The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 23: REPULSE AT TE NGUTU-O-TE-MANU
Chapter 23: REPULSE AT TE NGUTU-O-TE-MANU
THE SECOND ATTACK by Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell on the Hauhau bush stronghold at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu was delivered on the 7th September, 1868, and resulted in a disastrous defeat for the Government column. The repulse had far-reaching consequences, for it brought large accessions to Titokowaru's band and so weakened the numbers and the morale of McDonnell's force that all the country northward of Patea was soon abandoned to the Hauhaus.
The force, which marched out from Waihi just after midnight in freezing weather, numbered 360, of whom nearly a hundred were friendly natives from Wanganui. Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell's force was in three large detachments. The Armed Constabulary, Wellington Rifles, Wellington Rangers, and some Taranaki Volunteers made up the first and second detachments; the third was composed of the Kupapa, or Maori, force. The detachments were made up as follows: No. 1 Detachment, under Major Von Tempsky—No. 2 Division of the Armed Constabulary, 16 men; Patea Rifle Volunteers, 14 men, under Captain Palmer; No. 5 Division A.C., 59 men, under Captains (Sub-Inspectors) Brown and Roberts; Wellington Rifles, 45 men, under Lieutenants H. Hastings and Hunter; Taranaki Rifle Volunteers, 26 men, under Lieutenant Rowan; Volunteers from Waihi, 2 men: total, 142. No. 2 Detachment, under Major W. Hunter—No. 3 Division A.C., 32 men, Captains Newland and Goring; Wellington Rangers, 65 men, Captain G. Buck, Lieutenant Fookes, and Ensign Hirtzel; Patea Cavalry (dismounted), 11 men, Captain O'Halloran: total, 108. Maori Contingent—110 Wanganui natives (Kupapas) under Captain W. McDonnell and Kepa te Rangihiwinui and other chiefs. Dr. Walker accompanied Von Tempsky's command as surgeon, and Dr. Best was with Major Hunter. The half-caste woman Takiora, a celebrated guide in the war-days, accompanied the column.
Colonel McDonnell's plan was to strike deep into the forest and endeavour to surprise the Hauhaus in their village Te page 207 Rua-ruru, which was believed to be in rear of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. It was well on in the afternoon, and the column had penetrated the great rata forest in the direction of Mount Egmont for seven or eight miles before a sign of the Hauhaus was found. A track was discovered, and this was followed back in a southerly direction. Then one of the Wanganui Maoris climbed a tree and reported smoke about half a mile farther along the track. Maori voices were also heard in the distance. McDonnell advanced, and his leading Maoris surprised a sentry's camp on the track. Here the Kupapas killed a man and two little children. Another child, a small boy, was saved and carried throughout the fight on a Wanganui man's back; he became well known in later years in Taranaki as Pokiha (Fox) Omahura. Up to this time the leaders of the force did not know exactly where they were, but it was presently discovered that they were well in the rear of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. A break in the interminable forest was seen ahead, and the force moved on cautiously towards the edge of the clearing. Kepa was ordered to take his Wanganui Maoris and work round the pa on the left flank, and Von Tempsky's division went ahead towards the pa, crossing a small creek (the Mangotahi) which bounded the clearing on the west and north.
As Von Tempsky's men, with part of Major Hunter's division, moved up in skirmishing order through the rata and mahoe timber to the north end of the clearing a heavy fire was opened on them, at very close range, from Hauhaus well concealed behind the undergrowth and logs and in the branches of several of the rata trees. It was now that Captain Kepa came running up and told McDonnell that the place was Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. Casualties became numerous, and McDonnell was undecided whether to advance or retreat. It was a fatal moment of indecision, for he left his subordinates without definite orders, and the units of the force quickly lost touch with each other. Men fell struck down by bullets from unseen marksmen. Lieutenant Rowan was shot in the face, the bullet breaking both jaws. He was carried out of fire by Private J. H. Walker and others, and handed over to the surgeons and Father Roland, the Catholic padre, who had again accompanied the force.
Volleys were fired into the rata trees and at the cover on the edge of the clearing, but no advance was made, and men continued to fall fast. It was very clear that defeat was near if the force remained only on the defensive. The seasoned men of the Armed Constabulary were able for the most part to take care of themselves, like the Maoris, but many of the unfortunate recruits of the Wellington Rangers and Rifles, quite unfamiliar with bush-fighting methods and fatally slow in the art of seeking cover, were perfectly useless when pitted against the active page 208 foresters of Titokowaru's band. Some of the new levies, chiefly Wellington Rifles, were seized with panic and ran, reaching Waihi camp first and reporting the force as wiped out.
