The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 42: THE LAST UREWERA EXPEDITIONS
Chapter 42: THE LAST UREWERA EXPEDITIONS
AS THE SUMMER drew on the conditions of bush travel improved, and in December, 1871, the search for Te Kooti was renewed from the western side of the Urewera Mountains. On the 7th of that month Captain Preece sent Sergeant Raimona out with a small party from the Rangitaiki to scout the last track followed, with instructions to go farther on towards the head of the Okahu, in the ranges, and then turn down-stream. Instead of adhering to these instructions the scouts crossed the range into the Waiau Valley, where they lost themselves. Then, going down the Waiau for four days, they came out at the western end of Lake Waikaremoana, and managed to communicate with Captain G. McDonnell at Onepoto. There they were supplied with rations, and got back to camp on the 15th, just as Captain Preece was starting with a party to search for them. They had followed the tracks of two men and a woman in the Waiau, and this gave a clue to the whereabouts of Te Kooti.
A month passed quietly by, and on the 18th January, 1872, Captains Mair and Preece made an expedition up the Horomanga Gorge, following a rumour that Te Kooti was in the vicinity of Tutaepukepuke. They captured two men, who denied that he had been in the locality. However, they detained them and surrounded the settlement at daylight next morning. The people were very indignant at being made prisoners, and stoutly denied all knowledge of Te Kooti; and after they had prepared plenty of food for the force, and invited Mair and Preece to remain a month and search the country, they convinced the officers of their good faith. The column scoured the whole country for days without result. On returning to the plains news arrived that Te Kooti had burnt Mr. Dolbel's wool-shed at Maunga-haruru, inland of Mohaka.
The Urewera Country
This topographical map of the central, southern, and western parts of the Urewera Country, reduced from a large-scale map, is given to show the extremely broken contour of the region which the Government native columns scoured during 1870–72. The map was the first one made of the Urewera district by the New Zealand Survey Department; it was drawn by Mr. M. Crompton Smith (now Chief Draughtsman, Survey Department), who was cadet and topographer with Mr. J. Baber in 1883. The party carried out the pioneer survey of the Urewera in that year in the face of considerable opposition by the Maoris.
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.
THE LAST BUSH EXPEDITIONS
Working from the Opotiki side, Captain J. R. Rushton had some most arduous bush marching in search of Te Kooti. His last expedition was early in 1872, when he and Wiremu Kingi, chief of the Ngaitai Tribe, with a war-party scoured the wildly page 464 broken forest country forming the watershed between the Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay. Captain Rushton writes: “My friend Wiremu Kingi, of Torere, informed me he had heard that Te Kooti with a few men was hovering about the high country near the Upper Motu and Maunga-tapere Range and Te Wera forest. I knew that some of his best men had left him and were now living with the Ngaitai at Torere. I forthwith informed Sir Donald McLean, Defence Minister, and he at once despatched the Government steamer, commanded by Captain Fairchild, with stores for an expedition to start early in pursuit of the rebel. Wiremu Kingi agreed to raise a party, and with about fifty very good men we marched for the Upper Motu. It was extremely rough work penetrating those trackless forests and ravines. We got on Maori tracks on the Upper Motu, and followed the trail, often finding the last camp-fires still warm. It was most trying work in that broken bush country. We knew the rebels often doubled back on their tracks. However, they had made off through the Urewera Country, and we did not come up with them. The awful marching had its effect on some of our men; Wi Kingi and a number of his Ngaitai got very lame. I think it was on the fourteenth day out that I made up my mind to try and get down to Gisborne. I took two of our best Maoris—Hotene was one—and after hard bush marching got out to the Ormond settlement. There I found two of my old comrades, Majors Pitt and Richardson. Next day I reached Gisborne and sent a message off by mounted orderly to Sir Donald McLean at Napier asking for a steamer to return the force to Torere. Wi Kingi and his men came out, and we were all taken back to the Bay of Plenty by the steamer. So ended my last expedition in search of Te Kooti.”*
The chase after Te Kooti was not abandoned while any possibility remained that he was still hiding in the unpeopled parts of the bush country. In another effort to find his trail Captain Preece set out from the Rangitaiki Valley on the 19th April, 1872, with his No. 2 Company of Arawa. This proved to be the final expedition of the war. The route taken was that by way of Ahi-kereu and Maunga-pohatu. The column marched right through the mountains to Puketapu, where Captain Ferris's trail was found on the 27th after very hard page 465 travelling in continuous rain. Preece then worked out to Marumaru, and from there went on the Wairoa River to Wairoa for rations and a fresh supply of boots for his men. Having news that Te Kooti had crossed the Maunga-pohatu and Ruatahuna track and was making for Waiau, he marched rapidly for Waikare-moana through Whataroa, and found that Captain Ferris had started from the Marau end of the lake with ten Armed Constabulary and ten natives. It now became evident that Te Kooti was making for the Kaingaroa and Waikato, so Preece communicated with Captain Mair advising him to move up to Heruiwi, and instructed Lieutenant Way to bring ten men from Fort Galatea to watch from that side.
