Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.
The Maoris retreat to Mangatautari—Their works there are abandoned—Surrender of a party of natives—Captain Lloyd's party surprised and scattered—Precautions in bush fighting The Gate pah—Preparations for attacking it—Composition of the force—Colonel Greer's night march—68th Regiment posted to intercept the enemy—Feigned attack—Disposal of the troops round the pah—The assaulting column is repulsed—Heavy losses—Particulars of naval officers and men—Maori letters and messages.
General Cameron having arranged with his Excellency the Governor, Sir George Grey, that his operations should be directed against Mangatautari, on the Upper Waikato, to which place the Waikatos had retired under the astute leader William Thompson (Wiremu Tamehana). Accordingly, the General reconnoitred the enemy's position closely, and found that it consisted of two strong earthworks, well flanked and palisaded, 450 yards distant from each other, and constructed on a spur of the Puke-page 176kura* range. The lower work, the largest and principal one, was 600 yards from the river, and the two works completely blocked the road to the settlement of Mangatautari, which was ffve miles behind them.
Being too strong to be taken by a coup de main, the General intended to try the effect of vertical fire on the works, and to endeavour to breach them with howitzers, and caused a 10-inch, and two 8-inch mortars, and two 32-and two 24-pounder howitzers to be brought up the river.
A reconnaissance of these pahs at Pukekura being made by a force up the right bank of the Waikato, both pahs were found to be abandoned. The 50th Regiment was immediately ordered to take possession, and encamped on the ground. The enemy had probably heard of the preparations in progress for besieging the place, found their position untenable, and were in addition, perhaps, pressed for supplies.
* Red mountain.
His Excellency the Governor arrived at the front on the 16th of April, and next day General Cameron and staff proceeded with the Governor to Auckland, en route to Taranaki. The seamen and marines went down the Waikato to join their ships, as it was not likely they would be required in the Waikato country at this time.page 178
The 70th Regiment was ordered to march down the left bank of the Waikato to Ngaruawahia, whence it was to move on to Auckland for embarkation to Taranaki. This reinforcement became necessary in that province, from the following circumstance.
A party of about 100 officers and men of the 57th Regiment and militia went out from New Plymouth on the 6th of April, under Captain Lloyd, 57th, to reconnoitre in the vicinity of Ahu Ahu, near Kaitake. They did not find any trace of natives having been there since the place had been taken; on their way they heard a native shout, but the Maori guide who accompanied the party said he thought it was only a look-out, and that many natives were not in the neighbourhood.
On returning towards their quarters, Captain Lloyd sent Lieutenant Cox, 57th, with a few men to destroy a patch of Indian corn in a gully, leaving the rear guard halted just above on the spur, and halting the remainder of the detachment at the bottom of the spur.page 179
Sufficient precaution was not taken against surprise; and the Maoris, who were on the watch, seeing that the men were scattered after their march, without any guard being posted (and the officers being incautiously separated from their men), suddenly fired a volley from an ambush in the fern, at a distance of sixty or seventy yards, and then rushed at the party with their guns and tomahawks.
Captain Lloyd was wounded, and called to the men to run for the rifle-pits, which were close by. Captain Lloyd shot three natives with his revolver after he fell with a broken thigh, but he was killed with six others, and twelve were wounded. The survivors of the party brought away the wounded, but were not able to save the remains of the slain.
Colonel Warre, on hearing this distressing intelligence, immediately proceeded with a party of regulars and militia, with a howitzer, to discover the Maoris concealed in the bush; and pushing forward, found the mutilated remains of Captain Lloyd and five other men, all of whose page 180heads had been cut off. One of these heads was preserved in the native fashion, by baking with leaves, &c., and carried about with war parties as a trophy, to incite the natives to continue their hostility to the Pakeha. Several men of the militia, who had concealed themselves in the fern, were saved, and brought in by the timely arrival of the party under Colonel Warre. Strict inquiries were made as to the origin of the above unfortunate affair, which served as a caution and a warning in conducting future operations in the bush.
