The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
ON THE 17th July, 1871, a telegram was received by Captain Preece at Te Teko stating that Te Kooti was at Waikare-moana, and that Major Ropata and Captain Porter were seeking for him in that direction; Major Cumming and fifty men were also going to Waikare-moana. Captains Mair and Preece were instructed to keep a sharp lookout on their side of the Urewera Ranges. On the 19th instructions came that they were to go in to Ruatahuna. Preece's force started the same day for Fort Galatea, where Captain Mair joined with his No. 1 Company of the Arawa from Kaiteriria. Very bad weather was encountered. Flooded rivers forced the joint contingent to make a detour of over twenty miles before they could cross the Rangitaiki River by the natural bridge at Te Arawhata, just above the junction with the Wheao River, and then they were compelled to fell trees to make a crossing over the Wheao. They had to send to Major Roberts at the Opepe post for a further supply of rations.
In spite of the weather, which continued very bad, the Arawa were kept constantly busy. Captain Mair started with twelve men to scout the ranges southward towards Runanga stockade, where Captain W. E. Gudgeon was stationed, and Captain Preece sent a sergeant and party to scout towards Ahi-kereru. Mr J. D. Ormond telegraphed that Te Kooti was supposed to be at Ruatahuna. Captain Scannell now arrived with a body of Armed Constabulary to take up a position at Okoromatakiwi, between the Arawa and Captain Gudgeon, to prevent Te Kooti breaking through to the plains. On the 29th the rations arrived by packhorses from Opepe. In the meantime, in reply to a message which Captain Preece had sent to the Urewera to inquire if Te Kooti had been heard of hear Ruatahuna, word came that he had not been in that locality, but that it was reported that he had disappeared from Waikare-moana. On the 31st Captain Mair returned from Runanga; he had found no traces of the rebels in that direction. On the same day a telegram arrived instructing the force to march into the Urewera Country for page 433 Waikare-moana with the least possible delay by whatever route was thought advisable.
Mair and Preece started at once, making for Pareranui through the bush. They had about eighty men. Besides the officers there were only three Europeans in the contingent—Sergeant H. P. Bluett and two buglers, Crimmins and Kelly. The Whirinaki River (a tributary of the Rangitaiki) was flooded, and they had great difficulty in crossing, but in the open country of the Whirinaki they found good marching for about five miles. They then took to the bush again, up the Okahu Gorge, and camped at Manawahiwi. The next day they marched over the ranges to Oputao, in the Ruatahuna Valley, and thence to Whatakoko, where they camped. A message was sent to Paerau te Rangi-kaitipuake telling him to keep his people together for fear Te Kooti should get hold of them. Starting at daylight next morning the force marched through the bush, crossed the Huiarau Range, and came out at Hereheretaunga, on Lake Waikare-moana.
There were no canoes there, although a telegram had been sent to Wairoa before they started that canoes were to await the arrival of the force. Consequently the Arawa had to cut their way through the bush skirting the lake, over very rough country, to Mahungarerewai, where they fired guns to attract the attention of Te Makarini's people at Tikitiki. No other course was open to them. It was impossible to get farther round the lake owing to the nature of the country; they had, therefore, to take the risk that Te Kooti might hear the guns make off. Two men came across in canoes. They reported that Major Cumming was at Onepoto camp, on the other side of the lake, and through his men had followed Te Kooti's trail on the Whanganui-a-Parua arm of the lake they could see no fires. All that night and all the next day it snowed heavily, and there was a heavy sea on the lake. Fortunately the Arawa camp was on a point which had been an old potato cultivation, and the men were able to get a few potatoes by digging through the snow.
(NOTE.—The small creek in front of the camp was usually crossed by a plank or log at the place marked “Bridge,” but this had been drawn in by Te Kooti's men before the attack was made.)
