Captain Moonlight, bushranger

George Scott alias Captain Moonlight

Outlaw & Bushranger

Gaol photographs collection

The historical gaol photograph description books in our collection were created to assist gaol staff to keep track of each prisoner’s record. The records cover c.1870-1930 and contain a photograph of each prisoner along with information such: as name, place of birth, year of birth, year and ship of arrival, occupation, religion, education, physical description, where and when they committed an offence, sentence, previous convictions and when the portrait was taken.

One of the more famous photographs is that of A.G. Scott otherwise known as Captain Moonlight (or sometimes Moonlite) who committed various crimes – bank-robbery, passing false cheques, stealing gold – and led a gang of outlaws until he was eventually caught by police, tried in Sydney in 1879 and subsequently executed in Darlinghurst Gaol in 1880.

A celebrity crim

Wikipedia describes Captain Moonlight as a ‘celebrity criminal’

…[1869] accused of disguising himself and forcing bank agent, Ludwig Julius Wilhelm Bruun… to open the safe. Bruun described being robbed by a fantastic black-crepe masked figure who forced him to sign a note absolving him of any role in the crime…It was alleged that for several months, Scott lived off the money stolen from the bank, hobnobbing in Sydney’s high society and entertaining actors at after theatre parties.


…James Nesbitt, a young man whom he had met in prison…While some disagree on the grounds of speculation, he is considered by many to be Scott’s lover and there is a significant primary resource that supports this reading. Scott’s actual handwritten letters, currently held in the Archives Office of NSW, profess this love…


You can see in the gaol photograph below that there are two offences on the charge sheet: false pretences (x2) and Bank robbery under Arms.

Execution order

Nesbitt was killed in a police shoot-out near Wagga Wagga where Captain Moonlight was finally captured. He was tried in Sydney and hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol on 20 January 1880. His certificate of execution is signed by Maurice O’Connor, Visiting Surgeon and was countersigned by twenty others who witnessed the execution.

Scott went to the gallows

wearing a ring woven from a lock of Nesbitt’s hair on his finger…his final request was to be buried in the same grave as his constant companion.


It was refused by the authorities,

but his remains were exhumed from Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney and reinterred at Gundagai next to Nesbitt’s grave in January 1995…


and another accomplice Augustus Wernicke, one hundred and fifteen years after his death.

Letters from prison

Captain Moonlight wrote a number of rather poignant letters from within Darlinghurst Gaol in the period leading up to his execution. From an historical records perspective they are part of the State’s archives purely because the prison authorities did not post them.

A rather sad outcome for Captain Moonlight.

Letter to Reverend Canon Rich

Letter to mother of James Nesbitt


This content first appeared on our Archives Outside blog in June 23 2011 as Staff pick [Captain Moonlight].

Bushrangers in NSW

For over 100 years bushrangers roamed throughout the state of NSW. Their exploits entranced the public and names such as Ben Hall, Captain Thunderbolt and Ned Kelly became both heroes and villains for many

Published on 


Cropped version of photo portrait of bearded man, mounted on card.

Moonlite at the Sydney Mint

If you’ve ever visited The Mint on Sydney’s Macquarie Street, chances are you have walked in the footsteps of an infamous Australian bushranger, ‘Captain Moonlite’


Were bushrangers villains or heroes?

During the colonial period bushrangers committed serious crimes. However, to some people they might have seemed impressive

Blue police cap.

Troopers & Aboriginal trackers

What was it like to be in the mounted police?

The gold escort

A miner could transport his or her gold to Sydney using the 'gold escort'