Incidents of The Maori War
Troops sent from Auckland to the Taranaki—The Governor proceeds there also—Martial Law proclaimed—Wiremu Kingi refuses to meet his Excellency—Blockhouses constructed —Expedition to the Waitara—The first blood—A peremptory Message—Meeting of Eriendly Natives—Native King movement—Should the Maories be obliged to sell their waste lands?—Te Kohia Pah constructed—Is attacked and evacuated—Described—Civilian criticisms —Southern Natives advance against New Plymouth—Settlers murdered—Dangerous position of families at Omata.
On the 28th February, 1860, the division of troops destined to reinforce the detachment stationed at New Plymouth, Taranaki, was paraded in light marching order in the Albert Barrack Square, Auckland, from whence at ten A.M. they marched, played out by the band of the 65th Regiment, by the Kyber Pass road, (so called from a deep cut in a portion of it) to Onehunga, Manukau harbour, where the page 82steamer "Airedale," Captain Johns, lay in readiness to receive them. The embarkation was conducted in a creditable manner, and not a man was absent. The division consisted of Colonel Gold, 65th, commanding the troops in New Zealand;* Lieutenant-Colonel Sillery, Deputy-Quartermaster-General, well known for his admirable management of the great hospitals at Scutari during the Crimean War, and greatly esteemed generally as an officer; Captain Paul, 65th Regiment, Acting Brigade-Major; Assistant-Commissary-General H. Stanley Jones; Assistant-CommissaryGeneral Connell; Assistant Military StoreKeeper Hamley; Lieutenant Macnaghton, R.A.; Lieutenant Mould, R.E., and six Royal Engineers; Captain Barton, 65th; Lieutenants Baillie and Urquhart, and Adjutant Lewis; Ensigns Talbot and Muttit; Paymaster Major Marshall; Surgeon White; Quartermaster Withers, and two hundred non-commissioned officers and men, 65th. Also, Major Herbert, formerly of the 58th Regiment, who was appointed to command the Taranaki Militia and Volunteers.
* Now Major-General.
At three p.m., the tide favouring, the " Airedale" weighed anchor, blew off her steam, and moved towards the bluffs. At this time, His Excellency the Governor, Colonel Gore Browne, C.B., arrived from Auckland, with his private secretary, Captain Steward, and Mr. W. H. St. Hill, A.D.C., and embarking in the "Maid of the Mill" cutter, they followed and were received on board the "Airedale." With a fresh breeze she stood towards the Heads, and with a prospect of crossing the bar under favourable circumstances.
Auckland being stripped of troops, the fine body of Volunteer Rifles were paraded once a week, and were ready to assemble in the Albert Barracks in the event of fire, and offered to mount guard till the troops still left were reinforced, and to protect the stores, ammunition, &c, in Fort Britomart.
At New Plymouth, the suspense as to the designs of the Government, after the representations previously forwarded to Auckland, with regard to the proceedings of Wiremu Kingi and the Ngatianas was put an end to, page 84when the R.M. steamer was observed nearing the anchorage, and that her decks bore men clothed in scarlet. Great delight was evinced by the people on the occasion, which was increased when later in the day, H.M. ship "Niger," Captain Cracroft, also anchored off the town, which it was believed would have a tendency to show the natives that the Government was in earnest, in making good its demands for the surrender of the Waitara block of land.
At this time, it is probable that the natives were disposed to hold koreros or conferences, and might have imagined that the Pakehas, or white men, would have delayed some time longer settling this land question; but when martial law was proclaimed, they unfortunately considered it a declaration of war throughout the Taranaki Province, and acted accordingly.
The movement for a Maori King, was, as I said, among other reasons, for the purpose of entering into a compact to retain their lands against the Pakehas, who arriving in ship loads from time to time, at the rate of four page 85hundred souls a month, naturally agitated the native mind, and induced the belief that at no distant day, the fate of the aborigines in other lands might be theirs. Though the British Government and the Governor had never any other design than to obtain by fair purchase those lands which the natives were unable to make use of, and which from their numbers, rapidly diminished of late years by the terrible wars among themselves, they could not possibly turn to good account
* Kairau, a species of crab.
* Omata, of a swamp.
