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Incidents of The Maori War

Chapter VIII

page 165

Chapter VIII.

Commodore Loring, C.B.—Naval arrangements—The Militia assisted—A war dance—New Plymouth entrenched—Conference of Chiefs at Kohimarima—Ihaia of Taranaki—His Letter of advice—His Excellency the Governor proceeds to the conference—His address—Its effect on some of the Chiefs—The korero, or talk—Skirmishing in the Taranaki —Major Hutchins, 12th regiment, arrives, also Lieut.- Colonel Leslie, 40th regiment—Redoubt at Waireka Hill —Archdeacon Hadfield—General Pratt proceeds to the seat of War—Sir Henry Barkley, Governor of Victoria, efficiently helps New Zealand—An alarm—Liberal offer from Canterbury settlement—Hugh Harris, a young settler, shot—A farmer and an artillery man slain at Omata.

Commodore Loring, C.B., was now actively engaged in arranging naval matters, and dispatching Captain Vernon from Manukau harbour to the Waitara in H.M.S. Cordelia he brought a, reinforcement to the Naval Brigade of one hundred and fifty blue jackets and marines from the 'Iris, ' Elk' and 'Victoria,' to the seat of war. The repulse at Puketakauere served to stimulate the operations of both services. The colony of Victoria with her com-page 166pletely equipped war steamer ' Victoria' being as heretofore of essential service, thirty of her men under Lieutenant Wood and midshipman Harris having taken up their quarters at Fort Niger as part of the Naval Brigade.

At the settlement of Tatarairnaka, south of New Plymouth, the insurgents sacked and burned the settlers' houses, all were committed to the flames except the chapel. Twenty-five of the wounded men were brought up from the Waitara and sent to the hospital. The Militia and Volunteers were served with a blanket, blue smock or jumper, a Guernsey and pair of boots each, other articles were to follow; hitherto these men had provided their own clothing, but now, half naked and ruined by the war, the Government assisted them.

At Puketakauere the natives came out of the pah and danced the war dance in view of the Waitara camp, one native was conspicuous in a soldier's tunic, on seeing which Major Nelson sent three shots into the pah from the camp, still further to excite their martial ardour.

It was now determined to entrench the centre part of New Plymouth, which Colonel Gold directed Captain Mairis, R.E., to page 167commence; this was completed by degrees, and besides a good ditch and parapet, stockades were erected where deemed necessary. Yet it appeared to me afterwards that active men, like the New Zealanders, might have crept in and got through and over the works on a dark night, and might have occasioned incalculable mischief among the families; but a merciful Providence spared the suffering people this addition to their cup of misery.

Great expectations were formed of the advantages to be gained by the native conference at Kohimarima near Auckland, and Mr. Donald MacLean, the native secretary, had been indefatigable in getting chiefs together to discuss the present state of affairs and relations between the Europeans and Maories. The steamers 'Victoria' and ' White Swan' brought chiefs from the Bay of Islands, from Wellington, the east coast, the Bay of Plenty, from Canterbury, Nelson, &c. Two large buildings, one hundred feet by sixteen were erected for the conference, a kitchen of corrugated iron was prepared, mattresses provided, &c.

In the middle of July, at Taranaki, the native corps of which the wounded Captain page 168Brown was the chief, was disbanded. Some distrust had arisen regarding this corps in connection with the Puketakauere affair; Ihaia, the friendly chief, then wrote a letter to the people of New Plymouth, in which he described the former state of Maori land, exposed to constant wars between the tribes, their endeavours to exterminate each other to the extent of eating their fallen foes; he also described the abandonment of the Taranaki country, its lying waste for a time, its occupation by the Europeans—then the remnant of the old inhabitants seeing this, determined to come back and occupy portions of it also and work with the white man, he approved of the sale of land to the white man, and gave advice about the future conduct of the war in these terms. "My friends you must not assault pahs, but you must entrench yourselves near to each pah, thence you must fire with the big guns, so as to break down the palisading, and you must fire again at the earth that the banks may be breached behind which the men sit, when the breach is made then you can rush into the pah, when it will be well. He is a feeble man this Wiremu Kingi and he is page 169an old enemy of mine, I have enemies also among the Taranakis and Ngatiruanuis, I do not wish the preservation of Wiremu Kingi, his destruction would be a satisfaction to me."

The secluded Bay of Kohirnarima, a few miles from Auckland, is a beautiful site for the Melinesian mission here; and there is a college for the education of youth from the South Sea islands, Mr. Patteson has become the new bishop for this interesting diocese, and through his indefatigable exertions and acquirements, the spread of civilization and of Christianity will be extended by means of native missionaries among many islands and people of the Polynesian group. I had much pleasure in visiting the establishment at Kohimarima, the sail to it past steep and wooded cliffs, (where are the peaceful retreats and gardens of Sir William Martin and the Honorable Mr. Swainson, late attorney-general) or the ride to it through woods and scrub, and the waving yellow flags of the toi toi were very interesting; the beautifully China pheasant is beginning to abound in the cover near Kohimarima.

