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With the Lost Legion in New Zealand

Chapter II — The War on the East Coast—The Hau Haus

page 14

Chapter II
The War on the East CoastThe Hau Haus

Before I begin my yarn of the New Zealand wars it may be as well to tell you about the ferocious fanatics I assisted in exterminating, and you will find I always speak about them as Hau Haus. This is not the name of any tribe of Maoris, but was the designation given to all the natives who joined the extraordinary faith which I am now in this chapter attempting to explain, and to do so I must dip into New Zealand history.

Christianity was first introduced into New Zealand in 1814 by Marsden, who started the first Church of England Mission. The Wesleyan missionaries arrived in 1822 and the Roman Catholics in 1838; other denominations quickly followed. Up to the year 1830 very few converts had been made, but in 1838 more than one-fourth of the natives had been baptised, and the numbers increased rapidly. In 1838 the New Testament, published in the Maori language, was in the hands of the converts, and the complete Bible was finished in 1853. Very many of the natives had learned to read, and the Sacred Writings were read with avidity.

Now the Maoris were puzzled, like many others, by the different dogmas set forth by the various denominations, each claiming they were right and that the others were wrong, yet all asserting they page 15drew their inferences from the same Book. Among the tribes existed bitter rivalry, hatred and jealousy, so they gloried in belonging to different sects, and consequently added religious rancour to their tribal hatred. Missionaries, however, travelled through the country with impunity, not one receiving any harm until 1865. There was, however, a very great desire on the part of a vast number of the natives to find out which was the real and true faith, so that many of them joined one sect after another, as if to discover which fancy brand of religion suited his own constitution best, and being highly intellectual and keen reasoners they came to the conclusion that each sect was only formed from the interpretation by the devotees of the Book itself, and that therefore they (the Maoris) had a perfect right to interpret the Sacred Writings in any way they saw fit.

Just previous to the promulgation of the Pai Marire faith the Maoris had elected a king. Why, therefore, should they not have a new religion? Hence the growth of the Hau Haus. The Hau Haus first came into collision with the white men in April 1864. For although this extraordinary religion was known to exist previous to this date, the majority of the settlers and the authorities only looked upon it as a farce, and never for a moment thought that the natives, most of whom professed Christianity, could tolerate such an absurd, fantastic and fanatical creed of murderous tendencies as that denominated the Pai Marire or Hau Hau religion. The origin of this fanatical creed is obscure, as well it might be, for the author, Te Ua, had up to the date of his inspiration been page 16considered a harmless lunatic, and had been tolerated by his tribe as such. (The Maoris, like all other wild races, never interfere with and are always kind to the demented.)

Previous to the teaching of Te Ua the majority of the tribes had for a short time combined together for mutual support against the white men, and had chosen a king (the head chief of the Waikato tribe). This coalition did not last long, as the intense jealousy between the various tribes caused many of them to abandon it, some of them remaining neutral, while others joined the Government and fought with the greatest gallantry on our side. This alliance was strengthened by the acts of the apostles of Te Ua, the disciples of whom spared neither white man nor Maori refusing to join them or their absurd faith.

Te Ua, although a man of weak intellect, was of a peaceful disposition, and more friendlily disposed towards the white settlers than he was toward the king, so much so that when the ship Lord Worsley was wrecked on the Taranaki coast he attempted to persuade his tribe not to plunder the ship nor passengers. In this he was unsuccessful, as the sight of so much loot was too tempting to the nature of the Maoris. He was much upset by his failure, and solaced himself by long-continued prayers to his atua (god or spirit), Pai Marire.

Just about this time he assaulted a woman, whose husband seized him, and, after tying him up, left him in a whare (hut) to meditate and repent. Had Te Ua been in his right mind the man would have killed him. It was during this punishment that his atua stood by him and rendered him the assistance page 17that made him famous and all-powerful among the superstitious tribes. His yarn was this, and, absurd as it may seem to us white men, yet it was swallowed and implicitly believed by the majority of the natives, most of whom were so-called Christians. Te Ua asserted that the archangel Michael, the angel Gabriel, and a host of minor spirits landed from the wrecked ship, Lord Worsley, and came to him. Gabriel, who took the lead in everything, ordered him to break his bonds, which he did easily, whereupon the woman's husband, finding him loose, tied him up again, this time using a chain. Again at the angel's command Te Ua burst the chain in fragments, and afterwards was considered by the superstitious natives to be a man under the direct protection of God. After this Gabriel visited Te Ua frequently, and between them they concocted a wonderful religion. The angel instructed Te Ua to plant a pole a certain height in the ground, to be called Niu, around which all true believers were to worship, and those found worthy were to be granted the gift of tongues and also to be rendered invulnerable to the bullets of the white man.