Wiremu Kingi's answer to His Excellency's message not being considered satisfactory, troops were now frequently paraded and inspected, and the skirts of the mens' great coats were cut off to enable them to wear them in skirmishing in the bush and scrub. This plan I did not think well of, and afterwards, when preparing some of the 14th Regiment for fighting, I gave them blue smocks, over which the great coat was worn, neatly rolled horse collar fashion, and ready for the evening's bivouac; a man cannot sleep well if his legs are not covered with the skirts of his coat
The heavy portions of the camp equipment were put on board H.M. ship "Niger," which played an important part in the war. A small corps of volunteer cavalry was formed, armed with swords and revolvers, and the command conferred on Captain C. Desvœux, The force which turned out at New Plymouth on Monday, the 5th March, numbered, including Engineers and Royal Artillery, about four page 88hundred men. As on other occasions, it was considered that a demonstration would be sufficient to produce the effect intended, the suppression of turbulence and disaffection to Her Majesty's Government.
The mounted escort led the column, then followed a couple of guns, then baggage and provision carts, and lastly, the infantry, Colonel Gold commanding the whole. His Excellency the Governor, steamed to the Waitara, ten miles, in the "Niagara." The troops halted sometime at the junction of the Manganaka and Waiongona rivers, and when all were up, the column, with skirmishers thrown out in front to feel their way and guard against an ambuscade, came in sight of the mouth of the Waitara, where the Union Jack was flying on a fishing pah of Wiremu Kingi; the "Niger" had landed and had taken possession of the pah, from which the natives had precipitately fled.
In town, an officer of the 65th and a few men only were left, but Major Herbert, with his usual energy, made preparations to guard against surprise, and protect the barracks and page 89magazine with his militia, which furnished the first guard for the commissariat, the barracks, and the surf boats. These last it was important to watch well by night and by day. The restless ocean is here heard now loud, now low, beating on the sands of New Plymouth, or in long lines of heavy seas would swamp or upset every boat besides those stout surf boats of heavy build, and stem and stern alike sharp; they were drawn ashore high and dry with a hawser anchored some distance out. A pound a week is the hardly earned pay of the brave hands who man them.
Provision carts on the following day started for the Waitara with a mounted escort. In the meantime, Teira's people had burnt Wiremu Kingi's pah at the month of the Waitara.
In Maori quarrels it is considered very important to get the opposite party to draw the first blood; the contending parties will war with words for a long time, and try to put each other in the wrong by the first blood shed; and now an instance occurred of a page 90native, single banded, devoting himself to wounds and death to get the white men in the wrong.
The mounted volunteers, with the provision carts, had got as far as the Waiongona River, by the Devon line of road, when they were met by a native named Wi Tana, who advised them to retrace their steps and take the beach road, as the Ngatiawas had built a pah on the direct road to the Waitara camp, and would not allow the carts to pass. But as it was considered too late to retrace their steps, the escort and carts moved on to near the junction of the upper and lower Waitara roads; here a native named Ohaia, stood in the track, and ordered the convoy to return. The sergeant, Brown, in command, a bold and determined man, afterwards put in command of a corps of friendly natives, declined to do what Ohaia desired; who added that Wiremu Kingi's people would take the carts and what they contained as utu or compensation for the pah and wharré's just burnt by the soldiers. The sergeant said it was Teira's page 91people, and not the soldiers, who burnt the pah and its wharré's or houses.
Ohaia still continuing to obstruct the road, and also seizing the bullocks in the carts, the sergeant, not striking him or drawing blood, hustled him aside with his horse, whereupon Ohaia put down his head and told him to cut it off, (that the first blood might be drawn by the Pakehas). The sergeant now asked him to get up and ride in the carts, or go along the road in front of the carts an to Mahoetahi* pah; but he persisted that he would remain where he was, or cross the fern to the stockade. The sergeant suspecting that an ambuscade would be the result of this, had him detained by two of his party, and riding towards the stockade, parleyed with the natives in it, with several of whom he was well acquainted. They consisted of about fifty of Wiremu Kingi's, Haperona's; and Tamihana's men, under the command of Wiremu Kingi's fighting captain, the old warrior Hapurona, assisted by Tamihana; these sent word to Ohaia to let the carts proceed.
* 'Mahoe,' a tree, Melictus ramiflorus, 'tahi,' one.
When the escort arrived at the Waitara, what had just occurred was reported to His Excellency the Governor, and to Colonel Gold, and it was resolved to give the natives twenty minutes to clear out of the pah, and this letter was conveyed by Mr. Parris.
