CHAPTER I. URIWERA MOUNTAINS AND OUTBREAK AT POVERTY BAY.
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THE LAST MAORI WAR
UREWERA MOUNTAINS AND OUTBREAK AT POVERTY BAY.
IF upon a map of the North Island of New Zealand a parallelogram is described of which the shores of the coast from Napier to the East Cape, and from the East Cape to Whakatane are the Eastern and Northern sides, while the road from Napier to Opepe and a line thence to Whakatane, by the valley of the Rangitaiki, are the Southern and Western ones, a district will be enclosed, dominated by the beetling heights of the Uriwera Mountains, which fill up the great bulk of the area. Those forest-clad ranges, high, cold, and precipitous, have since all record, afforded a safe refuge to the wild and primitive tribe to which they belong. Within them there is neither open space nor plain, and but few clearings for cultivation. The owners of the soil are not an industrious race, and they have never raised more crop than was absolutely indispensable for their support. Such spots as they have annually cleared
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and cultivated are situated in the narrow valleys, torn out by the mountain torrents, of which many considerable ones flow into the plain country outside. They have all shale and boulderbottoms, and form the only practicable approaches to the principal settlements. Snow and rain fall so frequently in that high country that these streams are constantly flooded, remaining sometimes impassable for weeks at a time, and during such periods the Uriwera warrior can rest in security and laugh at invasion from without. In 1868 this district was almost a terra incognita to the Europeans, few of whom had ever penetrated the mountains, notwithstanding the Britannic love of travel and discovery. Of those few Mr. Hunter Brown, of Nelson, late R.M. of Wairoa, was the only one who had ever left any record of his experiences, but his description was accurate and valuable as far as it went. From their eyrie heights the Uriweras looked down disdainfully upon the fat plains of Ahuriri, Turanga, Waiapu, Opotiki, and Whakatane, strips of rich land intervening between their fastness and the sea. They felt no envy of the greater productiveness of the soil, for they had no desire to labour to obtain the reward of industry which they despised. They were mountaineers who had bidden defiance to Hongi the Conqueror, who scorned men who felt fatigue in mounting acclivities at an angle of 45 degrees or none, and who always could procure such food as
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EAST COAST CAMPAIGN
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they required by the chase. In the pursuit of the wild pigs and birds of the forest they were facile princeps among Maories, and their forests team with this kind of life. In 1868 they were, of all New Zealand tribes, the most adventurous and the hardiest. In the fight they had the reputation of reckless bravery; in war they were swift of foot and were the only night-marching tribe, from which they acquired the soubriquet of "Uriwera haere po." They had in 1862 sent a contingent to the Waikato to help Rewi, and it was from the throat of an Uriwera warrior at Orakau that the proud and defiant reply was hurled back to the British summons to surrender, "We will continue to fight ever, ever, ever." That they kept their word at the cost of their lives, that but an insignificant remnant ever returned to tell the tale of the heroism of the war party, was nothing to the tribe. They had distinguished themselves even among the proud Waikatos, they had proved in the open field that they were bravest where all were brave; and this sufficed to their friends, and the tangi for the slain became a war song of triumph rather than a wail of sorrow.
Such were the Uriweras and such their inhospitable country when in 1869, after great provocation and for the safety of the coast settlements, the Government of New Zealand undertook the task of reducing these sturdy mountaineers to subjection by
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force of arms. When on July 10th, 1868, Te Kooti returned to New Zealand in the Rifleman from the Chatham Islands with 163 other escaped prisoners, and their women and children 135 in number, he landed at Whareongonga, some few miles south of Young Nick's Head, the southern point of Turanga or Poverty Bay. The prisoners brought with them all the arms they were able to get at the Chathams, but the supply was scanty enough; they had with them only thirty-two public and private rifles and fowling-pieces with seven revolvers, and when they landed they brought on shore besides a quantity of ammunition and accoutrements (see appendix H.R. A.15 1868) and large stores of flour, sugar and tobacco, &c. The settlers of Turanga, and indeed of the whole Colony, were taken by surprise, for the escape of the prisoners had been wholly unforeseen. At first, negotiation was resorted to by the R.M., Major Biggs, but without success, the prisoners refusing to surrender themselves or their arms. Te Kooti had by this time acquired immense influence over his followers, and had declared himself the prophet of a new religion. Partly through their predisposition to superstitious fanaticism, and partly through their fears--for his rule was severe, and he had already executed one of his followers on the voyage--Te Kooti from the outset was more implicitly obeyed than the high-born chiefs of
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other tribes, though himself of inferior birth. Major Biggs, when he found himself unable to induce the ex-prisoners to surrender, sent to Napier for assistance, and raised such a force of Europeans and friendly natives at Turanga as was possible. This body, eighty-eight in all, was commanded by Captain Westrup, and was fully armed and equipped. Te Kooti, who had made no secret of his intention to make for the Uriwera Mountains first and then to return and destroy Turanga, at length began his march. Unfortunately, Major Biggs and Captain Westrup resolved to intercept him with their mixed force without waiting for reinforcements or instructions from the Government. The result was that on July 20th, at a point in the bush some miles up the Arai Valley called Paparatu, Captain Westrup was attacked in the most spirited manner by Te Kooti, and completely defeated with the loss of his camp, stores, horses, reserve ammunition, and many of his arms, and was compelled to make a precipitate retreat. His loss had only comprised two killed and seven wounded, but the effect had been disastrously demoralizing to his force and proportionately encouraging to the returned prisoners, who attributed this, the most utter rout of the Pakeha which had ever occurred, to Te Kooti's supernatural power. Undoubtedly the extraordinary prestige this remarkable man afterwards acquired,
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sprang from this brilliant and to the Maori mind inexplicable success.