Had the order been given to storm the place the casualties would have been fewer, but McDonnell imagined a far stronger force was opposed to his. Ensign Hirtzel, who was with Captain Buck, of the Wellington Rangers—“Buck's Bruisers” they were called—heard his captain ask McDonnell, “Where are the axes? Why don't we charge the pa?” But no order came, and the force became disorganized under the continuous heavy fire, to which there was no chance of replying effectively except by a charge.
Had McDonnell but correctly gauged the position he scarcely would have hesitated to assault the place. The fact was that there were not more than about sixty men in Te Ngutu-o-te-manu when the engagement began, and that most of these skirmished out into the forest to meet the troops, leaving the pa easily assailable by a determined commander. Hunter and Von Tempsky both requested permission to storm the place, but McDonnell still hesitated. At last, seeing how numerous the casualties were and considering it his duty to extricate his force with as little further loss as possible, he ordered a retreat to the Wai-ngongoro. The wounded were sent on under Major Hunter, and McDonnell following with about eighty men. There was no track on the route taken, which was a course through the tangled bush in as direct a line as possible for the open country. Captains Brown, Newland, and Cumming accompanied the larger part of the expeditionary column. A heavy rearguard action was fought. The Hauhaus had now been reinforced by men from some of the neighbouring villages, and pressed the retreating force hotly to the gully at Te Maru. Father Roland took his turn at the toil of carrying the wounded out, and there were bullet-holes through his hat when the day's battle was over. Kepa and some of his best men fought well in keeping the Hauhaus in check. The force took out fourteen wounded, some of them carried on crossed rifles in lieu of stretchers.
In the meantime the senior officer remaining before the palisaded village, Major Von Tempsky, waited vainly for the order to advance against the pa. Indignant at not being permitted to charge the place he moved restlessly to and fro, careless about taking cover. He was shot down at last by one of a party of Hauhaus crouching in the undergrowth near the bank of the Mangotahi Stream. Some of the defenders of the pa had opened fire from the rata and pukatea trees—several of the large hollow trees had been loopholed as redoubts—but soon after the fighting began they rushed out to skirmish in the forest. It is generally agreed by Ngati-Ruanui and Nga-Ruahine page 209 that it was an elderly warrior named Te Rangi-hina-kau who shot Von Tempsky. He was one of a party of eight men of the Tekau-ma-rua who sallied out from the stockade and took cover near the creek-side. His comrades were his son Whakawhiria, young Tutange Waionui (of Ngati-Hine and Pakakohi), Wairau, and four others. Taking careful aim at an officer whom he saw armed with a curved sword, he shot him through the head. Other pakehas fell, and when the fight was over there were eight or nine men lying near the slain officer, whom the Maoris found out afterwards was the celebrated “Manu-rau,” as Von Tempsky was called. After the troops had fallen back before a charge led by Katene Tu-whakaruru—erstwhile on the Government side—one of whose young children had been cruelly killed by a Wanganui Maori, several of the young men dashed forward to tomahawk the fallen whites. Tutange Waionui delivered a tomahawk-blow on “Manu-rau's” temple, and took the dead Major's sword, revolver, cap, and watch. These trophies were afterwards laid before Titokowaru as battle-spoils, and when a division was made Tutange received the revolver as his share and used it in the war. Some survivors of the European force declared that Von Tempsky was shot from a rata tree, but this was incorrect. He fell to a bullet fired from ground cover not more than 12 yards away.
All this time within the stockade in the bullet-swept clearing the war-chief Titokowaru remained walking up and down, taiaha in hand, reciting prayers to his Maori gods and shouting to his soldiers. “Patua, kainga!” he cried; “kill them, eat them!” And again and again he shouted in his far-carrying voice, “Whakawhiria, whakawhiria!” bidding the warriors encircle their foes. It was from this battle circumstance that the son of Te Rangi-hina-kau received his name, Whakawhiria. Earlier in the day, as soon as the first shots were heard in the distance, Titokowaru had despatched Kimble Bent out to the forest in rear of the pa to join the women and children, and the white deserter had a narrow escape from death as he made his way through the bush, for he was fired on by some of the troops who took him for a Maori, and only evaded them by hurrying down the bed of the Mangotahi Creek.
