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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 4 (July 1, 1938.)

Rewi Maniapoto's War Party

Rewi Maniapoto's War Party.

A remarkable feature of all this Waitara campaign was the fact that the most vigorous and determined warriors were not the Atiawa, of Taranaki, for whose land the war was waged by the Government, but their allies of the Ngati-Maniapoto, Waikato and Ngati-Haua tribes, from the North. Amor patriae and the clan spirit were strong among the tribes; the Northern clans came to help Taranaki because they were all banded in the Kingite cause against the whites. The pakeha knows about Rewi Maniapoto chiefly because of his valiant leadership at Orakau in 1864. But Rewi (who had taken the name Manga when war began) won fame among the Maoris three years before that for his daring break-of-day attack on No. 3 Redoubt. With gun and long-handled tomahawk he, with two other chiefs (Epiha, of Kihikihi, and Hapurona, of Taranaki) led a storming party of the best fighting blood in New Zealand against that strong field work—three square earthworks placed close together en echelon—garrisoned by the 40th Regiment, with two howitzers.

Here I draw upon a manuscript narrative of this thrilling morning's work sent to me by the late Mr. H. D. Bates, of Wanganui, son of the young officer who became Colonel of the Regiment. Lieutenant “Te Peeti” had a gift of narrative that I have already referred to in the “Railways Magazine,” in describing his adventures on Secret Service work in a canoe on the Waikato River. The story of No. 3 Redoubt is best told in his own words; he was in the thick of it with his Royal Tigers. He begins with a general description of the campaign, on the Waitara and the slow advance towards the entrenched position at Te Arei, overlooking that most beautiful sweep of the river below the famous old fortress of Pukerangiora.

(From a drawing by Lieut. Bates, 1861.) The attack on Te Arei Pa, showing British advanced positions.

(From a drawing by Lieut. Bates, 1861.) The attack on Te Arei Pa, showing British advanced positions.

* * *

“It was the greed of the white settlers for the broad lands of the natives,” Lieutenant Bates wrote, “that had brought on the Waitara war. The representative of Her Majesty's Government had been unable to withstand the pressure put upon him by his Colonial advisers, and the Maoris were making a brave but hopeless struggle. We respected and commiserated our antagonists, but duty had to be done. Night after night, as we lay in our tents in the rough field fortifications which protected us, we heard the calls of the natives on all sides of us, the braying of the tetere or war trumpet, and the monotonous cries from the fern around: ‘Kill the white men! Death to the soldiers!’ Morning after morning we stood to our arms ere break of day, the favourite time for Maori attack.

“Day by day the ‘butcher's bill’ slowly mounted up. It was beautiful midsummer weather, and that fair land was wearing its most charming aspect. The forest that bordered the plain on which we were encamped was dotted with the crimson glories of the rata blossom. The Maoris occupied a strong position. Their right rested on the Waitara River, and the pas of Huirangi and Mataitawa, screened by dense bush, were on the left.

“The intervening space of some fifteen hundred yards was a long line of Maori rifle pits, a mode of defence little known at that time to European soldiers, page 10 but traced with the utmost skill by the natives. They flanked one another, with artfully contrived passages to the rear, so that at the supreme moment, after delivering a volley, the defenders could escape to the dense bush in rear of their position.

“General Pratt's plan of attack, a plan conceived with the idea of saving as far as possible the lives of his men, was to drive a sap or trench towards the Maori position, securing his ground as he advanced by the erection of redoubts. That sap was three-quarters of a mile long by the time it closely approached the Maori positions.