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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 244


THE REPULSE AT Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, the loss of valuable officers, and the disgust in the ranks at the mismanagement of the expedition had reduced McDonnell's field force to a state of disorganization and semi-mutiny. Many good men left the force in disgust; the Wanganui Kupapas returned to their homes strongly impressed by Titokowaru's mana, and the troops remaining in Taranaki were so weakened that it became imperative to shorten the front, and in the end to withdraw from the occupied country north of Patea. McDonnell's reverse, with its train of misfortunes for the Government cause on the West Coast, seriously embarrassed the Ministry in power (Mr. Stafford's Cabinet), which was hard put to it not only for funds, but for men to serve in the field. McDonnell resigned, after withdrawing the whole of the force to Patea, but fortunately a good soldier was found to take his place, a man of energy and initiative, with a professional training which McDonnell lacked. This was Colonel George Whitmore, who had arrived from the scene of the first operations against Te Kooti on the East Coast. There was some slight skirmishing before McDonnell gave up the command, and the Hauhaus spread over the country, menacing the communications and cutting off stragglers. Waihi and Manawapou camps were abandoned in September, and the redoubt at Kakaramea was also evacuated.

An incident of the withdrawal to Patea from the plains was a skirmish at Turangarere, near Manutahi, complicated by two Government detachments firing on each other. A force of sixty men, under Captain Smith, was on the way from Patea to Manawapou to shift the camp stores, while a down convoy of about fifty was advancing from the opposite direction. The detachment from Patea sighted a body of armed Maoris on Turangarere Hill; the Hauhaus were coming down to burn the bridge over one of the streams. The Maoris fell back firing, and just then the convoy from Manawapou arrived, and, mistaking the Patea detachment for Maoris, shot and killed one of them. Describing the affair William Wallace (ex-sergeant No. 2 page 245
J. Cowan, sketch-plan, 1921] The Battlefield of Moturoa

J. Cowan, sketch-plan, 1921]
The Battlefield of Moturoa

This plan of the scene of the Moturoa or Papa-tihakehake engagement (1868) shows the site of the Maori stockade, as described on the ground by Tu-Patea te Rongo, who fought there on the Hauhau side. Other map details were furnished by Colonel Roberts, N.Z.C., and Mr. William Wallace.

page 246 Division A.C.) said: “I was in Captain Smith's company from Patea. The Maoris fell back from the crest of Turangarere as we advanced, and while they did so and while we were ascending the gentle southern slope of the hill the Manawapou convoy was approaching from the opposite side. Our advance-parties suddenly sighted each other and opened fire, and we were also under the Maori fire. Our leading man was Smith, one of Von Tempsky's veterans, and as soon as he reached the brow of the hill he was shot in mistake. Each force of troops thought the other was a Maori war-party. As for the Hauhaus themselves, they were on our right front; we gradually drove them back, and went through to Manawapou. That day the Hauhaus burned down the whare of Mr. Maxwell, a settler in the district.”

At Kakaramea the Hauhaus came down and attacked the redoubt built there after the attack on Turuturu-mokai. They fired heavily into the place at night. The flashes of the guns were seen at Patea camp, and rockets were sent up, a prearranged signal system, asking whether the Kakaramea garrison was in need of help. The reply, with rocket, was that no assistance was required. When the post was abandoned the Kakaramea Hotel was burned.

It became necessary for the outlying military settlers to come into Patea, and the abandoned huts of the pioneers, like some of the redoubts, were speedily burned by the Hauhaus. One man was cut off. This was Alexander McCulloch, who was mate with another military settler, R. B. Hamilton, of Manawapou. When William Wallace, Hamilton, and other soldier settlers abandoned their farms in October, 1868, and the troops left the district, McCulloch did not come in. Long afterwards the story of his death was gathered from the Maoris. He was chased, and hid in the raupo swamp below Turangarere Hill.* The Hauhaus page 247 searched, but could not find him. They discovered his two dogs and shot them. McCulloch when he heard the shot could not resist crying out in his place of concealment among the reeds, and a volley was fired into the raupo. He was crouching with only his nose and mouth above the surface of the water. The volley killed him, but the Maoris could not find his body, and it was long afterwards that his bones were discovered in the swamp.

Colonel Whitmore, on assuming command at Patea, set vigorously to work to reorganize the small force at his disposal. The levies from Wellington and Nelson took their discharge and went home; Von Tempsky's division (No. 5) had been disbanded, and all that was left as a nucleus of a new field force were No. 1 Division A.C. from Napier, fifty strong, and the remnants of Nos. 2 and 3 Divisions. Titokowaru had abandoned Te Ngutu-o-te-manu and marched south, gathering the Pakakohi and Ngati-Hine Tribes as he advanced, and after a stay at Otoia pa crossed the Patea River and established himself in a new camp which presently became the objective of Whitmore's attack. There was a preliminary demonstration at Otoia on the 21st October; a newly raised contingent of Wanganui Maoris marched out, and some Armstrong shells were thrown at the Hauhaus on their hill post at a range of 1,200 yards.