Such was the opening of the East Coast and Uriwera Campaign of 1868-9, and, as in most British warlike operations, it began with a reverse as unlooked for as unaccountable. Already on the West Coast war had commenced in equal gloom, and the surprise of Turu-Turu-Mokai, though by no means an equal military disaster, had been a more bloody success of the insurgent Maories. But Paparatu was destined to be the first act of a tragedy of which the massacre of Poverty Bay and the atonement of Ngatapa were to be the closing scenes, and it is not hard to trace how entirely the blood shed at the massacre was due to the misadventure to our arms at the skirmish of July 20th.
On the 21st about twenty Europeans and forty native volunteers under my command, arrived in the Bay, to be followed by the 1st division of the A. C. from Opotiki, under Major Fraser. A special steamer had been sent to bring this reinforcement, but the weather was so boisterous that its arrival was delayed. Directly we landed we marched to reinforce Captain Westrup, but on reaching the entrance to the Arai valley we met the leading fugitives, and of course received exaggerated reports of the disaster. Proceeding onwards at last we met the main body and then the rear guard, who had saved the lives, if it could not save the credit, of the
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rest; the true details which we now obtained were highly honourable to Captain Westrup, and the small band which had borne the brunt in the engagement and protected the rear in retreat. It is not necessary to record the story. It was a day of shame to our arms, but it illustrated very forcibly the danger of being led away by the apparent eagerness of the men to attempt operations in a New Zealand bush, even under favourable circumstances, with untrained and inexperienced troops. The military disgrace of defeat, and the misfortune of showing ourselves so unfavourably to the Maories, would have produced a worse effect, however, but for the devotion of the little detachment which rallied round Captain Westrup, and by their constancy and their pluck prevented the rout from becoming a massacre. The Maories usually value a success by the number of the slain, and on this occasion their trophies in that respect were, thanks to Captain Westrup's rear guard, exceedingly small, though in other respects as estimated by a European standard, significant enough.
As soon as the force had been collected and obtained a little rest, in the Arai valley, I had the men assembled and endeavoured to induce them to renew operations next day. Encumbered as he was, Te Kooti could not move rapidly, and I hoped to overtake him at no great distance and retrieve the honour of our arms, but nothing could move the
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great bulk of the force, they were hopelessly dejected after their defeat, and even the hope of recovering the spoils wrested from them by the insurgents had no effect. A few were ready to make the attempt, but their voices were drowned in the general outcry against my proposal. Compromise was equally vain. If not next day, then on what day would they be ready? I asked, with no better success. Failing by entreaty, I at last used reproaches, perhaps unwisely, but as I conscientiously felt that I asked no more than in their places I would readily have done myself, I felt much disgusted with their refusal. In the end I gave it up, and resolved to hold the ground with my twenty or thirty Europeans and Maori volunteers till joined by Major Fraser and his division of the armed Constabulary. By the next morning it was evident that, except that part of Captain Westrup's force which had already done so much, I could not rely on any local aid for some time to come, and it would have been impossible after so much time had been lost to undertake a pursuit without, at all events, sufficient men both to fight and to keep up a supply of provisions.
A great deal was made of the terms I used under feelings of considerable exasperation in stigmatizing the conduct of the Poverty Bay men. It was impolitic, and my language may have been ill-chosen to men so dispirited as those I addressed, but with my gallant friends Col. Herrick, Captain Carr, and Mr.
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Davis Canning, I had left my home gratuitously on purpose to aid fellow settlers in their difficulties, and we had done this out of the purest motives of goodwill to settlers of our own race, most of them strangers to us and inhabiting a district in which not one of us had the smallest interest whatever. Not until every effort to restore their courage had failed, not until every reasonable compromise had been rejected, not until replies which ill became them had been made by some, did I suffer myself to utter one word of reproach or show the smallest lack of sympathy with their misfortunes. But though primarily interested, they were members of the European community subject to the duty of repressing disturbances if called upon by authority, and they had the same and even greater risk to run if they allowed a Maori insurgent force to get clear away with the trophies and the prestige of an unexampled success. I certainly regret having been betrayed into using language which expressed my feelings of the moment, but I claim that it was neither unreasonable nor undeserved, and though silence might have been wiser, yet that it was hard to maintain it at the time, believing as I did that unless the pursuit began at once Te Kooti would probably escape. I halted until joined by Major Fraser, who was much delayed, and by this time a new force was organized by Major Biggs and Captain Westrup to co-operate.