To the Chief who obstructs the Queen's Road.
"You have presumed to block up the Queen's road, to build on the Queen's land, and to stop the free passage of persons going and coming. This is waging war against the Queen. Destroy the places you have built; ask my forgiveness and you shall receive it. If you refuse, the blood of your people be on your head. I shall fire on you in twenty minutes from this time if you have not obeyed my orders.
"(Signed) T. Gore Browne."Camp, Waitara, 6th March, 1860."
In ten minutes the pah was abandoned, a strong party of sailors and marines had previously been brought up close to the pah. At half past three in the afternoon three companies page 93marched out of camp with Artillery, Engineers and part of the mounted escort, and joining the Naval Brigade and feeling with skirmishers for an ambuscade the pah was "rushed," found abandoned, and the palisading levelled and carried into camp for fire wood.
The troops improved their position by means of a good parapet and ditch, and cleared away the fern from the neighbourhood of the camp, which was placed on dry elevated ground, a broad swamp nearly enclosed it and it was a quarter of a mile south of the Waitara.
* 'Wai,' water, 'tangi,' crying, sounding.
Public notice was now given that the Governor had instructed Colonel Gold to take possession of the land sold by Te Teira, at the same time the attention of all branches of the service was called to the necessity of treating all friendly and neutral natives with the utmost civility; to prevent mistakes frendly natives coming into town were provided with passes.
* Manuka, or kahikatoa, a tree, Leptospermum scoparium.
† 'Wai,' water, 'uku,' white clay.
The procession consisted of first about one hundred natives four deep, then came a bodyguard carrying fowling pieces, next the standard-bearer with a green banner, and on it a red cross with the words "Te Pono" (the truth.) The old chief came next, seated on a pony with a tartan shawl thrown over it. The pony was led, and two women of the royal household walked alongside; then came a general body of natives, women with kai (food) and baggage, bringing up the rear. On reaching the royal hut, the standard was struck into the earth, and the chief seating himself on the ground received a general greeting, preparations were then made for a feast to the five hundred of both sexes assembled. There was not the least appearance of hostility, nor did the demonstration, the first of its kind, excite any anxiety among the settlers.
* 'Pura pura,' seeds of plants or trees.
A day was devoted to a great Korero, or talk, in reference to the King movement, and preserving among the Maories, who upheld it, the "manna" or authority of the native king in those parts of the island they wished to reserve to themselves. The tenor of the speeches evinced no hostility to the British Government, but what seemed to be desired by the speakers was the division and demarcation of the races—the Pakehas not interfering with the Maories and their Government, and they likewise not interfering with the Pakehas. With regard to the Taranaki question, they professed not to interfere beyond enquiring into the merits of the case. The meeting was concluded in a very orderly manner, and previous to its breaking up a message was sent to the Europeans who dwelt near to enquire if any damage had been done to their property by the Maori visitors; after which Potatau returned to his place at Ngaruawahia* with three hundred men besides women and children.
* Nga-rua-wahie, the store-houses of firewood.
At the Taranaki, Wiremu Kingi and his Ngatiawas shewed no wavering in their determination to oppose the occupation of Teira's block of land by the British, but proceeded to construct a strong pah upon it, determined to abide the consequences.
When the report reached the town that a page 98pah had been built on the disputed land, Mr. Brown and a party of his mounted escort proceeded to reconnoitre it, and reported at the camp that a pah of great strength and size had been constructed and was full of natives.
Two 241b. howitzers recently landed at New Plymouth from the 'Niger' were dispatched in boats to the Waitara, whilst the mounted escort proceeded to the Waitara camp by land, the guns and the escort arrived about the same time at the Waitara.
The natives had on the previous day come down from the pah and danced their war dance within view of the camp and then retired, and it was resolved in consequence of this act of defiance (which also has a wonderful effect on the native mind in bringing up their courage to the sticking point) to attack the pah forthwith. At midday on St. Patrick's day, three companies of the 65th Regiment under the command of Colonel Gold with Colonel Sillery and Captains Paul and Burton with the two 241b. howitzers and one 12-pounder howitzer also a rocket tube, left the Waitara camp; the artillery commanded by Lieutenant Macnaugh-page 99ten and a portion of the Naval Brigade by Lieutenant Wells. In advance was the mounted escort which afterwards fell to the rear, as the pah, which rose high on the fern-covered plain, was approached.