Thinking it likely that Te Kooti might be making toward Waikare-moana, Captain Mair returned with ten men to search the edges of the lake towards Te Onepoto, while Captain Preece went over the range and followed the trail of one man until it joined the others and at last brought him to a camp which appeared to have been deserted about four days. From there he sent word back that he was on the trail. That night the Arawa caught a dog, and then knew that they were not far from the enemy. Early next morning they started to follow the trail, and had not page 435 gone far when a volley was fired at them as they were going up a ridge. There were no casualties, as the Hauhaus fired too high. Preece's men returned the fire, but the enemy got away into the bush. The force followed for some distance, but found they had scattered, and as there was only food for one day it was deemed advisable to let the foe know that the Arawa had retired. It was evident that the rebels were making along the Matakuhia Range. Knowing the country well from former experience in fighting in the district, Captain Preece thought that if he and Mair returned to Onepoto and got fresh supplies they could make in the same direction as the enemy by keeping on the Waikare-iti side of the range, while the force would avoid ambuscades if they did not follow directly in their enemy's track. At Onepoto, to his surprise, he found Captain Mair with Sergeant Bluett and the whole of his force, and it was decided to go back over the ground with all the men. After a forced march the column came upon a camp of Te Kooti's at the base of Matakuhia Range, and there found a letter from him, which ran as follows:—
Ki nga Kawanatanga katoa.
E HOA ma, he kupu tenei naku kia koutou, me mutu te whawhai i au, notemea kei toku nohoanga ano au e noho ana, kei te puihi, engari ka puta au ki te moana, whaia. Ko tenei mahi kohuru a koutou me te kiore te kete ana ki te hamuti, me whakarere he whai na koutou i au. Tonoa mai he tangata kia haere atu au ki waho na tatou riri ai; ka pai.
He kapu ke tenei, ko taku mahara ko te maunga-rongo te oranga ko te mahi kai hoki. Kati, kei te whakarite ahau i enei mahara kia oti. E hoa ma, ko tena mahara a tatou ko te riri kaore ano i tae mai ki au, engari ka tata ahau te whakarite ia koutou mahara, engari kia tupato kei ki koutou kaore. Heoi ano.
E hoa ma, i tonoa atu e au aku tamariki ki te kawe i taku pukapuka whakahoki mo koutou, tahuri ana koutou te whawhai. Kati, kauaka hei haku ki to koutou matenga. Ko aua tamariki hoki ko Hata Tipoki ko Epiha Puairangi, ko Patoromu, ko Ruru, he tamariki ena i tohia ki te tohi o Tu, i whangaia ki te whatu-nui-a-Rua. He tamariki hoki e whakaaro nui ana ki te whenua. Heoi ano. Ki te kino koutou ki ena korero, me aha? Mo koutou mo koutou ano ia.
Na to koutou hoa riri, Na Te Turuki.
To all Government men.
SIRS,—This is a word of mine to you. You must give up chasing me about, because I am dwelling in my own abiding-place, the bush. But if I come out to the coast, then pursue me. This murderous purpose of yours in pursuing me is like a rat roasting in dung; you must give it up. Send a man to tell me to come out to you in the open where we can fight. That would be fair.
This is another word: My thought is that in the maintenance of peace and in the cultivation of food is safety. I am trying to carry out these thoughts and to accomplish them. Sirs, that idea of yours that we should page 436 fight has not come to me yet; but I am about to adopt your idea, so beware. Do not say it will not be. That is all.
Sirs, I sent to you some of my young men to carry my letter warning you, and you attacked them. Cease then, to complain about your own killed. These young men, Hata Tipoki, Epiha Puairangi, Patoromu, and Ruru, were young men consecrated by the rites of Tu [the God of War] and fed with the bread of Rua [made of hinau berries]. They were young men who loved their country. That is all. If you dislike these words, what does it matter? All the worse for you.
From your enemy, Te Turuki.
The force camped for the night, but, not wishing to attract the attention of the enemy, did not light fires until 9 o'clock, and then only with dry supplejack to boil tea. On the following morning Mair and Preece went forward with forty men without swags and came to an old village a few miles from Erepeti, on the Ruakituri River. They struck back into the bush where they heard a dog bark, but, not finding it, kept along the bush parallel with the track. Traces of people who had been pig-hunting were found. Te Kooti's party appeared to have broken up in small parties in their usual way, and the pursuers were at a great disadvantage in not being able to get supplies without going back for them.
