England and the Maori Wars
Chapter 6 — War In Taranaki And Waikato
War In Taranaki And Waikato
The Maoris could see as clearly as The Times that time was against them and they were determined to put their fortunes to the test of war. On February 6, 1863, Sir George Grey reported that he had received information of a plot by some of the natives of the Waikato district for the destruction of the European out-settlers. “The act that was to cause the breaking out of this plot,” he stated, “was the entrance of a steamer into the Waikato River. The natives generally had at one time agreed, at a meeting I held on the Waikato with them, that the so-called Maori King should be the head of a Native Council, and that, like the heads of other Native Councils, he should send on the laws his Council made for my assent; but they subsequently withdrew from this arrangement on the general plea that a grievous wrong had been done to them in the attempt that was made to take the land at the Waitara.” The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “A private letter from Sir George Grey is by no means satisfactory as regards the natives, but it is so querulous in tone as to my not ‘supporting’ him, etc., that I hope it is only the result of temporary illness.”1
On March 25 a significant indication of the intention of the followers of the King to destroy all trace of British influence was seen in the raid on J. E. Gorst's station at Te Awamutu where he conducted a school for Maoris and issued a Maori newspaper. The printing press was seized and Gorst was forced to leave Te Awamutu in April.2
1 C.O. 209, 172.
2 See Cowan, I, 229, 232. Weld, in Notes on New Zealand Affairs (1869), referred to “well-meant but indiscreet efforts of a stipendiary magistrate, Mr. Gorst, which added to the irritation of the King party.”
1 There had been some question of sending him to Canada to take charge of the British forces in view of the probability of war with the Northern States of America.
2 C.O. 209, 172.
“Your Grace must be well aware that this Waitara question was from the first made a party question, regarding which the most violent controversy raged, and men's passions were most excited. Like all other questions between races in a state of hostility, it was by many taken up as a question of race, and it will I fear even now be difficult for any European to allege that the natives are in the main right in their answers to the allegations made against them regarding the Waitara purchase, without raising a feeling of violent hostility in the minds of many people. Leaving apart, however, those far higher considerations which influence Your Grace, I know that we are both to stand at the bar of History when our conduct to the native race of this country will be judged by impartial historians, and that it is our duty to set a good example for all time in such a most important affair. I ought therefore to advise Your Grace, without thinking of the personal consequences which may result to myself, that my settled conviction is that the natives are in the main right in their allegations regarding the Waitara purchase and that it ought not to be gone on with…. I must add that although I have been eighteen months in the colony, the most important facts connected with this Waitara purchase were unknown to me until a few days since, and must still have remained so had it not been for personal inquiries made by myself and the Native Minister on the spot, that from accident, oversight, or some other cause these facts have not been made public, or reported to Your Grace, and that I have seen nothing to make me think that my predecessor knew them.”
Fortescue agreed with Sir F. Rogers that it was impossible for the Home Government to interfere with the decision of Sir G. Grey and his ministers with respect to the surrender page 169 of the Waitara, “embarrassing as it will make it in future to discuss the origin of Governor Gore Browne's unfortunate war.” The Duke of Newcastle made this minute: “I confess I cannot bring myself to the conclusion that the purchase of Waitara was an act of injustice, though it may have been imprudent and impolitic. If it really was unjust, Sir G. Grey is right in abandoning it, even at this late hour. If it was only impolitic, then I fear its surrender now will look like an act of fear and will lead to fresh encroachments on the part of the natives. Be this however as it may, there is nothing for it but to support the Governor. Even to hesitate as to the wisdom of his course would seriously embarrass him at a most critical moment.”1
On May 5 Grey reported that “a terrible and shocking murder” committed by the natives on the land between Omata and the Tataraimaka block, Taranaki, had much complicated affairs. “A small party of men were coming along the beach bringing into New Plymouth a military prisoner for trial; they were accompanied, for the sake of the protection numbers gave, by two young officers, Lieut. Tragett and Assistant Surgeon Hope of the 57th Regiment, coming to town on private business. The party was fired on by a body of natives lying in ambush, and at a single volley all of them but one or two were killed or mortally wounded; the wounded were brutally cut about the head with tomahawks. Two officers, two sergeants and four men were thus murdered on the very day month we took possession of the Tataraimaka block. I fear that I cannot now prevent war by acting in the manner I believed justice required in regard to the land at the Waitara. I take great blame to myself for having spent so long in trying to get my responsible advisers to agree to some general plan of proceeding.”2
1 C.O. 209, 172.
2 Gorton, in Some Home Truths re the Maori War 1863 to 1869, states that he forwarded to Grey on April 27, 1863, a warning from a native chief about an ambuscade between the redoubts at Tataraimaka and Poutoko. No notice was taken of the warning, and a week later, on May 4, Tragett and Hope were ambushed.
