The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 37: EXPEDITIONS TO UREWERA COUNTRY
Chapter 37: EXPEDITIONS TO UREWERA COUNTRY
THE FOREST WHICH clothes with its dark-green blanket the steep slopes of Maunga-pohatu, the “Rocky Mountain” in the heart of the Urewera Country, is a mysterious, gloomy place. Day is semi-darkness in the tree-shadowed depths of the ravines which scar the mountain-sides, so thick is the screen of leaves and so closely do the boughs of the native pines and beeches interlace themselves overhead. Streamers of grey and white moss in many places drape the ancient trees; these pendulous mosses, hanging there in the silences, look like rows of Druid beards, and the half-light heightens the fancy. Underneath the foot there are dense beds of ferns, and, except where the narrow horse-tracks or foot-trails wind up the valleys and over the ridges, the jungly undergrowth needs work with tomahawk or slasher. The castellated limestone ridges of Maunga-pohatu are seldom free from mists or rain-clouds; the old Maoris say it is the tapu which has clung to the Rocky Mountain for centuries, enveloping the sacred burial-mountain of the Urewera from the profaning gaze and tread of the invader, and particularly the white invader. Even to-day in the summer it is a rough place and hard to travel; in winter it is often snow-bound. Yet the Colonial Government forces campaigned over this inhospitable country in winter as well as in summer in the war-days of 1870–71. They were Maori forces, with but three or four white officers, and they spent months in penetrating these almost trackless wilds, always in danger of sudden ambuscade by the Urewera hillmen, whose gorges and forests were their chief defences. Colonel Whitmore's campaign of 1869 did not touch the Rocky Mountain; it was left for a purely native expedition, with one European officer, to break for the first time the tapu of Maunga-pohatu.
Porter was shawl-kilted, like his Maoris; he carried a swag on his shoulders, and was armed with a Terry carbine with gunstock; round his neck, by a lanyard, sailor-fashion, he wore a Colt's six-chamber revolver. With him he had a guide, spy, and bodyguard, a Maori named Hori Niania, a Hauhau whom he had captured at Te Reinga some time previously, and who now proved a reliable and useful guide. It was this man who described to Porter the situation and defences of the strongholds on the sides of the Rocky Mountain. On the 12th March the Government war-party, weary with the long march, had camped in the forest close to a Hauhau pa, which, however, they could not yet see. They did not dare light a camp-fire, for fear of their advance being detected by Te Kooti's scouts. They ate a ration of biscuits and the bacon which they cooked at their last page 411 camp. Ropata and Porter questioned their Hauhau guide, and ascertained from him that the pa stood on a tongue of land at the junction of the two steep-banked mountain-streams. It was a stockaded village, and its front and sides were so well palisaded that it would not be an easy place to storm. At the rear of the pa the mountain rose steeply, and the forest grew close up to it; it was named Horoeka, which is the native name of the lancewood, because of the abundance of that small tree in the vicinity. Higher up the range, and more to the west, were the Urewera villages te Kakari and Toreatai. In the “Lancewood” pa dwelt the principal families of the Ngati-Kowhatu (the “Tribe of the Rocks”). Toreatai was the capital and citadel of the savage Ngati-Huri, whose chief was Hetaraka. Ngati-Huri belonged to Maunga-pohatu, but Ngati-Kowhatu was an Upper Wairoa tribe; the principal chief was Te Rakiroa, an old-time rebel. Both tribes were strong supporters of Te Kooti.
“You attack Horoeka,” said Ropata to Captain Porter; “I shall push on to Toreatai. I leave you Henare Potae and a hundred of the Whanau-a-Rua and a hundred of Te Aowera. That will make two hundred; they should be enough for Horoeka. I shall go on with the rest, and you must join me when you have taken the pa.”
When the old Maori soldier had moved off with his column Porter made his disposition of the division under his command. He determined, after again questioning Hori Niania, to attack the stockade from the rear. It was a rough and difficult march in the darkness through the dense bush and across the watercourses. Porter guided the force by compass. At last the column came out near the place where the two streams, as described by Hori Niania, made junction. Dimly looming there, Porter saw the sharp-topped palisade of timber that surrounded the village. The glimmer of a fire could be seen, and voices were heard.
As Porter had previously arranged, he took the rear of the pa himself, with a hundred Aowera men, intending to make the assault as soon as daylight came. The other hundred, under Henare Potae, he sent to from the cutting-off parties, on either angle of the tongue on which the village stood.
“Go down the creek-bed,” he instructed Henare; “have your men ready when you hear us charge in, but don't fire a shot or make the slightest noise until then, or you'll spoil it all.”
With the utmost caution, the force surrounded the Hauhau position. Just before daylight the cordon was complete, and Porter and his immediate followers crouched behind some logs close to the rear gateway of the stockade.
Colonel T. W. Porter, C.B.
