The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 12: THE SIEGE OF WAERENGA-A-HIKA
Chapter 12: THE SIEGE OF WAERENGA-A-HIKA
THE NORTHERN PART of the East Coast district pacified, it was now possible to begin operations for the defeat of Hauhauism in the Poverty Bay country. Here the position was serious, for the greater part of the native population had fallen to the fascinations of Pai-marire and accepted the new religion, and several hundreds of men had fortified themselves in a strong pa within rifle-shot of the English mission house at Waerenga-a-Hika (“Hika's Clearing”), about seven miles from the present Town of Gisborne. Others occupied two fortified villages further inland, Pukeamionga and Kohanga-Karearea (“The Sparrowhawk's Nest”).
At the end of October, 1865, Mr. Donald McLean, Superintendent of the Province of Hawke's Bay, who had urged the Government to take speedy measures against the Hauhaus of Turanganui, visited Tuparoa in order to enlist Ngati-Porou's assistance in the campaign. In the meantime H.M.S. “Brisk” landed at Poverty Bay a force consisting of the Hawke's Bay Cavalry (Colonial Defence Force) under Captain La Serre, and some Military Settlers under Lieutenant Wilson. Major Fraser and Captain Biggs were also despatched to the bay with their East Cape expeditionary force. Mr. McLean met Hotene Porourangi and Ropata Wahawaha and requested their co-operation in the military work at Turanganui, with the result that three hundred Ngati-Porou volunteered and were taken to the bay by steamer. At Turanganui Mr. McLean sent messages by Hauhau chiefs to the rebel sections of Rongowhakaata and Aitanga-a-Mahaki, warning them that unless they came in and made submission to the Government they would be attacked and deprived of their lands and homes. This offer met with no response, and Major Fraser was then directed to begin operations for the reduction of the enemy fortifications.
In the middle of November the Government force, numbering between a hundred and fifty and two hundred Europeans and three hundred Maoris, moved on Waerenga-a-Hika and took up positions page 126 on three sides of the pa. The fortification was built on level land, with a swampy lagoon in rear; in front was the mission station, 300 yards distant. The Hauhau pa consisted of three lines of defence—the outer stockade (wita), the main fence (tuwatawata), and the earth breastwork (parepare). The wita was a sloping fence, about 6 feet high, its top nearly touching the tuwatawata, its base inclining outward 2 feet or 3 feet. Only the main timbers of the wita were in the ground; the rest of the stakes did not touch the earth, but left an opening of about a foot at the bottom as firing-space for the riflemen behind the tuwatawata, which was a stout palisade 10 feet high. Inside it was the earth parepare about 4 feet 6 inches high. In many forts there was also a parakiri, a third stockade, strongly built of stout tree-trunks solidly set in the ground.
Major Fraser occupied the Bishop's house at the mission station as his headquarters, and some of the best shots sniped at the pa from the roof. The Colonial Defence Force and Military Settlers entrenched themselves behind a hawthorn hedge which commanded two faces of the pa, and the Forest Rangers, under Captain Westrup, took up their position on ground near the lagoon.
The siege of the pa occupied seven days. In order to hasten the reduction of the stronghold Lieutenant Wilson and thirty of his Military Settlers were sent to the northern face of the stockade, where a sap was commenced and carried close up to the fort. Here they were attacked by a large body of Hauhau reinforcements from one of the other villages, and came under a very heavy fire from this body as well as from the pa, when they charged with fixed bayonets back to the main body. In this dash Wilson's force had six men killed and five wounded.
Next day (Sunday) the Hauhaus, after the devotions round the niu pole, moved out from the pa in three strong bodies and charged with fanatic determination on the men holding the hawthorn hedge. They came holding up the right hand, palm to the front, in the attitude of warding off or catching the pakeha's bullets. Shouting their Pai-marire war-cries, some of them rushed up to the opposite side of the hedge and fired through into the men in the trench. The reply was vigorous, and was supported by the body in camp. The Hauhaus came on almost up to the rifle-muzzles only to be shot down in scores. They were repulsed, leaving about sixty dead on the field. The Government forces lost none.
