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

Chapter VIII

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Chapter VIII.

Movement on Rangiawhia—A bathing party attacked by the Maoris—A sharp skirmish ensues—Officers engaged—Captain Heaphy earns the Victoria Cross—March to turn the flank of the enemy—Maori sentries—Desperate resistance of the natives—Colonel Nixon killed—The action at Eangiawhia—The Maori position—Brilliant dash of the 50th Eegiment—Defeat of the Maoris—The troops are thanked—Devoted services of the Bishop of New Zealand—The military telegraph—The important results of the late movements.

The movement on Rangiawhia, which it was intended to make with the view of turning the line of the entrenched positions constructed with great labour by the Maoris, was unavoidably delayed by an accident which happened to the "Avon," the only means of transport between Ngaruawahia and the camp at Te Rore; and it was doubtful, at one time, if the force would not be obliged to fall back for supplies till the damaged "Avon" was repaired. The labour and trouble attending the getting up supplies page break
G. R. Greaves. Edwd Weller. Litho Red Lion SquarePublished by Sampson low. Marston, Low. & Scarle Crown Buildings, 188 Fleet Street London

G. R. Greaves. Edwd Weller. Litho Red Lion Square
Published by Sampson low. Marston, Low. & Scarle Crown Buildings, 188 Fleet Street London

page 129from Auckland to the front, were immense: the stores had to be shifted twelve or fourteen times between the base of operations, Auckland, and the depôts, on account of changes of land and water transport.

In the meantime, in order to occupy the attention of the natives, and induce them to believe it was intended to attack them at Paterangi, on the ridge about three miles S.E. of Te Rore, a force of 660 men was posted, under Colonel Waddy, C.B., within 1500 yards of the entrenchment. Whilst in this position, several skirmishes took place between Colonel Waddy's force and the garrison of Paterangi, one of which will be hereafter noticed as it reflected great credit on the troops.

In February, the life of a young officer was needlessly sacrificed. Lieutenant Mitchell, R.N., in going down the Waikato in a steamer, observed some Maoris looking at it from a bank in the woods; they were fired at, the fire was returned, and Lieutenant Mitchell, on the bridge of the vessel, fell mortally wounded.

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On the 11th of February, about 3 p.m., a party of about fifty men of Colonel Waddy's force, it being hot weather, were proceeding to bathe in the Mangapiho river (a branch of the Waipa), covered by a party of twenty men of the 40th Regiment, when they were fired upon by a number of the enemy, who lay concealed in the fern on the opposite side of the river. The covering party returned the fire, upon hearing which Colonel Waddy immediately sent off fifty men to reinforce the party; a very sharp fire was kept up for some time, the enemy falling back. Seeing that a considerable number of the enemy, from their pah at Paterangi, were scattered about the flat, near the river, further reinforcements of soldiers were sent out, till 200 men were engaged.

Lieut. - Colonel Sir Henry Havelock (who came on the ground, and, as senior officer, took the command,) was engaged till half-past seven o'clock skirmishing with the enemy in a running fight, and also when they took post in an old pah called Waiari, overgrown with brush-page 131wood. The leading men of the 40th, under Captain Fisher, were supported on the left and rear by Captain the Hon. F. Le Poer Trench, of the same regiment. A party under Major Bowdler of the 40th assisted to hem in the Maoris. After much hot firing, the troops were able to dash across the Mangapiho into the old entrenchment, over a bridge formed by a single plank. The banks of the river were here forty or fifty feet high, and densely wooded. There were also engaged with Captain Fisher, 40th, Lieutenant Simeon and Ensign King of the 50th, Captain Doran, Lieutenant Leach, and Ensign Campbell.

A series of hand-to-hand encounters now took place between the soldiers and the Maoris crouching in the thick bush. The soldiers displayed, if anything, too fierce an eagerness to dash at and deal with the lurking enemy wherever visible. This forwardness cost some valuable lives.

Captain Heaphy, of the Auckland Volunteers, took charge of a party and ably directed it, and page 132Captain Jackson, with twenty men of the Forest Rangers, was of great assistance. Captain Von Tempski of the same corps relieved the soldiers who had been skirmishing for four hours.

Captain Heaphy, in gallantly assisting a soldier of the 40th, who had fallen wounded into a hollow, became a target for a volley from the Maoris, at short range. His clothes were riddled with balls, and he was wounded in three places. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross, having continued to aid the wounded till the end of the day.

Assistant-Surgeon Stiles was highly commended for attending to the wounded under sharp fire, and seeing them removed early and carefully to camp.

