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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)


page 129


TOWARDS THE END of 1865 trouble developed among the hapus of the Ngati-Kahungunu Tribe occupying the beautiful and fruitful valley of the Wairoa (Hawke's Bay). Pai-marire emissaries in the earlier part of the year spread their doctrine with such success that the ritual of Te Ua became established in many villages, and the arrival of the fugitives from Waerenga-a-Hika brought the temper of the malcontents to fighting-pitch. The chief Te Waru Tamatea, who had fought at Orakau in the previous year, was the principal leader of the Hauhau party. The most vigorous champion of the Government side was Kopu Parapara, of the lower Wairoa, who was supported wholeheartedly by the fine old chief Ihaka Whanga, of Nuhaka and Mahia. The Government, through Mr. Donald McLean, sent arms up from Napier for the loyal faction, and early in December despatched Major Fraser to the Wairoa with a force of volunteers and Hawke's Bay and Taranaki Military Settlers.

The Queenite chiefs of Ngati-Kahungunu also wrote to Ngati-Porou requesting their assistance, and Mr. McLean visited Tuparoa at the beginning of January, 1866, and handed the letter to Ropata and Hotene Porourangi. The writers asked Ngati-Porou to “come and be a backbone for us for a great number of Hauhaus are now assembled here.” “Let your coming be speedy,” the entreaty concluded; “we are living in fear.”

Ngati-Porou's response was prompt. A hundred and fifty men under Ropata and other chiefs embarked in the steamer and reached the Wairoa landing on the 4th. Their pay while on active service was fixed at 3s. per day. Ropata and Hotene were appointed by Mr. McLean to act as assessors of the Magistrate's Court at yearly salaries of £50 each.

In the meantime (25th December, 1865) the European force at the Wairoa, with some of the local Maoris, had fought a sharp action with the Hauhaus at a stockaded settlement called Omaru-hakeke, about twelve miles up the Wairoa River, killing twelve men and losing Captain Hussey (Taranaki Military page 130
From a sketch by an eye-witness, 1865] The Attack on Omaru-hakeke Pa, Upper Wairoa (Christmas Day, 1865)

From a sketch by an eye-witness, 1865]
The Attack on Omaru-hakeke Pa, Upper Wairoa (Christmas Day, 1865)

Major Fraser's and Captain Hussey's men are shown in the front. Captain Biggs's detachment was on the higher ground to the left (the Maoris' right flank), and fired on the escaping Hauhaus when Fraser's force assaulted the stockade.