Two days later Grey reported that there was great reason to apprehend a general rising of the native population “with a view to the total expulsion of the white race from this Island.” He asked for an additional force of 3,000 men. He requested that one European regiment and two regiments of Sikhs should be sent, as the latter would be better qualified than any other troops to perform the military duties required in New Zealand. Ministers had undertaken to propose to the House of Assembly that the colony should defray the whole of the pay of the Sikhs. Sir F. Rogers made this comment: “We should have a terrible warfare I am afraid.” Fortescue wrote: “It is generally said that Sikhs only fight well when there is plenty of ‘loot’ to be had. They will certainly find none in New Zealand. The New Zealand Ministers and Sir G. Grey ought to know what they are about. But I confess I much doubt the wisdom of bringing coloured troops from India to fight the Maoris. It might, I should think, both exasperate them, and lead them to think that our power of sending white troops was exhausted.”
In the Duke's letter to the India Office a passage was added to the effect that Her Majesty's Government considered itself responsible to the Government of India for all reasonable expenses incurred in preparing and sending the force to New Zealand if it should be necessary to do so, as no charge ought to be imposed on the revenues of India for such purpose. This passage was marked: “Shown to Mr. Gladstone and approved by him.”1
On May 13 Grey reported that General Cameron had that morning proceeded to the Waitara to withdraw the detachments quartered there, “the local government having determined that it ought not any longer to hold the land it claimed there.” On May 27 Grey forwarded a copy of a proclamation dated May 11 declaring that the Government would not proceed further with the negotiation for the block of land at the Waitara. The proclamation set out that “circumstances connected with the said purchase unknown to the Government at the time of the sale of the said land have lately transpired which make it advisable that the said purchase should not be proceeded with.” The Duke of Newcastle concurred in the decision, but expressed the view that Wiremu Kingi had been guilty of rebellious conduct even before the Waitara affair and that he and his followers had brought upon themselves the misfortunes of war by their own conduct.
2 J. Martineau, op. cit., pp. 324–6.
On June 8, 1863, Grey reported a sharp encounter at Katikara near New Plymouth on June 4: “The natives occupied a very strong position from which they were driven with heavy loss. I never saw such a rout before—they ran for miles. Our losses were one private killed, two mortally wounded, and three severely wounded.”1 A War Office report put the number of Maoris engaged at 600 and their killed at 28. H.M.S. Eclipse, with Sir G. Grey on board, assisted in the engagement. A toll board taken in the action set out a scale of charges demanded by the Maoris for passing the gate into the realm of their King, Matutaera Potatau. The fee for a Pakeha policeman was £500, for a Maori disciple of the Governor £200, for a letter “badly tempting” the tribe £500, for newspaper mail £300, for wealthy pakehas (“don't let them go through the gate, if they do”) £5, a preaching Maori minister £55, and a King's letter in the mail 5d. For the Maori people the tolls were not so heavy. To bring in a pig in a cart cost 9d., to drive a pig in 6d. Cows and horses cost 2s. each.2
2 W.O. 33/16.
Discussing General Cameron's success of June 4, the Taranaki Herald asked on June 6: “On what principle are the wounded men and others of the hostile natives who fall into our hands to be treated? It is certain that some at least of those returned as dead in the fight on Thursday would have been among the wounded if the battle had been between two civilized nations; that is to say that some wounded Maoris were killed by our men. Is this the principle which is to be adopted hereafter throughout the war? We will not say absolutely that it is wrong, morally and politically, though we firmly believe it to be so—to be neither right nor expedient.”
On July 17 the Dunedin correspondent of The Times described the situation in Taranaki resulting from the reoccupation of the Tataraimaka block and the murder of Lieut. Tragett and his party. Commenting on the account, The Times said on the same day: “It is more than probable that at this very moment the Government of New Zealand is engaged in another war. After all that has passed, the thing may appear incredible, but it is almost certain, and, what is more, our present information does not enable us to point out how it could have been avoided. We sent out to Auckland the ablest and most conciliatory Governor that we could find, who succeeded by good management in patching up the last quarrel with the natives and has since established friendly relations with the most powerful tribes. He had every motive for maintaining a pacific policy, having been warned by the Colonial Secretary in the plainest terms that this country would not guarantee the disputed titles of settlers in outlying districts. To recognize conquest as a valid title to lands which had been deserted by their owners, and ravaged by the Maoris while in a state of insurrection against the Queen, would have been inexcusable on the part of Sir G. Grey, and it was his clear duty to reoccupy Tataraimaka…. It has been determined to take possession of the district upon which the late murders were committed, in order that a settlement may be placed thereon of persons able to protect themselves. In other words, a considerable extent of native land is confiscated, and has been offered in lots of fifty acres to ‘active young men’ who may be willing to hold it ‘on a system of military tenure’…. Here we have a page 175 bold scheme for garrisoning the disturbed parts of New Zealand, as the Romans garrisoned their northern and eastern frontiers. We have no fault to find with it from a military point of view—indeed it seems an excellent plan for colonial self-defence—but it is scarcely consistent with attributing to the Maori onslaught the character of a civil crime.”