Most old soldiers know that when a reconnoitring party is halted it should be in an open space, or in a defensible position, and sentries should be thrown well out and all round to avoid surprises: if this is done, a vigilant enemy may not attempt a surprise. A fearful catastrophe happened to an army corps at Beaumont, no proper look-out being kept there, during the late Franco-Prussian war.
On one occasion in Caffreland, during the first war there, General Sir Benjamin D'Urban page 181and staff halted in an open space for a meal—a look-out was kept all round. After the peace, a Caffre said to me, "Do you recollect halting one day at a particular place in the Amatola?" "Yes, what of it?" "I was there in the bush with some others; we wanted to rush at you, but you were so well guarded we did not venture to do it."
The Gate pah or Pukehinahina—this calls up the memory of a very remarkable and unexpected event in the history of the Maori war.
After the retreat of the Maoris from Mangatautari, on the Upper Waikato, they dispersed in every direction; and, as it was not considered advisable to follow them any farther into the interior of the country, Sir Duncan Cameron proposed to his Excellency the Governor that further operations should be discontinued in the province of Auckland, that the troops required for the defence and occupation of the territory from which the Maoris had been expelled should hut themselves for the winter (it was now the month of April, the commencement of the Antipodean cold and wet season), and that page 182the remainder should embark for New Plymouth to reinforce Colonel Warre, and assist him in driving the hostile Taranakis and Ngatiruanuis beyond the boundaries of the settlement.
On the 17th of April, however, information having been received from Colonel Greer, 68th Regiment, commanding at Tauranga,* on the east coast, that the natives in that district had collected in considerable force, and entrenched themselves in a strong position at Pukehinahina, it was decided by the Governor and the General that the reinforcements intended for New Plymouth should be sent to Tauranga. They were accordingly embarked without delay in H.M.S.'s "Esk" and "Falcon," placed at the General's disposal for that purpose by Commodore Sir William Wiseman, and by the 26th of April the troops were all landed at the mission station at Tauranga, to which place the General transferred his head-quarters on the 21st.
The 68th Regiment and Major Ryan's detachment were encamped about 1200 yards from the enemy's position on the 27th, and on that and the following days the guns and mortars intended to breach the position were brought up to the camp, which was formed by a large force of seamen and marines, landed at the General's request from the ships of the squadron by Commodore Sir William Wiseman,page 184
The composition and strength of the force assembled in front of the enemy's position on the morning of the 28th of April was as follows:—
|General staff, officers||5|
|Medical staff, officers||3|
|Naval Brigade, officers and men||429|
|Royal Artillery, officers and men||50|
|Royal Engineers, men||2|
|Moveable column, officers and men||181|
|43rd Regiment, officers and men||293|
|68th Regiment, officers and men||732|
The detail of artillery was as follows:—One 110-pounder Armstrong, two 40-pounder ditto, two 6-pounder ditto, two 24-pounder howitzers, two 8-inch mortars, and six Cohorn mortars.
General Cameron having received information that by moving along the beach of one of the branches of the Tauranga harbour at low water, it was possible for a body of troops to pass outside the swamp on the enemy's right, and gain the rear of his position, Colonel Greer was ordered to make the attempt, with the 68th Regiment; after dark on the evening of the page 18528th of April; and in order to divert the attention of the enemy from that side, a feigned attack was ordered to be made in his front.
Colonel Greer well executed, with the 68th Light Infantry, the duty assigned to him. At a quarter to 7 p.m. he marched out of camp, each man carrying one day's cooked rations and a great coat. His object was to get in rear of the enemy's position by means of a flank march round his right. To accomplish this it was necessary to cross part of a mud flat at the head of the bay, about three-quarters of a mile long, only passable at low water, and then nearly knee deep, and within musketry range of the shore in possession of the enemy—rough high ground, covered with titri and fern.