The British casualties were six men killed, an officer (Captain Heaphy) and seven men wounded. The Maoris left twenty-eight dead in the bush, and two wounded prisoners. It was a severe lesson for them.

The continuance of the supplies tip the Waipa was now secured by the arrival of the new page 133colonial steamer "Koheroa." A sufficient supply of provisions being accumulated at Te Rore, the General marched, on the night of the 20th of February, to Rangiawhia, leaving Colonel Waddy in his position in front of Paterangi, to protect the depôt at Te Rore, and to be ready to move to any point of the line of communication that might be threatened.

A large convoy of provisions, with two six-pounder Armstrong guns, Royal Artillery, and one naval six-pounder, were to move next day at daybreak, and escorted by the 50th Regiment, under the command of Brevet-Colonel Weare. Tents were struck after dark, and at 11 p.m. the troops paraded, without sound of bugle, and moved silently in the following order:—

Captain Von Tempski, Forest Rangers, advance guard,

Detachment Royal Engineers, 65th Regiment, 70th Regiment,

Detachment of Seamen and Marines,

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Royal Artillery Mounted Corps,

Colonial Defence Corps,

Captain Jackson's Company of Forest Rangers as rear guard.

The success of the movement to outflank and take the enemy in rear, depended on the secrecy with which it was conducted. The column had to pass within 1500 yards of the enemy's works, and this was done with a noiselessness and care which reflected the greatest credit on the discipline of the troops. The enemy's sentries were heard at midnight calling out, as usual, in evidence of their alertness, as "I see you, ye dogs! come on and fight; come on!" meanwhile the column was quietly fording the Mangapiho and turning his left.

After the passage of the Waipa, the route lay by an unfrequented track, for four miles, over a fern ridge, and then came out on a native dray road, leading from the Punia to Te Awamutu, a Government school and mission station, which the natives had compelled the European residents to leave some months ago.

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The buildings were uninjured. The force pushed on at once to Rangiawhia, four miles distant, and the main source of the enemy's supplies.

On approaching this settlement, the cavalry were rapidly thrown forward, and surprised the inhabitants, who were few in number, the greater part of the male population being probably at Paterangi.

The native huts, with walls of raupo or reeds, and thatched with toé-toé grass, were generally scattered over a considerable area, but at one point, where six or seven stood together, a party of armed natives offered a desperate resistance, defending themselves in one of the huts to the last extremity. Here two of the Colonial Defence Force were killed in attempting to effect an entrance, and on the Forest Rangers and the 65th Regiment coming up in support, one of the latter fell mortally wounded. The Maoris pushed their guns through the walls and fired. The door was attempted to be forced open. They pulled a page 136Ranger inside, and the hut took fire. The door opened, and a big Maori came out in his blanket, and walked up deliberately to the soldiers and gave himself up a prisoner. No others came out, and in the ruins were found the charred remains of six men and the Ranger. Lieut. - Colonel Nixon (whom I knew in the Crimea in the 39th Regiment), commanding the Colonial Defence Force, a most able and gallant officer, here also received a severe wound in the chest, which proved mortal.

The Colonial Defence Force, General Cameron said, under the command of Colonel Nixon, attained a high state of discipline and efficiency, and they displayed the greatest spirit and gallantry on this occasion.

In this conflict twelve of the enemy were killed and twelve taken prisoners.

Not having a sufficient force both for the occupation of Rangiawhia and the protection of Te Awamutu, Sir Duncan Cameron marched back and encamped at the latter place, where the convoy arrived safe in the afternoon.

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At six o'clock in the morning of the 22nd February, a report was received from the officer in command of the advanced picquet, that he had observed a large body of the enemy, about two miles in his front, moving from the direction of Paterangi towards Rangiawhia. Sir Duncan Cameron, believing then that the flank march had had the desired effect of causing the enemy to evacuate his fortified position, and that he was now assembling in force at Rangi-awhia in defence of its large cultivations, sent to Colonel Waddy to provide fully for the security of the depôt of supplies at Te Rore, and to join the General with the whole of his available force that evening, at Te Awamutu, whence it was proposed to move the next morning to the attack.

At noon, however, of the same day, another report came that the enemy had commenced to entrench himself at Haeirini, on the road between the camp and Rangiawhia, and Sir Duncan Cameron determined to march out at once and dislodge him.

