With the Lost Legion in New Zealand
Chapter XII — The Year of the Lamb
The Year of the Lamb
During the latter part of 1866 and the early part of 1867 the war on the west coast of New Zealand languished; Colonel McDonnell had for a time been sent over to the east coast and had straightened things out at Rotorua, while we who remained behind marked time. The truth being we had no men to take the field with.
The Maoris, only too glad to get a spell so that they could plant fresh crops and repair damages, sat tight and did nothing to excite active retaliation, while Parliament, especially the South Island members, howled for peace and retrenchment, and although we all knew there was absolutely no hope of a lasting peace, yet, of course, the Government had the say, and more men were disbanded.
We, however, who held the frontier lived in a semi-state of war, and although patrols and scouting was all we could do, yet I had great opportunities of improving myself in bushcraft and scouting.
Towards the end of 1866 Toi, the principal Hau Hau chief, visited headquarters, bringing with him twelve men, and this deputation demanded peace.
"Very good," answered McDonnell, "it is the earnest desire of the white man to live in peace. Therefore bring in all the Hau Hau chiefs of the district and we will ratify peace."
The deputation left, promising to do so, but never page 201returned. Pungarehu had evidently instilled the fear of the Lord into the Hau Haus, for Toi complained against the Colonel's method of fighting.
"The soldiers," quoth he, "always gave us notice of their approach. They blew bugles and made plenty of noise so we might be ready to receive them, but you and your men slip through the bush by night like rats and we can't sleep for apprehension."
"Yes," answered the Colonel, "we fight in your own manner and you don't like it."
"No," said Toi, "let this sort of work cease, or we shall soon be unable to continue the war." And having lodged a dignified protest the old cannibal retired.
There is no doubt that Toi, himself, really wanted peace, but he was sinking into obscurity, as now Titokowaru took the lead, and everyone conversant with Maori nature knew that so long as he lived and ruled the roost there was no possibility for peace.
This man had always been a bitter enemy to the white man, and his hatred had been enhanced by the new fanatical religion to which he had become one of the very first converts, being one of those who, in April 1864, had made the insane attack on Sentry Hill, under the leadership of the Hau Hau apostle, Hepanaia. In this fight the apostle Hepanaia and most of the leading chiefs were killed and Titokowaru himself lost an eye. Now as the prophet and apostle Hepanaia had promised his disciples a bloodless victory, but had not only been killed himself and his men defeated with dreadful slaughter, anyone would think that page 202a sane man would have chucked up such a rotten religion, especially should he also have lost an eye through his devotion to it; but not so Titokowaru, who became more than ever embittered towards the white men. In fact, as Tim put it, he had turned from being a Fenian into an Invincible, and wanted hanging. This was quite true, but, unfortunately, you must catch your hare before you can cook him, and Tito was too wily a bird to be caught.
It was in May 1867 that the last of the military settlers were disbanded and handed over their land-scrip, but most of them, not wishing to be murdered, and possessing a far greater knowledge of the true state of affairs in the district than the Government, sold their rights for what they would fetch, and either left the country or went to the gold-diggings, which were now booming, as the great Coromandel and Thames gold rushes were in full swing.
The volunteers had also completed their period of service and, owing to the crazy manner in which the Government, mad for retrenchment, acted, no others were enlisted, so the district was almost without defenders.
Now there was some excuse for the members of Parliament representing the South Island, who knew nothing about the circumstances of the case nor the customs of the Maoris, but there was no excuse for anyone on the ground, much less for the damned commissioner, who not only wilfully misled the Government but did everything in his power to thwart and hamper McDonnell.
