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

Chapter 31: Operations at the Wairoa

page 289

Chapter 31: Operations at the Wairoa

IN SEPTEMBER OF 1863 the Koheriki and other parties of Kingites who roamed the ranges of Wairoa South and the Hunua turned their attention to the scattered settlements on the lower part of the river. They pillaged the houses of outlying farmers who had gone into the stockade opposite the Galloway Redoubt or into Papakura, and scouted the edge of the bush awaiting an opportunity to cut off settlers returning to their sections. Major Lyon, a Crimean veteran, was in command of the Militia district, with his quarters in the Galloway Redoubt. To relieve the Militia garrison doing duty in the redoubt, detachments of the Auckland Rifle Volunteers were sent down to the Wairoa in the Government armed steamer “Sandfly.” It was on this service that the city Volunteers first engaged the Maoris; their previous duty had chiefly been in garrison in Auckland, varied by service at Otahuhu and Drury, and an expedition as part of a “Flying Column” with the 70th Regiment, encamped near St. John's Redoubt, Papatoetoe.

On the 15th September some of the garrison when playing cricket, and a fatigue-party getting slabs, near the stockade, were fired on at a distance of about 150 yards, and heavy firing followed. Two days later a detachment of fifty-five men led by Major Lyon marched up the valley towards Otau in pursuit of a large raiding-party which had been plundering settlers' houses on the outskirts of the village. In the skirmish which followed the Volunteers behaved with steadiness and judgment, and inflicted some casualties on the Kingites. Lyon extended his small force across the face of the hill surrounding the native village and kept up a heavy fire, to which the Maoris replied by independent firing as well as by volleys from numbers of men formed into large squares. Each square, having delivered a volley, fell back behind the whares to reload.

Before daylight on the morning following this engagement Major Lyon marched from the Galloway Redoubt with a force composed of fifty men from the Auckland Rifle Volunteers and twenty Wairoa Rifles from the stockade, under Lieutenant Steele, page 290
Drawn by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow] Camp of a Movable Column, near Papatoetoe (1863)

Drawn by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow]
Camp of a Movable Column, near Papatoetoe (1863)

This column, consisting of detachments of the 70th Regiment, Pitt's Militia, and the Auckland Rifle Volunteers, was encamped for a time between St. John's Redoubt, Papatoetoe, and the hills on the west side of the Wairoa.

to deliver an attack upon the natives at Otau. The troops silently took up a position on the bank of the flooded river opposite the whares, and in the gray dawn opened a heavy fire on the sleeping camp. It was a complete surprise, for the Maoris had not expected a renewal of the attack so soon. There were between one hundred and fifty and two hundred natives in the settlement. The rudely aroused men, women, and children rushed out in great confusion and took shelter in the bush. A number of them replied to the Volunteers' fire, but the whole body soon retreated into the ranges.
Among the Maoris was the young half-caste woman Heni te Kiri-karamu, who had gone on the war-path to share the fortunes of her brother Neri (Hone te Waha-huka), of the Koheriki. Describing the surprise attack Heni said, “We had intended to march down and attack the pa of the soldiers on the Wairoa, but they forestalled our plan. We camped in some deserted whares near the river-bank, and did not expect an early-morning visit, so there was a panic when we were awakened at daybreak by a terrific volley fired into our huts. The troops had lined up on the opposite side of the Wairoa, and at short range volleyed at us; it was a wonder that any of us escaped. Instead of making a stand we retreated rapidly into the forest. I carried my baby on page 291
From a drawing by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow] The Galloway Redoubt, Wairoa South (1863)

From a drawing by Lieut-Colonel A. Morrow]
The Galloway Redoubt, Wairoa South (1863)

my back. Most of us were assembled in a large whare and in running out of it the chief Titipa, from Tauranga, was shot dead just in front of me. Another man from Tauranga named Tipene was killed, and many were wounded. The Tamehana boys, of Ngati-Haua, were both there.”

As the river was still flooded, the European force could not cross to follow up the Maoris, so Major Lyon marched his men back to the redoubt. Later on in the day twenty men of the 18th Regiment, under Lieutenant Russell, were despatched to occupy the position in front of the Maori camp which had been held in the morning, while the commanding officer, with seventy-five of all ranks, marched by a track on the other side of the river to take the settlement in the rear. The troops found, however, that the natives had evacuated the place.

