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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 337

COLONEL GEORGE WHITMORE, having transferred his Armed Constabulary field force from Taranaki to the Bay of Plenty, in April of 1869, organized a threefold expedition against the Urewera Tribe and their kin who had supplied Te Kooti with many recruits and sheltered and abetted him after Ngatapa. The war-loving clans of the wild tract of forest highlands between Lake Waikare-moana and the Bay of Plenty plains were intractably hostile, and their villages in the heart of the mountains were ideal refuge-places for the Hauhau raiders. From Ruatahuna and Maunga-pohatu districts, then all but unknown to Europeans, Te Kooti could descend at will upon the Bay of Plenty settlements by way of the Whakatane, Waimana, and Waioeka Rivers, and upon the East Coast via Waikare-moana or the rugged trails across the ranges and down the Ruakituri or the Hangaroa. Whitmore, after discussion with Mr. J. C. Richmond, who had come to the Bay of Plenty to acquaint him with the wishes of the Government, formed the conclusion that the only sound military policy lay in boldly entering the mountains and destroying the food-supplies and the Native strongholds, and forcing Te Kooti to come out to the open country.

The difficulties, however, were considerable: the Urewera region was practically a blank on the map; the only roads were difficult foot-trails, the ancient Maori war-tracks; all supplies would have to be carried on the men's backs; and the winter was approaching with its floods and snowstorms. A rough map of the territory was made by Mr. Richmond and the Colonel from the accounts available, particularly information and a sketch-map supplied by the Rev. Mr. Preece (father of Lieutenant G. A. Preece, who was on Whitmore's staff as interpreter), and from the notes of a journey made through the Urewera Mountains some years previously by Mr. Hunter Brown.

It was decided that three separate columns should be used, entering the ranges at different points and meeting, if possible, page 338 at Ruatahuna simultaneously. The Bay of Plenty force, which had marched from Tauranga to Matata, was divided into two columns, one of which was to penetrate the enemy country from the Rangitaiki Valley, while the other was to advance up the Whakatane Valley and gorges the whole way. The third column, which Mr. Richmond undertook to send forward from Wairoa, was to cross Waikare-moana by boat and canoe and march across the Huiarau Mountains by the Native trail to Ruatahuna. This third force (Colonel Herrick's), as it happened, proved useless, not being able to cross the lake in time.

The right wing of the Matata force, under Major Roberts, marched up the valley of the Rangitaiki and encamped at Karamuramu, on the left (west) bank of the river, where a large redoubt was built; this was named Fort Galatea, after the British warship in which H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh was then visiting the colony. Here there was a convenient ford of the Rangitaiki. On the opposite side loomed the forbidding blue sierras of the outer Urewera Ranges. The right wing was composed of a hundred Armed Constabulary, with a small but very useful Corps of Guides, and about two hundred Maoris of the Arawa Tribe, under Gilbert Mair, Te Pokiha Taranui (Major Fox), Matene te Huaki, and the Pukuatua brothers. The force marched from Fort Galatea on the 4th May, 1869. The men carried six days’ provisions, besides spare ammunition, and the Arawa bearers were each loaded with 40 lb. of bacon or 400 rounds of ammunition The route taken from the Kuhawaea Plain, on the east side of the Rangitaiki, was into the ranges by way of Ahi-kereru, the Rev. Preece's mission station (then abandoned) in the valley of Whirinaki, thence up the Okahu Stream in the direction of Ruatahuna. The first objective was a fortified position known as Harema (Salem), a short distance from Ahi-kereru. Colonel Whitmore accompanied this column.