It may have been true that the Maoris wanted page 203peace for a time, or rather a truce, as we had so rattled them, destroying their crops, villages, stores of food, etc., that they must either gain time to recuperate or give in, and they completely hood-winked the Government. For even Titokowaru with some of his men visited Waihi early in June 1867 and announced that this was the year of the lamb, meaning that it was to be a year of peace, but he said nothing about what animal was to represent the coming year. Again, shortly after this visit, another hostile of importance, Whare Matangi, chief of the Paka Kohi tribe, visited Patea, he also declaring this was to be the year of the lamb, but likewise refraining from mentioning what the following year was to be; and the astute natives so utterly blinded the Government, who, longing for peace themselves, persuaded themselves they had obtained it, that they refrained from grasping the opportunities pointed out by McDonnell; and the festive Hau Hau planted and garnered his crops in security, laid in provisions and ammunition for future use, rebuilt his pahs, furbished up his firelock and sharpened his tomahawk, for are not these the pursuits meet to follow during the piping times of peace?
This relaxation of hostilities also gave time to Titokowaru to consolidate his party of irreconcilables, and he was joined by very many hotheads of other tribes, which soon gave him greater standing in the country.
Anyhow, it was not long before the natives showed their real inclinations, as the very same Paka Kohi tribe which the commissioner had declared to be so desirous for peace forcibly stopped page 204the survey of the Whenua Kura block and although they did not murder the survey party, still they drove them off the land.
The Colonel managed to quiet this trouble, and one or two other disturbances the starting of which further convinced him that the natives, now that they had saved their crops, meant to fight, but this opinion the commissioner laughed at, and just at the moment when his services were most required the O.C. was sent with sixty of us to suppress a fancied Fenian rising on the gold-fields of Hokitika.
Naturally we looked forward to this trip with delight, as it would afford us a most agreeable change in the somewhat monotonous life we had been leading for the last few months, besides which the goldfields contained many opportunities for indulgence in vices our monasticism on the frontier did not permit.
Hokitika is situated on the west coast of the South Island, and was what is known as a poor man's diggin's—i.e. a goldfield that a man with no capital can win gold from by his own labour. The New Zealand goldfields were never such rowdy ones as the Californian nor the Australian, being free, with few exceptions, from bushrangers and the murderous riff-raff that congregated at the American mines. Yet they were rough, and a strong party of Irishmen, known as the Micks, were apt, especially when under the influence of whisky, to make themselves objectionable.
It must be remembered that at this epoch things were very stormy in Ireland, and even in England, and the Micks instigated by whisky had held page 205meetings and talked a lot of infernal rot, from which the warden of the goldfields, a nervous ass, had imagined possibilities of Fenian risings, insurrections, civil war and the Lord only knows what other catastrophes; hence the reason for withdrawing the O.C. and the greater portion of his reliable men from the west coast of the North Island just when their services were most required.
However, we who composed the party looked on the whole trip as a joke, and a pleasant interlude to the hard work and short rations we had had for so long to endure. As for any fighting with Fenians that none of us believed, although Tim and myself conjectured there might be some heads broken by way of a frolic.
It was in this spirit we took ship and went to sea, eventually reaching Hokitika, where we had to land in surf boats, through a very bad surf indeed.
We, however, passed through it in safety, when we were joined by the Colonel, who had gone ashore previously. The authorities had begged him to land us with loaded arms, and had prophesied all sorts of bloody happenings, but the Colonel had very rightly taken their wailings with a pinch of salt, so we reached the shore in the most unostentatious manner, at a time when the Micks were sleeping off their previous night's debauch, and we were quickly marched up to a spot the Colonel had selected, where we expeditiously made ourselves safe and snug.
This artful move on the part of the O.C. completely out-generalled the Micks, as the sons of Ould Ireland, God bless her, were by no means in a state to have resisted our landing had they wished page 206to do so, and by the time they were awake, and ready to renew their potations and politics, we were in possession of the strongest position overawing the town. This fact may have induced them to take up another line of defence against the bloody Saxons, and they may have determined to kill by hospitality those they feared to attack with force. For their deputation waited on us, not with pick-handles, revolvers and fowling - pieces, but with cases of champagne and John Jameson's whisky, and I verily believe they would have defeated us had we remained much longer with them.