Whitmore got rid of all the irregular troops, resolving to work only in future with enlisted men, and he urged the Government that in future all recruits should be enrolled in the Armed Constabulary and not as temporary volunteers.

At the beginning of November it was discovered that Titokowaru with his conquering Tekau-ma-rua had reached the Waitotara River, gathering in the Hauhaus of the Nga-Rauru Tribe as his followers, and that the settlers on the lower part of the river had narrowly escaped slaughter. Whitmore thereupon transferred his heaquarters to Wairoa (now the Town of Waverley) with all the available Armed Con tabulary (only seventy at that date) and some Patea Volunteers, besides some Kupapas. His object was to prevent Titokowaru making raids into the settled districts south of the Waitotara. At Wairoa the settlers had enrolled in a corps of militia and built a good redoubt. The Wairoa company numbered about sixty, under Captain Hawes. This officer, who became of great service to Whitmore because of his knowledge of the country, reported that Titokowaru had now fixed his camp at Moturoa (“Long Bush”), between three and four miles inland of Wairoa, on the level land below Okotuku Hill, the scene of an engagement in 1866 in General Chute's campaign. The Colonel determined to attack at once before the Hauhaus had time to erect a strong fortification.

page 248

Recruits for the Armed Constabulary were now coming in, and a newly raised company, No. 6 Division, 100 men, arrived at Wairoa on the 6th November, coming up late in the afternoon when Whitmore had decided upon an attack before daybreak next morning. The Colonel was greatly pleased with the appearance and eager spirit of the new division, and with the captain in command, J. M. Roberts, who had distinguished himself on the retreat from Te Ngutu-o-te-manu three months previously. Roberts's division were mostly young fellows from Auckland and the Thames goldfields, with a number of men who had already seen service. “The Young Brigade,” as it came to be called, was ready for action in spite of the sea voyage and the long hot march, but Whitmore told Roberts that as his men were tired from their march he would want them only as a “moral support” on the expedition against Moturoa. As it happened, No. 6 was called upon to take a leading part in the operations.

At midnight, in misty, showery weather, the attacking column marched from Wairoa inland in the direction of Moturoa and Okotuku. Whitmore's force consisted of detachments of Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 6 Divisions of Armed Constabulary, some Patea Rifles, Patea Cavalry (dismounted), Wairoa Militia, and a contingent of Wanganui Maoris under Captain Kepa te Rangihiwinui. The European portion of the force numbered about two hundred and fifty; there were some three hundred Wanganui Maoris, but only seventy of these, under Kepa, entered the fight. Shortly before daylight (7th November) the Colonel halted about three miles from the camp, on rising ground outside the bush called Moturoa, and directed Captain Hawes to use his Militia in throwing up a small earthwork as a protection if the force was compelled to retire and to form a reserve to guard the ammunition. The force left blankets and haversacks at this point, and then moved on cautiously towards the bush. No. 6 Division, carrying ammunition, was to have remained there, but was now required in the bush operations.

The road entered the bush and high tutu scrub by a cleared bullock-track 12 feet wide. This tract of timber was a narrow belt of tall bush, largely rata, extending like a long tongue from the forest on the east—the right flank of the advance—towards the Kohi Valley on the west, and masking the partly cleared ground on which the Maori camp was built. The terrain was the watershed between the Kohi Stream (which flows into the Whenuakura) and the Mou-mahaki (a tributary of the Waitotara). A very short distance separates the valleys of the two rivers at this place. On the left flank as the troops marched out to Moturoa the wooded valley of the Kohi was skirted, and as the Hauhau position was approached the deep precipitous gorge of the Ngutuwera page 249 opened up on the left front. A small wooded gully, where a little watercourse has its source, was in the right rear of the Maori camp, and a level expanse of forest land spread out on the right. In rear again, about a mile away, was the high wooded tableland of Okotuku.

The Maori fortifications were in an incomplete state when the attack was delivered, and had the place been reconnoitred properly beforehand the issue might have been very different. One of Titokowaru's warriors, Tu-Patea te Rongo, describing on the spot the details of the battle, said:—

“I helped to build this pa, which after the battle became known as Papa-tihakehake, because of the events on the battleground when the place was strewn with the dead Europeans. Before it was constructed we had a temporary settlement here with some potato cultivations. Our war-leader, Titokowaru, came down from Te Putahi and inspected the village, which stood yonder, just on the edge of the gully. He had a foreboding that we would be attacked here by the soldiers, and he ordered us to fortify the place and protect our large cultivations, because he said he was sure the pakeha scouts would find us sooner or later. So we set to work—felled and split timber and dug trenches, and made earthworks. We had been at work four days when we were attacked, and did not have time to finish the fortifications. We had only one side done, besides three taumaihi (towers or redoubts), one in the elbow of the work and one at each corner. The palisade on the south side was the only line finished; the second stockade of timbers on this line had not been completed when the troops found our retreat. The pa was not closed in; the stockade erected commenced above the gully on the west, running east to this roadway, and then turning slightly and continuing towards the edge of the standing bush. The length was about 5 chains.”

