely declines the offer, he conducts his own defence.
3 Dec 1879
The trial begins – the men were charged with the wilful murder of Constable Webb Bowen .
The trial ends on 11 December – the jury returned a verdict of guilty but strongly recommends mercy for Rogan, Williams and Bennett.
The judge however sentenced all of the men to death by hanging. Bennett and Williams’ sentences were soon commuted to life imprisonment.
20 Jan 1880
Moonlite and Rogan went to the gallows.