Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.
Some native warriors surrender—The forests about Auckland cleared of the enemy—Discussions about the disposal of the land—The Governor addresses the Maoris at Tauranga—An unexpected event occurs—The prisoners sent from the hulk in Auckland harbour to Kawau island—They break their parole and escape—They take post on a mountain—Unsettled state of the south-west coast—Commissariat arrangements—Successful operations in Taranaki—Te Arei pah—Mr. Parris—Great meeting of chiefs—A road to be opened along the south-west coast.
On the 25th of July, 1864, 133 native warriors, among whom were some chiefs of rank, came into Colonel Greer's camp at Tauranga, and laid down their arms. Arrangements were being made for settling native boundaries by the Governor, and for confiscating some of the lands of those who had been most active in the war.
The effect of the late operations in the pro-page 226vince of Auckland was that the forests near Auckland were no longer infested by the enemy; they were driven about 120 miles beyond them, and it was understood that, in the middle of 1864, they were suffering severely for want of supplies of food and clothing, and that their feeling and intention were not to dispute the possession of the Waikato, which they considered as lost; and the difficulty in the way of making peace was the humiliating condition of giving up their arms, a grievous trial for all fighting men.
Considerable discussions continued to take place among the authorities in New Zealand, civil and military, about fixing boundaries, and the disposal of the native lands. A meeting took place at Tauranga between his Excellency the Governor and the natives there, and it passed off most satisfactorily. The natives submitted unconditionally to the Queen's authority, and placed all their lands at the Governor's disposal. Hostilities were at an end in that part of the Colony, and there was reason to hope page 227that the liberal terms accorded to the natives of Tauranga might induce other tribes also to make their submission.
Sir George Grey, in addressing the Tauranga natives who had been in arms, said, "It was right in some measure to mark our sense of the honourable manner you conducted hostilities, neither robbing nor murdering, but respecting the wounded.* I promise you that in the ultimate settlement of your lands, the amount taken shall not exceed one-fourth of the whole land." And to the friendly natives he said, "I thank you warmly for your good conduct under circumstances of great difficulty, and I will consider in what manner you shall be rewarded for your fidelity."
The aspect of affairs in New Zealand at this time appeared to be promising, when an unexpected event occurred, which was likely to disarrange all the plans for the settlement of native affairs in the Colony.page 228
General Cameron had handed over to the Colonial Government about 200 prisoners, who, from time to time, were taken in action against the Queen's troops; these men were to be finally disposed of at the conclusion of hostilities. There being no suitable prison on land for the safe custody of "the wily foe," they were placed in a hulk in Auckland harbour. They were very well treated there, and the Rev. Mr. Baker, of the Church Missionary Society, who gratuitously performed the duty of chaplain to the hulk for several months, stated that the provisions were of good quality and in sufficient quantity, the comfort of the prisoners was promoted in every practicable way, cleanliness and order were enforced, and their moral and spiritual welfare cared for.
A very decided improvement in their appearance was manifested, and expressions of surprise were frequently heard among them of the kind treatment they received at the hands of the Government; the officers in charge were unremitting in their attention to the prisoners, page 229and, in short, under the peculiar circumstances, the Maoris could not have received better treatment.
Ti Ori Ori, the principal chief among them, wrote to his sister, ashore, "Sister! our place is very good, and also the treatment we receive from our masters."
There was a difference of opinion between Sir George Grey and his Ministers as to the ultimate disposal of the prisoners. The Ministers thought they should be brought to trial as rebels. For my part, I never considered the Maoris as rebels, as they had not acknowledged, that is, few of them, the Queen's authority. They fought so as not to be swallowed up by the white settlers. We went to their country and located ourselves in various parts of it. The old Caledonians could not be called rebels, if they declined to submit to, and fought stoutly against, the invading Romans.
