The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)
Chapter 39: The Siege of Orakau—continued — The Last Day
Chapter 39: The Siege of Orakau—continued
The Last Day
AS THE FIRST faint glimmer of coming dawn spread over the battlefield, the chiefs of the beleaguered redoubt held council. Tupotahi, as shrewd a soldier as his cousin Rewi, realized that now or never was the hour to make a dash for liberty, with a fighting chance of escaping in the uncertain light. He proposed to Rewi that the pa should be evacuated at once.
“Let us charge out before it is day,” he said; “if we retreat now we may fight our way through.” Rewi smiled grimly, and bade Tupotahi consult Raureti Paiaka and the other chiefs. When the question was put to Raureti he refused to abandon the pa. Nor would any of the other tribal leaders agree to the proposal. “We shall remain here,” they declared; “we shall fight on.” But many of Ngati-Maniapoto were of like mind with Tupotahi, and voiced their anger at Raureti's stubbornness. They stood by their chiefs, however, and all prepared to resist to the end
Rewi's first order to his people, as early morning came, was to cook food. They roasted potatoes in the excavations on the inner side of the parapets, but the parched throats refused the food. There was not a drop of water in the redoubt. Rewi went from man to man of his tribe questioning him about the meal, and each one returned the same answer, “I cannot swallow the potatoes.” Rewi returned to his quarters in the centre of the pa. “We shall have to go,” he told his fellow-chiefs, “but we shall not go as Waikato did at Rangiriri [as prisoners]. We shall retreat fighting.” He strapped six cartouche-boxes about him—three in front and three at the back—and took two guns. Hone Teri te Paerata suggested that all the best men should be gathered to start the rush through the British lines. But now it was too late; it was clear daylight. The morning haze swept away from the battlefield, and the smoke of heavy musketry took its place.page 388
Major William Gilbert Mair and his younger brother, Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., were two of the most distinguished colonial soldiers who fought in the Maori wars. William Mair, after Orakau, was Resident Magistrate and Government Native Agent in various districts. As an officer in command of Arawa and other Maori contingents he fought the Hauhaus in the Bay of Plenty and the Urewera country, 1865–69. One notable success was his capture of Te Teko pa, on the Rangitaiki River, by means of sap, which forced a surrender (described in Vol. II). For many years after the wars he was Judge of the Native Land Court.
The morning grew warm, and the sufferings of the thirst-racked garrison increased. The sappers had been at work all night, and early in the forenoon the trench had reached the post-and-rail fence and was within a few yards of the north-west outwork. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Havelock, D.A.Q.M.G., came in from Pukerimu via Ohaupo, and with him came some of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, leading packhorses loaded with hand-grenades. The sap was now close enough to the outwork for the grenades to be thrown over the parapet, and this service was carried out by Sergeant MacKay, R.A., under a page 389 hot fire. Two colonial officers distinguished themselves by their gallantry at the head of the sap—Captain Herford, of the Waikato Militia, and Lieutenant Harrison, of the same corps, both of whom fought at the head of the sap, keeping down the fire of the Maoris with their rifles. Captain Herford, in attempting to cut down a post of the fence later in the day, was shot in the head and lost an eye. The bullet remained in the back of his head, and caused his death some time afterwards at Otahuhu. Captain Jackson, of the Forest Rangers, who was a very good shot, also assisted with his carbine in covering the workers at the head of the sap.
In a short kokiri or rush out of the pa in the morning two old men were killed; one was Te Waro, the warrior-tohunga who had predicted misfortune after the chiefs prevented him from cutting out the heart of the first soldier killed.
At noon General Cameron and his staff arrived from Pukerimu with an escort of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry. There were now eighteen hundred British and colonial troops surrounding the pa. One of the 6-pounder Armstrong guns was taken into the sap near the head, and opened fire on the outwork, making a breach in the defences. Under the storm of shells, hand-grenades, and rifle-bullets, the garrison now suffered many casualties. Dead and wounded were lying in every trench, but the desperately pressed men and women still held the fort. By noon some of them were quite out of ammunition, but most were reserving one or two cartridges for the last rush. Pou-patate, who was one of the few armed with rifles, was sparing of his ammunition, which could not be replaced. In the first day's fighting, he says, he expended twenty cartridges—a pouchful. On the last day he had ten cartridges left at the close of the fighting; he was reserving them in case the British pursuit was continued. One of the Urewera survivors, Paitini, says that he fired during the siege thirty-six rounds, the contents of two holders, or hamanu. The British, man for man, fired a far greater amount of lead than the Maoris.
