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

Chapter VII

page 112

Chapter VII.

Ngaruawahia, the residence of the Maori King, occupied by the troops—Ascent of the Rivers Waikato and Waipa—Taupiri—The Queen's flag hoisted—Its effect—The granddaughter of a Chief left as a hostage—Difficulties of the Commissariat—Soldiers should be willing road-makers—Colonel Warre arranges to surprise a pah in Taranaki—The party unsuccessful—"We cannot always command success"—Thanks to the Forces—Sir Duncan Cameron a K.C.B.—Captain Greaves, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, with the expedition of Colonel Carey to the Thames—Posts established there—Troops march up the Waipa—Wise precautions—Arrival of fresh troops.

Ngaruawahia, at the junction of the Waipa river with the Waikato, was the residence of the Maori king, and it was desirable that the Queen's flag should fly there as soon as possible.

The lower Waikato was now open after the decisive action of Rangiriri—that is, as far as Taupiri, or fourteen miles above Rangiriri, where (at Taupiri) the river runs through a page 113deep gorge, a favourable place for the natives to make another stand, if so inclined.

On the 2nd of December General Cameron moved from Rangiriri, up the right bank of the Waikato, with 850 men, and arrived on the 7th of December at Rahuipokeko, six miles.

On the 8th and 9th the force was conveyed up the river in the "Pioneer," and landed at Ngaruawahia, a distance of about ten miles. No opposition was offered to the advance between Rangiriri and Ngaruawahia, though the latter place was found to be very strongly entrenched.

In ascending the Waikato from Rahuipokeko, the country on either side is flat for a mile and a half; a gorge is then entered, formed by wooded hills, increasing in height till Taupiri* is reached, when the peak of the conical wooded hill, 800 feet high, rises on the right bank of the river.

Opposite Taupiri was the Reverend Mr. Ashwell's mission station, and at the base of Mount page 114Taupiri itself was a burying ground of some Maori chiefs, held "tapued," or sacred. Beyond Taupiri the Maungawa flows into the Waikato, and the right bank above the stream continues flat, while the left is closely skirted by a high and beautiful wooded range the whole way to Ngaruawahia, twelve miles. When the troops were advancing up the Waikato in the steamer, to seize Ngaruawahia, a single figure was seen advancing alone to the same point; it was Bishop Selwyn, on the left bank of the Waikato.

The General, after reconnoitring Ngaruawahia in the "Pioneer," and seeing the place was abandoned by the enemy, ordered up a force of 500 men, with camp equipage, from Rahuipokeko. This force, with the headquarters of the General, disembarked at Ngaruawahia. The British flag was hoisted on the King's flag-staff, and an encampment, with a double line of tents, was formed on a line corresponding with the Delta, between the Waikato and Waipa.

The moral, political, and strategical importance page 115of the occupation of this place can scarcely be over estimated. Following closely on the enemy's defeat at Rangiriri, associated as the place had been with all the hopes of Maori sovereignty, and standing at the confluence of the great arteries of the Upper Country, its possession became identical in meaning with an important success.

The King's flagstaff, 80 feet high (regularly fitted with cross-trees, &c.), was regarded by the natives as a great type of the "King" movement. From information received it appeared that before the place was evacuated, the Ngatemaniapoto tribe wished to cut this flagstaff down, but the Waikatos resisted. Some shots were fired in demonstration of anger, but the flagstaff was saved by the Waikatos, who said they meant to leave it to the General in evidence of their desire for peace!

Te Wharepu, a high chief of Waikato, who commanded the enemy at Rangiriri, was severely wounded in five places (he was succeeded by Te Piori), and was subsequently removed to the page 116head of the Maungatawhiri river. Te Wharepu was visited by Te Wheoro, a friendly chief, and was found to be in a very dangerous state: he sent back to the camp at Ngaruawahia his granddaughter, a fine girl of twelve years of age, as a hostage, and as a proof of his desire of peace. Te Wheoro reported that the Waikatos had expressed their disgust with the Ngatemaniapotos, who, while the former were fighting at Rangiriri, were plundering their houses behind their backs at Paetae and further up. It was difficult to know what to do with the interesting hostage; she was taken to the General's tent, and got food and a new dress there. Fortunately a relative was found—an uncle—among the friendly natives, and she was consigned to his care.

The progress up the river was necessarily slow, owing to the difficulty of supplying even a small body of troops at a considerable distance from Auckland. There are many shoals in the Waikato, in the New Zealand summer month December, between Rangiriri and Rahuipokeko; the supplies were conveyed in flat-bottomed row page 117boats. The strength of the current rendered this a most laborious service, but it was performed with great cheerfulness by the officers and men of the Royal Navy, under the personal superintendence of Commodore Sir William Wiseman.