Sir George Grey wished some of the prisoners to be released on parole. His Ministers did not seem to believe in the parole of a Maori, and page 230thought that the imprisonment of these men had a beneficial effect on those still in arms. Sir George Grey had, and has, a beautiful small island, called Kawau, on the east coast, thirty miles from Auckland; and he said if the prisoners were sent there, he would be responsible for them, if landed on their parole that they would not leave the island, which was done on the 2nd of August, from the hulk. His Excellency superintended the arrangements for clearing land and building houses, but there was no military guard there. No suspicion was entertained of an intention, or, seemingly, of the practicability of the prisoners attempting to escape. The island is two miles from the main land, but there were a few boats on the island, and some of the Maoris were observed, before they escaped, to be apparently amusing themselves by making paddles—"aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus"—we are not wide awake at all times.
The persons immediately connected with the charge of the prisoners, were a warden, an interpreter, a medical officer, and the chaplain.page 231
On the night of the 10th of September, silently the Maoris rose, got possession of the boats, and on Sunday morning, the 11th of September, when the bell was ringing for Divine service, and no natives appeared, it was for the first time discovered that they had effected their escape during the previous night, and in doing so must have made several trips with the boats.
It was soon ascertained that after reaching the main land opposite Kawau, they proceeded to the top of a lofty mountain, eighteen miles distant, called Omaha. Mr. White, the interpreter, who had been with them throughout their imprisonment, and exercised considerable influence over them, followed them to their retreat, was received very kindly, and was assured by some that they were sorry for what they had done, and that they determined to return; they wished, however, they stated, to return with all the rest, who they hoped would accompany them.
A few days more, however, shewed that they page 232abandoned this idea, if they ever really entertained it, and that they preferred liberty and a hard life on the mountain, to the restraint and good treatment they experienced at Kawau.
The escape of these men, at the particular time at which it took place, was very unfortunate, for there was no knowing to what extent it might encourage the Waikatos, and the other tribes to which they belonged, to continue in arms, in addition to the still greater danger of the whole of the northern natives, hitherto loyal to the British authority, being drawn into the strife. But, happily, no serious disaster resulted from the escape of the prisoners.
The country between New Plymouth (Taranaki) and Wanganui was the contemplated scene of the next operations. The natives in that quarter, who had occasioned the war of 1863 to commence by the cruel massacre of a party of officers and soldiers, as was described, had, however, never been met and punished. But a political difficulty now arose, which occasioned military operations to be deferred. The page 233Colonial Government was essentially a War Ministry, and having declined to give their assent to the terms offered to the natives in a proclamation which the Governor proposed to publish, they tendered their resignation. Meantime the Governor himself published a proclamation, which allowed the natives, except those implicated in certain murders, till the 10th of December to come in and submit, ceding such territory as might be determined on by his Excellency and the Lieutenant-General commanding.
The General held a considerable body of troops in hand near Auckland, at Otahuhu, in case of any trouble or rising in the north from the presence of the escaped prisoners. All was quiet in the Waikato country.
An admirable report was prepared in October 1864, by Deputy Assistant-Commissary-General Robertson, of the complete and excellent arrangements made by his department for the supply of the troops in a country where all provisions had to be brought from long distances by land and water carriage. This report page 234was compiled for the War Office at the request of Commissary-General Jones, C.B.
At the Taranaki a very important object was attained—the possession of the native positions of Mataitawa and Te Arei, the latter immediately overlooking the Waitara, and against which operations were directed by the sap in the last war.
Had these places been strongly garrisoned, their capture could not have been effected without serious loss. But the large body of the natives there had abandoned them; and Colonel Warre having received information that the positions were occupied by a few men, he accordingly, on the 8th of September, moved out a force of 500 men, composed of regulars and militia, and advanced towards Mataitawa, accompanied by a number of friendly natives.
