Taranaki: A Tale of the War
“Great Pompey's shade complains that we are slow;
And Scipio's ghost walks unrevenged amongst us.”
It seemed to be the policy of the present rulers that when any decisive movement or action took place, to pause for days after, e're another move was taken; and according to the opinion of many, this unnecessary delay and the not following up an advantage, protracted the war, and gave the enemy not only time to recover their loss, but to make extra preparation for any subsequent advance.
Thus at Kahihi, if the force had then proceeded into the enemy's country three days' march, and destroyed even the pahs in sight, it would have so crippled the Southern natives that they would not have dared to invade or ravage the Taranaki district the second time, as will be seen they did.
Again, all agree that if the reserve of upwards of five hundred men, fresh and not engaged, had, after the signal victory at Mahoetahi, advanced on Huirangi, they not only would have come up with and easily defeated the five hundred men said to have been the page 92 support, and now disheartened in full retreat, but they would have driven them entirely from the district, and have made them gladly sue for peace.
A dissertation on the pros and cons—of the wisdom or folly—of these proceedings, is not our object, and we only write of what we have heard in every one's mouth, and state the facts to allow them to answer the question. With the exception of one or two large bodies of troops sent out as reconnoitring parties, as detailed thus,* no regular movement was made until the 28th of December, nearly two months after the battle of Mahoetahi; and we find that then a force of about fifteen hundred men, with two eight-inch guns, four howitzers, and several mortars, proceeded to Waitara.
* “It was signalled into town this morning that a number of natives were in the vicinity of the Bell Block; they had been dancing near the Ninia pah, and were driving off and shooting cattle. On the receipt of this intelligence a force of three hundred men, in command of Major Hutchins, 12th regiment, consisting of eighty-five of the 12th under Captain Williams, Lieutenant Dudgeon and Ensign Hurst; two hundred and twelve of the 65th under Captains Bulkeley and Strange, Lieutenants Bailie, Toker, Wrixon, and Butler, together with six artillerymen and a twelvepounder howitzer, under Captain Strover, R.A., marched from town. On reaching the Bell Block, the enemy had decamped, after having retreated before a party of thirty men under Captain Buck, 65th regiment, who went out to encounter them. Several fine cattle were found shot on the block, and about thirty head driven off. The troops returned to town at three p.m.”
“At four o'clock this morning No. 3 division proceeded by a branch road leading up to Ngataiparirua, No. 2 division continuing along the Devon road, until reaching the road from King's pahs to Waitara, where it turned to the right, when the Light Company of the 65th, under Lieutenants Urquhart and Whitbread, were thrown out in skirmishing order up to Ngataiparirua, when the guns were brought to the front, and three shells thrown into the pah, after which it was entered and found untenanted, and forthwith destroyed.
“No. 3 division now came up, and proceeded to Kairau, the next pah, described as very strongly fortified, which was also found evacuated: this was also burnt, and the divisions continued their march to Huirangi, when they were joined by Major Nelson's division from Waitara, who had marched up by a circuitous route on the banks of the Waitara.
“On reaching Huirangi, smoke was seen rising from the pah, but on reaching it, it was found, like the others, evacuated; but half-cooked food and lighted fires were evidences that the enemy had only just left it. Major Nelson's division now sent out the Light Company of the 40th as skirmishers, with some friendly natives, who, while proceeding along a road near a grove of peach trees, were fired upon by an ambuscade of the rebels, in a ravine, on the edge of the forest, and killing a private named Robert page 94 Ramsay. The natives delivered their volley at a distance of a few yards, but fortunately with their usual bad aim, otherwise many of the 40th must have fallen. On receiving the volley the advanced party fired and retired, and in the momentary confusion left their killed comrade, and on advancing again they found he had been taken away by the rebels, no doubt to secure his rifle and ammunition.
“Ihaia, who was with the party, acted with great coolness and bravery, deliberately firing his piece at the enemy before he retired with the rest. An officer had a narrow escape, as he got tripped up by a supplejack and fell into a hole, and escaped from the enemy by a miracle, after losing his sword.
