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Incidents of The Maori War

Chapter IX

page 181

Chapter IX.

Alarms at New Plymouth—Continuance of the Conference at Kohemarima—Pig hunting—Skirmishes at Waireka hill—Wreck of the 'George Henderson'—Settlers attacked —Defection of an old Ally—Death of Captain Richard Brown—H. Craine shot—Maorie ammunition—Puketakauere evacuated and destroyed by Major Nelson—The enemy's works at Waireka hill abandoned—Description of Rifle Pits—Expedition to Ratapihipihi—Two pahs destroyed by Major Nelson—General Pratt's expedition to Huirangi—Skirmish at the Peach Grove—The ladies of Littleton—Major Hutchins' expedition—Colonel Leslie's —One regiment inadequate for New Zealand—Dangerous affair at Patamahoe.

In the beginning of August the insurgents were particularly active about the Bell Block in plundering houses, driving off horses, cattle, and sheep; they were pursued and skirmished with by the farmers, assisted by the military. There were also continual alarms of assaults on the town of New Plymouth, beating to arms, and placing the women in places of safety.

The Kohemarima conference went on, and the speeches of the chiefs were generally of a page 182friendly nature towards the Pakeha. Some complaints they made, as for instance, asking five shillings an acre for their land, and getting sixpence from the Government. It is true the expenses of surveying had to be paid; yet, as the natives knew sixpence was paid them for the land which was afterwards sold to settlers for ten shillings an acre, must have before long caused much discontent.

The chiefs acknowledged the great advantages their nation had derived from the Gospel of Christ, turning them from many of their old evil ways; disposing them to peace, to agriculture, and to obedience to the laws.

In New Plymouth, parties of the 40th and 65th were encamped in different parts of the town in anticipation of an attack. The ditch and palisading were improved, and more families warned to be in readiness to proceed to Nelson.

The insurgents had evidently no want of food in the Taranaki, for besides the sheep and cattle of the settlers, they could amuse themselves with pig hunting. Wild pigs abound there, and some of our officers, among these Ensign Curtis, 14th, were very successful page 183in the pursuit of fern-fed pigs, following them on foot with dogs, and immolating when caught, with their knives. The flesh of animals on the run is much more wholesome than what is stall fed or penned up; and as we remember of old in our Eastern experience' nothing can excel the flesh of the sugar canefed wild boar.

Skirmishing continued with the marauding insurgents in the neighbourhood of New Plymouth, in which the militia and volunteers took an active part. The 65th and 40th had to escort prisoners to Omata and the Waireka hill, where at four hundred yards from Major Hutchins' redoubt the Maories had sunk rifle pits, and invested the post on Grayling's and Harrison's farms. With the natives, continual skirmishing went on, Major Hutchins pitched into them shot and shell, and using small arms when he had the opportunity. Captain Miller, also Lieutenant Mair and Ensign Hurst were usefully engaged here; and at the Omata, Captain Burton rendered valuable service.

On the 16th of August there was considerable excitement in New Plymouth, watching page 184the fate of the brig "George Henderson," the wind blowing fiercely from the W.N.W. She began to drag her anchors, pitched fearfully, and drifted towards the Henui beach. Ensign with union down. Crowds turned out to assist. She got within the breakers, straining at her anchors, and the great rollers washing over her. At last she slipped her cables, and hoisted her jib, and came ashore at the mouth of the Henui river, where I afterwards saw her "high and dry." Commodore Loring and his men, also the military, went to the beach to assist the crew, and Captain James having sent a rope on shore, they were safely landed.

We here take the opportunity to record our obligations to the owner of this vessel and to his family for much civility and attention. The Honourable Mr. Henderson is an example of what an honest, upright, and persevering Scotchman can effect in realizing an independence as a wood merchant, &c.; also taking a part in public life, first as a member of the general assembly, and afterwards in council.

Mr. Walter Perry riding after stock at the Waitara was wounded in the leg; his horse page 185also received two balls, but managed to carry its rider into camp, and then expired. Mr. Coad at New Plymouth was not so fortunate; he had gone out to the wreck, was fired upon and disappeared. His body was afterwards found on the beach pierced with four bullets.