The left wing, moving in from Whakatane, was commanded by Lieut.-Colonel St. John, and consisted of about 250 Armed Constabulary—Nos. 1, 2 (part), 4, and 8 Divisions—and a Native Contingent numbering 180, from the Ngati-Pukeko and Ngaitai Tribes, under Major W. G. Mair. The Government steamers “St. Kilda” and “Sturt,” which had brought a portion of the force to Whakatane, landed stores and ammunition, and the column encamped at Opouriao, on the Whakatane Plain, in readiness for the entrance into the mountains. On the 4th May St. John began his difficult and perilous march into unknown country, guided by natives of the Ngati-Awa Tribe. The place of rendezvous arranged with Colonel Whitmore, the Ruatahuna clearing, containing the principal settlements of the Urewera hapus, was about fifty miles inland by way of the Whakatane River, which had page 339
Major-General Sir G. S. Whitmore

Major-General Sir G. S. Whitmore

Before coming to New Zealand Major-General Sir George Stoddart Whitmore had seen considerable service in south Africa as a young officer in the Cape Mounted Rifles. He served in the Kaffir wars, 1847 and 1851–53, and in the fighting with the Boers, 1848. On his return to England he passed through the Staff College with the highest credit. In 1861 he arrived in New Zealand as military secretary to General Cameron, and, after the Waikato War, retired from the Army and settled in Hawke's Bay as a sheep-farmer. He was requested to take command of the colony's military forces in the field in 1868. After the successful expedition to the Urewera Country in 1869 he retired from active service through ill health. He afterwards was engaged in sheep-farming on the East Coast, and was for many years a member of the New Zealand Legislative Council.

to be forded innumerable times. The route to-day, after the lapse of more than half a century, is as rough and primitive as it was in the days of the first British military expedition up the gorges of the Urewera.

The work of the right wing will first be described. Whitmore and Roberts had a comparatively easy march for the first twelve miles, taking a trail used by Mr. Preece in former years. The route was over the hills on the proper left bank of the Whirinaki River, after crossing the Rangitaiki River at Fort Galatea. Gilbert Mair and ten of his Arawa Maoris pushed on rapidly ahead of the main body with the object of seizing page 340 Te Pato, on the range called Te Tairi, over which the native track passed to Te Harema and Ahi-kereru. It was feared that the Hauhaus of the Ngati-Whare Tribe would have posted men to watch for the approach of the Government force and to sound an alarm on a tree pahu, or drum, at Te Pato. This pahu could be heard for a distance of several miles. Mair reached the place without opposition, and found signs that a picket had been posted in the bush on the slope below the summit on which the pahu stood, and also that a sentry had been sleeping behind a large tree; these outposts had been withdrawn shortly before the Arawa scouts' arrival. The drum or gong was a hollow totara tree, one side of which, about 60 feet in height, and reaching to within 3 feet of the ground, had been cut into the form of a long narrow tongue. The end of this tongue, when beaten with a stick or a club, gave forth a penetrating resonant cadence which filled the air with its throbbing and reverberations, carrying far over the valleys and ranges. Mair waited on the forested range at Te Pato until the main body came up. He was then given a force of Ngati-Pikiao sufficient for operations, and was sent on to take Harema pa in the rear.*

Mair and his Arawa men forded the Whirinaki River about half a mile below where the Okahu River joins it at the base of the massively scarped old hill fort Umurakau, and marched up the rocky bed of the Okahu, passing under the bluffs of Umurakau, for about half a mile. Then they climbed up a steep bank and entered an old pa at Te Puhi-a-Kapu, in rear of Te Harema. An old man, a tohunga named Matiu Whatanui, was sitting in front of his hut on the brow of the hill. He fired a shot at Mair, but missed, and the officer took him prisoner, intending to save him; but Hemana Moko-nui-a-Rangi, of Maketu, fired and shot him, greatly to Mair's anger. Matiu fell, and next moment he was tomahawked by the Arawa. His wife and family were made prisoners. Curiously enough, these shots were not heard at Te Harema pa, which was not far away; a thick belt of bush (part of which is still standing) intervened between Matiu's home and the fort. The Arawa ran through this bush, Mair thinking that he had given the main body sufficient time to reach the front of it by the native track. The force was not there, and the Arawa therefore had the honour of storming the pa. Mair