Soon after the bush battle began, the pagan rite of the whangai-hau was performed by two tohungas, Wairau and Tihirua, the priest of the burnt sacrifice. The veteran Pou-whareumu Toi, of Weriweri Village (son of Toi Whakataka, Titokowaru's lieutenant), thus described the savage ceremony as he narrated on the spot the episodes of the fight:—
“One of our warriors was the old priest Wairau, whose comrade and coadjutor was young Tihirua, of the Ngati-Maru page 210 Tribe, from Waitara. Both of them shared in the tomahawking of Von Tempsky and other soldiers who fell at the north end of the clearing. Wairau rushed to the body of the first white man killed, cut the chest open with his tomahawk, and tore out the heart, for the ceremony of the whangai-hau, or feeding the gods of battle, Tu and Uenuku. Wairau held up the bleeding heart, and Tihirua applied fire to it. The young man carried pakeha matches, and, striking these, he held them to the flesh till it began to singe and sizzle and smoke. The smoke (paoa) that rose from it was regarded as a tohu, or omen. Wairau watched it intently to see the direction of its drift. The smoke rose and drifted out through the trees in the direction of the pakeha force. Had it been blown the other way, across or towards the stockade, it would have been a fatal omen for the Maoris, indicating the speedy fall of the place (ka hinga te pa). But the breath of the atua directed it the other way, and Wairau knew then that the white soldiers would be the vanquished ones that day.”
Scarcely any two accounts of European survivors agree as to the events on the battlefield after the withdrawal of McDonnell. The salvation of those who lived to reach the Waihi Redoubt once more, after a terrible night in the trackless bush, was due to the gallant Captain J. M. Roberts (now Colonel Roberts, N.Z.C.), who had been Von Tempsky's subaltern in the Forest Rangers in Waikato. Roberts collected the disorganized remainder of the force, some sixty in number, got them into some kind of order, and with the help of some cool fellows who instilled confidence and hope into the men he made his way out to the open country. His narrative of the engagement and the retreat (a story never before published) is the only connected accurate account of the happenings after the main body moved off with most of the wounded.
“To this day,” said Colonel Roberts, “I do not know precisely why Colonel McDonnell decided to retire as he did, leaving the rest of us without definite orders. We could have taken the pa, I believe. We were handicapped, however, by the presence of some unfit men, particularly the Wellington Rangers; their officers were very good, but the men should not have been sent into the bush. They couldn't walk in the bush and carry a rifle, far less fight in the bush. The practised bushmen among us, like myself—I had done pioneering bush-work before the Waikato War began—had grown to look on a tree as a friend. The recruits from Wellington knew nothing of the bush, and were easily panic-stricken when required to work in skirmishing order, where a man is necessarily separated from his comrades. They were falling over logs and vines; a man needs to get his bush-legs just as a sea passenger needs to get page 211 his sea-legs; he must learn where to place his feet and how to get through the bush with the greatest speed and the least trouble. The new men crowded together, and in consequence made easy targets for the Maoris.
“We had no definite orders after the fight began. The last I saw of Major Von Tempsky was near the creek in rear of the pa, some time after the fighting had begun. I remember well that he struck me as being curiously listless. He was cutting away with his sword at a hanging bush vine, not cutting it through, but rather chipping it downwards, cutting shavings off it. He was waiting for orders from McDonnell.* Presently Captain Brown came along and said, ‘I've got a job, Roberts, I'm going out with the wounded.’ Then, speaking in a low voice as he passed me, he added, ‘You get out of this as soon as you can—don't stay here.’
* Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell sent a message to Von Tempsky by his brother, Captain William McDonnell, requesting him to follow No. 2 Division when it retired; but it is doubtful whether, if the Major received the message, he understood it as a definite instruction to withdraw. He certainly remained anxious to attempt the storming of the pa.
Lieut.-Colonel Thomas McDonnell, N.Z.C.
Lieut.-Colonel Thomas McDonnell was the son of Lieutenant McDonnell, R.N., who settled at Te Horeke, Hokianga Harbour, in the early part of last century. He served as a young officer in the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry in the Waikato War, and was awarded the New Zealand Cross in 1886 for a daring scouting exploit in 1863, when he and Von Tempsky made a reconnaissance from the Lower Waikato in to the Maori position at Paparata. (See Vol. I, page 271.)