The west coast diggings were at that time booming, any man caring to work a few hours a day being able to make his eight to ten pounds per week, some of course far more, so that it was a marvel to me why men cared to serve a government, risk his life and undergo the awful hardships our men did, for six shillings a day.
It was during this epoch in New Zealand I could have, had I chosen to look after my own interests, made my pile. I had plenty of money, and could have got plenty more had I asked for it, and as I before stated the late military settlers were selling their land-scrip for what they could get, so that as I was on the spot I could have purchased blocks of the finest land in New Zealand for a song, but I did not, and I want to warn young Lost Legionaries not to follow on my spoor.
I had made the Crown and flag my fetish from early childhood, and in my own stupid and conceited mind reckoned it to be my bounden duty to fight for them, and that so long as the war continued I must continue to serve, no matter what it page 207cost me in pecuniary and personal losses. This infatuation has stuck to me all my life, and is as quick now as it was then, my life in consequence, so far as gaining the good things of this world goes, being a wretched failure.
I therefore want to warn the rising generation against it, so that all of you young fellows who are thinking of leading a frontier life take the advice of an old hand. "Fight certainly and fight like the devil, but don't be carried away by any sentimental rot."
"God save the King" is a very fine tune, and the Union Jack a very pretty object flying at the masthead, but neither King nor flag can come to your aid when you are old and stranded on the pebbles, while as for your country, represented as it is by a gang of greedy, self-seeking politicians, you may starve in the gutter or rot in the workhouse. Therefore, my romantic new chum, when you see the chance to make money on the one hand and fighting for your country on the other, you go for the money. There are plenty of bally fools such as I have been to do the fighting. Your paltry services won't be missed, and you will be thought much more of by the people of the self-same country.
We remained three weeks at Hokitika, and were then fortunately sent back from our Capua to sterner work, landing at Patea just barely in time for the Colonel to quiet another shindy, as the natives had stopped the survey on the Makoia Block, and although he managed, by his vast knowledge of Maori manners, to tide over this trouble, yet it was evident the billy was boiling page 208and must soon boil over, for now everyone could see, with the exception of those wilfully blind, that war was imminent, as the natives now commenced openly to steal every horse and head of stock they could lay their hands on; so the early months of 1868 passed.
Some very foolish acts on the part of the resident magistrate and commissioner hurried on the inevitable climax, but yet the perpetrators of these follies still swore the sham peace would be a lasting one and objected to order in the few settlers who had the temerity to cling to their farms.
It would take too long to relate the wretched details of that miserable time, but eventually they culminated in the cold-blooded and brutal murder on 9th June of three harmless bushmen while peaceably at work.
Colonel McDonnell was at the moment in Wanganui, from whence he at once returned, and did all in his power to secure the safety of the district, but we were so short-handed that, even with the forts inadequately garrisoned to an alarming extent, he had not one man to take the field with. He therefore made a flying visit to Wellington to try and instil some glimmer of reason into the wilful numskulls who formed the ministry, receiving, after much persuasion, leave to enlist three hundred white men, together with one hundred Maoris, for a service of not longer than three months.
Now the men were wanted for immediate service, so that there was no time to pick or choose them, nor was there time to train them when chosen, and it must be remembered that the population page 209of New Zealand forty odd years ago was much smaller than it is now, also that the goldfields were booming and really good men scarce. Yet even then, in the towns, there were numbers of loafers and riff-raff who, too lazy to go in for hard colonial work, hung about the cities waiting for what they call a suitable billet to turn up, and it was from the ranks of these useless unemployed that the great majority of the three hundred white men were enlisted.
I do not suppose a more useless gang were ever got together, but then on paper they represent three hundred men. Well, the Colonel had asked for them, the Parliament had granted them, the town magistrates had enlisted them; and as the lawyers, merchants and others, who constitute a parliament, are quite ignorant of the requirements of a war, they are apt to imagine one man to be as good as another, so that you have only got to put a uniform on his back, and clap a rifle into his hand, when the miserable scarecrow must be able to at once do the duties of a well-trained soldier, or even a highly skilled bush fighter.