The defenders hurriedly buried their dead in shallow graves scooped in the pits and trenches. One man, Matiaha, of Ngati-Tamatea and Ngati-Ruapani (grandfather of Hurae Puketapu, of Waikaremoana), was blown to pieces by the explosion of a shell. The casualties included several of the women.
The first of the hand-grenades (rakete, or “rockets,” the Maoris call them) thrown into the pa from the head of the sap had long fuses, and some daring fellows snatched out the burning fuses (wiki, or “wicks”) and poured the powder out for their own cartridges. Others they threw back into the sap before they had time to explode, and they burst among the men who had page 390 hurled them. One of the warriors who returned the grenades in this way was Hoani Paruparu, of Ngati-Maniapoto; he had become familiar with the action of shells in the Taranaki War. But the Royal Artillery men shortened the fuses, and when Hoani attempted to repeat his performance he was killed by the explosion of one of the bombs.*
Early in the afternoon General Cameron, impressed by the Maoris' courage, decided to give the garrison an opportunity of making surrender. The buglers sounded the “Cease fire,” and two interpreters of the staff, Mr. William G. Mair (afterwards Major Mair), then an ensign in the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, and Mr. Mainwaring were sent into the sap with a white flag to invite the natives to capitulate. The din of musketry was stilled, and the Maoris crowded the walls as the interpreters approached the head of the sap, now within a few yards of the north-west outwork. Many of them were suspicious of the flag of truce; the Urewera at first imagined it a piece of deceit on the part of the British. Controversy has raged over the details of this historic interview; many a picturesque fiction has been printed, and artists have depicted Rewi Maniapoto posed in a heroic attitude on the parapets hurling defiance at the troops. The bare facts are sufficiently thrilling and inspiring without the decorations of fiction. The British and Maori versions of the “challenge scene” differ in some details, as will be shown, but the essential facts remain. The men and women of Orakau chose death on the battlefield rather than submission. Another fact which emerges from the many narratives gathered is that Rewi Maniapoto did not personally confront the General's messenger, but remained with the council of chiefs, delegating the delivery of the ultimatum to others.
* At Ohaeawai in 1845 many of the shells thrown into Pene Taui's pa by Colonel Despard's artillery proved harmless, as the fuses were defective and the shells did not explode. A good deal of powder was thereby furnished to the Maoris, who poured the powder out of the shells to make their cartridges.
An incident curiously resembling the episode of the hand-grenades at Orakau occurred in 1844 in the French-Tahitian war, when the natives of the Society Islands resisted the aggression of Admiral Du Petit Thouars and Commandant D'Aubigny, and when Queen Pomare took refuge in a mountain-camp on the island of Raiatea. In a fight in rear of the present town of Papeete the natives lost about seventy and the French twenty-five killed. Being in want of gunpowder, and discovering the secret of the explosion of the shells fired by the French artillery, the Tahiti warriors watched for the alighting of the projectiles, when they fearlessly seized them and removed the fuses on the instant before they had time to explode. From each shell or bomb they obtained powder for many musket-charges. The emptied shells they converted into drinking-cups.
“I got up on the edge of the sap and looked through a gap in the gabions made for the field-piece. The outwork in front of me was a sort of double rifle-pit, with the pa or redoubt behind it. The Maoris were in rows, the nearest row only a few yards away from me. I cannot forget the dust-stained faces, bloodshot eyes, and shaggy heads. The muzzles of their guns rested on the edge of the ditch in front of them. One man aimed steadily at me all the time—his name was Wereta.
“Then I said, ‘E hoa ma, whakarongo! Ko te kupu tenei a te Tienara: ka nui tona miharo ki to koutou maia, kati me mutu te riri, puta mai kia matou, kia ora o koutou tinana.’ (‘Friends, listen! This is the word of the General: Great is his admiration of your bravery. Stop! Let the fighting cease; come out to us that your bodies may be saved’).
“I could see the Maoris inclining their heads towards each other in consultation, and in a few minutes came the answer in a clear, firm tone:—
“‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake!’ (‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever!’)*
“Then I said, ‘E pai ana tena mo koutou tangata, engari kahore e tika kia mate nga wahine me nga tamariki. Tukuna mai era’ (‘That is well for you men, but it is not right that the women and children should die. Let them come out’).
“Some one asked, ‘Na te aha koe i mohio he wahine kei konei?’ (‘How did you know there were women here?’)
“I answered, ‘I rongo ahau ki te tangi tupapaku i te po’ (‘I heard the lamentations for the dead in the night’).
“There was a short deliberation, and another voice made answer:—
“‘Ki te mate nga tane, me mate ano nga wahine me nga tamariki’ (‘If the men die, the women and children must die also’).
