Eurekan Reform Army
Rebel flag
Eurekan Battle Flag 1855
Founded February 14, 1855 – July 23, 1859; 5 years, 6 months, 9 days
Country Second National Flag Eurekan Federal Republic
Branch Pab47cb26yc11 Armed Forces of the Eurekan Federal Republic
Type Land-based Army
Size 380’000 total who served
  • 120’000 at its peak
Colors Cadet Brown
March Remember Eureka! & For the Republic
Engagements Australian War of Independence
  • First Battle of Eureka Stockade
  • Battle of Melbourne
  • Battle of Mansfield
  • Fall of Adelaide
  • North-Eastern Campaign
  • Port Kennedy and Streaky Bay
  • Siege of Darwin
  • Kimberly Campaign
  • Battle of Tarcoola
  • Battles of Wagin & York
  • Battle of Bridgetown
  • Liberation of Albany
  • Battle of Geraldton
  • Battle of Cadoux
  • Battles of Swan Hill
  • Invasion of New Caledonia
  • Battle of Kalgoorlie
  • Second Battle of Cadoux
  • Battle of Edenhope
  • Battles of Maryborough
  • Battles of Mt Isa & Cloncurry
  • Campaign of the Horn
  • Battle of Townsville
  • Battles of Emerald & Roma
  • Second Battle of Eureka Stockade
  • Battle of Armidale
  • Siege of Perth
  • Capture of Sydney
  • Fall of Brisbane
  • Battles of Tamworth
  • Campaign of Liberation
  • Battles of Goondiwindi, St George & Cunnamulla
Disbanded Reformed into the Australian Republican Army
Commander-in-Chief James Forrester
General-in-Chief Ryder B. Carbone
Field Commanders Henry Ross

Raffaello Carboni

John Manning

Frank Smith

The Eurekan Reform Army (E.R.A.) was the military land force of the Eurekan Federal Republic (Republic) during the Australian War for Independence (1854–1859), fighting against the British, French and Spanish forces. On February 14, 1855, the Provisional Parliament Session established a provisional volunteer army and gave control over military operations and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the newly chosen Australian president, James Forrester.

Forrester was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and colonel of a volunteer regiment during the Mexican–American War. On March 1, 1855, on behalf of the Australian government, Forrester assumed control of the military situation at Port Phillip, Victoria, where Victorian state militia besieged Swan Island in Port Phillip Harbour, held by a small U.K. Army garrison. By March 1855, the Provisional Australian Congress expanded the provisional forces and established a more permanent Eurekan Reform Army.

An accurate count of the total number of individuals who served in the Eurekan Army is not possible due to incomplete and destroyed records; estimates of the number of individual Eurekan soldiers are between 120,000 and 280,000 men. This does not include an unknown number of slaves who were pressed into performing various tasks for the army, such as construction of fortifications and defences or driving wagons. Since these figures include estimates of the total number of individual soldiers who served at any time during the war, they do not represent the size of the army at any given date. These numbers do not include men who served in Eurekan Reform Navy.

Although most of the soldiers who fought in the War were volunteers, both sides by 1856 resorted to conscription, primarily to force men to register and to volunteer.

The best estimates of the number of deaths of Eurekan soldiers are about 42,000 killed or mortally wounded in battle, 34,000 deaths from disease and between 26,000 and 31,000 deaths in Coalition prison camps. One estimate of Eurekan wounded, which is considered incomplete, is 94,026.

The main Eurekan armies, the Army of the West under General Ryder B. Carbone, the of the Army of Victorian Wales and various other units under General Henry E. Ross and the Army of Northern Queensland under General Raffaelo Carboni. Other Eurekan forces between April 16, 1859 and June 28, 1865, formally accepted Coalition surrender at the end of the war, and formally disbanded, to be re-formed into the Australian Republican Army in 1860.

By the end of the war, more than 10,000 Eurekan soldiers had deserted. The Republic’s government effectively gained its independence when the British fled Brisbane in April and exerted no control of the remaining armies and had lost all hope in a quick and easy victory to bring the colonies under European crown rule.