“The rebels now kept up a heavy fire from the bush and rifle pits on its skirt, wounding T. Jenkins, Naval Brigade, and Bombadier Sinclair, R.A., which was answered by our forces with grape, canister, round shot, rockets, and a smart musketry fire; the bullets from the rebels falling amongst the troops, and near to the General, who was standing with his staff within range. After firing into the bush for a considerable time, and having destroyed Huirangi and a small pah to the right, named Manutahi, which was effected by a party of forty men of the Light Company of the 65th, under Lieutenant Urquhart, who were detached from the 2nd division, the order to retire was given, and the whole force returned to camp at Waitara, which was reached at three p.m.”
Again, on the 28th of December:—page 95
“We arrived at Mahoetahi about seven a.m., and halted for an hour for breakfast, after which we moved on by the road to the left of the blockhouse and crossed the Waiongana at the prophet's pah, above the junction of the Mangoraka with the Waiongana. Fortunately the river was not too deep, and we arrived at Waitara at ten o'clock, a.m., and encamped near the pah.
“We got orders to move at four a.m. next morning and got on the road at that hour, passed the sight of the old [gap — reason: unclear] pah, and arrived at Ngataiparirua at half-past five a.m.; moved on the advanced ground to Kairau, and commenced firing and throwing shells into the gully towards Matarikoriko. A working party commenced to make a redoubt, and after a short time (half-past eight a.m.) the natives crept up through the fern and gave us a volley. A sharp fire until half-past nine, and then all quiet until half-past twelve, p.m.
“A heavy fire was then commenced, and continued all day and night. One man of the 65th killed, and one sergeant and three men wounded; two 40th killed and fourteen wounded; one naval brigade wounded severely.
“The 65th fell in at seven a.m., and marched back to camp (Waitara) with the naval brigade. Left the 12th and 40th in camp at Kairau, who were engaged with the enemy till half-past five next morning.
“All quiet Sunday. The fire all Saturday was most terrific, and well sustained on our side, which page 96 kept the rebels well in check. They fired out of rifle-pits without showing themselves or taking aim, and the bullets went very high. Our people fired 70,000 rounds of ammunition, and about 120 shell and case shot.
“The Rev. Mr. Wilson went down to them yesterday morning, and there was a truce all day. Mr. Wilson's object was to get them to agree to spare the dead and wounded; and, after a good deal of parleying, an agreement has been made to that effect: one old savage (a chief) dissenting, but they will not mind him.
“In going over some of the pits, a splendid tomahawk, all bloody, and a pouch, a large knife and a pipe, were found, and various other articles. Two Maori letters were also found, one from ‘Takerei Terangi’ to ‘Wiremu Hoeta, Rewi, and others,’ In which he urges them to spare the women and children.
“This morning, intelligence was received that the enemy had evacuated their pah and position, and two companies of the 65th and a few of the blue jackets rushed into it and hoisted the Union Jack, one the Colonel of the 65th had for the purpose. It was well and quickly done.”
And, again, on the 14th of February:—
“At half-past three this morning, six hundred of the Naval Brigade, 12th, 14th, and 40th, commanded by General Pratt, left Waitara Camp for Kairau, where they were joined by Colonel Wyatt and the 65th, leaving a garrison for the Redoubt and Matarikoriko. page 97 On reaching Kairau at about half-past five, the whole force for service advanced in the direction of Huirangi, the enemy's position, the General commanding in person. The natives, who had their riflepits along the edge of the Huirangi bush, and across the road leading into the peach grove, and also in the bush to the left, were seen hurrying, in small parties, to take up their places in the several rifle pits, which extend about a mile and a quarter in length from the brow of the hill overlooking the Waitara river to the remains of the pah, Ko-te-wai-o-naha, on the right; aud, on the advance of the troops, commenced a heavy fusilade from these hidden pits, along almost the whole length of their position.
“The 65th, under Colonel Wyatt, advanced in skirmishing order, with the 40th on the right and left, with supports; the 14th being left in the Kairau Redoubt, the eight-inch gun in the redoubt being manned by a party of the Naval Brigade. A heavy fire was now kept up by the artillery, and the practice was so good that it effectually silenced the enemy's fire, and a position was taken up by Colonel Mould about six hundred yards in advance, and a working party told off to construct a redoubt. This, the object of the movement, was proceeded with rapidly, and the occasional shots from the enemy proved quite harmless; there was not a single casualty during the day. At half-past nine a red flag was hoisted by the enemy on a flag-staff on the edge of the bush, when some well-directed shots were fired at it and it was page 98 hauled down. The redoubt, which will be called No. 2, was completed before dusk, and a party of the 40th, under Captain Bowdler, were left there to garrison it, and the General, with the Waitara force, returned to head-quarters.”
