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

Chapter IX

page 149

Chapter IX.

A settler, Mr. Paterson, murdered in the Taranaki—Major Butler sent to reconnoitre the strong position at Kaitake—And skirmishes with the enemy—Artillery despatched to the Taranaki—Outposts destroyed—Considerations on the destruction of crops—Attack on Ahu Ahu—Colonel Warre's preparations to assault Kaitake—The place is carried—Services of the officers and men acknowledged by Colonel Warre.

In the Taranaki, a settler, named Paterson, had been murdered, and Colonel Warre, commanding, having received a report from Captain Stapp, Adjutant Taranaki Militia, that the hostile natives had been seen near the spot where Paterson was killed, sent parties by different routes with the intention of cutting off their retreat, and also of destroying the native position of Kaitake, if found feebly defended.

Major Butler, 57th, was sent with a 24-pounder howitzer and some rockets under Lieu-page 150tenant Larcom, R.A., and the available men of the 57th Regiment, to advance against Kaitake, and ascertain its condition. Major Butler's party advanced within 800 yards, and opened fire from the howitzer, Captain Lloyd's company, 57th, being extended on both flanks to keep down the enemy's fire, which was considerable, from a gully and rifle-pits. The howitzer was then advanced 150 yards, but the Maoris appeared in such force, and opened a heavy cross fire on the party, and being in a strong entrenched position, and Major Butler's force being little over 100 men, it was thought prudent to retire. A man, 57th, was killed, and Lieutenant Larcom (who refused to go to the rear) was severely wounded, and five men, 57th, were wounded.

Kaitake had given much trouble, but it fell at last. Colonel Warre skilfully conducted four days' operations against this strong position, which resulted in its fall, and with trifling loss to the troops engaged, the Maoris abandoning the Patua ranges.

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General Cameron had sent, to aid Colonel Warre's operations, three Armstrong guns and thirty non-commissioned officers and men, under the command of Captain Martin, R.A.

The guns were despatched to Oakura (St. Andrew's redoubt), seven miles south of New Plymouth, and placed in position to try their effect, and shew the natives that they were able to reach their apparently impregnable position of Kaitake on the heights above. The practice was excellent, and it was evident that the fire of the natives could be kept down by the artillery when the troops rushed at the rifle-pits.

Colonel Warre, considering it right to destroy all the out-posts before attacking the main position, left two of the guns at Oakura to keep up an occasional fire at Kaitake, and marched, at 3 a.m. on the 22nd of March, to attack first the Tutu pah. The pah was found to be occupied by only a few women and children, who fled into the bush on the appearance of the troops.

The stockade was pulled down and burnt, page 152also several wharrés (huts) near it, and some cultivation was destroyed. This is, unfortunately, the custom of war. I had seen it done in Africa and in Turkey. I would not sanction it now, knowing the terrible distress occasioned to helpless women and children, besides shelter and food gone, and perhaps before cold and wet. Few things rankle in the breasts of cultivators more than the loss of their crops, or render men more savage and less inclined for peace, than fields laid waste; but it is the custom of war to do so—"fire and sword" the word.

The chapel at the Tataraimaka block had been pulled down; its planking was accordingly carted off to the Oakura redoubt.

On the 24th of March, another force was organised to attack the enemy's position at Ahu Ahu, which crowned the top of a spur of the ranges, and was higher than Kaitake. The 57th, divided into two parties under Captains Russell and Schomberg, was supported by Captains Carthew and Mackellar, of the Taranaki Militia. The two parties meeting at the page 153top of the ascent, a sharp fire was opened on them by about twenty or thirty Maoris, from a bush-covered hillock on the right of the pah. Two men were wounded, and the horse of Captain Mace of the Taranaki Militia, whilst the soldiers proceeded to cut down the stockade, and make a passage into the interior, when the Maoris made a rapid retreat up a steep and wooded hill in the rear. Great store of Indian corn, tobacco, &c., was found in Ahu Ahu, and a quantity was carted off.

Next day, the 25th of Mareh, it was determined to assault Kaitake. It was arranged that Captain Atkinson, with 150 men of the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers, should gain the enemy's rear by a bush path; that Captain Corbett, with sixty men of the Taranaki Militia, should advance on the left; Captain Schomberg, 57th, and Captain Page, Taranaki Militia, should threaten on the right with 100 men; whilst Captain Russell, 57th, Captains Wright, 70th, and Mackellar, Taranaki Militia, with twenty-five men each, in support of Captain page 154Lloyd, proceeded up several small spurs on the left, to take in reverse the rifle-pits in front of two pahs which crowned the crest of the hill.

