1863 - Carey, R. Narrative of the Late War in New Zealand - CHAPTER VIII. Construction of redoubts -- Attack by the Maoris repulsed...p 160-180

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  1863 - Carey, R. Narrative of the Late War in New Zealand - CHAPTER VIII. Construction of redoubts -- Attack by the Maoris repulsed...p 160-180
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CHAPTER VIII. Construction of redoubts -- Attack by the Maoris repulsed...

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Construction of redoubts -- Attack by the Maoris repulsed -- The enemy retires further into the forest -- Operations against Te Area pah -- Tamahana arrives in the Maori camp -- Increased energy of the natives --Truce granted -- Arrival of the Governor -- Negotiations for peace -- General Pratt leaves New Zealand.

THE remainder of the 14th Regiment having landed at Auckland, furnished a reinforcement of two companies to the Waitara; and on the 15th January about 140 rank and file of the 65th Regiment from Napier and Wellington joined the head-quarters of their regiment, thus increasing the field force to about 1,500 rank and file.

For convenience the redoubts were directed to be numbered. No. 1 was that

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put up at Kairau. On the 14th a small redoubt, No. 2, twenty-six yards square, for one hundred infantry and one gun, was thrown up 600 yards in advance. The enemy, firing at a long range and high elevation, did us no damage, while we noticed that wounded were carried into the forest on their side. On the 13th another redoubt, No. 3, about 500 yards in advance of No. 2, and approaching the bush, was erected. During its construction a heavy fire from the artillery was directed on the forest, and the fire of the enemy kept sufficiently under; although, since the taking of Matarorikoriko, they nevertheless kept up a constant dropping fire, varied occasionally by volleys from different parts of the forest. On the 19th and 20th the troops were employed in enlarging redoubt No. 3, which was to contain 450 men. The ground in which the men worked was very favourable, but the soil alone would never have stood at the required slope had we

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not been able to strengthen it with fern. This was pulled up by the roots, or cut down close to the ground, and when laid on the space marked out for the parapets, and at right angles to its length, each bundle overlapped the other. Alternate layers of earth and fern completed the work, and thus a strong and nearly perpendicular and endurable parapet was rapidly raised. The whole force was always under arms, as it was necessary to watch the ravines, gullies, and the broken ground on both our flanks, as well as the forest in front. Strangers were almost sure to be killed; indeed, two men of the 65th, strolling a short distance from No. 1 redoubt, were surprised by natives hidden in the fern. After this we discovered many places where parties of natives had lain to intercept stragglers; our men, therefore, became more cautious.

The system of redoubts necessarily divided the force, and as each redoubt had at

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least one-third of its men always on duty by night, and the whole of them skirmishing or working all day, the work was very hard, yet it was most cheerfully done.

The force from Waitara to No. 3 redoubt covered about three miles of ground, and was disposed as follows:--

Blockhouse Guard, Waitara mouth 50
Camp Waitara 390
No. 1 redoubt 450
No. 2 redoubt 100
No. 3 redoubt 350
Nga-puke-turua stockade 32
Onakukaitara 30
Matarorikoriko (incomplete) 114

Great excitement was evidently going on in the native camp, and it was reported that there was much dissension among the chiefs. Our steady advance, and the erection of strong posts on their own ground, hemmed them in closer and closer. This, together with the daily loss of a few of their number, showed the Waikato that if he was to maintain his position among the tribes, some-

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thing decisive must be done. And it was reported that he intended making an attack on No. 3 redoubt, on the night of the 21st. The redoubts were in good order, well garrisoned and alert, and we hoped that the Waikato had at last been induced to leave the shelter of the forest. The night, however, passed off quietly; we heard nothing but the native war-dance, and the songs of the Maoris in rear of the interior belt of forest. The next day the men were engaged in making an approach from No. 3 to the site of the proposed next redoubt; for, as this latter was to be erected in the forest itself, now occupied by the enemy, it became necessary to provide safe communication. At daybreak, on the morning of the 23rd, a most determined attack was made on No. 3 redoubt, by a large number of the natives, supported by their main body posted in the ravine of the Waitara. The attack was made principally on the left face, fronting the river, where the fern

