The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
* The site of Tauranga-ika stronghold is now occupied exactly by a native village (Nga-Rauru Tribe). On the marae and the adjoining ground within the high hedge of the village the outlines of the pa can be traced in the uneven turf. The Maoris point out the spot where the tall watchtower stood near one of the koki, or flanking bastions, on the north-west side of the marae. Tauranga-ika is eighteen miles from Wanganui, alongside the main road to Taranaki; the pa is on the north or inland side of the road.
From a survey by J. Buchanan, 1869]
Plan of Tauranga-ika, West Coast
While Whitmore was absent on his East Coast campaign recruits for the Armed Constabulary came pouring in from the South Island and Australia, and all December of 1868 the officers and non-commissioned officers at Westmere Camp and at Woodall's Redoubt on the Kai-iwi were busy drilling the new men. Titokowaru meanwhile was also strengthening his force and his defences, and he sent two men into Woodall's under a flag of truce bearing a letter in which he declared his intention of driving all the pakehas into the sea. The Maoris were detained and sent into Wanganui.
Colonel Whitmore arrived at Wanganui on the 18th January, 1869 and at once prepared for the advance on Tauranga-ika. His force consisted of about eight hundred Armed Constabulary and the Wanganui and Kai-iwi Mounted Corps, besides some two hundred Wanganuui Maoris under Kepa. Lieut.-Colonel William Lyon was second in command under Whitmore. The Kai-iwi River was bridged by an advanced column, and on the 25th January the whole force was moved across it to the right bank. There already was a road for the greater part of the way to the Waitotara. About the end of 1864 a large number of unsuccessful gold-diggers at the Whakamarino (Whangamarino), in Marlborough, were brought across from Picton by the Government and given contract work on the formation of this West Coast military road, which was completed from Goat Valley, near Wanganui, to the Waitotara, passing Tauranga-ika. General Cameron did not take this road, but kept close to the sandhills on the coast. The inland route was too near the bush for his liking; in fact, it passed through the bush at the Okehu Gorge and other places, highly likely spots for ambuscades. Whitmore's road parties put the road in repair for the passage of his large transport body and built bridges where required.
From a survey by J. Buchanan, 1869]
Cross-sections of Tauranga-ika Pa
Immediately after crossing the Kai-iwi on the 25th Whitmore ordered out the Guides to scout the wooded gorge-like valley of the Okehu, as he intended to take his force through it next morning. When night fell Lingard, Maling, and their five comrades left the camp for their risky night's work. They were shod in moccasins like Indians for noiseless marching; this was the idea of Mackenzie, a dark-skinned old soldier, a veteran of the Indian Mutiny, who had come out to Canterbury from India with Sir Henry Cracroft Wilson. The moccasins were made from the skin of a horse which Mackenzie had shot that afternoon; the skin while warm was fitted to the men's page 290 feet with the hair inside, and was firmly laced with horse-skin thongs. As events proved they made excellent footgear for scouting-work. This Mackenzie was dexterous in the use of his favourite weapon, a double-edged Afghan knife-dagger.
It was a very calm night and bright moonlight. Mackenzie, whose senses were uncommonly keen, declared to Lingard, some time after they took post in the thick fern at the edge of the ravine, that he could smell the Maoris in the bush below. The scouts were posted at intervals above the gorge. About daylight two of them, working cautiously down, discovered a large body of Hauhaus, who were attempting to burn the bridge over the Okehu. The men were fired on, and, turning, made for the open country and the camp at top speed. Maling and Lingard, finding that they were almost surrounded by the Maoris, concealed themselves in the high fern alongside the track, with their Terry carbines ready; they bit their cartridges for reloading, as was necessary in those days, and put their percussion caps in their mouths for instant use. Just before they did so they shook hands and promised to stick by each other to the end. A moment later a body of armed Hauhaus raced past their place of hiding, and presently they heard heavy firing from the direction of the camp. The troops had turned out and were covering the retreat of the scouts. The two comrades in hiding now found that they were under the fire of their own men, for the bullets were cutting through the tall fern above their heads. They decided to run for it and chance the Maoris, who were firing away on their left.