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The following force was immediately ordered under arms, and marched towards the enemy's position:

Royal Artillery Mounted Corps 37
Colonial Defence Force 49
Royal Artillery 28
Royal Engineers 11
50th Regiment 506
65th Regiment 223
70th Regiment 296
Forest Eangers 79
Total, officers and men 1229

Whilst this force was advancing, General Cameron received a despatch from Colonel Waddy, that he believed the entrenchments at Paterangi and Pehopiho were evacuated, Captain Saltmarche, 70th Regiment, commanding at the Waiari redoubt, informed Colonel Waddy of this; and Sir H. Havelock, Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General, was sent, with 100 men, to ascertain if this was the case. Colonel Waddy also advanced to Paterangi with 120 men, and it was found empty; not a Maori in this strong position, which was immediately occupied with 200 men of the 40th Regiment, page 139under Major Blyth. The works were very strong and intricate, a deep well was found in the place, and a large store of potatoes. Pehopiho pah was also evacuated, a mile and a-half north of Paterangi.

On reaching the advanced picquets of General Cameron's force, the enemy's skirmishers, (thrown forward a mile from Haeirini,) opened fire at 300 yards, behind a hedge, perpendicular to the direction of the Rangiawhia road, which led over undulating ground up to the left centre of the enemy's position. The Greneral then directed Lieutenant-Colonel Mulock, commanding 70th Regiment, to throw out two companies in skirmishing order and to clear the hedge, which they did in the most spirited manner, driving the enemy's skirmishers before them into the main road, along which they were pursued by the cavalry.

The main body of the force then moved along the Rangiawhia road, while the two 6-pounder Armstrong guns, under the command of Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Barstow, came into action on a page 140ridge parallel to and at 500 yards from the position of the enemy, who now opened a rapid and heavy fire along his line.

The native position extended for about 400 yards along the crest of a ridge commanding the road; it was apparently the site of an old pah, the parapet of which afforded him advantageous cover, which he had commenced to improve.

While the two guns and skirmishers were engaged with the enemy, the 50th Regiment, under Colonel Weare, forming the head of the column, were lying down in the road waiting for the order to assault, in which they were to be supported by the 65th and 70th Regiments. The word being given, the 50th, ably led by Colonel Weare, dashed under a heavy fire at the enemy's position, in a manner worthy of the reputation of that distinguished corps.

The enemy's works could only be approached by a narrow road hemmed in on either side by high fern, through which it was impossible for the men to advance in line or in skirmishing page 141stormed with only a front of four deep, until within a few yards of the trench and rifle-pits. This compelled Colonel Weare to advance the whole regiment in a column of fours at the double, over some 350 or 400 yards under a very severe and concentrated fire from the enemy, most trying to troops in that formation.

Colonel Weare ordered a small storming party of twenty men, under Lieutenant White, 50th regiment, to break cover in the first instance, to endeavour to draw out the first fire of the enemy. This party was almost simultaneously followed by the stormers, consisting of Nos. 1 and 10 companies 50th Regiment, under command of Captain Johnston and Captain Thompson respectively, and these officers entered the enemy's work at the head of their men, at the same time closely followed by the remainder of the regiment.

Colonel Weare stated that the nature of the ground and formation left little for the commanding officer to do but to place the men in the first instance, and leave the officers commanding companies to fight their men; and he page 142was proud to say that officers and men nobly did their duty under very trying circumstances, and while exposed to a fire that must have caused a very large increase to the list of casualties, had it not been for the dense dust raised by the men doubling, which partly concealed them.

Drs. Davis and Dempster accompanied the regiment into action, and attended to the wounded as they fell. Ensign Doveton, 50th Regiment, fell dangerously wounded with a shot through his chest by the side of Captain Thompson, whilst gallantly doing his duty. Lieutenant Pagan, 65th, was severely wounded through the right leg.

The enemy, seeing the irresistible nature of the assault, broke and fled before the 50th as they entered the position. After reforming the 50th Regiment, Sir Duncan Cameron advanced, expecting that the Maoris would make another stand on the church hill of Rangiawhia, which they might have defended with considerable advantage; but they made no attempt to do so, page 143and continued to retreat precipitately towards Mangatautari mountain, leaving their wounded and dead on the field. The Royal Artillery Mounted Corps and the Colonial Defence Force pursued as far as the ground permitted, and sabred some of the enemy.

The loss of the enemy was forty killed and four of their wounded taken prisoners.

The British casualties were two officers severely wounded, and two men killed and eighteen wounded, in this action at Rangiawhia.