When the halt was ordered and the guns were placed in position at 800 yards from the N.W. angle of the pah, the infantry in support, the natives blew a horn in defiance; cow's horns curiously carved are employed by the natives for signals. Mr. Parris, who was with the troops, now rode forward with a letter which he wished to present at the pah, but it was not received and he was warned off. Every effort to avoid a crisis having now failed, a fire of artillery and rockets was opened on the pah and good practice was made by the shells bursting on the stockade, and the rockets, after a few trials, entering it with their loud and angry hiss. On the flag-staff of the pah a red war-flag was run up, after which the guns were moved to within 200 yards of the south side of the pah, and then the distance diminished to 150 yards and the fire continued. This was met by a discharge of fire page 100arms from the pah and replied to by the skirmishers in extended order. The firing became general, the Maori flag was struck and fell on the palisading, the guns were next moved to play on the north side of the pah.
Natives were now seen to leave the work and were fired upon by the escort, and whilst the guns were being moved some of the young men, with more valour than discretion, rode up to the pah and tired their revolvers at it; they were received with a volley of rifles and muskets which took effect on Mr. Sartin, who fell from his horse mortally wounded and was carried off, most gallantly under fire, by some of the Light Infantry and Naval Brigade, the flag being also torn off the palisading and carried away in triumph, a case for the Victoria Cross.
The troops were now highly excited, and could with difficulty be restrained by their officers from rushing the pah without scaling ladders or an adequate breach, whilst the Maories lay ready inside in their rifle pits along the bottom of the palisading, which was a good deal damaged. The guns having page 101expended their ammunition were withdrawn at dusk, and the troops throwing up a breast work in the form of a semicircle with guns and waggons in the rear, bivouacked on the ground, the natives keeping up a fire in the dark. The balls struck the gun-carriages and waggons but missed the men and the bullocks.
In the morning the guns again opened fire on the pah, a breach was made through which a portion of the 65th and Lieutenant Macnaughten and his gunners rushed, and it was found evacuated; the defenders had escaped by a deep gully leading to the river.
* Kohia, a kind of creeper.
The effects of shells and rockets were apparent inside the L pah, and there was a great store of Indian corn, potatoes, peaches, fish &c., sufficient it was supposed for two months' consumption. The pah was torn down and destroyed and the excavations filled, the troops then returned to camp bearing with them the Maori flag and the bodies of some slain comrades.
Teira and his friendly Maories now constructed a pah, provided with rifle pits inside, close to the river's mouth and near the site of Wiremu Kingi's fishing pah which had been destroyed. The first is the pah so well known to those who camped and fought for months along the Waitara.page 103
Civilian critics, writing at a distance, asked what were the troops about that they did not surround the L pah at night and capture or slay all its defenders; with a considerable force this would have been possible, but not so with the means at Colonel Gold's disposal, he had not the men with him to do it. The natives had been so long quiet that one regiment was. considered sufficient for New Zealand, the 65th having succeeded the 58th so well known and esteemed in New Zealand; but it was now evident that two strong regiments would not have been too many with such a warlike race, as the Maories, to look after.
The whole force in the Taranaki at this time was about 600 of the 65th, a small party of Artillery and Engineers, the Blue jackets, Marines and Marine Artillery of H.M.S. 'Niger,' 300 Taranaki Militia, 180 Volunteer Rifies, and the Mounted Escort. Nelson placed the steamer ' Tasmanian Maid' at the Governor's disposal, and reinforcements of the 12th and 40th Regiments were written for to Sydney and Melbourne; a hundred men, 65th, were withdrawn from Wellington to strengthen the page 104force in the Taranaki, and embarked with Lieutenant Toker, Musketry Instructor, Ensigns White and Pagan, Captain Mairis, R.E., and Chief Commissioner Maclean accompanying. Nelson did herself great honour by offering an asylum to the families of settlers who might wish to place them in safety in these troublesome times.
The L pah was said to have been constructed in one night; it may have been done in this way, frames of eight logs connected and, with longer at the extremities, two cross pieces to connect and bound with green wattles, may have been prepared in the bush, the holes for the long pickets dug, the frames carried down on bullock carts and placed in the ground, then the rifle pits cut out inside to enable the defenders to fire through the lines of picketing.