The Napier volunteers gave me some trouble,
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refusing to march unless supplied with biscuit which was unprocurable, and rejecting the flour ration which was the only possible substitute. My actual powers were so small that had they been known I could not in such an undisciplined force have maintained order at all, but luckily nobody seemed to be aware that I had no more power to punish than a subaltern on detachment. Consequently I had to set the solemn farce of trying the ringleaders by detachment General Court Martial for mutiny. It was essential to produce an impression that might ensure subordination, and desirable to get it done before the Poverty Bay contingent arrived. I well knew that at that season and in the country before me great hardships must be endured, and it would have been hopeless to attempt to move if my orders were regarded as admitting of argument. Consequently I explained to Major Fraser, the President, that while it was essential to keep up serious appearances, the court must find the prisoners guilty of mutinous conduct only, in order that the highest punishment which could really be given might be awarded without letting out the secret of my powerlessness. Much amusement to those who were behind the scenes, was afforded by what followed. The ringleaders when selected, behaved in the most craven manner, making the most piteous entreaties to be spared: "I am no ringleader, sir, for the love of God, let me off, sir. Sentry, as you are a Christian
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give me a start of six yards, do," and so on, were the appeals they interjected, while the court was sitting, and the President writing the minutes on an old biscuit-box which did duty as a drum. At each outcry silence was ordered in loud tones, and to improve the occasion, I asked, incidentally, "Sergeant-Major, are those men ready with the spades?" which produced another wail from the prisoners who heard me. At last the mockery came to an end, the proceedings were brought for my approval which I attached, and then read them aloud. I improved the occasion by telling the prisoners that the court had taken a very merciful view of their offence, and that they had had a very narrow escape. They were then dismissed with ignominy, a bugler beating an old can down the ranks behind them, and they were marched under an escort to the steamer to undergo at Napier the short imprisonment which was the highest sentence any court convened by me could award, or I confirm.
This really ridiculous incident answered its object and sufficed to create a belief that I had powers as great as an officer in the service similarly situated would have held, and was likely to use them. When Parliament met the case was provided for by legislation, and the Governor was empowered to issue warrants to colonial officers which up to that period had always been granted by the General Commanding H. M.'s troops, alone. The garbled versions of
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the story which got about were most amusing, and at Poverty Bay, when I reached that place some months after, the walls were decorated with placards announcing that the "grave-digger had arrived."
Te Kooti's line of retreat lay in a southerly direction across the high range, called Ahi-manu, running parallel to the coast, to an open plain called Waihau, in which several large lakes are situated. This point is more or less due west of Wairoa, and as Major Biggs had sent notice of what had occurred to the resident magistrates and the several loyal chiefs of that district, a considerable force of friendly Maories and a few Europeans were collected to aid the settlers of Poverty Bay against Te Kooti. This force was under Captain Richardson, A.C., and Captain Preece, N.Z.M., and it marched by the Waihau lakes towards Turanga. It had not, however, got much beyond Waihau when, on July 24th, it was met by Captain Wilson with despatches from me, directing Captain Richardson to return to Waihau and endeavour to intercept Te Kooti, or at least to impede his progress until my force could come up. It seems that the Wairoa natives had already shown some symptoms of faint-heartedness, and that at least one small hapu was disaffected. The return march was a disappointment, as the friendlies had begun to look forward to a pleasant week or two's feasting at Turanga. However, Captain Richardson retired as directed, and took post at the head of the
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CAPTAIN G. MAIR, N.Z.C.
[See page 190.
COLONEL PORTER, C.B.
[See page 94.
CAPTAIN G. PREECE, N.Z.C.
[See page 12.
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valley leading to Wairoa on the Konaki ridge. Before dark Te Kooti's column of march came in sight with its horses, women, and children. Probably Captain Richardson's force was under 150 men, but only eighteen were Europeans, and the natives were of little account. Te Kooti lost no time in attacking, and very soon after the whole of the friendlies, except four, deserted and made off towards Wairoa. Captain Richardson kept up the unequal fight, nobly seconded by Captain Preece and a few Europeans, until as night closed in he was compelled to withdraw under cover of darkness. Unfortunately there was no telegraph in those days, or Te Kooti might easily have been stopped, if not altogether defeated, by a proper force at Waihau. But it has always proved to be the case that where the friendlies constitute the great bulk of the force, it is impossible to rely on any satisfactory results. On this occasion it was worse because by their conduct they nearly caused the destruction of the Europeans with them, and imperilled the safety of the Wairoa settlement.
Te Kooti's success at Waihau over the Maori force was, to the Maori mind, a signal victory and a brilliant feat of arms. He rested a few days upon his laurels, obtaining accessions to his force from the ranks of the Wairoa natives who were secretly disaffected. Of these the most prominent was Rakoroa, a petty chief, who had been recently armed and equipped with
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the rest of his hapu, and who now deserted with his whole following to Te Kooti. While halted at Hangaroa ford close to Waihau, Te Kooti intercepted one of my messengers, a half-caste of good birth, Paku Brown by name, and had him shot in cold blood, killing his dog at the same time, and throwing it on the body to insult the dead.