To the settler volunteers at the Omata Stockade, it was a trying thing to see their houses burnt near them, and their stock driven off by the insurgents, and thus reducing them to poverty after years of honourable industry. Major Herbert and his militia, always active and ready for a fight, were employed between the town and the Omata and Waireka hill.

At the Kohemarima conference, a chief, Paora Tuhaepa, spoke very sensibly of the advantage of the Maories sharing in the councils of the Pakeha; and if a Maori killed a Maori, he thought his crime should be tried and adjudicated on by the understanding of both Pakeha and Maori. Murders generally; quarrels about women, makutu (witchcraft), all should come before the same tribunal, and there should be but one law for Pakehas and Maories.

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At the Taranaki, the defection of Te Waka, an old ally of the Pakeha, occasioned for a time much speculation. He had lived eighteen years at New Plymouth, and was much esteemed; had rendered valuable assistance in settling disputes between the two races, and arranging the delicate matter of the sale of native land. Most unfortunately, when salaried native assessors were appointed, and he among them, his pride was hurt by others, with very inferior claims to him, having a higher rate of salary allotted them. He accordingly first became a spy for Wiremu Kingi, and then went over to him bodily, at a time when we had not many friends to spare among the Maories.

Captain Richard Brown, who had lingered for thirteen weeks from the effects of his wound at the Waitara, at length died, greatly regretted, and was buried with military and masonic honours. We saw at the pah at the mouth of the Waitara, the long low wharré where Dr. Styles of the 40th most carefully attended him, and did his utmost to save him, but in vain.

A young man, H. Craine, most imprudently page 187venturing into the skirts of the forest, near New Plymouth, and without escort, searching for his working bullocks, was shot and tomahawked; the obstinate would take no warning.

The natives continued to burn houses near the town, and were pursued by Lieutenant Bent, R.M., and a party of marines. One day an exciting skirmish took place in full view of Marsland hill, a force turning out under Lieutenant- Colonel Murray, 65th, and with him Captain Barton, Lieutenants Bailie, Urquhart and Whitehead, and Ensign Talbot. The natives, about two hundred in number, retired and fired from the gullies; the fire was returned with effect, several (about twenty) were seen to drop, among others Hoam, a young chief, whose pouch contained cartridges made up with pistol bullets for close quarters. Five nails were sometimes tied together, heads and points, also plugs of hard puriri wood coated with tea-chest lead. I also heard of bullets cast in the bowls of tobacco pipes, a row of these being laid in the ground and the lead run into them.

The means for making rough powder are page 188not wanting in the Northern Island but caps were the great difficulty. When I was in command at Auckland, a Maori came in and offered privately to a shopkeeper three hundred pounds in gold for six hundred boxes of caps, the usual selling price of which was eighteen pence; this was a sore temptation but it was resisted.

Major Nelson, from the Waitara camp, having constantly harrassed the enemy in the Puketakauere pahs, with his sixty-eight pounder, and another expedition being prepared to assail them in sufficient numbers to ensure their fall, they were suddenly found to be evacuated. On being occupied by a party of the 40th, Onukakaitara was found to consist of palisading enclosing a mound on which was a flag-staff, part of the palisading toward the camp was double, inside were well contrived rifle trenches; there were also flanking defences to complete the work. The Puketakauere mound to the north-east was now partly stockaded, besides having a double ditch. The troops carted away great portions of the palisading to the camp for firewood, and filled in the entrenchments and rifle pits. When the Maories make rifle pits page 189they do not spare themselves, but work till they drop sometimes.

The planting season being at hand was another inducement to abandon the Puketakauere pahs; the trenches at the Waireka hill were also suddenly left and the blockade on Major Hutchins raised, but not before the chief Aperahama was struck fatally on the head by a bullet at long range from the deadly Enfield rifle.

August being a cold wet month, the natives were suffering from influenza in various parts of the country.

The works abandoned by the enemy at the Waireka hill, six in number, were of the most ingenious construction, both as regards shelter from the weather and safety in retreat; near some of the pits were wharrés or huts, where those not required in the pits could take their ease. It was the custom elsewhere for a few to occupy the works at night and make a noise by calling out, or with cow horns endeavour to deceive our people, but doubtless all were ready for a rush to the pits on an alarm.