The front of the pa presented a concave face to the approaching attackers; some of those who reached the place described it as roughly half-moon in shape. The western wing of the stockade was about 2 chains in length, and the main line 3 chains, extending towards the thick belt of forest on the east. (The line of this main defence is now intersected at right angles by the road which runs north-north-east towards Okotuku.) In rear of the defences were the nikau and fern-tree huts of the Hauhaus, with their cultivations on either side of the head of the gully. The stockade for the greater part was a single fence, built of heavy split timbers and whole tree-trunks, set 3 or 4 feet in the ground and standing 12 feet high. Within this palisade was a trench 6 feet wide and 6 feet deep, with traverses and fire-step and a parapet. At each end of the stockading and in the angle page 250
J. C., 1921] Sketch of the Moturoa Battlefield

J. C., 1921]
Sketch of the Moturoa Battlefield

Okotuku, on the high ground looking north from Moturoa, was the scene of fighting in 1866, when Major-General Chute's force captured a Maori position. (See page 62.)

where the two wings joined, a strong taumaihi or redoubt-like tower had been erected, an item of defence partly borrowed from the design of pakeha redoubts; this kind of bastion was afterwards used in the building of Tauranga-ika pa. Each taumaihi was a small fort in itself. Tu-Patea described it as roughly circular in figure, built of earth and layers of fern in the usual manner of field-works; it was about 15 feet in diameter and 20 feet in height. Timber ladder-ways gave access to the top, and the sides were palisaded and loopholed. Each of these small redoubts would hold about twenty men, and could be used both as watch-tower and as citadel. It was reached by a covered way from the main trench. The taumaihi at the eastern end was held by the Ngati-Hine Tribe; their principal warrior was Paraone Tutere, an experienced old fighter and a good shot. The middle tower was garrisoned by the Tangahoe men, and the south-west one, just above the edge of the gully, by Ngati-Ruanui. The whares and food-stores of the garrison were grouped on the bank of the gully near this spot.
page 251

We return now to Whitmore's attacking column, which advanced at grey dawn along the avenue through the bush and took cover behind logs and stumps and in the edge of the bush, waiting for the order to charge. Whitmore detached No. 1 Division and the contingent of Wanganui Kupapas under Kepa to move round to the right of the pa, directing them to get close up to the palisade and attack it on that flank while the main body assaulted in front. No. 6 followed the other divisions after a short halt outside. Roberts was at the edge of the bush with his “Young Brigade” when Major Hunter passed him with his division detailed for the storming of the pa. As Hunter passed he said to Roberts, “Follow me up like the devil!”. No. 6 was at first extended on the left, but quickly was in the thick of the assault. A signal had been arranged when Kepa and No. 1 Divisions were in position on the right.

Meanwhile the defenders of Moturoa were on the alert. Their sentries were in the taumaihi before dawn, and that hero of many fights Katene Tu-whakaruru, was the first to catch sight of Whitmore's advance-guard as it emerged from the bush. It was a damp, misty morning, and the figures were indistinctly seen moving from tree to tree and sinking down into cover. Katene quietly warned his comrades, and in a very few moments the trench and taumaihi were crowded with warriors, waiting with death-like silence for the soldiers' charge.

Whitmore, crouching behind a stump at the edge of the ragged clearing, noticed that no dogs barked, and that there was no sign of the women moving to collect firewood as was customary in a Maori kainga in the early morning; and other officers shrewdly surmised that the Hauhaus had been forewarned. Kepa and his men (fifty Wanganui natives, besides twenty-five of No. 1 A.C.) were on the edge of the clearing on the extreme right of the pa, where the long palisade could be seen extending westward to the broken ground. In front of the pa and on the right the ground was covered with low fern and with stumps and burnt logs; on the left there was a tangled tract of low bush on the edge of the gully.

At last the signal for the assault was given, and Major Hunter rushed for the palisades with his storming-party of fifty Armed Constabulary (No. 3) and some of the Patea men. Hunter, who was determined to refute the unjust aspersions cast on his soldierly honour after Turuturu-mokai, had requested the duty of leading this forlorn hope. The Maoris waited until the first of the stormers were within 10 or 12 yards of the stockade, and then opened fire in a thunderous volley. The whole front of the pa blazed. “I never saw the like of that sheet of fire,” said a survivor of the party. “Men went down all round me.” Whitmore page 252
Major Kepa (Kemp) te Rangihiwinui, N.Z.C.

Major Kepa (Kemp) te Rangihiwinui, N.Z.C.

Kepa, who was Captain of the Wanganui native contingent in the Battle of Moturoa, was awarded the New Zealand Cross for his gallantry. He was the best of the Wanganui Maori soldiers who fought on the Government side, 1865–70, and was regarded by his pakeha fellow-officers as an able and skilful leader. He was one of several native officers who received swords of honour from Queen Victoria.

was with the stormers. Hunter, seeking a likely spot to enter the work, ran on past the front of the palisade and had just passed the eastern angle when he was shot down by Paraone Tutere from the taumaihi which formed the bastion at that end of the unfinished fortification. Others fell before the fire of the well-hidden Hauhaus, and soon there were a dozen men lying dead or wounded on the bullet-swept open ground. Kepa did not get page 253 far towards the rear, and returned to Hunter's help; several of his men were hit in the close-quarters firing at this point.

