The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 22: TE NGUTU-O-TE-MANU — THE FIRST ATTACK
Chapter 22: TE NGUTU-O-TE-MANU
THE FIRST ATTACK
LIEUT.-COLONEL MCDONNELL, waiting until he had received a reinforcement of volunteers, consisting chiefly of the newly raised Wellington Rangers and Wellington Rifles, delivered his first blow in avengement of Turuturu-mokai on the 21st August, 1868. Before daybreak that morning, in a thick wet fog, a column numbering about 350 men fell in at Waihi Redoubt, and, crossing the Wai-ngongoro River, struck into the bush to attack Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. McDonnell's force consisted of detachments of Nos. 2, 3, and 5 Divisions of the Armed Constabulary, totalling about 110 officers and men; Wellington Rangers, 66; Wellington Rifles, 83; Taranaki Volunteer Militia, 32; Patea Yeomanry Cavalry, 18; and a number of unenlisted volunteers. The column was divided into two, one under command of Major Von Tempsky and the other under Major Hunter. A French Roman Catholic priest, Father Jean Baptiste Roland, accompanied the force; in the fight in the bush that day his gallant conduct in tending the wounded under fire won him the admiration and affection of all the force.*
McDonnell, in a despatch dated Camp Waihi, 22nd August, 1868, described his operations on the previous day in the first attack on Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. He stated that he paraded the force, totalling 345, at 5.30 a.m., and experienced considerable difficulty in crossing the flooded Wai-ngongoro River. The column entered the bush by the track he had previously used. The rain was coming down in torrents. On arriving at Pungarehu McDonnell left Lieutenant Roddy, with the Taranaki Volunteer Militia, as a connecting-link betwen the main body and the Patea Yeomanry Cavalry outside the bush. He now found that rifle-pits and defensive posts had been made on each side of the page 203 track right up to Te Maru, and they had evidently been used the preceding night, as the embers were still smouldering. On arrival he found that a stockade had been erected since he was last at the place; it commanded the crossing of the creek. This compelled him to alter the original plan; and instead of detaching Major Von Tempsky's division to the left to occupy the bush, and allowing Inspector Hunter to rush his division at the village, he led the advance division right at the new stockade, which did not take five minutes to seize.
McDonnell then directed Von Tempsky to take his men along the track to the left and endeavour to enter the village simultaneously with the men whom McDonnell led round to the large clearing in front. When they reached there they were received by a very heavy fire from the village. As soon as sufficient men were up (they could only come in Indian file), the commander ordered a cheer and a charge. “Never was any order more heartily responded to,” wrote McDonnell. “In spite of the destructive fire poured on us from the bush on our right and from the palisading in our front, we went right into the pa without a pause.” Major Von Tempsky entered about the same time from the left, and the defenders broke and fled in every direction where they could find bush to cover them. As the remainder of the force came up they were extended round the village, at the edge of the bush, while those within the palisading cleared the whares. Only one man was found within, and, as he fired and killed one of the men, a hand-grenade was thrown in “to prevent him doing further mischief,” as McDonnell put it.
The whares were searched for arms. In the large house a considerable quantity of powder was found in flasks, also a good-sized box of Government ammunition of all kinds, and a quantity of breech-loading cartridges, made by the natives themselves. Ammunition was found in almost every one of the small houses. Katene's pouch, quite full, his double-barrel gun, eleven other guns, two swords, two revolvers, tomahawks, and spears were taken, and either brought away or destroyed. The houses were set on fire. The dead and wounded had been brought to the large sawn-timber house Wharekura, and when all had been well cared for by the doctor they were sent on under Major Von Tempsky, with Nos. 3 and 5 Divisions A.C. When they got clear away the large house was fired in several places, and when it was in flames McDonnell, leaving a strong rearguard under Major Hunter, moved out of the stockade.
About this time the natives were reinforced and commenced firing from several parts of the bush, but their fire was promptly returned by the rearguard. McDonnell was anxious to follow them, but could not find any track, and as they seemed to be in page 204 forest which he could not penetrate without great labour and loss he thought it better to move out. In several clearings on the track the force was fired on, but the men behaved steadily. Several men were wounded in this retirement, one mortally. On reaching Weriweri a smart fire was opened on the party escorting the wounded, but without effect, and Lieutenant Fookes with a few men rushed up to the pa and speedily silenced the enemy. On reaching the Wai-ngongoro River it was found in high flood; and it was a work of danger as well as difficulty to get the force across. The principal anxiety was for the wounded, but volunteers came forward and offered their services, and, after a severe struggle, succeeded in getting them all safely across. The men managed to scramble across, some by the rope and some holding on to the cavalry horses, but a great deal of ammunition was rendered unserviceable. “We reached Waihi about 6 p.m.,” McDonnell concluded, “and drenched and tired as the men were they gave three cheers that were refreshing to hear. The losses of the enemy must have been severe. We know of seven bodies.”
The European casualties in this engagement were four men killed and eight wounded.
One of the few surviving veterans of the fight, Mr. William Wallace, of Hawera (ex-sergeant, No. 2 Division A.C.), described on the battle-ground some of the details of the action. He said: “It was the second expedition to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu; the first was in 1866, when we burned the village. When we reached the place the log huts we destroyed in 1866 had not been rebuilt, but instead there was a big settlement in a wide clearing just across the head of the creek. It had been raining heavily, and, in fact, it was still drizzling, and the stream was pretty high. Immediately we crossed it, just on the opposite bank before we mounted a slight rise, we came upon a palisading of tall timber constructed in a half-moon shape with the convex side facing us; small manholes were cut in it here and there. It was obviously intended as a kind of outer guard for the village. It was here we got our first salute, wounding two men. The Hauhaus only gave us one volley at this place. I remember crawling in through one of the manholes in the stockade and thinking what an easy target I would be for any Hauhau. Going on, we passed over a large clearing overgrown with weeds. There were many whares scattered about the clearing, with here and there some of the rata and mahoe trees left standing.” [In a belt of light bush just north of the Domain paddock in which the military monument stands there are still some of these ancient mahoe trees, towering and venerable by contrast with the lighter and younger growth around them.] “We soon came under a heavy fire as we skirmished up across the page 205 principal clearing. My brother Richard, a boy of seventeen, who had only lately enlisted in the Wellington Rangers—the corps of which I was then a member—was shot at the southern end of the clearing not far from the belt of mahoe trees on the east side of the Mangotahi Stream. Richard was my rear-rank man. We had not been fighting long when word was passed along that one of our fellows was down, and I found it was my brother. I ran back and bent over him, but he was gone in a few moments. He was hit in the jugular vein and bled to death. We had some desperate fighting as we retired, after setting fire to the settlement and the large meeting-house. One of our men, Burrowes (he who had escaped from the Turuturu-mokai affair a few weeks previously), volunteered to throw the hand-grenades we had brought with us, and I saw him lighting the fuses and throwing these bombs into the whares through the low doorways.”
When the Hauhaus returned to the village they found that some of the huts had not been burned when the troops fired the village, and in the thatch of these whares they discovered unexploded grenades. The shells were given to Kimble Bent to handle; the deserter at the time of the engagement was at Turangarere, a settlement near the Tangahoe, whither he had gone to procure gunpowder and paper for the manufacture of cartridges. He drew the fuses, and from each hand-grenade obtained a sufficient quantity of powder to make eighteen gun-cartridges.
* Father Roland was afterwards well known as Dean Roland. He died at Reefton many years ago.