The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 20: OPENING OF TITOKOWARU'S CAMPAIGN
Chapter 20: OPENING OF TITOKOWARU'S CAMPAIGN
THE YEAR 1867 was one of comparative quiet in Taranaki, troubled only by Maori interference with the survey of the confiscated lands, and by large gatherings of the Hauhau tribes at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu and other bush villages. It was now that Titokowaru, chief of the Nga-Ruahine Tribe, of the Waimate Plains, became prominent as the priest and prophet of his people, and gradually gathered to himself an enterprising body of warriors, the pick of the fighting-men of Nga-Ruahine, Ngati-Ruanui, Ngati-Tupaea, Pakakohi, and Nga-Rauru. Titokowaru in one of his speeches early in 1867 announced a truce in these figurative words: “Whakarongo, whakarongo mai e te iwi! Tenei te tau tamahine, tenei te tau o te Rameti” (“Hearken, hearken, all ye people! This is the year of the daughters, this in the year of the lamb”). But the lamb-like peace was only the prelude to the most ferocious fighting in the Taranaki campaigns. Titokowaru presently employed himself in travelling from kainga to kainga and explaining the new scheme of campaign, which consisted in making surprise attacks on small isolated military posts, in laying ambuscades, and in enticing the white troops into the depths of the forest, where the Maori warrior would have the advantage. Had such a man as Titokowaru led the Taranaki tribes in the earlier campaigns the task of the British troops would have been infinitely more difficult. He was the most skilful warrior that the West Coast produced in the Hauhau wars; no Maori leader but Te Kooti was his superior in military capacity. He had fought in the first of the Hauhau rising, and had lost an eye through a bullet-wound at Sentry Hill in 1864. A tohunga schooled in the lore of ancient Maoridom, he revived the practices of the cannibal era and the half-forgotten rites of paganism, which, conjoined to some of the ceremonies of the Pai-marire, imparted to the campaign under his generalship a new and bitter ferocity. He revived the worship of Uenuku and Tu, the Maori gods of battle—the rite of propitiation of the deities with a human heart torn from the page 180 first slain in a battle. Although he himself did not take part in cannibal feasts, for the reason that in his belief the eating of human flesh would impair his personal sanctity, or mana-tapu, he encouraged his followers to do so, and on several occasions in the latter part of 1868 and the early weeks of 1869 the bodies of slain soldiers of the colonial forces were cut up, cooked, and eaten in his forest camps. “Even the winds of heaven are Titoko's,” said his followers. The whakarua, the north-west breeze, was the breath of Uenuku, his war-god and his familiar spirit, and when it prevailed it was a fitting time to despatch a fighting expedition.
In May, 1868, trouble began to develop on the plains. Some of Titokowaru's young men stole several horses belonging to Mr. James Livingston (of Waipapa, near Hawera) and other settlers, and when Mr. Booth, the Magistrate at Patea, went to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu to claim the horses he found the chiefs defiant. (The natives say that the horses taken were really Maori horses looted by the military settlers.) Booth issued a warrant for the arrest of Toi Whakataka and Haowhenua, Titokowaru's two principal fighting chiefs, and requested Colonel McDonnell to execute it. On the evening of the 11th May McDonnell marched in to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu with a hundred men, and, leaving his armed force just outside the village, met the chiefs and discussed the matter of the stolen animals. Peace prevailed for the time, and two of the three horses were brought in to the Waihi camp; but Mr. Booth presently precipitated further trouble by arresting three men on charges of theft. Warnings that war would soon be commenced, in the customary way, by the ambuscading of stragglers or the murder of settlers, reached the authorities, but little notice was taken of them. One officer, however, was on his guard. This was Captain (afterwards Colonel) W. E. Gudgeon, who was stationed with his company at Waihi. “At 3 o'clock one morning in June, in my tent at Waihi,” he narrated to the writer, “I was awakened by Katene Tu-whakaruru, the celebrated scout and warrior, who told me he had come to warn me. He said, ‘Do not go out to-day or you will be killed.’ I had intended to go to a whare I had on a section near Waihi. He would tell me no more, but repeated his warning and returned to the Hauhau camp. In the morning I informed Mr. Booth, the Resident Magistrate, and asked him to warn the settlers, as it was evident that Titokowaru's people were about to begin mischief. Booth took no notice of my counsel. That very afternoon Cahill (who had been a sergeant-major under me) and two other sawyers were killed by Titokowaru's men, Katene among them. Katene's warning undoubtedly saved my life, and the others would have been saved had the Magistrate not disregarded my advice.”page 181
This tragic opening of the new campaign occurred on the 19th June on the block called Te Rauna, a portion of the confiscated lands close to the east side of the Wai-ngongoro River and near the Maori settlement Mawhitiwhiti. The three military settlers, Cahill, Clark, and Squires, were engaged in felling and sawing timber in the bush when they were suddenly attacked by Haowhenua, Katene, and several other men, who fired a volley into them from ambush and then tomahawked them. The Maoris claimed that the timber and the land were theirs, and they were determined to kill intruders. Warnings to quit had been disregarded by the settlers.