The symbol of their faith was Pai Marire, which may be interpreted, if each word is taken separately, as good, peaceful, but the words must have had a very different meaning to the worshippers if we may judge by their actions, where very little that is good or peaceful can be found. The meanings of the words Hau Hau also received from the angel are very obscure, as they simply mean wind, wind, but probably referred to the wind which was supposed to bring the angels to the page 18worshippers round the pole, as the spirits were always spoken of as Hau Anihera (wind angels). No matter what meaning the words conveyed to the Maoris, they were convinced that the utterance of them, at the same time raising the hand with the palm turned towards their enemies, would render the true believer invulnerable, causing the hostile bullets to deflect and fly high.

These words, after the first fight, became their charging cry; pronounced short they sounded like the bark of a dog, and the hostile tribes, no matter what their proper tribal designation was, were soon only recognised by the name of Hau Haus.

Up to April 1864 Te Ua and his disciples lived in a peaceful manner, and the religion had not been looked on as a factor in the war, but now he was unable to control his zealous followers, for a furious, fanatical and murderous spirit was soon shown, which took a form of hostility not only against the white man, but also against all the natives who refused to adopt the Hau Hau faith, and this turned the North Island of New Zealand into a pandemonium of cold-blooded murder and savage warfare. The Maori wars which began in 1860 had up to 1864 been carried on by the natives in a manner that had earned them the respect of our men. Their splendid courage, combined with their wild chivalry, made them an enemy worthy of the highest praise, and very many men, such as Sir George Grey and Bishop Selwyn, looked on them with esteem and affection. This now was all to be changed, and the subsequent wars, which lasted till 1871, were wars of savage murder, treachery and torture on the one side, and bitter reprisals on the other, page 19until the remaining Hau Haus, unable to face us any longer, fled for refuge to the King Country and remained quiet.

On the 6th of April 1864 a party of the 57th Regiment and a few military settlers, in all about one hundred strong, under the command of Captains Page and Lloyd, were destroying crops in the Taranaki district. They had piled their arms while at work, when they were surprised and rushed by a large band of natives. Captain Lloyd and six men were killed, twelve more were wounded and hid in the fern, the remainder falling back in something like a stampede to the Potuka redoubt and the town of Taranaki. Reinforcements were quickly on the ground, and found the bodies of the slain shamefully mutilated, the heads having been carried away. This brutality was quite a new feature in Maori warfare, and was the intimation of the barbarities that were to follow. The 57th regimental call was sounded, when the wounded and a few fugitives crept out of the fern. They informed their comrades that the natives had rushed upon them, barking like dogs, and seemingly quite regardless of their own lives. Our men were much astonished at this conduct, as little was known of the new faith at this time, but it was soon discovered that it was the result of the fanatical belief of the Maoris in their invulnerability. Now it is a strange thing, but none of the four men whom the Maoris had lost in the above skirmish had joined the Pai Marire faith, and this fact added to the natives' belief in its virtue. The heads of Captain Lloyd and his men were carried round the district as a proof of this victory, and were buried, but page 20Gabriel ordered Te Ua to exhume and preserve the Captain's head, and to use it as a medium through which the angel could communicate with himself and his disciples.

There was no delay or ambiguity in Gabriel's orders through this oracle, for the head spoke at once to Te Ua, saying, "You are the chief prophet of Pai Marire. Matene and Hepanaia will be your apostles." Te Ua was also informed that all his followers should be called Pai Marire, that the head should be carried peacefully round all the tribes, and, that having been done, Gabriel with legions of angels would assist the Maoris in their general rising, help them to slaughter all the white men, and then bestow upon the faithful a complete knowledge of all the languages, arts and sciences in the world.

These supposed instructions were admirably conceived, and reflect great credit on Te Ua, who, it must be remembered, was a man of weak intellect; for had the head been carried by its escort of fanatics peacefully through the country, and had these fanatics abstained from hostility towards the tribes who professed friendship to the white man, there is but little doubt that all the tribes would have been converted and that when the general rising took place it would have been most disastrous to the Europeans even if Gabriel and his promised hosts had not rendered the looked-for active assistance.