The Times, on August 17, printed an account of the war in New Zealand from a correspondent: “It is a peculiar feature of the present struggle that the natives have taken up arms in the face of conciliatory conduct carried almost to excess. Sir George Grey, keenly alive to the responsibilities of his position, has left no stone unturned to stave off a recourse to arms. He has procrastinated, conciliated and yielded until he had exhausted at once the patience of the colonists and his own, and now that he finds he must adopt a more vigorous policy, he is not slow to embrace the opportunity of proving he can punish as well as conciliate…. Under General Cameron the troops and civilians have fully retrieved the disasters of the last war. We hear no more of pompous field-day marches of troops, with all the impedimenta of scientific warfare, to positions of the enemy which are found deserted on arrival…. All that skilful disposition of force and rapid action can accomplish is being done. The soldiers are divided into small parties, and scattered about the country with orders to pick off any stragglers they may come across; the militia and volunteers are doing patrol duty, day and night, in the town of New Plymouth and the outskirts, and the sentries have orders not to challenge any natives but to fire on them at once. The most perfect entente cordiale exists between the military and the civilian forces, and all are actuated by a common enthusiasm. General Cameron is immensely popular and the success which has hitherto attended his operations has enlisted for him the confidence of the whole colony.”
The correspondent described the engagement of June 4, and commenting on this on August 18, The Times said: “Moderate as the achievement may appear to us, it was substantial, timely, and full of promise…. A force of 200 is rather a large force for a rebel army in New Zealand. The natives understand their work better than to fight in great numbers …. General page 176 Cameron, who enjoyed the special confidence and esteem of the late Lord Clyde, appears to have divined with happy instinct the exigencies of the crisis.”
The Taranaki Herald wrote on June 20: “When we speak of what Sir George Grey does, it is not that we wish to ‘censure’ or ‘attack’ him, but because we wish the colony to consider whether it should not relieve him from the responsibility of the conduct of native affairs. The change will be a great one, but we believe it to be full time that it was made. For what guarantee have we that His Excellency will so prosecute this war that there shall be no possibility of another? As far as we can see, we have none. England and New Zealand are too near a dissolution of partnership to make their interests in the matter identical; and it must not be left to England, or to a Governor responsible only or chiefly to England, to say when peace shall be made and settle the terms of it…. Those who would still wish the colony to decline the control of native affairs should remember that we are certain to have to pay largely towards the expenses of the war, and may have to pay for what we do not get, and afterwards have to get it at our own cost. The safest rule in government, as in any other business, is that they should have the direction of affairs who are most interested in the result.”
In his report of July 1863, the Deputy Quartermaster-General, Lt.-Col. D. J. Gamble, wrote of the Taranaki position: “Much inconvenience arises from the presence of ‘friendly natives,’ many of whom no doubt are faithful to us, but others are of at least questionable fidelity; hence there is much difficulty in keeping any important movement secret, while it is at the same time often impossible to obtain reliable information about the enemy, his supplies and plans. At the Katikara, for instance, we had no certain intelligence as to the nature of his defences and works. Much of the native land, moreover, has never been regularly surveyed, and our knowledge, therefore, of its military features is limited to descriptions by persons who have passed over it…. A letter from Hapurona, the fighting chief of the last war, was received in the afternoon (June 25, 1863), challenging us to come out and ‘fight by the light of the sun.’ This, no doubt, was mere bravado, but it page 177 intimated a feeling of hostility which might show itself at any moment in the way of ambuscade or murder of out-settlers.”1
After a visit by Cameron to the Governor at Auckland, 300 troops were withdrawn from New Plymouth to Auckland “in consequence of reported intentions of aggressive movements on the part of the Waikato tribes.” New Plymouth was left on the defensive with a garrison of 1,500.1
2 Gorst, in The Maori King, says that the goods of the fugitive Maoris were looked by the colonial forces and the neighbouring settlers. He criticizes Grey's policy in the whole matter, and his account of it led the Royal Commission of 1928 to decide that “a grave injustice was done to the natives in question by forcing them into the position of rebels and afterwards confiscating their lands” (N.Z.P.P., 1928, G—7).
1 W.O. 33/12.
1 W.O. 33/12.
On July 17, 1863, a convoy under the charge of Captain Ring, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment, was attacked on the road between the Queen's Redoubt and Drury by an ambuscade of not less than 140 natives. The British loss was four killed and ten wounded.