* Harema pa, a stockaded position occupied chiefly by the Ngati-Whare Tribe, was situated on a hill about a mile beyond the present settlement at Wai-kotikoti, Te Whaiti. The site of the pa, now densely overgrown with manuka, is seen on the left of the present road to Ruatahuna shortly after crossing the Whirinaki River and before the Okahu Gorge is entered.

page 341 and Te Pokiha dashed up the hill with their eager Ngati-Pikiao soldiers, and the contingent in a few moments swarmed over the palisades and the place was in their hands. Four Hauhaus were killed, and forty-five people were made prisoners; the rest escaped into the bush and the ranges. The occupants of the pa were commanded by old Hamiora Potakurua, and numbered about eighty, half of whom were women.

The Armed Constabulary main body was in time to pursue some of the escaping Ngati-Whare, but although there was a great deal of firing not much damage was done. Hundreds of shots were fired at long range at a daring fellow named Paraone te Tuhi as he ran up a steep bare spur of Titokorangi Mountain in rear of the mission station at Ahi-kereru. Paraone turned deliberately now and again to make gestures of defiance at his fores, and made his escape untouched into the forest on the summit of the range. The Constabulary had carried in from Galatea a Coehorn mortar and some shells, but artillery was not required. The mortar was left at Ahi-kereru until the expedition returned.

After the capture of Te Harema (6th May), Colonel Whitmore and his officers made the old mission station at Ahi-kereru their headquarters. The large house, built of heart of totara in 1849 for Mr. Preece, the missionary of the district, was found in perfect order. Mr. Preece had left the place in 1853, removing to Whakatane, but visiting the place at intervals up to 1856, when he left for another district. The house and contents had been given into the charge of the native teacher Hamiora Potakurua. The missionary's son observed that the old home was undamaged, with some furniture and crockery, just as it had been left thirteen years previously. It was afterwards ascertained that when Te Kooti reached Ahi-kereru after his attack on Whakatane in March, 1869, he threatened to burn down the mission house, but old Hamiora stoutly opposed him, saying, “That place was given into my charge by my father” (meaning Mr. Preece); “if you burn it down you burn it over my head.” The result was that Te Kooti abandoned his intention.

After the capture of Te Harema, a woman named Ripeka (Rebecca), whose husband was killed in the pa, and who herself had been nursemaid in Mr. Preece's home, hearing that a son of his, who had been her potiki (child), was in the force, rushed up to Lieutenant Preece and threw herself at his feet, embracing his legs and crying in a most pathetic manner.

The column spent one night in camp at Ahi-kereru, and on the following morning (7th May) resumed the march to Ruatahuna and up the gorge of the Okahu Stream. The Corps of Guides led the way, followed by Mair and his Arawa and page 342
“Big Jim,” the Scout (Hemi te Waka, mortally wounded in the ambuscade at Manawa-hiwi, Urewera Country, 7th May, 1869)

“Big Jim,” the Scout
(Hemi te Waka, mortally wounded in the ambuscade at Manawa-hiwi, Urewera Country, 7th May, 1869)

Roberts with the Constabulary. The Guides (or scouts, as they were usually styled) were commanded by Captain Swindley, with Sergeant Christopher Maling (afterwards Captain Maling, N.Z.C.) as next in charge. They numbered thirteen. Among them were the stalwart Tom Adamson and his brother Steve, both experienced and hardy bushmen, as active as any Maori in the forest. Steve had lost his right arm in an accident; nevertheless he was very smart with either carbine or revolver. The brothers had lately served in the bush chase of Titokowaru, after the capture of Whakamara in Taranaki. They marched barefoot. Steve's bush uniform consisted of a blue jumper and a pair of trousers cut short at the knees. Another scout was a Taranaki Maori named Hemi te Waka, usually called “Taranaki Jim” or “Big Jim” he was a tall athletic fellow, wearing the forage cap of an Imperial regiment (the 43rd) perched on his curly hair. He had been a Kingite in Taranaki in 1860, but had turned to the page 343 British side and assisted the troops as guide in the Waitara district. He fought well in many engagements with the Hauhaus, and proudly carried a presentation revolver, given him by the officers of the 57th Regiment for his services after the ambush at Te Ahuahu in 1864.