A more sanguinary affair, however, came off on the morning of the 23rd, in which St. Pierre was actively engaged. The level plain of the Waitara is bounded by a chain of hills which converge to this plain in thick bush; along the border was a row of peach trees, where in former and more peaceful times was the favorite halting place for our friends and others in their excursions to the valley of the Waitara. About one mile distant, between this grove and the river, in direction towards the sea, was an elevated block called Matorikoriko, similar to Puketakauere, from which it is distant about a mile and a-half. It is a very commanding position, and on it was a strongly-fortified pah, taken by our forces on the 31st December, as described above; the pah being destroyed, a stockade was without delay built there, and a force left to garrison it.
Near this peach grove was another pah, strongly defended by a line of rifle pits; and half-a-mile to the rear, on the spur of this chain of hills, and commanding the river and the plain, was the principal pah of the rebel chieftain Te Arei. All approaches to this pah were, it was supposed, occupied and defended by a row of rifle pits. From spur to spur, and height to height, bush of heavy timber inter- page 99 vened, over rough and unequal ground. From Kairou, therefore, where the first redoubt was built, the level plain extended about a thousand yards to the peach grove and Huirangi pah. These places had been before taken by the troops; but now that some two or three months were allowed them without advancing on them, they were again occupied by the rebels and strongly fortified, so that now it was deemed advisable to approach them more cautiously, with redoubts and a sap. Thus, at a distance of five hundred yards from No. 1 redoubt, came a smaller one, and again, some three or four hundred yards, at an angle, came a larger one, No. 3. There the 40th were ordered on the 22nd, and thus, on the 23rd, we read:—
“Before daylight this morning, about one hundred and forty natives contrived, under cover of the darkness, to creep into the ditch of No. 3 redoubt unobserved by the sentries, and had prepared to scale the embankment by scraping steps with tomahawks and their fingers. At the grey of morning the sentry perceived one man—the last of the party—creeping to the brow of the ditch; he fired on him and was immediately shot dead himself.
“The garrison, consisting of the greater part of the 40th, under command of Colonel Leslie, met the attack with great promptitude, and a scene ensued which bafiles description. Our troops, as fast as they could load their rifles, fired down over the parapet, and the artillerymen, with great coolness, cut short page 100 the fuses of the shell, and, lighting them, pitched them over into the trench with frightful execution. Lieutenant Jackson, 40th regiment, while in the act of firing at a native, over the parapet, with a revolver, was shot through the head, and fell mortally wounded. Some natives succeeded in getting so far up the parapet that they were bayonetted by the garrison. This sanguinary conflict was prolonged till daylight, when the support came up from the Kairou, a party of the 65th attacking the rebels on their right flank, while the 12th attacked them on the left of the redoubt; here they met the rebel reserve, who rose out of the fern, it is said, like a flock of birds. These were charged by the 12th at the point of the bayonet, and those of the natives who could turned and fled, leaving many behind them. It was all over before six a.m., and in the trench of the redoubt and around lay forty-nine bodies of the rebels, five only of whom were alive. Forty-one were buried in a grave between Nos. 2 and 3 redoubts, others were buried by the friendly natives. Thirteen chief men are stated to be amongst the slain, but many of the bodies were beyond identification. The wounded natives are all dangerously so. Our casualties are five killed and eleven wounded.”
At this juncture, and while we were still hearing of the above engagement, the “Star Queen” arrived with three hundred and fifty of the 57th regiment from Poona and Bombay, but still, in spite of this success and the easy victory within our grasp, by a page 101 hasty advance, after the defeat of the redoubt attack, the advancing troops were recalled, and no farther movement save a continuation of a double sap over the level plains towards the peach groves, thus giving the rebels time to recover from their loss and regain spirit, and add rifle pits on every commanding spot.
About this time the Rev. Mr. Wilson arrived from Auckland. He has been a devoted missionary amongst the Waikatos for twenty-eight years, thoroughly understands their character, and being a man of most pleasing manners and address, well calculated to influence them. His principal object in coming to the seat of war was from charity and good nature, in order to use his influence with the enemy to spare those wounded in action, and observe the Sabbath by a cessation of hostilities on that day. This he in a great measure succeeded in, but it was afterwards upset, for the first Sunday was observed a day of peace, but towards the close of the day the Maories evacuated Materikoriko; and the next morning, on the troops advancing, it was found deserted. This was considered a breach of faith, although it has since been ascertained that they were prepared to go on the Saturday evening before.
