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

Chapter XV

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Chapter XV.

Sir Duncan Cameron asks to be relieved from his command—His distinguished services—The Commissariat—Loss of lives in surf-boats—Murder of Mr. Hewitt—Chiefs surrender to Brigadier-General Carey—Mr. George Graham's services—Unarmed soldiers surprised in Taranaki—Colonel Colville's expedition—Fight at Okea—Dreadful fate of the Rev. Mr. Volkner—The Rev. Mr. Grace—The strong pah of Wereroa to be attacked—It is described—Colonial troops and native allies, assisted by the Regulars, to attempt the attack of the pah—Sir George Grey directs—14th and 18th Regiments co-operate—Garrison, harassed by riflemen, evacuate the pah—Services of the forces recognised—Notice of Sir George Grey's career.

General Sir Duncan Cameron, from the camp at Waetotara, wrote to the Military Secretary in England, General Forster, K.H., that he wished to be relieved of the command of the troops in New Zealand. He made this application with extreme reluctance, but his health was impaired by the arduous and harassing duties which had devolved upon him since the commencement page 258of the war (and also at the close of the previous war), and particularly by the great heat of the two last summers, which were passed under canvas in the field; and thus he solicited that another officer might be appointed to relieve him. H.R.H. the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, highly appreciating the many valuable services rendered by this distinguished officer—as did the Secretary of State for War—and regretting the cause of his asking to be relieved, yet, in anticipation of the speedy cessation of hostilities, consent was not withheld to the General's application.

Commanding the troops in Scotland in 1861 (an object of great ambition to many Scotch officers), he had been taken from this position to proceed to New Zealand. Continuing to be highly in favour with the authorities, he was appointed, when he returned to England, to Military Commissions, and then became Governor of the Royal Military College, being esteemed one of the best read and most accomplished officers in the British army.

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The troops under Sir Duncan Cameron had advanced to the Waingoro river; he had established posts there, and at the Waetotara and Patea rivers, at Kakaramea, and at Manawapo. The supply of the posts by sea was very precarious. Stores were disembarked from a steamer only on one occasion; trying to discharge a second steamer, the lives of four soldiers and two sailors were lost by the upsetting of a surf-boat. Of four surf-boats, one had become entirely disabled and two seriously damaged. The sea on the west coast of New Zealand is very wild at times, rolling in huge billows against the rocky cliffs or sandy beach.

General Cameron, having only a moveable force of 800 men, could not establish more military posts than he did; and posts were of course necessary for securing what had been acquired by conquest in Waikato, Tauranga, and Wanganui. The Colonial Secretary declined to send any reinforcements to New Zealand, since it was desired to recall five regiments, and reduce the force as soon as page 260possible. The same opinion was expressed at the War Office.

The labours of the Commissariat were at this time very great, to supply the troops with fresh meat and bread; but their exertions under Deputy Commissary-General Strickland were unremitting to provide what was required, under great difficulties of transport, &c. Mr. Strickland found the pack-saddle of the Otago diggers the best—high above the withers of the horse, while the sides of it rested firmly on the horse. Compressed forage was supplied at first in too large packets, each of 132 lbs.; and it was recommended that they should not exceed 120 lbs., and be long and flat, so as to be carried on pack-horses.

Another surf-boat was upset at the mouth of the Waingoro river, and more men were drowned.

A party of natives had visited the house of Mr. Hewett, on the frontier of the Wanganui settlement, and murdered him. He was an old resident, and much respected in the neighbour-page 261hood. The house was the most exposed of any in the out-settlements; but he declined to have a picket stationed there from a neighbouring redoubt at Mussens, under the impression that it would invite attack. His body was found decapitated, and the head taken away.

The friendly chief, Rio, was also murdered.

Military posts were established at Te Namu, fifty miles south of New Plymouth, at Pukearhoe, the White Cliffs, thirty-five miles north of it, and garrisoned by troops of the Taranaki command.

At Tauranga, on the 28th of May, 1865, Wiremu Tamehana (William Thompson), and other chiefs, came to Brigadier-General Carey and tendered their submission to British authority. When the Brigadier met Thompson, the latter dismounted from his horse, came forward uncovered, and grounded his taiaha, or carved chief's spear, and shook hands. They then proceeded with the other chiefs to where the British flag was flying, and signed a covenant of peace.