On the 10th May, 1872, Captain Preece left the Waikare-moana and marched southward towards Te Hoe River, a tributary of the Mohaka, over the ground he had travelled in February. Precipitous cliffs about 300 feet high were encountered of the upper part of the proper left bank of Te Hoe Stream, and the men could find no means of descending them, so Preece had to work down towards Ngatapa [not to be confused with the Ngatapa which was the scene of the siege of 1869]. This Ngatapa was an old Maori fortress on the junction of Te Hoe and Mohaka Rivers near Maunga-haruru, where Te Kooti had spent some time in the summer. Finding no trace of him there, Captain Preece determined to work out to the Armed Constabulary post at Te Haroto, on the Napier-Taupo Road, and then make a forced march round by road to co-operate with Captains Ferris and Mair from the Heruiwi side. On his arrival at Te Haroto and Tarawera he sent Sergeant Bluett ahead with a small party to get rations from the Runanga Armed Constabulary station and then work through the edge of the bush towards Ahi-kereru and try and strike the trail there; the captain was unable to push ahead himself owing to a bad leg. However, on the 17th May a telegram arrived from Mr. McLean, the Defence Minister, stating that Te Kooti (who had eluded the Kaingaroa Plains patrols) had got through to Arowhena, in the King Country, a settlement near the Waikato River west of Waotu, on the 15th, and left for Te Kuiti, Tokangamutu, on the 16th. Thus unsuccessfully ended all the expeditions after the outlaw. Captain Ferris had followed the trail through dense bush as far as Heruiwi, but arrived there too late; Lieutenant Way, who met Captain Preece at Tarawera, had seen nothing of the trail.
“Captain Ferris,” said Captain Preece, “deserved great credit for the persistent way in which he had followed the trail, from the time we handed it over to him at Whataroa, through to Te Reinga and the bush country at the back of Nuhaka, where page 466 Te Kooti doubled on his own tracks, thence striking his old hiding-place at the head of the Waiau beyond the western end of Lake Waikare-moana, through dense bush in rugged country and up the beds of rivers, and ultimately reaching the open country above the Kaingaroa Plains unfortunately just too late to capture Te Kooti. He never received proper credit for this very arduous service, and it is only proper that, although he has ‘gone west’ many years, his good work should be recorded.”
Captains Mair and Preece worked well together. There was never any question of seniority between them; they consulted one another on every detail, and jointly served their country with zeal and loyalty in a very trying time, giving every assistance and information to other officers who were operating against Te Kooti from different points. Captain Porter and Lieutenant Large, too, gave particularly valuable service in their arduous expeditions with Ngati-Porou, tirelessly scouring the most formidable mountain region in the North Island.
In the safety of the King Country, chiefly at Tokangamutu and Otewa, Te Kooti spent the next eleven years. His pardon in 1883 enabled him to move abroad again, but he was not permitted to return to his old home at Poverty Bay, and he died in 1893 on a reserve at Ohiwa, at peace with the Government he had defied and eluded so long.
So ended, in 1872, the Maori campaigns which began on the Waitara in 1860—a war that at one period necessitated the employment of more than ten thousand troops, and which was brought to a close by native contingents with a few European officers. From war on the grand scale under Imperial generals, with horse, foot, and artillery, and elaborate transport arrangements, the operations had gradually been reduced to a kind of guerrilla warfare in which the men carried all their supplies on their backs and fought the hostile bands in the Maori manner, tracking them through the forests and practising the bush-fighting tactics of surprise and ambuscade.
For eleven years almost continuously the North Island was disturbed by war and alarms, and the expenditure incurred remained a heavy load upon the resources of the young colony. The loss of life was heavy in some of the engagements and sieges—in particular Rangiriri, Orakau, the Gate Pa, Te Ranga, Te Ngaio (Kakaramea), and Ngatapa—yet considering the long period over which the campaigns extended the aggregate of page 467 casualties was not great. From the opening of Heke's War in the North in 1845 until the firing of the last shots in the chase after Te Kooti in 1872 the total death roll of the British and colonial troops engaged was 560; the wounded numbered about 1,050. The bodies of friendly natives serving on the Government side lost in the same period about 250 killed. The hostile Maoris lost far more heavily. More than 2,000 were killed, and probably about the same number wounded, but the exact figures could not be ascertained, as it was native policy to minimize their casualties as much as possible.
* Letter from Captain Rushton, of Kutarere, Ohiwa, 1st July, 1923. Captain Rushton added: “I saw Te Kooti a few days before he died, at Ohiwa, in 1893. The Native Minister, Mr. Cadman, had granted the request of Te Kooti's relatives for a piece of land on which they could settle; this was at the Wainui, at the head of Ohiwa Harbour. There, I think, the old rebel was buried. Just now most of his followers from all parts are holding the great Hurae (July) meeting in his memory.”