Roberts with his No. 6 Division now came up in support. When he was waiting for the word to charge in, the young commander formed up his men and said to them, “Now, when you see me do that,” and he held up his carbine, “you all follow me, and every man for himself till you get across to the other side—don't look behind you!” The word was given, and No. 6 ran the gauntlet of the Hauhau fire across the open ground and reached the eastern end of the stockade. The men dropped to cover behind logs and stumps and were at once hotly engaged, holding the position after the stormers had been repulsed.

The fighting on the right flank was now fierce and deadly. Hunter had been shot in a vital place, the femoral artery, and it was impossible to stanch the wound. He was only 8 or 10 feet from the stockade corner when he fell, just in the act of turning to the nearest men to bid them take cover. He died very soon after being carried off and laid under a mahoe tree. The rescue of his body from the Maori tomahawks was a gallant deed. Several men were wounded in the attempt, but Captain Gudgeon, Privates Kelly and Foote, and one or two others succeeded in getting him clear of the palisades.

Whitmore soon came to the conclusion—a quite erroneous one—that the pa was too strong to be taken, and he ordered a retirement. This was carried out with judgment and gallantry, and more than one New Zealand Cross was earned that day.

When the bugle sounded the “Retire” the Maoris left the shelter of their stockade and fire-trenches and charged out to skirmish with their foes in the open. One Hauhau was shot down—the natives declare that he was the only man of the defenders who was killed that day—after a desperate rush on the troops with his tomahawk. This was an old tattooed savage, Te Waka-taparuru; he leaped right over the palisade from the inner parapet and dashed on his foes in a fit of whakamomori (recklessness). Here, as at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, the battle-rite of the whangai-hau was observed. The body of the second Constabulary man killed—shot by Pikirapu, of Ngati-Hine—was lying close to the stockade at the eastern bastion. The young warrior Tihirua (otherwise Te Rangi-puaweawe) rushed out with his tomahawk, and making three great cuts in the dead man's breast thrust in his hand and tore out the heart. This was the mawe of the battlefield. At his waist, buckled to the flax girdle, was a leather pouch, such as was generally used for carrying percussion caps; in this he had some matches. Tu-Patea te Rongo described the ceremony which followed:—

“I saw Tihirua light a match and hold it underneath the page 254 slain soldier's heart, which he held up in his left hand. As the flame of the match singed the heart the paoa (smoke) rose into the air. The old man Tu-mahuki, who had rushed out with Tihirua, watched this intently, for it was a divinement to determine the issue of the battle. The smoke rose and drifted out from the pa in the direction of the soldiers. Then Tu-mahuki cried ‘Kokiri!’! (‘Charge!’) and we all rushed out and engaged the pakehas in the open. Had the smoke of the burnt sacrifice been blown towards the stockade it would have been an evil omen for us; the fort would have fallen to the enemy. There was very little wind, but what there was sent the paoa towards the soldiers, and by that token we knew that we should be the victors. Tihirua, his divination ended, cast the human heart away to one side as a taumahatanga, a sacred offering to the gods. After Tihirua's ceremony we charged determinedly upon the enemy. We skirmished with them in the bush, and I shot five men there that day.”

After holding the position on the east flank of the pa until the wounded had been carried off through the bush, Nos. 1 and 6 Divisions retired in excellent order, fighting a hard rearguard action. No. 1, as Whitmore reported, retired through the bush with great regularity and order, and then No. 6 covered the retreat. Each division halted in turn and kept the Maoris in check while the others withdrew through it. Colonel Roberts, describing this operation, said: “I came across Goring there; he fought well that day. I said to him, ‘You try this billet for a change.’ ‘All right, mate,’ replied Goring, in his drawling way, and he coolly and competently commanded his division in turn in holding the rear.” Colonel Whitmore in his account praised Roberts and his young soldiers for their share of the operation: “No. 6, retiring skirmishing, was now attacked by the enemy almost all along the line, and nearly hand-to-hand. Through the jungle the voice of the gallant commander rang out continually, ‘Be steady, my men, stick together,’ and each time a cheery reply, ‘We will, sir,’ might have been heard in answer from the ‘Young Division.’”

Meanwhile on the west flank a small detachment of No. 2 Division, all of them veterans of either colonial or Imperial service, were engaged in sharp fighting with a considerable body of Hauhaus outside the pa. This part of the day's work was described on the battlefield (1921) by one of the survivors, Mr.

Meanwhile on the west flank a small detachment of No. 2 Division. He said:—

“When we marched out from Wairoa a detachment of us, numbering twenty-two, under Captain George McDonnell and Sergeant Bassett, was sent off to the left flank to engage the page 255
Mr. William Wallace, a Veteran of Moturoa

Mr. William Wallace, a Veteran of Moturoa

William Wallace (who was the son of an Imperial soldier) served from 1865 to 1869 in the colonial forces, and fought in some of the heaviest actions of the Hauhau wars. He was a sergeant in No. 2 Division, Armed Constabulary, at the close of the campaign. His narrative of the Moturoa engagement is given in this chapter.