The direct approach to Mataitawa was blocked by the entrenchment of Manutahi. The Forest Rangers, under Major Atkinson, advanced in skirmishing order to this work, and were received by a fire from the stockade. Major page 235Ryan, with a company of the 70th, and Captain Martin, R.A., with two guns, came on in support, when the Maoris suddenly abandoned the stockade on its flank being turned.
Manutahi was found to be a strong work, with parapets eight and ten feet thick in rear of the palisading, and casemated covered - ways. The troops pushed on without opposition, and secured Mataitawa, and cut down the flag-staff as a trophy, and destroyed palisading and wharrés.
On the 11th of September, Colonel Warre, with a force of three companies, 70th, under Major Rutherford, and 150 men under Major Saltmarshe, and with an advance guard of fifty friendly natives, marched towards Te Arie pah on its commanding site, overlooking the Waitara, and 300 feet above it; they were assisted by the long sap of last war, which had caused the surrender of the place to the troops under Sir Thomas Pratt. The troops got within a few hundred yards of the pah, and were not discovered for some time, owing to a thick fog page 236on the river, when a rapid but ineffectual fire was opened from the pah. It quickly ceased, and the Maoris, observing a party moving towards the rear of the pah, abandoned it.
The works were found to be very formidable, ditches fifteen feet deep, and this novelty in Maori fortification—there was a strong parapet built of earth mixed with fern, similar to the system of the Engineers in New Zealand, but page 237about sixteen feet thick, covered by a line of rifle-pits or a covered way, about forty yards in front of the line of the stockade; so that, had the guns been used which Colonel Warre took with him, the Maori defenders, being in front instead of in rear of the stockade, would have been entirely under cover. The shot and shell which would have been naturally thrown into the stockade, would have been quite ineffectual, and the garrison would have been able to have received any attacking column after the palisades had been apparently breached.
Lieutenant Ferguson, R.E., had the construction of a redoubt on this very beautiful and commanding position, looking over the wooded banks of the winding River Waitara, towards the waters of the Southern Ocean.
In these last operations, and at all times, great assistance was given by Mr. Parris, assistant native secretary to Colonel Warre. His knowledge of native character, his practical experience in all matters connected with native customs, and the great respect with which he page 238was treated by the friendly natives of both sexes, enabled him always to obtain reliable and useful information.
In the beginning of 1865, the natives were in a very unsettled state all over New Zealand: great portions of their lands were proposed to be confiscated (leaving them sufficient, of course, for their support by industry). The disquietude was increased by the fanatical belief lately introduced, and spread far and wide, that they were about to be aided by a special Divine interposition in driving all the Europeans out of the island.
A large and important meeting of natives, hostile and friendly, and which was attended by the king-maker Wiremu Tamehana (William Thompson), King Matutaera, Riwi, and other influential chiefs, was held at Rangitoto, about twenty-five miles south of Te Awamutu, in Waikato, for the discussion of the Governor's last proclamation (regarding confiscation of land, &c.), and the adoption of final measures regarding it.page 239
As matters were so unsettled, General Cameron could not advise or recommend the withdrawal of troops from the Colony, and leaving large districts undefended.
Sir George Grey was anxious that a thorough-fare should be established along the south-west coast from the Taranaki to Wanganui, that was closed by the natives, and even the friend of the Maoris, Bishop Selwyn, was not permitted to pass along when he tried to do so.
The Weld Ministry of Sir George Grey considered it indispensable to the permanent safety of Taranaki and to the general pacification of the country, that a passable road should be opened along the coast as soon as possible; the settlements of New Plymouth and Wanganui should be strengthened and extended; that military posts should be established between the two; and finally, that as the tribes in the south-west had always been among the most turbulent of the native population, had committed the worst and most unprovoked outrages, and were then in a state of open hostility, there page 240could be no permanent peace until they should be reduced to submission and their country opened.
It was there that the dreadful Pai Mariri superstition originated. The natives challenged the troops to fight if road-making went on, and were bold and defiant.page break
* The watches and money taken at the Gate pah were all given back by the Maoris.