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was highest and thickest, and the gullies numerous. The assaulting party succeeded in creeping up and establishing themselves in large force in the ditch of the work, before they were discovered. At half-past 3 A. M., at which time the garrison was mostly under arms, the natives commenced by a heavy fire from their skirmishers, on all faces of the redoubt, so as to keep down our fire while the storming party posted in the ditch rushed up. Colonel Leslie, who commanded in the redoubt, describes the affair thus:-- 'The enemy, in the most determined and desperate manner, rushed up the sides of the parapets, and in some instances seized hold of the men's bayonets; while others crept round the rear of the redoubt and fired into the gateway closed with gabions, or tried to scale the parapet, but without success, and suffering heavily from our fire.' Colonel Wyatt, of the 65th, commanding at No. 1 redoubt, directed a company of the 12th and one of the 65th

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to advance to reinforce the garrison of No. 3. The 12th coming up charged the enemy and dislodged them from the ditch of the left face, while the 65th went round the front face and drove them from that part of the ground. A 9-pounder gun was brought into play, which, together with the fire from the parapet, and from the 12th and 65th, completely routed the enemy, who, leaving forty killed and wounded, regained the forest, being pursued for some distance. Our loss was one officer and three men killed, and one officer and eleven men wounded. The actual loss of the enemy was not ascertained, but more dead bodies were found in the fern as we advanced; and as we approached Te Area, several newly made pits were discovered, each pit containing many dead bodies, buried with care and regularity. The Maori never acknowledged to any definite number of killed, but having learned from us how many dead bodies we had buried

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declared that number to be his whole loss. Very many wounded were afterwards seen, and on the termination of the war the natives made a request that we would allow a native ship to take in their wounded at Mokau, a place somewhat higher up the coast.

This desperate assault on No. 3, though gallantly carried out, was not, as we afterwards discovered, what the Maoris originally intended. It appears that their plan was to have attacked all three redoubts simultaneously. For this purpose three bodies of the natives were to have crept up in the dark, and to have surprised the sentries. The reason that induced them to change their tactics was, that while they were stealthily advancing, they observed that the usual watchword, that was regularly exchanged at Nos. 1 and 2, was not given at all at No. 3. This led them to believe that the watch at No. 3 was badly kept; whereas, the fact was, that the

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sentries had been directed not to call 'All's well,' for the first time, on the night of the 22nd; as it had been found that their doing so had attracted fire from the enemy's skirmishers.

On the 24th of January the sap was resumed and pushed on vigorously. The enemy, as it advanced, kept up a heavy fire from the rifle-pits, on the sap-head; and at the same time made demonstrations to the south of New Plymouth, in order to draw part of our force there. The supply of gabions was well kept up by the troops at the Waitara; and the work proceeded at about 64 yards a day. A small redoubt, No. 4, for a guard of 50 men, was erected on the 27th, and on the 29th an advance one, No. 5, for 100 men, was put up about 250 yards from the rifle-pits in the forest. After the establishment of this latter post the enemy's fire slackened, and in a few days nearly ceased; though natives could still be observed in their original lines of

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pits, or in others in the rear; but they gradually receded as we advanced. On the 2nd February the first line of pits was reached, and a redoubt for 450 men, two 24-pounders, and one 8-inch gun was commenced. It was completed next day, and garrisoned by the 65th Regiment, a portion of the Naval Brigade, Royal Artillery, and Royal Engineers. This redoubt was near the site of the old pah of Huirangi, on the road to Pukerangioria, and between the main forest and the detached belt that joined the Waitara.