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William Thompson made these requests,—that a Commission should be appointed to inquire into his conduct and character, which he said had been much maligned; and that he wished to see the face of the Governor again. A gentleman I knew and corresponded with in New Zealand, Mr. George Graham, and for whom I have great esteem for his highly judicious manner of dealing with the Maoris (and assisted on this occasion by Mr. Dehar), was the means of rendering this important service to the colony,—the submission of the chiefs at Tauranga. He deserved every honour the Government could confer on him.

The translation of the convention signed by William Thompson and other chiefs in presence of Brigadier-General Carey was—

"We consent that the laws of the Queen be laws for the (Maori) King, to be a protection for us all for ever and ever. This is the sign of making peace, my coming here, to the presence of my fighting friend (Hoa-riri) General Carey."

A number of the natives in the Taranaki page 263came in and surrendered themselves to Colonel Warre and to Mr. Parris at Stony river.

There was a misfortune in Taranaki. Some commissariat bullocks had gone astray, and Colonel Colville allowed four mounted men to go a short way into the bush to look for them; but seeing some horses and cows in the distance they gave chase, and were joined by a sergeant and five privates, 43rd Light Infantry, unarmed and without orders, for the purpose of wild pig hunting. When leading away a calf, they were surprised and attacked by a dozen mounted Maoris. All wonderfully escaped except two, a private of the 43rd and one of the mounted company; the rest returned singly and in pairs to camp. The body of the mounted man was found, but not the 43rd soldier.

It was now determined by the Colonial Government to form a military settlement of 120 officers and soldiers north of the Waitara river, Taranaki, and also a settlement of friendly natives there, with block houses for defence.

The Maoris in the Taranaki, having made page 264repeated attacks on the post at Warea, about twenty-six miles south of New Plymouth, Colonel Warre directed Lieut. - Colonel Colville, 43rd Light Infantry, to proceed from New Plymouth, on the 29th of July, with a flying column to punish the enemy, and drive him out of the bush.

The force consisted of 213 officers and men, 43rd and 70th Regiments, and a gun detachment of Royal Artillery, with a 6-pounder Armstrong gun. After passing Warea, at Kapoiaiai, the force was divided, and Brevet- Major Russell, 57th, took charge of one-half: this column turned inland, and Colonel Colville continued along the coast for some distance. Thus there was a combined movement to surprise the enemy in the bush. The gun was left at Warea. Great difficulties were experienced in making way through the bush, for the want of a good guide, by Colonel Colville's party. Major Russell first encountered the enemy about six miles from the beach.

He posted pickets on four conical hills, sent page 265forward Captain Cay with sixty men to reconnoitre a smoke observed in the bush, who creeping forward, a collection of twenty wharrés was seen. Captain Cay immediately fixed bayonets, and charged among the huts, and took the natives quite by surprise, and slew a number of them.

Lieutenant Tylden, 70th, was severely wounded in two places, in the hand and cheek, leading on his company.

Soon after, Captain Cay rejoined Major Russell, bringing with him two men and a woman prisoners. The Maoris rallied, and opened a heavy fire on the party, the natives firing with great precision and steadiness, and causing casualties among the troops; the Maoris also suffering. The natives continued to follow the party, which made several stands to keep them in check. Lieutenant Bully, 70th, commanding the rear guard, was mortally wounded through the stomach.

Colonel Colville, hearing the heavy firing from Major Russell's party, came up with it page 266after its attack on the Okea wharrés, and the enemy was driven off. This was on the 2nd of August.

On the 3rd of August, Colonel Colville returned to the bush to complete the destruction of the village of Okea, which Captain Cay had been unable to accomplish the previous day, owing to the small number of his men and the determined resistance of the enemy.

The casualties were one officer, Lieutenant Bully, 70th, killed; and one officer, Lieutenant Tylden, 70th, severely wounded; four privates killed, and five severely wounded. It was believed twenty or thirty of the enemy were killed and wounded. It was a sharp bush fight.

Major Russell and Captain Cay were highly commended by Colonel Colville for this affair near Warea. Captains the Hon. A. G. Harris and Talbot, 43rd Light Infantry, were of great service in skirmishing; and Lieutenant Longley, 43rd, commanding the advance guard, found the track when a native guide refused to go on. On getting under fire, Captain F. Mace, of the page 267Taranaki Militia, accompanied the party, and was of great assistance. Surgeon Turner, 43rd, was of great service to the wounded.

