The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
THE LAST SKIRMISH
THE LAST SKIRMISH
On the morning of the 13th February Captain Preece sent out parties scouting right and left. One of them returned with news that they had found a trail and a camp seven days old. The heavy and long-continued rains had made the Waiau too high to cross, but Preece marched early the following day and passed three more camps. He then sent Sergeant Bluett along the Mangaone Stream (a tributary of the Waiau), and Sergeant Huta up a small creek where a camp was found with the fires still quite warm. The occupants had only recently left the place, so Huta was despatched to cut them off and Bluett was recalled.
The Maori trail was now followed by a party of about twenty men under Captain Preece for seven miles to the mouth of the Mangaone; the main body was left to come up with the swags. Preece and Bluett and their chase-party, marching very rapidly, at last caught up with the fugitives for whom they had been searching so long. From the top of the high, wooded bank of the Mangaone they caught sight of about twenty Hauhaus scrambling up the steep cliff on the opposite side of the gorge. One of them was Te Kooti. Captain Preece shouted to them calling on them to surrender, but they continued their hurried retreat. The order was given to attack, and sighting for 400 yards the party opened fire, to which the Hauhaus replied with a few shots. About a hundred rounds were fired at the Hauhaus, but to Preece's great annoyance the Terry carbine ammunition was very defective, having been damaged by the heavy rain, and many cartridges were useless. “I got my cartridge jammed,” Captain Preece wrote in his diary, “and page 462 had to take it out. I could hear curses on each side of me for the same cause.” The fugitives safely climbed the cliff and disappeared in the bush.
In the meantime Sergeant Huta and some men had got down through the bush and were climbing the cliff on the other side. After the fruitless firing Preece followed him with the rest of the party. Climbing the cliff they followed the fugitives at their utmost speed, and had a running skirmish for about two miles across wooded ridges, but with no result, and Preece and his score of men had to abandon the chase. This was the last time Te Kooti was seen over a gun-sight, and it was the final engagement in the Maori wars; the date was the 14th February, 1872. The parting shot was fired by Private Nikora te Tuhi, a Ngati-Rangitihi man, at two men going over the last ridge.
The Arawa were becoming exhausted, having had nothing to eat except a mouthful of biscuit and water; a few of the party had apples, and these somewhat allayed their thirst. On returning to the Mangaone the Arawa found the enemy's camp in the bush across the river; they had left all their food there in their haste to escape, and the Government Maoris at last had a satisfying meal. The rest of the party came in with the swags after Preece had established himself in camp about 8 o'clock in the evening.
That night a sentry thought he heard some one moving in the bush. He fired and turned out the guard, but nothing could be found. Captain Preece thought it might have been one of the enemy's dogs, which sometimes got separated from their masters when out pig-hunting. But more than a month later he learned that Anaru Matete, one of Te Kooti's party, related that he hid close to the camp on the night of the skirmish at Mangaone and heard the gun fired, and he remained in concealment until after the Arawa left in the morning. It was afterwards ascertained that, besides Te Kooti and Anaru Matete, the party of Hauhaus included Hirini te Oika, Maaka, Pataromu, Ruru, Maika, and other desperate men, who had stood by their chief through all his misfortunes.
The spot where this encounter took place on the Mangaone is about eight miles south of Lake Waikare-moana.
Had Captain Preece's men been armed with the Snider instead of the Terry carbine—a poor weapon for that kind of fighting—they should have been able to reap the benefit of their long toil; but it was not until the 2nd April that the force was served out with the Snider rifles, for which the commander had repeatedly applied for a long time in vain. It was exasperating for Preece and Mair to know that the Armed Constabulary in camp at Taupo and elsewhere on the plains were armed with page 463 Sniders, then about the most modern weapon obtainable, while the bush expeditionary columns who were doing all the work in pursuit of Te Kooti were handicapped with an inferior arm, the ammunition of which was always liable to be spoiled in rough and wet campaigning.
Captain Preece followed the enemy's trail to Whataroa, near Onepoto, where Captain Ferris took it up. The Arawa remained at the lake a few days to rest after their long and trying marches and then returned to the Rangitaiki Plains. They arrived at Fort Galatea on the 26th February, after having been a month constantly travelling, for the greater part through trackless country.
Te Kooti's movements were marvellously swift; he had a disconcerting trick of appearing in the most unexpected places. Soon after the Mangaone encounter he made a raid on Nuhaka, between Wairoa and the Mahia Peninsula, but did not kill anyone on this occasion. Major Cumming was then officer in command of the Wairoa district, and he sent a force under Captain McLean and Lieutenant J. T. Large to intercept Te Kooti, who made a hurried retreat from Moumoukai Mountain, in rear of Nuhaka. The force from Wairoa went up the Hangaroa River and lay in wait for Te Kooti at a place where it was known he would endeavour to cross the Hangaroa on his way back to the Urewera Country. Lookouts were posted night and day in concealment at short intervals on both flanks for a considerable distance. But one dark night the Hauhaus, unseen and unheard, crept cautiously down the bed of a creek not far from the camp. As they kept to the watercourse no tracks were left. Te Kooti and his men forded or swam the Hangaroa, and with their usual luck got away again into the mountains and made for the rugged country on the southern and western sides of Waikare-moana.
Both Captain Preece and Captain Ferris continued to follow Te Kooti, but they never encountered him again, although Ferris captured Anaru Matete and Maaka (Te Kooti's head executioner) near Te Reinga some weeks later. Maaka was tried at the Supreme Court at Napier and sentenced to death; the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, and the prisoner was liberated after serving ten years.