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


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THE INCREASING INTEREST in the study of New Zealand's past emphasizes the need for a history of the wars with the Maoris since the establishment of British sovereignty and of the era of pioneering settlement and adventure, which was practically conterminous with those campaigns. Although there is in existence a considerable body of war-time literature written by participants in the conflicts, it is not possible to gather in any of the works on the subject a connected account of the successive outbreaks and campaigns which troubled the colony from 1845 to the beginning of 1872. Most of the printed narratives deal chiefly with events which came within the soldier-writers' own experiences, and other contributions to the story of the campaigns are scarcely written in the impartial spirit of the historian. Some of the earlier works, and even the blue-books, contain many statements which careful inquiries and a better understanding of the Maori side of the struggle have now demolished. Most of the useful books, moreover, are out of print, and the student who wishes to make a complete survey of the field of contact between pakeha and Maori is compelled to work through many volumes, pamphlets, and newspaper-files in the public libraries. The fragmentary and scattered nature of our war-time literature therefore necessitates this endeavour to provide a standard history in convenient compass.

The present is probably the most favourable moment for the historian of New Zealand's wars and the adventure-teeming life of the pioneer colonists. A sufficient time has elapsed for the episodes of our nation-making to be viewed in their correct perspective; there is a very large amount of printed matter and manuscript at the writer's hand; and at the same time there are still with us many eye-witnesses of some of the most important events in New Zealand's histroy. Oral witness has its historical value, as Mr. George Macaulay Trevelyan has explained in his history “Garibaldi and the Thousand”: “You cannot cross-examine a book or manuscript: that is the weakness of written evidence, which the presence of oral evidence rectifies to some page vi degree.” To this it may be added that an historian cannot thoroughly grip the spirit in which wars were waged, or appreciate to the full the motives and feelings of the contending forces, unless he has had some personal knowledge of the combatants, and has mingled with members of the warring parties. The psychology of the struggle will elude the writer who delays his work until the last veteran, the last pioneer, and the last Maori of the old school have gone from among us.

The foundation for this work of history-gathering was laid, unconsciously enough, in the writer's boyhood on a farthest-out farm on the King Country frontier. Since those youthful days on the battlefield of Orakau, where the shawl-kilted tattooed Maoris who had fought in the wars were familiar figures, and when the pakeha stalwarts who had carried rifle on many a bush war-path garrisoned the blockhouses and redoubts which still studded the Waikato border, the task of collecting the tales of old has been an often-renewed pleasure.

In the course of writing this History it was necessary to examine a very large amount of material in book form, in official documents, and in newspaper-files. It was necessary also to explore battlefields and sites of fortifications throughout the North Island. Veterans of the wars, European and Maori, were sought out, sometimes in the most remote places, and the field notes made on the scenes of engagements and sieges were often enhanced in value by the presence of soldiers, settlers, or natives who had fought there and who were able to describe the actions on the spot.

I take pleasure in recording here the names of those who gave valuable co-operation in this work. The History is due largely to the initiative of Dr. Thomson W. Leys, for many years editor of the Auckland Star and principal author of Brett's “Early History of New Zealand,” and also to the hearty assistance of the late Colonel T. W. Porter, C.B. The Hon. Sir Maui Pomare, M.P., gave much kind help in the native side of the narrative. With the guidance of Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., of Tauranga, many old fighting-trails were followed up and battle-grounds explored in the Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, page vii and Urewera districts. In the Taranaki country Mr. William Wallace, of Meremere, and the late Colonel W. B. Messenger, of New Plymouth, gave similar assistance. Captain G. A. Preece, N.Z.C., contributed a very full and excellent diary account of the last military expeditions in the Urewera country, 1870–72; and the late Mr. S. Percy Smith, F.R.G.S., ex-Surveyor-General, lent his private journal from 1854 to 1869 and numerous Taranaki field-sketches and maps.

The following colonial soldiers, some of whom have since passed away, also assisted with narratives, diaries, plans, and other documents:—

Colonel J. M. Roberts, N.Z.C.; Colonel Stuart Newall, C.B.; Lieut. - Colonel A. Morrow; Lieut. - Colonel H. Parker; Major William G. Mair; Major D. H. Lusk; Major J. T. Large; Captain H. Northcroft, N.Z.C.; Captain C. Maling, N.Z.C.; Captain F. Mace, N.Z.C.; Captain J. R. Rushton; Captain Joseph Scott; Captain J. Stichbury; and numerous others.