In the meantime more settlers had been murdered, more farms burnt and cattle looted, so that Titokowaru and his tribe, the Ngatiruanui, having saved their crops, and being well rationed with stolen oxen, considered it was high time to begin hostilities on a larger scale.
It was on the 9th June the aforementioned bushmen were murdered, and on the following day every one of our forts were more or less invested, so that it was dangerous to leave the shelter of the parapet, page 210as on the 10th, a trooper, named Smith, having left the fort to catch his horse, was killed and cut to pieces before the eyes of his comrades, who were only able to recover his two legs, the rest of him being taken into the bush and eaten.
The Hau Haus also made it lively for the despatch riders, making numerous attempts to cut them off, capture or kill them, while on the 20th June sixty of them made a desperate attack on the ration dray, escorted by a sergeant and ten troopers, at the same place where Haggarty had been killed previously. The escort, however, made a stout resistance, and being relieved smartly from the fort the assailants were beaten off with loss.
I think I may here give you a personal experience of the pleasures of despatch riding, such as were enjoyed by the mounted portion of the colonial forces when engaged on that necessary occupation. It must be remembered that in those days we had no heliographs, and therefore all orders, letters or news had to be transmitted by horsemen riding from fort to fort, and the Hau Haus looked on it as great sport, trying to cut off, kill or capture the unfortunate whose duty it was to carry them.
Of course their chief ambition was to catch the despatch rider alive, as then it would afford them much amusement in torturing him to death, though failing capture he was of value to them dead, as they looted his arms, and also procured good meat rations from his remains. Anyhow it was good sport, so, as they knew we were far too weak in numbers to attack them, they made page 211up hunting parties to catch us. Fortunately most of the main road ran along the sea-beach and was fairly open, but when it was necessary to ride inland you had to pass through scrub, bush and long fern, in which they laid their ambushes, and it behoved the horseman to have all his wits on deck.
Well, one day I had to carry despatches up to Waihi, a distance of some fifteen miles. I was well mounted on the horse I had first bought, who had turned out a slashing charger, very fast, with great staying powers, very sure-footed and a grand swimmer, the latter such a necessary accomplishment in a country abounding with tidal rivers and no bridges. It was a lovely afternoon, and I rode with stripped saddle, carrying only a brace of revolvers. The road ran for some miles along the beach, the tide being out, and I enjoyed my canter over the hard, firm sand although I had two rivers to cross, one of which I had to swim; these, however, were negotiated comfortably and I turned inland, where the track ran through manuka scrub, patches of bush and fern.
I at once started a bright lookout, but saw nothing to guard against until I came to a place where the track ran through a natural clearing about a mile in length, and no more than one hundred yards across. (Note.—These natural clearings are common enough in New Zealand scrub, especially on the Taupo and Kaingaroa plains. How formed no one knows.) The road ran up the centre of the clearing, which was covered with short tussocky grass that grew in little de-page 212tached knobs like the wool on a nigger's head. I had just entered this clearing when my eye caught the gleam of something bright that sparkled for a moment in the scrub more than half way along the length of it, and knew it was caused by the sunshine flashing on the head of a tomahawk or the barrel of a firelock. Catching hold of my horse's head I slightly increased the pace, at the same time dropping my right hand on the butt of my revolver and preparing for a lively time.
I may have ridden a third of the way up the clearing, when bizz came a bullet past my nose, followed up by perhaps a score more. Thank the Lord a Maori could not shoot for toffee, and I saw at least forty natives at the far end of the clearing jump out of the scrub and make for the road, to try and cut me off, while yells from my rear told me retreat would be worse than going on, and I knew there was nothing for it but to break through or be caught; in which case even suppose I was not shot dead I must shoot myself, as it would never do to fall alive into the hands of these fiends. I therefore let my willing horse break into a gallop, and charged along the road as if Old Nick had kicked me.
