1869 - McDonnell, Thomas. An Explanation of the Principal Causes which led to the Present War on the West Coast of New Zealand. - Chapter I. Attack and Defence, p 5-11

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  1869 - McDonnell, Thomas. An Explanation of the Principal Causes which led to the Present War on the West Coast of New Zealand. - Chapter I. Attack and Defence, p 5-11
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I'll do't; but it dislikes me.

He who steals my purse, steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that, which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.--SHAKESPEARE.

To take the field and encounter a savage foe; to face the rifle and the tomahawk of a portion of the infatuated natives of this colony, and fight them in their own fashion, whilst contending for the right of my fellow colonists, and the establishment of British supremacy in New Zealand, was to me a comparatively pleasant task, because accustomed to it from my youth upwards. But to repel the calumnies of men who ought to have supported me, instead of making use of me for political and other purposes, is a task that I never thought would be imposed upon me, and, as the sword and not the pen, has been my profession, I can fairly claim the indulgence of criticism whilst laying before my fellow-colonists the following statement of facts, every one of which can be borne out by official and semi-official documents, some of which, for the present, I shall refrain from publishing.

To enable those who are not acquainted with the district north of Wanganui (in which these disturbances last occurred) to understand what I am about to relate, I append a map of the district over which I had command, and of the country beyond as far as the town of Taranaki.

In June, 1866, I was appointed to the command of the Patea district, i.e., the district between the Patea and Kaupokonui rivers, to which was subsequently added the country between the Patea and Waitotara rivers,

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That district was then held by the Imperial troops, in redoubts, near the mouths of the rivers Waitotara, Patea, Tangahoe (Manawapou), Ingahape, and Waingongoro; also inland on the Waitotara river at Weraroa, and on the Patea at Kakaramea. When I assumed the command, surveyors had commenced the survey of the country between the Patea and the Waingongoro rivers, but had confined their operations to the vicinity of redoubts, as the natives threatened them and were still hostile, although cowed by the defeats they had sustained and the losses they had suffered in General Chute's short but brilliant campaign in the months of December, January, and February of that year.

The force placed under my command consisted of:--

1 Company Patea Rangers ... ... ... 40

1 " Wanganui Rangers ... ... ... 70

2 " Taranaki Military Settlers ... ... 110

1 Troop Wanganui Cavalry ... ... ... 30

Total ... ... 250

Those companies who had previously been actively engaged in Taranaki, up the Wanganui river, and also at Opotiki on the East Coast, were to have their land in the Patea district, and to be located thereon. I established my Head Quarters at Manawapou, in the centre of the district, and employed the force in covering the surveyors who were then engaged in pushing on the surveys. Being convinced from information which I had received, that the natives would oppose the survey and settlement of the district, I was determined to leave nothing untried to prevent further fighting, and gave strict orders to every covering party not to fire except in self-defence, and not to interfere with any cattle, pigs, cultivations, or other property of the natives.

I lost no time in proceeding to Waingongoro, (25th June) and sent for Wiremu Hukanui, a native chief, residing at Kauae. I told him distinctly that the surveyors had commenced to survey the confiscated land and settlers to reside upon it, but that a fair proportion would, when surveyed, be given back to the natives and secured to them by a Crown grant: that I had no wish to fight, but to prosecute the surveys and settle the district peaceably. Wiremu, at my request, conveyed my message to the rebels; their

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reply was an ambuscade which they laid for me next day, as I was returning from Waingongoro, in company with Mr. Carrington, the Government Surveyor, the Contract Surveyor, and others. I informed the Government of this and at their request proceeded to Wellington, and when there, informed them that it would be necessary to force the natives into submission before the district could be surveyed and settled, and that for this purpose I should require a force of 500 men. The Hon. Colonel Haultain informed me that the Government could not give me this number, and that I was to do the best I could with the force then in the district, but at my urgent request placed under my orders the Native Contingent, my old force, then stationed at Pipiriki, seventy miles up the Wanganui river, commanded by my brother, Captain McDonnell; and authorised me to increase its strength from twenty-five to seventy-five men. He told me that if the Hau-haus would not come to terms to waste no time but to attack them at once.

