1879 - Featon, J. The Waikato War, 1863-64 - CHAPTER VI, p 25-26

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  1879 - Featon, J. The Waikato War, 1863-64 - CHAPTER VI, p 25-26
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AT daybreak on the 17th of July, the same day that Ihaka and his party were captured at Kiri Kiri, the outposts of the 14th Regt. on the Koheroa, reported the Natives in considerable force about two miles off, entrenching themselves in rifle pits, evidently with the intention of arresting the further advance of the troops. The Koheroa range extends in a horse-shoe shape some three or four miles from the Mangatawhiri Creek to the Waikato River and the Whangamerino Creek, which skirts the base of the range in the south, in the same manner as the Mangatawhiri in the north. The elevation of the range is greatest where it rises up from the Mangatawhiri Creek; at this point the 14th Regt. was posted. The range then slopes away to its extremities at the Waikato River. Colonel Austen, the officer commanding the advanced post at the Koheroa, at once made his disposition for dislodging the Natives; but having to wait for reinforcements from the Queen's Redoubt, consisting of detachments from the 12th and 70th Regts., which were followed by General Cameron, it was 11 o'clock before he was able to advance. The 14th Regt. led the way, Supported by the 12th and 70th Regts., in all about 500 men. After marching some two miles, the advance guard came into collision with the Maori skirmishers, who had been thrown forward some distance in front of their rifle pits. As the 14th advanced, the Natives retreated, firing, to their intrenchments, which the Maoris occupied in force. When the 14th. were within 200 yards of the rifle pits, the Natives opened on the attacking column such a heavy fire that the advance was checked, and here and there some men of the 14th staggered and fell. This regiment being a newly formed 2nd Battalion, was composed in a great part of young soldiers, many of them growing lads, new to war, and who had never been under fire. From the veterans of the 65th, 12th, and 40th Regts. they had heard of the savage character of the foe they now confronted; and the destruction of the grenadier company of the 40th Regt. in the Taranaki swamps was still fresh in their memory, General Cameron--the same Cameron who led the Black Watch up the blood-stained heights of Alma nine years before--was close up with the attacking column, and seeing them waver, ran forward some yards in front of the 14th, and waving his cap in the air called upon his young soldiers--not in vain. Captains Strange and Phelps with Lieuts. Glancy and Armstrong, rushed forward sword in hand in front of their companies, who with loud cheers charged the Maori intrenchments which they carried at the point of the bayonet. The main body of the Natives who had not time to re-load, hastily retreated, those who remained were bayoneted.

The routed Natives, pressed by the 14th, 12th, and 70th supports, fled over the range and down into a swamp which they had to cross before they could get cover in a belt of bush that edged the river-side. In crossing the swamp, the Natives suffered severely from the heavy fire which the troops poured into them from the range above.

The remnant of the Natives who had crossed the creek were allowed to retreat without further pursuit, the troops having no means of crossing.

In this engagement the troops lost only one killed and twelve wounded, amongst whom was Colonel Austin slightly wounded in the arm. The casualties were confined to the 14th Regt. The Natives opposed to the troops numbered about 300, of whom 150 were killed and wounded. One Native, a boy, was taken prisoner, he having been found lying on his face in the fern, shamming dead.

The reason that the troops lost so few men, was, no doubt, due to the fact that the Natives rarely take deliberate aim. They get too excited, and fire very often without even raising their piece to the shoulder.

The Natives left on the field a number of spades, some double-barrelled fowling-pieces and flint muskets, two or three tomahawks, and a quantity of ammunition.

General Cameron sent word by some friendly Natives to the enemy, that he would allow one of his surgeons to attend their wounded, whom the Maoris had managed to carry away. This very generous offer was, however, refused, the Natives conveying their wounded up the river in several canoes. It so hap-

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pened that they were passed on their way up by two Europeans who had been detained at Ngaruawahia by the Kingites. One of them, Mr. England, a shoemaker, had been kept behind by the Natives for the purpose of making leather covers for cartridge boxes, which were of wood with a number of small auger-holes bored for the reception of the cartridges. The Natives did not molest Mr. England's party, who paddled swiftly down the stream and reached Waiuku where they resided in safety. The Maori treatment of their wounded is very simple; for a gun-shot wound they plug up the orifice made by the ball with clay, to exclude the air, and the patient has to take his chance. Some remarkable and speedy cures have been effected in this way. The dock-root is also used extensively for wounds and sores. The following is the official account of the engagement: --

Head Quarters, Queen's Redoubt,
July 18th, 1863.

SIR, --I have to inform your Excellency that, at eleven o'clock yesterday morning, Lieutenant Colonel Austen, 2nd Battalion, 14th Regt., commanding the camp at the Koheroa, having observed a large body of natives collecting on the hills in his front, instantly ordered his battalion to get under arms, and moved with praiseworthy promptitude against them, followed by detachments of the 12th and 70th Regts., which had just arrived at the camp as a reinforcement, the whole force amounting to about 500 men. A report of the circumstances reached me as I was on my way to the Koheroa, and I hastened towards the column, which I overtook on its march. After we had proceeded in skirmishing order about two miles, the rebels opened fire upon us, and as we advanced upon them they retired along the narrow crest of the hills towards the Maramarua, making a stand on every favourable position which the ground presented. Some of their positions which had been recently fortified by lines of rifle pits, and which, from the nature of the ground, could not be turned-- they defended with great obstinacy; and, as we had no artillery in the field, they could only be dislodged from them by successive attacks with the bayonet, which were executed by the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regt., with great gallantry and success. We pursued them from one position to another, a distance of about five miles, until we drove them in great confusion across the mouth of the Maramarua, some escaping up the Waikato in canoes, and others along its right bank, after crossing the Maramarua. A considerable portion of them, however, before reaching the Maramarua, escaped down a gully to the left, seeking shelter in a swamp, and suffered severely from the fire of our men on the heights. As we had no means of crossing the Maramarua, I ordered the troops to return to camp. All the troops behaved remarkably well. I am greatly indebted to Lieutenant Colonel Austen, 2nd Battalion, 14th Regt., (who was wounded in the arm), to Major Ryan, commanding detachment 70th Regt., and Brevet-Major Miller, commanding 12th Regt., for the manner in which they led and directed the movements of the men under their respective commands. Among the officers conspicuous for their forwardness in the attack were Captain Strange, 14th Regt., who commanded the leading company of the column; Captain Phelps, who greatly distinguished himself at the head of his company when charging a line of rifle pits, and Lieutenants Glancy and Armstrong, also of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Regt.; Colonel Mould, C. B., Royal Engineers, was with the column during the engagement, and ready to give his valuable services if required. I enclose a list of casualties, which are small, considering the time the engagement lasted, and the nature of the ground, which was exceedingly favourable for defence. The enemy must have had fully 300 men in the field, almost the whole of them belonging to tribes of the Waikato. There can be no doubt his loss was considerable, upwards of twenty dead having been counted by us on the ground, several of whom were chiefs of consequence, and among them an uncle of the King.


His Excellency, Sir GEORGE GREY, K. C. B., &c, &c.

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