On the following day Captain Preece went out with Sergeant Bluett and thirty men. They climbed the Matakuhia Range, and, after crossing several gullies, at length struck the enemy's trail, which they followed until they found his camp. It seemed to have been abandoned three days earlier. The trail appeared to go down towards Papuni, but scattered again. On a very high point on the Matakuhia Range they came to an ancient Maori pa, with massive earthworks and large carved posts; large beech trees were growing in and around the fortress. The men returned to camp, and the following day Captains Mair and Preece decided to go back to Onepoto for a fresh supply of rations, and to follow the course that they first thought of as the only means of overtaking the enemy—namely, to start from Whanganui-a-Parua and work across country in rear of the Matakuhia Range towards the Waipaoa River. On the 13th August they drew ten days' rations from Major Cumming at Onepoto, intending to get across the lake next day; but the sea was too high, and they were obliged to make their way round the lake through wildly broken country. They then struck through the trackless bush, guided by compass and cutting their way, till they reached a high table-land where there was no undergrowth, and travelling was easier. Heavy snow fell, and it was necessary to camp early and prepare wood for fires at night, as it was unsafe to light them in daytime. It was very difficult to get a fire in that mountain- page 437 beech country. On the following day they marched through an enormously rugged region of mountain, gorge, and forest. The men complained of cold, but were still cheerful, believing that they were making for Maunga-pohatu.
Next morning it was still snowing heavily when the force, travelling along the high ridge in a north-westerly direction, reached its highest point, and obtained a comprehensive view of the valley of the Waipaoa (a tributary of the Ruakituri). Two of the keenest men, Huta and Rokoroko, called out from a tree-top, to the great delight of the force, that they saw smoke some miles down the valley. Mair and Preece joined their scouts in the tree, and, sure enough, the faintest spiral of bluish smoke could be seen rising amidst a hundred almost similar mists. Taking careful compass bearings, they made as straight for the smoke as the very rough country would permit. The men had to cut across sharp spurs, and in two places to lower themselves down with vines.
About four hours' travelling brought the force to the proper right bank of the Waipaoa, a noisy, rocky torrent which increased in size as they followed down its course; it was, moreover, in heavy flood through the recent heavy fall of snow and rain. At last Te Kooti's well-beaten trail was struck; it led to a camp the fires of which were still alight.
Coming to a small rivulet entering from the right-hand side, Mair noticed the water was quite muddy, and asked the natives the meaning. “Wild pigs,” said they, “rooting.” “Pigs would never root or enter water with snow lying deep,” Mair answered.
The pursuing force halted, and Captain Mair, taking Kepa te Ahuru, one of Captain Preece's best men, scouted cautiously up the little stream a short distance, guided by the murmur of a small waterfall. At a circular pool at the foot Mair caught sight of a closely-cut head of black hair bobbing up and down. The Maori (sex for the moment unknown) was kneading a kit of piko piko, the young curling fronds of the fern asplenium (or Aspidium Richardi), to get rid of the hairy scales. [The pikopiko when prepared is a vegetable much like asparagus.]
Mair and his man, carbines in hand, got up to within a few yards unobserved, the noise of the falling water drowning any sound of their footsteps. They found it was a woman, clothed in only short shaggy flax waist and shoulder mats. Mair told her to keep quite and not to fear. He recognized her as Mere Maihi, the wife of an officer stationed at Opotiki; she had been carried off with the Whakatohea Tribe when Te Kooti had made his raid on Opape settlement. She had afterwards been forced to take a Hauhau husband, one of Te Kooti's best fighting-men, Patara te Whata. The poor woman was overjoyed at being among page 438 friends, and answered all questions readily and intelligently. She gave Mair a clear idea of the enemy's position and strength. Te Kooti's camp, she said, was in a bend of the Waipaoa River partly fenced with palisading; this was the place from which the smoke had been seen. Te Kooti was in fear of an attack that very day and had tried to persuade his followers to move on, and upon their pleading fatigue and unwillingness to shift he warned them that the Almighty would punish them for their disobedience. She said, moreover, that a number of men were out pig-hunting and might discover the trail at any moment, in which case they could signal to Te Kooti by firing their arms, when he would break camp immediately, and, by spreading out like a fan, leave hardly a trace whereby to follow. His force numbered about forty men.
