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Bush Fighting. Illustrated by remarkable actions and incidents of the Maori war in New Zealand.

IV. — Criticisms on the Services of the Military in New Zealand

page 314

Criticisms on the Services of the Military in New Zealand.

It is very unfortunate that an author and traveller of the distinguished ability of Mr. Anthony Trollope, in his work, "Australia and New Zealand," deceived by false information, speaks so slightingly of the British forces who were employed in the arduous and harassing duties of the service in New Zealand. We certainly did not expect this from our own countryman, and if he will take the trouble to read the narrative of the war from 1860 to 1866, derived from authentic sources, he may alter his sentiments on this subject.

Among other things connected with the war, he says there were 15,000 troops (that is, about 1864), and never more than 2,000 Maoris in arms against us, and that this was the proportion in all the engagements—fifteen to two—"and yet they were not subdued." Again, 10,000 are stated to be the number of the troops. These loose statements must have emanated from, or originated with, some one jealous of and disparaging the military, who were engaged in fighting the battles of the colonists, and looking for neither plunder, prize-money, nor grants of land—only endeavouring to obey orders, and to do their duty to the best of their ability, whilst "enduring hardness."

Some individuals seemed to take a pleasure, and to lose no opportunity in crying down the services of the regular troops, although the colony owed so much to them, and it was certainly from untrustworthy sources Mr. Trollope derived his information.

page 315

It is utterly impossible for any person to say how many Maoris were engaged against the troops at any given time, as the number was constantly varying. At one time, it is believed, the whole native population were ready to take part against the British, and it was for that reason that so large a reinforcement was applied for from England; and there is little doubt the natives would have risen throughout the north island had they not been deterred by the example made of the Waikatos.

As to the force under Sir Duncan Cameron, with the exception of a company of Forest Rangers, and a troop of mounted Volunteers under Colonel Nixon, who could only be used occasionally on account of the difficulty of foraging them, the regulars were the only troops that could fairly be said to be at the General's disposal for operations in the field, and of them a very considerable number were employed in the transport, commissariat, and other non-combatant departments. The local militia could only be employed within a certain radius (about 15 miles?) from their own settlements, and that only for a few days at a time. The Auckland Militia occupied certain posts in the neighbourhood of the settlement, at the beginning of the war, but took no part in the Waikato campaign. The New Plymouth Militia were an exception, and had some really hard work. As to the Waikato Militia, they arrived in successive detachments a considerable time after the war broke out; they were raised in Melbourne and Sydney, and naturally required a good deal of training before they could be fit to act against the Maoris. A good many were employed in the transport, and when the campaign was over the greater part were gradually paid off.

With regard to the comparative strength of the Maoris and the troops, when it is considered that the Maoris page 316occupied the interior of the north island, about as large as England, and could, under cover of the bush, assemble unknown to the troops, and come down at any moment in force upon any one of the settlements, which were all on or near the coast, it is not surprising that a considerable force was necessary, for the double object of protecting those settlements and, at the same time, carrying on operations into the interior; but of course a stranger to the colony cannot be expected to enter into all these matters.

Where the iron heel of war treads it is truly said, "Le pays était avant sa venue comme le jardin d'Héden; et après qu'il sera parti il sera comme un désert désolé;" so we now trust that the fertile soil of New Zealand will smile with abundant harvests under both British and native cultivators, "the cattle on a thousand hills" be seen, and the glorious evergreen forests of the beautiful kauri pine, the noble rata, rimu and totara trees shading the palm-like tree fern, and nikau will contain no lurking foe—commerce flourishing, peace and plenty prevailing.

For the enterprising Pathfinder we would recommend an exploration and survey of sixty square miles, between Poverty Bay and the Bay of Plenty; for in preparing the map for this work from a large one of New Zealand, we found a perfect blank in that region; and here may be observed scenes of great interest, good pasture land, hot springs, and if not the living moa, the bones of that gigantic bird, the great Dinornis elephantopus.