As they ran they came upon Mackenzie's dead body lying on the track. His head had been smashed in, and his carbine and ammunition and Afghan sheath-knife were gone. Taking a short-cut across the fern, Lingard and Maling safely reached the camp. The one life lost was that of the brave Mackenzie; the previous day he had a presentiment of his end, and told his comrades that he would never see another sunrise. The surgeon was of opinion that he had fallen dead from heart-seizure before the Hauhaus overtook him.
The unmasking of the Hauhau ambuscade in the gorge was a good night's work. The Hauhaus fell back, and the Colonel marched his men through the dangerous defile unmolested.
By the 1st February Whitmore was at Nukumaru, and next day pushed on the cavalry and brought the infantry up towards the left flank of Tauranga-ika under cover of the bush. Camp was pitched 800 yards from the pa, and a body of Constabulary advanced and dug themselves in in a half-moon formation within 100 yards of the stockade; some of the divisions had the shelter of a ditch and bank on the south flank page 291 of the pa. Whitmore scarcely displayed his accustomed skill and energy in the operations against the stronghold. If he really intended to capture Titokowaru and his Hauhaus by siege he could readily have surrounded the pa with the large force at his command. As it was, the attack is well described by a veteran, who says that the command “tackled Tauranga-ika in a half-hearted sort of way.” The Volunteer Cavalry had scouted all the open or lightly timbered country around the place, and Whitmore came to the conclusion, apparently, that there was no urgent need to envelop the position as the enemy would remain within the stockade for the present. The two Armstrong guns were brought up towards the evening and placed on an eminence on the left front of the pa 500 yards away, and without orders from Colonel Whitmore the officer in charge began to shell the position. The commander had not intended this; he wished to reserve all his means of attack till next morning. The bombardment did small damage to the fort and very little harm to the garrison, who were all in secure quarters in the trenches and shell-proof ruas. The advanced divisions of the Armed Constabulary opened fire on the stockade in reply to the Maori volleys, and some of the force crept up within about 50 yards and entrenched themselves.
The Constabulary in their trenches enlivened the early hours of the night with bivouac songs, and the woods rang with the rousing choruses of “Marching through Georgia” and “Oh, Susannah.” The Hauhau musketeers enjoyed the soldiers' music. “Go on, pakeha, go on,” some of them shouted; “give us some more.” But when it grew late the pa became remarkably silent; and when at break of day the Colonel began to move his men round the rear of the right flank of the position it was too late to envelop the enemy. The Coehorn mortars opened fire to get the range; the divisions told off to complete the surrounding movement moved on, and the Armstrongs threw some shells into the stockade. Some of the Armed Constabulary pushing on in advance, however, reconnoitred the pa and found it empty. It had been deserted during the night. The Hauhaus—men, women, and children—with their pakeha-Maori, Kimble Bent, had quietly slipped out into the wooded gully in rear and were already some miles away in full retreat for the Waitotara.
The explanation of this sudden decision to abandon the fort was given by Kimble Bent long after the war. His chief, Titokowaru, he said, had entered into a liaison with the wife of another rangatira of the pa, and this intrigue, soon detected, was considered fatal to his prestige, spiritual and temporal. He had trampled on his mana tapu, as the Maoris phrase it; he was no longer the invincible war-priest and war-captain of his people. page 292 At a council of the chiefs it was resolved that the garrison should abandon the pa; it would be courting disaster to remain. No doubt the spectacle of Whitmore's army entrenched in front and the arrival of the first of his Armstrong shells clinched the popular decision. The people in silence struck into the bush. Titokowaru with forty men covered the retreat.
Whitmore ordered an immediate pursuit. He pushed the Volunteer Cavalry on to Weraroa by the track across the open country, and sent his best bush corps (No. 8 Division Armed Constabulary) and Kepa's Wanganui men to follow the retreating enemy's trail. Whitmore, in writing of this episode, endeavoured to mask his disappointment at his failure to hold Titokowaru. “I was not sorry,” he said, “that Tauranga-ika had thus fallen without resistance. My object was to regain possession of the district, and if I could do this without loss and without putting too heavy a strain on my raw troops they would be encouraged, while an equal advantage would accrue to the country.” Certainly Titokowaru's escape saved some lives, probably many lives, but it prolonged the campaign.
