Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Incidents of The Maori War

Chapter XII

page 238

Chapter XII.

Sir William Martin's pamphlet on the Maori Land Question —Answered by the Honourable Mr. Richmond—Why the King's flag was kept flying—A detachment, 14th regiment, dispatched to the seat of War under Major Douglas, K.M.—The White Cliffs—A traitor—Storms in January—Escape of Lieutenant King, M.A.D C.—Colonel Wyatt, 65th regiment—Colonel Sillery's arrangements for New Plymouth —The Rev. Mr. Wilson's valuable services—A runaway wife—A picture from Cook's Voyages—No. 2 Redoubt constructed under fire—The use of Thistles to a Scotchman—Haperona, the fighting chief of the Ngatiawas—The young soldiers, 14th, under fire—First division, 57th regiment, arrives—Daring enterprise of Captain Cracroft—Another skirmish near Waireka—Escape of a party of Maories in ambush.

Sir William Martin, late Chief Justice of New Zealand, and now living in retirement near Auckland, came out in the month of January, 1861, as the champion of native rights, in a pamphlet which created a considerable sensation both in England and in the colony. He had had considerable inter-page 239course with the Maories, wrote and spoke their language, was much esteemed by the natives, and is a gentleman of great learning and research. The Honourable Mr. Richmond, native secretary, published an answer to Sir William's pamphlet; but the latter publication went to England a mail before the rejoinder, the former having appeared in Auckland the day before the monthly mail was made up.

Sir W. Martin endeavoured to establish:

1.That the disputed land in the Taranaki belonged to the whole tribe as proprietors, individual occupants cultivating, or having a right to cultivate portions.
2.That the "tribal right" had been hitherto acknowledged by the Government.
3.That Kingi, as principal chief of the Ngatiawas, had asserted that right, and that the Governor, initiating a new policy, had denied it. That this was the grand issue which was tried in the Taranaki by war, the ultima ratio regum.
4.That there were many claimants who have as good a claim as Teira, who sold the six hundred acres to Government, and that page 240Kingi and his family are among those claimants as co-equal with Teira.
5.That these claims had not been sufficiently investigated, and that Teira's title was either bad or at best doubtful.
6.That the Governor was not justified in taking forcible possession without the judgment of a court of law, and that the Governor, by his proclamation of martial law, illegal in itself, declared war against the natives of Taranaki before they commenced hostilities.

To this the Honourable Mr. Richmond answered:

1st.That the "tribal right" has never been recognised, and that the precedents of former purchases had been strictly followed in the Waitara case.
2nd.That Kingi did not pretend to found his resistance on his tribal or other right, but took a broad ground of resisting the further extension of the Taranaki settlement.
3rd.That the investigation was complete, that Teira's right to a portion of the block was certain and his right to the whole probable, no adverse claim had been proved and none authentically preferred.page 241
4th.The Governor being sole judge of questions respecting native territorial rights, was enforcing his jurisdiction in the only practicable mode, namely, by military occupation. The taking possession of the block was lawful, on the further ground, that the rights of the apparent owners, after due enquiry, had been ceded to the crown.

The friends of the Maories among the British, supported them in their ideas about "tribal rights" to land, but advised them against continuing to display the King's flag, to which the Maories replied. "It is a case of whakama (of shame) to haul it down now," to which was answered, "why continue disputes about a bit of bunting, give it up, and let the two races live in peace under one flag." Some of the Ngapuhis of the north still kept up the irritation in the Waikato, or King's country, by saying, "we ate food in various parts of your country before, and we mean to do so again!" A block-house was now substituted for the native pah at Matarikoriko, and the Kairau redoubt strengthened, and guns mounted on it, which sent occasional shells among the enemy, who were seen working at their rifle pits in page 242advance. The dust was now very trying at the Waitara camp, and sore eyes common in consequence of it. The design was now to advance towards the stockaded cliffs of Pukerangeora, some miles up the Waitara, where, as was stated, some years before the Waikato's under Te Whero Whero (Potatau), had taken a strong pah of the Ngatiawas, killed and eaten many, taken many prisoners and driven some hundreds over the cliffs into the wave below.

Commanding in the province of Auckland, and being asked for a reinforcement from the 2nd battalion, 14th regiment, I dispatched two hundred and ten men in complete order, and wearing forage caps, and blue frocks for the bush, under Major Douglas, K.M., who had fought at the siege of Sevastopol, and with him were Captains Saunders and Strange, Lieutenants Hill and Erizell, and Ensigns Laurence and Curtis. Captain MacIver and Lieutenant Phelps afterwards joined this detachment, when some of the others were required in Auckland on court-martial duty.

The white cliffs (Paranihinihi) on the sea to the north of the Waitara, were watched by a ship of war, for there the reinforcements from the page 243Waikato country were expected to pass, were exposed there to shot and shell whilst they swung down by a rope forty feet long to continue their march to join Wiremu Kingi.