Major-General Trevor Chute, on the departure of Sir Duncan Cameron from Melbourne on the 25th of August, assumed the command of the forces in the Australian Colonies and New Zealand, and arrived at Auckland on the 27th of August.

Instructions were issued for the departure of the 65th Regiment, who certainly had become acclimatised in New Zealand, and had done excellent service there in the seventeen years of colonial experience. The 70th Regiment proceeded from the Taranaki to Napier, to aid in the defence of the province of Hawkes Bay against the Hauhau fanatics; and 500 of the colonial forces were withdrawn from Wanganui and landed at Opotiki, about seventy miles south-east of Tauranga, with a view to punish the murderers of the Rev. Mr. Volkner and Mr. Falloon. This was a dreadful affair, which will be shortly related.

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Mr. Volkner was a Prussian Protestant missionary, and a member of the English. Church in New Zealand for some years. He was a man of peculiarly mild and gentle disposition, at the same time zealous in his holy calling. His station was at Opotiki, on the Bay of Plenty, east coast. Gradually he so improved the tribe among whom he dwelt and laboured, that they became quiet and orderly, and so esteemed him that they built for him a church and dwelling-house. Some of his people became excited and violent when the Waikato campaign began, and it was thought prudent to remove Mrs. Volkner to Auckland. Unfortunately he returned to his station, where he was visited by a party of the Hauhau fanatics from the Taranaki, breathing murder against the Pakeha, and carrying with them the cooked head of a white man, and a soldier also as a prisoner.

Mr. Volkner returned to Opotiki on the 1st of March; accompanying him was another missionary, the Rev. Mr. Grace. They came in a page 269small schooner called the "Eclipse," Captain Levy.

Mr. Grace I had known under peculiar circumstances. One day in 1862, in cruising about alone on the fern ridges of the Waikato (I was on good terms with the natives about there, having opened a trade with them with our people, and had no occasion to fear them), I saw a white man and a young woman walking along a bush track, with a few Maoris carrying packs. This was Mr. Grace and his good-looking daughter, retreating from his station at the Taupo lake. I took them to our camp and entertained them, and they proceeded on their way to Auckland.

As soon as the "Eclipse" anchored at Opotiki, the Hauhaus boarded her, and made prisoners of the two missionaries, confining them on shore. Mr. Grace said they spent a dreadful night of suspense, and next day, in the afternoon, twenty armed men came and took out Mr. Volkner. They said he was to die. They then performed some wild ceremonies at a flag-staff, and taking page 270him to his own church, they deprived him of his coat and waistcoat, then took him to a tree, where there was a rope thrown over a branch. He saw now what was intended, and knelt in prayer to his Maker. His cruel murderers then threw a noose round his neck, and ran him up to the tree, and left him hanging for an hour. He was then cut down and decapitated, his eyes taken out, and his body thrown aside, but it was afterwards buried by Captain Levy and some of the natives.

My poor friend, Mr. Grace, thought every day would be his last, till the 16th of March, when, H.M.S. "Eclipse" coming to Opotiki, Captain Levy, at the risk of his life, took off Mr. Grace in his boat to the man-of-war, and he most thankfully escaped.

Not content with the murder of Mr. Volkner, in July, when Mr. Fulloon, a half-caste interpreter, arrived at Wakatane in a schooner owned by natives, but with an English crew, the Hauhaus boarded her, murdered Mr. Fulloon in his berth, and the crew, and burnt the vessel.

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Strange, they spared Mr. White, a trader, and a half-caste boy.

When a party of the 14th Regiment were at Parakino, a redoubt on the Wanganui river, in the end of 1865, a large wharré was built there to serve to dance in or for a theatre, and the friendly Maoris there occasionally lent the soldiers clothing to perform their parts. On one occasion the Maoris gave a haka, or war dance, as an interlude, one of their chiefs, Reneti, leading. As they grew excited in their performance, so did a number of the Maoris among the audience, and, jumping on the stage, they joined the rest in their tremendous stamping and contortions. The soldiers gave them immense applause, which was much relished by the Maoris.

The natives were on the most friendly terms with the soldiers, often gave them, without asking for payment, potatoes, fruit, and vegetables, and got in return an occasional glass of rum, or an invitation to eat "a bit of dinner" in a tent.