In front of the pahs was a long stockade with rifle-pits behind it, across the upper valley, and the 24-pounder howitzer and a rocket-tube were placed, at 800 yards, in front of this, to endeavour to knock down the stockade. The three Armstrong guns were placed in position on the right bank of the Oakura river, and succeeded in setting fire to a wharre in one of the pahs, and at 10 a.m. the parties simultaneously advanced on the pahs and the long stockade in front of them. Under cover of the smoke of the wharre, Captain Corbett's party immediately rushed at the pah, climbed over the stockade, got into the pah by a zigzag entrance between the two lines of palisading, followed very closely by the assaulting parties under Captain Lloyd, who climbed the spur and rushed at the rifle-pits, from which a heavy fire had been kept up on the centre and right page 155parties. With a loud cheer for "The Queen," the whole pushed rapidly forward.

The party under Captain Schomberg, led by Major Butler, 57th, mounted the high ground on the right, and taking the rifle-pits on that side in reverse, whilst Captain Russell's party, directed by Colonel Warre, forced their way through the formidable double line of palisading which extended across the valley. The Maoris escaped from their rifle-pits as speedily as possible.

Between the high ground on the right and left, the enemy's line of works extended about half a mile. The Maoris, concealing themselves in the fern, for some time kept up an ineffectual fire, until driven away by rockets and shells from the Cohorn mortars.

The troops deserved great credit for undergoing so much fatigue as they did, and for their gallantry during the four days' operations, ending in the assault and capture of Kaitake pah.

Major Butler, 57th, was especially noticed for page 156his cordial co-operation on this and all other occasions; also Lieutenant C.M. Clarke, Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General; Lieutenant E. Brutton, Garrison Adjutant; Captain Mace, Taranaki Militia; Staff-Surgeon J. E. Young, and Staff-Assistant-Surgeon M. Jones.

Two taihas, or chiefs' carved spears, were captured at Ahu Ahu, and two Maori flags at Kaitake.

We here give two anecdotes illustrative of Maori character.

During the skirmishing in front of the Paterangi pah, the son of the principal chief fell into the hands of the British; he was badly wounded in the leg. Every effort was made to save the limb, but in vain. Amputation became necessary, after which the patient rapidly recovered. When able to move, the chief was informed that he might send for his son: he did so, and next day a cart-load of potatoes arrived in camp as a present for the General, and a message of thanks for the kind treatment his son had experienced; the chief also declaring that in page 157future he would not kill wounded soldiers who might fall into his hands, but only cut a leg off and send them back!

After the action of Koheroa, a flag of truce was sent to head-quarters by the Maoris, their object being to obtain information regarding one of their principal chiefs who had fallen, but whose body they had been unable to discover. Major McNeil, A.D.C., with an interpreter, volunteered to meet the Maoris who had been employed all the morning in carrying away their killed and wounded from the scene of action. On reaching the ground, the Major was at once informed that they had found the object of their search. As he wished to ascertain their feelings after their defeat, he asked two or three of the chiefs to share the modest luncheon he had brought with him; and while smoking their pipes, sitting on the hill-side, he conversed with them through the interpreter.

Though depressed from their recent defeat, they seemed confident of being able to prevent the invading force from penetrating into their page 158territory. They declared that they would destroy every soldier who might fall into their hands, giving as a reason that the British had artillery, and they had none. They also said to the Major, "You are now as safe with us as you would be in your own camp; but if we catch you after this, we will not strip you, but we will shoot you, and take your riding boots." On hearing that the General's mess was short of potatoes, they said, "If you will come with us two miles further up the Waikato, we will give you a canoe to return to camp, and will send some baskets of potatoes for the General."

On reaching a creek, several canoes were seen, and the crimson stains on their sides shewed plainly how they had been employed in the morning.

The potatoes were produced, a small but very neatly-made canoe was dragged from beneath some overhanging branches, and Major McNeil and his interpreter, having shaken hands with the hospitable enemy, paddled down the river towards the Queen's redoubt.

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

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