The Old Frontier : Te Awamutu, the story of the Waipa Valley : the missionary, the soldier, the pioneer farmer, early colonization, the war in Waikato, life on the Maori border and later-day settlement
Chapter IX — The Invasion of Kihikihi.
The Invasion of Kihikihi.
Rewi Maniapoto's headquarters were at Kihikihi, three miles from Te Awamutu, and General Cameron made no delay in paying his adversary a military call. Rewi had not fought at Hairini; the fact is that he was a more sagacious soldier than most of his fellow-countrymen, and perceived the impossibility of making a successful stand at such a vulnerable spot. No doubt he fully realised that with the bloodless fall of Paterangi the pakeha conquest of the Waipa was practically complete.
On 23rd February, 1864, a mixed force of troops marched from Te Awamutu, and without resistance entered the large village of Kihikihi, an attractive sight with its cultivations of root and grain crops and its peach and apple orchards. The Ngati-Maniapoto retired to the Puniu River without firing a shot.
After burning the large carved council-house (which stood at the south end of the present township) and destroying the tall flagstaff, the force returned to Te Awamutu. The troops were now well established in encampments around the mission station, and several redoubts were soon built. The principal redoubt, occupied by Imperial troops during 1864–65, was built in the middle of the present town, in rear of the post office, as shown on the plan here given. The site of this earthwork can still be traced, although it is intersected by a road. There were also British garrisons in occupation of Pikopiko, Paterangi, and Rangiaowhia.
The soldiers in the various camps revelled in an abundance of fruit and potatoes, and the horses of the cavalry and field artillery throve on the maize that grew in every settlement.
A few days after the first expedition to Kihikihi a scouting party of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry brought news that the Maoris had returned to the neighbourhood of the settlement. It was decided, therefore, that a redoubt should be built at Kihikihi, and an expedition made a start from Te Awamutu before daylight one morning, in an attempt to surprise Ngati-Maniapoto. Colonel Waddy, of the 50th, was in command. The two companies of Forest Rangers composed the advance guard.page 56
Von Tempsky, describing this expedition, wrote:
“As we approached Kihikihi I went somewhat in advance, and seeing some Maoris near a bush adjoining the village, we gave chase, and sent word back to that effect. We skirmished through some maize-fields, with a dense bush to our left, to which bush I gave a wide berth. But we could not get well at them as they had the start of us, and we were suddenly brought up by a swamp. We skirmished with them across the swamp, but got little good out of it. I saw them retreating into some distant whares, and making themselves quite comfortable, proving to me thereby that they were now supported, and that their position was strong. As we found the swamp altogether impassable without making a detour of miles, I returned, having formed, however, my plan already to look after these gentlemen.
“That night I entered the bush which I had skirted the previous day, thinking of heading the swamp by these means, and surprising the whares. We had a fearful march of it. It was a kahikatea bush, with swamp inside, and night to add to the difficulties. However, we persevered, and by the time it was morning we were opposite the whares. With one ‘Hurrah !’ we rushed across the open space on to one, then to the other, whare, but found both empty and everything in them smashed to atoms—to the very cats of the domicile. The houses belonged to Mr Gage, a half-caste, who had not joined the Maori cause.
“While my men were overhauling the premises for anything useful, I surveyed the neighbourhood, and saw that between us and the bush, which formed a perfect bight around us, there was still another swamp to cross if we wanted to get into the bush. Also, I saw that if there were any Maoris lurking there we presented a fair target for their pleasure, without even the chance of retaliation.
Rewi Maniapoto (Manga)
Rewi was the principal chief in the defence of Orakau. From. the first,
ever, he was opposed to building the pa in such an exposed position,
he regarded the defence as hopeless. He died in 1894 and was buried at
kihi. This picture is from a photo by Pulman, of Auckland, about 1883.
Te Rohu, Widow of Rewi Maniapoto
(From a photo by J. Cowan, at the Puniu, 1920)
Hitiri Te Paerata
Hitiri was a chief of Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera, and fought in the
ence of Orakau pa, where his father and brother were killed. His sister,
Ahumai, who suffered several wounds, was the heroine who declared that if the From a photo by Mr. J. McDonald, Dominion Museum, Wellington.]
Tupotahi, who was one of the leading chiefs of Ngati-Maniapoto, was severely wounded at Orakau.
The redoubt now built on the highest part of the Kihikihi village (the spot is just behind the present police station) was garrisoned by Imperial troops for a time, and then by Waikato Militia. In the Seventies, and, in fact, until about 1883, it was occupied by the Armed Constabulary. Unfortunately it was demolished in the Eighties by the townspeople, who did not realise the value of this large and picturesquely-set earthwork as a place of future historic interest.
“The Maoris at Orakau kept hanging about, irresolute what to do, till we saw them commencing to dig rifle-pits, and then it was high time to give them notice to quit. Colonel Waddy mustered his whole strength, and away we went under the firm impression that we would have a warm afternoon of it. The Forest Rangers were in the advance. There was much scrub on each side of the road, and we had also orders to break down any fence that might impede the action of the cavalry. We had broken down one or two across our road already, when the Maoris commenced with some desultory shots at cannon range. But suddenly I saw a peculiar sort of fence across the road—a stake fence bound with new flax, therefore a new work—a rising bank behind it, with a suspicious look about the crown.
“‘Listen, men,’ I said. ‘We must make one broad rush at that place—one long, strong, all-together push—and that fence must go down. Then up the bank like lightning.’
“Thus arranged—thus it was done. With a cheer a wave of sprightly fellows dashed against that fence. Down it went—up the bank we flew. There were the masked rifle-pits just dug and just deserted. They had stuck sprigs and branches of tea-tree into the newly-thrown-up earth to hide the presence of those pits.
“Thence we entered the village, still with considerable precaution, as we would not believe that the Maoris would make no resistance whatever, particularly in such broken ground as the village, straggling amongst gullies and ridges covered with peach-groves, afforded. Thus, however, it was. We went right through the village, and seeing the fugitives in the far-off distance making page 58 for an old pa [probably Otautahanga], I gave chase, but was soon recalled, as the orders of Colonel Waddy were to confine himself strictly to Orakau. The next time I entered that village a few weeks after we did not complain about the reluctance of fighting in the Maoris.”