This occured, as before detailed, on Sunday, the 10th February. It was on this occasion that Captain Strange, of the 65th regiment, was mortally wounded, most deeply and deservedly regretted by all who knew him. As the flag of truce for Sunday was hoisted, the 40th and 65th regiments moved out and page 102 advanced beyond the peach and karaka groves, which they cut down, and took up a position near a mile further, close under the ascent to the pah. * Here was formed redoubt No. 7, where the 40th remained for some weeks. A second sap was commenced from No. 7 of no ordinary labour and superior construction, and skirmishing parties were out all day around. Besides the support of the men working at the sap the guns also were brought into position.
* “General Pratt had resolved on constructing a redoubt about a mile in advance of redoubt No. 6, in the peach grove, and about four hundred yards from Te Arei pah, near Pukerangiora. The pah is not now in a fortified state, but there is a village of a few huts on the site of an old pah, half way up the slope of a ridge. There are many rifle pits on several eminences around; the ground is covered with fern, in some places very high, and there is a deep gully between the position chosen for the redoubt and Te Arei pah. A force consisting of about twelve hundred men, of the 12th, 14th, 40th, and 65th regiments, and Artillery, with the Royal Engineers, advanced at daybreak yesterday, and was immediately met by heavy firing from the enemy ensconsed in their pits. Our men were obliged to lie down, and the working parties were covered chiefly by the fire of the artillery, as the natives could only be seen at rare intervals. The rifles, however, were constantly in readiness to fire into the enemy when seen. The natives were full of determination, and at times came within speaking distance, inviting our men to come on, who replied by recommending them to stand out. Several old women were vociferous in encouraging the enemy. The redoubt was constructed on a small hill crowned with fern trees, commanding the gully, and within easy shelling range of the village or pa Te Arei. The 40th, and Captain Strange's and Captain Turner's companies, 65th, were extended in front across the roads from the peach grove to Te Arei, the 40th on the left, the 65th on the right. The detachment of the 12th and the light company of the 65th kept the road in rear of the working parties, extending from the peach grove to near the new redoubt. Almost every little eminence, and the edges of the bush, were occupied by the enemy, one party as near as one hundred and fifty to two hundred yards to the men of the 65th on the right front. Captain Strange's men had formed themselves little rifle pits, and that gallant officer was lying in one of these when he received a wound in the thigh, the bullet cutting the femoral artery and causing death by hemorrhage. Eleven others were wounded: three of the Royal Artillery, one of the 12th regiment, one of the 40th, five of the 65th, and one bullock driver. Nine of the bullocks were hit, but not so as to injure them seriously. The wounds, except two which are dangerous, are not of a character to disable the men permanently. Captain Strange was universally esteemed, not only in his regiment, but by every one who came in contact with him in the whole foree.”
Thus it is seen that for near three months our hero remained at the front, continually and actively employed, and without any emolument. Once only during that time did he leave for three days to visit New Plymouth; this was on the melancholy event of the death of Mr. Wellman, which took place about the middle of January. During this short visit he was much engaged in business with his uncle, who page 104 had now made up his mind to leave the colony until peace was restored, and take with him his sister and his son Walter and daughter Mary; he also endeavoured to persuade Herbert, but he seemed now so taken with his assumed labour and determined to remain, that he ceased to urge him.
In consequence of the loss of her father, Fanny Wellman was the first two days invisible; but before he left to return to his post his cousin contrived they should meet for a moment. Oh, what a world of thoughts and feelings were embraced in that moment! And yet how little said! Enough for him to feel and know that she was the same, and through evil report or good report unaltered. The shadows of the last mouth vanished as he grasped her willing hand, and again vowed his fealty and love of her, though pained by her sad appearance, for care and anxiety had much altered her. Yet his heart revived as the dear old smile returned, and she told him how she hoped and trusted in him ever, in face of all, and that she well knew time would clear up the mystery, and restore him to her friends—as they at first deemed him—the soul of honor and truth.
With difficulty he tore himself away, pledging that the moment his present arduous duty could be relinquished with honor, and their present trouble over, he would seek an explanation, when he had no doubt he could satisfy and smooth away all difficulties.