In these skirmishes the Maoris lost eight men killed.

On the 13th October a party of the Koheriki retaliated with an attack on unarmed Europeans within a short distance of the Galloway Redoubt. An elderly man named Job Hamlin was killed, and his companion, a boy named Joseph Wallis, about thirteen years of age, was terribly tomahawked, but by a miracle survived his wounds. Joseph Wallis's people were shifting their property to town from their farmhouse near the Wairoa Road, for fear of the Maoris, and Job Hamlin was employed in carting the goods, which were loaded into a bullock-dray. The boy was riding on horseback, and Hamlin was driving the team. Suddenly page 292 some Maoris ran out from the bush and fired on them. The boy's horse refused to go on, and when he got off it to lead it, or to run the Maoris chased him. One of them caught him and delivered two tomahawk-cuts crosswise on the side of his head and face, inflicting an X-shaped wound. The top of his head was also smashed in with the butt of a gun. The soldiers at the redoubt ran up on hearing the firing, and found him lying there apparently dead; he was taken to the camp hospital at Papakura. Job Hamlin was found dead, tomahawked. The Maoris had left Wallis for dead. He recovered, and he is to-day farming in the Waikato, but he has suffered all his life from the gun-butt blow. He is the younger brother of Mrs. Harris, wife of the Hon. Major B. Harris, M.L.C.

On the 15th October an old soldier named Fahey and his wife, who were settled on a small bush farm near Ramarama, were out milking their cows when they were surprised by some of the Koheriki and shot and tomahawked. Mrs. Fahey was dead when found, and her husband died soon afterwards.

A party of twenty Koheriki natives on the 26th October raided Kennedy's Farm at Mangemangeroa, a few miles beyond Howick in the direction of Maraetai. Mr. Trust, who was in charge of the farm, was away in Auckland at the time, but there were three of his sons in occupation, besides two men, Courtenay and Lord. Ambrose Trust was the eldest son; the others, Richard and Nicholas Trust, were nine and twelve years of age. Lord, who was a workman on the place, was leaving the farmhouse at about 7 o'clock to go to his house when he saw a number of armed Maoris crouching in a ditch near the house. Lord and Courtenay escaped, but the latter was wounded. The Maoris fired through the front window. Ambrose Trust, taking his little brothers by the hand, ran out at the back and hurried in the direction of the nearest neighbours. The Maoris gave chase and shot down the two small boys. Ambrose, wounded in the shoulder, with difficulty escaped. The boys were tomahawked.

Major Peacocke, in command of the redoubt at Howick, started in pursuit of the Koheriki with some Militia, and a detachment of the Defence Force Cavalry and Otahuhu Volunteers, numbering fifty, took up quarters at Kennedy's Farm. Peacocke followed the track of the Maoris for some miles, but they had made off in the direction of the Hunua Ranges. H.M.S. “Miranda” steamed down the gulf in the afternoon with a force of a hundred Auckland Naval Volunteers and the same number of Rifle Volunteers, under Major de Quincey, and anchored off Mangemangeroa, but the raiders by that time had crossed the line of posts between Wairoa and Papakura, and there was therefore no chance of cutting them off.

page 293
Maori War Flag captured by the Forest Rangers (14th December, 1863)

Maori War Flag captured by the Forest Rangers (14th December, 1863)

