The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 6: CHUTE'S TARANAKI CAMPAIGN
Chapter 6: CHUTE'S TARANAKI CAMPAIGN
MAJOR-GENERAL TREVOR CHUTE was a vigorous downright soldier who infused new energy into the operations on the West Coast. His tactics were in strong contrast to those of his predecessor. Cameron hated the bush, and consistently kept his troops as near the coast as possible. Chute, on the other hand, boldly entered upon forest operations, and followed the Maoris up into their strongholds, sought them out in their bush retreats and stormed pa after pa, concluding a successful series of attacks by undertaking a venturesome and difficult march through the roadless forest at the back of Mount Egmont. He proved the ideal commander for a short, sharp bush campaign.
There had been several murders by the Nga-Rauru and Pakakohi Tribes, who, like Ngati-Ruanui, had refused to receive the peace proclamation by the Governor in 1865. On the 1st November Mr. Charles Broughton, interpreter to the forces in the Wanganui district, went to Otoia, on the Patea River, to confer with the Hauhaus on the peace proclamation, and was treacherously shot. Farther north Ngati-Ruanui and their kin gave evidence of their determination to hold their lands against the pakeha and to scorn all demands for surrender. On the 4th October a small party of the Military Train was ambuscaded on the track between the Manawapou and the Wai-ngongoro redoubts, by way of Hawera, and one of them, whose horse was shot, was tomahawked.
Chute, having received his directions from the Governor to open a campaign against the West Coast tribes, began operations from the southern side at the end of 1865. He marched out from Wanganui on the 30th December for the Weraroa, the scene of Sir George Grey's triumph of strategy earlier in the year. His force was considerably smaller than that which Cameron had led slowly and cautiously up the coast. Some reinforcements joined him on the Waitotara, and the column he now had at his disposal was a very capable force, consisting of 33 Royal Artillery, with field-guns, under Lieutenant Carre; 280 of the page 62 14th Regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Trevor; 45 Forest Rangers, under Major Von Tempsky; and the Wanganui Native Contingent and other Maoris, about 300 strong, under Major McDonnell; besides a Transport Corps of 45 men each driving a two-horse dray.
Chute wasted no time at Weraroa. Crossing the Waitotara on the 3rd January, 1866, with three companies of the 14th Regiment and the Maori Contingent, he advanced upon Okotuku, a village on the edge of the high ground about five miles inland from the Wairoa (the present Township of Waverley). On the wooded plain below Okotuku, in the direction of Wairoa, was Moturoa, destined to be the scene of a disastrous fight for the Government forces nearly three years later.
At daylight on the 4th two companies of the 14th and a Maori force under McDonnell advanced upon Okotuku, where the village had been burned the previous day; it was now the intention to destroy the large plantations of potatoes and maize found there. A small advance-guard (Lieutenant W. E. Gudgeon, Ensign W. McDonnell, and Winiata Pakoro, of the Wanganui Contingent) were heavily fired on close up to the pa, which was defended by a breastwork of heavy timbers, and took cover in a small hollow until Lieutenant Keogh's company of the 14th, with the Maori Contingent, came charging up to the position. The pa was stormed at the point of the bayonet, and three Maoris were killed; three more were killed by the Contingent and the Forest Rangers in the pursuit of the retreating enemy through the bush. The British loss was one killed and six wounded.
The next operation was the attack and capture of a strong Hauhau pa at Te Putahi, on high ground above the Whenuakura River. The terrain was thickly wooded, with awkward spurs, where it was easy for a small force to resist an advance. Very early on the morning of the 7th January the British force (detachments of the 14th, 18th, and 50th Regiments, Forest Rangers, and Wanganui Maoris) made a detour under cover of darkness and cautiously ascended through the bush to the top of the plateau on which the pa stood. McDonnell and his natives took the place in the rear while the troops advanced to the attack. The Hauhaus were first seen engaged in their morning service round the niu pole. Their resistance was determined, but the pa was soon taken at the bayonet's point, with a loss of two killed to the Imperial troops. Among the twelve wounded was Major McDonnell, who received a bullet in the foot. The Hauhaus lost fourteen killed in the pa, and in the retreat another was shot.
