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Incidents of The Maori War

Chapter XIV

page 273

Chapter XIV.

Matarikoriko post—Peculiarities of No. 3 Redoubt—Commencement of the Sap—Garrison of No. 3 Redoubt—An alarm—The Redoubt is attacked—Death of Lieutenant Jackson—Reinforcements sent from No. 1 Redoubt—Enemy Repulsed—Humanity of British Officers—Single Combats—Casualties—Effects of attack on No. 3—Redoubts, Nos. 4 and 5—Notification of the Governor to loyal subjects—Sap pushed on to the enemy's rifle pits—No. 6 Redoubt—Desperate efforts of the enemy to prevent the construction of No. 7 Redoubt —Gallantry of the young soldiers, 14th Regiment—Death of Captain Strange, 65th—Captain W. C. King also falls greatly regretted.

Matarikoriko having been: evacuated by the enemy, it was, as was stated, immediately turned to account, one hundred men with a 24lb. howitzer, and a detail of Royal Engineers were encamped inside the pah, and a stockade, to contain six hundred men, was commenced and soon completed.

It was known that the enemy had strongly entrenched lines in difficult positions about page 274Huirangi, and as these were at the edge of ravines, affording good cover, the General approved of a plan to work towards the position by means of approaches and redoubts at intervals.

The important Redoubt, No. 3, being considered too small, additions were made to it, two other squares were added en échelon, so as to form wings and flanking defences to the work, now with 1900 yards of area. An eight inch gun was mounted on the right wing.

On the 22nd January, a double sap was commenced at No. 3 Redoubt, and directed towards the centre of the enemy's position at Huirangi. The sap was carried on perseveringly, and on the 2nd February it reached the extensive line of rifle pits. The general width of the sap was a trench of fifteen feet, clear of the gabions, it was also traversed with gabions at intervals of thirty or forty feet. The distance first excavated was seven hundred and sixty eight yards, sixty four yards being generally executed daily. The enemy kept constantly firing at the working parties, yet good sap rollers protected them well at the head of the excavation.

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The Maories were very active in advancing their rifle pits against No. 3 Redoubt, and on the right shewing lights, and shouting during the night of the 21st January, to divert attention from the proceedings on the other flank. One of the 241b. howitzers was placed on the left square of the Redoubt along with an eight inch gun, and loaded with grape and cannister.

At first, the garrison of No. 3 Redoubt was, as I said, small, Captain Messenger was next posted there, from the Waitara, with the remains of his Grenadier Company, the bones of the others reposing below the fern and scrub of Puketakauere. But on the 22nd January, the head-quarters of the 40th, under Colonel Leslie, augmented the defenders of the Redoubt, who were in tents, to four hundred and fifty men.

Captain Messenger watched his opportunity, and fired grape and cannister among the most busy of the enemy in the rifle pits on the left. At night voices were heard on the right, that of a woman particularly, who seemed to be inciting the Maories to action by reciting the deeds of their ancestors.

About four o'clock in the morning of the 23rd page 276January part of the garrison of the Redoubt had, as a matter of usual precaution in wellordered garrisons in presence of an enemy, turned out under arms in the dark. The horizon was not yet red with the blush of early dawn, when the sentry at the rear angle of the left face, perceived a movement below him in the ditch, which was actually alive with Maories, who had stealthily crept there in the dark; he cried out "here they are!" and immediately fired, when he was shot by a Maori who had scaled the parapet, and fired from behind two of the gabions which had been left on the crest for cover. Captain Messenger and Lieutenant Jackson in tents near that face of the work, turned out with their revolvers and roused their men. Captain Messenger, looking over the parapet, saw a large body of the enemy coming up in support, stooping and appearing like a flock of sheep rushing through the fern, he fired shots at them as did Lieutenant Jackson, the enemy replied with a volley and Lieutenant Jackson fell back mortally wounded, with a ball through his head.

The Maories now made desperate efforts to page 277mount the parapet by cutting steps in it with their tomahawks, but the ascent was not easy without ladders, which the enemy might readily have provided themselves with, and used with effect on all the faces simultaneously. They also tried to get up on each other's shoulders, and so far succeeded that bayonets were wrenched off some of the rifles of the soldiers. By leaning over the parapet, the 40th fired into the ditch the best way they could, but were thus exposed to the fire from the Maori supports, some of whom came to the rear of the work, and endeavoured to cut their way through the gabions blocking up the entrance; they fired through them, and shot a Royal Engineer coming out of his tent. Lieutenant Warburton, R.E., and the Artillery men, now cut short the fuzes of some loaded shells and rolled them over the parapet into the ditch; all hands were thus engaged, and the fight raged fast and furious.