Fortunately the noble beast I bestrode was as bold as he was handsome, and never winced nor shied from the yelling devils who, with waving tomahawks and mats, tried to frighten and check him, but just extended himself, and obedient to my hand and knee pressure swung to whichever side I wanted him to go. In fact he seemed to be guided by my will and understood my wishes as soon as the ideas were formulated in page 213my own brain. Oh, what a splendid gift Providence presented to man when he gave him the horse, and what a friend the noble beast is to you, when you treat him as a pal and not as a slave.
Some such thought rushed through my mind as, pistol in hand, I sent him at the crowd of howling savages, a few of whom had already reached the road, two of whom I spotted as being the most dangerous.
These two bounders had taken up positions on either side of the track, the one on the left side being armed with a long-handled tomahawk, with which he evidently intended to maim my horse's legs, the other stood empty-handed, whose plan, plain enough to surmise, was to grab the horse's bridle and pull the wounded beast down, or, in case he fell, to seize me and put a stop to any resistance I might offer.
Backing these fellows up, and running to support them, were a scattered mob of others, armed with guns and tomahawks, but I had no time to notice these critters, as, uttering a yell that must have been inherited from some far-back old Milesian ancestor, I charged straight at my would-be body-snatchers.
It was clear to me that the man with the tomahawk was my principal danger, as should his cut at my horse's legs be successful down we must both come in a heap, and it would be a case of Kingdom Come for the pair of us. So aiming at his midriff as well as I could, when I was within ten yards of him, I fired, and to my delight saw him collapse in a heap.
I had barely fired when I was badly shaken page 214in my saddle, as my horse seemed to stop dead, make a half rear, and strike out savagely with his fore-feet. 'Twas only for a tick of time, for with a plunge and bound he regained his stride, and I caught a glimpse of the smashed head, face and shoulders of a man writhing on the ground, as my horse leapt over him; so it was not difficult to understand that the native had sprung at the bridle and been struck down by my noble charger, by which meritorious act he had gained utu (revenge) for the brutal treatment he had received from the Maoris whilst he was a captive and slave in their hands.
Anyhow we had broken through them, and although a shower of bullets followed us, two of which touched my gallant pal, while one knocked the heel and spur from my right boot, we were safe, and I cantered along to the fort talking to my horse, and praising him for the bold way he had behaved, while he, playfully reaching at his bit, now and then snorted back as much as to say, "Right, Boss, we euchred those ruddy jossers, didn't we?"
Earnestly the reinforcements were looked out for, as the garrisons of most of the forts were so weak that it was more than doubtful whether they could offer a successful resistance against a determined attack. Moreover, trusty spies brought in information that Titokowaru contemplated making such attacks as he was very desirous of obtaining a supply of rifles wherewith to arm the numerous recruits who had lately flocked to his standard.
Nor was the information false, for on the morning page 215of the 12th July he attempted to capture the redoubt at Turu Turu Mokai, and very nearly succeeded in doing so.
This redoubt was an old work that had been constructed by the 18th Regiment at a time when there were thirty men to do the work now allotted toone, and though it had been built on an important tactical situation, yet the site had been badly chosen, nor was the work itself of any strength. This did not matter when the district swarmed with defenders, but now we were so weak it was considered extremely vulnerable. Moreover, for a long time, while the sun shone on our side of the fence, it had been abandoned; the berm had in places been washed away by the heavy rain, and in places the much damaged parapet almost tottered over the ditch; still, the importance of its situation was so great that the O.C. had to now make use of it in his scheme of defence.
This tumbledown structure was garrisoned by twenty-five men under the command of a very fine officer, Captain Ross, who had done everything in his power to make the place defensible, but had only succeeded in making the weak spots more apparent.
