Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.
Proceedings on the West Coast—Major Butler's flying column—Deserted pahs burnt—Feuds between tribes on the East Coast—The post at Maketu—Narrow escape of Major Colville—The enemy invests the redoubt—Are fired on in their retreat by ships of war—An Amazon—The troops are hutted for the winter—The Pai mariri superstition—The priest Te Ua—Conflict at Motua Island—Extended operations proposed—Remarkable attack on Sentry Hill—Gallantly repulsed by Captain Shortt—Maoris prepare for an attack at Tauranga—Entrench themselves at Te Rangi—Action and success there under Colonel Greer—Distinguished services of individuals engaged—Tribute paid to the troops.
In April on the West Coast the troops were not idle, and on the 18th a flying column of 545 officers and men, under Major Butler, 57th, proceeded at midnight from the Oakura redoubt, southwards, carrying with them four days' provisions; 100 men were left at St. George's redoubt, Tataraimaka, and Major Butler crossed the Katikara river (where the page 206action of the 4th of June, 1863, was fought), and encamped at Wareatea; the deserted pah of Pukehawa was burnt, some cultivations were destroyed, and horses of the enemy captured. On the 20th of April, Major Butler moved a mile along the coast, and leaving a gun and 150 men in camp, marched his remaining force by a cross road towards the lower ranges of Mount Egmont, and found the native pah of Kopua in a clearing in the bush. Immediately on the force entering the bush, a rather heavy fire was opened by the natives, and one of the 57th was wounded; the fire was replied to and silenced by an Armstrong gun and the fire of the troops, but it was not considered necessary to follow the enemy into the bush, and some wharres were burnt, cultivations destroyed, and more horses captured. The mutilated remains of Private Gallagher, of Captain Lloyd's unfortunate party, were found on this occasion.
On the East Coast there were two tribes, the Arawas and the Ngatiporus, who regarded each other with deadly hatred. The first of these page 207was friendly to the British. The Government sympathised with the Arawas, and promised them assistance and arms; and Major Drummond Hay, of the Auckland Militia, attached to the Quartermaster-General's Department for interpreting, &c, and Lieut.-Colonel Macdonald, of the Colonial Defence Force (both of whom were excellent Maori linguists), were sent with some of the Forest Rangers to aid and try and discipline the Arawas.
The hostilities between the Ngatiporus and the Arawas became serious, and Major Colville, 43rd Light Infantry, was established at the Maketu pah, south of the Te Papa, and near the coast, to assist the Arawas. The Ngatiporus, about 1000 or 1200 strong, began to construct an entrenched line of rifle-pits, 500 yards long, within 1400 yards of Major Colville's position, Maketu, which was naturally a very strong one, the garrison of which consisted of 160 rank and file, of which 118 belonged to the 43rd Regiment, the remainder to the Waikato Militia.page 208
An engagement took place with the Ngatiporus, two miles from the fort at Maketu, in which about 110 men of Major Colville's force were engaged. An ambuscade had been laid near the ford at Waihi, and when Major Colville was crossing in a canoe with Ensign Way, fifty Maoris opened fire on them, and their escape was wonderful and providential.
Jumping out of the canoe into the water, and making for the bush, the enemy pursued them across the ford, yelling and firing. On arriving at the fort, Major Colville immediately ordered out fifty men of the 43 rd and Waikato Regiment, under Captain Smith, 43rd, to drive the enemy across the ford. The Maoris recrossed the river, and established themselves 400 yards from it, and kept up a constant fire from the sand-hills and bushes, which was returned with interest. The enemy mustering strong, thirty more men were ordered out under Captain Harris, 43rd Regiment, and Ensign Way of the Waikato Regiment. Major Drummond Hay and Captain Macdonald also arrived, with four-page 209teen men of the Forest Rangers, and a number of the friendly Arawas.
Major Hay was requested to cross the river with his Rangers and all the native allies. This he did, but few of the natives would follow him: after being engaged for some time, he was reluctantly compelled to retire.