On July the 10th took place the meeting of friendly chiefs to confer with the Governor on page 170the present position and prospects of native affairs. Auckland would have been very undesirable as the place of meeting, as crowds might have interrupted the proceedings. His Excellency came to Kohimarima in the pinnace of HM. ship 'Iris,' and with him were the Honourable Mr. Stafford, Colonial Secretary; Mr, Richmond, the Native Minister; Mr. Tancred, Postmaster General; Mr. Williamson, the Superintendant of the Province of Auckland; the Chief-Justice Arney; the Attorney-General Whitaker; Mr. MacLean, Native Secretary; Colonel Mould, C.R.E.;• Captain Steward, Private Secretary; Colonel Sillery, Deputy-Quarter -Master-General: Brigade Major Stack; and Mrs. Gore Brown, Mrs. Tancred and other ladies also attended the opening of the conference.

The Governor having taken his seat, Mr. MacLean interpreted the address to the assembled chiefs, which began with assurances of good will on the part of Her Majesty the Queen to the whole Maori people. On assuming the sovereignty of New Zealand, she pledged herself to extend to them her royal protection, to defend them from foreign foes, impart to page 171them all the rights, and privileges of British subjects, and confirm to the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand the exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands, forests and fisheries.

In return for this, the chiefs who signed the treaty of Waitangi, ceded the right of sovereignty to Her Majesty. The chiefs were now invited to make known any grievances they might have, or to suggest how property could be better protected, offenders punished, and disputes settled.

His Excellency next alluded to the dangerous combination in the Waikato country to set up a Maori king in opposition to Queen Victoria. Some parties from Waikato and Kawhia* had gone to assist Wiremu Kingi in his armed resistance to Her Majesty's troops. The Governor wished to know the opinion of the chiefs on this head. The Maori nation had enjoyed great advantages under British protection; law and order had prevailed, and it was impossible that for any good reason another sovereign should be now set up.

Tile Maori nation had been treated with every consideration by the British Govern-page 172ment. Wise and good men had resolved to treat the natives with strict justice, and to act towards them on Christian principles, that they could not be unjustly deprived of their land or property. He regretted that misunderstandings might arise from the difference of language, but this obstacle to improvement would be removed in time, and in the next generation, and by the assistance of the missionaries.

His Excellency reminded the chiefs of the kindness exercised towards the Maories by the establishment of an hospital for their sick, schools for the children; assistance given to possess vessels, to build mills, to cultivate wheat. The Governor hoped that wise councils would prevail among them, and that their deliberations would result in great benefit to the Maori race generally. Lastly, he congratulated them on the great progress the Maories had made of late years under the Queen's protection. Cannibalism exchanged for Christianity, slavery abolished, war become rare, prisoners taken in war not always slain. He prayed for the blessing of God on their deliberations, and left them to the free discussion of the subjects indicated in his address.

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At the conclusion of the address, Mele Kingi and Kaiwawa Paipai came forward, and in the name of the Wanganui natives, presented the Governor with two beautifully embroidered kaitakas, or fine flax mantles, and a taiaha, or staff, as a pledge of loyalty and peace.

About one hundred and twenty chiefs were present, and at the subsequent levee in the dining-room, an east coast chief presented to the Governor what is highly prized, an old mere, or sharp-edged club, made of the bone of a whale. The stalwart figures, well developed heads, and intelligent countenances of the Maories, struck those who were not in the habit of seeing many Maories of distinction, and caused a feeling of regret that there should be enmity between any portion of this fine race of aborigines and the AngloSaxon colonists.

The Governor having returned to Auckland, the chiefs re-assembled in the hall of conference for their korero, or talk, Mr. MacLean presiding. The first day there were expressions of loyalty towards the Queen, acknowledgments of the benefits conferred on the Maories, and page 174of a desire for peace and to be one people, and under laws such as, if a Pakeha killed a Maori, the murderer alone should suffer, and not as in the old time, many might fall in exacting utu or compensation for one death. One chief said, "Our former canoe was bare and unfinished; when the Pakeha came, it was supplied with seats and a platform. Our former god was Onehuku: now it is the true God. I say let wars cease between the Pakeha and Maori." Another said, "The missionaries taught us Christianity; they taught us to forsake old customs; they pulled up by the roots Maori customs, and they became quite dry. The war in the north was ended; the war in the south was brought to a satisfactory termination; let this one be so also. Let us have but two canoes. Send another ship and a boat (a Queen and a Governor), but not a Waka Maori, (Maori canoe) only, and let us have one thought, not two, for both Queen and Maori."

It happened, unfortunately, about the time of the conference at Kohimarima, the news that our arms had met with a reverse at the Taranaki arrived, viz., the Puketakauere page 175affair; and the assembled chiefs, or Rangatira, evidently could not help feeling gratified that the brown skin had triumphed over the white. Still, the conference was of service and was an earnest, that in future, native intelligence would be fairly brought to the test, and the Maories encouraged in self-government.

In the Taranaki in July, a skirmish took place between some of the insurgents and a party of the 12th Regiment, under Lieutenants Richardson and Lowry, near the Bell Block. The natives had been plundering houses, and surrounded a Mr. Everett, who was imprudently trimming furze hedges on his farm. They demanded his bill-hook and part of his clothing; he surrendered what was required, and offered to shake hands with them; this all declined except one man, and this saved his life.