I returned to Wanganui, recruited the Native Contingent to the number authorised, and sent it to Patea in spite of determined opposition on the part of several influential chiefs in Wanganui; that opposition delayed me for upwards of a fortnight during which time the intelligence that I was about to take the field and commence fighting (if necessary,) brought in the natives occupying the bush inland of the Weraroa pa, who submitted, and took the oath of allegiance, which I knew, and subsequent events proved, they valued not a straw.

On the 25th July I returned to Patea, but before striking a blow determined to give the natives one more chance, and for a second time proceeded to Waingongoro and again sent for Wiremu; I told him that I had been to Wellington, and that the Government had instructed me, if the rebels did not submit, to attack and force them, to submission; and that I offered them the same terms as before. I then sent them by him a white handkerchief, and a ball cartridge, as emblems of peace or war; one of which they were to return by noon next day; after which, I returned to Patea. Late on the following day I received word that the cartridge was returned, and that the natives were anxious to speak with me. The next morning (28th July,) I started for Waingongoro, but on my arrival at Manawapou I received information that on the previous day a second

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ambuscade had been laid for me between Manawapou and Waingongoro, under the impression that I should then have been on that road. Fearful of further treachery I took with me to Waingongoro a small escort. On arriving there a messenger informed me that some of the Hau-hau chiefs were waiting to see me at Kauae. I went to that village with twelve troopers, although the messenger told me not to take any escort, but my own natives on the other hand, implored me not to go at all. On entering the Kauae, not seeing any one, I proceeded to a large whare, thinking to find Wiremu and looking in, to my surprise, found about twenty armed natives; they seemed equally surprised to see me. My escort then came up, and I told them to remain outside and to stand to their horses. Had I not had the escort with me I should, in all probability, have fallen a victim to their treachery. I then had a talk with the chiefs and saw clearly, what I had not even doubted before, that they were determined not to submit; but to place matters beyond a doubt, I offered to suspend operations and the survey also, if one of their number, Natanahira, (then a high priest of the Hau-haus) would accompany me to Wellington to see the Government, and that I would wait for him at Waingongoro until noon next day. This they agreed to, but next morning Wiremu informed me that he would not come. I waited till noon, and then told Wiremu that I would commence fighting at once. I returned the same day (29th July,) to Manawapou where my small force was collected.

That night, and on the two following nights, it rained incessantly, but on the 1st August, the weather cleared and that night I surprised and burnt the village of Pokaikai, which I discovered after a long night march, killing five men and capturing some women and children; among the women was Martha, Natanahira's wife. On the night of the 3rd of August, I scoured the bush inland of Manutahi; found out and burnt two villages just vacated, and recaptured several of my cavalry horses which had been stolen. This brought the natives to their senses, and on the 4th August they sent me a message suing for peace. I gave them to the 7th to come in and submit. On that day I went into the bush with the Native Contingent, and met them at the site of a village named Ohangae, which had been burnt during General Chute's Campaign. There

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we made peace, and agreed that there should be no more fighting from Taiporohenui to the Waitotara. That peace I could have firmly maintained, even with the small force then under my command, were it not for the suicidal course pursued by Mr. Commissioner Parris, to whose conduct must be attributed the subsequent hostility of the natives, and the frustration of all my plans.

Having made peace, and feeling that if left free and unfettered to carry out my own plans I was able to maintain it, I moved my force to Hawera, where I erected a redoubt to secure communication with Manawapou, and also to enable me, if necessary, to operate against the natives in that neighbourhood, and to push on the surveys. Everything promised a short and successful campaign, when circumstances supervened which, coupled with the strange action taken by the Government, effectually prevented me from carrying out my plans, and stopped me in the full tide of my success. These circumstances were the dismissal of nearly half my Europeans, and the suspension of hostilities to enable Mr. Parris to endeavour to persuade the rebels to submit!! Whilst he played out the farce let us see how


The time of service of the two companies of Taranaki Military Settlers, Nos. 8 and 10. forming a portion of the Colonial Force in the district, expired on the 12th of August, on which day the men became entitled to their discharge, and to fifty acres of land each. So far back as 1865, these companies had embarked at New Plymouth, for Patea, to be, as they were informed, located on their land in that district. Being unable through stress of weather, to enter the Patea river, they landed at Wanganui, whence at a particular crisis they were sent up the Wanganui river to occupy Pipiriki, and from Pipiriki they were subsequently sent to the East Coast, where their pay was increased from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a day, apparently as compensation for serving out of their own province, and also to assimilate their pay to the rates of pay of the remainder of the East Coast Expeditionary Force.