Thus, again they parted. To most of our readers it may appear strange that the being separated only page 105 ten miles of a country, intersected with roads, and guarded by the Bell Block only four miles, and the Mahoetahi block midway from thence to the front communication, was frequent nor safe. Such, however, was neither the case. Short as was the distance between the forts, and open as was the country with good roads, still no one was permitted to pass them without a large escort, and the weekly supply to Mahoetahi, distant not three miles from Waitara, was sent with an escort of two hundred men and a field piece, from New Plymouth (distant nearly eight miles). Thus the road was very seldom passed, and for six months the mode of communication was almost exclusively by the little steamer, which often, in bad weather, could not take one trip in the week.
But though affairs thus slowly progressed, ravage, rapine and house-burning was carried on from the south to our very entrenchments, and New Plymouth for several months might be considered in a state of actual siege, for most imperative and frequent orders were issued for no one on any pretence to leave the precincts of the entrenchments, beyond the blockhouses.
Constant alarms and rumours were daily afloat of intended attacks on the town; and on more than one occasion, these alarms coming after dark, threw the town into the most dreadful confusion and distress, whole families rushing from their beds, half-dressed, to seek refuge in the places appointed as those of safety: a most imprudent arrangement, for had an page 106 attack really taken place, the very measures ordered to be resorted to would be the cause of destruction to most, for in place of remaining in their homes, fortified even in the simplest and most temporary manner, and thus checking the advance of a foe, they left their houses open, with lights in the windows, as by the orders published, and rushing wildly through the streets, would have given an opportunity quickly to be taken advantage of if an onslaught were ever made; for any one acquainted with the mode of savage warfare must know that the attack would be sudden and rapid, from several points; not delay to tear a house down if it were safely closed, but, dashing through the streets, they would only tomahawk those in their way, and force a passage, and retreat from the town.
It was not considered in this light until two or three of these alarms occurred, when the confusion was so great, and the folly of the orders so apparent, that it was determined to remain and barricade their homes. For the time we allude to, from December to March, such was the state of the town, both night and day, and though there were about six hundred men of all arms in the garrison, the dread of an attack still prevailed. Escorts to the blockhouses at Omata and the Bell Block were as before stated; but even here the cautious policy of those in power was apparent, for although in these relief excursions, as they were called, the foree advanced over the country in skirmishing order. When on one occasion they came page 107 on the foe, and routed them with some loss, an order was sent on the following day to avoid such collisions, and for the officers commanding escorts to keep their men to the road.
That this course delayed the war was evident, and that it encouraged the marauders apparent, for finding that hostile movements against them were avoided, they became emboldened, and ravaged up to the blockhouses, burning houses and carrying off cattle with unparalleled temerity. Thus they were also encouraged to fire on those escorts. One day's events will be sufficient to detail from many of a similar character.
One day towards the close of February, Major Herbert, commanding an escort to Omata, consisting of a mixed force of two hundred men of the 57th, 65th, and Militia, and a twenty-four pound howitzer, reaching the blockhouse between eight and nine a.m. the party piled arms and rested. Scarcely had they left their arms, when from a hill commanding their position, some seven hundred yards in front, a volley was fired from about one hundred of the enemy; fortunately only one man was slightly wounded. The arms were quickly resumed, and the gun brought to bear on the hill, which appeared to be rifle-pitted around its summit. A shell or two sent them out of the position, and a party having advanced, completed the evacuation, and took up position on the hill. A sharp fire was now kept up on the retreating savages towards the deep gully and Waireka hill, and the gun, page 108 with all the force, advanced on them. Reinforcements were signalled for, and the Maories getting into the bush, driven from hill to hill, returned a brisk fire on the advance. The gun took up a good position to rake the gully, and was kept actively employed. After a short time Colonel Young arrived on the ground, with one hundred and twenty men; and, after some consultation, and finding that a second and a third party were on the march as a further support, a more definite advance was resolved on.
Major Herbert, with his force and about sixty Volunteers who had joined from the town, were to advance on the ravine, and Colonel Young, with one hundred and fifty men, were to form a storming party through Omata, their advance being covered by the gun, and rush the pahs, which were seen to be but very thinly manned.