The occupation of this post obliged the enemy to retire still farther into the forest, and to take up his third and last position at Te Area and Pukerangioria; but at the same time he did not neglect to take advantage of the broken ground and intricacies of the forest, to establish a succession of rifle-pits and ambuscades between the two positions. At the new redoubt, No. 6, we were separated from the main forest by

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a ravine, which, rising near Pukerangioria, confined the small portion of open ground between it and the Waitara, over which the main road ran, to a space of a few hundred yards. This new position of the Maori had recently been considerably strengthened, and a range of hills, forming a semicircle to our right, and rising in terraces one over another, had been fortified with parapets, rifle-pits, &c, and their approach was covered by the deep ravine before described, passable only at one spot. As our right flank rested on the forest, which exposed us to daily annoyance, it was thought best to cut down the detached belt of forest -- about five acres. This work was done by the troops in a few days, and a more secure road was made near the Waitara.

On the 10th February all the disposable force, 932 rank and file, paraded at No. 6 redoubt. The 40th took the left, the 65th, 12th, and 14th the right; the guns,

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ammunition, &c, the centre. The whole then moved to take up a position as near as could be done with regard to our communications with the redoubts. The country became more intricate, and the bramble and fern higher, and our progress was much impeded; for while breaking through these obstructions our men had to feel their way carefully to avoid falling into unseen pits. Still an advance was made to within about eight hundred yards of the enemy's position. Here, from the rifle-pits, no enemy being visible, a heavy fire was opened on the force. The skirmishers were thrown a little more forward, and No. 7 redoubt was commenced, where the head of the column then rested. The position was so close to the forest that it was absolutely necessary that it should be completed and well garrisoned the same night. By the most strenuous labour of all engaged this was accomplished by dark, and a redoubt having a perimeter of 240

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yards, and an area of 1,650 superficial feet, was completed, under a constant heavy fire. As no one corps could be taken away from the other redoubts, it was garrisoned by a portion from each. Our loss was on that day one killed and eleven wounded. Though the highest ground for the redoubt had been chosen, the interior of the work was exposed to the fire of the enemy, particularly on the right flank. The same night and next day were occupied in raising the parapet, and defilading the work. The 40th then occupied it as its permanent garrison. Some old redoubts, Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 were now abandoned, the chain standing thus:--

Blockhouse at the mouth of Waitara 30
Camp Waitara 585 (Including the sick, wounded, and all casualties)
No. 1 redoubt 371 (All effectives)
No. 6 redoubt 432 (All effectives)
No. 7 redoubt 435 (All effectives)
Matarorikoriko 60 (All effectives)
Onakukaitara 19 (All effectives)
Nga-puke-turua 31 (All effectives)

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On the 14th, the redoubt having been sufficiently enlarged and strengthened, a sap, to run direct up to the Te Area pah, was commenced. With so few troops, distributed as they were over a chain of posts now extending five miles, the work was hard and harassing, but the men worked most willingly. The sap could not be proceeded with at night; as the rear redoubts, being deprived of part of their garrison, would have offered too fair a temptation for an assault, therefore the guard of the trenches and the working parties paraded daily at daylight, and worked till 7 P. M. A single sap was at first ran out, and a demi-parallel was formed as an emplacement for guns, its left resting near the Waitara cliff. It was defiladed from the enemy's fire by traverses. The works were thus pushed on till the nature of the ground obliged us to resort to the double sap, and, after an advance of about 450 yards had been made, a new demi-parallel

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was again added to protect the progress of the work. The enemy all this time were very active, and obliged our guard of the trenches and covering parties to be most alert, particularly on the right of No. 7 redoubt, where the long spur of the hill running into the forest, and separated from it by a torrent, was the daily scene of some sharp skirmishing, usually in the evening, when the enemy were able to creep up under cover close to our advanced skirmishers. On this spur, in the ruins of an old pah, we found a vault, carefully made, and lined with rough timber, which contained the bodies of many natives, presumed to have been killed on the 23rd of January, at No. 3 redoubt; or to have died subsequently from wounds received in the assault. The vault was opened, but it was impossible to ascertain more than that it was of a large size and contained many bodies, that had evidently been placed there only a short time before.