At the point at which the 68th got off the mud flat there was a swamp about 100 yards broad, covered with titri about five feet high, on the opposite side of which the end of a spur (which ran down from the high ground in rear of the pah) rose abruptly: this also was covered with titri and fern. page 186It being of the first importance that the movement should be accomplished without attracting the attention of the enemy, Colonel Gareer's instructions were to gain the top of the spur alluded to during the darkness, and remain there till the day showed sufficient light to move on.
The regiment was all across, and lying down in line along the crest of the ridge, with pickets posted round them at 10 o'clock, which was two hours before the moon rose. Colonel Greer acknowledged it was owing to the well-timed feigned attack made by General Cameron in front of the enemy's pah, as was arranged, that the 68th were enabled to accomplish the most difficult part of the march without being attacked at great disadvantage and exposing the movement to the enemy; for when the 68th reached the top of the ridge, the remains of the enemy's picket fires were discovered, the pickets having no doubt returned to assist in the defence of the pah. The feigned attack was made in front by opening a smart fire from the two 6-pounders, assisted by a line of skirmishers. page 187About half-past 1 o'clock a.m. Colonel Greer advanced his regiment, and at 3 o'clock had reached a position about 1000 yards directly in rear of the pah. He was guided in selecting this position by hearing the Maoris talking in their pah, and by the sentries challenging in the head-quarter camp. It was quite dark and raining at the time.
Colonel Greer now sent Major Shuttleworth forward with three companies to take up a position on the left rear of the pah, and pickets were placed round the remainder of the rear about 700 yards from it. At daybreak Colonel Greer detached three companies to the right, under command of Major Kirby, and posted a chain of sentries, so that no one could come out of the pah without being seen.
Up to this time the enemy did not appear to be aware that they were surrounded, as they could be heard singing and making speeches in the pah. Later in the morning Lieut.- Colonel Gamble, Deputy Quartermaster-General, visited Colonel Greer's post, having an escort page 188with him of thirty of the Naval Brigade under Lieutenant Hotham, R.N., and seeing that the Colonel wanted a reinforcement on his right, Colonel Gamble left his escort with Colonel Greer, who was thus afforded valuable assistance. About this time Major Shuttleworth moved more to his left and closer to the pah.
These positions were not altered during the subsequent bombardment, except temporarily, when the Maoris shewed a disposition to come out at one or other flank, or when it was necessary to move a little from a position getting more than its share of shell from the splinters which kept falling about during the bombardment.
Colonel Gamble returned in safety alone across the flat to head-quarters.
The guns and mortars being placed in position in front of the pah, opened fire soon after daybreak on the morning of the 29th of April. General Cameron gave orders that the fire should be directed principally against the left angle of the centre work, which from the nature page 189of the ground the General considered the most favourable point to assault. The practice was excellent, particularly that of the howitzers, and reflected great credit on the officers in command of batteries.
About twelve o'clock, the swamp on the enemy's left having been reported by Captain Greaves, Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General, practicable for the passage of a gun, a six-pounder Armstrong was taken across to the high ground on the opposite side, from which its fire completely enfiladed the left of the enemy's position, which he was thus compelled to abandon.
The fire of the guns, howitzers and mortars was continued with short intermissions for eight hours. The enemy had cleverly planted their flag-staff outside in rear of their oblong work, and the gunners directing their fire at this for a time threw away a good deal of ammunition; but at 4 P.M., when a large portion of the fence and palisading had been destroyed, and a practicable breach being made in the parapet, the assault was ordered.page 190
150 seamen and marines, under Commander Hay, of H.M.S. "Harrier," and an equal number of the 43rd Regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Booth, formed the assaulting column.
Major Ryan's detachment was extended as close to the works as possible, to keep down the fire from the rifle-pits, with orders to follow the assaulting column into the work. The remainder of the seamen and marines, and men of the 43rd, amounting altogether to 300, followed as a reserve.