On July 4 Grey wrote: “It has now been clearly proved that some of the chiefs of Waikato ordered the recent murders at Taranaki, and that being thus responsible for them, they have determined to support the people who carried out the orders which they issued.” On July 28 he stated that he entertained a hope that the existing insurrection would be only a partial one, but added that “no permanent peace can now be hoped for until the Waikato and Taranaki tribes are completely subdued.”2 On August 1 he reported the cruel murder of Michael Murdoch and his young son, on July 15, in the vicinity of Drury. On the same date he reported the Koheroa Heights engagement. The following Colonial Office minute appears on the despatch: “This may, I suppose, be considered the beginning of the anticipated war.”2
1 W.O. 33/16. The battle of Rangiriri is described later, pp. 183–8.
1 W.O. 33/16. The battle of Rangiriri is described later, pp. 183–8.
2 C.O. 209, 174.
2 C.O. 209, 174.
On July 22 another skirmish with the natives took place at Kiri-Kiri near Drury. The enemy were repulsed with loss. The militia's services were commended by the General. The colonial steamer Avon had entered the Waikato and was co-operating with General Cameron. On August 8 Grey reported that William Thompson, chief of the Ngatihaua tribe, had told Archdeacon Brown that he had determined to join the natives in arms against the Queen, and that he “deliberately announced his intention to spare no one, not even the unarmed.” The Duke of Newcastle made the following comment: “It is melancholy to read such language from such a man as William Thompson.”1
On July 24 two settlers, Sylvester Calvert and Cooper, were shot by natives near Papakura. On August 15 Colonel Warre, writing to Grey from Taranaki, suggested that a useful corps of friendly natives might be formed. The Duke of Newcastle wrote on this: “Colonel Warre's proposal to arm certain ‘friendly’ natives seems questionable. Thompson was a friendly native.”
1 C.O. 209, 174.
In his report of October 3, 1863, Gamble stated: “Some tons of supplies brought inside the Waikato heads by the barque City of Melbourne, had reached Cameron (village), en route to the Mangatawhiri for the Queen's Redoubt. This day (September 7) the hostile natives attacked Cameron with a force of 200, took the place from Kukutai's people, destroyed the commissariat supplies, consisting principally of bran, oats and maize, and set fire to the pa.” James Armitage, the district magistrate, stationed at Cameron, was killed by the enemy. Captain Swift, with an officer and 50 men, started from Tuakau to relieve the village. McKenna, a sergeant, went forward and heard the Maoris talking. He “believed from their tones and manner that they were partly intoxicated.” “Captain Smith then directed his party to fix bayonets and charge into an open space, where the enemy were really on the qui vive and awaiting them. As our men, led by their officers, came to the clearing, they received a close volley in front and on the left flank. Here Captain Swift fell mortally wounded, but directed Lieutenant Butler, the only other officer, to charge the enemy. As this officer was leading the men on, he received a severe wound across the abdomen, after which he is reported to have shot two men with his revolver. Sergeant McKenna then assumed command of the party, which he handled, as Lieut. Butler states, with admirable coolness and skill. The natives were driven back, and our men, having first covered with fern the body of one of their fallen comrades who was killed, retired under fire, bringing with them Captain Swift, Lieutenant Butler and two wounded men who were removed to a place of safety in rear.”1
The Melbourne correspondent of The Times, in a letter of October 24, published on December 15, 1863, described the new flying column system inaugurated by General Cameron: “The natives…must be kept by these flying columns in a continued state of unrest. Moreover, although they have a good supply of powder, they are short of bullets, and especially of percussion-caps. They have been known to buy marbles off little boys in the street to use in lieu of leaden balls. They purchase eyelet holes and wax vestas, and out of the two they ingeniously construct percussion-caps. They also pick up our spent balls with great diligence. All this is very illustrative of Maori ingenuity and would excite our admiration if we were spared from reading an adjoining paragraph headed ‘Another little boy shot by the Maoris,’ but the result of this ingenuity is certainly not lasting. So precarious a supply cannot compete with ours, which is practically inexhaustible. Their commissariat is also a great difficulty, and more so under this system of bush warfare than when defending a pa. A few carts for transport they certainly have, they have also learnt from us the value of pack-horses and pack-bullocks, they have also food stored in many places; but when a Taua, or war party, is compelled to shift from place to place by our ‘flying columns’ and ‘forest rangers,’ their food has to be transported on the backs of women.”