The site of the work itself was so bad that it necessitated a flying sentry to watch a gully that could not be overlooked from the fort, up which a storming party could easily creep, and there being no room for the O.C.'s tent inside he had to have it pitched outside, near the drawbridge, which consisted of two narrow planks that spanned the ditch.
On the night of the 11th a civilian came to the page 216fort and claimed protection, which was at once granted, so that there were twenty-seven white men at Turu Turu Mokai that night.
During the night the flying sentry reported a flock of strayed sheep had disturbed him, and there is no doubt that under cover of these animals two parties of Hau Haus, numbering forty men each, crawled through the fern, close up to the fort, lay down and waited for the right moment to rush the tumbledown work.
The flying sentry who had the morning relief, however, spotted some dark figures, and discharged his rifle at them, receiving in return a volley which wounded him badly, though he still had strength to crawl into the long fern where he hid until relieved.
The storming party at once charged, making for the gate, which in the dark they missed and ran all round the work looking for it, a pause that gave Captain Ross the chance of getting inside and defending the entrance. He had no sooner got to the gateway—there was no gate—than the storming party rushed him, led by a noted fighting chief named Tautai, who, missing his footing on the narrow planks, tumbled end over end into the ditch, an accident that saved his life, as the bullet, that should have sent him whooping to perdition, killed the man following him.
Two more Hau Haus, the gallant captain, disputing the narrow way, despatched to their father Satan, when the remainder, not relishing their reception, jumped into the ditch after their chief, and at the same moment the second party rushed up.page 217
Captain Ross was still in the gateway, doing his best to give the new-comers a hearty and warm welcome, when one of the scallywags in the ditch crawled up under the bridge and discharged his gun into the unfortunate officer's body; at the same moment another of them sank the head of his long-handled tomahawk into his chest, and dragged the desperately wounded man down into the ditch, where he was soon hacked to pieces.
His fall caused some confusion in the already scanty garrison, and that in rather a queer manner, as when wounded he shouted: "Take care of yourselves, boys. I am done for."
On hearing which four men, interpreting the order to mean that each man should try and save himself, mounted to the top of the parapet, and, jumping over the Hau Hau's heads who were in the ditch, sought to save themselves by breaking through the other assailants and hiding in the fern. Three of then succeeded in doing so, the fourth being killed.
The defenders were now reduced in numbers to twenty-one, Sergeant M'Fadden taking command, occupying the post of danger left vacant by the death of his gallant officer, where bravely he sustained the fight until he was shot dead, when Corporal Blake stepped into the breach and post of honour, only to fall in the same manner; thus the gallant fellows held out, defending their trust until eight of them lay dead and six of them desperately wounded in the blood-stained gateway, the civilian also being killed.
Six men only were now left to continue the fight, but their comrades had not died uselessly, having, page 218previous to their departure to that Valhalla designed by Providence for the reception of Lost Legionaries, administered such punishment to their enemies that the latter withdrew from the attack on the gateway to positions from which the whole interior of the work, with the exception of one bastion, could be searched by a plunging fire.
To this bastion the six dauntless fellows now retired, determining to make their last stand and die there. It was the best spot in the untenable work, the gorge being masked by a flimsy wooden hut, that was not bullet proof, although it prevented the Maori sharpshooters from seeing the defenders and aiming at them.
Their greatest danger was the parapet that here, as I mentioned previously, simply tottered over the ditch, and which the Hau Haus at once set to work to undermine.
They were now in a desperate strait, but never lost heart. Relief was bound to come. Could they hold out long enough? They gained time by a clever ruse. The Maoris feared mounted men more than anything, so the defenders with one accord started cheering, at the same time shouting: "Hurrah, the cavalry are coming!" Whereupon the sappers left off their work, preparing for a bolt.
This trick was played two or three times, but the nervous Maoris were always rallied and forced to return to their work by the infamous scoundrel, Kimball Bent, whose voice, cursing the Hau Haus for their cowardice and urging them on to make further efforts, was distinctly heard and recognised.