When the bombardment ceased, and the signal of a rocket made Colonel Greer aware that the assault was about to take place, he moved up close round the rear of the pah, in such a position that the Maoris could not come out without being met by a strong force. They then made a determined rush for the right rear of the pah, but were met by the three companies of the 68th, and after a skirmish the main body was driven back into the pah; about twenty got past on the right of the 68th, but they received a flank fire from Lieutenant Cox's page 191party—sixty men of the 68th, and Lieutenant Hotham's thirty men of the Naval Brigade—and sixteen of the Maoris were seen to fall, and a number of men pursued the remainder. The men were collected again, and posted. Lieutenant Trent, 68th, and Lieutenant and Adjutant Covey, gave valuable assistance, also Mr. Parris, who had volunteered as guide.
The assaulting column, four abreast, two soldiers and two sailors, with officers on the flanks, protected by the nature of the ground, gained the breach with little loss, and effected an entrance into the body of the work, excavated and broken up, and with underground defences—most confusing to the assailants, and most advantageous for the garrison. A fierce conflict ensued, in which the natives fought with the greatest desperation with guns and tomahawks.
Lieut.-Colonel Booth and Commander Hay, who led into the work, fell mortally wounded; Captain Hamilton, of the "Esk," was shotdead on the top of the parapet while in the act page 192of encouraging his men to advance. In a few minutes almost every officer of the column was either killed or wounded. Up to this moment the men, so nobly led by their officers, fought gallantly, and appeared to have gained the position; when they gave way, and fell back from the work to cover, under a heavy fire from the parapet. The repulse, without doubt, arose from the confusion occasioned by the intricate nature of the interior, honeycombed with rifle-pits and underground passages; and the enemy lying down had, no doubt, considerable advantage in shooting at our men from concealed positions. The confusion was increased by the men being suddenly deprived of so many of their leaders. This is the natural result in all warfare.
Sir Duncan Cameron coming up, considered it unadvisable to renew the assault at the time. Night was coming on, and he directed a line of entrenchment to be thrown up within 100 yards of the work, so as to be able to maintain his advanced position, intending to resume opera-page 193tions on the following morning, similar to what was intended at the Redan, Sebastopol, in 1855, and the upshot was the same.
The Maoris, taking advantage of the wet and dark night which followed, stole out in small parties from the pah and escaped; several of the posts outside observed them, and fired a volley at them, but could not stop them. The Maoris, careful to expose themselves as little as possible, did not return a shot, except some shots that were fired from the pah to deceive the parties in the rear as to the garrison having left the pah.
On taking possession of the work in the morning, Lieut.-Colonel Booth and some men were found still living, and, to the credit of the natives, had not been maltreated, nor had any of the bodies of the killed been mutilated.
Colonel Booth telling a Maori he wanted water, the young man took a calabash and went outside the pah to the swamp, at great risk to himself, and fetched the water to the sorely wounded Colonel. He had a presentiment he page 194was not to leave Tauranga; and after he got his orders at the General's tent, he shook hands with him, and said, "Good-bye, sir."
It was deeply to be deplored, the loss of so many brave and valuable officers, who fell in the noble discharge of their duty on this occasion. The 43rd Regiment, and the service, sustained a serious loss in the death of Colonel Booth, which took place on the night after the attack. He had set a brilliant example in the assault; and when he was carried out of the work in the morning, and being met by Sir Duncan Cameron, he expressed his regret that he found it impossible to carry out the General's orders.
The heroism and devotion of Captain Hamilton and Commander Hay reflected the highest honour on the Naval Service. Of the 43rd Eegiment there were killed, besides Colonel Booth, Captains Glover, Muir, Hamilton, and Utterton, Lieutenants Glover and Langland; of the 43rd, wounded, Ensigns Clarke and M'Coll. Of the Royal Navy, besides Captain page 195Hamilton and Commander Hay, Lieutenant Hill was killed, and Lieutenants Hammick and Duff were severely wounded. Total, ten officers killed and four wounded; non-commissioned officers and men killed, twenty-one, and seventy-six wounded.