“I knew it was over, for there was no disposition on the part of the Maoris to parley; so I said, ‘E pai ana, kua mutu te kupu’ (‘It is well; the word is ended’), and dropped quickly into the sap.
“Wereta, the man who had been aiming at me, was determined to have the last say in the matter, and he fired at me. His bullet just tipped my right shoulder, cutting my revolver-strap and tearing a hole in my tunic. Wereta did not long survive his treachery, for he was killed by a hand-grenade soon after.
“The people in this outwork were Ngati-te-Kohera, of Taupo, under their chief Te Paerata, whose sons, Hone Teri and Hitiri, and his daughter, Ahumai (wife of Wereta), were with him in the trench. There were also some of the Urewera under Piripi te Heuheu. Very few of them escaped.”
* The Maori accounts differ somewhat from Major Mair's in regard to the answers given by the chiefs. A current version of the defenders' reply to the demand to surrender gives it in these words: “Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!” (“We shall fight on, for ever, and ever, and ever!”) The actual phrase of defiance used by Rewi and repeated by the people, according to Ngati-Maniapoto, was “Kore e mau te rongo—ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made—never, never!”)
Raureti Paiaka, the Ngati-Maniapoto survivors state, was the principal intermediary between the council of chiefs, headed by Rewi, and the General's interpreter. A Ngati-te-Kohera account, obtained at Taupo, states that Hauraki Tonganui replied to the first demand for surrender by a refusal, and added, “Hokihoki koutou katoa ki Kihikihi, ka hoki matou ki to matou kainga, me waiho atu Orakau nei” (“Let all of you return to Kihikihi, and we will go to our homes and abandon Orakau”). Te Huia Raureti, son of Raureti te Paiaka, agrees that such a reply was given to the first demand, but says it was uttered by his father, and that it voiced the opinion of Rewi and most of the chiefs. Rewi was at that time sitting inside the parapets, near the north end of the pa. The first message was taken to him by Te Paetai, a man of Ngati-Maniapoto. Rewi himself did not see the interpreter at that time. Some of the chiefs in council proposed to accept the offer of peace, but Rewi and others dissented (they had Rangiriri in their minds), and they proposed that the troops should leave the battlefield, and that the Maoris on their part should evacuate the pa. After discussion it was decided to refuse the General's offer and to continue the defence. Rewi cried, “Kaore e mau te rongo—ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made—never, never!”). Raureti returned to the outer parapet, stood up on the firing-step a few yards from Mair, and delivered this decision, and all the people shouted with one voice, “Kaore e mau te rongo—ake, ake, ake!” Rewi came out to the north-west angle when the final decision had been made, and stood in the trench a few yards in rear of Raureti. “As to the reported words, ‘Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!’” says Te Huia, “I did not hear them uttered.”
The request to send the women and children out of the pa was taken to Rewi, Te Huia Raureti believes, by a Tuhoe man; this probably was Hapurona. But the women did not wait for the decision of the chiefs. Ahumai, a tall handsome young woman, daughter of the old West Taupo chief Te Paerata, stood up and made heroic reply, “If the men are to die, the women and children must die also.” It was her husband, Wereta, who all the time had his gun steadily aimed at Mair.page 394
“Wereta,” says Te Huia, “was standing beside me in the trench while my father, standing on the earthwork a little above me, was speaking to the General's messenger. He was a tattooed man, of the Ngati-te-Kohera. He loaded his gun in a furious hurry and, resting it on the parapet, aimed at the pakeha. As the last words were spoken I saw that Wereta was on the point of firing, and I caught hold of him and tried to pull him back, but he pressed the trigger just as I caught him. His aim, however, was bad through his excitement, or else I diverted it, for the bullet only grazed the pakeha, though the range was so close.” It was Te Huia, therefore, who saved Mair's life that day.*
Now the firing recommenced hotter than ever. The hand-grenades hurled in from the sap-head killed and wounded many. Te Huia says the casualties through the explosion of these bombs numbered scores. The artillery-fire at short range also inflicted losses, besides battering the works. Two attempts to rush the north-west outwork were made by the Waikato Militia and other men, but were repulsed with loss. It was now 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The sap was within a few feet of the outwork. The end was near.
* Neither Mair nor his comrades then knew any of the Maoris; but long after the war the Major, then Judge of the Native Land Court, met the aged Hauraki Tonganui, of Ngati-te-Kohera and Ngati-Tuwharetoa, who reminded him of the day they confronted each other at Orakau. Mair then, after inquiry, came to the conclusion that it was Hauraki who spoke to him from the parapet and delivered the Maori reply to the demand for surrender. No doubt more than one man spoke to Mair. One thing is certain, that Rewi himself did not appear on the ramparts or speak to the interpreter.