Colonel Porter, who gave his country distinguished service in the Maori wars and in South Africa, was the son of Lieut-Colonel Porter (7th Bengal Native Infantry), who died in India during the Mutiny, and nephew of Sir Hugh Rose, afterwards Lord Strathnairn, who at one time was Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in India. On his mother's side he was of ancient Scottish Highland stock, the Roses of Kilravock Castle. Geddes, Nairnshire. He entered the Royal Navy in 1857 at the age of thirteen, and served as a midshipman in H.M.S. “Hercules” in operations against pirates on the coast of China. In New Zealand in 1863 he joined the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry as a trooper, and won commissioned rank in the East Coast Hauhau campaigns. He was continuously on active service from 1868 to the end of 1871 in operations against Titokowaru and Te Kooti. In the South African War, 1900–2, Colonel Porter commanded the Seventh New Zealand Contingent of Mounted Rifles in the Transvaal. Orange Free State, and Zululand, and later the Ninth Contingent. For his services in veldt warfare he received the high commendation of Lord Kitchener and was created a commander of the Bath. He was afterwards for some time Acting Under-Secretary for Defence in New Zealand. Colonel Porter died in Wellington in 1920 at the age of seventy-six years.
The woman, scenting danger, stopped and looked intently into the dim forest, and cast a suspicious gaze all around. She turned to go again, and then, looking quickly back over her shoulder, she saw Porter in the act of rising from the ground.
The old woman gave a startled cry, but next moment, at Porter's shout, “Me kokiri!” (“Charge!”) the Government men page 413 were up. The Aowera, running over the wahine in their rush, dashed in through the open gateway. Porter called, “Hangaia te ngutu o te pu ki nga whare!” (“Thrust the muzzles of your guns into the houses!”) The woman's cry had apparently not alarmed the camp, for the people were talking in a large meeting-house which stood on one side of the marae, or village square, and there was not a soul out-of-doors but the one old woman. On the opposite side of the square to the large whare were a number of small huts, half-buried in the earth and roofed with totara bark.
Porter rushed to the meeting-house, and his men thrust their rifle-muzzles into the door and window. All the houses were similarly covered. It was a complete surprise for Ngati-Kowhatu.
“Come out!” Porter shouted. “Come out, all of you, or I'll fire into you! Pass your guns out first and come out!”
There was a vociferous babble of voices within. Ngati-Kowhatu were boiling with anger and chagrin. They had all been listening to an oration by a notorious Hauhau from the Bay of Plenty, one Iharaira (“Israel”), who had arrived in the pa the previous day; he was one of the murderers of Bennett White at Waiotahe in 1867. “Israel” had been narrating his deeds and glorifying Te Kooti and his exploits. Porter had caught him very neatly, without firing a shot.
The people sullenly filed out from the wharepuni, passing out their guns, butt first, as they came. All the force was now in the pa, and as the captured villagers fell in on the marae they were surrounded by armed guards. Porter himself took charge of Iharaira, who surrendered a fine greenstone mere which he had been carrying under his flax mat. [This trophy Porter returned to its owner a few days later, in token of trust, when that rebel was sent on a diplomatic mission to the headquarters of the Urewera. Iharaira vanished, mere and all, and that was the last that was heard of him.] Rakiroa, it was found, was away with Te Kooti.
The Tribe of the Rocks would have fired upon Porter and his followers had they had but a few moments' warning. But too well they knew what would be their fate if they attempted resistance now. There were ninety-three prisoners, about half of whom were women and children. Few of them had any European clothing; most of them wore rough Maori mats: a shaggy-headed, rude clan of the mountains.
Just as Porter had assembled and disarmed the bushmen of Horoeka heavy volley-firing was heard. It came from far up the foggy ranges, in the direction of Ngati-Huri's villages. Ropata was engaged in a severe fight. The volleys rolled thunderously through the mountain-gorges. Then the firing suddenly ceased. page 414 Ngati-Porou looked at each other and wondered what the result was. Porter himself was anxious about it, but he did not think that Ropata could have been “wiped out” or even beaten, because had he been unsuccessful in his attack the firing would not have ceased so suddenly.
Captain Porter decided to march his prisoners through the bush and join Ropata at Toreatai. It was an undertaking attended with considerable risk, but he guarded against that as far as was possible. “You must walk in front of me,” he said to Iharaira, “and be very careful or you'll have a bullet through your head.” Each of the other prisoners he placed in front of a Ngati-Porou man so that in the event of any trouble the rebels could quickly be shot.
“Now,” he said to his prisoners when the column stood ready to march, “listen to me. We are not going to kill you if you behave yourselves and march quietly. But if any of you gives trouble or attempts to escape, that one will be shot.”
Horoeka was left deserted. One of the prisoners guided the column. All the mountain villages had been alarmed by this time, and the Urewera had taken to the bush. From ridge to ridge their sulky war-horns (conch-shells) and pu-tatara, or wooden trumpets, echoed. But they did not attack his column; and so that afternoon the two divisions met. Ropata had had a sharp fight and lost one of his men killed (Pene Kerekere) before driving the enemy out of their position at Te Kakari, which he was now engaged in strengthening with parapets in anticipation of an attack by the bushmen.