Great regret was felt for the brothers Glover. One could have escaped, but remained to assist his brother; he, too, fell. The younger, still alive in the morning, and suffering, said, "The only satisfaction is Bobby was shot dead."
The losses of the enemy must also have been heavy, although not more than twenty bodies and six wounded were found in or about their position. It was admitted by the prisoners that they carried off a large number of killed and wounded during the night, and they also suffered in attempting to make their escape from the force in rear, which Colonel Greer had conducted on its night march, and had occupied the ground with so much skill. The officers and men of the 68th were accorded the greatest credit for the cheerfulness and zeal with which they performed very harassing duties.page 196
Major Eyan, of the 70th, after covering the advance of the assaulting column with his detachment, followed into the work, and, with Captain Jenkins, of H.M.S. "Miranda," was one of the last to leave it. Lieutenant and Adjutant Garland, 43rd Regiment, was particularly reported to the General for his conspicuous conduct in the assault.
The commanding officers and heads of departments discharged their duties with zeal and activity; and the services of Deputy Inspector General Mouatt, C.B., Surgeon McKinnon, 57th Regiment, and Assistant-Surgeon Manley, R.A., who exposed themselves under fire, attending to the wounded, were duly acknowledged.
Commodore Sir William Wiseman, and his seamen and marines, co-operated heartily with the land forces during the operations at the Gate pah.
The enemy having escaped, as described, during the night, at 5 a.m. on the 30th, John Colenutt, A.B. seaman of the "Harrier," entered the pah by himself, and reported that the page 197enemy had left it; and the work was immediately occupied by the troops.
It was with deep sorrow Commodore Sir William Wiseman referred to the casualties among his people, which had been very great, especially among the officers (as at Rangiriri). Captain Hamilton, of the "Esk," was shot through the head while standing on a traverse inside the work, waving his sword and cheering on his men. He was so well known at the Admiralty, and through the service at large, that it was unnecessary to enlarge upon the loss the country sustained in his fall.
Commodore Edward Hay had seen much service in India while serving under the late heroic Sir William Peel, and was badly wounded there. The way in which he led the storming-party into the enemy's work at the Gate pah was the admiration of all; he was mortally wounded by a Maori in a pit below him while cheering his men on, and he died the following day.
Lieutenant Charles Hill, of the "Curaçoa," page 198was a most gallant officer; he liad been on shore with the men since they first landed, and was killed while advancing and cheering on his men.
Mr. Watt, gunner of the "Miranda," was killed and frightfully tomahawked about the head. Previous to his death he killed with his sword the Maori who shot Captain Hamilton.
The seamen and marines killed were all leading men of the different ships. They, as well as the remainder of the Naval Brigade, behaved with great gallantry. Captain Jenkins, R.N., led the supports up to the work, but they were driven back by the retreating stormers. He succeeded in getting into the pah himself, and was one of the last to leave it.
Lieutenant Duff, of the "Esk," and Sub-Lieutenant Parker, of the "Falcon," were wounded, the former severely, while cheering the men on in the work. Acting Lieutenant Musgrave, of the "Esk," was struck down in the ditch of the work, and for a short time was stunoed by a severe blow on the head. He behaved extremely well.page 199
Lieutenant Klintberg, of the Swedish Navy, who had been with the "Curacoa's" men since they first landed, behaved with much gallantry. Lieutenant Gardiner, of the Royal Marine Artillery, led his men gallantly; Lieutenant Hammick, of the "Miranda," was wounded severely, close to Sir William Wiseman, while assisting to rally the men retreating from the work; Lieutenant Hunt, of the "Harrier"—and, indeed, every officer and man—behaved to the Commodore's entire satisfaction.
