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The Eureka! timeline proposes a different outcome to the Eureka Stockade incident in Ballarat, Australia, on December 3, 1854. The leader of the miners' revolt, Peter Lalor, whose men rebelled against the policies of the British colonial government, is killed during the battle.
Lalor's death at the hands of British forces makes him a martyr. Word spreads to other goldfields, and before the British can react, an Irish-led rebellion is in place across Victoria and New South Wales.
A charismatic ex-soldier named James Forrester, who had served in India, replaced Lalor as the Eureka rebels' leader. Forrester, now in his mid-fifties, was able through his military cunning, to turn a ragged collection of miners and farmers into a well-disciplined fighting force, the Eureka Army. The Army was raised on the goldfields of Victoria and in July 1855, after minor skirmishes, the Eureka Army marched on Ballarat, the scene of the catalyst that began the entire rebellion. The Siege of Ballarat lasted ten days, but the town fell to Forrester's surprisingly competent and disciplined army, which included among it James McGill, the gallant, if somewhat brash, American, Italian Raffaelo Carboni, who though not a military man proved a good commander, and another American, John Joseph, a black man originally from New York. This ragtag army's defeat of seasoned British troops in Ballarat demoralised the British army. Bendigo fell on July 27, and, as similar, sympathetic rebellions began in New South Wales and Western Australia, the British retreated to Melbourne, but the great city's lack of any significant defences proved problematic. Fortifications were hastily constructed.
On August 16, the Eureka leaders gathered in the Ballarat Town Hall. They were joined by leading independence, republican, anti-colonial and anti-British leaders from across the colonies, including the firey New South Welshman John Dunmore Lang, who had established Protestant Church in Australia. Lang's decision to side with the rebels against the British was crucial - his influence in the colony and his reputation gave the rebels significant bargaining power. Lang was a leading voice for the rebels and became their main spokesman, though Forrester remained the rebel commander.
The Ballarat Declaration of 1855 laid down the demands of the Eureka rebels. Namely:
- The surrender of all British forces in Victoria and New South Wales.
- The establishment of manhood suffrage (notably excluding Aborigines)
- Establishment of secret ballots
- Total self-determination for all the Australian colonies.
Notably, the Declaration did not specifically call for an Australian republic. However, many of the rebels, including Lang, believed this would be the inevitable result of the rebellion.
Britain, of course, sent reinforcements to bolster their Sydney and Melbourne garrisons. To aid their struggle, Forrester and Lang wrote to the United States President, Franklin Pierce, requesting aid. Pierce, though sympathetic to the rebel cause, knew that interference would antagonise Britain, with whom the U.S. had already fought two wars.