At last the relief did come, though not by the page 219efforts of the troopers, who for some inexplicable reason were left behind, Major Von Tempsky, then in temporary command, selecting infantry to go to the rescue and leaving twenty troopers standing by their horses without orders.
He, however, arrived just in the nick of time, as the enemy had not desisted from their work and retired more than a minute when the crumbling parapet fell bodily into the ditch which, had it done so a few moments sooner, would have left its six gallant defenders, all more or less hurt, to the mercy of their savage opponents, but they, by their splendid defence, not only saved their own lives, but prevented a large amount of arms and ammunition falling into the hands of Titokowaru and the baffled Hau Haus.
The relief of Turu Turu Mokai, although successful, was the origin of a most miserable squabble which ended in a sad tragedy, as it was the cause of as gallant an officer as ever drew sword throwing away his life in attempting to regain a reputation for courage which in the opinion of every man worth his salt should never have been doubted.
It happened this way. When the garrison at Waihi were alarmed by the sound of heavy firing, both troopers and infantry at once turned out. The former, twenty in number, were a very smart body of men indeed, always ready at a moment's notice to tackle any job that might come along. They were under the command of Major Hunter, who was also second in command to Major Von Tempsky (temporary O.C. of the district), who was a splendid though very jealous officer.
Hunter, the moment the alarm was given, ran page 220round the fort to see that the sentries were on the alert, and when he had done so found that Von Tempsky had started with his own men, the infantry, leaving no orders for the mounted men nor for himself.
This placed him in a dilemma. It was clear the headquarters fort, containing large supplies of arms and ammunition, could not be left in charge of a guard of six men. It was also clear that the mounted men were the proper men to have gone to their comrades' assistance, but as his senior officer had left them behind without orders it was clear he must utilise them to hold the fort. He therefore gave orders to lead the horses back to their stables and for the troopers to man the bastions.
Now the troopers were as keen as mustard, and had been ready for duty even before the infantry, for although they did not, like the bold garrison of Branxholm Castle, drink their wine through their helmets barred, it was only because they had no wine to drink nor tin pots to wear on their heads, but they drank their ration rum, when they could get it, under their forage caps, and they always lay down to sleep fully accoutred, breeched, booted, belted and spurred, while their horses stood all night in their stalls saddled and bridled, with their heads round, ready to be led out and mounted in a moment.
It was so on this occasion. In fact they were standing by their horses before the foot men fell in, so it was through no fault of theirs they were not employed.
Now the troopers were well aware that they were the men who should have been selected to have page 221gone, as they could have reached their endangered comrades at least half-an-hour before the footsloggers could hope to do so, and the fact of their being left behind drove them hopping mad, while on receiving the order to man the bastions the sergeant-major used language most reprehensible and unwarrantable, for which he should have been most severely punished. As the delay caused by using foot instead of mounted men was responsible for at least half the casualties, great irritation was felt not only through the force but also through the country, and the newspapers, getting to hear of the sergeant-major's hasty words, immediately started to disseminate their garbled reports, it even pleasing the ink-slinging stool-polishers, who write them, to shower abuse and cast doubts on the courage of a brave officer whose boots they were not worthy to black.
The synopsis of the wretched affair was this. Major Von Tempsky was the senior officer whose undoubted duty it was to take steps to immediately relieve the besieged fort. Well, he chose to go himself, taking his own men, infantry, with him, and leaving the mounted men and their officer behind without orders.
This action on his part clearly shows he was instigated by one of two ideas: either he considered the infantry most suitable to effect his purpose or he wished to gain all the credit of the relief for himself and men regardless of the danger the other fort ran through not receiving speedier assistance. Most certainly Major Hunter could not have followed on and left the headquarters fort unprotected.page 222
Anyhow poor Hunter, a most high-spirited and sensitive man, unable to endure the slurs cast at him by a scum of newspaper men, threw away his life a few months afterwards at Moturoa in giving the lie to his cowardly detractors.