It was understood that the natives had assembled in great force in the front, and had constructed very strong earthworks on all the tracks leading into the interior. In consequence of this, General Cameron proceeded to bring up reinforcements, and collected supplies in order to resume active operations in the field as soon as possible.

On the 28th December the forces moved up the Waipa to Whata Whata, and on January the 1st, 1864, the head-quarters camp was established at Tuhi Karamea, on the Waipa.

The Waipa is eighty yards wide at Ngaruawahia, and towards Whata Whata it narrows to between sixty and seventy, is very winding, and with sluggish stream flows generally between high banks.

The 43rd Light Infantry and the 50th Regi-page 118ment had now arrived in the colony to co-operate in the Maori war.

General Cameron now thought it desirable to open a communication between Tuhi Karamea and Raglan, a small European settlement on the west coast, having a good harbour, not more than twenty miles distant from the Waipa river, and to which there was only a bush track. He therefore directed the 50th Regiment (the fighting "half hundred") and a detachment of 300 Waikia Militia, the whole under Colonel Waddy (an old Crimean friend), to embark at the Manukau for Raglan, where the greater part had already arrived; more troops were to be employed in improving the track, rendering it practicable for infantry and pack horses, so that in case of need reinforcements might reach head-quarters in a few hours, for until this road was made, this line could only be used occasionally for supplies.

Soldiers should be ready at all times to assist with pick and shovel in road making, under the attentive superintendence of their officers. The page 119warlike Romans did as much road making as fighting. It is a pleasure to see trees fall and the bush cleared for a good line of communication; it is a necessary duty, and if there is a good supply of clothes and leather, to meet the unavoidable tear and wear of the service, the duty should be gone about cheerfully, especially as there is working pay usually allowed.

Colonel Warre in the Taranaki had formed a well concerted plan to surprise the enemy's position on the Kaitake ranges near New Plymouth. Lieutenant Clarke, 57th Regiment, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, had volunteered his services to ascertain the line of communication by which the natives had been in the habit of making inroads upon the settlement from the position at Kaitake. Lieutenant Clarke had gone through the bush with one soldier and two natives till he got close to Kaitake, saw it, and returned undiscovered, to report. This led Colonel Warre to attempt a surprise; accordingly he despatched a party of three officers and seventy-two men selected from page 120the 57th and 70th Regiments, Captain Shortt, 57th, Commanding, Lieutenant Clarke and Ensign Pigott accompanying.

It was intended that Captain Shortt's party, guided by Lieutenant Clarke, should arrive at the back of Kaitake at ten o'clock a.m., while Colonel Warre made a demonstration in front to draw the enemy into their rifle-pits from the pah, and leave the ground open for Captain Shortt's party to take possession of the wharres. The parties arrived simultaneously at the time and places appointed; by some mistake Captain Shortt got entangled in the bush, and thought that the enemy had discovered him. The troops in front waiting for Captain Shortt's attack till two p.m., consequently were not allowed to attack, though the regulars and militia volunteers were quite ready to attempt it. A few rounds from the howitzer were fired at the pah. Mr. Parry and some of the mounted men rode within fifty yards of the pah, and were received with a few straggling shots, after which the troops returned to New Plymouth.

page 121

As the Duke of Wellington remarked, "If we fail in only one-third of our enterprises we should not complain, but make up our mind to this, as a general rule."

The thanks of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives were conveyed to General Cameron, the Imperial and Colonial forces, for the discipline and valour they had displayed in the late operations in which they had been engaged. General Cameron was also rewarded by the Queen with the Knight Commandership of the Bath, and some of the officers were deservedly promoted.

Captain Greaves, 70th Regiment, Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, a very active and intelligent officer, accompanied, from Auckland, on the 16th of November, the Thames Expedition, which was under the command of Colonel Carey of the 18th Royal Irish. The strength of the force was 1000 officers and men and 60 horses. The landing took place without opposition at Hauaratea, on the west coast of the Frith of the Thames. Captain page 122Greaves was engaged, for several days, with horse and foot patrols, through bush and swamp, reconnoitring the country, and was fired at by parties of the enemy.

After due consideration, three posts were established in commanding positions, to connect the Thames with the Waikato, one was called the "Miranda" redoubt, after H.M.S. of that name, the intermediate was the "Esk" redoubt, and the third the "Surrey" redoubt, after the 70th Regiment; from the position on the Paparata hill (where a strong pah was found deserted and immediately burnt) a commanding view was obtained of the country as far as the Waikare lake, including the Queen's redoubt and the adjacent posts on the west, and a portion of the Thames Frith on the east, and thus signals by telegraph could be established across the country.