The use of many historic pictures not hitherto published was given by Mr. Justice Chapman and Mr. H. Fildes, Wellington; Mr. H. E. Partridge, Auckland; Dr. P. Marshall, Mr. H. D. Bates, and Mr. T. W. Downes, Wanganui; Mrs. B. A. Crispe, Mauku; Mr. W. H. Skinner, New Plymouth; and others.

The late Alexander Turnbull, of Wellington, who bequeathed his library to the nation, was keenly interested in the compilation of this History, and in his kindly way placed all the material in his collection at my disposal, and searched out documents which threw additional light on events in New Zealand's “breaking-in” period.

I desire also to record the names of my principal Maori authorities, most of them veterans of the wars from 1845 onwards, who at various times gave information:—

Ngapuhi Tribe:

Ruatara Tauramoko; Ngakuru Pana, Rihara Kou; Rawiri te Ruru; Hone Heke, M.P.

Waikato tribes:

Patara te Tuhi; Honana Maioha; Mahutu te Toko; Te Aho-o-te-Rangi; Hori Kukutai.

Ngati-Paoa (Hauraki):

Hori Ngakapa te Whanaunga.

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Ngati-Maniapoto (King Country):

Tupotahi; Te Huia Raureti and his son Raureti te Huia; Pou-patate; Peita Kotuku; Te Rohu (Rewi Maniapoto's widow); Taniora Wharauroa.


Hitiri te Paerata.

Ngai-te-Rangi (Tauranga):

Hori Ngatai.

Te Arawa (Rotorua-Maketu district):

Kiharoa; Te Araki te Pohu; Taua Tutanekai; Heeni Pore (Te Kiri-Karamu); Te Rangituakoha; Hohapeta te Whanarere; Te Matechaere; Rangiriri.

Ngati-Tuwharetoa (Taupo district):

Te Heuheu Tukino, M.L.C.; Tokena te Kerehi; Waaka Tamaira; Wairehu.


Eria Raukura (Te Kooti's chief priest); Netana Whakaari; Te Whiu Maraki; Tupara Kaho; Te Kauru.

Whakatohea (Opotiki):

Hira te Okioki.


Tuta Nihoniho.


Te Whiti o Rongomai (the prophet of Parihaka); Hori Teira.

Ngati-Ruanui (Taranaki):

Tauke; Te Kahu-Pukoro; Pou-Whareumu Toi; Whareaitu.

Pakakohi (Patea):

Tutange Waionui; Tu-Patea te Rongo.

Most of those mentioned were warriors who fought either against or for the Government; in a number of instances they explained on the battle-ground the details of engagements; few of them survive to recall the conditions and events of a life which has vanished for ever.

A great deal of trouble has been taken to obtain original illustrations, and Mr. A. H. Messenger, draughtsman in the New Zealand Forest Service, himself a member of a pioneer Taranaki family, has drawn for the History many pictures in line and wash from authentic material.

To the Hon. the Minister of Internal Affairs, and to the Under-Secretary of that Department, my gratitude is due for the liberal arrangements which made the writing and publication of this work possible.

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The principal campaigns and expeditions dealt with in the History are as follows:—
  • (1) Hone Heke's War in the north, 1845–46.
  • (2) The campaign in the Wellington district, 1846.
  • (3) The war at Wanganui, 1847.
  • (4) The first Taranaki War, 1860–61.
  • (5) The second Taranaki War, 1863.
  • (6) The Waikato War, 1863–64.
  • (7) The Tauranga campaign, 1864.
  • (8) The first Hauhau War, Taranaki, 1864–66.
  • (9) The Opotiki and Matata operations, 1865.
  • (10) The East Coast War, 1865.
  • (11) Fighting in Tauranga and Rotorua districts, 1867.
  • (12) Titokowaru's War, West Coast, 1868–69.
  • (13) The campaigns against Te Kooti (East Coast, Taupo, and Urewera country), 1868–72.

The period covered in the present volume is from the outbreak of Heke's War in 1845 to the end of the Kingite wars in Taranaki, Waikato, and the Bay of Plenty, 1864. The second volume is devoted to the Hauhau campaigns, 1864–72.

Wellington, New Zealand, June, 1922.