This sharp action drove the Hauhaus inland, and terminated page 63 the fighting south of the Patea. The scene of action now shifted to the Tangahoe territory, in the heart of the rebel country. Here, at the edge of the plateau high above the right bank of the Tangahoe River, the Hauhaus had constructed the strongest fortification built in this campaign.
The General selected the Tawhiti, near the present Town of Hawera, as his field base for the advance on Otapawa. The intervening country was fairly level, intersected by small streams with steep banks. At Taiporohenui the large meeting-house of the Hauhau tribes was destroyed. Lieut.-Colonel Butler, with a detachment of the 57th, had now joined the column. On the 12th January Chute moved out across the plain and encamped within easy striking distance of Otapawa, and next day Ensign W. McDonnell and some of the Wanganui Maoris page 65 reconnoitred the position. Very early the next morning (14th January, 1866) the General advanced to the attack with a force consisting of 200 men of the 14th Regiment (Lieut-Colonel Trevor), 180 of the 57th (Lieut.-Colonel Butler), 36 of the Forest Rangers (Major Von Tempsky), and 200 of the Native Contingent under Major McDonnell, beside three Armstrong field-guns. The friendly natives were to move to the rear and cut off the retreat, but the General was impatient to attack and did not give them time to get into position in the very broken ground. Fire was opened with one of the Armstrongs from the plateau facing the pa, and several shells exploded within the palisades. As no Maori appeared, it was thought by some of the troops that the place was deserted. However, there were over two hundred Hauhaus manning the trenches, waiting until their foes were within close range. The 57th, supported by the 14th, were ordered to advance to the assault. The veteran “Die-hards,” led by Lieut.-Colonels Butler and Hassard, steadily breasted the rise leading to the level front of the pa. They were within point-blank range when the whole front of the palisades blazed and a heavy volley came ripping through their ranks, followed by another volley as the soldiers rushed upon the stockade with their bayonets at the charge. Slashing at the aka-vine fastenings of the palisading with tomahawks and bayonets, the troops were soon in the fort and despatching the Hauhaus who remained to dispute possession. Those who escaped fled down the long steep spur to the Tangahoe, most of them eluding the Native Contingent which followed in chase. On the right flank of the pa, where the ground was steep and wooded, Von Tempsky and his Rangers had cleared the bush of some Hauhaus who had opened fire on the Imperial troops as they advanced to the assault.
The Hauhaus lost about thirty killed in this sharp encounter and they had many wounded, who were taken up the Tangahoe to a sheltered spot and there tended. Thence the fugitives, fearing further pursuit, travelled inland several miles, through a wild forest and gorge country, to Rimatoto, on the northern side of the Meremere Hills.
The British loss in the assault was eleven killed and twenty wounded. Lieut.-Colonel Jason Hassard, of the 57th, was mortally wounded. Major-General Chute had a narrow escape; a bullet tore the braid on his coat. The rather heavy casualties, suffered chiefly by the gallant 57th, were due to the impetuosity of Chute's frontal attack. Lieut.-Colonel Butler was indignant at not being allowed to send out flanking parties, but that part of the operation could have been attended to very thoroughly by the Forest Rangers and the Native Contingent had a little more time been allowed.page 66
It was camp gossip after the battle that Kimble Bent, the deserter from the 57th, was one of the defenders of the pa, and that it was his bullet that had laid his old officer, Hassard, low. This was incorrect. Bent, however, had assisted, on compulsion, in the building of the fort, and was in the place until two or three days before the assault, when he was sent away with non-combatants to a place of security in the forest higher up the Tangahoe.
The Hauhaus who garrisoned Otapawa were chiefly members of the Tangahoe, Ngati-Ruanui, and Pakakohi Tribes. One of their principal fighting chiefs was the old warrior and priest Tautahi Ariki; another was Tukino. Te Ua, the arch-prophet of Pai-marire, had been in the pa, but had ridden away shortly before the day of the engagement.
The principal stronghold of the South Taranaki Hauhaus having been captured, the General continued his advance, concentrating on Ketemarae, a famous gathering-place for the West Coast tribes and the junction of several old war-tracks. The stockaded village of Ketemarae (about a mile from the present Township of Normanby) was attacked by the troops, who occupied it early on the morning of the 15th January. Ten Hauhaus were killed. The Wanganui Native Contingent, in the advance, had some sharp skirmishing when the order was given to clear the various settlements in the neighbourhood of Ketemarae, including Keteonetea and Puketi.