It must be remembered and thoroughly understood that the magnificent service afterwards rendered by the friendly Maoris was not prompted by their love for the white man, but by the hatred page 21and jealousy they entertained against the hostile tribes, in very many cases their bitter enemies in old-time wars. It was indeed fortunate for us that Te Ua's subalterns, Hepanaia, Matene, Kereopa and Patara, allowed their diplomacy to be outrun by their ferocious desire for blood, and the savage murders perpetrated not only on inoffensive white men but also on friendly natives roused such desires for revenge in the hearts of the latter's tribes that caused them to be just as anxious as the white man to stamp out the fiendish brutality of the Pai Marire faith and allowed us to retain our hold on the North Island, which we should have undoubtedly lost, at least for a time, had they joined the Hau Haus.

The first among Te Ua's apostles to make a stir was Hepanaia. For some time Pai Marire had been preached through the Taranaki district, and there were hundreds of zealous warriors waiting a prophet to lead them. This want was soon filled by Hepanaia, a very brave warrior, but one lacking in discretion, for he promised the natives, if they would attack the fort on Sentry Hill (the strongest post in the district), not only victory but absolute immunity from injury or death; also that with the assistance of Gabriel the soldiers should be turned into stone.

The fort stood on a steep hill, the sides of which had been scarped, and was held by Major Short and fifty men of the 57th Regiment. Hepanaia sent two hundred men to the rear of the fort to make a false attack, but these men, not liking the look of the place, and perhaps being new converts and so not strong in the faith, wisely went home, leaving the prophet with three hundred men to do page 22the work himself. There was no attempt made to surprise the place, for previous to the assault at daybreak on the 1st of May 1864 the fanatics danced a war-dance (a very noisy ceremony) and went through their incantations. These finished, they advanced in close formation to the attack.

Hepanaia must have been very strong in the faith, for he led the charge in person, accompanied by some distinguished chiefs. One of them, Titokowaru, was afterwards to become our bitterest enemy on the west coast, and one who, on two occasions, defeated us.

The natives, three hundred strong, advanced in broad daylight in close column, shouting "Hau Hau" and confident of gaining a bloodless victory. Something, however, must have gone wrong with their incantations, for the angel Gabriel was not on deck on this occasion to deflect the bullets, nor even to turn the Tommies into stone.

The latter lay quiet behind the parapet until the taua (war party) reached the peg that marked the three hundred yards' range from the fort, then, jumping up, poured a steady volley into the head of the advancing column, and also opened fire with two Cohorn mortars. The immediate slaughter took the natives by surprise, but they were Maori warriors, as brave as any men on earth, and they charged home, attempting to escalade the steep, scarped sides of the hill, a feat of impossibility without scaling ladders, only to be swept back by the steady fire of the Diehards, and at last they had to turn and bolt, as strong reinforcements of the troops advanced.

In this defeat Hepanaia and most of the principal page 23chiefs were killed, Titokowaru losing an eye. Anyone would think that a disaster of this sort would make the natives pause in accepting and believing in their wild faith. It did nothing of the sort, as Te Ua quickly persuaded them that the men who had been killed must have broken one of the numerous directions given by Gabriel through the medium of the head, and thereby caused the jealous angel to bring about the catastrophe. So the crazy superstitions spread and flourished until the whole of the west coast and the interior of the island reeked with murder and violence.

Te Ua's second apostle, Matene, had been despatched to the tribes on the Upper Wanganui River. These readily received the new faith, but their relations on the lower part of the river refused to do so, or else there is no doubt that the rising township of Wanganui would have been wiped out. Not only did they refuse to join the Hau Haus, but they informed them that if they attempted to descend the river that attempt would be resisted, and wound up by offering to fight them on the island of Mutoa.

It is not for a moment to be thought that the Lower River natives were prompted to act in this way by their love for the white man—not a bit of it—they only acted as they did to assert their ownership to the right-of-way on the river. This sporting challenge was accepted, the numbers and date agreed on—the fight to take place on the aforementioned island—date fixed, 14th May 1864; numbers, on hundred a side. These arrangements being amicably settled a tremendous fight took place, fortune varying during it, both sides fighting page 24hand-to-hand with the greatest ferocity, but in the end the Lower River natives won the day, killing seventy and wounding twenty of the Hau Haus, the remainder being driven into the river and forced to swim for it. Matene was among the latter, but he was soon recognised and followed by Te Moro, who killed him with his mere (short battleaxe) when he reached the bank, notwithstanding the incantations used by the misguided prophet.

Te Ua had thus lost his two factotums in their first fights, and this ought to have been a set-back to the new religion; but it was not so, as he asserted, and with justice, that they had both disobeyed the orders of the angel, who had directed that the head should be carried through the country peacefully and without bloodshed, so that Hepanaia and Matene were to blame for bringing disaster and death to the faithful through their disobedience.