As the evening was closing in, Mair and Preece decided to surround the camp at once, if possible; so, detailing thirty men to guard the baggage, and leaving behind everything that would make a noise, such as pannikins, the attackers moved on quickly, guided by the woman. It was found impossible to cross the river, as it was in high flood, so the only course was a frontal attack. The enemy's position was almost surrounded by water and a high bank, and a strong fence made of kaponga (fern-tree trunks). Within were some large whares of kaponga stems. The place evidently had been used formerly as a place of refuge. A small waterfall came over a bluff at the right, forming a deep ditch or moat, about 8 feet wide. The noise of falling water enabled the attackers to approach close up to the gateway.
Captain Mair, closely followed by his faithful Arawa soldier Te Korowhiti, took a running leap and jumped the broad ditch. Immediately he landed he shot a man who was on sentry duty just inside the gateway. This Hauhau (Patara te Whata, as was afterwards discovered) turned and was in the act of putting a percussion cap, which he had taken from his vest pocket, on his Calisher and Terry carbine when Mair killed him at a few paces distance. Into the pa came the Arawa, with Preece at their head; a few had leaped the ditch, but most of them, finding the jump too great, had to scramble up the slippery bank. Mair rushed straight on, reloading as he ran; Preece turned to the left and saw two Maoris coming out of one of the large whares. One of them was Te Kooti. He was armed with a Spencer carbine, an eight-shot repeater (American make), as was afterwards learned. This he carried in his right hand; in the other he clutched his waistcoat and a cartridge-belt. He wore a shirt and blue-serge trousers. Running to the bank, he dashed into the river; he left behind his waist-coat, shawl, gold watch, and ammunition-belt. The latter, an officer's silver-mounted belt, had a pouch which page 439 contained about twenty copper cartridges.* [As it proved afterwards the rebel leader's repeater was useless to him after this fight, since he could not procure any more cartridges for it.]
Most of the Hauhaus in the camp had bolted for the river at the first shot. Mair saw a very tall man near him running for the butt of a large fallen rimu tree. In another instant the Maori would have reached cover and have had his white foe in the open at fifteen paces distance. Mair took a running shot at him, aiming low. The Maori jumping over a log at the moment, the bullet hit him in the left leg and smashed the knee-cap. Mair gave him into the charge of Sergeant Huta, who took him to the large whare, where the few prisoners taken were placed under a guard. Meanwhile Te Kooti and his companion had jumped down the bank at a place where a mass of drift-wood made a kind of bridge across the deep and rather sluggish river. The two fugitives scrambled across on this timber and swiftly climbed the opposite bank, Te Kooti ahead and his companion pushing him up the steep declivity. Nikora te Tuhi (Captain Preece's servant) dashing to the cliff edge of the pa, aimed for the middle of Te Kooti's back. His bullet missed Te Kooti, but blew off the top of the head of the second man, who fell into the stream. Te Kooti gained the top of the bank, turned, and from behind a tree fired a shot, the only one in his gun, and then vanished into the forest.
The sharp encounter lasted only a few moments. Three Hauhaus were killed and several wounded. The pursuers found considerable difficulty in crossing the river, but contrived to reach the other side on a fallen tree. They could not go very far, as night was falling, and the buglers were ordered to sound the recall. Te Kooti's escape was an exceedingly narrow one. Had the attackers not been delayed a little scrambling up the bank of the small creek in the first rush they must have got him either in the river or before he reached the top of the cliff. One of the three killed was a Ngapuhi named Mehaka (or Mita) Hare, who was shot by Te Korowhiti. This rebel was a son of James Tautari, a Ngapuhi sailor and trader who owned two schooners sailing between the Bay of Islands and Auckland in the early “fifties” and “sixties,” and who also cruised to Rarotonga in the “Sea Breeze.” Tautari Understood navigation, and was thoroughly trusted by all settlers and traders. The son had married an Opotiki woman, and it was in that way he came into contact with the Hauhaus.