“I worked back through the bush towards the other side of the pa, passing some of my men who were still sticking to it. They called to me ‘Don't go back, sir! You'll be shot!’ They said they believed the Major was shot. I went along the flank two or three chains towards the creek that ran in the rear of the pa. I saw nothing of Von Tempsky, but he must have been lying close by. It was all dense bush here, with some very large mahoe trees—the biggest I had ever seen—and some rata. At last I turned to come back, and just as I did so a bullet buried itself in a sapling behind me. I made my way back towards the place where I had left Captain Buck a quarter of an hour page 213 previously, and I found him lying on his back, dead. I got together all the men I could find and disposed them as well as I could to resist the Hauhaus, who were pressing us hard, yelling ‘Surround them, surround them!’ in Maori. I formed the men into a rough half-moon front, and instructed them to fire volleys—‘Blaze away as hard as you can, boys, blaze away!’ We fired a number of volleys, and this had a great effect on the Hauhaus, who kept a greater distance after that.
“By this time it was getting quite dusk in the bush, under the close, dense foliage. I came to the conclusion that I had better try to make my way out to camp with the wounded. I had heard firing away on my right and knew it must be McDonnell fighting his way out to Waihi. There were eleven wounded, but most of these could walk. My total strength now was fifty-eight men. Sergeant Russell fell shot through the hip; he was a fine brave fellow. We had to leave him there lying propped up against a tree, with a loaded revolver in his hand. We had some faint hopes of rescuing him later, but the Hauhaus got him, after he had stood them off at first with his revolver. Lieutenant Hirtzel was with us, and another good man was big James Livingston, of Waipapa, Hawera, who had come with the force as a volunteer; he was a splendid fellow, cool and brave, and a first-rate bushman. When we were under a very heavy fire he was picking up the rifles of men who had been killed or wounded and smashing them against the butts of trees, saying that the Hauhaus would never be able to use those guns. He broke Russell's carbine before we left him.
“I kept my men together as well as I could in the bush, and got my wounded along; we went very slowly, occasionally turning to fire. I don't think we were travelling more than half a mile in the hour. All of us were now very exhausted, and I ordered the men to sit down in the bush undergrowth for a rest, waiting till the moon rose, so that I could fix my course. We had two or three friendly Maoris with us, Kupapas from Wanganui. I kept them close by me, for I was depending on them to lead us out of the bush; in fact, I put a sentry over them to make sure they did not give us the slip.
“We were still within cooee of the pa; in fact, we could hear the Hauhaus' yells and war-songs all night, we were that close. About 2 o'clock in the morning the moon rose over the tree-tops, and now that I had an idea of the points of the compass I made a start again. I sent the Maoris ahead, telling my man who was keeping an eye on them to make sure that they were not attempting to leave the column. ‘If they do,’ I said, ‘you know what to do.’
“When we started on our retreat we were well in on the page 214 Egmont or inland side of McDonnell's route. By about daylight we got out on to the track leading down to the Wai-ngongoro ford—the track we had come in the morning—and we reached the camp at Waihi about 8 o'clock. Some of them had given us up for lost. My friend Captain Brown (afterwards killed at Ngatapa) was one of those who hurried down to meet us. As he shook hands with me he said, ‘Some of them said you were all killed, Roberts, but I knew you'd turn up, because you know the bush.’”*
All the dead and some of the wounded were left on the battle-field. The death-roll numbered twenty-four, of whom five were officers. Twenty-six wounded were brought off the field. One man, Private Dore, of the Wellington Rangers, who was shot through an arm in Robert's retreat, was lost in the bush, and did not reach Waihi until four days afterwards. Of the officers, Major Von Tempsky, Captain Buck, Captain Palmer, Lieutenant Hunter, and Lieutenant Hastings were in the list of dead. Palmer and Hastings were with Robert's force, and were mortally wounded. Palmer died as he was being carried through the bush, and was left there.
LIEUT.-COLONEL MCDONNELL'S REPORT
Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell, in his despatch to the Minister of Defence (9th September, 1868), said that his intention on setting out from Waihi Camp was to reach Te Rua-ruru through the bush, attack the village, and return by way of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. On reaching Mawhitiwhiti he struck inland on the main track to Te Ngutu and to seaward of the track that was supposed to exist and was marked on a map as leading to Te Rua-ruru. A very old trail was followed up for some time, then it ceased altogether, and the force headed in the supposed direction of Te Rua-ruru. The country was very rough, intersected with gullies and streams, and the bush was a tangled network of supplejack. About 1 p.m. a bush ridge was ascended, and then on the advice of Hone Papara, the Maori guide, McDonnell struck for the sea to try to hit a track. It was after another hour of this work that the first signs of Maoris were seen and heard, and a little later the track to the rear of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu was entered, and the force came under fire at the creek. The force was soon under fire from the front, right, and rear, but, except within a palisading in the clearing in front, no enemy could be seen. It was now that McDonnell, considering it impossible to page 215 rush the place, or even if successful to hold it—the Hauhaus were not only occupying it, but were on three sides of it—determined to collect the wounded and push out through the forest. After sending the wounded off under Hunter and Newland, with Kepa's men, he returned, wrote to Major Von Tempsky, and desired him to collect the rest of the men to form a rearguard and follow at once. Then he told Captain Cumming to come on with him. During the whole of this time the Maoris were firing on the troops from every quarter. The way had to be cut through supplejack and undergrowth, which, with the eight wounded men on stretchers, was a work of great toil. The creek which runs through Te Maru was reached, but there was still no track.