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There were athletic games held, and swimming races; in a short race the Maoris beat the soldiers, and a Maori saved the life of a drowning soldier.

On the south-west coast, Brigadier-General Waddy had sent Mr. Charles Broughton, an interpreter, well known to the Maoris, with offers of peace. He was enticed into a pah where a flag of truce was hoisted; he never returned—he, too, was murdered.

His Excellency Sir George Grey had set his heart on the capture of the strong Wereroa pah, situated on high and commanding ground, up the Waetotara river. It was a sort of Bhurtpore to the Maoris, and supposed to be impregnable, and defiant for the Pakeha.

The Wanganuis, flushed with their success against the Hauhaus, were anxious to assist in taking Wereroa.

Sir Duncan Cameron had not been in favour of commencing siege operations against the Wereroa pah in winter rains, but intended that the post at Nukumaru should be used for obser-page 273vation, and for collecting siege materials, and then to make the attempt to carry the pah when the proper season arrived; meanwhile an opportunity might occur to surprise the pah, or the natives might evacuate it, fearing the effect of an assault.

Sir Duncan Cameron, before he left New Zealand (and Sir George Grey being desirous of ascertaining if the road was clear round the south-west coast) directed Colonel Warre, C.B., to march with a force from Opunaki to meet Colonel Weare from Waingongora, and to make a reconnaissance between the two points. This was done, and the two detachments met about half-way without having seen an enemy. The distance between the two outposts was about twenty-four miles.

The Wereroa pah stood about 300 feet above the wooded banks of the Waetotara. There were woods, and broken country, and occasional swamps all round, quite a picture of New Zealand scenery.

The front of the pah, on its high plateau, page 274formed as it were the base of a triangle, one end of which rested on the Koie stream, the other on the Waetotara river. On the right bank of the Koie was a precipitous wooded ridge, somewhat higher than that on which the pah stood. The right bank of the Koie stream then afforded excellent cover for riflemen, and commanded a great part of the pah itself.

The front of the pah stood at the head of a gentle slope, which fell gradually away from the pah, for a distance of more than 1000 yards, when the ground began again gradually to rise. The front face of the pah was very strongly fortified with palisading and rifle-pits.* It was not expected that a force would advance to attack the pah by the precipitous valleys on its flanks, where the cliffs formed the chief defence.

Sir George Grey determined to occupy by surprise the heights commanding the pah, and page 275by a force, if possible, strong enough to repel any sortie from the pah (which would be at the same time threatened in front), and also strong enough to repulse or capture any reinforcements that might be coming up.

Brigadier-General Waddy had arranged to establish a post of 400 men of the regular troops about 900 yards from the fortress, to afford Her Majesty's Colonial forces and the native allies that moral support they were certain to derive from the presence of British troops in front of the place. He also ordered a detachment of artillery to co-operate in front, to breach and shell the works, if necessary.

The Colonial troops were 25 Wanganui Cavalry, 139 Forest Rangers, 109 Native Contingent, 200 efficient friendly natives, and several old warriors—total 473.

A post at Pipiriki, commanded by Captain Brassey, was placed in a very critical position—threatened with attack by a large body of natives; but until Wereroa fell, it was impossible to detach a party to assist Captain page 276Brassey, so no time was to be lost in trying to gain possession of Wereroa.

Sir George Grey taking the direction of the operations, determined to occupy the heights round the pah, to shut in its defenders, and to harass them with rifle and artillery fire. Mr. Parris, the interpreter, communicated to the native allies the intentions of the Governor, and had them on the alert on the morning of the 20th of July.

Lieut.-Colonel Trevor, with 100 men of the 14th Regiment, arrived early on the morning of the 20th, and pitched his tents in front of the pah, about 1300 yards from it, and between the camps of the native allies and the Forest Rangers; Captain Noblett, 18th Royal Irish, with 100 men, also arrived on the ground to co-operate, and pitched his tents in rear of the 14th.

At half-past twelve, the Colonial and native forces, under Major Rooke's command, paraded out of sight of the pah, and moved off north to the Karaka heights, by a path concealed from page 277the view of the pah. It rained heavily, which, though inconvenient to the men marching, helped to conceal the well-devised movement. The supplies of food were short, yet there were no complaints, and all were anxious to execute what had been assigned to them to attempt—they were "strong and of good courage."