Describing the march on the 7th May, the principal incident of which was an ambuscade at Manawa-hiwi, near Ngaputahi, Steve Adamson, the veteran scout, said:—

“When we moved off from Ahi-kereru we of the Guides were warned to look out for escapers from Te Harema. These were two or three fugitives who had made off for Ruatahuna to give warning of our approach, and some of the Maori women who had been captured at Te Harema told us to beware as we marched through the gorges. A Maori who was with us was very cautious, often taking cover behind a tree as we advanced up the Okahu ravine, and when we chaffed him about it he said meaningly, ‘Taihoa, taihoa!’ (‘Wait and see!’) We had marched very cautiously into the ranges from Galatea on our way to Ahi-kereru, and we were not allowed to fire at anything, although native birds, especially pigeons, swarmed in the bush, feeding on the miro berries. However, ‘Big Jim’ quickly made a spear and got three or four pigeons on the low branches, and we were not long in cooking and eating them. We came to a very narrow part (Manawa-hiwi) where a big landslip had come down and dammed up a part of the creek, and on the soft mud there ‘Big Jim’ observed the prints of naked feet. He was stooping to examine the marks closely, and was pointing them out with the butt of his gun to Captain Swindley, when all at once a shot came from the bush half a dozen yards away. Two or three shots followed in quick succession from our hidden foes, and ‘Big Jim’ received two bullets through the chest and lungs. Captain Swindley yelled to us to take cover, when a great volley came into us, crashing like thunder through the gorge, and Bill Ryan, a big man like the Maori, fell shot through one of his knees. He lay with his legs in the water of the creek. My brother Tom was shot through the right wrist, and another bullet struck one of the two Dean and Adams revolvers he wore slung on lanyards from the neck, crossing each other in front—we each carried two revolvers—and flattened out on the chamber, putting the revolver out of action; the blow cut his chest, although that bullet did not actually hit him. From whatever cover we could find we gave the Maoris a volley from our carbines. A dozen or so of the Hauhaus appeared and made a rush out upon us, but we took to our revolvers. They thought to dash in upon us while we were reloading our carbines. With our brace of revolvers each we fired heavily on them at close quarters and drove them back. page 344 Bill Ryan was lying partly in the water, and I saw a Maori with a tomahawk crawling through the bushes and round a log to despatch him. I quickly shoved a cartridge into my carbine, capped and fired, and nipped him in the bud. I put the bullet through his chest. He was carried off the field wounded or dead. After the skirmish I found the flax mat he had been wearing, and there was a bullet-hole through the back of it. We drove the Hauhaus off. Their retreat was hastened by the terrific yells of the Arawa, under Lieutenant Gilbert Mair, who came rushing up as soon as they heard the firing. The main body of Constabulary was half a mile or a mile behind us, but they soon hurried up and joined us.

“As it was now late in the afternoon we did not follow up the chase, but halted for the night on the scene of the fight. ‘Big Jim’ died in two or three hours. We sewed him up in his blanket and buried him there. The men who had ambushed us, we learned later, were reinforcements coming down to Te Harema from Ruatahuna. Pickets of Arawa Maoris were sent out for the night, twenty or twenty-five on each side of the gorge in which we were camped. They climbed the precipitous walls through the bush, cutting steps in some places with their tomahawks, and held the heights above us to protect us from a night attack. Some of the Arawa were very nervous in the bush, and every now and then during the night a shot would be fired at some shadow, followed by a whole thundering succession of shots. We would douse our fires with water from the creek at each alarm of this kind; we extinguished the fires two or three times during the night.”*

In this ambuscade Sergeant Maling had a very narrow escape from death. The range at which the Hauhaus fired was so close that his face was burned by the gunpowder, and he had several bullets through his clothes. The dead scout Hemi was buried where the road now goes, and the Arawa Maoris made a fire on his grave, as if a meal had been cooked there, a native war-device for preventing the enemy discovering the body and digging it up.