Maoris on that side (near the west end of the pa, above the gully). The object was to keep the Hauhaus from working round through the gully on that side and outflanking us. We had some hot fighting there. We fired across the fern and tutu that filled the valley. Whenever we saw a puff of smoke we fired at the spot, and the Hauhaus kept up a fire as sharp as ours. I never saw the pa at all that day; we were quite close to it, but some bush and scrub intervened: our special job kept us quite busy enough. Our officer and the sergeant left us early in the action and joined the rest of the force, and we were left there long after the retreat of the main body began. We were quite without orders, so had to carry on the fight to the best of our own judgment. Corporal Talty took charge of us—he was the senior non-com. left—and he deserved the New Zealand Cross for his gallant and skilful work that day. Talty was a veteran Irish soldier, late of the 57th Regiment, with page 256 Crimean and Indian Mutiny service. He had fought in the bush battle at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu after joining the colonial force. Our small detachment of No. 2 Division was a picked body of men; all of us had seen a good deal of service, and several were old Imperial soldiers. The lance-corporals beside myself were R. B. Hamilton (now of Manawapou) and George Cooper (who died recently in Auckland); the constables (privates) included Anderson and Savage (missing), M. Gill and H. McLean (both survivors of the Turuturu-mokai defence), Stewart, John Dunn (an old Forest Ranger), Charles Timms, and Dennis Coffey (ex-57th Regiment). Captain Scannell was in command of No. 2 Division, but he was not at Moturoa. After holding the edge of the gully for a considerable time we fought our way out, and we held the edge of the bush after the rearguard had gone on; in fact, we were really the rearguard—the others did not know we were there. Corporal Talty handled us as coolly as if he were on parade. We retired by sections, each one in turn keeping the enemy engaged while the other reloaded and retired a certain distance. Of our twenty-two, about twelve, including those I have named, fought out with us at the end; most of the others had retired early. We lost Anderson and Savage on the retreat. No one knew exactly what became of them; no one saw them fall. They probably were shot, and were lost in the thick fern and scrub. If we had remained a little while longer in the bush our small detachment would have been done for, as the Maoris were nearly all round us. It was Hamilton who went out first and came back and told us the retreat had begun. As we fought our way out of the scrub and fern we were so far behind the rest that the friendly Maoris on the parapet hill (just west of the present road about three-quarters of a mile from the pa) made sure we were the Hauhaus and opened fire on us. The Hauhaus were now in possession of the belt of bush on our left, and they kept a close and hot fire on us, so we were under the bullets of foe and friend alike. The Hauhaus followed us towards Wairoa, and some of them burned down the settler Ritchie's whare, near the Mangatangi Creek (where the dam now is for the Waverley electric-light supply, three-quarters of a mile from the township). The force brought out an Armstrong field-gun from the redoubt and fired a few shells at them, and they retreated.

“I had only two rounds of ammunition left when I got out to the open, besides the one in my Terry carbine. I remember that I tried to put one of these in, thinking I'd be able to sit up and have a final smack at the Hauhaus if I was wounded, when I found my carbine already loaded. I fired close on sixty rounds in that day's fight.

page 257

“The first man shot at Moturoa was Sergeant Kirwin (No. 6 Division A.C.), who was accidentally wounded on the morning march into the bush; a comrade's Enfield rifle, carried at full cock, went off and struck him in the back of the neck. He was put on a stretcher to be carried out, but he was left in the retreat, and the Maoris got him and killed him.”

No. 2 Division brought out two badly wounded men who had been left on the bush track. One of these was very gallantly recovered by Lance-Corporals Hamilton and Cooper and Private Monrod, who went back for him on hearing from a man, who ran on, that there was a wounded man down the track.

The retreat of the force emboldened the Hauhaus to follow them almost to Wairoa. When the various detachments had reached the entrenchment on the hill held by Captain Hawes, Whitmore re-formed the divisions, and ordered the commanders to retire slowly by fours along the Wairoa Road. Alternately each division from the front extended, knelt down, and prepared to relieve the rearguard as it retired skirmishing, and as each rearguard passed its relief it formed fours again and rejoined the column. Carts had been sent for to Wairoa to take away the numerous wounded. The last man wounded was one of the Wanganui Maoris who was sitting down at the parapet on the hill; the bullet (which penetrated his lungs) had been fired at Lance-Corporal Wallace, of No. 2. Captain Roberts had a narrow escape after reaching the entrenchment. An ounce bullet from one of the pursuing Maoris struck the side of the plate on the butt of his carbine, which he was carrying at the trail. The force of the blow was such that it sent him down on his knees. The Armstrong guns were brought out from the Wairoa Redoubt about three-quarters of a mile and opened fire, and most of the Hauhaus then drew off, but several daring spirits followed the troops out so far that some of their bullets fell in the redoubt.

