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With the Lost Legion in New Zealand

Chapter IX — The End of New Zealand Wars

page 389

Chapter IX
The End of New Zealand Wars

The Taupo campaign had been a disastrous one for Te Kooti. At its commencement the larger portion of the Taupo and Tuhua tribes had joined him; the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto were ready to do so; and the tribes of the Upper Wanganui, though neutral, were friendly towards him. Yet within five months he had been fairly beaten five times. The Upper Wanganuis under Topia had joined us, the Taupo and Tuhua tribes had lost heavily, and, becoming disgusted with him, had abandoned his fortunes, while the Waikatos not only laughed at him, but allowed Topia and Kepa to march through their country to attack him.

Te Kooti, therefore, was now a fugitive, with two thousand pounds' reward offered for his head, dead or alive, and although he did his best to make head against us yet he knew himself the game was up; although an occasional skirmish would take place no further action happened that could be called a battle. Yet our game was a difficult one to play, as we must keep the infernal ruffian on the move, or he would soon have gathered together another strong party, and all our work would have to be commenced afresh. Likewise there were other tribes who must be humbled and punished for having taken part in the numerous massacres. It was in one of these skirmishes that we lost page 390an old comrade, who fell a victim to his predilection for other people's property, notwithstanding the fact that he was taking every precaution to guard himself from his fate.

I have previously pointed out that but little quarter was served out to Hau Hau prisoners, very many of whom preferred death to being made captives, especially if they could get the chance of killing an enemy before taking their own quietus, so that frequently when a Hau Hau found he could not get away he would sham death, and await the opportunity of shooting or tomahawking one of our men, and then resign himself to his death in such a philosophical way as to be "worthy of a better cause." Now a lot of these bounders carried a good deal of money, which they had looted from the white settlements, and therefore their pockets and pouches were well worth prospecting.

Among others who were not above replenishing their exchequers in this way were my two foreign scallywags, Pierre and George, both of whom regarded the looting of a defunct Hau Hau as a meritorious act. Now George, although a Greek, feared nothing, yet had a slight nervousness about being shot by a dead Hau Hau, so that he used to take considerable precautions, as when he approached a recumbent body he would do so crawling, and on arriving alongside the stiff' un would gently insert between the ribs of the prostrate Hau Hau a huge knife, then, turning to his marauding comrade, would put his finger to the side of his nose, and with a Satanic grin murmur: "Dat makes all tings safe." These page 391two beauties, being scouts, and having comparatively a free hand, had great advantages over the other men, as they would often be rabbitting among the slain before the action was over.

On the occasion of the catastrophe both Pierre and George dropped out of the firing line the moment the pursuit began, and started in to look after their own interests. They were both hard at work, and George, having just made "all tings safe" with one dead Maori, was in the act of going through his pockets when another seemingly defunct Hau Hau jumped up and blew a hole through him. Pierre, who was close by, shot the shamming Hau Hau, and then, being a thorough good business man, notwithstanding his intense sorrow at the loss of his mate, promptly went through his pockets as well as those of the two now very dead. Hau Haus.

I was deeply sorry for poor George's untimely end, as although he was not quite the sort of man I should have cared to have introduced into society, and I was well aware he owed his neck over and over again to the hangman of various countries, still he had been a staunch comrade to me, and on scores of occasions had not only prevented me going hungry, but, by his marvellous instinct as a scout, had frequently saved me from losing the number of my mess, therefore both Tim and myself sorrowed exceedingly.

Te Kooti now left the Taupo country and made for Rotorua, where he attempted to persuade the natives to allow him to enter their pah, which, had they done so, Te Kooti would have murdered every soul it contained. The inhabitants, how-page 392ever were saved from this act of folly by the arrival of Captain Mair, who immediately attacked him and who, but for the bad conduct of his men (Arawas), who, although fighting in their own country and for the safety of their own families, acted in their usual cowardly manner, would have undoubtedly captured him.

Te Kooti, having been foiled at Rotorua, and knowing the net was closing round him, made a bolt for the Uriwera country, closely followed by Captain Mair. A sharp skirmish took place at Kaiteriria, in which, getting the worst of it in the beginning, Captain Mair eventually drove him off the field with the loss of his best fighting man, the infamous half-caste known by the name of Peka who in reality was the son of a big white official, and also of his pet torturer, Timoti Te Kaka, the latter having been wounded and, caught alive, met a suitable death at the hands of the friendlies. Te Kooti, however, managed to escape, and with his Chatham Islanders fled to Uriwera.

It now very much looked as if we were in for another winter's campaign in that awful country, but our men were by this time fairly worn out, and as it had been too often conclusively proved that untrained, untried white men were worse than useless in the bush, and also that the Taupo line must be guarded by men who could be thoroughly depended upon, and not by new chums, the new Defence Minister determined on trying a novel plan, which was giving a contract to the friendly natives to run down Te Kooti and his broken ruffians, while we held the chain of forts along the Taupo line, and by continuous page 393scouting and patrols kept the Hau Haus from again breaking through and disturbing other parts of the country.

Rapata and Kepa, with the Ngatiporou and the Wanganui tribes, gladly took up the contract, which amounted to this: they were only to be remunerated for work done—i.e. they received no daily pay, but were paid in the lump for the number of Hau Haus they killed and captured.

Another expedition was started, composed solely of friendlies, under their magistrate, Mr E. Hamlyn, who, starting in from Wairoa, were to thoroughly punish the natives of Waikaremoana.

It would take me far too long to describe the services rendered by these native columns and the bitter hardships they underwent following up, capturing or exterminating the remnant of Te Kooti's followers, nor did we pass our time reclining on beds of roses, for although we had the shelter of our forts and a sufficiency of food, such as it was, yet we were never for a moment idle, as we had always to keep on the alert, and over and over again had to head off and drive back small gangs of flying Hau Haus.

In this way the remainder of the year 1870 and the commencement of 1871 passed, during the whole of which period Te Kooti was hunted like a wild beast through the fastnesses of the Uriwera, while we guarded the line, and many volumes might be written about the wonderful escapes the scoundrel had. I myself know of no parallel case in history, where a man so hunted ever successfully evaded pursuit, but he eventually did so. After losing neraly all his men, either by bullet or capture, page 394he at last succeeded in breaking through our line and escaping into the King Country, where the Waikatos, although they refused to give him up, effectually prevented him from causing any more trouble, and there he lived peacefully for twenty years, and died in the odour of sanctity.

Kereopa, the blood-stained apostle of Te Ua, remained with Te Kooti till the last, but, not being so lucky, was captured and hung, remarking at the time that he had always known he would have an unfortunate end, as when he swallowed the Rev. Mr Volkner's eyes one of them stuck in his throat.

And now my yarn is finished, as I think I have told you sufficient to give you some sort of an idea of what the colonial irregular forces went through while flattening out the North Island of New Zealand so as to render it safe for white settlers to occupy and dwell therein.

I must, however, ask you to understand that I have only told you of the small portion of fighting that I took part in myself, for the war raged in many places at the same time, so that I am clearly not to blame for being unable to give you a full account of all the fighting, as it was impossible for me to be in half-a-dozen localities at once.

So trusting to your charity that you will be to the few merits of his book ever kind, and to its manifold faults a little blind, Dick Burke bids you so-long. Kiora tatau.