A friendly chief, Wiremu Nero (William Naylor), who, with his tribe, the Ngatimahunga, owned the lands from Raglan on the west coast to the Waipa (had made a road for themselves page 123through the bush towards the Waipa), now waited on the General. The chief, Te Wharepu, died of the wounds he had received at Rangiriri—a brave warrior.

On the 24th of January, 1864, Sir Duncan Cameron marched with a force of 2469 officers and men up the Waipa, from the camps at Tui Karamea and Whata Whata to Te Mamaku, where a halt was made. Colonel Hamley of the 50th Regiment was to march up the left bank of the Waipa to Te Rore, with 444 Infantry.

The steamer, "Avon," came up the river, and Sir William Wiseman landed from it a 6-pounder Armstrong gun and 25 seamen, under Lieutenant Hill, R.N., to co-operate with the land forces. Colonel Leslie, C.B., was detached, with a force of 757 men of the 40th and 65th Regiments, to Ngahiahouri, on the Waipa, to construct a redoubt on each bank of the river. The General marched with the remainder of the force to Te Rore, which he reached on the 28th of January. Thus it will be seen that every precaution was taken by Sir Duncan Cameron to secure the page 124advance up the Waikato country, and prevent the supplies being intercepted.

In this manner, in India, his friend Lord Clyde always acted, and most wisely.

In warfare we should not put out the foot without being well able to withdraw it again without "sticking in the mud," or, as our American friends have it, "First be sure you're right, then go a-head."

It was easy for some, at a safe distance, to express impatience at the operations being retarded; the great difficulties of the country were not understood, and sufficient credit was not often given to those who did their best to overcome them.

The head-quarter camp was at Te Rore on the 4th of February. The enemy had not ventured to oppose the advance of the troops, although the line of march was crossed at several points by formidable positions, particularly at the Manguetama creek, which was passed within a mile of the enemy's strongest entrenchment at Pikoinko. For want of sufficient land transport, page 125the troops marched without tents or baggage. This was really bush-fighting and "roughing."

The troops could only move in single file along the tracks, on account of the high fern on each side; and bridges had to be constructed across all the creeks, the banks of which were so high and precipitous that roads had to be cut down them to enable the guns and transport carts to pass. Owing to these impediments the troops were a long time on the line of march, although the distance passed over each day was but short.

A depot was formed at Te Rore, preparatory to an advance on Rangiawhia, the principal native settlement in this part of the country. To Rangiawhia, from Ngaruawahia, there were three roads or tracks passable for infantry and artillery. Formidable earthworks had been constructed on two of these, but by the third—the line of the Waipa—it was determined to advance, so as to turn the positions and cut off the enemy's supplies.

The General now hearing that the natives of Turanga, on the east coast, were joining the page 126Waikatos in great numbers, he proposed to His Excellency the Governor, Sir George Grey, that a force should be sent there to create a diversion in favour of the troops in the Waikato district. A force was accordingly sent there of 652 officers and men, under the command of Colonel Carey, of the 18th Royal Irish; but Sir George Grey did not wish this force to make any aggressive movement without further instructions from him.

The 50th Regiment having been embarked at the Manukau for Raglan, the communication between the Raglan force and the General's field force on the Waipa was established by a difficult path across a high-wooded dividing range, with a mile and a half of bush. At 17 miles from Raglan, 300 Waikato militia garrisoned a redoubt in charge of stores.

In order to relieve the pressure on the supplies of the Waikato, the 70th Regiment was ordered to move from Ngaruawahia to the dividing ridge, and 100 men of the 40th Regiment from Whata Whata to be fed from the page 127supplies at Raglan. More men were now urgently wanted for the transport service, and Colonel Gamble exerted himself earnestly to supply this great want, and obtained volunteers, also bought additional boats from the ships in Auckland harbour, for the river transport of stores.

The 68th Light Infantry arrived in the colony from Rangoon.

The 50th and 70th Regiments having crossed the dividing range between Raglan and the Waipa, they joined the head-quarters, and put up their blankets as tentes d'abris, after the manner formerly noticed; the fern of New Zealand (as I experienced for months under canvas) making a most comfortable bed, particularly if enclosed in some sacking.

Note.—It may be interesting to those fond of Natural History to notice that the common birds in the Waikato district are these: the river shag, the grey duck, the wood pigeon of New Zealand, the parson bird of New Zealand, the bell bird, the kaka parrot, the green parrakeet, the native robin, and the grey warbler.

The lizards are the Naultinus clegans, a beautiful peagreen reptile with golden yellow markings, the N. punctatus, a tree lizard with a marbled brown skin, and the common ground lizard; though all these are quite harmless, yet the Maoris seemed to dread them. There are no snakes in New Zealand.

* Taupiripiri, to clasp round the waist.