There were some hand-to-hand encounters during the fighting. On one occasion three Hauhau braves sallied out and challenged their enemies in the open. Young Tuta Nihoniho and two of his Ngati-Porou comrades rushed at them. Tutu was armed with page 127 a Minie rifle and fixed bayonet; his opponent had a long huata or spear. The Hauhau made a lunge and speared him in the left hand, but Tutu killed his foe with a bayonet-thrust through the body.
After a week's constant fighting Major Fraser decided to try artillery on the pa. The only gun he had was a 6-pounder brought ashore from the steamer “Sturt.” There was some ineffectual firing in incompetent hands, until Thomas Porter (afterwards Colonel Porter), of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, turned his experience as a midshipman in the Royal Navy to account by taking charge of the gun and rigging proper tackle to prevent the recoil capsizing it. There was no shot for it, so salmon-tins were used as cases for shrapnel charges. Two rounds were accurately fired into the pa, and this rough-and-ready but efficient bombardment produced the required effect. The garrison hoisted a white flag and surrendered. A number escaped through the swamp in rear of the pa, but four hundred laid down their arms and gave themselves up as prisoners.
“They could scarcely be recognized as men as they came out after their long defence,” said a member of Ngati-Porou, who had fought at Waerenga-a-Hika; “they were covered with mud, and their hair was long and shaggy.”
The Hauhau losses in this siege, which ended on the 22nd November, 1865, were more than a hundred killed, besides several scores wounded. The Government casualties were eleven killed and twenty wounded.
The capture of Waerenga-a-Hika, followed by the destruction of the fortified position, completely settled the Pai-marire revolt in Poverty Bay. The Hauhau fugitives from the district took refuge in the Wairoa district, in the northern part of Hawke's Bay, and it presently became necessary to open a campaign there. Most of the prisoners taken were released, but a number of the most troublesome of the Rongowhakaata and the Aitanga-a-Mahaki were transported to Chatham Island for safe-keeping until the coast was tranquillized.
During the fighting at Waerenga-a-Hika a man of the Rongowhakaata named Te Kooti Rikirangi, serving on the Government side, was made a prisoner by one of the friendly chiefs on suspicion of treachery. It was declared that he had been removing the bullets from his cartridges and firing only blank at the enemy. He was also accused of being in communication with the Hauhaus. Rikirangi, as he was generally known at that time, strenuously denied these charges, and after some time was released. Later, however, he was arrested on other charges, and although not convicted or even brought to trial, was regarded as too turbulent and unreliable a character to be at liberty, and was therefore page 128 shipped off to Wharekauri (Chatham Island) with a number of other prisoners of war. This act of punishment, whether justifiable or not, cost the country dear in lives and money, for Te Kooti made his escape two years later and exacted a fearful revenge. The story of his many and often amazing adventures and his campaigns is narrated in this volume, beginning with Chapter 24, in which his escape from exile by seizing the schooner “Rifleman” is described.
Captain G. A. Preece, N.Z.C., writes: “Te Kooti was not the only friendly native who was deported to the Chatham Islands on a charge of supplying the rebels with ammunition. In March, 1866, Rewi te Nahu, a sub-chief of the Ngati-Kurupakiaka Tribe, was arrested at Wairoa (H.B.) on a charge of sending ammunition to the Hauhaus. There was a small force of the Native Contingent kept on regular pay at Wairoa and used for despatch-carrying and scouting under Captain Deighton, R.M., and myself. Two companies of the 12th Regiment, under Captains Crawhall and Dawson, were stationed at Wairoa, between the ground where the hospital now is and the Wairoa Hotel; they were only engaged on garrison duty. Rewi te Nahu was arrested and placed in a guard-tent borrowed from the 12th Regiment, and put under a guard of the Native Contingent, pending further action. The Poverty Bay prisoners and the bad characters amongst those who had surrendered to us at the East Cape in October, 1865, were being sent to the Chatham Islands under instructions from Mr. McLean. Rewi te Nahu was sent up to Napier under charge of Privates Kereama and Piha, who formed part of the guard to the Chathams. He remained a prisoner at Wharekauri until Te Kooti escaped. Some time in 1871 he surrendered to the officer commanding at Wairoa, and was always a well-behaved man after that. This has never to my knowledge been published before; it shows that in those days men who were supposed to be friendly and were acting otherwise were dealt with more severely than those who were fighting against us openly.”