The following note is made for the guidance of artists who may essay some day to paint the historic scene at Orakau:—
Te Huia Raureti said (31st May, 1920): “My father, Raureti Paiaka, who delivered the final reply of Rewi and his fellow-chiefs to the British General's demand for their surrender, wore this costume: Shirt and waistcoat, rapaki (waist-garment) of white calico, and a piece of red calico worn like a shawl over the left shoulder, where it was tied, and under the right arm. He wore three hamanu, or cartridge-belts—two round the waist and one over the left shoulder. These were leather belts with wooden boxes each bored for about eighteen cartridges; one of these ammunition-holders came across the breast, one was in front of the waist, and one at the back. Raureti Paiaka was a partly tattooed man with a short greyish beard. He was about the same age as his cousin Rewi.”
Tupotahi described Rewi Maniapoto's war-dress, an historical detail which may also be of use to our artists when the incidents of Orakau come to be painted. “Rewi wore,” he said, “a short parawai, a mat of soft flax, about his waist; over that he had a flax piupiu kilt; he also wore a shirt and waistcoat. In his girdle was a whalebone mere, or patu-paraoa.” Many Maoris wore pakeha waistcoats when fighting, for the reason that the pockets were very convenient for holding percussion caps.
The story of the last day in Orakau imperishably remains as an inspiration to deeds of courage and fortitude. Nowhere in history did the spirit of pure patriotism blaze up more brightly than in that little earthwork redoubt, torn by gun-fire and strewn with dead and dying. The records of our land are rich in episodes of gallant resistance to overwhelming force, but they hold no parallel to Orakau. Suffering the tortures of thirst, half-blinded with dust and powder-smoke, many bleeding from wounds which there was no time to stanch, ringed by a blaze of rifle-fire, with big-gun shells and grenades exploding among them, the grim band of heroes held their crumbling fort till this hour against six times their number of well-armed, well-fed foes. Now they must retreat, but they would go as free men.
Rewi and the chiefs sent round the word. Those who still had cartridges loaded their guns for the last time; others gripped long-handled tomahawks. The sap had been connected with the trench of the outwork, and Ngati-te-Kohera fell back into the main work. The women and children were placed in the middle of the massed warriors, and with the best men in advance to fight a way through they broke down a part of the earthwork on the south-east angle of the pa and rushed out. Only one unwounded man remained in the pa. This was the lay reader, Wi Karamoa Tumanako, of Ngati-Apakura, who stayed to surrender, holding up a stick with a white cloth.*
“Haere! Haere!” shouted Rewi when he ran out from the pa. It was the Maori “Sauve qui peut.” But the people preserved a solid formation for some distance, going at a steady trot, as a survivor narrates, and there was some firing from both flanks. By this time the soldiers in the sap-head had rushed into the pa, and some were firing at the retreating Maoris from the parapets. The last to leave the fort encountered the bayonet, and the troops on either side closed in towards the natives; but here the hesitation to fire for fear of hitting each other was the salvation of many of the Maoris.
* Wi Karamoa was the only man who advocated acceptance of the General's offer. When the council of chiefs resolved to continue the defence of the pa he stood up and declared that he would make peace. Rewi and his fellow-chiefs told him that they would not suffer their people to be made prisoners. “Wait until we have left the pa,” said Rewi, “then you can make your own peace.”
“At 3.30 the enemy suddenly came out of their entrenchments into the open, and in a silent and compact body moved without precipitation. There was something mysterious in their appearance as they advanced towards the cordon of troops, without fear, without firing a shot, or a single cry being heard even from the women, of whom there were several among them.”—(Journals of Lieut.-Colonel D. J. Gamble, D.Q.M.G., published by the War Office.)
The main body of the fugitives made for the dip in the lower end of the ridge, just to the east of the hill on which the Orakau blockhouse was afterwards built. Here there was a steep fall of 20 or 30 feet to the fern flat at the edge of the manuka swamp. Along the lower face of the ridge there was a scarped bank with a ditch, made by the Maoris to keep the wild pigs out of the cultivations. Immediately below this was a thin cordon of soldiers, men of the 40th Regiment, under Colonel Leslie; others were employed at the edge of the swamp cutting manuka for sap-gabions. Before the leading men had reached the edge of the dip the close body of fugitives had been broken up into groups and the pace became a run.