Had not most of Te Kooti's men been away foraging at the page 440 time, the attackers' success would have been greater. Four women and two children were taken prisoners. The arms captured were nine Enfield rifles, two breech-loading carbines, four revolvers, and four fowling-pieces.
The women and the wounded prisoner, who was found to be a notorious deperado named Wi Heretaunga, were lodged in one of the whares; a side of this house was pulled down and a large fire lighted to keep them in full view. Another fire was made by the deep pool, and after many trials the body of the third man killed was brought up out of the river. It was that of a big, highly tattooed man whom Preece at once recognized as a chief of Waikari (near Mohaka) named Paora te Wakahoehoe. He had been mailman between Wairoa and Napier, and joined the Hauhaus at Omarunui the day before the fight there in 1866. This was the man sent by Te Waru to Te Kooti in 1868 bearing a famous greenstone mere called “Tawatahi,” and accompanied by Te Waru's daughter Te Mauikco; the understanding was that the acceptance of Te Kooti of the young woman as his wife and taking the greenstone heirloom would imply an obligation on his part to attack the Gisborne settlements and so avenge the death of the son of an important chief, Raharuhi Rukupo, who had been killed in the assault on Pa-kairomiromi, Waiapu, by Major Fraser's force in 1865. How well Te Kooti carried out his part of the compact the massacre at Matawhero shortly afterwards testified. The greenstone weapon mentioned was found in Te Kooti's hut in the pa.
It was a wild camp scene when darkness fell. The fires illumined the snow-covered battle-ground in the forest and the figures of the shawl-kilted Arawa moving about the thatched huts in the captured pa. The victors found, on searching the whares and examining the prisoners, that they had captured Te Kooti's headquarters camp.
After the evening meal Captain Mair was told that Wi Heretaunga was suffering greatly from his smashed knee-cap, so he got his small satchel, containing laudanum, chloral, surgical needles, and bandages, and went to the guard hut, where the prisoner sat. Wi was a fierce truculent fellow of powerful frame, over 6 feet in height, with a great bushy head of hair and a black beard. He was identified as the most ruffianly savage in Te Kooti's band; his only peer in ferocity had been the half-caste Peka Makarini, who fell to Mair's carbine the previous year in the Tumunui fight near Rotorua.
Kneeling down by Wi Heretaunga's left side, Mair opened his medicine-case, and was preparing a dose to alleviate the pain, before dressing the wound, when Sergeant Hohepa Rokoroko, who was standing by with grounded carbine, suddenly cried out, page 441 “Kapene, ka mate koe!” (“Captain, you'll be killed! ”) and threw himself upon the Hauhau. That ungrateful miscreant, thrusting his right arm under Mair's, was in the act of drawing a long knife which he wore in a sheath under his left arm. He jerked viciously at the knife in an effort to stab Mair, but the cross-bar of the haft was caught in the sheath, made of closely woven whitau flax-fibre. The sergeant of the guard placed the muzzle of his carbine against Wi's head, while Mair threw himself backward out of reach. The knife was taken from Wi Heretaunga.
The Arawa soldiers were furious at this treacherous attempt and begged that Heretaunga be shot immediately. In the meantime the women prisoners had informed Captain Preece of the dangerous character of the prisoner. The two women, Mere Maihi and Maora Irirangi, described Wi Heretaunga's atrocities in the killing of the Wilsons at the Poverty Bay massacre, his deeds in the Mohaka massacre, and his recent cruel murder of his wife at Tauaki in the Urewera country. It was decided, therefore, that the prisoner should be shot, and this summary execution was carried out.