The return of the victorious Hauhaus to their palisaded camp was a scene of terrible savage exultation. They came in dancing, yelling, shouting war-songs, and brandishing the arms and equipment of the slain soldiers. The dead Constabulary men were collected and dragged to the camp, stripped of their uniforms, and then burned in a great funeral pyre—all but one body, which was eaten. Tu-Patea te Rongo, who was in the forefront of the day's hot work, thus described that cannibal meal:—

“I saw the body of one of the soldiers cut up, cooked, and eaten. The body was hauled in behind the fence and cooked in a big hangi, as a sheep would be cooked. Some of our old warriors cut off the legs and part of the breast for their meal, and hung up other parts of the man-meat in a tree for future use. We young men were filled with wonder and fear when page 258 we saw the elders seated there feasting on the human flesh. There were five of them at least whom I knew—men who had previously eaten human flesh in the old Maori wars. Titokowaru did not share in this man-eating; nor would he allow those who participated in it to come near him at meal-times, for this would infringe his tapu. Timoti, of Nga-Rauru, was one of them; Tama-kanohi was another. The old tattooed tohunga Tautahi Ariki also ate a portion of the soldier's body. The reason why we young men did not share in this kaitangata meal was that we were afraid of the wairua (the spirits) of the dead soldiers.”

It appears probable, from accounts gathered, that the body cooked and eaten was that of a young man named Kenealy, of No. 3 Division A.C.; he had been a private in Captain Palmer's Patea Rifle Volunteers, and had fought at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. William Kelly, a veteran of No. 3, stated that he saw Kenealy fall close to the palisades in the first assualt, and the Maoris dragged him off; he was a fine young fellow of about twenty-one.

So ended the Battle of Moturoa, the worst reverse the troops had suffered in the West Coast war. It certainly was Whitmore's one great blunder. The hard-fighting little Colonel made few mistakes in the after-campaigns; Moturoa was a ghastly and effective lesson. An officer who distinguished himself in the rearguard action says: “I could never understand why we left the Maori position at Moturoa so soon. We had the day before us. We should have surrounded it and stayed there. Losing a few men was no reason for retreating; we should have stuck to it. It was bad management—you couldn't blame the men; they all behaved well. I don't know to this day why we retreated. We would not have had a better fighting-ground. We were only three miles and a half from our base; we had a good force and plenty of ammunition. It was easy country, mostly open and level, and only a little bush. Te Ngutu-o-te-manu was different; there we were far from our base in dense bush. Guns could easily have been taken in along the bullock-track through the belt of bush right up to the Moturoa clearing.”

Another veteran of the engagement says: “Undoubtedly Colonel Whitmore made a great mistake in retiring from Moturoa so soon in the day. If we had to retreat we should have waited till dark. We should have stayed there. We always put the set on the Hauhaus when we stayed with them in the bush and fought it out.”

Whitmore in his despatch greatly underestimated his losses. According to his account the returns showed: Killed, 5; wounded, 20; missing, 11, of whom 3 were killed. As a matter of fact, all the missing were killed. A veteran says: “My estimate page 259 of our casualties at Moturoa is thirty-three killed, wounded, and missing; the Maoris got at least a dozen of these.”

Another veteran (No. 3 Division) said: “We left twenty-six men on the field at Moturoa.”

Colonel W. E. Gudgeon, asked for his estimate of the casualties, said: “For the numbers engaged Moturoa was the most desperate engagement fought in the Maori War. My line of charge was on Hunter's right flank, and we had good cover, but I had two killed and five wounded out of say, forty Maoris. Whitmore's return did not give nearly our casualties. I made it at the time fifty-two out of fewer than two hundred actually engaged.”

Still another estimate gives the numbers as—Killed and missing, 19; wounded, 20, including 5 Wanganui natives.

Colonel Whitmore now decided to fall back behind the Waitotara River in order to place his force between Titokowaru and the Wanganui out-settlements. Leaving No. 1 Division and some other men to defend Patea, he crossed the Waitotara and took post at Nukumaru, where he formed an entrenched camp. The Wairoa Redoubt was occupied by the local settler-volunteers, and was victualled for a month. The Weraroa Redoubt, overlooking the Waitotara, was garrisoned by fifty Militia from Wanganui.