Colonel Wyatt, 65th, in No. 1 Redoubt, hearing what was going on in his front, and observing the sparkling of the rifles through the smoke, had turned out his men, who "stood to the arms," when Colonel Leslie in page 278No. 3, seeing that he had enemies on all sides of him, and the face of the work, cleverly selected for attack, having no flanking fire, directed a bugler to sound the regimental call of the 65th, and "the advance," which was immediately responded to, and Colonel Wyatt directed Captain Macgregor, with No. 7, and Lieutenant Urquhart with the Light Company to advance in support, also Captain Miller with No. 10 of the 12th regiment. Passing No. 2 Redoubbt, this force was cheered by the 40th there, Captain Macgregor then directed Lieutenant Urquhart to pass round the right of No. 3 Redoubt, whilst he scoured the ditch on the left. Lieutenant Urquhart occupied with some men the commencement of the sap, and fired from it, and from the ditch into the Maories. The fighting was close, and at last the enemy began to leave the ditch and to make off, when Captain Miller advanced through the fern on the left. A body of the enemy there rose up like birds about to take wing and fired, Captain Miller fell with a shot through his leg, and Lieut. Lowry continued his charge, the Maories then turned and fled from the bayonet. The naked back of a Maori was page 279within reach of the sword point of Lieutenant Siddons Mair, 12th regiment, and though in this moment of excitement his Highland blood was up, he held his hand; few others would have resisted the temptation to thrust home.

Some of the enemy shewed fight with their tomahawks. A wounded Maori lying on the ground, a soldier was about to put him out of his pain with his bayonet, when Lieutenant Pennefather, 65th, struck the weapon aside with his sword. All honor to the gallant young Irishman for his humanity.

Private Archer, one of the leading men in the charge of the 12th fell, shot dead. Private Cahill passing over an apparently dead Maori, the latter rose and inflicted a servere wound with a tomahawk, he was soon disposed of; another large and lusty Maori was shot in the shoulder, when a soldier put his bayonet through his back, but the soldier receiving a cut on the arm from a tomahawk dropped his rifle, the Maori then seized it, and unable to withdraw the bayonet from his back, ran off with both weapons which he still retains as trophies; he recovered from his wound.

In the Waitara camp, aroused by the firing page 280in front, Colonel Carey and Dr. Mouat mounting their horses, quickly made their appearance in front. The General and Staff, and Commodore Seymour, calling out twenty-five men of the Naval Brigade, and one hundred of the 14th, under Captain Saunders, came up rapidly to co-operate.

The want of cavalry was felt on this occasion, for there was a clear field for them for some distance to operate on the retiring natives, before they could escape down the gullies into the bush.

The British casualties were five killed and eleven wounded, the Maories left in the ditch and the fern forty-nine, five of whom were alive; the wounds were terrible from shells, rifle balls, and butt ends of rifles and bayonet thrusts. One Maori, tenacious of life, sprang from the ground repeatedly like a dying fish, then sat up and glared round him, his hair a mass of dust and gore, his wounds on the head, body and legs were so frightful, that the surgeons could do nothing to help him, and the poor man took hours to die.

A large quantity of good clothes was found in the fern on the left, the Maories, who oc-page 281cupied the ditch, had stripped there for the combat, they also left thirty-seven stand of arms, double barrels and flint muskets, pouches with ammunition, meres or clubs, and tomahawks, Major Nelson got two of the latter, one with a fine carved handle, and both covered with blood.

The Rev. Mr. Wilson had observed the Maories watching the sap commencing, and he thought they would attack and try to prevent its getting to their rifle pits, for they knew what it meant, and he warned our people to be on their guard.

From a native, who bore amputation of his leg (shattered by a shell) with great courage and even good humour, it appeared that the Maori skirmishing party consisted of one hundred and forty picked men, young chiefs of the Ngatihua, Ngatimaniapoto and Ngatiawa tribes, headed by the chiefs Rewi, Epiha, Haperona and others, and supported by several hundred men in the fern, to fire at the parapets as soon as our men shewed themselves above them. I saw afterwards Haperona's son, a stout fellow who said he had climbed to the crest of the parapet, and fired into the page 282Redoubt before lie dropped into the ditch again, his sister was a Maori belle. I mention her here as the women have a role to play in war as well as the men. There was not even a vivandière in the British camp.

The troops of all arms at No. 3 Redoubt showed the greatest steadiness throughout the engagement, and although the attack of the enemy commenced under the cover of darkness, they never showed the slightest symptom of confusion, the officers and men were equally gallant and steady.

The moral effect of this close conflict was doubtless considerable on the native mind, they had experienced the courage and vigour of the hearts and hands of the British soldier, who when let loose is an adversary terrible to meet; yet high praise must be accorded to the Maories, theirs was a most gallant enterprise, and well planned, but our people were prepared. One hundred men at least lining the parapets, and ready before the Maories fired a shot; and their being afterwards taken in reverse completed their discomfiture.

The natives contrived to take their utu, payment or revenge, more houses were burnt, page 283cattle and horses driven away, and potatoe fields plundered as before.

The head-quarters of the 57th having arrived at Auckland from Bombay, and the Commodore coming from the Waitara to get more troops, they were dispatched to the Taranaki, and went in ships of war.

In the meantime, the sap was pushed in advance from No. 3 Redoubt towards the rifle pits, it was the safest and surest way of wearing out the enemy. With large sap rollers for cover, the working parties excavated, filled the gabions and moved to the front steadily with few casualties. The Maories saw and appreciated the use of the sap. " The soldiers get to the front and are not killed, it is tohunga" (master work.)