In a rifle pit, a letter was found from Tahana, a native assessor in the pay of the government, apprising his brown brethern of the designs against Matorikoriko, &c. This occasioned his being thrown into jail for his treachery.

In looking from the Kairau redoubt, a beautiful plain appeared right, left and in front for some distance, till the view was bounded by dense forests. About Matorikoriko tongues of land bounded by deep gullies filled with trees, afforded ample cover for the enemy.

The General made a movement to the front from the Waitara camp, with a force composed of the 14th, 40th and Naval Brigade with guns, ammunition, gabions, &c., but the weather became so bad, that the troops were obliged to return to camp where tents were blown down by the violence of the wind. Storms raged in January accompanied with cold and wet.

The enemy were observed in various directions on the skirts of the bush, and occupied page 244with their rifle pits, whilst the King's flag flew in the bush near Pukerangeora. A mounted volunteer rode down towards the rifle pits, in front of the Kairau redoubt, looking for a horse he had lost, he recovered it, and returned without being fired at. Lieutenant King, Militia A.D.C., thinking to do the same, in order to see the position of the breast-works and rifle pits, had three shots fired at him, one of which cut his saddle girth, the horse too swerved, and the rider fell with his saddle. Three or four Maories fired again and ran at him, he held up his hand and ran for the fern and thistles, Colonel Wyatt, 65th, promptly turned out a party to his assistance, the rider and horse were brought in, but the saddle was lost.

Colonel Wyatt, 65th, always prompt and on the alert, sent shells at the enemy from the howitzers in the redoubt, whenever he thought he could molest them, and keep their rifle pits at a distance. A fire broke out among the raupo, or reed huts, in the Waitara camp, from smoking probably, and four were rapidly consumed. Reed huts, singly, may answer, but a number together is dangerous. Yet to the last, as we page 245saw, the General lived in a circular reed hut, like a great bee hive, adjoining a reed mess hut for his staff. A gale levelled all the tents in the Kairau redoubt, on the 10th January, probably from the want of storm ropes, or stout poles (without the usual joints) made of young trees. The safest arrangement is a tripod, or three poles united at top, and which gives good space inside.

At New Plymouth, Colonel Sillery, the commandant, carefully watched his charge, and strengthened his defences. For the women and children, who yet remained in the town and had not gone with the majority to Nelson, instead of repairing to Marsland Hill, on an attack. It was now directed that they should remain with the men of their families in their houses, whilst the men without incumbrances manned the works.

When Colonel Gold was in command, a settler said, "if we are attacked I think the best thing we can do is to stand at the corners and fire up and down the streets," in which case more friends than foes would be likely to fall.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to the church of English missionary, the Rev. Mr. Wil-page 246son, who after the misfortune at Puketakauere, and the slaughter of the helpless wounded there, by his influence with the Waikatos got them to agree to spare the wounded in future. Yet nothing would move the Ngatiruanuis, they said "we will follow the customs of our fathers, we came out to kill, and every one with white blood that falls into our hands, we will kill without destínction."

A family quarrel occasioned a Maori woman, named Menpoku, to come into the Kairau camp, she was afterwards sent to Ihaia's pah in the rear. She said the Waikatos were living on settlers cattle and fern roots, and professed to give the numbers the enemy lost in the late engagements, and added, a wounded British soldier found in the fern would have been spared, but he swore at his captors, and they knocked him on the head. An absurd way of "dying game," and no comrades to witness his "pluck."

At an interview with the Ngatiruanuis, at Kaihihi, the Rev. Mr. Wilson found them obdurate as ever, and breathing fire and sword against the Pakeha, they also intimated they did not want to see him again.

page 247

Captain Congleton, of our ship, the "Robert Lowe," being at New Plymouth, saw through his glass a body of Ngatiruanuis come out of the bush near the town, naked as in the days of Cook, look about, sit and lie unconcernedly; they had guns and spears and some rolls of red blankets; it was quite a picture of savage warriors, their foot on their native fern, like Rob Roy's "on his native heath."

At three A.M. on the 14th January, a force six hundred strong, composed of men of the 12th, 14th, and 40th regiments and Naval brigade, under the command of General Pratt, left the Waitara camp, and being joined by Colonel Wyatt and a party of the 65th regiment from Kairau, advanced in the direction of Huirangi, where and across the road the enemy had their rifle pits, extending a mile and a half in length. On the approach of the troops, partly in skirmishing order, the Maories were observed hurrying from their wharrés in the rear to line their entrenchments, and immediately commenced a heavy fusillade on the troops, which was replied to by great guns from the redoubt and the rifles of the skirmishers. Colonel Mould, in the meantime, page 248traced out and commenced six hundred yards in advance of the Kairau, No. 2 redoubt, twenty-six yards square, and built of earth and fern leaves mixed and rammed, it was completed before dark, and Captain Bowdler, 40th, and a party of one hundred and twenty men left to garrison it, with a 24-lb. howitzer "en barbette."