Settlers) and two natives killed. The attacking force consisted of one hundred men of the Hawke's Bay and Taranaki Military Settlers and about an equal number of Maoris under Ihaka Whanga and Kopu-parapara. Dr. M. Scott, who was settled at the Wairoa, accompanied Fraser's force as surgeon. An account of the expedition which he wrote in 1890 is of value for its description of old Wairoa and its lively narrative of a first experience under fire:— “In these hurry-scurry days, when great Pan has long been dead,” wrote Dr. Scott, “few people lived nearer Arcadia than we of Te Wairoa, Hawke's Bay, some twenty-five to thirty years ago. Inhabiting comfortable houses, situated on the bank of a magnificent river which in due season supplied us plentifully with fish, while its lagoons and tributaries contributed wild ducks innumerable, and the forest fringing its banks pigeons and Maori game without end; surrounded by, and not on too intimate terms with our Maori landlords and their hapus, who raised wheat and other produce in large quantities, and were then an industrious, happy community, we contentedly ground our flour in our improvised steel windmills, procured our modest supplies of luxuries (otherwise unattainable) twice annually, through my friend Mr. Carroll, from Napier, and, newspaper-, law-, and lawyer-less, lived on happily and took little thought for the morrow. And for many years our intercourse with our native friends was genial and sincere on both sides. They invariably resorted to us in great trouble or calamity which threatened or assailed their quiet, domestic life, consulted us in their little ailments, and gratefully appreciated page 131 any kindness rendered them, while I verily believe that all they had, including themselves, was, so to speak, at our behest and service. Indeed, with the exception of a rare squabble among themselves, in which we were never implicated, we lived very peacefully and happily together—Ngati-Kahungunu and ourselves—Maori and pakeha. But as the years wore on there gradually fell a shadow between us. Distrust usurped slowly and by degrees the olden confidence; and the Maori King (who has now virtually followed Pan, but unlamented) became an entity in Waikato. “Events followed quickly. Our quondam landlords and their tribes sold their lands—which was the beginning of evil for our Utopia—and swallowed the proceeds, mostly. Some acres remained, represented by ships which were lost or rotted on the beach, and mills which never saw erection, but were destroyed together with much goodly produce during the ensuing troublous times. From being peaceable, industrious, and at times ridiculously abstinent, the Ngati-Kahungunu at Wairoa became turbulent, drunken, and ripe for mischief, while the Hauhau devilry was brewing in their midst. “About this time (1865) I was resident at Wairoa with my wife and family, and not a little anxious as to the possible result of affairs, disquieting rumorus coming in hourly, the surrounding hills nightly resplendent with signal fires, and our only effective European force consisting of some sixteen men, while the immediately local natives were not only untrustworthy but bounceable to a degree. I was not a little pleased one morning to hear the unwonted sound of a Light Infantry bugle waking the unaccustomed echoes, and was soon shaking hands with the officers of the East Coast Expeditionary Force, who, under their gallant chief, Fraser, had stemmed and swept before them the swelling tide of fanaticism from the East Coast southward to where they stood. From these brave gentlemen and soldiers I soon learned that, nolens volens, I was expected now to seek the time-honoured ‘bubble’ even at the rifle's mouth—to which I was, however, more inclined inasmuch as I had found an old schoolfellow among them, who so infected me with the desire to see a little service in the bush that I gladly acquiesed and joined forthwith. lsquo;Besides, you know,’ drawled Norman (Taranaki No. 9 Company Military Settlers: we used to call him ‘Cupid,’), ‘our medico was badly hit at Waerenga-a-Hika, and we must have pills.’ “Behold me, then, a sufficiently unwarlike individual from the banks of the sedgy Cam, with a revolver on hip and haversack full of surgical sundries on back, trudging along, about midway in a line of some 250 fine fellows, rangers, settlers, and Maoris, with an irrespressible and loquacious little Irish orderly tortting alongside, who also bears a satchel with bandages, &c., and all singing ‘Old John Brown,’ at the top of our manageable voices until we drop into some dense manuka scrub, which exercises its influence upon the upper notes; and then ford a creek breast-high, which seems to wash out the vocal ability altogether. “A bugle sounded ahead, and Lieutenant St. George and I went on at the double to have a look at the Hauhau niu, or sacred flagstaff, which, together with its circular site and settlement surrounding it, the Hauhaus had abandoned at our approach, removing, however, only to the opposite bank of the river which flowed beneath the natural mound and plateau upon which it was erected. Thence they shouted, and exhibited defiance after the Maori manner, but hitherto no shot had been fired, though the men, in extended order, were loaded, alert, and ready. “We utilized the niu at once as a means of signalling to the enemy, and Hamlin's white handkerchief having been hoisted as a flag of truce, parleying took place across the river between the native chiefs, friendly and insurgent. But Fraser grew tired of the finessing, and sang out to Hamlin, who was interpreter, ‘Tell them to throw down their arms and page 132 surrender!’ An evasive answer being returned, down came Hamlin's handkerchief, up went the Union Jack (ready bent on), and simultaneously No. 9 gave fire with a tremendous crash, while a mixed force of volunteers, Nos. 3 and 9, and some Maoris, led by Captain Hussey (who was very conspicuous with his ‘solar and sword topee’), accompanied by the narrator, forded the river under cover of the fire from the plateau and entered the valley, at the extremity of which the Hauhau stronghold was supposed to be situated. We sang no ‘John Brown’ now, as we marched somewhat dubiously along a narrow Maori track, bounded on one side by a high fern-clad ridge, and on the other by a deep creek with precipitous banks [the Maru-hakeke]. Crack went a single rifle in front, then another, then three or four, and my attention was claimed by an entirely novel, peculiar, and by no means unmusical singing overhead, while the bugle in advance was rattling away at a great rate. “‘Sure an’ it's the assembly, and the double, sirr!’ said, or rather shouted, my man; and away we went with the rest, while St. George, Richardson (my old schoolfellow), and Biggs tore past us at the top of their speed, shouting out to the men to come on. “And we did go on, urged by an undefinable something which seemed to renew our energies as required during that apparently long and most exciting race. Meanwhile the flute-like whistling overhead became less and less melodious at every step, until at last it increased into an intermittent angry hiss. An unconquerable desire to see the worst, for we guessed our people were getting roughly handled, a rush forward between the thick flax and toetoe bushes, and the scene is all before me. “Right in front, and at about 40 yards distant, hangs a dense, opaque mass of fog and smoke obscuring everything, which is momentarily pierced by tongues of vivid flame. Looking down I see miniature furrows suddenly stricken out of the green sward by invisible ploughs, while the tall toetoe grass drops its head, and the vibrating flax-leaves shrivel up and bend apparently without cause. Around in every conceivable attitude, and availing themselves of all sorts of cover, our men are loading and firing frantically, for there are but few up as yet, and I find I have unwillingly joined the advance-guard, which Richardson informs me of thusly: ‘What the devil are you doing here?’. The opposing fire is very fierce and rapid. But fresh men are arriving every moment, blown, helpless, staggering after their long race; but in a few minutes flat upon the gound or squatting behind a frail screen of manuka or toetoe, and also contributing to the infernal din around us. ”I had already dropped down behind a log and fired a couple of shots from my revolver—not at anybody in particular, but into the hurly-burly of smoke, flame, and yells before me—when I became conscious of a commotion on the extreme left of the position we occupied, and just then, catching sight of Major Fraser, observed that he was beckoning me. It was a perilous run from cover to cover, for the intervening space was fairly swept by the enemy's fire, but I got across unhurt, and arrived just in time to find poor Hussey dying. A shot had crashed literally through his spine, as, sword in hand, he was urging his men on. A few hardly intelligible words, and a true gentleman and brave soldier ceased to exist. ”Don't let the men know, if you can help it,’ Major Fraser said, just as a heavier burst than usual flashed out of the misty thunder-cloud, and Private Hollingsworth toppled over into my arms with a bullet through his shoulder, while the corner-piece of a whare close by went scurrying up in the air. ‘By Jove, this is getting hot,’ Fraser said, as Biggs and Richardson with about thirty men came along at the double, with fixed bayonets, and Bugler Spenser sounding the charge. ‘Stop! Down men, all!’ shouted Fraser; and as his order was instantly obeyed by nearly all, few casualties resulted from the discharge of the second barrels, which page 133 the Maoris had cunningly kept in reserve for the kokiri, or rush, which they dreaded. Only Sergeant Hawes (afterwards Captain of the Taranaki Volunteers), being tall and not quite quick enough, got it through the arm, and incontinently tumbled over. “‘Now,’ shouted Captain Biggs (afterwards murdered at the Poverty Bay massacre) in a temporary lull; and with a yell which was not a cheer, though somewhat akin thereto, the men climbed and swarmed over the intervening fence and entered the village [Omaru-hakeke] with a rush. There was wild and terrible work inside for a few minutes, and then potshots at the fugitives escaping up the hillside which dominated the settlement. Parthian-like, the Hauhaus fled and fought bravely. In the evening we returned to headquarters, bearing our dead and wounded with us, and we burned ploughs and carts and carved houses, also much maize, and split up canoes and did other mischief.”