Some weeks after these events at the Wairoa the Forest Rangers made a successful surprise attack on a camp of the Koheriki hapu in the heart of the ranges. By this time (14th December) the Rangers had been reorganized, and two companies were formed, one under Jackson and the other under Von Tempsky. Jackson's No. 1 Company had the skirmish all to themselves; Von Tempsky, to his great disappointment, missed the opportunity, although he had observed the native tracks, by following a trail which led him towards Paparata. Jackson, setting out from the Papakura Camp with Lieutenant Westrupp and twenty-five men, marched to Buckland's Clearing in the Hunua Ranges, and descended into the densely wooded upper valley of the Wairoa River. Maori tracks were found leading toward the source of the Wairoa, and a lately deserted camp was passed. The trail led across the head of the Wairoa and for several miles beyond into the terra incognita towards the river-sources near the higher parts of the Kohukohunui Range. The trail at last was lost, but smoke was seen rising from a distant gorge in the forest, and as the Rangers scouted in that direction they heard a cow-bell ringing irregularly, as if a child were playing with it. The sound guided them toward a secluded camp by the side of a creek. Ensign Westrupp with six or eight men cautiously advanced down the rocky stream. A coloured man, George Ward, who was the first to emerge from the bush, found a Maori bathing; the astonished Maori, thinking Ward possibly a friend, beckoned to him to approach, but the Ranger shot him dead. Westrupp dashed into the camp, followed by the rest of page 294 the party. The Maoris were taken completely by surprise. It was a Sunday; they had had a religious service, and some of the party were cleaning their guns, while others were bathing. A few of them made desperate resistance, and there were one or two hand-to-hand combats, but it was very soon over. Several fired, but had no time to reload before the Rangers' carbines and revolvers laid them low. A woman was shot accidentally while assisting a wounded warrior who was endeavouring to give the pakehas a final shot. A tin box containing three flags was captured by Corporal W. Johns. One of these was a red-silk flag, bearing a white cross and star and the name “Aotearoa”; it had been made by Heni te Kiri-karamu for her chief Wi Koka. It is now in the Auckland Old Colonists' Museum. Four dead Maoris were left on the ground, and three dead were seen carried off; several were wounded. The Rangers sustained no casualties.

“Shortly before this,” narrated Heni te Kiri-karamu, “it had been decided that we should make for the Waikato, and we were to travel south through the bush by way of Paparata. In our party was an old tohunga, a man named Timoti te Amopo; he was gifted with the power of matakite, or second sight. As the result of some vision or foreboding—a warning from his personal god, Tu-Panapana—Timoti advised us not to follow the track which ran straight toward Paparata, but so disperse into small parties and make our way through the bush to the common meeting-place, so as to throw the troops off our trail. A number of our people, however, did not accept the seer's advice, and continued on the well-marked track, while the rest of us, with Timoti, split up into small sections and struck into the trackless parts of the forest for a rendezvous to the southward. The consequence was that we escaped, while those who disregarded the old seer's counsel fell in with the Forest Rangers and had several men killed and wounded. It was on a Saturday that we parted company; the fight took place next day. The survivors of this skirmish joined us in the forest near the headwaters of the Manga-tawhiri River.”

This surprise attack in the forest took place deep in the ranges near the sources of the Wairoa and the Manga-tawhiri. It is sometimes described as having occurred at Paparata, but this is an error; the spot was nearer Ararimu, in the Upper Wairoa district.

“One of the Maoris in the camp,” said Heni, “was a man named Te Pae-tui. He was terribly wounded, shot through both hips. His elder brother, Te Tapuke, seeing him fall, ran back to his assistance, and stood by him reloading his double-barrel gun, determined to defend his brother to the death. Te Tapuke a few page 295
The Settlers' Stockade at Wairoa South

The Settlers' Stockade at Wairoa South

This stockade (see pages 247 and 289) was held by the Wairoa Rifle Volunteers. It was the scene of an attack on the 15th September, 1863. The drawing is after a sketch by Lieut.-Colonel A. Morrow, of Auckland, who served in the operations at Wairoa South as an ensign in the Auckland Rifle Volunteers.

moments later received a bullet through the forehead and fell dead by his wounded brother. After the fight the Forest Rangers attended as well as they could to Te Pae-tui's injuries, laid him on blankets found in the camp, and gave him drink and food. His wife came out from the bush, weeping over her husband, and they treated her kindly, but they could do nothing more for her husband, and they left her there. She remained tending the mortally wounded man until he died several days later. She was all alone then. She could not shift him, so she dug a grave herself and buried him there in the forest.”

The following is the roll of Jackson's Forest Rangers engaged in the fight in the Wairoa Ranges, 14th December, 1863: William Jackson (Captain Commanding), Charles Westrupp (Lieutenant), A. J. Bertram (Sergeant-Major), Thomas Holden, William Johns, John Smith, Robert Alexander, Robert Bruce, William Bruce, Lawrence Burns, George Cole, Robert Gibb, Joseph Grigg, William Thomson, Henry Hendry, Richard Fitzgerald, Harry Jackson, Patrick Madigan, Stephen Mahoney, John Roden, Henry Rowland, Charles Temple, James Peters, Matthew Vaughan, James Watters, George Ward, and William Wells.