Three hundred yards in advance of No. 3 Redoubt, No. 4 was constructed, thirteen yards square interiorly, and to hold fifty men.

The troops were very hard worked, liable to be constantly disturbed whilst engaged with the sap and Redoubt building, or they were skirmishing with the enemy. No. 5 Redoubt was established on the 29th January, it was twenty-four yards square, could hold one page 284hundred men, and was two hundred and fifty yards from the rifle pits.

The Governor now, by a notification, warned all loyal subjects against agitation by writing or discussing the acts of the Government, criticising them or censuring them, so far as related to the present contest, and which might tend to prolong a sanguinary resistance to Her Majesty's authority, was fraught with danger to the lives and property of the colonists and imperilled the existence of the native race.

From the date of the formation of No. 5 Redoubt, the enemy did not fire on the working parties, but abandoning their whole line of works, which was about 1500 yards long from, extreme right to left, they retired down the gullies into the broken and bushy ground in the rear. This position gained, was an important success for General Pratt.

No. 6 Redoubt was begun on the 2nd February on the line of the enemy's position, and was completed on the 3rd, and occupied with four hundred and fifty men with two 241b. howitzers, and an eight inch gun, mounted on the 4th February.

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The sap being pushed on the edge of a gully or dip in the ground, it was imagined by the uninitiated that there was now an end to the advance. The peach groves of Huirangi being reached, but these were destroyed by the axe and by fire, and the sap recommenced beyond on higher ground, and was directed towards Te Arei pah* situated on an eminence in advance of Pukerangeora celebrated in native warfare.

A force consisting of 1200 men of 12th, 14th, 40th, and 65th regiments with Artillery and Engineers advanced at daybreak by two roads on the 10th February, and was immediately met by heavy firing from the enemy's rifle pits. No. 7 Redoubt was begun, and the men were sometimes obliged to lie down, whilst the working parties were covered as much as possible by the fire of the artillery. The Maories were full of determination, and cried to our men to come on, who answered by challenging the Maories to stand out. Women's voices were heard encouraging the warriors to continue the fight. The young soldiers of the 14th regiment stood their ground for hours against great odds, as un-page 286flinchingly as the oldest soldiers. It is believed there were at least fifteen hundred Maori warriors round the skirmishers. The enemy's cries were usually to each other " kiatoa! kiato—a!" be brave, be brave!

No 7 was constructed on a small fern-tree covered hill, and was within shell range of Te Arei pah, the perimeter of No. 7 was two hundred and twenty-five yards, and an area of one thousand seven hundred and fifty superficial yards, and it was occupied by four hundred men. As the enemy's position commanded the Redoubt, portions of the parapets were raised and surmounted with gabions, with sand bag loop holes at intervals between, and the Redoubt was afterwards enlarged to give more accommodation.

The 40th, and Captain Strange's and Captain Turner's companies, 65th, had been extended in front across the road leading to Te Arei from the peach groves, the 40th on the left, the 65th on the right, the 12th and Light Company, 65th, kept the ground in rear of No. 7. The enemy occupied every eminence and rifle pits at the edge of the bush on the front and right. Captain Strange got spades to enable his men to make rifle pits, or shelter page 287for themselves; he was lying down in one of these, and in changing his position he happened to raise one of his legs, when he was shot through the femoral artery, he was carried to the rear and his wound attended to. In the Crimea, at the seige of Sevastopol, we used to carry bandages, and some had a tourniquet in the haversack for an emergency of this nature. Captain Strange lost a great deal of blood before it could be staunched; but he never rallied, and sunk. Assiduously attended by many medical men, and also by his cousin, Captain Strange, 14th regiment, who deeply felt his loss.

Captain Strange, 65th, was universally esteemed, he was an excellent officer and a good man, he had been married not many months to a daughter of Colonel Sillery, Deputy-Quartermaster-General, and his untimely death was greatly regretted by soldiers and civilians.

Of the native loss, at this time, seventeen dead were picked up in the fern. There were seven or eight casualties besides Captain Strange's among the troops.

When a man fences and plants a vineyard, he becomes attached to it, watching its progress page 288and hoping to eat of the fruit. When a settler reclaims a portion of the wilderness, clears ground and makes a place, he cannot separate himself from it long. Captain W. C. King, of the Taranaki Militia, a fine young man, married, and the son of a naval officer, had a farm " Woodleigh," not far from New Plymouth, and he had visited this several times, though most rashly, from town. At last, on the 8th of February, he again rode out to look after some cattle and the remnant of his property, and was met by his farm bailiff, R. Thompson who returned to town. Shortly after an artillery soldier saw, from Marsland hill, Captain King running on foot from his house pursued by natives, who fired a volley at him, he fell, and two more shots finished the work. His horse was found wounded and stripped of its saddle and bridle, his body was brought into town and buried amidst great sorrow for the loss of one of the best and bravest of the settlers.

Huam of Tataraimaka accused the Ngatiruanuis of killing, his Pakeha without provocation, they laughed and said they would do as they pleased, and did not care for the displeasure of the Taranakis.

* ' Te arei,' to keep off or to ward off.