1 C.O. 209, 175.
2 Cown, The New Zealand Wars, 1, 258.
On October 28 Grey reported that Domett's ministry had resigned and he had sent for Fox. A ministry was formed with Whitaker as Premier and Fox Colonial Secretary. Henry Sewell made the following comment in his Journal: “Whitaker is the real governing man. He is Attorney-General and a bold shrewd subtle reckless man, careless of means and careless of consequences, only looking to the particular ends before him. He is a man of great resolution, and by a powerful will he bends the weaker men by whom he is surrounded (Fox included) entirely to his designs. The policy is Whitaker's policy.”2
On October 2 a severe engagement with the Maoris took place at Poutoko, Taranaki. Further murders reported included those of Job Hantin at Henderson's farm near Wairoa on October 13, 1863; William John Jackson at Papakura on October 14, and two boys, Richard and Nicholas Trust, one only eight, at Kennedy's Farm, Turanga Creek, on October 24.3 Gamble, in his report of November 5, wrote: “The Waikato Militia enrolled at Melbourne, Sydney and Otago, are for the most part a fine body of men, and are already well advanced in training. A good spirit, too, seems now to animate the local militia of the country. The colonial troops raised and organized in emergency have altogether done very creditably, and are a most valuable addition to the force.”
1 C.O. 209, 174.
2 II, p. 411.
3 C.O. 209, 175.
2 Lighters with one mast and lug sail.
On November 20 the troops advanced. “At 3 p.m.,” wrote Gamble, “we sighted the enemy's entrenchment from a ridge at about 600 yards from the works. These consisted of a line of entrenchment with double ditch, drawn across the narrow isthmus dividing Lake Waikare on the east from the Waikato River on the west. The extent of this front line was 500 yards, and at the highest point, the centre, it was strengthened by a very formidable redoubt, having a ditch 12 feet wide and parapet 18 feet to the top from the bottom of the ditch. Behind the enemy's left centre of the front line, and perpendicular to it, ran a rifle-pitted entrenchment facing the river, the approach from which (along the rear of the main entrenchment) it commanded. The right and rear of this position was defended by high ground, also honeycombed with pits. 500 yards to the rear another ridge was occupied and similarly fortified. It was to gain possession of this ridge that the 40th were to land in the rear. As we came near the position the steamers arrived in good time, and everything promised fair for the combined attack. While, however, the troops were taking up their formation, it became evident that the Pioneer had become unmanageable, just at the most critical juncture. She was unable, against wind and current, to gain the point indicated for the landing of the 40th, and not only so but got in the way of the gunboats, the fire of all of which but one, and occasionally a second, was thus completely masked…. At 3.30 p.m., just before the signal was made to the steamers to attack, the enemy opened along his whole line, but without damage to our men, who were covered by the crest of the ridge. Mercer's Armstrongs and the naval six-pounder made beautiful practice, the enemy meanwhile keeping up a desultory musket fire. Perplexing and trying as was the unfortunate position of the steamer with the 40th and of the gunboats, it was hoped every moment that it would be right. The preconcerted signal, page 186 however, ‘Land the Troops,’ was made in vain; and, after waiting till 4.45 p.m., the Lieutenant-General determined to wait no longer and gave the word for the assault. The troops dashed with ardour down the slope of the ridge and went fairly at the entrenchment.
“At about fifty yards the skirmishers were instructed to halt, to cover the ladder party in planting. While the 65th were scaling on the left, the 12th and 14th were to keep down the fire in the centre. Eager as the men were to pass over the long interval from the point of formation to the enemy's position, they had considerable difficulty, from the broken nature of the ground and the heavy fire poured on them during the advance. Lieutenant-Colonel Austen, 14th, Captain Phelps, 12th, and many others were wounded directly on becoming exposed. The enemy's fire was sharp, quick and heavy, but nothing could check the impetuosity of the assault. The ladders were planted, the 65th were immediately seen forcing their way into the enemy's works. As the troops passed the front line they wheeled up to the left, from which direction the enemy's fire was now brought to bear upon them from the entrenched line of rifle-pits facing the Waikato. It was only the work of a few minutes to storm and carry this, when the enemy fell back on the centre redoubt and adjacent works. Happily, when our men were passing the first line, the 40th began to disembark not very far from the place selected for their landing. As fast as they got ashore they were sent at the ridge in rear already described, and carried it, driving before them the defenders who fled for the swamp of Waikare, in attempting to cross which several perished under the fire of our rifles. A part of the 40th now held the hill, and the remainder joined the main body of the attacking force under the Lieutenant-General.