It was ascertained from the prisoners that Te Kooti had had some premonitior that the Government forces were close on his trail, for he had early that morning given his followers orders to prepare to march on to the mountains. The order was not popular; the weary, war-worn people, like the Israelites, were beginning to murmur against the interminable moving-on from hiding-place to hiding-place, but they had a Moses whom to disobey was death. That morning, at Te Kooti's orders, some of the men had scattered out to patu-kai or “kill food”—hunting the wild pig and spearing and snaring Kaka parrot and pigeon. They had dogs which they had cleverly trained to hunt silently and catch wild pigs without uttering a bark.
The force camped in the captured village the next day and night, as it was snowing and raining, and after two days' hard marching got out of the bush into the fern country. Their camp was made in an old potato cultivation; this helped the rations out, as the men were again getting short of food. The officers had made arrangements with Major Cumming at Waikare-moana to send a party with packhorses and supplies along the open country towards Whataroa, as they knew they should have to make for that district, and, seeing fires in that direction, a corporal and nine men were sent to meet the party and advise them of the main body's whereabouts. In the meantime, as the men had had a very hard time, Mair and Preece determined to communicate if possible with Major Ropata and Captain Porter, who were believed to be in the vicinity of Te Papuni with the Ngati-Porou contingent, and set them on Te Kooti's trail.page 442
It was decided that Captain Preece with forty men should make a forced march up the Ruakituri River and endeavour to overtake them. He knew the country well, having been through it during the fighting in 1865 and 1868. Heavy rain prevented him getting away before the 22nd, and he was again delayed on the 24th at Erepeti by flood. The party crossed the Ruakituri by felling a tree and bridging the river at a narrow place, and had a hard march over the hills by Colonel Whitmore's track of 1868. Then, cutting a track to avoid the flooded river, they met seven sick men of Ngati-Porou, who reported that Major Ropata and Captain Porter were ahead. On the morning of the 25th August Preece reached Papuni. Leaving Sergeant Bluett in charge of half the men there, Captain Preece with twenty men pushed on and caught up to Ngati-Porou on top of a range nine miles from Papuni. Ngati-Porou had just found the trail of one man; it led into a larger track, which they were following up slowly. After reporting the Waipaoa engagement to Captain Porter, and telling him that he thought Te Kooti was making for Maunga-pohatu, Preece returned to Papuni that night, covering six Ngati-Porou camps in one day. The information he gave Porter enabled that officer, with Lieutenant Large, to follow up Te Kooti and defeat him at Te Hapua soon afterwards.
On the 27th August Captains Mair and Preece marched for the Wairoa, taking the arms they had captured from the enemy, also the native women and children, and by evening reached Omaruhakeke (the place where Captain Hussey was killed on Christmas Day, 1865). On the 28th they marched into Wairoa, after having been constantly on the move from the 17th July, carrying their supplies on their backs. The force remained at Wairoa waiting for a steamer, the weather being very bad, until the 2nd September, when instructions were received to march for Whangawehi, at the Mahia, and ship in the Government steamer “Luna” for Whakatane. Captains Mair and Preece reached their respective camps at Te Teko and Kaiteriria on the 8th and 9th September. They had travelled some of the wildest country in the Island, amid snow and flooded rivers, and often suffering severely from want of food. But their exertions had a most beneficial and far-reaching effect, for they showed the disaffected natives that their rugged and almost inaccessible country would no longer, even in winter, prove a safe refuge. The Government force's greatest difficulty was the obsolete weapon with which they were armed, a heavy muzzle-loading rifle, whereas the enemy had many breech-loaders—carbines captured at the Chatham Islands or in the field.
When the contingent was at the Wairoa the local natives, hearing that the captured greenstone mere “Tawatahi” was in page 443 their possession, offered Mair and Preece £100 for it; but the officers decided to present it to Mr. J. D. Ormond, then administering the Government in Hawke's Bay, as an acknowledgment of his solicitude on their behalf while in the field. Indeed, but for Mr. Ormond's good offices the expedition would have fared badly more than once for want of supplies.