Eureka flag raised

After the shocking victory at the First Battle of the Eureka Stockade, more idealists and visionaries joined up in the various militias, partisan groups and small battalions, that were been led by the miners, but they had poor training and little equipment and guns to support this growing influx of volunteers in the thousands. In the months between December 1854 and Early-Feb of 1855, both sides were preparing for war, small engagements around the continent would occur. While the British believed it would be a short war, the rebels knew it would be a fight to the death, for their liberties and freedom.

But to their aid was many former soldiers from the British, Prussian, US and Mexican armies. Who were highly trained soldiers/officers such as Ryder Carbone, James McGill and El Don Pedro, which trained and mobilised a small force and defeated British and loyalist militias at the Battle of Melbourne and thus became the de-facto capital of the rebellion. By January 1st, 1855, the miners, immigrants, natives, Australian born and others had joined in the newly captured city and created a provisional parliament to discuss what was next. After much debate, it was decided by the Provisional Australian Parliament, that they would secede from the British Empire and declare their independence as the Federal Republic of Australia, and to authorise the organisation of a large Provisional Army of the Eurekan Republic (PAER).

But by the time Charles La Trobe took office as Governor of Victoria on February 24, 1855, the seven colonies seceded and had formed the Eurekan Republic. The rebels seized crown property, including nearly all U.K. Army forts, within its borders. La Trobe was determined to hold the forts remaining under U.K. control when he took office, especially Fort Banks in the harbour of Botany Bay, New South Wales. Under orders from newly elected President James Forrester, E.R. troops under the command of General Henry Ross bombarded Fort Banks on March 12–13, 1855, forcing its capitulation on March 14. The British were outraged by the Rebellions actions and demanded full-scale war.

Britain rallied behind Queen Victoria’s call on April 15, to send troops to recapture the forts from the colonists, to put down the rebellion and to preserve the Empire, France and Spain wanting to expand their influence joined Britain. Two more colonies then joined the Republic. Both the Coalition Empire’s and the Eurekan Republic began in earnest to raise large, mostly volunteer, armies with the objectives of putting down the rebellion and preserving their Empire’s, on the one hand, or of establishing independence from the British, on the other.

Formal Establishment

Eureka Rebellion Prisoners Released

The Australian Senate provided for a Eurekan army patterned after the British Army. It was to consist of a large provisional force to exist only in time of war and a small permanent regular army. The provisional, volunteer army was established by an act of the Provisional Eurekan Senate passed on February 28, 1861, one week before the act which established the permanent regular army organisation, passed on March 6.

Control and Conscription

Control and operation of the Eurekan army was administered by the Federal Republic War Department, which was established by the Australian Provisional Parliament in an act on February 21, 1855. The Australian Senate gave control over military operations, and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the President of the Federal Republic of Australia on February 28, 1855, and March 6, 1855. On March 8 the Australian Senate passed a law that authorised Forrester to issue proclamations to call up no more than 100,000 men. The War Department asked for 8,000 volunteers on March 9, 20,000 on April 8, and 49,000 on and after April 16. Davis proposed an army of 100,000 men in his message to the Senate on April 29.

On August 8, 1855, the Republic called for 75,000 volunteers to serve for one or three years. In April 1857, the Republic passed the first conscription law in either Australian or British history, the Conscription Act, which made all able-bodied white men between the ages of 18 and 35 liable for a three-year term of service in the E.R.A. It also extended the terms of enlistment for all one-year soldiers to three years. Men employed in certain occupations considered to be most valuable for the home front (such as railroad and river workers, civil officials, telegraph operators, miners, druggists and teachers) were exempt from the draft.

Morale and Motivations

War for Independence soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, state rights, independence or about the need to protect or to destroy imperialism. Others point to less overtly political reasons to fight, such as the defence of one's home, family or liberty, or the honour and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men in the Queens army for her Majesty’s glory. Most agree that, no matter what he thought about when he went into the war, the experience of combat affected him profoundly and sometimes affected his reasons for continuing to fight to secure independence or preserve the Empire.