“Presently,” Colonel McDonnell's despatch continued, “news was brought to me that Major Von Tempsky, Captain Buck, Captain McDonnell, and Lieutenant Hunter were shot dead. But just then Captain McDonnell came up and stated that Major Von Tempsky, Captain Buck, and Lieutenant Hunter were killed, and that he had told Lieutenant Hastings that the only chance was to carry out the orders that had been given Major Von Tempsky; at once his reply was that Captain Buck was senior, and he would consult him. Captain McDonnell then went to see Captain Buck, but found that he was killed, and the enemy by this time in possession of the place where the bodies of Buck, Major Von Tempsky, and two men lay. He returned then, and pointed out to Mr. Hastings the necessity of retiring. The fire at this time was very heavy from the front, rear, and right, and from the tops of the rata trees. He then followed on my trail with eight natives and ten Europeans, and reported as above. I had now with me about eighty men, including natives—hardly sufficient to carry out the wounded, now increasing in number, and to keep down the fire from our right. Knowing that a large portion of the force was in rear, and several good officers, I moved on, feeling sure they were covering our retreat; but I presently found that the enemy had got between us, and it appears from what Sub-Inspector Roberts tells that soon after Captain McDonnell had left the Hauhaus succeeded in completely surrounding the rearguard, and it was only with the greatest difficulty they cut their way through them. The Hauhaus then left him (as he struck to the left farther into the bush) and came after us, overtaking us before we struck the main track leading into Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. Captain McDonnell mean-while had taken up a position at Te Maru to keep our front open. Our wounded had by this time increased to twelve, who had to be carried, beside several who had been hit but could walk. The men with our party worked hard, but were so done up as to require every persuasion and advice I and my officers could page 216 think of to keep the majority from abandoning the wounded. One man killed I had to leave, and Dr. Best was badly hit in going to ascertain his state. The doctor had to be carried off on rifles, having no more stretchers in my party. The natives now swarmed in our rear, and kept up a heavy fire, which I was obliged to return only occasionally, as my ammunition was very short, Captain Cumming and myself loading and firing now and then. I was afraid the enemy might have got round to the crossing of the Wai-ngongoro River before I could reach it. We attained the opening at Ahi-paipa just at dusk, and here received a parting volley from the enemy. They followed on yelling, and commenced a war-dance in the open ground out of the bush. I caused my men to cheer, and gave them a volley which I should think took effect, as their dance ended rather abruptly, and they did not molest us any more. I may state that for some time I had not heard any distant firing, and therefore concluded the remainder of the force had got in advance of me. I pushed on across the river and found a few friendly natives holding the crossing. We got the men and wounded safely across and reached camp about 10 p.m. A mixed party of natives and Europeans, the latter numbering about eighty, had arrived before me and reported that all the officers were killed or wounded and left behind myself included.”
McDonnell emphasized the great need of training and experience in forest fighting. The Wanganui and Ngati-Apa Maoris, who accompanied the force and who, it was known, killed fifteen Hauhaus, themselves suffered no loss; not even a man was wounded. This, he said, was proof that to fight Maoris successfully in a bush where every tree and every track were known to them required men who had been long and carefully trained to such work. Instead of his men dispersing and taking cover, they could not be prevented from huddling together in small lots, making a good target for their enemies. His efforts and those of his officers were in most cases without effect in convincing them of the mistake they were making.
As for the Hauhau losses, McDonnell reported that those known killed by the Europeans numbered thirteen, and by the Kupapas fifteen, making a total of twenty-eight; this was exclusive of losses the enemy must have suffered when the main body was fighting its way out. The Maoris, however, dispute this estimate.