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The head of the sap had now been pushed a long way in advance of No. 7 redoubt, and the sentinels kept a sharp look out on it at night; but notwithstanding our watch some Maoris, taking advantage of the fern and scrub, crept quietly in on the night of the 26th, and pulled down some 100 yards, and set fire to the gabions without being discovered. The next two or three days were employed in repairing the damage done, and in throwing up a small redoubt for a guard of eighty men, No. 8, within 250 to 300 yards of the pah, and the sap was again pushed on. A live shell was attached at night to the sap-roller, and so placed that if the roller was moved the shell would explode. But the Maoris did not again venture into the works until the evening of the 5th, when an attack in force, and of more than ordinary vigour, was made on the sap-head, now nearing the pah. They were, however, repulsed with loss. On the 11th we had advanced to

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within two hundred yards of the pah, and gradually approached the cliff. This day, the chief, Tamahana, the acknowledged leader of the king movement, arrived in the enemy's camp, and sent a message to the General, asking a truce to enable him to consult with the natives, with the object of concluding a peace. News had arrived from Auckland that the mortars and Armstrong guns were at last landed, and that in a day or two they would be at the Waitara. Under these circumstances, and as the truce might therefore enable us to concentrate an overwhelming fire on some of the distant camps occupied by the natives, whilst at the same time we attacked the position in front of us, their desire was acceded to, and hostilities were suspended till the afternoon of the 14th. By that time the guns had arrived and were in position, and as the natives had not offered any terms that could be entertained, the works were again resumed at daybreak,

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on the 15th. No. 7 redoubt was enlarged to hold the battery of artillery, and a demi-parallel was run out to the left to the verge of the cliff, and into the enemy's rifle-pits.

On the night of the 16th the Maori again attempted to destroy part of the sap, but the shell attached to the sap-roller exploded, and killed three natives. The ground all round the head of the sap was well strewed with broken bottles, which, together with the above ruse, probably deterred them from further interference with our works at night. The demi-parallel was quite within pistol-shot of the rifle-pits the enemy occupied, and the head of the sap now approached very close to the pah. Encouraged, however, by the presence of their chief, the defence became more energetic, particularly at daybreak and towards the evening, when from the front and right they poured in a continuous and heavy fire. The usual place for these skirmishes was

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in the forest, to the right of No. 7 redoubt, where there was a sharp attack on the evening of the 18th, the last affair that took place. Two officers and six men were wounded and three men were killed, before the arrival of the supports, when the enemy withdrew, having sustained a heavy loss. For gallantry on this occasion Colour-Sergeant Lucas, 40th Regiment, obtained the 'Victoria Cross.' This day Mr. M'Lean, accompanied by some influential Nga-Puki chiefs, arrived; and at Tamihana's request a truce was granted, on the morning of the 19th, to discuss terms. The natives appeared willing to agree to Mr. M'Lean's views, but appointed a final interview for next day at 6 A. M., at which time, however, hardly a native remained. Unencumbered with European equipment and necessaries, they had disappeared, and only a few influential chiefs were left to arrange all matters in dispute.

To occupy the pah, now that the enemy

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had retired, was useless; and in native opinion it would be considered unfair. It was therefore merely stipulated that until the arrival of His Excellency, who was expected shortly, the few Maoris remaining should retire from the front and live at Mataitawa. Some of our old enemies, however, came into the camp occasionally, and brought potatoes, pigeons, &c, in exchange for rum. They were very friendly, but were very guarded in their speech. On the 27th of March, His Excellency arrived, and negotiations were commenced that appeared likely to terminate in peace. On the 31st of March, while preliminaries were in discussion at a council, assembled by the Governor at the Waitara, Lieut.-General Cameron arrived with orders to assume the command in New Zealand. And General Pratt was directed to resume his command in Australia -- New Zealand having been made a separate command. The command was handed over to General Cameron on

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the day of his arrival; and, on the 3rd of April, General Pratt sailed from the Waitara, in the 'Victoria,' having concluded the campaign against the natives; and having, in all probability, brought the war to an end.

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