The churches in Australia met the shortage of Army chaplains by sending missionaries. The Anglican/Christian started in 1855 and had a total of 78 missionaries. Presbyterians were even more active with 112 missionaries in early 1858. Other missionaries were funded and supported by the Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans. One result was wave after wave of revivals in the Army. Religion played a major part in the lives of Eurekan soldiers. Some men with a weak religious affiliation became committed Christians and saw their military service in terms of God's wishes. Religion strengthened the soldiers' loyalty to comrades and the Republic.

Anti-British and Anti-Slavery


At many points during the war, and especially near the end, Eurekan and Coalition armies were very poorly fed. Back home their families were in worsening condition and faced starvation and marauders. Many soldiers went home temporarily ("absent without official leave") and quietly returned when their family problems had been resolved. By September 1856 during the ‘Dark Days of the Rebellion’, however, President Forrester publicly admitted that two thirds of the soldiers were absent, "most of them without leave." The problem rapidly ended after victories, and more and more men returned. Soldiers who were fighting in defence of their homes realised that they had to desert to fulfil that duty. the official count of 13,400 deserters is too low. He concludes that most of the desertions came because the soldier felt he owed a higher duty to his own family than to the Republic


Because of the destruction of any central repository of records in Melbourne in 1857 and the comparatively poor record-keeping of the time, there can be no definitive number that represents the strength of the Eurekan Reform Army. Estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000 men who were involved at any time during the war. Reports from the War Department began at the end of 1855 (100,768 men), 1856 (209,439), 1857 (124,646), 1858 (112,787), and "last reports" (158,692). Estimates of enlistments throughout the war were 227,890 to 306,180.

The following calls for men were issued:

  • March 6, 1855: 100,000 volunteers and militia
  • January 23, 1856: 200,000 volunteers and militia
  • April 16, 1856, the First Conscription Act: conscripted white men ages 18 to 35 for the duration of hostilities
  • September 27, 1858, the Second Conscription Act: expanded the age range to 18 to 45, with implementation beginning on November 15, 1858
  • February 13, 1859, authorised up to 50,000 troops but was never fully implemented as war ended in victory. The ERA

was initially a (strategically) defensive army, and many soldiers were resentful when Ryder led the Army of Western Australia in an invasion of the West in the Eucla Campaign.


The army did not have a formal overall military commander, or general in chief, until late 1857. The Australian President, James Forrester, himself a former U.S. Army officer, served as commander-in-chief and provided the strategic direction for Republic land and naval forces. The following men had varying degrees of control.

  • Ryder J. Carbone was"charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Republic" from March 13 to May 31, 1855. He was referred to as Forrester' military adviser but exercised broad control over the strategic and logistical aspects of the Army, a role similar in nature to the current Chief of Staff of the British Army. On June 1, he assumed command of the Army of the Southern

Republic (South), which was considered the most important of all the Republic field armies.

  • El Pascal was similarly"charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Republic" from February 24, 1858 (after he was relieved of field command following the Battle of Darwin) to January 31, 1859. This role was a military advisory position under Forrester. Carbone

was formally designated general in chief by an act of Parliament (January 23, 1857) and served in this capacity from January 31 to April 9, 1859. Centralised control was a strategic weakness for the Republic early in the war, and there are few instances of multiple armies acting in concert across multiple theatres to achieve a common objective. (An exception to this was in late 1855 when Carbone's invasion of NSW was coincident with two other actions: Braxton’s invasion of SA and El Van Dorn's advance against Corinth, Kimberly. Two of the three initiatives were unsuccessful, however.)

Personal Organisation

As in the U.K. Army, the Republics army's soldiers were organised by military specialty. The combat arms included infantry, cavalry and artillery.