TE NGUTU-O-TE-MANU AFTER THE BATTLE
It is the day after the fight. The square in the centre of the forest stockade is an amazing scene of ferocious excitement. The men with blackened faces, and all but nude, are dancing hakas page 217 and yelling war songs that can be heard a mile away. The women are screaming to each other, and running about with tomahawks in their hands; dogs are barking; children are screeching. It is a bedlam in the forest. On the ground lie the naked bodies of twenty white men, stripped by the Hauhaus, who had dragged them in from the forest where they had been left when the retreat began. Von Tempsky's body is there. The face had been hacked about with a tomahawk, the work of one of the Maori women—the natives revenge themselves in such fashion upon the head for those of their relatives who fell in the battle—but it is identified by Kimble Bent. The camp is in a fury of exultation over the fall of “Manu-rau” (“Many birds”), the name given to him because of his activity in guerrilla warfare; Von Tempsky was as nimble as the birds of the forest. And there, in front of the heap of slain, stands Titokowaru, the planner of ambuscades and midnight surprises, the victor of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. Long he stands there, his chin resting upon his two hands, which are crossed on the end of his long tongue-pointed taiaha, his halbert-fashioned staff. At last he raises his head, and in a great croaking voice cries to his men that they must tahutahu the bodies of the pakehas—they must destroy them by fire. And this must not be done within the walls of the pa. The slain must be dragged outside the palisades, to the clearing which fronts the fenced village.
When the funeral pyre was prepared by the Hauhaus the body of Von Tempsky was laid upon it in the middle, and the other slain soldiers were piled around and above him, laid crossways on each other. As the Maoris cast the Major's body on the pile of firewood Titokowaru stalked forward, his taiaha in his hand, and cried his farewell, his kupu poroporoaki, to his dead foeman. There were his words (as given by Kimble Bent): “I nga ra o mua i whawhai koe i tena wahi i tena wahi, i ki hoki koe ka puta koe ki te ao marama. Ka tae mai hoki koe ki au, moe ana o kanohi. Taea hokitia, nau i kimi mate mou naku. Ka moe koe.” (“In the days of the past you fought here and you fought there, and you boasted that you would always emerge safely from your battles to the bright world of life. But when you encountered me your eyes were closed in their last sleep. It could not be helped; you sought your death at my hands. And now you sleep for ever.”)
In this not unpoetic fashion did the war-chief of the forest speed his fallen foe to the spirit-land of heroes.
The great pile of firewood—trunks and branches of dry tawa—was set alight with a brand from one of the village fires. When the pyre was kindled an old man walked up to it with a long forked pole in his hand. He was Titokowaru's own tohunga, or priest, page 218 Te Waka-takere-nui. His wrinkled cheeks were deeply tattooed. The warlock chanted an ancient song, a savage elegy to the dead, as he raked the burning logs together. The black smoke soared straight up from the pyre, and as every now and then the bursting of a body sent up the flames and smoke in thicker volume the bushmen laughed and cried, “Haere, haere, e koro!” (“Go, depart, old man!”) Like the smoke from a burning Viking dragon-ship, the funeral boat, so rose the corpse-smoke, black, in the midst of the green forest. And so, in that fiery breath, in true heroic fashion, farewelled by the pagan scalds and the tattooed braves, passed the fallen white men of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu.
A CANNIBAL FEAST
One of the soldiers' bodies was cooked and eaten. Pou-whareumu Toi, who witnessed the feast on human flesh, said when he pointed out the place where the cannibals of the bush sat down to their meal: “The body, which was cooked in a large umu (earth-oven), was that of a stout man (he tangata momona). It was eaten on the marae by the people, after it had been carried up in baskets, to the accompaniment of a chant by the bearers. The principal men who ate the human flesh were the old priest Tautahi Ariki (or Tu-Ahi-pa), Kai-taua, and Tohi. Many others shared in the meal. Some abstained, because they were tapu.”
Kimble Bent, in narrating this episode, said that he saw the tohunga Wairau and Katene Tu-whakaruru enjoying the manmeat, which was eaten with potatoes. Katene joined in the meal, partly out of feelings of revenge for the killing of one of his children by a Wanganui Maori. Titokowaru himself abstained from human flesh for the reason that the eating of it would impair his mana tapu, his personal sanctity. Describing the process of cooking the body, Bent said:—
“I watched the preparation of the body of the white soldier for the warrior's feast. The head was first cut off with a tomahawk, and then the body was cut open and prepared as a butcher prepares a beast he has killed. The body was laid on the red-hot stones in the bottom of the haangi or umu (the earth-oven) so that the outer skin could be scraped off easily. This was done by the cannibal cooks with sharp cockle-shells. Water was then poured over the hot stones, to create the steam which was to cook the meal, and green leaves were spread on top of the stones, then the man-meat was placed in the oven. The body was cut up into convenient portions, and arranged so as to cook thoroughly. The oven was 5 feet long and about 3 feet deep, and there were several layers of meat, with green page 219 leaves between each. Some of the pieces, such as the rib portions, were set on edge, with hot stones between them. The thickest pieces were the meat cut from the thighs, the huha. The hands were laid with the palms uppermost, because when they were cooked they curled up, and the hollow palm was full of hinu or gravy, which was a great delicacy to the olden Maori. Mats and other coverings were laid on top again and more water poured over them, and then the earth was laid over all, so that no steam was permitted to escape. The body of the pakeha took between two and three hours to cook. Then the oven was uncovered and the contents carried up to the marae in small flax baskets with kumara and fern-root.” “It was usual, too,” added the old pakeha-Maori, “to cook some pikopiko, the young curly fronds of the mauku, or ground-fern, with the meat; it added to its flavour.”
