The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
(Chapter 32): WHITMORE'S EXPEDITION TO THE UREWERA COUNTRY
(Chapter 32): WHITMORE'S EXPEDITION TO THE UREWERA COUNTRY
Captain Preece, who was a Staff officer with Colonel Whitmore in 1869, gives the following details of Whitmore's arrangements for the invasion of the Urewera Country after the close of active operations on the West Coast early in 1869:—
“When we got out of the bush after the Ngaere expedition in Taranaki in March, 1869, Colonel Whitmore decided to move through to Waitara, and thence to Auckland, to begin preparations for the expedition against Te Kooti in the Urewera Country. We had heard when at the Ngaere of Te Kooti's attack on Whakatane. We moved on to Waihi camp, and while there one hundred Ngati-Porou arrived from the East Coast under Acting Sub-Inspector Ferris and Peneamine Tuhaka. Ropata Wahawaha and Hotene Porourangi, with two hundred men, had been sent back from Napier by Mr. Donald McLean, General Government Agent there, as he thought it unwise to denude the East Coast and Poverty Bay of so many men. This caused a rupture between Colonel Whitmore and Mr. McLean; the latter was on the Opposition side of the House. Shortly after this the Government removed Mr. McLean from his position as Government Agent, and appointed Mr. H. R. Russell, M.L.C., in his place at Napier. The Ngati-Porou, under Ferris, were enrolled in the Armed Constabulary, forming No. 9 Division.page 511
“Colonel St. John moved with about half the force by the mountain-track from Ketemarae to Mataitawa (Chute's track of 1866), and thence to Waitara, while Colonel Whitmore with headquarters and the remainder of the Constabulary went round to New Plymouth by the coast route. On the latter route we had to make a road as we went along for the transport drays, so progress was necessarily slow. Early on the fourth day we reached New Plymouth, where Major Stapp was in command. After consultation with him Colonel Whitmore went on to Waitara. Colonel St. John's column joined us there. They had met with no opposition on the bush march, and only found one straggler.
“While we were at Waitara waiting, Colonel Whitmore made a demonstration at Mokau Heads in the steamer ‘Sturt,’ in order to ascertain whether the Ngati-Maniapoto had a stronghold there. As they did not show fight we left them alone.
“Colonel Whitmore, leaving the West Coast under Colonel Lyon and a sufficient Armed Constabulary force, including No. 9 Division, now moved the rest of the Constabulary to the Bay of Plenty. The ‘Sturt’ took part of the force from Waitara, under Whitmore's personal command, and landed the men at Onehunga, whence they marched to Auckland, shipping from there to Tauranga by the ‘Lord Worsley’ the same night. The ‘St Kilda’ went round the North Cape with part of the force from Waitara, under Lieut.-Colonel St. John. The ‘Sturt’ returned from Onehunga to Waitara to ship another portion of St. John's force, and took this detachment round via the North Cape and the Bay of Islands to Whakatane, from which place Colonel Whitmore had arranged St. John's column was to march on Ruatahuna when plans were completed for a combined movement. Our force under the Colonel's command camped at The Mount, Tauranga Heads, for a few days to make arrangements for transport services and give the men a rest, and also to allow time for St. John's force to get round the North Cape. We then marched down the coast to Matata. Whitmore would not let the men go to Tauranga Township, as we had had some trouble keeping them in hand when passing through Auckland.
“The Colonel had to make arrangements with Colonel Harrington at Tauranga to provide transport service, and with Civil Commissioner H. T. Clarke to organize the native allies. Mr. Clarke accompanied the force to Maketu and Matata. At the latter place temporary headquarters were established and a base of operations formed.
“The Hon. J. C. Richmond (Defence Minister) visited Matata by steamer, and then went on to Napier to organize Colonel Herrick's force, which was to start from Wairoa for Waikare-moana. It was while getting ready at Matata that we heard of Te Kooti's raid on Mohaka and the massacre at that place. Colonel Whitmore had to arrange a canoe flotilla to take stores up the Rangitaiki River to a post which he established four miles above Te Teko; this station he named Fort Alfred, in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh, who was expected to visit New Zealand.
“The friendly Arawa were organized with the assistance of Mr. Clarke, who accompanied the expedition throughout. All these arrangements took time. Colonel Whitmore also had to visit Whakatane to confer with Colonel St. John, so as to ensure the working of the two columns in concert. Major Mair was in charge of the Whakatane natives and of the Ngaitai under the loyal chief Wiremu Kingi. From Fort Alfred we moved on to Ohuia, on the plain, where Colonel Whitmore established another redoubt, which was named Fort Clarke, after the Civil Commissioner.
“Leaving this post in charge of an officer he moved the force on to Te Karamuramu, where he established Fort Galatea, a redoubt named after the British warship conveying the Duke of Edinburgh to the colonies. From there the Urewera expedition was carried out successfully. The one weak page 512 point was the failure of Colonel Herrick's column to fulfil its part of the plan devised so carefully by Colonel Whitmore.
“This summary of the preparations shows the great amount of detail which the colonel had to attend to in organizing the Urewera expedition and co-ordinating the work of the columns. He was a great man in planning a campaign, and personally went into the smallest detail.”
Colonel Whitmore in his despatches gave high praise to the Armed Constabulary in the Urewera expedition. “I find it difficult to say,” he wrote from Fort Galatea, “without fear of being thought to show partiality, how admirably our men have behaved throughout. Living on potatoes [at Ruatahuna], labouring under heavy packs, with their clothes torn to rags and their boots destroyed, their cheerfulness and ready obedience at all times cannot be too highly praised. Poor fellows who were bleeding in their feet, who had had hardly a days' rest since November last, and, in spite of the quantity of clothes they have purchased since then, can scarcely muster a sound garment amongst them, were yet ready and anxious to face the Huiarau snow-covered heights, and to risk possible starvation or a long retreat, from the moment they heard of my wish to go to Waikare. Toiling up the precipitous hills, or wading in the beds of the slaty rivers, they could always keep up with and continue the march longer than the Maoris. Moreover, during the whole expedition they did not waste a single round of ammunition or throw away one shot when keeping sentry in the bush. If there was anything to be done they were at once ready; and when no duty was required from them they roamed about the country foraging, destroying crops, burning kaingas, and seeking the enemy's scouts in their several hiding-places in the vicinity. The officers have all done their duty extremely well, and carried the same loads and fared the same as the men.”
Major William G. Mair, reporting on his march out from Ruatahuna to Fort Galatea with the sick and wounded (14th–17th May, 1869) said that the Maoris had stated that the route via the Horomanga was better than that via Ahi-kereru, but he found it “a fearful track.” There were five stretchers with wounded men, and there were also twenty sick and lame Armed Constabulary; these men he formed into a rearguard with some of the Maoris. The Urewera pursued the column, and fired on it at long range. The march was over the Tahuaroa Range, and then to the right to the Pukareao village—where the force camped one night, destroying the kainga next morning—thence to the Horomanga Gorge and out to Kuhawaea and the Rangitaiki. Mair stated that his Arawa did not do very well in the mountains: they were afraid of the country. However, in later expeditions the Arawa enlisted as a constabulary force under Captains Gilbert Mair and Preece proved excellent soldiers in the numerous marches and skirmishes in the Urewera Country.