On the 16th January, an incident of a painful nature occurred near the Kairau redoubt, Privates Mackindry of the 65th and MacAuley of the Royal Engineers, were out about seven hundred yards to the south of the redoubt collecting firewood and potatoes, when suddenly about eighty Maories rose from the fern and fired a volley at them, Mackindry fell, and the natives rushed forward and carried him off, MacAuley escaped with a ball through the bones of his forearm; being a Scotchman and seeing some friendly thistles near, he ran for them and rushed through them, the naked legs of the Maories prevented them following his example, and he was saved. A party turned out from the redoubt, under Captain Strange, 65th, and went in pursuit with a gun under Lieutenant Macnaughten, but in vain, page 249the natives with yells carried off their victim, it was hoped they would not destroy him, as shortly before Maorie prisoners had been given up to them after being some time detained at New Plymouth.

Next day the Rev. Mr. Wilson came from town passing an ambuscade, and muskets were cocked at him as he rode up a hill, but the Maories spared him when they saw his dress and recognized his person. He was proceeding to the front to ascertain the fate of Mackindry. At the first rifle pit, the fighting captain of the Ngatiawas, Haperone, a tall, rough, but honest looking warrior, came out to meet Mr. Wilson with a party of his people; they were not in a good temper, said that Mackindry had died as they carried him off, that they had buried him near their flag-staff, and that the funeral service was read over his grave. Haperone added, "We are determined to fight to the last."

On the 18th January, General Pratt took with him a force of 1,000 men of the 12th, 14th, 40th, 65th regiments and Naval Brigade, and again advancing to the front, under cover of the skirmishers, another redoubt, page 250No. 3, five hundred yards in advance of No. 1, and thirty yards square, was thrown up. The 12th and 14th fighting all day on the left, and keeping down the enemy's fire, whilst shells were pitched into the pits where the puffs of smoke indicated the presence of the hidden foe. Some casualties occurred. Captain Richards, 40th, was left in charge of No. 3 redoubt with one hundred men and a howitzer. The enemy evincing great displeasure at this advance and occupation within seven hundred yards of their pits.

During the fight, the Rev. Mr. Wilson, anxious to see how the young soldiers of the 14th behaved under fire, remained for some time near them, and was so pleased with their steadiness and courage, that he went up and shook hands with several of them.

The 'Star Queen' now arrived in Auckland harbour with the first division of the 57th regiment on board from India, the old 'Die Hards,' and I fitted them out with requirements for the field. After consulting with His Excellency, I despatched the ship with the troops on board round the North Cape to New Plymouth, there being no man of war page 251available at the time to take them from the Manukau. It was an expensive proceeding, £3,000, but no time could now be lost in hurrying on reinforcements to the seat of war, and in war time one must not boggle at eve y expenditure. Fortunately the voyage was short, six days, if it had been a long one I might have heard more of it.

The Waireka hill having been left unoccupied after the withdrawal of Major Hutchins' force, was re-occupied by the Southern tribes, who began to fortify it again.

In consequence of this, Captain Cracroft formed the daring resolution of landing from the 'Niger' with one hundred and twenty blue jackets in boats, in rear of the enemy's position and surprising it. He wrote for a small force to co-operate from New Plymouth, and though the great risk to be incurred was well known. A party under Lieutenant-Colonel Young was dispatched on the 22nd January, at three a.m., from town; it consisted of forty men of the 12th regiment under Captain Williams, ten of the 40th under Ensign Murphy, and one hundred and page 252thirty of the 65th under Lieutenant and Adjutant Lewis; along with these was a 24-pounder howitzer.

At daylight firing having been heard in the direction of Waireka, Major Herbert brought out one hundred and eight Militia and Volunteers, and marched to co-operate with the others. Skirmishing took place with the natives among the high furze hedges along the road, and till the troops reached the Omata stockade.

A valuable man, hospital-serjeant Burnet, 65th, out where his love of excitement (without his being required) carried him, fell mortally wounded, and he died at the stockade.

The natives were now seen to cover the Waireka hill in great numbers, and the signal of Captain Cracroft's attack in their rear was anxiously looked for, when a telegram was received from town that the gallant Captain had been obliged to abandon his enterprise. There was a delay in reaching shore from the heavy surf, the natives discovered the boats, and being fully aware of what was intended, the blue jackets were re-page 253luctantly compelled to return to their ship without a chance of further distinction at that time. Valuable lives were doubtless thus saved to the conntry, and the most valuable that of Captain Peter Cracroft.

After the military had returned to town, it was discovered that they had passed a farmhouse (Mr. Gray's) full of natives, who remained quiet till the coast was clear, and afterwards were seen from a neighbouring hill to steal out to the number of fifty or sixty and disappear in the bush; this party was probably on the look out to attack the Omata escort, which had been of insufficient strength.