Ropata went on next day to Tauaki pa, where a prisoner was taken, and sent out sortie-parties, who ascended Maunga-Pohatu and scouted the rugged country in pursuit of Ngati-Huri. It was then decided to march out down the Waimana and meet Kepa and his Wanganui Contingent, who were supposed to be in that direction. Ropata also intended to attack Tamaikowha on the Lower Waimana.
Ngati-Porou had a harassing march out toward the Waimana, for they were attacked flank and rear by the Urewera. Porter commanded the advance-guard, while Ropata took charge of the rear-guard, which had most of the fighting. Several men were hit, but none seriously. The Urewera ceased to worry their foes when Ngati-Porou had crossed a ridge at Tawhana which divided them from the Waimana headwaters.
Some stragglers of Ngati-Tama were met on the Upper Waimana, and they reported that Kepa had visited Tauwharemanuka and made peace with Tamaikowha. This by no means pleased Ropata, who would have dealt with the savage chief of Ngai-Tama in a very different fashion.page 415
Solomon Black, N.Z.C.
Constable Black (No. 1 Division Armed Constabulary) was awarded the New Zealand Cross for his determined gallantry in holding, with a few comrades, the precipitous ridge in rear of Ngatapa hill fort, 1869. Benjamin Biddle, of Whakatane, also received the Cross for that service.
(See page 278.)
The leaders met Tamaikowha at his kainga and learned from him that Te Kooti with a strong force was in occupation of Maraetahi pa high up in the gorge of the Waioeka River. Ngati-Porou marched out to Ohiwa, where Kepa was found encamped with some of his Ngati-Hau; the rest were at Opotiki. The Nga-Rauru, from Waitotara, who had fought so well at Tapapa were included in Kepa's force.
Thomas Adamson, N.Z.C.
Adamson was one of three stalwart brothers who joined the colonial forces at Wanganui. He was celebrated for his skill and hardihood in bush scouting and warfare after the Maori manner, and was awarded the New Zealand Cross in recognition of several daring expeditions in Hauhau country. He served with Kepa's Wanganui Maori Contingent and in Whitmore's Corps of Guides, 1869–70, and was wounded at Manawa-hiwi Urewera Country, 7th May, 1869.
Te Kooti took refuge in the exceedingly rugged bush wilderness of Te Wera, at the source of the Waioeka River, north-east of Maunga-Pohatu. From his hiding-place here he suddenly made one of his lightning raids down to the coast. His objective this time was Tolago Bay (Uawa), about fifty miles due east of his camp in the mountains of Te Wera. Some of the people of this place, the Aitanga-a-Hauiti, who had joined Te Kooti, induced him to descend on the district and obtain further recruits for his band. He captured a few people in the inland villages and shot one man, whereupon the Hauiti Tribe at Uawa turned out to resist him, and sent a message to Turanganui appealing for help.
Major Pitt and Captain Richardson, of the A.C. force, and Captain Porter, hurried up to Tolago Bay with a small party of volunteers, and were joined by the Hauiti. This composite body marched at once on Te Kooti's return trail. For three days the pursuit continued in very wet, wintry weather. Te Kooti at last was found in bivouac at Te Hapua, on the bank of a stream in the forest. The officer in command made his dispositions to surround the Hauhaus, and Te Kooti would in all probability page 418 have been killed or captured but for a premature shot fired by a Hauiti man, most probably as a warning to the enemy. Next moment the whole force was blazing away into the camp, but once more the rebel leader escaped without loss and vanished in the trackless forest. Captain Porter captured one of his wives, a woman named Huhana (Susan), who had accompanied him on many raids; at Makaretu, in 1869, she had helped to carry him off to Ngatapa when he was disabled.
The search for Te Kooti was continued by Ngati-Porou during May. Ropata and Porter scoured the country between Te Reinga and the Urewera Mountains and captured several families of the Ngati-Kowhatu and other rebel tribes and removed them to the coast. The few members of Ngati-Kowhatu remaining in the field under Rakiroa—who had joined Te Kooti in 1868—soon afterwards came in and surrendered themselves and their arms. Towards the end of 1870 Ropata was requested to make another expedition into the heart of the Urewera Country in order to secure control of the various hapus and prevent them joining Te Kooti on any further raids or affording him shelter in their mountain villages. He enlisted two hundred of the Aowera and other hapus for this purpose, and arranged to set out on the march early in the new year. Meanwhile, on the western side of the ranges the newly enrolled Arawa Contingent, under Captains Mair and Preece, was scouting the borders of the Urewera in search of Te Kooti, who was now expected to make an endeavour to cross the Kaingaroa Plains and gain sanctuary in the territory of Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Maniapoto.
The operations of the Arawa Constabulary will be described in the next chapter.