The force moved on past Waihi, taking several settlements, and, crossing the Wai-ngongoro River, captured the large village of Mawhitiwhiti, the principal kainga of the Nga-Ruahine Tribe. Here seven of the defenders were killed. The day's work resulted in the destruction of seven villages of Nga-Ruahine and Ngati-Ruanui, including, besides Ketemarae and Mawhitiwhiti, the large kaingas Weriweri and Te Whenuku. Most of the fighting fell to the lot of the Native Contingent, and here Kepa (Kemp) te Rangihiwinui (later given a Major's commission) distinguished himself by his activity and dash. The scene of these sharp operations, the first attacks delivered on the Ngati-Ruanui and Nga-Ruahine in their bush homes, is now a beautiful farming district, famous for its fertility, and covered with villages and homesteads. Some of the Maori hapus still hold their native soil, and the sons of the old warriors of Nga-Ruahine are even carrying on dairying-work like their pakeha neighbours. One of the historic settlements is Weriweri, the home in the war-days of the fighting chief Toi Whakataka, who took a prominent part in the opposition to General Chute and afterwards in Titokowaru's war. His son, Pou-whareumu Toi, is now the leading man of Weriweri.page 67
THE MARCH THROUGH THE FOREST
The vigorous Imperial commander now rounded off his invasion of the Hauhau country by taking a column through to New Plymouth by the most direct route—the difficult, almost unknown, Maori trail through the dense forest on the east side of Mount Egmont. This route was the ancient war-track between Puke-rangiora, on the Waitara, and Ketemarae; to the Maoris it was known as Whakaahurangi, a name which alludes to the gradual ascent to the heights as the eastern ranges of the great mountain are approached. The Whakaahurangi track was the common route in pre-European times between North and South Taranaki, and in the early days of the New Plymouth settlement working-parties sent out by the New Zealand Company's agent in Taranaki had cut a bridle-track along the native trail. In the course of twenty years, however, heavy undergrowth had covered the almost disused track, and Chute's determination to page 68 take horses through to New Plymouth made the enterprise one of vast labour for his troops. Chute was determined to vindicate before the eyes of the colonists the capacity of the British soldier to undertake hazardous and difficult bush campaigning, and to demonstrate to the Maoris also the willingness and the ability of troops to follow them up into their most remote fastnesses.
The column set out on the forest march from Ketemarae northward early on the morning of the 17th January, 1866. Chute took three companies of the 14th Regiment, Von Tempsky's Forest Rangers, and a picked body of the Native Contingent, in all 514 of all ranks, including 247 of the 14th Regiment. Each soldier carried a waterproof blanket and greatcoat, and biscuits for two days. The transport service consisted of 67 packhorses, with their drivers, besides 24 saddle-horses. The staff included Colonel Carey, D.A.G., and Lieut.-Colonel Gamble, D.Q.M.G.; and Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent of Wellington Province, accompanied the General. The march through to the open country at Mataitawa occupied eight days; it could have been done in half that time but for the necessity of cutting a track and making bridges for the horses. The first day's march was between nine and ten miles. The only skirmishing was an encounter between the Native Contingent in the advance, a few miles from Ketemarae, and seven Hauhaus on the track; three of these were shot. As the column advanced across the lower spurs of the mountain the country became more and more difficult; the forest undergrowth was dense and matted, and gullies and watercourses continually intersected the line of march. The Forest Rangers in the advance did excellent work as pioneers, cutting the track and bridging creeks and swampy gullies with trunks of fern-trees, which gave good footing for the horses. Half-way through the forest heavy rain set in, and the rest of the march was slow and toilsome in the extreme. The Rangers were now so exhausted by the heavy labour of pioneer duty that working-parties of the 14th, under Colonel Carey, were sent to the front.