Some of the larger pits were proof against shells, by a roof of trees, turf and earth, were page 190hollowed out and provided with fire place and a chimney. Some I examined afterwards had fern beds on a raised floor, and were neatly lined with fern to cover the damp earthen sides and prevent their falling in probably, whilst all had a ready escape down a wooded ravine in the rear. There was also the usual Maori oven (hangi) circular and sunk in the ground to cook their potatoes, by means of stones heated with fire, then covered with leaves or a mat and a little water poured in to create a steam, with earth over all to retain the heat.

In the beginning of September, a powerful force, military, naval and militia, started from New Plymouth under the direction of Major-General Pratt, and in three divisions entered the bush to the south of the town, and endeavoured to surprise the enemy at Rata-pihipihi, the stockade of the chief Manahi; the enemy retired and the expedition returned to town. There was heavy marching from bad tracks and much fatigue endured, but it proved that the troops could and would follow the foe into his fastnesses.

Major Nelson, always on the alert and so page 191troublesome to the Maories, that they called him Teipo, or Devil, forded the Waitara with a detachment of the 40th and part of the Naval Brigade under Lieutenant Battiscombe, and advancing into the dense forest and bush on the north side took and destroyed two pahs, Kouhi and Tikorangi, the latter a great strong-hold of the insurgents and several miles from the camp. The enemy made a precipitate retreat and left half cooked food, also eel nets, spears, paddles, mats, prepared flax, Indian corn, potatoes and wheat, whilst pigs and turkeys run about outside. The troops behaved in a very creditable manner on this hazardous expedition.

Major Nelson in order to clear the country between the Waitara and the Bell Block, next, with part of the 40th and Naval Brigade, destroyed the Nuna Tima and other pahs; in the Tima a large quantity of provisions was found.

On the 10th of September a large expedition was organised at New Plymouth, under Major-General Pratt, to advance as far as possible into the country towards Pukerangeora* on the Waitara. Numerous carts were loaded

* 'Puke,' a hill, 'rangeora,' a tree, so called.

page 192at an early hour with camp equipage, ammunition and stores; the force was told off in three divisions: No. I was commanded by Major Nelson, and consisted of five hundred and fifty-seven men of the 40th and Naval Brigade from the Waitara Camp, Commodore Loring, C.B. was with the division, also Captain Beauchamp Seymour, R.N., now recovered from the wound he received at Puketakauere. No. 2 Division was commanded by Major Hutchins, 12th Regiment, and consisted of four hundred and sixty-four men, 65th Regiment, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and twenty men of the mounted escort, under Capt. Turner, 65th, Captain Strover, R.A., Captain Mould, R.E., and Captain Desvœeux No. 3 Division commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Leslie, 40th Regiment, consisted of three hundred and thirty-three men of the 40th Regiment, and Royal Artillery, and fifty Volunteer Rifles under Captain Hare, 40th, Lieutenant Macnaughten, R.A., and Capt. Stapp, There were also a number of friendly natives under the chief commissioners MacLean and Mr. Parris. The whole force numbered one thousand four hundred men and it had, for New Zealand, a page 193formidable appearance with its guns and waggons and the men in good case.
The first halt was at Mahoetahi, next day No. 3 Division proceeded by a branch road towards Ngataiparirua.* No 2 Division continued along the Devon road for some distance, then turned to the right towards Ngataiparirua and skirmished towards it, shells were thrown into the pah, which was evacuated and taken possession of and destroyed. No. 3 Division next advanced towards the Kairau pah, a strong position, this was also taken and burnt. Nos. 2 and 3 Divisions were now joined by No, 1 from the Waitara, and the march was continued to Huirangi pah, this was also evacuated and half cooked food and fires found in it. Major Nelson then asked leave to go in advance and did so, skirmishing towards a peach grove with the Light Company of the 40th and some friendly natives, when a fire was suddenly opened by the enemy from a ravine by which a man of the 40th fell; the troops returned the fire and retired, advancing again, the wounded man in the meantime had been dragged into the bush. Ihaia, of the friendly na-