“The main line and some of the inner works having been taken as described, the troops closed on the enemy towards the centre redoubt, where he now fought with desperation and held his ground against every attempt to dislodge him. Two distinct assaults were made on this work, the first by the Royal Artillery, who, being armed with revolvers, were selected for the work. They were led by Captain Mercer, commanding. page 187 They were, however, unable to overcome the difficult nature of the work, under the heavy fire brought to bear on them. Captain Mercer received a severe wound through the jaw and tongue, the shot having been fired through a narrow opening in the enemy's works, facing to the rear, and which he was crossing in search of a point favourable for making an entry. Every man who attempted to pass that opening afterwards was killed or wounded, except Lieutenant Pickard, R.A. Captain Mercer and the other wounded men who fell after passing this opening, could not be removed until it was masked with earth and plants. A second assault was made by 90 seamen of the Royal Navy, also armed with revolvers, and led by Commander Mayne, of Her Majesty's ship Eclipse. They went against the front of the work and were received with a deadly volley, and were also unable to effect an entrance. It was now dark. The Lieutenant-General, therefore, determined on suspending further operations until daylight, the troops to remain meanwhile in their respective positions, in which they almost surrounded the enemy.1 Picking the parapet down by pick and shovel was suggested by Colonel Mould, C.B., Commanding Royal Engineers, and the next morning, at daybreak, this was being done, when a white flag was hoisted by the enemy and he surrendered unconditionally. 183 prisoners, with their arms and ammunition (of which latter they seemed to have a plentiful supply),2 fell into our hands. They at once cordially fraternized with our men, and were particularly good-humoured under their reverse.
1 Cf. Cowan: “The General was compelled by the darkness to cease the waste of brave men's lives.”
2 Cf. Cowan, I, 326. A veteran of the engagement is quoted as saying that want of ammunition was the reason for surrender.
After the battle Grey received a letter from a secondary chief suggesting peace. He refused to treat while the Maoris remained in arms. The disposal of the prisoners captured in this engagement was to bring about a very complicated situation. They were confined on the hulk Marion and a long controversy ensued between the Governor and his ministers as to whether they were being properly treated.2
Discussing the result of the engagement at Rangiriri in its first leading article on February 12, 1864, The Times said: “The firm, decisive and successful measures which General Cameron appears to be successfully carrying out will be the best security for the subsequent negotiation by Sir George Grey of a permanent and a mutually satisfactory peace. At all events, English blood in this instance has not been shed in vain, and the friends of those who have so unfortunately but so honourably sacrificed their lives will have the consolation of reflecting that the sacrifice has been made in both a brilliant and a useful service.”
On November 7, 1863, Grey reported that the new ministry on that day had accepted responsibility for native affairs, at the same time recognizing, “with the deepest gratitude, the great interest which Her Most Gracious Majesty has always taken in the welfare of all races of her colonial subjects, and the thoroughly efficient aid which Her Majesty's Imperial Government is affording the colony.”2 On November 17 Grey reported that on November 7 the signal staff at the heads of Manukau Harbour had been cut down by disaffected natives.
1 W.O. 33/16. Cowan gives slightly different figures. J. W. Fortescue states that more of the British casualties might have been avoided “by abstaining from the unnecessary assault of the central redoubt.”
2 C.O. 209, 175.
2 C.O. 209, 175.
On January 16, 1864, “in consequence of reports received of the east coast natives joining the enemy, the Lieutenant-General decided on sending an expedition to Tauranga, under Colonel Carey, to create a diversion.” The expedition consisted of 26 officers and 669 men, who landed at Tauranga on January 22 and occupied the mission station.
The combined main body troops consisting of 122 officers and 2,393 men set out from Tuhikaramea and Whata-Whata on January 27. On February 1 a reconnaissance was made of the enemy's position at Pa-te-rangi. On February 13 General Cameron described an encounter with the natives on February 11 at Warari on the Mangapiko River. The officers engaged were Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Havelock, Bart., Captain William Jackson, Forest Rangers, and Captain D. F. G. von Tempsky, Forest Rangers. The natives lost 35 killed and wounded and the British 6 killed and 5 wounded. The gallantry of Captain Charles Heaphy of the Auckland Rifle Volunteers was referred to. He took charge of a party and ably directed it. In assisting a wounded soldier of the 40th, who had fallen into a hollow among the thickest of the concealed Maoris, he became the target for a volley at a few yards' range. Five balls pierced his clothes and cap, and he was slightly wounded in three places. He continued, however, to aid the wounded until the end of the day.2
2 C.O. 209, 179. For his bravery Heaphy received the Victoria Cross.
On March 4 Cameron wrote of these engagements at and near Rangiaowhia: “The immediate result of our late movements has been the abandonment by the enemy of a series of fortified positions which could not have been taken without a heavy loss; the possession by us of a large tract of fertile country between the Waipa and Upper Waikato Rivers, and the retreat of the enemy into the interior with the loss of the cultivations on which he chiefly depended for his supply.”2
On March 31 an attack was begun on the native position at Orakau, on the Upper Waipa, fortified against the judgment of Rewi Maniapoto, who, however, led the defence.3 Three successive attempts were made to carry the place by assault, but in vain, and sapping was then begun. “On the third morning (April 2), the Lieutenant-General and staff proceeded at an early hour from this camp,” wrote Gamble, “and on reaching Orakau at 9 a.m. found the work of sapping still progressing and now within eight yards of the work. The Lieutenant-General, on inspecting the position, sent an interpreter to the camp, who, by the General's authority, communicated with the garrison of the place as follows:—
“Hear the word of the General. You have done enough to show you are brave men. Your case is hopeless. Surrender and your lives will be spared.”
