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

Other Operations

page 361

Other Operations

The whole of the mid-Waikato and the fertile plain of the delta between the Waipa and the Horotiu (upper Waikato River) as far south as the Mangapiko River was now under British occupation. General Cameron left detachments to garrison Te Rore, Pikopiko, and Paterangi, and at Kirikiri-roa, on the Horotiu, established a post which became the present Town of Hamilton. The gunboats “Pioneer” and “Koheroa” steamed up the Horotiu for the first time on the 2nd March, 1864, with a detachment of the 65th, and anchored below the deserted native settlement of Kirikiri-roa. Next day the “Koheroa,” under command of an officer of H.M.S. “Eclipse,” ascended the strong river as far as Pukerimu, and the officers and surveyors on board made a rapid reconnaissance of the country. Redoubts were built soon after this at Pukerimu and Kirikiri-roa, and were garrisoned by detachments of the 18th and 70th Regiments; later, the settlements were occupied by men of the Waikato Militia. The Ngati-Haua and their allies, including many Ngai-te-Rangi from Tauranga, had now strongly fortified themselves at Te Tiki-o-te-Ihingarangi, where the Pukekura Range, an out - spur of Maunga-tautari, terminates above the precipitous left bank of the Waikato River. Soon after the first visit to Pukerimu the General advanced with a force of several hundred men from Te Awamutu and skirmished towards the Ngati-Haua positions. After a little firing at comparatively long range the troops retired. The pa was occupied for several weeks, but at last was evacuated before Cameron had made up his mind to attack it. This was the only strong position in the Waikato country remaining to the Kingites in March. There were now nearly five thousand troops, Imperial and colonial, distributed in the occupied territory; the greater number was encamped at Te Awamutu, where the army spent the winter of 1864.

The headquarters of the Ngati-Maniapoto Tribe, the large village of Kihikihi, three miles south-east of Te Awamutu, was invaded on the 23rd February. It was an attractive place in those days, with its clusters of thatched houses spaced over a considerable area of hill and valley, shaded by peach-groves and surrounded by large cultivations of potatoes and maize which extended in the direction of the Puniu River to the south and to the outskirts of the forest and swamps on the east. Here was Rewi Maniapoto's home; and on the gentle southern slope of Rata-tu Hill, on which the principal settlement stood, was the carved house “Hui-te-Rangiora,” in which Rewi and his runanga of chiefs had framed the belligerent policy which precipitated page 362
Photo by W. Beattie, 1906] St. John's Church, Te Awamutu

Photo by W. Beattie, 1906]
St. John's Church, Te Awamutu

This mission church was built in the early “fifties,” when Te Awamutu was the station of the Rev. John Morgan, of the C.M.S., who introduced civilization and English methods of agriculture among the tribes of the Upper Waikato. Mr. Morgan carried on mission work and industrial education here from 1841 until the beginning of the Waikato War. The soldiers who fell at Orakau and other fights in the district were buried in the churchyard.

the Waikato War. No attempt was made by Ngati-Maniapoto to defend Kihikihi. They could have blocked for a time the advance of the troops from Te Awamutu by entrenching the steep northern and north-west face of the ridge on which Kihikihi stood (the present road ascends this face), and extending the wings of the defences to the swamps on either flank. But Rewi and his people abandoned Kihikihi after the fighting at Rangiaowhia, and, crossing to the south side of the Puniu River, encamped at Tokanui, on the slopes overlooking their old homes. From there they saw the flashing of the bayonets as a body of troops marched into Kihikihi, and presently watched the smoke and flames ascending from their council-house, destroyed by the soldiers. Rewi's flagstaff was also demolished, and the page 363 village was looted by the Regulars and the Forest Rangers. A redoubt was soon afterwards built on the crest of the Rata-tu Hill, a commanding site overlooking the whole of the Kihikihi and surrounding country for many miles. This post was first garrisoned by detachments of the line regiments, and afterwards by a force of the 1st Waikato Militia, under Colonel T. M. Haultain.

Numerous scouting expeditions were made from Headquarters at Te Awamutu by the Forest Rangers and by the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry. It was after one of the troopers' rides to the neighbourhood of Kihikihi, where Maoris were again seen to be gathering—one was shot at long range by Lieutenant (afterwards Colonel) McDonnell—that it was decided to build the redoubt just mentioned. An expedition marched before daylight one morning, under Colonel Waddy and Colonel Havelock, with the Forest Rangers, as usual, forming the advanced guard, to pay a surprise visit to Kihikihi, but the natives again retired in time. Von Tempsky went on through some maize-fields and skirmished across a swamp with some of the Maoris, but did not get close to them. That night he took the men into the kahikatea bush and swamp which flanked Kihikihi, in an attempt to reach the Maoris who had retreated into some distant whares on a rise, and after a very rough experience, scrambling through the swamp and jungle in the darkness, reached the whares at daylight and rushed them, but found them empty. Sergeant Carron reported that there were Maoris in the bush which nearly surrounded this settlement, a little distance to the eastward of Kihikihi Village. von Tempsky withdrew his men from the whares, and received a harmless volley from the bush-covered hill. He took up a position within 300 yards of the huts, under cover of logs and fern, and awaited a Maori advance, but the Ngati-Maniapoto party wisely remained in their cover. The Rangers returned to Kihikihi, and from the central hill that afternoon they saw some hundreds of Maoris in the distance driving their cattle and horses into safety southward of the Puniu.

The site of Rewi Maniapoto's council-house “Hui-te-Rangiora,” burned by the troops, is a little distance to the south-west of the present Presbyterian church in the Kihikihi Township. Near this church is the house which the Government built for Rewi shortly before the Kingites finally made peace in 1881; close to the house at a street-corner is his grave; he died in 1894. The name “Hui-te-Rangiora,” celebrated in Maori-Polynesian tradition, is still honoured among Ngati-Maniapoto; it has been given to the house (a gift from the Government) on the south bank of the Puniu River in which Rewi's widow, Te Rohu, now lives.

page 364

The redoubt on Rata-tu, the highest part of the Kihikihi ridge, was a military post for about twenty years after its construction. It was occupied as a barracks by the Armed Constabulary, 1870–83, and was an important place in the chain of defences along the frontier against the often-threatened Kingite and Hauhau invasions of the Upper Waikato. The lines of the redoubt can be traced just behind the present police-station in Kihikihi Township.

The head of river navigation for the wheat-growers of Kihikihi, the headquarters of Ngati-Maniapoto, was at Tokatoka, afterwards known as Anderson's Crossing, on the Puniu River, about two miles from the village. Large canoes carrying sixty or seventy men could come up the Puniu River in the old days, before it was blocked with willows, and cargoes of wheat and potatoes loaded there were taken down into the Waipa, and thence into the Waikato for Auckland. A mile north of the Tokatoka landing was the flour-mill of the Kihikihi Maoris; the waterpower was supplied by a small stream which drained the Whakatau-ringaringa swamp on the west and south-west side of the Kihikihi ridge.

Orakau and Surrounding Country Showing the routes of the British march, 1864.

Orakau and Surrounding Country
Showing the routes of the British march, 1864.