The morning following the ambuscade at Manawa-hiwi Whitmore's force continued the march to Ruatahuna. The trail was extremely difficult and rough. On the 7th the Okahu Stream, running in its tree-shadowed deep ravine of cañon-like narrowness, had been crossed over fifty times. On the 8th the route, leaving the ravine, turned to the left, and led over a succession of steep ridges, densely forest-clad. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon the Guides and the Arawa at the head of the

* Statement by Steve Adamson, at Hawera, 1920.

page 345 column had reached the summit of the lofty level-topped Tahuaroa Range, forming part of the watershed between the head streams of the Whakatane and the tributaries of the Rangitaiki. The Upper Whakatane, locally called the Waihui, flowed through the forest a thousand feet below. The long narrow valley of Ruatahuna, with its clearings and villages, was spread out before the eyes of the first white armed invaders to break into the mysterious heart of the Urewera. Far in the distance, at the foot of a range on the eastern side of the valley, a fortification could be seen with a large number of men moving about it. This was the Orangikawa pa at Tatahoata, and the men were Lieut.-Colonel St. John's Constabulary, who had just captured it after a sharp fight with the main body of the Urewera. Some of Whitmore's people, doubting whether St. John was in possession, imagined the men in the pa were the Hauhaus; but the commander and his staff rightly concluded that St. John had driven out the enemy. But for the delay caused by the skirmish at Manawa-hiwi the two forces would most probably have effected a junction that day (8th May), as arranged, in time to fight a combined action.
The descent of the precipitous Tahuaroa Range occupied four hours, and it was dusk when the force reached the old Oputao settlement at the foot of the mountain. Whitmore was anxious to meet St. John that night, and, leaving the column under command of Major Roberts in bivouac, he pushed on for Orangikawa. He took with him only a small party consisting of about twenty officers and men. These were Captain F. Swindley, Lieutenant Preece, and the Corps of Guides, besides a native guide, an Urewera man named Matiu. This man got nervous at one point on the bush tramp in the dark, and declared that his knowledge of the country ended there. However, “a little moral persuasion”—as Captain Preece puts it—restored his recollection of the trail. When Whitmore reached the ford of the Whakatane opposite Ruatahuna he ordered his bugler to sound the “Officers' call.” In a few moments an answering call was heard, blown by St. John's bugler, and the loud cheering by the men of that officer's column announced their pleasure and relief at the welcome sound of Whitmore's signal. The distance traversed in the dark by the small party from the right wing was about four miles, through bush in which the Hauhaus lurked. A party of Urewera actually let Whitmore and his companions pass, within a few feet, without firing; this was near the ford of the Whakatane. When the startling sound of the bugle was heard the Hauhaus in ambush imagined the whole force was close up. Whitmore reached the captured pa at Orangikawa about 10 o'clock at night. “A great cheer went page 346
J. C,, photo, 1921] The Lower Gorge of the Whakatane

J. C,, photo, 1921]
The Lower Gorge of the Whakatane

This view, on the Whakatane River, in the gorge above Ruatoki, shows the wooded mountain-cliff of Karioi, near Tunanui. The route of Lieut.-Colonel St. John's troops here was up the river-bed, crossing and recrossing the Whakatane frequently.

up to the heavens from our whole force when he came in,” says a veteran of No. 2 Division in St. John's column. “We were beginning to know the little Colonel by this time.”

At daylight next morning (9th May) Preece, Maling, and ten of the Corps of Guides were sent off to Oputao, with instructions from Colonel Whitmore to Major Roberts to come on and join the other body; and the battle-ground at Tatahoata was the field headquarters for about a week while the surrounding page 347 settlements and cultivations were scoured by foraging-parties. Whitmore's main object was the destruction of the food-supply in the mountains, and this was carried out in all the potato-grounds that could be discovered.