Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand
Chapter XIII. — The Opotiki Expedition—continued. — Adventure with Kereopa and his Twelve Apostles. Surrender of Mokomoko and Hakaraia. Return of the Force to Wanganui
The Opotiki Expedition—continued.
Adventure with Kereopa and his Twelve Apostles. Surrender of Mokomoko and Hakaraia. Return of the Force to Wanganui.
These operations had great and immediate effect upon the Whakatohea tribe. On the 17th October a portion of the Ngatirua Hapu (section) of the tribe came into camp, and surrendered themselves prisoners, delivering up twenty stand of arms; the remainder, numbering 200 of all ages and sexes, came in the next day and were ordered to camp close to us in a portion of the old village, where they remained peacefully for months. The other large Hapu Ngatiira did not surrender for years after. In the afternoon of this day, a Maori of the Uriwera tribe arrived in Opotiki, and reported that the prophet Kereopa and his twelve apostles were surrounded by the friendly natives inland of Whakatohea. Within two hours, McDonnell page 75and 150 men were on the march in quest of his murderer. We arrived at the Ohirva Bay shortly after dusk, and, after wading up to our waists for an hour, found a small canoe that would carry ten men at a trip. In this craft 150 men were ferried over, the last load arriving about 2 a.m. The force started again before daylight, and towards noon reached a pah in the Waimana valley, when we obtained information that Kereopa and his wife had been there the previous day, his apostles being hidden in a gully close at hand. From this it was evident that the report of his being surrounded was false, and probably originated in our guide's imagination. We remained here until dark, and then moved on to a village about two miles nearer to the gorge; remained there until midnight, and started again, guided by two of the villagers. How they found their way over steep hills covered with high fern, and across watercourses, is a mystery, for the night was so dark that the men were obliged to hold on to each other's coat-tails to keep together, and some twenty men followed their leader head-over-heels into a deep watercourse, when they anathematized creation in general, and the Hauhaus in particular. At grey dawn we found ourselves on the skirts of the forest, and soon after heard the Hauhaus at their matutinal prayers in the village of Koingo, where Kereopa was supposed to be; but McDonnell, knowing what a wary foe he had to deal with, did not believe that Kereopa would sleep in a village, and, ascertaining from the guides that there were potato-plantations two miles farther on, he left one half of the men under Captain Newland in ambush to attack the village, while he marched with the other half to the plantations, half an hour being allowed him to get into position before Newland would attack. Things turned out better than such plans generally do, for as we crossed the river into the scrub bordering the plantations, we heard the volley fired by Newland's men, and, immediately after, voices in a clearing close to us.page 76
A moment later, the advanced guard came suddenly upon Kereopa and his twelve apostles. Our men fired, but being in Indian file on a narrow bush-track, only two or three could deliver their fire with effect. Two of the enemy fell, and Kereopa with the other apostles bolted with great celerity, but were followed so closely that they threw away their guns. Three more were killed on the river-bank before they reached the scrub, and there was every prospect of exterminating the remainder, when at this critical moment the main body sixty strong arrived on the river-bed immediately below the pursuit on the hillside, and seeing the waving of the fern and scrub and hearing occasional shots, concluded that it must be the Hauhaus, whereupon they opened such a fire upon their friends that the advance guard were forced to take cover, and remain quiet. McDonnell, who immediately took in the situation, alternately swore and entreated, but in vain, for the men could not be stopped until the enemy had escaped. It is strange but true that men who would not hesitate to face a heavy fire from an enemy, will quail at once under a fire from their comrades. Mrs. Kereopa had a very narrow escape. She was engaged in cooking that Maori delicacy, stinking corn, and in her native garb was taken for a man and fired at, but, luckily for her, she succeeded in reaching the bush. One remarkably fine specimen of the apostles was found lying on the cliff above the river, terribly wounded. The man who found him called to McDonnell, informing him of the fact; the major, thinking the man was dead, said, "Throw him into the river," and over he went into twenty feet of water. To the astonishment of all, the shock revived him, and he succeeded in swimming to the shore. The poor wretch's jaw was shattered, and he could not speak, but wrote his name and tribe in a pocket-book. This finished the chase after Kereopa. The force returned to Koingo, where they found Captain Newland in possession; he had killed three men and taken some prisoners, among them a man who page 77was shot right through the chest. I venture to say that few Europeans would have recovered from this wound, yet this man walked three or four miles in a jaunty careless manner, evidently very little put out. On returning to the village that we had started from the previous night, we found our old doctor had shot a cow, and had a large portion of it in the family three-legged pot of the village. My readers may judge how acceptable it was when they learn that we had only received two biscuits per man since leaving Opotiki two days before. On the following morning we started again for Opotiki, and reached it about 4 p.m.; one of the smartest marches the forces have ever accomplished. These raids so alarmed the Hauhaus that they came in and surrendered in great numbers; even the chief Mokomoko (afterwards hung for Volckner's murder) and thirty fighting men surrendered. The chief was almost immediately arrested, together with Hakaraia, and a man named Te Uhi, who was accused of complicity in the murder of Mr. Fulloon, but the charge fell through in his case, and it was proved that his tribe had actually accused him, hoping that we should dispose of him in a summary manner; not because he was guilty, but because he was supposed to have been a great wizard, and his tribe lived in deadly fear lest he should bewitch them. This dread extended to the Wanganuis, for not one of the contingent would go into the whare to arrest him, and I had to warn him specially not to look at the men, for if he did so they were determined to shoot him. By this time our prisoners were so numerous, that twenty men mounted guard day and night over those accused of complicity in Volckner's murder; and on the 1st November they were still further increased by the arrival of Major Mair, and thirty of Fulloon's murderers, who had been captured at the Teko by the major and his Arawas, after nearly two months' skirmishing among the swamps and islands of Te Matata. No time was lost in convening a court-martial for their trial. Proceedings commenced on the 6th, and eighteen page 78of them were identified by two young half-castes (White and Campbell), as having been among the party that murdered Mr. Fulloon and the crew of the Kate. The majority were condemned to death. But after all the trouble it was found that somebody had not power to do something or other, therefore the court was illegal, and the prisoners were sent to Auckland, to be again tried at the Supreme Court. I have before mentioned that the Ngatiira tribe still held aloof and refused to surrender; parties were occasionally seen hovering about the mouth of the Waireka gorge. Our commanders decided to beat up their quarters, and, if possible, capture them. With this view McDonnell and 200 men started at midnight, and before daybreak were well within the gorge, marching up the stony bed of the river, crossing and recrossing perpetually until noon, when, as they were exhausted, a halt was called. Traces of the enemy had been found throughout the march, but none of them seen. So tired were the men, that in ten minutes every soul was asleep among the boulders, in more or less uncomfortable positions, careless of Hauhaus or anything else. I can imagine the horror with which this will be read by strict military men, devotees at the shrine of pipeclay and red tape, but our men were so good in those days, that panics were unknown, and a volley fired into them would simply have brought them charging down upon their foes. In later and more degenerate times they learnt how to post sentries, and lost the knack of charging dead upon an enemy, substituting cover-hunting and firing. Both systems have their merits, no doubt. I do not intend to deny either, but I think the former told best on the Maories.