Although fewer soldiers might comprise a squad or platoon, the smallest infantry manoeuvre unit in the Army was a company of 100 soldiers. Ten companies were organised into an infantry regiment, which theoretically had 1,000 men. As disease, desertions and casualties took their toll, and the common practice of sending replacements to form new regiments took hold, most regiments were greatly reduced in strength. By the mid-war, most regiments averaged 300–400 men, with Eurekan units slightly smaller on average than their Coalition counterparts. For example, at the pivotal Battle of Tarcoola, the average U.K. Army infantry regiment's strength was 433 men, versus 409 for Republic infantry regiments.

Rough unit sizes for ERA combat units during the war:

  • Corps - 24,000 to 28,000
  • Division - 6,000 to 14,000
  • Brigade - 800 to 1,700
  • Regiment - 350 to 400
  • Company - 35 to 40

Armies, Partisan and Prominent Leaders

The E.R. Army was composed of independent armies and military departments that were constituted, renamed, and disbanded as needs arose, particularly in reaction to offensives launched by the Coalition. These major units were generally named after states or geographic regions (in comparison to the U.K. Army's custom of naming armies after parts of England). Armies were usually commanded by full generals (there were seven in the E.R. Army) or lieutenant generals. Some of the more important armies and their commanders were:

  • Army of the Peninsula – John B. Magruder, Daniel H. Hill
  • Army of Queensland – Daley H. Gladden, Samuel Jones
  • Army of the Margaret River – Joseph F. Jackson
  • Army of Western Wheatbelt – Joseph E. Johnston
  • Army of Capricornia – Henry Reid, Abigail Mackey
  • Army of Southern Australia – Ryder B. Carbone, Raffaello Carboni
  • Army of Northern Australia – Henry Ross, James McGill
  • Army of the Kimberly – John Manning, Frank Smith

Supply and Logistics

The supply situation for most Eurekan armies was 50/50, even when they were victorious on the battlefield. The central government was short of money early in the war, so each colonial government had to supply its own regiments. The of central authority was limited and the ineffective railroads, combined with the frequent inability of colonial governments to provide adequate funding, in the beginning of the conflict were key factors in the Eurekan Army’s near demise.

Individual colonies were expected to supply their soldiers, which led to a lack of uniformity. Some states (such as Victoria) were able to better supply their soldiers, while other states (such as Northern Territory) were unable for various reasons to adequately supply their troops as the war continued. Rebel soldiers were also faced with inadequate food rations, especially as the war progressed. There was plenty of meat in the Republic, but it was in WA, which was in British control. The unsolvable problem was shipping it to the armies, especially when Ryder's army in SA was at the end of a long, tenuous supply line. With the Federal Republic victory at Perth in 1857 gained supplies from WA, thus ending the meat shortage.

Uniforms, Weapons and Equipment

Neither the regular nor militias components of the Eurekan Army were issued specific uniforms. Several of the companies that were formed in other countries especially in North America and Europe, including the New Orleans Greys, purchased U.S. Army surplus guns and uniforms before they arrived. Other companies had more loosely defined "uniforms", such as wearing matching hunting shirts.

The rebels were usually armed with British weapons and those that were imported by the government or given to by supportive governments. I some cases they were armed with flintlock weapons and other outdated weapons.

But they did all share the same colours such as brown, grey or black coloured clothes, which when the British met the rebel army they called them ‘Browncoat’s’, but when the war dragged on the rebels were called the ‘Leaders in black, men in grey and the boy’s in brown’.

