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"The Battle of One Tree Hill" Topic

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Henry Martini20 Sep 2019 10:59 p.m. PST

This is a new colonial Australia frontier conflict book by Ray Kerkhove and Frank Uhr. I'll post a full review once I've got my hands on a copy and have read it.

Henry Martini04 Mar 2020 6:35 p.m. PST

This book finally turned up through the inter-library loans system. A review will be forthcoming soon.

Henry Martini06 Mar 2020 11:26 p.m. PST

I've now read through the text once, and although I intend to do a second read in an effort to fully come to grips with the slightly convoluted narrative, I thought I'd post some initial impressions.

This book isn't the first attempt to identify, and provide a narrative history of, a discrete 'war' in early-mid 19th century southern Queensland; that honour goes to 'Goodbye Bussamarai: The Mandanjani Land War, Southern Queensland, 1842-1852', by Patrick Collins, published in 2002 by the University of Queensland Press.

This new book is essentially a prequel to that volume. It explores conflict in the regions around and to the west of Brisbane in the 1840s, and similarly identifies powerful Aboriginal leader figures who were able to forge inter-tribal alliances and coordinate resistance over large swathes of the colony.

First, I was surprised to see a credit given to an editing service; I'd assumed from the poor standard of clumsy, sloppy, and ungrammatical English, numerous typos and malapropisms, and poor punctuation evident in the text of this book that, as is so common these days, it was an unedited, self-published effort. If I'd been the author I'd be asking for my money back. Then again, perhaps checking these aspects of the text wasn't among the services paid for. This will make for a frustrating read for anyone with respect for the English language, who's accustomed to the high standards maintained in publishing in bygone days.

While on the face of it the book lays out a traditionally unfolding linear narrative, in fact there's a good deal of toing and froing, with the same incidents being regurgitated in later chapters. This does mean that careful reading is required to keep track of developments and incidents.

I've mentioned in numerous previous posts on frontier conflict in colonial Australia here on TMP that the major problem facing any writer trying to construct a detailed picture of its shape and character is the scarcity of surviving documents generated by the 'code of the frontier', and that issue is certainly apparent here: the authors are often reduced to educated guesswork to fill in the gaps, and frequently suggest alternative possibilities.

As regards descriptions of fights and skirmishes, the most detail occurs in the passages about the titular 'battle' and surrounding events. Most of the other references are mere mentions in passing. There's a couple of tantalising passages towards the end of the book, such as an excerpt from a letter from a leader of a punitive expedition to his sister on page 196 "…two hundred blacks had made a battle with fourteen English for two hours, when the British retreated for want of ammunition…", and on page 217 there's mention of a fight involving 30 warriors which says, 'In the skirmish that followed, some squatters were killed opposite Peter Logan's property,…', but that's as detailed as the story gets. BTW, the numerical odds in the first incident are fairly typical for that sort of stand-up fight on the frontier. The settlers would all have been mounted.

More to come when I've reread the book.

Henry Martini30 May 2020 10:40 p.m. PST

I've now reread this book, but in all honesty there's not much to add to my earlier assessment other than to say that the maps it contains are numerous enough, visually adequate, and complement the text quite well.

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