On Sunday, the 21st, the force marched only four miles, crossing four rapid streams and fifteen gullies, and went into bivouac early in wet and gloomy weather. That evening it became necessary to kill one of the horses for a meat ration; all the provisions but a little biscuit had been exhausted. On the night of the 20th Mr. Price, of the commissariat, and Captain Leach and Ensign McDonnell, with some Maoris, had set out on a forced march for Mataitawa to get supplies for the troops. The rain fell in torrents, and the struggle through the roadless bush became so exhausting that Mr. Price had to be left under page 69 a tree while his companions pushed on to Mataitawa. Reaching the British post at last they obtained provisions, and on the evening of the 2nd Captain Leach returned from Mataitawa with a party of the 43rd and 68th carrying supplies for the half-starved troops. Meanwhile the Native Contingent and some of the Rangers had hurried on in advance to the open country. A second horse was killed on the 22nd before the arrival of the party with food. The weather continued wet, and progress over the gully-dissected forest country was slow and toilsome. At last, on the 25th, after a bush march of sixty miles, the column gladly halted in the Mataitawa Valley, and the sun shone out once more. After drying clothes and blankets the troops marched through to the Wai-wakaiho flat, where they encamped, and next day made a triumphal march into New Plymouth, where the townspeople dined the soldiers, and the General was presented with a congratulatory address, read by the Superintendent of Taranaki Province, Mr. H. S. Richmond. The address described the expedition as the first march on which a large body of regular troops had been led for several days together through the forests of New Zealand, and declared that General Chute's decisive field operations had shown that against British forces, regular and irregular, New Zealand had no impregnable fortresses; that British courage and arms could penetrate wherever man could hide; that there was no security for rebellion, and that the only course open to the hostile natives was frank submission to the terms which the Empire and the colony held out for their acceptance.
Included in General Chute's column on the bush march was a detachment of the Mounted Artillery under Lieutenant G. T. Carré, R.A. (afterwards Lieut.-Colonel Carré). Describing the arduous march, Lieutenant Carré wrote in one of his letters:—
“We started on the morning of the 17th January, 1866, and marched by a well-marked track into the bush with a few native guides and three days' provisions and 300 men. At first the track was all that could be desired, and the first three miles were soon passed over. We laughed at the idea of taking more than three days to do sixty miles, but by degrees the path grew smaller and beautifully less until it disappeared altogether to the sight of any European, though the natives could follow it. After the first four miles we had literally to cut our way with hatchets and billhooks through the most entangled jungle, the undergrowth very thick with plenty of supplejack in it; but what was worse than all this were the innumerable gullies and small rivers. It took us an immense time to get the pack-horses over these obstacles. In most places we had to make steps with fern-trees, both up and down, for them, and we moved at about page 70 the rate of a quarter-mile an hour, starting always at 7 a.m. and working till dark. After the third day we were out of provisions, and, to make matters worse, it came down a regular three days' New Zealand rain, drops as large as half-crowns coming off the trees, which were so high and dense that twilight reigned at noon. It began to look certainly very horrible, for no one knew where we were. We had to eat out horses, and the rain prevented out lighting fires to cook that unpalatable fare. But luckily we got succour at last. Captain Leach was sent on with the natives, who would no longer stay with us, taking a dog for food on the way, and in two days got help and returned with some men carrying blankets and food. We were nine days in the bush altogether.
Chute without delay set out on his return march through Taranaki southward by the west coast road, thus encircling Mount Egmont. At the Hangatahua River (usually called “Stony River”) Captain Mace's Mounted Corps and seventy men of the 43rd Regiment joined the column; a company of Taranaki Bush Rangers also came up to join in the projected operations against the Hauhaus in the Warea district. Before daylight on the 1st February the General moved out of camp with 450 men of all ranks and followed a track which had been reconnoitred by the Native Contingent scouts the previous day. Advancing through bush and scrub, the force came out on a large clearing five or six miles inland from the Warea-Opunake Road. A pa, called Waikoko, was now in sight about 500 yards distant. The troops were extended in skirmishing order, the 14th on the right, the 43rd on the left, and the Rangers in the centre. The order to assault the stockade was given, and under a heavy fire the troops rushed cheering upon the enemy. The Maori resistance was vigorous but short, and the garrison soon took to the bush in rear, leaving four dead men in the pa. One man of the 14th was killed, and a sergeant of Corbett's Rangers and two of the Wanganui natives were wounded.