Small Arms


Model 1840 Cavalry Saber

Model 1840 light artillery Saber

Model 1850 Army Staff and Field Officer's Sword

Bowie Knife


Colt 1851 Navy Revolver

Colt 1848 Dragoon Revolver

Remington Model 1858


Pennsylvania/Kentucky Rifles

Pattern 1840 Constabulary Carbine

Pattern 1839 Musket

M1841 Mississippi rifle

Model 1842 Musket

Pattern 1853 Enfield

Springfield 1855 Pistol-Carbine

Springfield Model 1855


1853 12-pounder Napoleon

M1857 12-Pounder 

Armstrong Breech Loading 12 pounder

M1841 mountain howitzer

1835 & 1841 6 Pounder

10-Pounder Parrott Rifle

20-Pounder Parrott Rifle

Eurekan Flags

First National Flag
Second National Flag
Third National Flag

First Rebel Flag

Originally flown at the Eureka Stockade 1854, it became the de-facto first flag of the Republic

Second Rebel Flag

In Jan 1855, after the formal declaration of Independence, it was first flown after the Fall of Melbourne in early Feb

Third Rebel Flag

In April 1857, Parliament declared a new flag was to be unveiled, it was first flown in the defiant last stand of Kalgoorlie

1200px-Erin Go Bragh Banner.svg

Army of the South Battle Flag

Designed by Max K. Carbone, to be used as the main battle flag in Ryder's Army in the Western Theatre

‘Southern Rebel Flag

Named for the region in which the War for Australian Independence takes place

Irish Brigade Flag

A redesign of the famous Irish flag with Eurekan colours, symbolising unity in defeating the British

Native Aboriginals & Torres Strait Islanders


Torres Strait Islanders

Foreign Involvement

Tens of Thousands of pre-war immigrants served in the Eurekan Army, which had its own Irish Brigade and Polish Legion, as well as several German and Mexican divisions. These units were composed of men who had lived most of their lives in the colonies. The most notable volunteer division comprised descendants of people from various European countries then living in SA, under the command of French Major General Count Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac, who was a Frenchman, was not loyal to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte III, as his loyalties lied with the former French Republic, and in doing so fought for the Republic.

African Slaves and the Eurekan Army

With so many white males conscripted into the army and roughly 30% of its population unfree, the work required to maintain a functioning society in the Empire ended up largely on the backs of slaves. But Australians noted that "the imperial colonies and the coalition army are mainly dependent upon slave labour for support. "African American slave labour was used in a wide variety of logistical support roles for the British Empire, from infrastructure and mining, to teamster and medical roles such as hospital attendants and nurses. Most blacks fought for the Republic, for its stance for abolitionism and equality for all.

Using slaves as soldiers

The Republic did not allow African Americans to join the army at the beginning of the war, including both free blacks and slaves. Such proposals were seriously considered by James Forrester or others in the Australian administration until 1856, when severe manpower shortages were faced. "When Larkin publicly advocated arming slaves in early 1857, he did so as a desperate expedient that might prolong Eurekan military resistance.". After the Australian Parliament agreed in March 1857. The war was a victory as a former slave were given land, voting and citizenship within the new Republic.

Opposition from Australians

As early as November 1855, some Australians knew that the chance of securing victory against the U.K. was slim. Despite lacking foreign assistance and recognition early in 1856 and facing slim chances of victory against superior U.K. assets, Republic newspapers such as the Victorian Atlanta Eurekan Rebellion continued to maintain their position and oppose the idea of armed black men in the Eurekan army, even late in the war as January 1859, even when the Senate had passed the resolution to use black slaves into the army 3 yrs. before and called it a blunder for white Australia.

Statistics and Size

Incomplete and destroyed records make an accurate count of the number of men who served in the Eurekan army impossible. Estimates of the actual number of individual Eurekan soldiers between 150,000 and 250,000 men.

Since these figures include estimates of the total number of individual soldiers who served in each army at any time during the war, they do not represent the size of the armies at any given date. Eurekan casualty figures are as incomplete and unreliable as the figures on the number of Eurekan soldiers.

The best estimates of the number of deaths of Eurekan soldiers appear to be about 94,000 killed or mortally wounded in battle, 14,000 deaths from disease and between 26,000 and 31,000 deaths in U.K. prison camps. One estimate of Eurekan wounded, which is considered incomplete, is 94,026; another is 76,000. At the end of the war 74,223 men of the Eurekan forces were returned from prison camps to the U.K. Army.

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