Most of the rebel force, no doubt under the impression that a simple escort party would not attack their pahs on the hill, had deserted them to join in the firing from the bush on the first advance. No sooner had this been determined on, than the whole force advanced in great spirit, and lining the hedges skirmishing, drove in the savage to his cover. Capt. Turner, 65th, and one hundred and twenty men, now appeared at the blockhouse, and the storming party pushed on. As, however, they reached the entrance to the village, and the gun fired the first shell as a cover and a blind for the advance, the Native Commissioner, Mr. Parris, gallopped up, sent post haste page 109 from Waitara, with positive orders from the General to Colonel Young on no account to advance through the Omata ravine, as such a proceeding would interfere with his arrangements. The whole force was thus compelled with much chagrin to retire, and fall back on the town.*
* “Militia Office, February 23rd, 1861.
“Sir,—I have the honor to report, for the information of Major-General Pratt, C.B., Commanding the Forces in New Zealand, that in obedience to Garrison Orders of yesterday's date, I marched from town at half-past eight o'clock, and under my command one captain, four subalterns, nine sergeants, three buglers, and one hundred and eighty-eight rank and file, for the purpose of escorting provisions for the detachment stationed at the Omata stockade, and to reconnoitre.
“I proceeded on the Beach road, and met with no opposition until I reached the stockade, and when in the act of giving orders to pile arms, there was a heavy volley from small arms fired at the escort, wounding two men slightly, from an ambuscade party of the enemy, consisting of about from seventy to one hundred, from an old fortified pah, situated on Major Lloyd's property, on a high hill about seven hundred yards from the Omata Stockade, towards the sea beach. I promptly returned the fire, and after three rounds from the twenty-four pounder howitzer, I ordered the 57th regiment to storm the enemy's position from the right flank, which was done in gallant style. I immediately advanced by the centre with the 65th regiment and the twenty-four pounder howitzer, and on getting possession of the hill, I discovered several rifle pits, recently constructed, besides which a good deal of original fortification. I foreed the enemy from every position he took up along the flats, swamps, flag bushes, sand hills, &c., and drove him into the Wainku gully, when I found I was short of ammunition for the gun, or I would have forced him from the gully.
“Lieutenant-Colonel Young, 65th regiment, joined me about between twelve and one o'clock, p.m., with a strong support, and being my senior officer, took over command of the whole forces.
“Before closing this my despatch, I feel very desirous of bringing before the favourable notice of the Major-General the gallantry and very determined manner in which the officers, noncommissioned officers, and men of the force under my command, carried out my orders; and wish to bring before the special notice of the Major-General, Captain Brown, Taranaki Militia, under my command, and Lieutenant Hasted, of Her Majesty's 57th regiment. The former officer was with the skirmishers the whole time whilst engaged, and his perseverance in gaining ground on the enemy wherever an opportunity offered, gave great confidence to the men of the Militia and Volunteers. The latter officer commanded the men of his regiment to my entire satisfaction, and showed a very great readiness to carry out my orders.
“I cannot ascertain the exact loss on the side of the enemy, but from what I can learn he must have suffered severely, as several wounded were seen carried away. Subjoined is a list of casualties, as forwarded to me by Dr. Nevin, Staff Assistant Surgeon, whom I recommend to the favourable notice of Major-General Pratt, C.B., for his coolness under fire, and always being found wherever his services were required.
“I am happy to state that the wounds are all of a slight nature with the exception of one—I have, &c.,
“Major Commanding Militia and Volunteers.
“Colonel Sillery, Deputy Quartermaster-General,
“Commanding the Garrison, New Plymouth.”
“New Plymouth, February 24th, 1861.
“Sir,—I have the honor to report to you, for the information of the Major-General commanding, that the force (one field officer, one captain, four subalterns, six serjeants, three drummers, ninety-one rank and file), left town yesterday morning about ten o'clock with the utmost expedition under my command, for the Omata Stockade, as a reinforcement to Major Herbert. On arriving at the Stockade, I found an orderly waiting in readiness to conduct me to Major Herbert, and I immediately proceeded with my party to join that officer. On doing so, I detached a portion of the 57th and 65th regiments, with Volunteers and Militia, to support the skirmishers in front, who were then, and had been for some time, actively engaged with the rebels, who had retreated to the gully on being driven by Major Herbert from the hill to the site of an old fortified pah.