The Hauhau rear-guard was overtaken on the Karaka tableland immediately above the left bank of the Waitotara River by Kepa and his advance-guard of Wanganui men. The retreating force turned to fight and planted an ambush, resulting in several casualties among Kepa's men, including a sub-chief named Hori Raukawa, who was killed. Kepa with his few men broke through the Hauhaus and fell back on Captain Porter and his No. 8 Division, Arawa and Ngapuhi Maoris, with a few good European bushmen. Porter quickly extended the supports across the flat, mostly fern country, with some bush, and he and Kepa engaged the Hauhaus till dark, when they drew out to Weraroa. In this skirmish the Hauhaus had three killed. They took utu for their losses by decapitating Kepa's comrade, whose body was left on the field, and cutting out the heart and liver, which made a cannibal meal for some of the savages that night.
Next day (4th February) the enemy could not be found, and the most mobile corps in the command were despatched on reconnoitring expeditions. The Waitotara was crossed and an expedition went as far as Moturoa, the scene of Whitmore's defeat in November of the previous year. The headquarters remained at Nukumaru, and Nos. 1, 2, and 8 Divisions Armed Constabulary, under Lieut.-Colonel T. McDonnell, encamped at the Karaka plateau on the left bank of the Waitotara overlooking the bend of the river at Papatupu. Strong reconnaissance-parties under McDonnell, Porter, and Kepa were out daily seeking for traces of the Hauhaus, who were believed to be near the Moumahaki Stream, which flows into the Waitotara near Papatupu.page 293
Nothing definite was known of Titokowaru and his band until the 18th February, when a party of nine men of No. 2 Division Armed Constabulary, under Sergeant Menzies, was cut off by Big Kereopa (a herculean savage of the Nga-Rauru Tribe) and an ambush-party at a peach-grove on the opposite side of the Waitotara to the Karaka camp. The sergeant and his nine men had obtained permission to cross the river in a canoe in order to gather peaches in a large grove on the north side about 300 yards from the river. The foragers had scarcely reached the peachgrove when they were fired on by a large force of Maoris; the shrewd Hauhaus knew that the fruit was a tempting bait, and had laid an ambuscade in the edge of the bush above the grove and about 60 yards from it in the expectation of a visit. The Constabulary men raced for their canoe, but most of those who escaped the first volley were overtaken and tomahawked. No. 1 Division, hearing the firing, hurried to the assistance of their comrades, but it was too late to do anything but exchange a few volleys with the enemy. They had killed Sergeant Menzies and six of his men; three only escaped. Tutange Waionui, a young warrior of the Pakakohi Tribe, felled the sergeant just as he had jumped into the canoe to escape. Tutange struck him on the temple with a manuka paddle which he snatched up from the canoe, and when the sergeant dropped back into the canoe stunned or dead a Maori named Toa-wairere slashed off his left leg with a tomahawk and carried off the leg into the bush, where it was cooked and eaten by Kereopa and some of his comrades.*
A curious story also is narrated regarding the killing of Sergeant Menzies and the mutilation of his body. A Hauhau named Paramena was severely wounded in the Ngaio engagement near Kakaramea (1865). He was shot in an arm and in a leg—which was shattered—and he was also cut about the head as he lay wounded by the drummer-boys of the Imperial regiments when they were passing him. His smashed leg was amputated. Sir George Grey saw him afterwards and jokingly told him that he ought to get a pension. Paramena took the Governor's persiflage seriously, and actually applied for a pension—for having fought against the Government. His one-legged condition did not prevent him from joining Titokowaru in 1868 and fighting till the end of the war. He wanted a boot for his one foot, and when the sergeant's leg was carried into the bush Paramena appropriated the boot and wore it.
After a considerable amount of bush reconnaissance work carried out by No. 8 Division and Kepa's Maoris it was discovered that Titokowaru had moved on to the Patea River. By this time, as was learned afterwards, the Hauhaus were in want of both food and ammunition, and fearing discovery by the native contingents—they were in wholesome dread of Kepa's fierce soldiers—they scattered in parties and sought safe camping-places in the deepest parts of the great forest. Kimble Brent related that he and his native comrades were reduced to existing upon the pith of the mamaku fern tree, the wharawhara and other edible mosses, the mushroom-like harore that grew on the trunks of the tawa trees, hakeke or wood-fungus, and the huhu, the large white wood-grub. They did not dare to light a fire in the daytime for fear of betrayal by the smoke rising above the forest-trees. Powder and lead were in short supply, and percussion caps were very scarce and precious.