The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)
(Chapter 31) — Escape of the Koheriki from the Wairoa Ranges
Escape of the Koheriki from the Wairoa Ranges
The venerable Arawa half-caste woman Heni te Kiri-karamu (Heni Pore, or Jane Foley), of Rotorua, gave the writer the following narrative of the manner in which the small party of Koheriki with whom she fought in the war eluded the troops in the redoubts and camps forming a chain from the Thames Gulf to the Waikato River at the end of 1863:—
“After the surprise and defeat of some of our people by Jackson's Forest Rangers in the Upper Wairoa bush (14th December, 1863) we became very cautious in our movements, and anxious to make our way to the main page 454 body of the Kingites in the Waikato. The soldiers had camps and redoubts in the Wairoa Valley and along the western side of the ranges, from Papakura southward, and a chain of military posts was established from Pukorokoro (the Miranda), on the Thames Gulf, across to the Waikato River. We were thus hemmed in on all sides. We camped for some time in a deep valley between the Mangatawhiri and the Mangatangi Streams, in the mountains south-east of the Wairoa. We were afraid even to light fires for cooking or to warm ourselves, and afraid, too, to shoot wild pigs or birds for food, lest the sound of the shots would bring the Rangers down on us. We scouted cautiously out to the edge of the forest in the upper valley of the Mangatawhiri, and there, peering through the trees, we saw the white tents and the sentry cordon of the troops barring our way. We were in a bad way now for food, and for three weeks we lived almost entirely on wild honey and cold water. Besides my mother and my children, my sister Hera (Sarah) was with me at this time; we had got her up from Taupo village (at the Sandspit) to help me with the children. One of the Piri-Rakau men (there were two or three with us) also assisted us in carrying the little ones through the forest.
“It was now decided that we should break through the chain of troops. Two of our best men were sent out to the open land as scouts, and they let us know the most propitious time for making our dash through and across the river ahead of us (the Mangatangi). There was a log bridge by which we hoped to cross, a place where the river was very deep; it consisted of two or three trees sawn down, squared, and thrown across the river. Our little rearguard—the two men who had gone out scouting, and who were instructed to cut down the bridge after we had passed—had a perilous post, but we were all in a most desperate position. Once we crossed the river, however, we would be safe. We made our escape in the night. The troops lit fires in the fern in order to deter us from passing through, but the smoke from these fires screened us and helped our safe passage. We passed so close to the tents that we could hear some of the soldiers playing an accordion and laughing and talking. [This was near the Surrey Redoubt.] After a very anxious time, during which we kept strict silence, we passed the sentry lines and crossed the river by the log bridge, which our axemen then chopped through. By this time it was daylight, and the white sentinel reported the track of our march. A force was immediately sent in pursuit of us; we could see dust rising and the bayonets shining in the sun. Some of the troops were mounted men. [The troops were Waikato Militia and C.D.F. Cavalry.] Their advance was stopped by the destruction of the bridge, and we were safe away for the Waikato country. We travelled southward a long way inland from the Waikato River, in the direction of the Piako. Soon after crossing the river we had to wade through a deep, boggy swamp, a very exhausting journey. At last we reached solid land on its south side, practically an island, and there we rested for a day or two recruiting our energies and revelling in the abundant supply of food—bush-pigeons, eels, pork, and potatoes.
“After a good rest,” continued Heni, “we embarked in canoes, which we found on the shore of this island in the lagoon; it was the northern part of Lake Waikare. We crossed the lake, and continued our journey to the country of our friends the Ngati-Haua, William Thompson's tribe. We crossed over some low hills into the swampy valley of the Piako, and from there we went on to Matamata, on the Upper Thames, where Te Raihi, the Ngati-Haua Queenite chief, was living. He befriended us, and we had a rest, then he advised us to go on to Peria, close to the river. Peria was a large village, the great gathering-place of many Kingite tribes, from the Waikato valley and the Hauraki to Rotorua and as far away as the East Cape. All were there—Ngati-Haua, Ngati-Raukawa, Ngati-Rangiwewehi, page 455 of the Arawa nation, and Ngati-Porou from the East Cape. At Peria I met Pokai and Hori Ngakapa and their tribe the Ngati-Paoa. we made this our home for a season. We had fields of maize, wheat, and potatoes which grew abundantly, and we ground the wheat and maize into flour in steel hand-mills, and made bread and maize cakes, and we were supplied with plenty of other food—sheep, bullocks, and pigs. It was a land of abundance, Peria, in William Thompson's day. This was the summer of 1863–64. From Peria we all went farther inland again, carrying our arms and provisions, and joined the main body of Waikato in a very fine strong pa called Te Tiki o te Ihingarangi. It stood on a cliff-top above the Waikato River, on the left or western side of the river, between Pukerimu—then a camp of the soldiers—and the Maunga-tautari Ranges. It was strongly palisaded and trenched. It was an ancient fighting pa, which Waikato had greatly strengthened. When we abandoned it we crossed over to the eastern ranges, and thence to Okauia and Tauranga.”