Yelling and shouting in pursuit came the soldiers, the various corps all mixed up, eager for a final shot at their enemies. Down over the gully-rim poured the fugitives. The surprised 40th were unable to stay the rush, although they shot or bayoneted some of the leaders. A man named Puhipi was killed in penetrating the line, and the foremost men momentarily hesitated; but Raureti Paiaka and his comrade Te Makaka dashed at the nearest soldiers and broke through, and the rest of the fugitives followed them. As the leaders leaped down over the scarped bank Raureti shot two soldiers, one with each barrel, close to the ditch. He received a slight wound in this dash for freedom. Another man who distinguished himself was the half-caste Pou-patate, a tall, athletic young man (his figure is stalwart to day, but he is quite blind). “Pou-patate was a hero that day,” says Te Huia. “He was a very quick, active man in breaking through the line of troops.” Another warrior, Te Kohika, uncle to Te Huia, was armed with a gun, but his ammunition was all expended. Glancing back as he rushed through the cordon for the swamp, he saw a Maori fall, shot dead, and thinking it might be his brother he stopped and turned back. He was surrounded by a group of soldiers, who tore his gun from him and tried to bayonet him, but, leaping aside, he escaped. His knee was badly hurt by a blow with the butt of a rifle. A shot at very close quarters missed him, but so narrowly that the powder scorched his bare shoulder. He reached the swamp, where he lay concealed in the manuka until night, and then he hobbled along to the Puniu, suffering great pain from his injured knee, and joined the survivors on the south side of the river. As for Rewi, his retreat through the swamp of death was safeguarded by a devoted body-guard consisting of twelve of his kinsmen, including Raureti Paiaka and his son Te Huia, Pou-patate, Matena te Paetai, Rangi-toheriri, and Tamehana.
Pou-patate, describing the flight, gave a dramatic narrative page 397 of his retreat with Rewi to the gully and through the swamp from which the Manga-ngarara Stream flows to the Puniu. “The bullets,” he said, “were flying all around us; they whistled whi-u! whi-u! about my ears. When we were in the manuka the tops of the bushes were cut off by the bullets, swishing like a storm through the swamp. Yet not one touched me. I saw Hepi Kahotea shot dead there. The soldiers were massed all along the Karaponia ridge, firing down into the manuka and raupo. There were hundreds of rifles blazing into us. Then, on the other side of the swamp were more foot soldiers and some mounted men hurrying round to cut us off.”
Rewi escaped unwounded. He and his tribe suffered less than the Urewera and the Ngati-te-Kohera, whom he had vainly tried to dissuade from the building of the challenge fort at Orakau. Many years after the war, standing on the sacred soil of Orakau pa, he gave a narrative of the siege. His story of the last day and the flight to the Puniu reveals the curious mingling of ancient and modern religious beliefs in the Maori mind, and the reversion to the ancient faith in hours of peril when the soul of man is laid bare.
“Wetea mai te whiwhi,
Wetea mai te hara,
Wetea mai te tawhito,
Wetea kia mataratara,
Tawhito te rangi, ta taea.”
[In this karakia Rewi besought his Maori gods to remove from him all sins or transgressions of which he or his male relatives might have been guilty.]
“Tupe runga, tupe raro, tupe haha,
Kei kona koe tu mai ai,
Ki konei au rere ake ai,
Rere huruhuru, rere a newa a te rangi.”
[This karakia was used by the Maoris when after a battle the defeated warriors were being pursued by the victors. A chief singled out one of the enemy for pursuit, and this charm had the effect of causing the pursued one to fall or stop to page 398 be captured. Rewi used it here with the object of stopping the pursuit by the soldiers. The translation of the expression beginning “Kei kona koe tu mai ai” is “Remain there where you are. I will flee on from here, fly like a bird, rising high towards the heavens.”]
“I went on across the fern slope towards the swamp,” continued Rewi. “I was not yet clear of the soldiers. There were three parties of them. My only weapon was a short-handled tomahawk. I had dropped my two guns when I fell down; my younger brother took them. I called out to some of my people who were a little ahead of me and who had guns, ‘Come here; one of you fire there’; to another, ‘Fire over there’; to one who was standing close to me I said, ‘You fire right in here.’ We descended the hill and jumped down over the bank. We were fired upon here, but although the soldiers were close they did not hit us, as we were over them and they had to fire upwards. At my call one of my companions shot a soldier who had fired at me. The soldiers gave way before us, and we rushed down into the swamp. My comrades kept firing as we went on. The troops were on either side of us, on the high ground, firing across at us as we fled through the manuka. Now I prayed again. I uttered the words, ‘Matiti, matata!’ That was all my prayers.*
* “Split up! Open up!” is the meaning of this magic formula, which is used only in the last extremity. In Maori mythology it was the charm uttered by the Arawa hero Hatupatu when making his escape from the clutches of the witch-goddess Kura-ngaituku—“Kura-of-the-claws.” The ogress was about to seize him when he came to a great rock—it is identified to-day with a curious volcanic rock by the roadside at Ngatuku Hill, near Atiamuri—and exclaiming, “Matiti, matata!” the rock opened to receive him, and closed after him. To the Maori the expression carries the significance of the Christian hymn “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.” Fortunately for Rewi, this “open sesame” proved as successful as in Hatupatu's case; at any rate, he escaped unscathed when his comrades were falling all round him.