Among the volunteers from Wairoa in this engagement was Mr. (now Captain) G. A. Preece, who began on the East Coast a career of distinguished soldiering service. In the Christmas Day fight he was with Captain Biggs on the left; his party fired on the enemy as they fled from the frontal attack. Biggs shot one man as he tried to escape up the creek, and one of Biggs's Hawke's Bay volunteers shot another at 300 yards with an old smoothbore musket. On the Government side the killed, besides Captain Hussey, were a half-caste named Wi Christie and one of Pitiera Kopu's Wairoa men. Next morning (26th December) there was another skirmish at the top of the hill overlooking the Omaruhakeke Village. In this encounter only the Mohaka Maoris and Pitiera Kopu's Wairoa natives were engaged on the Government side; Preece accompanied Kopu's men. The rebel leader Te Waru was shot in the wrist. Of the loyalists a Mohaka man received a bullet through the lungs. The whole force moved out later, but the Hauhaus had abandoned their position and retired towards Whataroa.

Early in January an expedition moved out from Wairoa against the enemy, who were entrenched at the top of Tikorangi Hill. They abandoned this position in the night. Major Fraser then decided to return and await Ngati-Porou reinforcements.

The Hauhau faction, after this affair, moved up to the southern side of Waikare-moana Lake, where they remained until the stern and vigorous Ropata Wahawaha appeared on the scene. On the 13th January, 1866, a force of friendly natives led by Ropata and other chiefs, and Major Fraser and several of his officers, had a sharp and successful engagement with a large body of the rebels at Te Kopane, a defile between steep hills clothed with high fern and some bush about twenty-five miles from the Clyde Township at Wairoa.

The Ngati-Porou numbered one hundred and fifty men. The Ngati-Kahungunu, totalling two hundred, were led by Kopu Parapara and the gallant Ihaka Whanga, of Nuhaka and Mahia. page 134 The plan of campaign arranged with Major Fraser was to advance upon Onepoto, where the Waikare-taheke torrent issues from Lake Waikare-moana, and deliver an attack on the Hauhaus, who were known to be in the neighbourhood of that place to the number of several hundred, consisting of many Rongowhakaata men from Poverty Bay, some hapus of Ngati-Kahungunu, Ngati-Ruapani, and Urewera.