* Ngataiparirua, the tides that flow twice.

page 194tives
, showed cool courage, firing and exposing himself like the rest. A brisk fire was kept up on both sides, the enemy under the command of Haperona, the fighting captain of Wiremu Kingi, replying to the round shot, grape, cannister and musketry with volleys from the bush and the rifle pits, and wounding some more of our men. Another pah, Kotewaionaha, was destroyed by Lieutenant Urquhart, 65th, who from first to last had a greater share of the fighting than any officer in the Taranaki, and always most ably acquitted himself.*

The order to retire was now given, and the force halted at the Waitara Camp. A large number of horses and cattle were driven into camp by the mounted escort; next day Divisions Nos. 2 and 3 returned to New Plymouth.

As the enemy avoided coming to a decisive engagement, and they were wise in so doing, all that could be done was to destroy their pahs from whence they had issued to slay and pillage; yet it was considered that if it had been deemed prudent to entrench the force at

* He is now a Captain of the 23rd R.W.F.

page 195Huirangi and to have made it the base of operations, the war might have been materially shortened. No doubt General Pratt had good reason for the way he acted, his object always was to save valuable lives, to shell pahs and never to put out his foot, before he was sure of being able to withdraw it again.

The Ngatiruanuis and Taranakis having destroyed the settlement at Tataraimaka, south of New Plymouth, and having erected pahs there, Major Hutchins was directed to chastise them; those were the tribes it will be remembered which had massacred the three men and two boys at the Omata in March, and had been fighting and plundering round New Plymouth.

The ladies of Littleton, Canterbury, Middle Island now sent to the Volunteers of Taranaki a quantity of garments made up by them, and accompanied by a letter expressing sympathy for them, the obligations the settlers were under to the Volunteers, and wishing them health, safety and success. To this the gallant Volunteers made a suitable reply.

The force of Major Hutchins to proceed south, consisted of one hundred and fifty-seven page 196men of the 12th Regiment under Captain Miller; two hundred and seventy of the 65th under Captains Strange and Barton; seventeen men Royal Artillery under Captain Strover; two 24-pounder howitzers and two rocket tubes twelve and twenty-four lbs.; thirteen Royal Engineers under Captain Mould; sixty-eight Militia and Volunteers under Captain Richmond; one sergeant and ten men of the Mounted Corps, Captain Pasley, R.E., (staff officer) and fifty friendly natives under Mr. Good.

Major Hutchins' expedition first encamped on the north bank of the Oakura river, and in the Tataraimaka destroyed eight pahs, some of considerable strength, after which it was intended that more preparations were to be made for attacking the natives posted at Kaihihi, the expedition therefore returned to town.

A party of the 40th and Naval Brigade amounting to five hundred men under Lieutenant-Colonel Leslie were employed at Huirangi filling in rifle pits and levelling trenches, after which the troops retired and were followed by the natives, who fired and wounded three of the 40th and two Marines, the troops being ordered to reserve their fire. But provoked by page 197the near approach of the enemy, the rear-guard turned and fired without orders, when the Maories were within one hundred yards of them.

Colonel Gold on being promoted to Major-General and giving up the command of the 65th Regiment to Colonel Wyatt, was entertained by the officers at the head-quarters; he had served thirty four years in "the old Tigers."

I may here remark, that the 65th, though an excellent regiment, was quite inadequate, single handed and scattered in detachments, to keep in check the warlike Maories of the Northern island of New Zealand. I formed this opinion from what I observed at the Cape of Good Hope in 1835.

When one regiment of the line was on the Cape frontier, and two hundred Cape mounted Rifles in detached posts, the active Caffers suddenly worked immense mischief in the eastern province; and so in New Zealand. We believe that with two regiments, besides artillery, engineers, and three or four ships of war, with mounted and rifle volunteers, all efficient and in hand, no king's flag would have page 198been raised; and that Taranaki, "the garden of New Zealand," would not have become desolate, and "her hedges broken down." But civilians sometimes raise a cry for economy, and seem to imagine that a British soldier can do the work of ten ordinary men. They can do a great deal, but not impossibilities, and above all things require a change occasionally. Thus five years in New Zealand, and five in Australia, would be better than fifteen in the former station.

