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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

Chapter 27: Military Forces and Frontier Defences

page 243

Chapter 27: Military Forces and Frontier Defences

IN THREE MONTHS after the firing of the first shot in the Waikato War the whole of the able-bodied male population of Auckland between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five was on active service, bearing arms and doing duty as regular soldiers. The same conditions prevailed in Taranaki. The military expenditure of the Government was about £12,000 per month, and was on an increasing scale as the campaign developed. In addition to the equipment and pay of the Volunteers and Militia, a flotilla of armoured river-steamers and small gunboats was provided, and a field battery of six 12-pounder Armstrong guns. All this expense devolved upon the Colonial Government, besides a liability of £40 per head per annum to the Imperial Government on account of the Regular troops employed in the war. These British troops ultimately numbered about ten thousand. In a memorandum by the Defence Minister, Mr. Thomas Russell, the Volunteers and Militia on duty in the Auckland District were stated to total 3,176. The Cavalry Volunteers numbered 188, and the Rifle Volunteers 150. The local corps organized and armed were: Waiuku, 70; Mauku, 70; Pukekohe, 40; Wairoa, 60; Papakura Valley, 20; Henderson's Mill, 40; North Shore, 125; other places, 422: making a total of 847.

In addition to these Volunteers and Militia there were colonial permanent forces enrolled for the war, consisting chiefly of regiments of military settlers recruited in Australia in 1863 by Mr. Dillon Bell (Native Minister), Mr. Gorst, and Colonel Pitt. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiments of Waikato Militia raised in this way gradually relieved the Auckland Volunteers and Militia of the duties at the various posts on the Great South Road. Each regiment consisted of ten companies of 100 men. Out of the land confiscated from the Maoris each officer and man was entitled to a farm section, ranging from 400 acres for a field officer to 50 acres for a private. By October, 1863, there were about two thousand five hundred of these military settlers from Victoria, page 244 New South Wales, and Otago on permanent service in the field.

A highly useful arm of the colonial service was the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, armed with sword, carbine, and revolver. There were two troops of Nixon's Cavalry, as this corps was locally called, in the Auckland District. There were also troops in Hawke's Bay, at Wellington, and at Wanganui; the total strength of the regiment was 375. In the Imperial Transport Service, receiving colonial pay, there were, when the war was at its height, 1,526 officers and men, with 2,244 draught animals. Captain Jackson's corps of Forest Rangers, numbering sixty, was soon augmented by a second company. Major-General Galloway was appointed to the command of the colonial forces, and gave his services to the colony gratuitously.

The Auckland Militia of the first class, unmarried men of between the ages of sixteen and forty, were first called out for active service on the 23rd June, 1863. There were no conscientious objectors in those days (or if there were they did not raise their voices), and any shirkers were dealt with severely. The first draft was 400 men, some of whom were despatched to the main camp at Otahuhu, and thence in companies to the various outposts as far as Drury. Others were retained for city patrol duty; as the war went on the older and married men relieved them of the town guard work and left the first class available for field service. The citizen recruits, drawn from all classes and occupations, were drilled in the Albert Barracks ground by the Regular Army instructors; morning after morning the drill was continued until the raw material was considered sufficiently advanced in the elements of infantry work to be despatched to Otahuhu. The duties of soldiering fell very severely upon many of the towns-people called upon to make heavy marches and live under rough camp conditions in the depth of winter, and to toil at redoubt-building and trench-digging. The large camp at Otahuhu was rather badly organized in the first hurry of war preparations, and the inferior hutting and feeding of the troops caused much sickness. The pay was half a crown a day with rations; this was increased by a shilling a day at the front.

The citadel of Auckland, Fort Britomart, stood on a commanding promontory, faced with pohutukawa-fringed cliffs 40 feet high. Major Bunbury and other commanders in Auckland had partly fortified the position, which was considerably strengthened by Major-General G. Dean-Pitt, a Peninsular War veteran, who commanded the forces in the colony from 1848 to 1851. The parapet was revetted with sods reinforced with layers of fern—an idea borrowed from the Maori pa-builder—and pierced with embrasures on the sea faces. On the land face there was a deep ditch in front of the parapet, with a stockade close to the page 245
From a drawing in the Old Colonists' Museum, Auckland] Fort Britomart, Auckland, 1869