The Forest Rangers and the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry with some of Rait's Royal Artillery troopers had pushed on along the line of steep-faced hills on the south-eastern side of the long swamp in order to cut off the retreat. Von Tempsky was at his post in the valley on the eastern side of the pa when the loud cheering from the hill and the intensified volume of rifle-fire told him that at last the Maoris had broken cover. The pa ridge was thickly veiled in gunpowder-smoke, and the heavy rattle of musketry was uninterrupted. The Rangers, led by Von Tempsky and Lieutenant Roberts, dashed off southward along the Ngamako ridge, crossing small gullies and swamps, and came within shot of the fugitives as their foremost men ascended a sharp spur of fern land called Ti-kiore. The Armstrong gun on the Karaponia ridge threw some shells into the body of fugitives. The cavalry headed the Maori leaders off into the swamps again by a rough cross-country gallop, but as the first of the troopers, Rait's men, to come up with the natives had only revolvers besides their swords, they were compelled to stand off when the fugitives turned on them with their double-barrel guns, killing one or two horses and wounding some men. The Rangers by this time, having taken a short-cut across the broken ground, began to drop Maori after Maori with their accurate carbine-fire. Many warriors were shot down after delivering their last barrel. The troopers were out-distanced by the strong runners of Von Tempsky's and Jackson's corps. “There was Roberts ahead of us all,” wrote Von Tempsky in his journal, “with Thorpe, of Jackson's company, and two or three others, the fleetest of the corps. That day I christened Roberts ‘Deerfoot’ as I panted behind him, bellowing my lungs out in shouting to the men and directing the pursuit.” The Rangers followed their game for several miles; some of them crossed to the south side of the Puniu in the eagerness of the chase. About a hundred men of various regiments who had followed the escaping garrison through the swamp, using their Enfields, joined in the pursuit along the ridges to the Puniu, but they could not keep up with the Rangers, who could load their breech-loading carbines as they ran. It was dusk when the pursuit ended, at the sound of the distant bugles, and the Rangers, on recrossing the Puniu, met Colonel Havelock collecting the troops for the return to camp.page 400
As the straggling pursuers marched back across the broken country they found several of their victims. One mortally wounded Maori, raving with thirst and fear, they tended and carried along till he died. Another was borne campward till he, too, expired from his terrible wounds. Some of the 3rd Waikato Militia were also succouring the wounded, and they and the Rangers carried into Orakau a warrior with a broken thigh.
At the camp-fires were told some of the episodes in the first rushing of the pa. Dead and wounded lay about the pa. Among the wounded were several women, and even these did not escape the bayonets of the maddened Imperials. The colonial troops behaved better. In the flight to the Puniu a half-caste girl, shot through the arm, was on the point of being bayoneted by a soldier when a Forest Ranger saved her; and Von Tempsky's favourite scout, Sergeant Southee, protected another. In the pa, however, there was a pitiful tragedy. Mr. Mair, rushing in with the stormers, found some Regulars about to bayonet a wounded woman who had scraped away the light layer of earth covering the body of her slain husband for a last look at him, weeping as she brushed the soil from his face. Mair tried to beat the men back with his carbine, and knocked one of them into the ditch; then he turned to attend to the poor woman. She was Hine-i-turama, a high chieftainess of the Arawa people, ninth in direct descent from Hinemoa, and celebrated as a composer of songs; she had been the wife of Hans Tapsel, the trader of Maketu, and on coming to Orakau to visit her daughter, the wife of Dr. Hooper, had been detained by the Kingites, and married another man, Ropata, who fell in the siege. Mr. Mair carried her to an angle, and then went to attend to another wounded woman; but when he returned Hine-i-turama had been bayoneted to death by some brutal soldiers in avengement of fallen comrades.*
* Major Mair said, “There was great indignation in camp at Te Awamutu over the bayoneting of the woman Hine-i-turama, and I went with Lieutenant Albert Jackson, of the 18th Regiment, through the tents of one regiment hoping to detect the men, but I could not identify them.”
The British casualties in the three days battle were seventeen killed or died from wounds and fifty-two wounded. The dead were buried in the English Mission Churchyard at Te Awamutu.
* Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., narrates another incident of heroism in this retreat from Orakau. In the year 1888 he was interpreting an account given by Hitiri te Paerata in Parliament House, Wellington, describing the Battle of Orakau. Major Jackson, M.H.R. for Waipa, who at Orakau commanded No. 1 Company of the Forest Rangers, asked, “Who was the Maori in the white shirt whom I was chasing?” It was stated that this Maori was assisting a young woman who was wounded to escape. Hitiri remembered the incident. The young Maori warrior described succeeded in helping this girl, who was wounded in the thigh, through the cordon of soldiers, and through the swamp and scrub to the Puniu. He kept his pursuers in check by repeatedly turning, kneeling down, and aiming his gun at them, while the girl hobbled on towards the river and safety. At last the pair crossed the Puniu, and in the Maori country they came to a sheltered place where there was a grove of peach-trees. There they remained, resting, and living on the peaches, until the girl was able to travel to her people.
“Well, what happened?” Hitiri was asked.
“Oh, nothing happened; but what I was going to tell you was that the Maori's gun was unloaded all the time. He had not a charge left when he knelt down and kept the troops off with his levelled tupara.”
Ahumai was the woman who made the heroic reply at Orakau that the women would die with the men. She was very severely wounded in the retreat. In the following year she saved the life of Lieutenant Meade, R.N., who was in danger of death at the hands of the Ngati-Raukawa Hauhaus, near Taupo.
Paitini, describing his experience in the retreat, said: “I fired a shot and brought down a soldier as we descended the steep bank above the manuka swamp. In fact, I dropped down the bank on to the man I shot, and I could not recover my double-barrel gun. A soldier shot me in the left thigh, causing a very bad wound. I managed to reach the cover of the manuka and went slowly along toward the Puniu, bleeding very much and in great pain. Many of our wounded lay out in the swamp all that night and next day. My father was killed in the retreat, outside the pa. He was behind me; I did not see him fall. Our chief Piripi te Heuheu was killed in the pa. Paraki Wereta, now living at Te Umuroa, escaped from Orakau unwounded.”*
Peita Kotuku, who is part Ngati-Maniapoto and part Patuheuheu, was a member of the Urewera contingent. He narrates that a pora, a thick shaggy shoulder-cape of flax, which he was wearing deflected one or two bullets that struck him. Four of his mother's people, the Patu-heuheu, were killed in the battle; one was his uncle Peita, whose name he took in memory. The old chief Paerau, of Tuhoe, escaped, and, like Peita, became a strong Hauhau partisan.
Ngati-Maniapoto did not suffer so severely as the other clans—at any rate, none of their leading chiefs was killed. Tupotahi had his collar-bone broken by a bullet when he was leaving the pa. The wiry old chief, a small-framed man like Rewi, narrated that the bullet went out at the back of his right shoulder, and the arm hung helpless. He picked up his gun in his felt hand, and ran on after his comrades, supporting his right arm by clenching the fingers between the teeth. At last he had to drop his gun and support his right hand and arm with his left, and so hurried on to the swamp. Men fell all around him, but he was not hit again. Half-dead with pain and loss of blood and tortured with thirst, he lay in the manuka for some time unable to move. At last, when it was dark, he rose and struggled on through the scrub to the Puniu. With many of the other wounded he was taken to the Otewa Village, on the Waipa, where his hurt was tended. Some of the survivors gathered at Korakonui and Wharepapa, a few miles south of the Puniu; others of Ngati-Maniapoto returned to Hangatiki.
* Statement by Paitini te Whatu, to the writer, at Omakoi, Urewera country, 23rd January, 1921.
From a photo by G. Bourne]
After Fifty Years
Ngati-Maniapoto survivors of the war, at the jubilee gathering on the battlefield of Orakau, 1st April, 1914. All but Hekiera shared in the defence of Orakau pa, and fought through to the Puniu River in the retreat.
