The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
THE FIGHTING AT TAPAPA
THE FIGHTING AT TAPAPA
News reached Colonel McDonnell at Tokaanu that Major Kepa (Kemp) te Rangihiwinui and the Upper Wanganui chief Topia Turoa (who had recently left the Hauhaus to join the Government side) were on their way via Pipiriki to reinforce the Constabulary with two hundred men, consisting of Wanganui, Ngati-Hau, and Nga-Rauru (Waitotara). McDonnell moved off in advance in pursuit of Te Kooti, marching along the eastern shore of the lake and crossing the Waikato River at Taupo, and recrossing it at Whakamaru on the track to the Tokoroa and Patetere plains. At Whakamaru he halted and awaited the arrival of Kepa and Topia.
From a photo, 1901]
This Upper Wanganui chief fought against the troops at Pipiriki in the first Hauhau War, and for several years opposed the Government, but at the end of 1869 he turned to the pakeha side, and in 1870 led a contingent of his tribesmen in the operations against Te Kooti. Topia was one of the high chiefs present at the great Maori gathering of welcome and homage to the present (1923) King and Queen at Rotorua in 1901.
Two days later (24th January, 1870), lying low by day and marching by night, the force attacked and took Tapapa pa, a village of Ngati-Raukawa, on the bush track from Rotorua and Tauranga to the Waihou and Matamata. [The place is passed on the present vehicle-road through the forest of the Mamaku-Hautere Plateau, between Rotorua and Okoroire, and north-east of Putaruru.] One man belonging to a Hauhau picket was killed. On the following day Te Kooti reversed the order and attacked McDonnell just as he was about to move out against the enemy. It was fortunate for the force that he attacked when he did, page 384 for if McDonnell and Kepa had moved off he would only have found a small body in camp. He attacked from the bush under cover of a fog. One of the Wanganui contingent was, with others, gathering potatoes when he was killed by a blow with a mere pounamu (greenstone club) by a man who approached from the forest. [It was ascertained afterwards from Hapurona Kohu, a chief of the Urewera, that it was he who killed the forager.] The alarm was given by the man's companions, and the fighting became general. Te Kooti's people were flying the Union Jack and were at first mistaken for the Wanganui natives, and some of them got between the Wanganui contingent and a point of the bush where McDonnell's men were engaged with the enemy. Lieutenant Preece was instructed to clear this place, when a Maori passed just in front of him at the edge of the bush. Thinking he was a Wanganui native, Preece asked which way the rebels had retired. The Maori pointed in front of him, jumped behind a tree and fired, missing Lieutenant Preece but mortally wounding Private Etherington, of the Corps of Guides, who was a few paces behind him. The Government force drove the enemy off, killing six Hauhaus and wounding several. McDonnell's casualties were one European and three Maoris killed, and four wounded. Kepa and his men captured all Te Kooti's horses, about a hundred in number.
Te Waru, a sub-chief of the Arawa (Ngati-Whaoa hapu, of Paeroa, near Waiotapu), was Te Kooti's principal lieutenant in this bush skirmishing. He was well acquainted with the forest tracks, and led the early morning attack on the camp at Tapapa.
Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell, in his narrative of the Taupo-Tapapa campaign, gave the following account of this bush engagement:—
“On the evening of the 24th January I told off those who were to remain in camp, amongst whom were the Nga-Rauru. [This tribe, from Waitotara, had recently been under Titokowaru.] Early next morning, while I was seated on a log eating some breakfast—the men preparing to fall in—the camp being wrapped in a thick fog, three of the Nga-Rauru were sent by their chief to the bush, some 200 yards off, to get some firewood. Hiroki, and the two with him, as they approached the bush, stumbled upon Te Kooti's war-party, who were on the point of charging up to our camp. They shot one of the three; but Hiroki—who some eight years afterwards shot a man named McLean in a survey-party on some confiscated land at Waitototara, and who was executed for what was called the murder—protected his other companion, and shot two of the enemy, and brought into camp one of their guns, a Terry breech-loader, that was recognized as having belonged to one of the unfortunate page 385 troopers who had been slaughtered by Te Kooti at Opepe. This action had checked the advance of the enemy, but their first volley came whistling into camp about our ears. I ordered our fellows to take cover, and let the Nga-Rauru protect their own side of the camp. I feared to let No. 2 Division rush at the enemy, lest they mistook the Nga-Rauru for them, or intentionally mistook them. Our men who had been ambushed at Waitotara ten months before had belonged to this division, and one of the men had come to me during our march up and told me that the chief had the rifles which had belonged to Sergeant Menzies and Corporal Horsepool, two of the men who had been tomahawked on that occasion, and I knew that nothing would have pleased them better than to have a slap at them. Privately, I had no objection, but it would not have suited just then, and I had to be careful. The temptation, however, was great.
“The Nga-Rauru fought well, but were thrown into disorder and retreated on our Europeans, to whom I now gave the word to ‘Make ready.’ The wife of Pehimana, a Nga-Rauru chief, mounted a high whata (food platform) and, regardless of the bullets that flew round her, waved her shawl, crying out at the top of her voice, ‘Tahuri, tahuri, E Rauru e! Riria e te iwi, riria! Ngakia to mate! Ngakia! Riria e Rauru e, riria!’ (‘Turn, turn, O Rauru! Fight on, O tribe! Fight on! Absolve yourselves from sin! Clear yourselves, fight on, fight on!’)
“The exhortation to absolve themselves was referring to their having fought against the Queen, and now they were to do their best to prove their sincere sorrow for the past. The attitude of the excited woman was a perfect picture. Not one rap did she care for the bullets. Then the Nga-Rauru rallied, and with one wild yell charged at the enemy.
“Meantime I slipped round with some of the Arawa to our left and came upon the flank of the reserve of the enemy, who were kneeling at the rear of our camp, one man of them holding a staff with Te Kooti's flag on it. We opened fire on them, and after one volley, which knocked over three, they gave us one in return, and then broke and fled to the bush. One of the Arawa I had with me was mortally wounded. We joined the Nga-Rauru, who had beaten back their foes and chased the enemy to the bush, but the fog now rolled up more dense than ever, so that it was useless to follow them up farther.”
After Te Kooti's retreat from Tapapa McDonnell's force had a number of small skirmishes in the forest of the Hautere country, a plateau very much dissected with ravines, extending from the Patetere plains to the highlands inland of Tauranga. Expeditions by detachments under Captain Morrison, Lieutenant Preece, Kepa, Topia Turoa, and other leaders were made in various page 386 directions through the bush, and there were skirmishes with parties of Hauhaus, several of whom were killed without loss to the Government forces. Owing to the dense and jungly character of the forest and to the numerous gullies and ravines this work of scouting and pursuit was one of great difficulty, and Te Kooti once more succeeded in eluding his hunters. His trail was picked up by Kepa, leading in the direction of Whakamarama-Oropi country above Tauranga. Meanwhile Colonel James Fraser, with a mixed force of Armed Constabulary and Maoris, had advanced into the bush from the Tauranga side. At Paengaroa his advance-guard, under Sergeant Ben Biddle, was ambuscaded by a strong body of Te Kooti's men led by Peka Makarini, the half-caste. Four men of the advance-guard, one a European, were shot down in this affair, and Biddle had a personal encounter with Peka, receiving a bullet through his swag of pork rations. Fraser failed to support his greatly outnumbered advance-guard, and the Hauhaus escaped without loss. Te Kooti then, having evaded both McDonnell and Fraser, turned about and made for Rotorua, intending to attack the Arawa headquarters at Ohinemutu in the absence of most of the fighting-men, and then to return to the shelter of the Urewera Mountains.