When they were brought from the East Coast to Patea, in June, 1866, they were again informed that they would be placed on their land which was being surveyed for them, and as at Patea they were

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in their own Province, their pay was again reduced to 2s. 6d. a day. As long as there was a prospect of their being placed upon their land they did not complain, and would cheerfully have served over their time; but when hostilities commenced, and a winter's campaign was before them, as their time of service had expired they considered that they were entitled to the extra shilling a day.

When I was about to commence operations, at the end of July, they through their Captain (Wilson) asked me what steps the Government intended to take with regard to them. Having no instructions on the subject, I sent Captain Wilson to Wellington, to lay their case before the Government. It may be as well to notice here that those two companies landed in Wanganui in June, 1865, en route from the East Coast to Patea, Colonel Gorton, commanding the Wanganui Militia District ordered them to march for Patea, the same day they landed. The men, through their officers, requested to be allowed to be left in Wanganui for one day. They represented, and with reason, that they had been on actual service in the field for upwards of fifteen months, and were desirous, before marching up the country, of replenishing their kits, and enjoying a day's relaxation. Colonel Gorton's orders however, were peremptory and imperative; they must march or be at once disarmed, disbanded, and lose their land. When the men were paraded and the order given to march, forty of them laid down their arms and were at once dismissed the service. The remainder marched for Patea. Colonel Gorton's action on this occasion was highly approved of by the Government, but by the Colonial Forces it was regarded as an unjust and arbitrary proceeding, and caused the men not only to lose all confidence in the Government, but also to determine not to serve over their time unless guaranteed some remuneration.

The answer of the Defence Minister to Captain. Wilson's personal application was--"that the men were entitled to their discharge, and if they claimed it they were to be marched to Wanganui, their arms taken from them, and then they were to be dismissed the service." Men so dismissed, or more properly discharged at their own request would, when the district was surveyed, receive their land two miles back in the bush. When this answer was communicated to the men on parade, fifty of them claimed

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their discharge, were marched to Wanganui and disbanded.

The Patea Rangers whose time of service expired in March previous, and had only kept on in the hope of obtaining their land, alarmed at the way in which the Government had treated the Taranaki Military Settlers, requested me, through their Captain (Newland) to point out where their block of land was to be, and that they would be willing to serve until placed upon it. The Defence Minister's reply to Captain Newland, whom I sent to Wellington for instructions on the subject, was--that he could not point out where their land was to be, and that he did not know whether the Government had a single acre of land in the district until the Compensation Court (to assemble the following December) had decided upon the claims of the natives.

On receipt of this reply, all the company, with the exception of nine men, claimed their discharge, and consequently were marched to Wanganui and disbanded. Thus, at the very time that I most urgently required an efficient number of men, by the suicidal policy of the Government, or rather their unjust and arbitrary proceedings, I lost the services of over a hundred staunch and well tried men whose places could not be supplied by three times the number of raw and undisciplined recruits; but even these, or an equal number to what I had lost, were not forthcoming to supply the places of the brave fellows who had been driven from the service disgusted with the treatment which they had received at the hands of the Government.

At that time my position was most embarrassing, but still my ultimatum to the disaffected natives was--unconditional surrender, and unconditionally they had surrendered. Even with the small force at my disposal I still maintained a defiant attitude, and all went on well until, in an evil hour, Mr. Parris, who had been to Wellington to earwig the Government appeared amongst us.

This gentleman, who for many years had been the Agent of the Native Department in New Plymouth, had lately been appointed a Civil Commissioner, and was anxious to show to the Government that his influence with the rebel natives was so great that he could persuade them to submit, and thus establish peace in the district without the interference of an armed force.

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