It was customary also to use panahe roots, steamed, as a corrective for the meat. The panahe is the wild convolvulus; its roots are long and thin, somewhat like macaroni, and are slightly bitter in taste.
The battlefield of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, which is reached by the Ahi-paipa or Tempsky Road from the Township of Okaiawa, is a public reserve of 50 acres, partly in grass and partly covered with a tall growth of mahoe trees, exotic pines, and oaks. The greater part of the reserve is leased for grazing. Some of the rata stumps and logs lie rotting on the ground under the shade of the new growth of mahoe, which now covers part of the clearing entered by the colonial troops in 1868. Many of these mahoe or whitewood trees (so called because of their gleaming white bark and trunks) are, however, more ancient than the period of the war. The domain, sacred to the memory of a score of colonial soldiers, is entered by a road beneath an overarching thicket of ancient whitewoods, their venerable trunks and twisted limbs glimmering ghostly in the shades. This is part of a belt of mahoe which marks the southern end of the Hauhau clearing made in 1866–68. The belt extends eastward into a grassy paddock; there the land is slightly higher than the green expanse of turf where the soldiers' monument stands, bounded on the west and north-west by a strip of timber and a little half-dry stream, the historic Mangotahi. A monument to Von Tempsky and his comrades stands near the northern end of the park, some little distance from the spot where they fell. North of the monument is a plantation bordering the grass field. In this woodland there are some huge mahoe; one is just such a tree as that in which Kimble Bent took shelter from the fire of the troops when hurrying from the pa on the morning of the attack. It is a twisted, knotty old wizard of a whitewood, its trunk hung with moss and ferns, and in its butt a hollow large enough to conceal one or two men. At the base it was about 8 feet through, a mass of misshapen roots and buttresses. Beyond this pine and mahoe wood again is a paddock in which there are many traces of Titokowaru's war-camps.page 220
The old man Pou-whareumu Toi, of Weriweri Village, went with me to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu on the 15th October, 1918, and described many incidents of the fight. He was a child in the pa in 1868, and although he did not actually witness the attack on the stockade, as he was sent out with the women and children to a safe place in the forest, he saw all the afterevents, including the burning of the fallen soldiers’ bodies and the cannibal meal on the day after the battle. Pou described the fortifications, which were not formidable, and could have been taken by a determined assault. “The pa,” he said, “had a stockade, ditch, and low parapet. The ditch was outside the tall stockade of totara timber, and the parapet, just inside the fence, was formed with the earth thrown up by the diggers. The trench surrounded the greater part of the pa; it was not dug on the west side, where the Mangotahi Stream, with its abrupt bank, closely approached the stockade. On a low hillock on the west, just above the stream, was Titokowaru's dwelling.”
The domain caretaker's bungalow cottage, its veranda festooned with passion-flower and honeysuckle, fronts the site of the olden marae, the village square or campus. At one side of this marae, according to the old chief, stood the large assembly hall Wharekura, Titokowaru's sacred house of incantation and exhortation. It was built of sawn timber, and was adorned with a carved front and lined with ornamental reedwork.
“The place where Von Tempsky was killed,” said Pou, “was not at the monument, as some suppose. It was over here,” and the old man walked to the north end of the pa, past the slight rise in the ground where the rear palisade stood. Passing through a low hedge which crosses the reserve here, Toi looked about him for the stumps of the great rata trees of 1868. He pointed out the stump of one, sawn across, just above the bank of the creek near the little footbridge to the park playing-lawns. The other tree for which he was searching formerly stood, he said, in the plantation to the east, near a large cabbage-tree to which he pointed. In those two trees Maoris were posted as sentries—the inner one was the principal lookout place—and as sharpshooters. “But it was not they who shot Manu-rau” (Von Tempsky), said Pou, confirming the narratives of Tutange Waionui and others. “The chief of the soldiers was killed by men who were crouching on the ground outside the pa, just under the little fall of ground at the creek-side. It was Te Rangi-hina-kau who shot Von Tempsky; with him were Wairau and others. Kaake, an old tattooed warrior from Araukuku, was shot by the troops at the end of the pa.