“To which answer was given: ‘And the word of the Maori is, we'll fight for ever, for ever and ever.’
“They were then told—‘Send away the women.’
“To which they answered—‘The women will fight too.’
1 See Cowan, I, 344–7.
2 W.O. 33/16.
3 Cf. Cowan, I, 355–97.
“The troops now converged to the direction in which the Maoris retired, and after they had passed the cordon, through which they succeeded in breaking, poured a murderous fire on them as they went through and beyond the thick ti-tree in rear of the position.” The Maoris lost 101 killed and the British 16 killed. About 250 colonial and 750 regular troops were engaged. The total number of Maoris “did not probably exceed 300,” according to Gamble.1
1 W.O. 33/16. Cowan states that at least 160 Maoris were killed. Cf. Sir James Alexander, Bush Fighting (1873): “Some may remark it ‘would have been generous to have held one's hand, and not pursue and fire at the retiring column of Maoris.’ Certainly it would, but it is to be considered that the soldiers had suffered, too, from the determined resistance of the enemy, and their blood was up.”
2 C.O. 209, 179. For Rewi's description of his escape unwounded, see Cowan, I, 387–8. In a newspaper article in 1934 Mr. Cowan stated that Te Huia Raureti, a nephew of Rewi and one of his bodyguard in the retreat, was still living a few miles from Te Awamutu.
The admiration of the Imperial troops for the valour of the Maoris is shown by the inscription on a tablet in St. John's Church, Te Awamutu: “This tablet was erected by the soldiers of H.M. 65th Regiment as a memorial of the New Zealanders who fell in the actions at Rangiaohia on the 21st and 22nd February, 1864, and at Orakau on the 31st March, 1st and 2nd April, 1864. I say unto you, love your enemies.”2
The British campaign in the Waikato had been hampered by commissariat difficulties of an exceptional nature which deserve some description. In a despatch of October 29, 1864, to the War Office, Commissary-General H. Stanley Jones detailed some of the difficulties which had been experienced:
- 6 miles from Auckland to Onehunga in carts of the Commissariat Transport Corps.
- 35 miles to Drury, in hired boats and by the commissariat steamer Lady Barkly.
- 15 miles to Mangatawhiri, by the carts of the Commissariat Transport Corps.
- 5 miles to Meri-Meri, by boats, in the first instance, worked by the sailors, or towed by the Avon and Pioneer. Subsequently worked by the men of the Commissariat Transport Corps, or by sails, when practicable.
- 15 miles to Rangiriri. Pack-horses. When the ground was dry, in bullock-carts, assisted subsequently by the diagonal boats pulled by twenty men of the Commissariat Transport Corps, or towed by them from shore, or when wind was favourable by sails.
2 It is pleasant to note that before the 65th left the North Island after its long service there, it was presented by the colonists with the regimental plate known as the “New Zealand Plate.”
General Sir Duncan A. Cameron, G.C.B.
42nd Royal Highlanders
Ensign 1825. Lt.Col. Commanding. 1843-1854.
Colonel of Regt. 1863.
Died 8th June, 1888.
- 5 miles to Paitai. Boats pulled by sailors, and subsequently by men of the Commissariat Transport Corps.
- 15 miles to Rahiri Pokeka. Boats pulled by sailors, but towed by the men on shore, in places, subsequently boats towed by horses of the Commissariat Transport Corps when a horse-track was cut. Canoes were also employed, worked by friendly natives.
- 15 miles to Ngaruawahia, by the steamers Pioneer and Avon, the river here being deep enough to admit of the use of steamers.
“The losses of supplies on this long line of journey were necessarily heavy; but, considering the peculiar circumstances, they are certainly not more than might have been anticipated.
- 1st. That in this country more rain falls than in most parts of the world, the atmosphere and ground being generally saturated with moisture;
- 2nd. That there were no store-houses, beyond Drury, at any of the places named during the period under consideration;
- 3rd. That the utmost energies of the Department at each place were constantly employed in pushing forward supplies without intermission, even the worst weather permitting of no delay;
- 4th. That there were not sufficient experienced officers of the Department in the country;
- 5th. That the subordinate establishment was not trustworthy, experienced, or sufficient, and labour very difficult, and sometimes impossible to be procured in the quantity required;
- 6th. That the divided responsibility in the transport service between the Navy and Commissariat Transport Corps precluded the possibility of detecting theft, and consequently encouraged and fostered it to a large extent;
- 7th. That almost every description of accident was unavoidably of nearly daily occurrence on some part of the line, both by land and by water;
- 8th. That every handling and every meeting-place tended to augment losses.