Accordingly he despatched two more apostles, Kereopa and Patara, who were to take Captain Lloyd's head, together with two white men prisoners or deserters (for strangely enough several men deserted from her Majesty's forces and joined the rebels), and preach the Pai Marire faith to the east coast and Taupo tribes, so that there could be no mistake this time.

Te Ua gave them the following written orders:—"While on your journey be careful not to interfere with those whom you may meet; do not quarrel with the pakeha (white man). When you reach Taupo, go on to Whakatane, thence to Opotiki, from thence to Waiapu, and finally to Tauranganui, where your journey will end. If this piece of paper should get torn or dirty, ask another piece page 25from your white friends and rewrite it, that it may arrive clean and in good condition to Hirini Te Kani at Tauranganui. Give him also this flag and the man's head."

The apostles, far from obeying these orders, at once began to pillage and murder. To start with, on their reaching Taupo, Patara began by breaking into the house of the Rev. Mr Grace, who at the time was absent, and, appropriating the reverend gentleman's goods, sold them to the Christian flock, who at once became converts to Pai Marire. This was playing a low-down game on the absent missionary, but much worse was to follow.

Having converted Taupo, Kereopa and Patara again disobeyed orders, for instead of proceeding direct to Whakatane they altered their route to the Uriwera country and held a meeting that for crazy devilry would be hard to beat. Forming some two or three hundred of the Uriwera warriors into double rank, facing inwards, they then proceeded down them, carrying the head, forcing each man to look into the dead eyes, at the same time working them up to a pitch of mad fanaticism by their wild prayers and incantations which drove their hearers into a raving frenzy. Then calling for the widows of the warriors slain at Orakau to come forward, Kereopa directed them to vent their revenge on the head and the two wretched white men.

The women, mad with excitement, pretended to eat the head, but it was eventually taken from them; the fate of the white men, however, had better be left to the imagination of the reader.

The apostles, having converted the Uriwera, departed and left for Whakatane, where all the people page 26at once joined them, and proceeded to Opotiki, a flourishing mission belonging to the Church of England, under the charge of the Rev. C. S. Volkner, who had resided there several years. This gentleman by his admirable conduct had justly earned the respect of both settlers and natives, the latter especially (his own flock) professing much love for him. Yet on the advent of the apostles they at once joined the Pai Marire faith, their Christianity falling from them like a garment.

Mr Volkner was absent in Auckland when Kereopa and Patara reached Opotiki, and the latter, before proceeding on a short journey, wrote him a letter telling him not to return. Mr Volkner, however, accompanied by Mr Grace, was on his way, and reached Opotiki on the 1st of March 1865, in the schooner Eclipse, which was immediately boarded and seized by his late parishioners. All the passengers and crew were made prisoners (with the exception of Captain Levy, who, being a Hebrew, was considered a Hau Hau of sorts), and marched up to the Roman Catholic Church, inside which Kereopa was holding a council to try Mr Volkner on the most absurd charges. The council was adjourned, the prisoners being confined in a tumbledown hut, but again met that night, when, with the exception of two or three, all of the tribe voted for their minister's death. Next day at two P.M. Mr Volkner was led out and murdered in a most brutal manner, being hung, Kereopa firing a shot into him at the same time. The body was then carried into the church, where this fiend ordered it to be decapitated, and directed his new converts to drink and smear themselves with page 27their victim's blood, which they all did, Kereopa giving them a lead by gouging out the eyes and swallowing them. The first to participate in this horrible act was Volkner's own woman-servant, who from a child had been brought up and educated by the Church Mission. Patara returned the same night and was bitterly angry with Kereopa on account of this foul murder, although he had annexed and sold all Mr Volkner's belongings previous to his departure on his short journey. A few days afterwards the cutter Kate put into Whakatane and was immediately boarded by the Hau Haus. Her crew and passenger, Mr Fulloon (a Government agent), were soon brutally murdered. Kereopa, followed by Patara, reached Poverty Bay.

At once the Christians joined them, and Bishop Williams of Waiapu was only saved from being murdered, together with his whole family, by two or three chiefs who remained loyal to him, and these would have failed had not the Bishop just escaped in the nick of time on board a steamer.

The Hau Haus built a pah at Waerenga-a-Hika (the Bishop's residence), where they were subsequently attacked and defeated by the colonial troops in November 1865, who killed over one hundred of them and forced over three hundred of them to surrender. The prisoners were brought to Tauranganui, where two hundred of them were transported to the Chatham Islands, the remainder being allowed to return home. Small bands of the most fanatical of the natives, who had escaped, still wandered about the district.

Just before the last of these events I had set sail for New Zealand.