Among the seamen recommended to the especial notice of the Lords of the Admiralty, Samuel Mitchell was prominent. He was captain of the foretop of the "Harrier." Doing duty as captain's coxswain, he entered the pah with Commander Hay; and when that officer was wounded, he brought him out, although ordered by Commander Hay to leave him, and to seek his own safety. This seemed to be a fair case for the Victoria Cross.
Richard Smith, boatswain's mate of the "Harrier," highly spoken of by Lieutenant page 200Hunt of that ship, was one of the first in the work. John Noakes, boatswain's mate of the "Miranda," assisted Mitchell in getting Commander Hay out of the work, and was badly wounded while endeavouring to rally the men, and to prevent their retreating. John Wean, A.B. of the "Esk," was highly spoken of for his good conduct in the assault. James Harris, ordinary seaman of the "Curaçoa," chased a Maori through the work, down the opposite side of the hill, towards the 68th position, and bayoneted him there amidst the cheers of the regiment; unfortunately, in attempting to rejoin his comrades in the pah, he was shot dead close to it.
William Fox, ordinary seaman of the "Curçaoa," who distinguished himself at Rangiriri, was severely wounded in the assault; and gunner William Baker, of the Royal Marine Artillery, carried a wounded seaman out of the pah under heavy fire.
The wounded of the ships were most carefully attended to by Mr. Henry Slade, Surgeon, and page 201Mr. Robert Harding, Assistant-Surgeon, of the "Miranda," and Dr. Frederick M. Manning, Assistant-Surgeon of the "Esk."
It is a great pleasure to one who has been much associated with the Royal Navy, and made many voyages in ships of war, to offer these records of the sister service which he was allowed to examine at the Admiralty.*
* By an old New Zealand warrior, Admiral Beauchamp Seymour, C.B., and by Sir Alexander Milne, G.C.B., Lords Commissioners.
"To the Colonel.—Salutations to you. The end of that. Friend, do you give heed to our laws for regulating the fight. 1. If wounded or captured whole, and the hutt of the musket or hilt of the sword he turned to me, he will he saved. 2. If any Pakeha, being a soldier, shall be travelling unarmed, and meet me, he will be captured, and handed over to the directors of the land. 3. The soldier who flees, being carried away by his fears, and goes to the house of his priest with his gun (even though carrying arms), will be saved; I will not go there. 4. The unarmed Pakehas, women and children, will be spared. The end. These are binding laws for Tauranga."
(Signed by five Catholic chiefs.)
In the Gate pah the principal fighting-chief was Rawiri; and when the troops arrived in front of the position, he walked vehemently up and down the parapet, and was heard to say: page 203"Kia u, kia u, kaore e tae mae te Pakeha" ("Stand fast, stand fast, the Pakehas will not come hither").
The manner in which the Maoris defended their position proved them to he an enemy to be respected, both for intelligence and courage. On the first day ground was taken up in front of them, they hoisted the red flag (on which was a cross, crescent, and star), and showed themselves in numbers. Next day no flag appeared, and no men were for a considerable time visible. It was only on observing attentively with glasses that one or two heads were seen to move in the ditch.
During the fire of the guns it was the same, and it was even thought that the pah was either deserted or had but few men in it. The readiness with which they stood to their posts and met the assault, as well as their endurance during the bombardment, would reflect credit on disciplined troops.
When the guns opened on them, a voice in the pah (probably Rawiri) was heard from the page 20468th side, saying, "Tena, tena e mahi i to mahi" ("Gro on, go ahead; carry out your plan"). And again, "Ko te manawarere, ko te manawarere, kia u, kia u !" ("Trembling hearts, trembling hearts, be firm, be unshaken!")
When the assailants retreated from the work, a Maori stood on the parapet and cried, "Pakeha, e ka kapi ahu para pare i o tupapaku" ("Oh, Pakeha, my trenches are blocked with your dead"). It is doubtful, from the distance from which it was heard, whether this was said in triumph or whether it was not said to intimate that the bodies might be removed.
A strong redoubt was afterwards constructed on the site of the Grate pah.page break