H.M. ship "Fawn," Captain Cator, now arrived at New Plymouth from Sydney with another detachment of the 12th Regiment on board, commanded by Major Hutchins, an excellent officer and much esteemed.

The "City of Hobart" also arrived, with Lieutenant-Colonel Leslie, and the head-page 176quarters of the 4th Regiment on board, from Melbourne. Major Nelson did not remit in his exertions to harrass the natives in the pahs at Puketakauere, by shelling them at night particularly.

South of New Plymouth, the Ngatiruanuis were busy erecting pahs at Tataraimaka, and threatening the town from that direction.

Major Hutchins with a strong detachment of the 12th and 40th Regiments, and some artillery, was now directed to march to the Waireka hill, construct a redoubt there, (near the site of the pah so gallantly carried by Captain Cracroft) and watch and check the onward movements of the insurgents, a large party of whom, men, women, and children, were seen on the beach. A considerable number of women go into the field with the men in Maorie warfare, to assist in various ways; building wharres or huts, collection and preparation of food, care of the wounded, besides encouraging the sterner sex to rival the deeds of their ancestors. Female voices would be heard at night, sometimes with songs and cries, stimulating the warriors.

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Archdeacon Hadfield made himself conspicuous at this time by addressing a pamphlet to the Duke of Newcastle, the Colonial Minister, regarding the injustice of the war. He made a mistake in stating that Teira's father was opposed to the sale of the Waitara block; he had agreed to this when Teira offered the land to the Governor.

It was now deemed advisable that General Pratt, C.B, commanding the forces in the Australian colonies, should himself proceed from Melbourne with a portion of his staff, to the seat of war, as a temporary measure, to make all military arrangements for the general defence of New Zealand, in conjunction with the Governor and the local authorities.

Every praise is due to the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Barkley, and to the community generally of that flourishing colony, for the zeal and liberality displayed on this occasion. Men and money were freely offered; the 40th Regiment fully equipped for the campaign; the women of the regiment comfortably lodged and cared for, and one thousand young men offered their services to do battle as volunteers in the New Zealand page 178"bush." Under proper discipline, there is little doubt, from their experience of a rough life at the "diggings," and in the wilds of Australia, they would have done good service if they had been called on to embark for the Taranaki; but their presence was in the meantime required in Victoria, denuded as it was of the regular troops.

Colonel Pitt, D I.M., had done his utmost to practise the Colonial Volunteers in the use of the rifle, and they had done justice to their training.

Her Majesty's Colonial steam sloop "Victoria" landed at New Plymouth Major- General Pratt and Staff; he was received by Colonel Gold, commanding the troops in New Zealand. The officers who accompanied the general, were Lieutenant-Colonel Carey, Deputy-Adjutant General; Lieutenant Forster, R.A., Aide-de-Camp; Dr. Mouat, C.B., V.C., Deputy-Inspector-General; Captain Pasley, R.E., and fifty men of the 40th Regiment. Immediately after this, an alarm was raised that the natives were moving on the town to attack it; the women and children were hastily sent to Marsland Hill, the citadel, and page 179the alarm posts were occupied by the men; but the natives retired, contenting themselves with some plunder outside.

The settlement of Canterbury liberally offered assistance in money in aid of the distressed Taranaki settlers; and as there was no accommodation for them there, it was determined that Nelson was the best place to send them to. These poor people suffered great misery and hardships besides loss of property and of their houses in the Taranaki.

In the end of July a melancholy occurrence took place at the Waitara. Hugh Harris, attached to the camp, a young man, the only son of his parents, whilst attempting to cart drift wood from the beach, and without an escort, was shot dead, with a ball in the head, by a party of natives who came down upon him; an unarmed soldier of the 40th was near. The waggon and bullocks were not touched, and the body was recovered and sent to New Plymouth for burial.

The royal mail steamer, "Airedale," arrived from the Manukau at New Plymouth with the following officers, Colonel Sillery, Deputy- Quartermaster-General; Assistant-Military page 180Storekeeper Hamley; Surgeon-Major Smith; and Purveyor to the Forces, Henry Deburgh Adams.

More skirmishing took place about the Bell Block, and the report was raised that the dead bodies of the men killed at Puketakauere were left to be eaten by the wild pigs and the karoro, (sea gulls). Some sharp skirmishing about the mouth of the Waitara between the marines escorting firewood and the Maories.

Two more lives were lost at the Omata. John Hurford, a farmer, left the stockade for Jury's hill, to get three artillerymen to accompany him to his farm in the bush. The natives came upon them in force, and the party separated, and two of the artillerymen made their way back to Major Hutchins' camp. Captain Barton, 65th, searched for the others with a party, and the artilleryman was found dead and mutilated in a gully. The farmer's body was not recovered, but there was no doubt about his death. He left a wife and nine helpless children at Nelson. A very distressing case.

Such are some of the incidents of this calamitous war, and its effects on rural settlers in a new and partially acquired country.

* Kawhia, the name of a fish.