From a drawing in the Old Colonists' Museum, Auckland]
Fort Britomart, Auckland, 1869

counterscarp—another fashion in native fortification. Twelve fortress guns were mounted—long 24-pounders and 32-pounders, on iron garrison carriages; and there were also six 24-pounder howitzers and six 6-pounder field-guns. Within the fort were barracks for a hundred Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers men, officers' mess-room and brigade offices, military storehouses and magazines, and a main-guard house inside the gate at the trench bridge. Inland of the fort, and crowning the beautiful hill which the Maoris called Rangipuke (a large part of which is now the Albert Park), the Albert Barracks were constructed under Governor Grey's orders shortly after the conclusion of Heke's War. The barracks (accommodating a thousand men) were surrounded by a massive stone wall 12 feet high, broken into flanking bastions and loop-holed for rifle-fire, with a firing-step or banquette running along the inside of the parapet. The wall was of hard blue volcanic stone; the construction was carried out by Maori labour under the Royal Engineers. The two gates, opening into Princes Street and Symonds Street, were protected by two flanking bastions. The area covered was sufficient to accommodate a strong garrison, and also give shelter to all the women and children in the town in case of a raid. A small section of the stone wall, ivy-grown and venerable, is still standing as portion of a boundary-wall near Government House grounds in Princes Street.
These defences were not alone intended for defence against Maori attack. There were even in that day fears of a foreign war which would involve the British soldiers; the aggressive page 246
From a drawing by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow, Auckland] St. John's Redoubt, Papatoetoe, 1863

From a drawing by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow, Auckland]
St. John's Redoubt, Papatoetoe, 1863

actions of the French in the Pacific, especially the annexation of New Caledonia, had given rise to the fear that an invasion of Auckland was not unlikely.

The protection of the South Auckland outlying settlements and of the military road through the forest to the nearest point of the Waikato River necessitated the construction of many fortified posts, most of which were earthwork redoubts, others timber stockades. At Otahuhu, the principal field headquarters, there was a large fortified camp. At Howick, which was considered a vulnerable position owing to its proximity to the Wairoa Ranges, and open as it was to attack by war-canoe crews from the shores of the Thames Gulf, a field-work was erected. A large earthwork redoubt, called “St. John's Redoubt,” after an officer placed in charge of it, was built between Papatoetoe and Papakura. The Village of Papakura was protected by the erection on the Auckland side of the settlement of a small redoubt, which stood near the junction of the Great South Road and the Wairoa Road, and by the fortification of the Presbyterian church at the other side of the village. The redoubt was the camp of the local Volunteers and the Militia and a party of the 65th Regiment. The church was made bullet-proof by packing sand between the outer wall and the lining, a method used in most of the blockhouses built in the Maori campaigns. The walls were loopholed for rifle-fire. A correspondent, describing the remarkable sight of the country churches being stockaded and pierced for rifle-fire, remarked of the Papakura church, loopholed and bastioned, that it was a “visible transubstantiation of a bulwark of faith into a bulwark of earthly strength.”

At Kirikiri, on the Papakura—Wairoa Road, a redoubt was thrown up on a commanding site two miles from Papakura; page 247 this came to be known as “Ring's Redoubt,” after the captain of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, who garrisoned it with his company in the early part of the war. A short distance farther along the Wairoa Road the “Travellers' Rest,” an inn, store, and farmhouse, combined, kept by Mr. W. B. Smith—a sturdy veteran of the Californian diggings and an old sailor—was put into a state of defence, and the owner and his family occupied it all through the war. The building was reinforced with heavy timbers, and rifle-slits were cut in the walls. The inn was the headquarters of Jackson's Forest Rangers during the early part of the war, and some of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry were stationed there.

The Wairoa South Settlement (now Clevedon), eight miles from the mouth of the Wairoa River, was defended by the building of a redoubt on the left bank (west side) of the river and a stockade on the opposite side. The redoubt, a square work with flanking bastions, was built on Mr. Thorpe's farm. It was held by Major (afterwards Colonel) William C. Lyon and two hundred men, mostly Militia from Auckland. The stockade on the east bank was a formidable-looking post, a structure of heavy palisade timbers. It was 60 feet square, with very thick walls, bullet-proof and loopholed. Inside the stockade a corrugated-iron house, 40 feet by 16 feet, was built. This place, designed for from fifty to sixty men, was built by Mr. Snodgrass for the Auckland Provincial Government, and was occupied by the armed settlers of the district, the Wairoa Rifle Volunteers. Later, a redoubt was built lower down the river, on Mr. Salmon's property near the mouth of the Wairoa.

At Drury (the Tauranga of the Maoris), the head of navigation for cutters from Onehunga, there was a large military establishment, and a redoubt was built on the highest part of the settlement. AT Pukekohe East (the present site of Pukekohe Town was then dense bush) the little Presbyterian church was enclosed by a trench and a stockade of logs laid horizontally. At Mauku the English church was stockaded and loopholed. Major Speedy's house, “The Grange,” at Mauku, was loopholed and garrisoned by the settlers for defence; later, a stockade was built at the landing-place. A similar place of defence was provided at the Waiuku Settlement.

In many instances the settlers in the bush districts refused to leave their homes, and remained to brave the dangers of life on a troubled frontier.