When the news of this deed—clearly a prelude to war—reached the Waihi garrison, a despatch was sent off to recall McDonnell, who had gone to Wanganui. The outlying settlers were warned, and preparations were made against an attack. The force in the district at this critical hour was quite inadequate for page 182 field operations, and McDonnell, hurrying to Wellington, obtained the consent of the Defence Minister, Colonel Haultain, to enlist immediately four hundred men, including a hundred Wanganui natives, for three months' service. In this way several companies were raised in Wellington and elsewhere and hastily drilled for the imminent campaign.
The slaughter of the three bushmen was quickly followed by the killing and savage mutilation of a man of the mounted corps of the Armed Constabulary within sight of Waihi Redoubt. This man, Trooper Smith, had gone out to the edge of the bush to search for his horse. He was shot down from ambush and tomahawked. A detachment was sent out at the double, but all they found when they reached the spot was half the body of the poor trooper. The legs were lying on the ground, but the upper part of the body had been carried off by the Hauhaus to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, where it was cooked and eaten. This deed of frightfulness, intended to strike terror into the whites, was the first of the series of man-eating exploits by Titokowaru's warriors, chiefly a few of the older men, who welcomed the revival of the olden practice of kai-tangata.
In an intimidating letter intended for the pakehas, sent a few days afterwards to a semi-friendly chief at Mawhitiwhiti, Titokowaru boasted of having eaten human flesh, but his use of the first person singular need not be taken literally; he was referring to his cannibal band in general. “Cease travelling on the roads,” he wrote; “cease entirely travelling on the roads that lead to Mangamanga (the Waihi camp), lest ye be left upon the roads as food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the field, or for me. For I have eaten man—I have begun to eat the flesh of the white man; I have eaten him like the flesh of the cow, cooked in the pot; all have eaten him, even the women and the children. My throat is continually open for the eating of human flesh by day and by night.”
On the 20th June an ambuscade laid on the track near Waihi for the ration cart convoy resulted in a skirmish in which a sergeant and ten men fought a large party of Hauhaus until reinforcements arrived. Two troopers were wounded, and the Hauhaus had two of their number killed. The garrison of Waihi was now reinforced by the arrival of Rifle Volunteers from Wellington. Many of them were young recruits who had too little time for training before they were called upon for the most trying of all fighting—skirmishing in the bush against practised Maori warriors.