This was the last skirmish on Chute's march. The force went on to Opunake and the Wai-ngongoro, and marched into Patea on the 6th February, 1866. In the five weeks' campaign, beginning at the Waitotara, the force had captured and destroyed seven fortified pas and twenty-one open villages, inflicting large casualties.
While the General was on his bush march from Ketemarae northward, Lieut.-Colonel Butler (57th) had some skirmishing with a flying column operating from the camp at the mouth of the Wai-ngongoro. With 200 of the 50th and 57th Regiments and 120 Maoris, and taking two field-guns, he marched inland on the 18th January and went as far as Tirotiro-moana, east of Ketemarae. The pa and cultivations there were destroyed. On page 71 the 20th he made another expedition, marching northward into Ahipaipa, with 20 of the Military Train as cavalry, 80 men of the 50th and 100 of the 57th, besides the greater part of the Native Contingent under Lieutenant Wirihana. Ahipaipa was found deserted, but as the troops were destroying the whares they were fired on. The Native Contingent, pursuing the Hauhaus through the bush, found another large village, a very well built place. A 57th detachment under Sir Robert Douglas came up, and the force attacked and carried the village, after a sharp fight in which five Hauhaus were killed and one Wanganui man was wounded. The village, niu flagstaff, and cultivations were destroyed.
The 57th Regiment, after its excellent work in General Chute's campaign of 1866, was sent to Te Awamutu, in the Waikato. There the corps remained for several months and then was ordered to England. Those men who did not take their discharge in New Zealand were despatched to England in the ships “Electra” and “Maori” in April, 1867. Seven officers and sixty-eight non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment lost their lives in the New Zealand campaigns. Many of the 57th veterans joined the colonial forces after their discharge. In the heroic defence of Turuturu-mokai Redoubt in 1868 four of the old “Die-hards” were engaged, and three of them were killed.
* The site of Otapawa is on a farm about five miles from the Town of Hawera, and a mile above the bridge across the Tangahoe on the Hawera-Meremere Road. Much of the beautiful forest still remains on the broken ground in rear of and on the flanks of the old Hauhau fortress. When I explored the place in 1918 with Mr. William Wallace, of Meremere, a veteran of the wars, it was easy to trace the line of the many-angled front parapet and the trenches by the depressions in the ground. The double ditch and triple parapet at the narrow rear were still well preserved. Inside the pa there are numerous ruas, or food-stores, and the sites of dug-in huts. The place is not fenced or in any way protected from stock, and it is worthy of a little attention as one of Taranaki's most historic spots. A reserve of about an acre would include the whole of the ruined fortifications.
The artillery used in the attack on Otapawa consisted of a 6-pounder Armstrong and two small mortars, under the charge of Lieutenant (afterwards Lieut.-Colonel) G. T. Carré, R.A. This officer, in recounting the incidents of Otapawa, said: “When Major-General Chute ordered the assault, officers who had been used to the cautious tactics of General Cameron ventured to remonstrate. The gallant Chute cried, ‘Small force! I tell you, if there was only one man, and that man myself, he should go at it!’” On the General's return past the guns Lieutenant Carré ventured to congratulate him. He shook his head. “Lost too many poor boys! Nearly lost myself,” he said, and pointed to his jumper, from the breast of which a bullet had torn the braid. Had he been one step farther it would have gone through his body.
Lieut.-Colonel Jason Hassard, of the 57th Regiment, who died of his wound (a bullet through the lungs) received at Otapawa, was a native of Fermanagh, Ireland. He was the second son of Captain Jason Hassard, 74th Highlanders. He was born in 1826, and in 1844 obtained an ensigncy in the 57th Regiment of Foot. He became a captain in that regiment in 1854. During the Crimean War he was present at most of the battles. He distinguished himself in the storming-columns at the assaults of the Redan and Kinburn. He received in reward the Sardinian, Turkish, and Crimean medals and clasps, the Fifth Class of the Medjidie, and a Major's brevet. He was afterwards at Malta and in India. At the end of 1860 the 57th embarked for New Zealand. In September, 1864, he was gazetted as Brevet Lieut.-Colonel; but he did not live long to enjoy his promotion, for he fell, mortally wounded, while gallantly leading his men to the assault of Otapawa.