“With the remainder of my force I proceeded, myself in command, taking with me the howitzer, in the direction of the Waraika hill, with the view to take the gully which crosses the road, and, if practicable, to endeavour to get in rear of the rebels, to dislodge them from their position, and to intercept their retreat to the pa on the Waraika hill; about three hundred yards from the hill near Ware's Inn on the road, a sharp fire was opened upon us, but without a single man sustaining the least injury. Extending my men on each side of the road, the howitzer was brought to the front, and after two rounds had been fired the fire of the rebels was at once silenced, and they were seen from the Omata Stockade to make a precipitate retreat to the dense bush.
“At this time, Captain Turner, 65th regiment, arrived from town with a reinforcement of a hundred men, with orders from Colonel Sillery, commanding Garrison, that I was not to cross the gully, but to remain on this side to support Major Herbert. I therefore returned with my party, united with Captain Turner's reinforcement, to what is called Major Lloyd's farm, where I had left Major Herbert in command, and on finding that the firing was still going on, I deemed it advisable to put a stop to any further unnecessary expenditure of ammunition, and accordingly gave directions to Major Herbert to recall the force from the front, and to retire gradually in skirmishing order to the Omata Stockade, which was conducted in a most orderly and satisfactory manner. Meanwhile I reinforced the men on the hill sight of the old pah, and extended two companies, concealed behind a furze hedge, in skirmishing order, under Captain Turner, in the hope that the rebels, seeing this party returning to the stockade, might be tempted to show themselves.
“In this I was disappointed, and after a short time elapsed, I recalled the whole of the men, remaining a short time at the Stockade. I returned to town with the force by the inland road without meeting with any hostile natives, and arrived about four o'clock. The casualties which occurred will accompany Major Herbert's report.—I have, &c.,
“W. P. Young,
“Lieutenant-Colonel 65th regiment.
“Commanding Garrison, New Plymouth.”
It was afterwards ascertained that the full amount of savages did not exceed three hundred; that little or no resistance would have been offered in taking all page 111 the seven pahs; that by the advance on the hill they would have all fallen into our hands; and the enemy enclosed on both sides in the bush and ravine, would page 112 have been hemmed in, and killed or taken, thus giving them a lesson they would never forget, and close the war with an advantage untold.
Nor can we wonder, when such countermands as the above, on more than one occasion, took place, of the slow progress of the war; opportunities lost, and over-caution the law, that many were found who indignantly and openly reprobated such policy. It was from hearing such, and seeing the truth of these observations, that Mr. St. Pierre resolved to abandon the colony, which he accordingly did on the 6th of March.
Although, as mentioned before, an attachment of no ordinary sort existed between Mary St. Pierre and Walter Wellman, and which had gradually increased as trial and cares had come, still no opportunity occurred for their gaining the approval of their mutual friends, or even confiding to them the secret of their hearts. The sudden resolve, therefore, of Mr. St. Pierre, following so close on the death of Mr. Wellman, was so unlooked for by the lovers, that they had not the heart to make known the tie that bound them. And thus were the pains of parting made more bitter, not only to Mary leaving Walter actually engaged in the war, but the uncertainty of its cessation, or the return of her father. Thus, with mutual vows again, as their only solace, repeated, the parting was made in silence on the subject to those whose approval would have made them most page 113 happy and resigned, and which, in all probability, would have been gladly accorded by both.
No less sorrow and grief was experienced by the disruption of the closer intimacy of Fanny and Mary; and the former wept bitterly losing her friend. Her sole stay now seemed to leave her; the chances of her meeting Herbert each day more remote. The clouds still pending made him appear more and more estranged from her each day; his name even was now carefully avoided by her mother, who seemed to be most unhappy when ought occurred alluding to him, and as if she dreaded to hear of him.
Shortly after the departure of the St. Pierres, one morning, poor Fanny was fated to hear even worse news, for a stranger visiting casually, remarked, that Major St. Pierre, cured of his mad fancy for work and danger, had left for Sydney in the “Cordelia,” caused a revolution in her feelings that she with much difficulty restrained until she could escape to her room, where a flood of bitter tears relieved her saddened heart. But still she did not doubt him; still she bore with patience the hints of baseness so often unkindly murmured in her ear by Mrs. Grantham,
None knew her heart; the strength and purity of her love; and how all this increased her trust in him a thousand fold. If, indeed, we could read his heart, would we see that such trust and confidence was not misplaced. True, indeed, he felt the estrangement deeply, and he fled from the scenes that brought page 114 former days to his mind, abiding still his time till peace would smile upon the land, and he could demand an explanation, and his own loved Fanny.