Major Colville's orders being stringent not to go far from the Maketu post, he lined the banks of the river, and fired for some time at the enemy at 400 yards. Captain Macdonald, a Royal Engineer, and three of the 43rd were wounded.
On the 26th of April, the enemy advanced his rifle-pits within 800 yards of the post, and continued working at them in spite of the fire of the Armstrong gun; he also sent a message that he intended to attack the post.
The "Falcon" and "Sandfly" men-of-war now appeared, with their black smoke banners, and as there was no shelter from the shells, the Maoris evacuated their trenches, and in a dark column hastened along the beach; hemmed in page 210between the sea and a great swamp, they were helpless under the fire of the ships, and suffered. Another distressing feature in this war, and described in a clever work by Colonel Kirby, 68th Light Infantry, "Henry Ancrum."
Major Hay and his Arawas followed the Ngatiporus as far as Te awa o te a tua, eighteen miles south, and had an engagement there, killing between fifty and sixty, with the loss of one man killed and six wounded (all natives).
This occurred on the 29th, and Major Hay and the Arawas then returned to Maketu.
The leader of the Arawas named Tohi was killed. He had a fine wife, who was much attached to her husband; she got wild after the engagement, and seizing a musket, shot one of the Ngatiporu prisoners, and thus took revenge or "utu" for the loss of her husband.
It was now the New Zealand winter, and the troops stationed at various posts had commenced to hut themselves in all cases where material was at hand for the construction of temporary shelter. Our Sebastopol underground huts, page 211with a tarpaulin roof resting on the ground, were good, with steps to descend to the interior, and a trench all round for the rain; at other places in New Zealand, where no material was available, huts were erected, and at transport stations, stables of sawn timber.
The health of the troops continued generally good, although there was some fever and dysentery, resulting from the fatigue and exposure of camp life to which the troops had been subjected, many of them for the third season. There was no chance of prize money, as in the East, and they were truly earning "the cheap defence of nations," a military medal.
† The rain.
Mr. White, a resident magistrate at Wanganui, said "Pai mariri" began after Kaitake pah was taken by the troops under Colonel Warre, on the 24th of March, 1864, when Captain Lloyd's detachment was surprised, and he and six more men were killed and decapitated, and some of their blood drank, and a head was preserved, as was previously stated.
It was then alleged that the Angel Gabriel, whom the Maoris greatly esteem, appeared to those who had partaken of the blood, and directed the head to be carried through the land, as a trophy and charm against the British bullets.
Te Ua was named as the high priest of the new religion, and assisted by Hapaniah and Rangitauira, these directions were issued:—"The Christian religion is pronounced to be false, and the Scriptures must be burnt, and no page 213notice is to be taken of the Christian Sabbath" (which used, Scotch-like, to be wonderfully well kept among the Christian Maoris); "marriage to be abolished. The Angel Gabriel and his legions would protect those of the Pai mariri faith, and the Virgin Mary would also be present with them. The priests would have superhuman power, and obtain victories by uttering very forcibly the word 'Hau!'"* (The followers of this superstition were therefore called 'Hauhaus,' the name pronounced loudly resembling the bark of a dog). "When the head had completed the circuit of the island, the British Pakeha would then be exterminated or driven into the sea."
* A fanatical cry.
† The wide river.
It was arranged between his Excellency the Governor and Sir Duncan Cameron that 600 men should occupy the post at Te Papa, at Tauranga, and 150 men at the Grate pah. Sir George Grey also expressed a wish that military operations should be carried on between Taranaki and Wanganui, to open a road along the coast.
* Well described by the Agent-General in London for New Zealand, Dr. Featherstone.
Captain Shortt had observed for two nights a single native coming, by moonlight, apparently to reconnoitre; and then hearing the Maoris in the adjacent bush, he, without the slightest noise or giving evidence of his watchfulness, fell in the men of his detachment at their appointed posts, and made them sit down on the banquette (or step to fire from), with strict orders not to show themselves or to fire until they received the order to do so. The Maoris (reported by the prisoners as over 300 in number) advanced in column to within 300 yards of the redoubt, barking like dogs, and uttering fierce yells, and led by Hapaniah, singing and throwing his arms about wildly. They halted, evidently startled by the unexpected silence in the work, then approached to 150 yards, and some rushed forward.