Whitmore wrote to the Defence Minister offering to resign, but the Government decided to support him in his command. The position at this juncture was exceedingly critical. Titokowaru continued his victorious march, and commenced an elaborate fortification on the edge of the bush at Tauranga-ika, on Whitmore's front, commanding an outlook over the coast lands for many miles. Whitmore had at Nukumaru only about one hundred and sixty men, including No. 6 Division. However, recruits soon began to come in, and the Defence Minister arrived at Whitmore's headquarters, followed by a new division of Armed Constabulary, No. 7, under Sub-Inspector (Captain) Brown. The Weraroa garrison was heavily fired into at night, and the Wanganui lads under Captain Powell replied, keeping up a fire all night, and behaving with admirable coolness and confidence considering that it was their first fight. Whitmore, however, considered the redoubt not worth retaining, owing to the difficulty of keeping up communications across Titokowaru's front, and the Defence Minister (Colonel Haultain) accordingly ordered it to be evacuated. All stores that would otherwise fall into the hands of the Hauhaus were ordered to be destroyed. Fortunately for Whitmore's small force, with its untrained recruits, and for the Wanganui settlements, Titokowaru remained inactive, contenting himself for the present with making his army comfortable at Tauranga-ika.

page 260

Whitmore had increased his force at Nukumaru camp to 350, and was busy drilling the recruits, when he suddenly received (in the middle of November) imperative orders from the Defence Minister to fall back with all his troops to the south side of the Kai-iwi River, and so dispose them as to hold that line of defence. The reason for this unexpected and, in fact, astonishing order was not made known to the Colonel at the time, but he carried out the Government's instructions, and then was informed that Te Kooti and his Chatham Island escapees had raided Poverty Bay and massacred many of the inhabitants. It was necessary to take the field at once against these men, and the defence of the West Coast against Titokowaru was left to the local forces, with some Armed Constabulary and the two companies of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment in garrison at Wanganui. After assisting the settlers on the Waitotara and at Nukumaru to remove their stock and other property, Whitmore hastily arranged the defences along the Kai-iwi, ordered out all the available cavalry to communicate with Wairoa Redoubt, which was found satisfactorily garrisoned and supplied, and then prepared for the East Coast campaign. The only posts remaining under the British flag from the Wai-ngongoro to the Kai-iwi, a distance of fifty miles, were Patea and Wairoa, which commanded only the ground within range of their rifles; all the countryside, with the homes of scores of settlers, was given up to the Hauhaus.

For the patrolling of the Wanganui frontier line Whitmore placed his chief reliance on the two local Cavalry Volunteer corps, one troop under Captain Finnimore and the other (the Kai-iwi Cavalry) under Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) John Bryce. These mounted corps, largely composed of farmers and their sons, proved highly competent. Of Bryce's troop Colonel Whitmore wrote that it was “for all the duties of frontier mounted infantry absolutely perfect.” John Bryce was destined to occupy a distinguished place in New Zealand politics; and in Finnimore's troop rode John Ballance, afterwards Premier of the colony. These yeomanry cavalry bodies actively scouted the border, occasionally skirmishing with Titokowaru's raiders and preventing many homesteads from being looted and burned. One of the small encounters in front of Tauranga-ika was close to Mr. John Handley's wool-shed on the flat at Nukumaru. Here some youths from the pa, out foraging, were engaged in killing geese when a party of the Kai-iwi Cavalry, headed by Sergeant-Major Maxwell, came down on them and sabred or shot six. A few weeks later Maxwell himself was mortally wounded under the palisades of Tauranga-ika.

On the 2nd December, 1868, Colonel Whitmore left Wanganui by steamer for Poverty Bay with 212 Armed Constabulary. page 261 During his absence large reinforcements arrived at Wanganui, and the Armed Constabulary camp at Westmere was a scene of daily drilling in preparation for the renewal of the campaign against Titokowaru. Meanwhile an expedition northward was made by Colonel William Lyon and Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell. Lyon fired some Armstrong shells into the Tauranga-ika stockade, and then marched on to Wairoa and Patea, inspecting the garrisons and finding all well. From Patea he went up as far as Ketemarae, burning the large village at Taiporohenui on his way, and returned to the Westmere camp. McDonnell, with a force of mounted Maoris from Wanganui, visited the abandoned redoubt at Waihi and the deserted bush village at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu. It was evident now that Titokowaru's strength was concentrated at Tauranga-ika.

The site of the Moturoa (“Long Bush”) engagement, known among the Taranaki Maoris as Papa-tihakehake, is about three miles and a half inland from the Town of Waverley (formerly Wairoa) by the road to Okotuku. The exact spot is not marked on any existing survey map or plan, but the study of the ground and an examination of a county map enable the place to be fixed with accuracy. The south-west end and taumaihi of the pa, on the edge of a gully, were on the ground now known as Section 282, and the other (east) end of the pa was on Section 74, Okotuku Parish, Wairoa Survey District. The engagement was fought over this ground and also on what is now Section 73. The main road intersects the pa-site. The line of the front entrenchment may still be traced by a slight depression in the ground on the main road running at right angles to the roadway, but this faint undulation would be unnoticed by the ordinary passer-by. In the adjoining paddock no trace of the olden defence exists, but a remnant of the bush (rata, tawa, karaka, and mahoe) which covered the plain on the eastern flank remains near a homestead which stands about 300 yards from the pa ground. A relic of the site of the fortification is an ancient rata stump, about 8 feet high and 5 feet in diameter, on the east side of the road, alongside the fence, a few yards in rear (north) of the stockade-line. This rata butt will be found a useful guiding-mark by any one wishing to locate the exact scene of the battle.