The present main road from Kihikihi eastward toward Maunga-tautari passes through the site of Orakau pa. A stone monument on the roadside now marks the spot. The only trace on the roadway of the olden entrenchment is part of a ditch on the southern side of the road-cutting. Just inside the fence of the field on the northern side, where the north-east angle of the pa stood, there is a large mound surrounded by uneven lines of depression, indicating trenches. This is where forty Maoris were buried in the outer trench by the troops. This sacred spot was fenced in over fifty years ago by the then owner of Orakau, Mr. W. A. Cowan, and was planted with blue-gums; but the little cemetery is now part of a paddock, and the fence and the memorial trees have disappeared. Great poplar-trees, planted about the same time, line the southern side of the road. For many years after the war the bullet-riddled peach-trees stood dotted about the battlefield. The outlines of the British sap of 1864 are now indistinguishable except for a few yards in the field on the north side of the road where a slight depression in the turf indicates the olden trench towards the position on the round of the hill. Te Huia Raureti, when pointing out the line of the sap, said it was started in a peach-grove in the western side of the gentle rise about 150 yards from the pa. The first trench ran northward, parallel to the west flank, for a few yards and crossed the line of the present road; then the sap was directed toward the north-west angle of the fort and zigzagged (haere ko piko piko ana) easterly, parallel with the road. The sap was traversed every few yards, and was cut with many turns. There were also demi-parallels, occupied by the covering-parties of riflemen. The sap was not very deep, said the old warrior, but the soldiers digging it were sheltered by means of peke oneone (gabions, large wicker baskets made of manuka and filled with earth from the trench) placed along the edge of the ditch for head-cover. At the head of the sap as it went on they rolled along a peke rakau—a sap-roller—made of green manuka tightly bound together, 4 or 5 feet in thickness, for protection from the Maoris' fire. There was a good deal of cover on the ground traversed by the sap—peach-trees and flax and fern.
Among the wounded prisoners taken at Orakau (2nd April, 1864) was a young warrior named Tipene te Waru, whose after-career was rather remarkable. He was taken to the military hospital at Te Awamutu, where his left arm was amputated by Dr. Spenser, and on recovering was sent home to his people at Wairoa, Hawke's Bay. His father, Te Waru Tamatea, of Marumaru, was the leader of the small Ngati-Kahungunu contingent which had joined the Urewera war-party. Tipene took revenge for the loss of his arm by joining the Hauhaus when the Pai-marire war- page 407 faith reached the Wairoa in 1865. His history is related by Captain G. A. Preece, N.Z.C., in the following note (15th July, 1922):—
“This man, Tipene te Waru, who had lost his left arm from a wound at Orakau, fought against us at Manga-aruhe or Omaru-hakeke on Christmas Day, 1865, and at Te Kopane, near Lake Waikare-moana, on the 18th January, 1866. The elder Te Waru and all his tribe surrendered to us about February, 1866, and after the lands were confiscated they and the Waiau natives were allowed to go back to their settlements at Whataroa and the Waiau Valley (south of the lake), where they remained quietly until after Te Kooti landed on his escape from the Chatham Islands in 1868. Indeed, after the fight at Ruakituri (inland of Gisborne) Te Waru pretended to be loyal, and came to Wairoa and got twenty stand of rifles to protect himself against Te Kooti, and professed to give information as to his (Te Kooti's) movements. This continued up to the time he murdered Karaitiana Roto-a-Tara and his three fellow-scouts at Whataroa in October, 1868. Te Waru (the elder) himself was not present when the scouts were treacherously killed in the whare given them, but it was prearranged. His brother Reihana or Horotiu [afterwards notorious as Te Kooti's ‘butcher,’ or executioner of prisoners] actually committed the murders, but they were all implicated. Te Waru, Tipene te Waru, Reihana or Horotiu, Hemi Raho, another brother, and the whole of the hapu then living (about forty people in all) came out of the Urewera country at Horomanga and surrendered to me at Fort Galatea, on the Rangitaiki, on the 9th December, 1870. When I was Resident Magistrate at Opotiki in 1877 Te Waru and the little tribe were living at Waiotahi, where they had been given some land. In that year Tipene te Waru, while out pig-hunting, ran a manuka stake through his right foot, and got in such a bad way that he was sent to the Auckland Hospital. However, he got mokemoke (lonely, home-sick) there, and returned to Opotiki, and at last the leg had to be amputated. Dr. Reed, assisted by Captain Northcroft, N.Z.C., took it off. We got a wooden leg for him from Sydney, and the one-armed and one-legged warrior used to ride all over the country. I think Hemi Raho was allowed to return to Wairoa, but none of the other members of the rebel tribe went back to their old homes, and I paid them a sum of £400 or £500 for all their interests in the Wairoa lands.”
Another wounded prisoner taken at Orakau proved less amenable to the surgeon's skill. This was an old man named Te Wiremu, who had his thigh broken by a bullet from Mr. Mair's carbine. Mair took a friendly interest in Te Wiremu in the hospital at Te Awamutu, but the old warrior was determined to die. “He defied the doctors and hospital attendants to the end,” Mair wrote. “Nor could the chaplains make anything of him. One day he would call himself a ‘missionary,’ and the next he was a ‘Catholic’; indeed, he succeeded in establishing something like a coolness between the worthy representatives of the two denominations. He was buried in Te Awamutu churchyard with the other prisoners who died of wounds. The men of the 65th Regiment, who held the Maori people in great esteem, erected a head-board over the grave, bearing an inscription written by Bishop Selwyn.”