Leaving the Wairoa camp on the 9th January and marching by way of Te Tawa, Manu-tawhiorangi, and Te Koareare, the force early on the 13th approached the entrance to an obviously dangerous place where the track ran along the bottom of a valley between two high ridges, a highly suitable spot for an ambuscade. Ropata had pushed on about two miles ahead of the main body, with an advance-guard intently watching the trail. His leading men discovered a footprint in the dust of the track, no doubt that of a Hauhau scout, and passed the word back to Ropata, who called out to them not to tread upon it until he came up. The advance-guard halted and watched a singular war-path rite. Ropata (according to a Ngati-Porou narrative) knelt down and carefully scooped up with both hands the earth bearing the impression of the scout's bare foot and swallowed the whole of it. (In the Maori narrator's words: “Aohia ake nga oneone o te tapuae ra, horomia katoatia ki roto o tona puku.”) This done, he said, addressing his unknown enemy, “Kati noa oti ko to tapuae e pau i au ki roto o taku puku, ko to tinana ano ia ka ngaro atu i au” (“As your footprint has been consumed by me within my stomach, so will your body be destroyed by me”).

This preliminary ceremony satisfactorily performed, the advance-guard was moving forward cautiously, when the first of the foes were descried in the distance on the summit of the height called Raekahu, near the Waikare-taheke River. Ropata ordered a halt until the main body came up, and then allowed Ngati-Kahungunu to take the lead, as it was their district, advising them to fire into places where any enemy was likely to be concealed. This prudent counsel, however, was not followed as the shallow valley at Te Kopane was entered. The Hauhaus were entrenched in rifle-pits and behind earthworks skilfully hidden with fern on the ridges on both flanks of the advance and also directly ahead, where a parapet and firing-trench, not visible at a distance, crossed the flat of the track between the hills. Firing began when this trench was approached, and heavy volleys were poured into the long column of men by Hauhaus in ambush in the fern on either flank. The Ngati-Kahungunu, being crowded closely together, presented a target that could not be missed. Twelve were killed outright by the first volleys, and over a score were wounded. Ngati-Kahungunu were thrown page 135 into confusion and replied ineffectively to the enemy's fire. The fearless veteran Ihaka Whanga rushed to the front, calling on his men to charge, but he was not supported. Making his way through the fern, he fired his carbine at the foe, and next moment was shot just behind the hip. He took a rifle from his nearest man and fired again, and then fell with another bullet in the leg. His tribesmen now rushed forward and carried him to the rear.

A retreat was imminent when Ropata, a master of battlefield tactics, came up and ordered the fern on the right-hand side of the gully to be fired. A strong breeze was blowing in the direction of the well-posted Hauhaus. The dry fern was set alight, and the enemy on that flank were compelled to fall back before the onrolling flames and dense smoke. Ropata then led a rush on the hill, shouting “Kokiri, kokiri! Kua whati, kua whati!” (“Charge, charge! They fly, they fly!”) The rebel Rongowhakaata, hearing that dreaded voice, knew that Ngati-Porou were upon them, and took to flight. Ropata dashed up in pursuit of the retreating Hauhaus and found their camp on the summit of Raekahu Mountain, where some of the people were captured.

The enemy made no further stand, but fled towards Onepoto, near the outlet of Lake Waikare-moana. There most of them manned canoes and took shelter on the north side of the lake, where they were secure from further pursuit. Those less swift of foot were captured in the bush or on the shore of the lake.

Ropata and Hotene proposed to Ngati-Kahungunu that Hauhau members of that tribe captured should be spared, but that any men of the Ngati-Porou, Urewera, or Rongowhakaata taken should be killed in order to prevent rebellious assemblages of tribes from outside districts. The Wairoa chiefs Kopu and Paora te Apatu, however, demanded also the execution of any Wairoa Maoris found in the Hauhau band, and accordingly Ropata shot with his revolver the principal prisoner, Te Tuatini Tamaionarangi, a high chief of the Ngati-Kahungunu. Some sixty Hauhaus were killed in the day's fighting; of the friendly natives fourteen were killed, including Rawiri Hika-rukutai, who was Ropata's uncle, and between twenty and thirty were wounded. The only Europeans engaged at Te Kopane, besides Major Fraser, were Lieutenant St. George (Colonial Defence Force Cavalry), Mr. E. Towgood (who was a volunteer with Ihaka Whanga's natives), Mr. Richard J. Deighton, and Major Fraser's two servants and an orderly.

This decisive battle broke the Pai-marire rebellion in the Wairoa district. Ngati-Porou, to whom the success was wholly due, returned to their homes at Tuparoa and Waiapu, and remained at peace until they were called upon to take the field against Te Kooti in 1868.

page 136
From a drawing, 1866] Scene of the Engagement at Omarunui, Hawke's Bay

From a drawing, 1866]
Scene of the Engagement at Omarunui, Hawke's Bay