My noble old chief at the Cape and in Canada, Sir Benjamin d'Urban, required power to exercise his humane and just policy towards the natives. A respectable force in front of turbulent neighbours is the cheapest plan in the end. The Honourable Mr. Swainson, formerly Attorney-General, and enjoying a literary leasure at "a Sabine farm" near Auckland, has some excellent ideas on this subject in his admirable works on New Zealand.

A native, Hoena Pirere, or Big Joe, well known in Taranaki,. who had been fighting with the Ngatiruanuis, and quarrelled with them, now came in with some other in-page 199surgents, fired their muskets in the air, rubbed noses (ongi), and were cried over (tangi) in the old Maori style, at the pahs of friendly natives. Big Joe was detained a prisoner in town for a time under observation.

Being the brother of Manahi, who is supposed to have been concerned in the murder of the settlers in March, Big Joe, as he was marched through New Plymouth to a place of security, was hooted and hissed at a good deal, but he never flinched, and walked stoutly between his guards.

An occurrence which was likely to be attended with serious consequences, involving an attack on the province of Auckland, and on the town itself, took place in the middle of October. Eruetta, a Maori, was found dead near Patamahoe,* Waikato river, and the natives believed he had been shot by an European; Archdeacon Maunsell happened to be in the neighbourhood, and he proceeded with the native secretary, Mr. MacLean, and Major Speedy, the resident magistrate, to Patamahoe without further delay, to endeavour to settle matters.

* 'Pata,' drips, 'mahoe,' a tree, Melicytus ramiflorus.

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On the 15th October the natives assembled there, armed and in considerable numbers, to investigate the cause of the death of Eruetta in the bush. It appeared he had been last seen alive with a party of his own people who were hunting wild cattle. He separated from them, and was then found lying dead, and his trousers gone. The natives were much excited, and it was discovered that at a given signal, the dropping of a spear point, they had determined to murder all the Europeans present at the meeting except the Archdeacon. Mr. MacLean was informed of this privately, but with his usual nerve and judgment, he took no notice of it. A friendly chief, Ihaku, prevented the murderous design being carried into execution; and after the Archdeacon had concluded his arguments, Mr. MacLean succeeded for the time in allaying the excitement.

Several days were spent over this matter, and on the 26th October, the settlers in the district near the Waikato river were advised by friendly natives to quit their farms, and some did so. Major Speedy's life was threatened.

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Ihaku came into town, communicated with the Governor, then returned to the influential natives, and helped to quiet them, and to allay the apprehension of the out-settlers. Two Europeans assaulted Ihaku at the village of Otahuhu, and if he had been hurt, it is impossible to say to what length his excited followers would have gone in revenging themselves on men who disgraced their country, and jeopardized the lives of many peaceful settlers. On the 31st of October an express was received in Auckland to the effect that four hundred armed Maories were proceeding to the scene of the supposed murder, and with them, Tamihana Tarapihipihi, (W. Thompson), the king-maker.

The alarm spread far and wide; the Honourable Colonel Kenny, commanding the troops in the province of Auckland, was directed to call out the militia, and march with what force he could muster of regulars, sailors, militia, volunteers, and field-pieces, in the direction of the frontier of the province.

Mr. Rogan of the native department, attended the last meeting of the natives at Pukaki, and reported the able speeches of page 202Tamati Ngapora, and Mohi, (Moses) of Pukaki. The latter said, "Speak to us after the word, 'let there be no evil,'" (the dying King Potatau's injunctions). "I am not concerned about this death; I am concerned to keep Potatau's last words, to live in peace with the Pakeha, the Europeans, and to preserve my property. Look here at my stick, I break it in two," (throwing the pieces on the ground), "this is my sign that the thing is disposed of; this work is settled; bury it, and let the three be secured, religion, love, law, &c."

By the influence of the Chiefs Ipaha, Tamoti Ngapora, Mohi, and Arawa Waraha, the excitement was allayed; there was a feast, and the lately excited natives returned to their villages.