After the great guns had played on the pah for some time as was said, the shot made matches of the palisading.
On the 24th March news came to New Plymouth that the Taranaki and the Ngatiruanui tribes, several hundred strong, were advancing to create a diversion for the Ngatiawas page 105on the Waitara; seventy of the advanced guard as they reached Meharu's place, south of New Plymouth, danced the war dance there, to excite and stimulate themselves for the business of war; two hundred and fifty of the troops then marched into town from the Waitara.
On the following Sunday, at one p.m., two hundred of the 65th paraded, and one hundred and thirty Taranaki Militia and Rifles, all under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Murray, 65th, marched towards Ratapihipihi, the natives having commenced cattle and sheep stealing there. Major Herbert led the way with the Volunteer Rifles in skirmishing order, and with him, Captain Stapp. Having found the enemy, the skirmishers fell back on the main body, and the force halted, as was arranged, and returned to town.
Two days after, news came to town that some settlers had been murdered by the natives; and it appeared that Mr. S. Ford, Mr. H. Passmore, and Mr. S. Shaw were the victims. They were on their way, and no doubt foolhardy, to different parts of the block of land south of New Plymouth, when after page 106passing the Omata Inn, at the small village of that name, they were shot by natives concealed behind the furze hedges there, and afterwards tomahawked. Passmore was driving a bullock waggon at the time for a load of puriri fencing, and he as well as the cattle were shot through the head in a narrow lane, which I afterwards saw, and the yoke thrown into the hedge.
I may here mention that these furze hedges are much cultivated about the British settlements in New Zealand; the original seed was imported. They formed good cover for the Maories, and rendered incautious movements along the roads dangerous. Besides affording good shelter for beasts, they can sustain them with the expenditure of very little trouble. Cut in June, and full of sap and yellow blossom, they form excellent food for horses or cattle. They are chopped fine with a spade in a wooden cylinder before use, and one farmer told me that he thought that chopped furze was equal to hay and corn for keeping a horse in condition. The reason why hay and corn, and not furze, were used extensively, is page 107that more labour is required for the furze than for the other food; great attention should be paid to chop the furze very fine, as the prickles if left whole, might injure the coats of the animals' stomachs.
It is believed now that one of the men shot deserved his death. He had basely trafficked in powder with the natives; and when the news was conveyed to his wife, she wondered if he had been killed by any of his own powder! He had been duly warned two or three times against venturing where he did, but he said that the natives knew him, and would not hurt him. All these men were shot after martial law was proclaimed, and which, as I said, was understood by the Maories as a declaration of war. Still, they were unarmed and unresisting, and respectable Maories are quite ashamed of what occurred.
Two boys, Pate and Parker, were afterwards found in the bush, (it was said they were looking after stray cattle) savagely tomahawked on the hands and head; and the sight of their mangled bodies, when brought into the Military Hospital, awakened in the page 108breasts of those who saw them, feelings of the keenest desire for vengeance on the vindictive Ngatiruanuis, by whom the deed of blood was supposed to have been perpetrated.
The Ngatiruanuis, a broken tribe without proper chiefs, have always been considered the most averse to Europeans for many years, and the cause, I heard, was this: A ship, the "Harriet," was wrecked south of New Plymouth, and she was plundered by the Ngatiruanuis, and some of the crew devoured, and a Mrs. Garden was taken possession of by a chief. News was brought of the occurrence to the north, and the "Alligator" frigate was sent to the scene of the wreck. Mrs. Garden was recovered, but as the pah where she had been detained was shelled, and probably loss of life sustained by the natives, they have ever since not allowed either missionaries or traders to live among them. One missionary attempted it, and food was refused him, and he was obliged to come away.
The insurgents in the end of March appeared close to the Omata Blockhouse, fired shots at it, and danced the war dance. They page 109also constructed a pah on the Waireka Hill, in view of the blockhouse; and this occasioned uneasiness to the settlers in the outpost. It was also reported they had taken up a strong position between the blockhouse and the town at the cross roads called the Whaler's Gate. The Reverend Mr. Brown continuing near the village of Omata, and it being considered unsafe his remaining there after the death of the two boys, whose bodies lying in their gore he had discovered, and sent in to town, it was arranged that an armed party should bring him in; also some settlers who it was understood had collected at his house.