“Many other causes might be enumerated, but I think that there can be no occasion to go further into details.”1
1 W.O. 33/16. For a tribute to the work of the Commissariat, see Fortesce, History of the British Army, XIII, pp. 517–18.
In a report on the Commissariat Department in the Waikato 1863–4, dated August 23, 1864, Robertson had stated that the department was first called upon to ration 1,200, but the number increased rapidly to 3,000, 5,000, and finally 7,000 men “without timely notification.” “A very large number of civilians,” he stated, “was constantly employed in Auckland, directly or indirectly, in carrying out commissariat contracts. Hitherto any man who could produce a certificate from the Deputy Commissary-General to the effect that his services were actually and necessarily required in connection with contracts obtained exemption from militia duty. As soon as page 195 the Lieutenant-General requested the militia to be called out, these exemptions were cancelled. Personal representations to the local authorities were of no avail. The building of boats, the preparation of harness and other transport equipment, the manufacture of biscuit, and, in fact, all the important works for the Commissariat—rendered at this juncture more urgently necessary—were at once suspended. Supplies could not be forwarded from Auckland, for the merchants had to shut their stores; and while the flow of food to the front was interrupted, the small reserves at the different posts were being exhausted with alarming rapidity. The Lieutenant-General Commanding was communicated with by telegram, but the Government would not yield even to his representations. The men were marched out from Auckland to the various posts, some a distance of twenty-three miles, and it was not till they had reached these posts and were handed over to the control of the military authorities that Major-General Galloway, commanding the local forces, at the urgent request of the Deputy Commissary-General, permitted all the men to return to Auckland, whose presence there was necessary in connection with commissariat contracts, and, in about a week, things were going on in their usual routine.”
Fish-fed pork, Robertson wrote, caused some trouble with the troops. It looked excellent in the cask, but when cooked, “it was quite nauseous, emitting a powerful fish-like smell.” A vegetable ration issued to the troops, for which 1½d. a day was stopped from pay, was “very unpopular with the men. The small pickle ration was a source of constant grumbling, and it was not unusual for a soldier to be seen going about with half a diminutive onion on the point of a fork saying ‘look at the ration I'm charged 1½d. for,’ quite forgetting that he had had, in addition, a pound of potatoes for his money.” Rum and tobacco thefts caused the commissariat great trouble. “The divided responsibility in the inland transport service still continued. It is true that early in 1864 the boat companies of the Commissariat Transport Corps relieved the Navy from the boat transport, but the Navy still continued to work the steamers, and it also cannot be denied that the Commissariat page 196 boatmen were not far behind their naval predecessors in their attacks upon the rum casks.”1
Deputy Commissary-General Bailey, Director of the Commissary Transport Corps, in a memorandum of July 26, 1865, wrote: “I have accompanied (from England) nearly every force that has been engaged in active operations since 1851, and I have never seen the troops land with the necessary transport, or with arrangements for a proper transport, to enable them to undertake a campaign.”1 The Kaffir War of 1846 furnishes another precedent for the New Zealand muddles. The British forces were hampered “by costly and defective transport…and by endless bickering between the colonists, whom the regulars despised for their lack of discipline, and the regulars whom the colonists accused of stiffness and lack of adaptability.”2
The total force in New Zealand on January 1, 1864, was: Imperial 8,630, Colonial 3,209. On May 1, 1864, the totals were 11,335 and 3,682; on September 30, Imperial 9,927, militia and volunteers 12,073. Total 22,000. Colonial Office comment:!!3
After the Battle of Orakau, Cameron's next operations were directed against Mangatautari, where the Waikato Maoris, under William Thompson, had retired after their defeat at Rangiriri. The Maoris abandoned the position on April 5, 1864, and dispersed in all directions. But “the fire in the fern” suppressed in one quarter was immediately ablaze in another. On April 6 a reconnoitring party fell into a strong native ambuscade about ten miles from New Plymouth, 6 being killed and 12 wounded. The head of Captain Lloyd was cut off and dried and exhibited to other tribes. The Colonial Office decided that the despatch was too shocking to print, and hoped that it might be possible to inflict some exceptionally severe chastisement on the natives engaged in the affair.4
2 Cambridge History of the British Empire, vol. viii, p. 337.
3 C.O. 209, 182.
4 Ibid., 179. One sequel to the affray is thus recorded in the Taranaki Herald of April 16: “Provincial Council, Monday, April 11. The Council met at 6.30 p.m., but owing to the absence of our reporter on military duty, this portion of the history of the Province has, we regret to say, been lost.”