From Drury the Great South Road through the forest to Pokeno was safeguarded by redoubts at short intervals. The principal posts were at Sheppard's Bush (Ramarama); Martin's Farm, on the plain a short distance north of Pukewhau Hill (now Bombay); Baird's Hill stockade, at the north end of Williamson's Clearing page 248
From a drawing by Lieutenant H. S. Bates (65th Regt.)] The Queen's Redoubt, and Encampment, Pokeno

From a drawing by Lieutenant H. S. Bates (65th Regt.)]
The Queen's Redoubt, and Encampment, Pokeno

(the present site of Bombay Township); the Razorback Redoubt, on Kakaramea Hill, Pokeno Ranges; and then the field headquarters at Queen's Redoubt, on Pokeno Flat. At “The Bluff,” on the right bank of the Waikato River just below Te Ia-roa, at the mouth of the Manga-tawhiri Stream, a strong timber stockade, 50 feet by 46 feet, enclosing a blockhouse, was erected; two guns were mounted here. At Tuakau the 65th Regiment, soon after the beginning of the war, constructed a large redoubt in an excellent strategic position on the level top of a high bluff above the river: this post was named the Alexandra Redoubt.

At the few settlements on the Coromandel Peninsula there was some danger of attack from the Ngati-Paoa and other Kingite natives. A veteran Forest Ranger, Mr. William Johns, of Auckland, recalls the fact that temporary defences were provided at Cabbage Bay, under the western side of the Moehau Range, where there was a large sawmill owned by an Auckland firm. Johns, who had been a sailor and served in the Royal Navy, was early in 1863 in charge of a cutter, the “Miranda,” trading between Auckland and the Cabbage Bay mill. The natives in the district came under suspicion, as it was believed they would join the Kingites, and so one day the master of the cutter found twenty page 249 stand of arms (“Brown Besses” and a few rifles) delivered on the cutter by order of Colonel Balneavis, then Adjutant-General, for the defence of the mill workers and the other residents of Cabbage Bay. The guns were landed at the bay, but it was not many days before they were all stolen by the Maoris, who went on the war-path rejoicing. The mill hands built a stockade for the defence of the place, encircling the sawmill with a palisade of 3-inch planks 12 or 14 feet high. However, the men were soon withdrawn.

At Raglan, on the Whaingaroa Harbour, west coast, there was fear that the small European settlement would be attacked by the Kingites from Kawhia or inland. Many of the settlers sent their families to Onehunga by the trading-vessels, but some of the women and children remained. A place of defence was considered necessary, and Mr. Richard Todd, a Government surveyor (who was shot on Pirongia Mountain by the Kingites in 1870), took charge of the work of fortification, and employed a number of friendly natives in digging a trench around the Courthouse and gaol, and in making rifle-pits to protect the principal houses. The entrenchment defending the Government buildings took in about an acre of ground. The main building was strengthened with thick timbers, and was loopholed. Early in 1864 a redoubt was built at the head of Raglan Harbour by Colonel Waddy's expeditionary force (50th Regiment and three hundred Waikato Militia).

Queen's Redoubt, Pokeno, as it is To-day*

Queen's Redoubt, Pokeno, as it is To-day*

The military road through the forest and over the range from Drury to the Manga-tawhiri River was constructed in 1862 by a body of Imperial troops, the 12th and the 14th Regiments at the Pokeno end, and the 65th and 70th at the Drury end, with some Royal Engineers to direct the details of the work. Lieut.-General Cameron, in execution of Grey's plan for the employment of the troops in this work, fixed his headquarters at Drury Camp. Colonel Sir James Alexander (14th) was in command at Pokeno where the Queen's Redoubt was built. The troops in December, 1861, marched along the Maori track over page 250
From a drawing by Lieutenant H. S. Bates (65th Regt.), 1863] The Bluff Stockade, Havelock, Lower Waikato

From a drawing by Lieutenant H. S. Bates (65th Regt.), 1863]
The Bluff Stockade, Havelock, Lower Waikato

the range called the Razorback, and camps were established at points along the route, at which redoubts were afterwards built. Colonel Wyatt commanded the 65th at Drury, Colonel (afterwards General) Chute the 70th at Kerr's Farm. Brigadier-General Galloway and Lieut.-Colonel Leslie (40th) established a camp at Baird's Farm, and Lieut.-Colonel Nelson, with a detachment of the 40th, was at Rhodes's Clearing, on the southern end of the range, overlooking the Pokeno plateau. Of the twelve miles of good road cleared a chain wide, formed, and metalled (18 feet 9 inches wide) by the troops, seven miles penetrated the heavy forest.

* The middle of the entrenchment is occupied by a farmhouse. The work is 100 yards square; there were originally four small angle bastions.