Kimble Bent was an American by birth; his native town was Eastport, State of Maine, U.S.A., and he was the son of a shipbuilder and a young half-breed woman of the Musqua Indian tribe. In his youth he spent three years in a United States training-frigate. In 1859 he enlisted in England in the 57th Regiment, the old “Die-hards” he was then twenty-two years of age. After the regiment came to New Zealand from India his impatience of strict discipline culminated in insubordination, which brought him to a court-martial in the camp at Manawapou, in South Taranaki, in the early part of 1864. For refusal to obey a corporal's orders he received a flogging of twenty-five lashes at the triangles, followed by a period of imprisonment. This severe punishment sent him to the Maoris as soon as he found an opportunity of deserting. He stole away from the camp in the winter of 1865, and a Maori chief, Tito te Hanatua, who found him, took him to the palisaded pa Ohangai, on the Hauhau side of the Tangahoe River. The Ngati-Ruanui Tribe received him with savage ceremonies, and he became Tito's protégé. The prophet Te Ua befriended him, and bade the tribe give hospitality to any soldier who deserted to them from the pakeha forces. At Taiporohenui, Keteonetea, Otapawa, and other stockaded villages of the Ngati-Ruanui Bent lived with his rangatira, taking his share in all the work of the community; he had imagined for himself a life of leisure among the natives, but he soon found that he was little better than a slave. Among a less intelligent and forceful people than the Maoris perhaps he would have realized his ambition of an easy life and a position of authority; as it was, he found his level, which was that of a servant. He was compelled to labour in the plantations and in the building of fortifications, and all the other heavy labour of the tribal life. His special skill was made use of in repairing the Maoris’ guns, and for several years he was Ngati-Ruanui's chief armourer and cartridge-maker. His first Maori name was “Ringiringi,” which Titokowaru, his master and protector for many years, afterwards changed to “Tu-nui-a-moa,” an ancestral name, by which Bent was known among the natives until his death at Blenheim, in the South Island, in 1917.page 185
The field headquarters of the colonial forces in Taranaki at this time was the Waihi Redoubt, an important post of the Armed Constabulary, until the close of the Parihaka trouble in the early “eighties.” The site of the redoubt at Waihi, with its loopholed walls, blockhouses, and observation-tower, is now a farm, Section 45, Block V, Hawera Survey District. The first fort was erected in 1866; the second, much larger and more substantial, was completed in the early “seventies.” It was a rectangular work of heavy timbers, enclosing a space of 55 yards by 52 yards, and it contained two blockhouses, guard-room, reading-room, orderly-room, magazine (underground), and a well. The two blockhouses were each 50 feet by 52 feet, built of matai slabs, adze-dressed, and about 7 inches thick. They were at diagonally opposite angles, and extended about 8 feet beyond the redoubt walls so as to form flanking bastions. The walls of the stockade were 6 inches thick, and loopholed. The look-out tower, at the northern angle, was 8 feet square and 35 feet high, and was loopholed; the lower rifle apertures were nearly level with the ground.
There were redoubts also at Hawera, Okautiro (Mokoia), Kakaramea, Manutahi, and Manawapou, besides General Cameron's old redoubts at the mouth of the Wai-ngongoro.
From the main road and the railway between Hawera and Patea we see the green hill on which the Okautiro Redoubt was built by the colonial troops in 1867. This ridge, on which the earthworks are still traceable, is about a quarter of a mile south of the Mokoia Railway-station. The redoubt was built by a company of Volunteer Militia taken on for six months in the period between the operations of the Military Settlers corps and the formation of the Armed Constabulary (1868). Captain Page was in charge. One of the members of the Volunteer Militia company was Mr. William Wallace, now of Meremere and Hawera. The corps consisted mostly of old Military Settlers from Pukearuhe, near the White Cliffs. The officers were Lieutenant Gudgeon, Lieutenant Norman (brother of the Lieutenant Norman killed at the Mauku fight in the Waikato War of 1863), and Lieutenant von Rotter, a German baron, who was afterwards Postmaster in New Plymouth. Some time after the redoubt was built Captain Lepper was in charge of the post. There were no troops in it by January, 1868; it was for the use of the settlers in the district in case of trouble. A corrugated-iron blockhouse or hut was built inside the walls. William Wallace was farming at Mokoia, close to the redoubt, in 1868, when war broke out again, and he and five or six other settlers lived in the post for some time until they were compelled to abandon their farms to the Maoris. Thomas Bayley then owned the land on which the redoubt stood.page 186