My last exploration of the scene of the engagement (4th March, 1921) was in company with two veterans of the battle—Mr. William Wallace, of Hawera (No. 2 Division, Armed Constabulary), and Tu-Patea te Rongo, the principal chief of the Pakakohi hapu. These old warriors fought on opposite sides at Moturoa. Tu-Patea pointed out the line of the incomplete fortification, the spot where Major Hunter was shot by Paraone Tutere, the place where the body of the A.C. man was eaten, and the spot where the other bodies were placed in a heap and burned in a funeral pyre. The locality of the last-mentioned incident is on the east side of the present road, in the paddock on the right hand, going from Wairoa to Okotuku; it was in the clearing a short distance south of the easternmost angle of the stockade.

The old Hauhau bush fighter dramatically showed the action of the whangai-hau ceremony which he witnessed. Tihirua, the young priest of the battlefield sacrifice to the god of war, was the son of Tu-mounga, the page 262 last tatooed man in Taranaki, who died at Ratapihipihi recently. The tribe is Ngati-Maru. Tihirua died at Ohangai, near Hawera, in 1907, at the age of about sixty-five years.

“I was not in the engagements at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu,” said Tu-Patea. “I joined Titokowaru at Manutahi after the last fight at Te Ngutu. The principal fighting-men of Pakakohi who joined the war-chief with my father, Hau-matao, and me were Pita Tara-tu-te-Rangi, Tutange Waionui, Te Moanaroa, Tamawhero, and Parata Opu. On the night before we were attacked by the troops our chief Titokowaru went round the camp and warned us, ‘He po kino tenei po’ (‘This is an evil night,’ meaning a night of danger). ‘Be vigilant,’ he ordered, ‘and keep a keen lookout for the enemy.’ So we were ready for the soldiers when they attacked us at daylight in the morning. In the fight here I used a hakimana (a single-barrel percussion-cap gun). Afterwards, however, I was armed with a purukumu (breech-loading carbine). I took it from a soldier killed in the battle. The pakeha Ringiringi (Kimble Bent) was with us there. He was very clever at making cartridges for our breech-loaders. For want of the pakeha covering (goldbeater's skin) for the carbine-cartridges, he used the tonga-mimi (bladder) of various animals—cattle, sheep, and pigs—and also used the floats and bladder of eels for the same purpose.”

Major William Hunter, killed at Moturoa, and his brother Lieutenant Henry Hunter, who was killed at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu less than three months before, were natives of Antrim, Ireland. William Hunter, who had been trained in the Militia in Ireland and at Hythe, became Captain and Adjutant in the 1st Waikato Regiment of Militia in 1863. He was for some time assistant clerk in the Auckland Provincial Council. Henry Hunter served in the 1st Waikato with his brother before going to the West Coast. Both brothers were excellent soldiers, and one of Major Hunter's fellow-officers in the A.C. describes him as the bravest man in the force.

Colonel Roberts, in discussing the engagement, said: “Most of our fellows were first-rate men and fought well. There were very few exceptions—and, in fact, I only remember one. There was a slightly wounded man who was being carried out on a stretcher. When he heard that the Maoris were close up he jumped out of the stretcher and ran for his life out to the Wairoa Redoubt. The stretcher-bearers were too slow for him. He afterwards exchanged into a mounted force, and when he asked for leave to enlist in that corps I told him I thought it would suit him very well because he would be able to get away faster on horseback than on foot.”

Alongside the post-office in the main street of the Township of Waverley stands the green wall of the Wairoa Redoubt, from which Colonel Whitmore's force marched out to Moturoa. After the withdrawal of the forces from the coast at the end of 1868, when the whole coast was temporarily abandoned to the Hauhaus, Wairoa was the only post which held out between Kai-iwi and Patea. The redoubt is overgrown with trees and shrubs; the centre is a roughly kept grassy lawn. The vegetation has helped to preserve the work. The parapets are in places 9 or 10 feet high, and one of the small flanking bastions still stands. The land is a Post and Telegraph section. The redoubt is the only one on the West Coast still in existence in the heart of the town of which it was the nucleus, and it should be preserved as a place of great historical value.

* Turangarere Hill, the scene of the convoy affair, is on the Patea-Hawera Road, about two miles from Manutahi. Below it on the north is Flaxbridge Creek, so called because in the pioneer days bundles of flax were thrown into the small creek as fascines for a crossing. It was at this swampy creek, a little way seaward of the road, that the Maoris poured a volley into the raupo and killed the settler “Sandy” McCulloch, who was hiding there.

The old-fashioned wayside hotel at Kakaramea close to the stock saleyards—a great gathering-place for farmers on cattle-sale days—stands on the site of the first hotel, which was burned down by the Hauhaus in 1868, when the troops evacuated the coast. On the crest of the hill about 250 yards in rear of the hotel are the grassed-over traces of the Constabulary redoubt. A boxthorn hedge now runs across part of the redoubt-works on the crown of the hill. The place from which the Hauhaus came and fired into the camp at night is the hill north-east of the redoubt, and 500 or 600 yards distant, near the present road leading inland from Kakaramea. They threw up a breastwork on the hill.