“Many of the pakehas were ignorant of the ways of war,” said Pou. “They came marching along upright, staring about them in amazement, very unlike the Maoris, who skirmished crouching, keenly searching the undergrowth, sinking to the ground for cover, and fighting nearly naked.
“There were only thirty or forty men in the pa at the beginning of the fight,” Pou declared. “The rest had gone out to shoot cattle inland in the direction of Te Rua-ruru, two or three miles away. They heard the firing, and dashed back and caught the troops in a cross-fire, hence the defeat and retreat of the whites.”
The place where the bodies of about twenty soldiers were burned in a funeral pyre was pointed out. It was outside the pa stockade on a maara or cultivation, clear of bush, where the plantation now is, south of the village. The spot is on the right-hand side as the domain is entered from the road. “A great fire was made with tawa logs and other timber, and when it blazed up and began to consume the bodies we children were stricken with awe and fear.”
I explored the battle-ground on other occasions (1919 and 1920) with Mr. William Wallace, of Hawera (ex-sergeant, No. 2 Division, Armed Constabulary). Mr. Wallace, the son of a soldier of the 65th Regiment, fought in the first engagement at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu as one of the Wellington page 221 Rangers. He was of opinion that the great house Wharekura which was burned by the troops that day was in the north end of the large clearing, a considerable distance from the park marae where the soldiers' monument stands. The site of an unusually large house was traced in the grass paddock on the north or Egmont side of the plantation, close to an angle formed by two thorn hedges. This ground was a clearing in 1868, with whares scattered about it. A short distance northward again, around the head of the Mangotahi watercourse, now almost dry, there were numerous remains of olden dug-in huts and food-stores. This is where the log-hut village previously decribed stood in 1866.
While the veteran recounted those events of half a century ago we explored the clearing and the adjacent bush and fields, and found numerous traces of the olden village. On the north-eastern side of the reserve, in a paddock through which the head of the little stream Mangotahi runs, a farmer's cows were grazing peacefully over the field where Titokowaru's warriors met the whites in battle. Just north of the creek, where the log-hut kainga of 1866 stood, there were numerous depressions in the turf indicating the sites of old-time whares dug into the earth for greater warmth and snugness, and for defence. There were also hollows indicating the ruas, or store-pits, for potatoes. Near the creek were the softly grassed ruins of a parapet and rifle-pit commanding the crossing-place. Numerous rotting stumps of matai (black-pine) showed the heavy character of the bush which formerly covered the spot.
On the opposite or southern side of the now dry watercourse—it is near its head—many slight depressions and undulations in the turf marked the site of the old-time refuge-place and gathering-ground of the Hauhaus. In the middle of the track across the paddock the foot struck against smooth stones embedded in the ground, and a little investigation showed that these formed the taku-ahi, or hearthstone, which formerly occupied the centre of a whare. All had mouldered away, except, close by, two decaying butts of matai posts on opposite sides of the site of a dug-in hut. Dairy herds chew placidly in the midst of this conquered sanctuary of the rebel Ngati-Ruanui; and the unheeding foot of the white farmer passes over the long-quenched home fires of the bushmen, whose ashes have been scattered to the winds that have free passage over the plains, for the forest that was their help and refuge has wellnigh all been hewn away.Von Tempsky's Sword
One day in the early “eighties,” long after the war, Kimble Bent visited some of his acquaintances in Parihaka; they lived in a whare by the side of the road which led through the village. As he entered the house, stepping over the high paepae or threshold, one of them seated within the house said to him, “You have crossed a very rich threshold” (“He paepae whai-taonga”).
“What do you mean?” asked Bent.
“Beneath that beam of wood,” replied the Maori, “there lies the sword of ‘Manu-rau.’”
This was the truth. The owner of the whare had become possessed of Von Tempsky's sword, which was preserved as a sacred relic, a taumahatanga, or offering to the gods. It was not displayed in public, but was placed beneath the threshold, to which in Maori eyes a kind of sanctity attached, and beneath which valuable relics were often placed, to assure the security of the house and occupants. The sword was carefully greased and wrapped in flannel before it was laid in its resting-place. Some years later it was buried in the grave in which its Hauhau owner was laid, and there it lies to this day.