Captain Shortt called to his men (seventy-five in number) to stand to their arms, and a suc-page 216cession of volleys, with an occasional shell from the small 4½-inch Cohorns by which the redoubt was defended, stopped the Maoris in their advance: they hesitated, broke and fled, leaving thirty-four killed and several wounded, while others were seen to fall, and were dragged off by their comrades.
Major Butler came up with a reinforcement, and pursued the enemy through the bush.
The conduct of Captain Shortt aud his Lieutenant, Waller, 57th, was highly to be commended on this occasion, also the strict attention to orders and the steadiness of the men in the redoubt.
The recollection of the unfortunate disaster at Ahu Ahu to Captain Lloyd's party was thus effaced, and confidence was restored. It was ascertained that besides the 300 men who advanced to the attack, 300 more were in support in an adjoining bush, and 200 in reserve at the Mahutahi pah, all ready for an attack on the open ground.
Of the chiefs who fell, Parengi Kingi was the page 217head, and with him Tupera Keina (Tubal Cain), a large landowner in the Taranaki, Hoerepiriri (Big Joe), &c.
General Cameron having received intelligence from Tauranga that the Maoris were again assembling in force in that neighbourhood, with the avowed intention of attacking the British position, the embarkation of troops at Tauranga was accordingly immediately suspended, and in the absence of General Cameron at the Waikato frontier, Colonel Greer, left in command at Tauranga, on applying to his Excellency the Governor for a reinforcement, he sent him 280 Waikato Militia; Colonel Greer had then 1500 men.
The district occupied by the troops at Taurang was a peninsula about three and a half miles long, connected with the main land by a very narrow neck, on which was situated the Gate pah, abandoned, as was described, by the natives on the 30th of April, and converted by General Cameron's order into a strong redoubt. This work, and another small redoubt commanding the only ford by which the Maoris page 218could cross over from the main land to the peninsula, rendered the position so secure that when Colonel Greer's report reached the General, he felt sure the Maoris would not venture to attack it. Considering, however, it was not unlikely that they might attempt to construct a pah somewhere in the vicinity of the British position, the General instructed Colonel Greer to watch their movements closely, to patrol frequently, and if they made the attempt to construct a pah, he was to attack them before they had time to establish themselves securely.
In patrolling the country beyond the Gate pah on the 21st of June, at 8 a.m., Colonel Greer came suddenly upon a large body of natives, who had just begun to entrench themselves about four miles beyond the Gate pah. He at once attacked them, and a smart action ensued.
At the commencement of the attack, Colonel Greer had with him about 600 men, and the Maoris mustered about the same number.page 219
They had made a single line of rifle-pits at Te Rangi, on a neck of land and across the road, and in a position exactly similar to that at Pukehinahina (the Gate pah). The ravines at the two flanks were very precipitous.
Having driven in some skirmishers the Maoris had thrown out, Colonel Greer extended the 43rd and a portion of the 68th in their front and on their flanks, as far as practicable, and kept up a sharp fire for about two hours, while he sent back for reinforcements—a gun and 220 men. As soon as they were sufficiently near to support, he sounded the advance, when the 43rd, 68th, and 1st Waikato Militia charged and carried the rifle-pits in the most dashing manner, under heavy fire, but which was for the most part too high. For some time the Maoris fought desperately.
Major Synge commanded the 43rd, and had his horse shot in two places, close to the riflepits. Major Colville, 43rd, gallantly led the left of the line of skirmishers into the rifle-pits, page 220worth, 68th, commanded the supports, consisting of the 68th, and the 1st Waikato Militia, under Captain Moore. The supports were brought up in the most soldier-like manner, and rushed at the rifle-pits at the critical moment. Captain Trent, Acting Field Officer, 68th, fell severely wounded when leading two companies into the left of the rifle-pits, and continued cheering on the men till the pits were taken.