The Forest Rangers were under the command of Captain George, the Native Contingent under Captain MacDonell, the friendly natives under their several chiefs; and the whole, under Major Rooke, reached the Karaka heights by ravines and broken and wooded ground, by half-past six o'clock p.m., after dark.

From the time the Colonial forces left (with the exception of a few friendly natives) the regular troops, 200 in number, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Trevor, were the only force in front of the pah. Sir George Grey afterwards said, "Without the presence of this force, the operations could not have been carried on. Nothing could have surpassed the zeal and energy of Lieut.-Colonel Trevor; page 278and to his cordial co-operation and advice on several occasions, much of the success which followed must be attributed. The officers and men of the regular troops all exhibited the greatest alacrity and interest in what was going on …. without their presence, and without the cordial energetic assistance which they gave, nothing could have been done."

Of course there was great risk in dividing the force, but appearances were well kept up, and the natives in the pah were deceived, all the tents being left pitched in view of the pah. Captain Brassey's critical position at Pipiriki required the risk to be run. But if the enemy had suspected that only 200 men were in their front, as at Nukumaru, they might have sallied out in great numbers, and tried the mettle of the 14th and 18th in a bloody conflict.

In the course of the night Major Rooke asked the Chief Haimona to send spies to a kainga or village near; they reported that there was no one there: but not satisfied with that, the Major detached a party under Captain McDonell at page 279half-past four in the morning to the kainga, who surprised and captured a reinforcement for the pah, and made fifty prisoners, fifty stand of arms, and two kegs of ammunition. Great credit was due for this to Captain McDonell and his men.

At daybreak on the morning of the 21st, rifleshots from the Karaka heights into Wereroa pah wakened its defenders; they were taken by surprise, and evidently fell into confusion, not expecting an attack from the north side.

The native chiefs left in camp with Colonel Trevor became naturally anxious at their critical position; to reassure them he sent for fifty more men of the 14th to Nukumaru, and for fifty more, 18th, to Waetotara. The 200 regulars expected from Wanganui had not arrived, but the operations went on, Major Rooke to harass the enemy in the pah by day and laying ambuscades at night—Colonel Trevor to make a sham attack on the pah in front, to enable Major Rooke to take the Parima village on his side, and the friendly natives occupying the ground on the west side of the Waetotara river.

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At sunset the pickets falling in and marching to the front, led the enemy to suppose the troops were forming for a night attack; the garrison was seen to be in confusion, and running about for shelter from the rifle-shots from the heights.

Major Rocke, 18th, arriving in command of a party from the Waetotara, reported to Colonel Trevor he had seen, with a telescope, natives descending the cliffs and precipitous banks with packs, and escaping by the only outlet from the pah. At ten o'clock, 21st, Major Rooke ascertained from a native scout that the pah was evacuated, and he had the satisfaction of writing Sir George Grey, "The Wereroa is yours." It was immediately taken possession of by the friendly natives, and then garrisoned by Colonel Trevor and the 14th detachment.

Great credit was due to all engaged in the capture of the Wereroa pah. Sir George Grey planned the attack, and the regular troops eagerly aided him (Lieut.-Colonel Trevor was afterwards rewarded with the C.B.), and to Major Rooke, Captain George, Captain and page 281Adjutant Ross, and to the native Chiefs Haimona, Te Kepa, Epiha, Aperaniko, and Karehana, great praise was accorded.

His Excellency Sir George Grey, K.C.B., I first knew at the Cape of Good Hope, when as Captain Grey, on his way with Lieutenant Lushington, he was proceeding to explore the north-west coast of Australia, at Sharks Bay, for the Government. He was handed over to me by my distinguished Chief Sir Benjamin d'Urban (whose private secretary and A.D.C. I was) to fit out with supplies for his expedition, on which he was dangerously wounded by a spear. He had obtained first-class honours at the senior department Royal Military College, and gave so much satisfaction to the Colonial Secretaries of State, that he was appointed Governor, in succession, of South Australia, New Zealand, the Cape of Good Hope, and New Zealand a second time. His public services fully entitled him to be called a very distinguished "man of the time."

* In that excellent work by Captain A. V. Boguslawski, translated by Colonel Lumley Graham, and entitled 'Tactical Deductions from the War of 1870-71,' it is said "The rifle pit is by far the simplest field work, and that best suited to the tactics of the present day."