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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)



Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Herrick's column operating at Waikaremoana, shortly after Te Kooti's raid on Mohaka, numbered about five hundred, half of whom were Maoris (chiefly Ngati-Kahungunu). No. 2 Division Armed Constabulary joined it after the Ruatahuna expedition. Herrick's officers included Major Scannell and Captains Gudgeon, Newland, Northcroft, Richardson, Handly, Stopford, and Spiller. Dr. Gibbs was surgeon of the force. Herrick had previously acted well in a subordinate capacity, but was lacking in energy and initiative as a commander. The object was to cross Waikare-moana and penetrate the Urewera Country to Ruatahuna as soon as possible, in order to effect a junction with Whitmore's two columns from the Bay of Plenty side. Herrick's expedition was late in starting, partly owing to the difficulties that Captain Bower, Commissariat Officer, encountered in getting supplies over the Wairoa bar. After much delay Waikare-moana was reached without opposition from the Hauhaus, and the force settled down to build boats and pontoons at Onepoto in which to cross the lake, instead of going on round the eastern and northern shores. Many weeks were thus wasted.

A change of Ministry took place, and Colonel Herrick being unable to say when he would reach his objective, the expedition was recalled. Two large boats were sunk in the lake, and one whaleboat was buried on the shore, where it was discovered by the Hauhaus soon after the force returned to Wairoa. This expedition is considered to have been the most useless ever sent against the Maoris; at the same time it was one of the most expensive. The only shots were fired by the Hauhaus (10th June), when they ambushed and killed Trooper Michael Noonan, who was carrying despatches between the lake and Wairoa.

page 360

The Armed Constabulary were transferred to Napier, whence they marched to Taupo, leaving detachments on the way to build fortified posts at Te Haroto, Runanga, and Tarawera, guarding the line of communication between the Taupo country and Napier.

On the march of Colonel Herrick's column from Wairoa to Lake Waikare-moana some good scouting-work was carried out by Mr. J. T. Large, who had joined the force as a volunteer. He was a settler in the Wairoa district, and was an excellent bushman; he had already performed some valuable scouting service, and served on several expeditions after Te Kooti's landing in 1868. A few days after the force reached Te Ariki, where the Waiau and Waikare-taheke Rivers join and where a redoubt was built, Colonel Herrick led a strong reconnaissance to feel for the enemy between there and the lake, as signs of their recent presence had been observed. After crossing the Waiau the track wound over the Tukurangi Hill, beyond which was a belt of forest. Shortly before the bush was reached the column was halted, Captain Spiller, who was with the advance, reporting numerous fresh Maori tracks, with indications of an ambuscade prepared in the bush ahead. Mr. Large, who was riding behind Colonel Herrick, jumped off his horse and, running to the front, ascertained that the enemy had moved off. He then led the column through the bush. The force returned to camp for the night, and later on reached Waikaremoana unmolested. At the lake Colonel Herrick set his men to work building boats and pontoons, though Mr. Large, who scouted the district thoroughly, reported to the commanding officer that there was a fair native track right round to the eastern end of the lake, Whanganui-a-Parua. Herrick had an excellent force of Armed Constabulary, besides native auxiliaries, and he could have cut a horse-trail round the lake to the landing where the mountain trail to Ruatahuna began, and could thence have gone right through to the heart of the Urewera Country as originally planned by Colonel Whitmore. But the force effected nothing, to the great disgust of Herrick's officers and men. Two large boats built at great expense were sunk in the lake when the expedition was abandoned—so deeply that it was found impossible to raise them afterwards—and two others were buried; one of these, a whaleboat, was found later on by the Hauhaus, and was captured from them in the following year. Herrick's expedition came to an inglorious end, redeemed only by the willing work and zeal of his Armed Constabulary subordinates, particularly such good men as Northcroft and Scannell. Mr. Large distinguished himself by his daring scouting enterprise. When Onepoto was abandoned in the spring he spent three days alone scouting in the bush in the enemy's country, and had been given up for lost when he came in and reported his work.

After the return of Colonel Whitmore's expendition from the Urewera Country, Whitmore and his staff left Matara for Auckland in the steamer “Sturt,” as the commander wished to consult the Defence Minister, Colonel Haultain, regarding further operations. He remained in Auckland three days, then returned to Matata, and shipped No. 2 Division Armed Constabulary (under Scannell and Northcroft) round to the Wairoa district to reinforce Colonel Herrick's force at Waikare-moana. The small corps of Guides, under Sergeant Maling, was also sent. The troops were landed at Whangawehi, and marched from there to Wairoa, thence to Onepoto. page 361 Captain Swindley, of Whitmore's staff, was sent to consult with Colonel Herrick, for Colonel Whitmore was too ill to travel and there was no possibility of his seeing Herrick personally, as the bar at Wairoa was too unsafe for the “Sturt” to attempt to enter. Colonel Whitmore then went on to Wellington, accompanied by Lieutenant Preece. Captain Swindley was sent in from Napier to establish the first post towards Taupo, at Te Haroto.

Drawing by Mr. A. H. Messenger] The Steamer “Stormbird,” Troop Transport

Drawing by Mr. A. H. Messenger]
The Steamer “Stormbird,” Troop Transport

The “Stormbird,” which was engaged in the trade between Wellington and Wanganui for about half a century, frequently carried colonial troops around the coast during the Hauhau wars. She was one of the small transports used in the Opotiki expedition in 1865. (See page 105.)