Captain Smith, 43rd, was the first into the right of the line of rifle-pits; his gallant conduct was conspicuous, so much so that he was recommended for the Victoria Cross: he was wounded severely in two places. Captain Casement, 68th, was severely wounded in two places, in front of his company, while leading into the rifle-pits. Captain Berners, 43rd, was also severely wounded in front of the rifle-pits. Captain Seymour, 68th, took Captain Trent's place when he fell, and led his men into the left of the rifle-pits. Lieutenant Stuart, 68th, was one of the first into the left line of rifle-pits, and had a personal conflict with a Maori armed with an Enfield page 221rifle and bayonet; but Lieutenant Stuart cut him down with his sword.
Captain the Honourable A. Harris, 43rd, was detached to the right in command of two companies, 43rd, to enfilade the enemy's position, and afterwards brought the companies at the critical moment to assist in the assault. Lieutenant and Acting Adjutant Hammick, 43rd, did his duty with great coolness and courage. Lieutenant Grubb, R.A., made excellent practice with the six-pounder at the entrenchment and on the retreating enemy.
Surgeon - Major Best, 68th, P.M.O., and his Assistants, Henry, 43rd; Applin, 68th; and O'Connel, Staff, were most attentive to the wounded. Lieutenant and Adjutant Covey, 68th, and Field-Adjutant and Ensign Palmer, rendered valuable assistance. Lieutenant Covey, when conveying a message to Major Shuttle-worth (from Colonel Greer), went with the supports, and was dragged into a rifle-pit by a Maori, who thrust a spear through his clothes. Ensign Palmer was struck in the neck by a page 222musket-ball, and fell insensible from his horse alongside of Colonel Greer; when he recovered and had his wound dressed, he performed his duty during the rest of the day.
Sergeant-Major Tudor, 68th, went in front and distinguished himself in several personal conflicts with the enemy in the rifle-pits; Sergeant-Major Daniels, 43rd, and Acting Sergeant-Major Lilley (70th Regiment) of the 1st Waikato Militia, also distinguished themselves by their coolness and courage; Sergeant Murray, 68th, whose gallantry and courage were so distinguished, was recommended (with evidence) for the Victoria Cross, and for this reason,—Corporal J. Bryne, V.C., 68th, when the order to charge was given, was the first man of his company into the rifle-pits; a Maori, whom he transfixed with his bayonet, seized his rifle with one hand, and holding it firm, with the bayonet through him, endeavoured to cut down the Corporal with his tomahawk: his life was saved by Sergeant Murray.
The natives had an intention of attacking Te Papa, but the action at Te Rangi disconcerted them. For an hour previous to the attack, a Maori reinforcement was observed coming towards the rifle-pits, yelling, and firing their guns; and they were only 500 yards from the pits when the advance was sounded.
Besides the six officers wounded, as detailed, there were ten men killed and thirty-three non-commissioned officers and privates wounded. The enemy's loss amounted to 108 bodies buried on the 22nd of June in the rifle-pits dug on the 21st; fifteen wounded, afterwards died; eleven unwounded and twelve wounded prisoners remained in hospital: total, 151 Maoris accounted for.
Both the Light Regiments did credit to their old good name; and it was a matter of special satisfaction that the 43rd had an opportunity, at Te Rangi, of recovering from any depression page 224they may have felt on account of the unlooked for repulse at the Grate pah.
Colonel Greer paid a tribute to the Maoris, and remarked on their gallant stand at the rifle-pits; they stood the charge without flinching, and did not retire until forced out at the point of the bayonet.
In concluding his report to Sir Duncan Cameron of the action of Te Rangi, Colonel Greer said, "While in command here (Tauranga), I have only endeavoured to carry out the instructions given me by the Lieutenant-General commanding; and if I have had any success, it is to the foresight of these instructions and to the good discipline and courage of the troops under my command it is to be attributed."page break