The General especially thanked Colonel Weare and the 50th Regiment for the brilliant manner in which they had assaulted the enemy's position; Brevet Lieut-Colonel Barstow for the precision of the fire of the Armstrong guns, superintended by Lieut.-Colonel Williams, commanding Royal Artillery in New Zealand; and expressed his satisfaction with the conduct of Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Young, 65th, and Lieut.-Colonel Mulock, 70th, Lieutenant Rait, R.A., and Captain Walmesley of the Royal Artillery Mounted Corps and Colonial Defence page 144Corps, The General was indebted for able assistance to Lieut.-Colonel R. Carey, C.B., Deputy Adjutant-General, and to Lieutenant Johnston, Deputy Assistant-Adjutant-General.

Lieut.-Colonel Gamble, Deputy Quartermaster-General, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sir H. Have-lock, 18th, and Captain Greaves, 70th, Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General.

With regard to Colonel Gamble, Sir Duncan Cameron wrote to the War Office—" I beg more particularly to recommend this officer for favourable notice, as, to his ability, zeal, and unceasing attention to his important duties, I am chiefly indebted to the success of the operations." Colonel Gamble was then most deservedly rewarded with the order of the Bath.

Captain Baker, 18th, Acting Assistant Military Secretary and Aides-de-camp Major McNeil and Lieutenant St. Hill, 65th, were zealous and active as usual. Deputy Inspector-General Mouatt, C.B., and his assistants on the field, attended promptly to the wounded.

Colonel Waddy in his command had shown, as page 145he always did, great intelligence and zeal. Very important duties had been fulfilled by the Royal Engineers under Colonel Mould, C.B.; the roads, bridges, and field works, necessary for advancing the force through and occupation of this difficult country, were most skilfully constructed.

Very important services were rendered by Deputy Commissary-General Jones, C.B., and his officers, and they had great difficulties to contend against to keep up the supplies for the troops in a country destitute of resources, and at so great a distance from the base of operations. Assistant Commissaries-General Rolleston and Bailey were especially noticed; Deputy Assistant-Commissary-General Marshall, for activity and energy; and the transport duties were ably conducted by Lieutenant Travers, 70th Regiment.

The Royal Navy gave continued and valuable co-operation, under Commodore Sir William Wiseman, Bart., and Commander Phillimore, H.M.S. "Curacoa;" Lieutenant Easther, H.M.S. "Harrier," in charge of the "Avon;" and page 146Lieutenant Coddington, H.M.S. "Eclipse," in charge of the "Koheroa."

Sir Duncan Cameron, in justice to his own feelings and those of the troops under his command, expressed the deep obligations they were under to the Lord Bishop (Selwyn) of New Zealand, who gained the respect and affection of both officers and men by his benevolent kindness to the sick and wounded, and by his unwearied attention to the spiritual wants of the force, which he almost constantly accompanied in its progress through the country, at great personal risk and inconvenience.

It was well understood also that his Lordship was always most anxiously looking out for an opportunity to aid in making peace; but that result was not yet to occur, without more exciting" actions and incidents."

Formerly when Bishop Selwyn visited our camps, he carried on his saddle his own low tent and poles, and declined the accommodation of a bell tent which I offered him, and he performed his ablutions independently at the nearest brook.

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The military telegraph erected by the Quarter-master-General's department was the first in the North Island. It was first laid from Auckland to the Queen's redoubt; afterwards extended as the frontier was pushed forward: it was worked by soldiers, by direction of Colonel Gamble. Strange the Maoris never cut the wires;—the explanation was that they feared, if they touched them, they would reveal their own movements.

On the 27th February the General moved a force under Colonel Waddy, consisting of the 40th and 70th Regiments, and occupied Kihikihi, a fertile settlement, three miles south-east of Te Awamutu; redoubts were also constructed at Kihikihi, Rangiawhia, and Te Awamutu. It was advisable they should be permanently occupied—the two former on account of the immense quantity of food which they contained, and of which, in order to endeavour to bring the war to a close, it was desirable to deprive the enemy—the latter post as very favorably situated for a depot and base of future operations.

The immediate result of the late movements page 148had 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 the troops of a large tract of fertile country between the Waipa and the Upper Waikato rivers, and the retreat of the enemy into the interior, with the loss of the cultivation on which he chiefly depended for his supply.

page break
H. J. Warre, reduced by J.E.A. Edwd weller, Litho. Red lion Square.Published by Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Scarle, Crown Buildings, 188 Fleet Street London

H. J. Warre, reduced by J.E.A. Edwd weller, Litho. Red lion Square.
Published by Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Scarle, Crown Buildings, 188 Fleet Street London