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Sir Donald Maclean

The Capture of Te Kooti's Hill Fortress

The Capture of Te Kooti's Hill Fortress

Letter from Hon. J. C. Richmond.

Ngatapa, January 6th, 1869.

“My Dear McLean,

We have taken Ngatapa. It is a place that justified the hopes of Te Kooti that he had a safe retreat. In my opinion, it is 1,500 feet above the valley, and 2,000 or more above the sea. It is a sort of wedge; with a deep gully up the gentlest slope; which, however, is a steep wearisome ascent. The whole mountain was bush-covered, to the top. Kooti, and perhaps others before him, had cleared the very pinnacle. I endeavoured to burn off the light bush down the gentler slope, on the north-eastern side. The forest is continuous for miles, except where our road approaches; and heavy timber, except on the same side, where scrub 20 feet high, clothes it. The rear runs out in a ridge of rock—a knife edge.

The main force sapped up to the main front. Colonel Fraser scaled the rocky ridge in rear. We had not men enough to stop descent by the cliffs, on the right; and Kooti evacuated as our men got in. But 60 of his warriors were killed before he left; and our men have overtaken and killed 60 more. Among the dead are Nikora and Rangiaho. It is likely that the latter led a body of 30 or 40 Urewera. These made a faint stand in the bush, whilst trying to escape; but Ngatiporou dispersed them, killing 18. The pursuit is being followed up to-day. Our loss is:–1 officer killed; 1 wounded; 10 men killed; 10 wounded, only one dangerously.

There was no food in the Pa; and little ammunition in the pouches of the slain. Clothing, two or three watches, and about £50 in gold and silver have been taken; the remains of the plunder of Turanga (Poverty Bay.) Hamlin was first in the Pa. We page 152 have 80 prisoners–14 men, the rest women and children. One of the men is believed to be deep in the murders. I hope to keep him alive for trial; but it is very hard to restrain our Ngatiporou friends, who do not appreciate the nature of a regular trial, and the value of a legal conviction of one or two in this case. I should like to obtain a conviction, to answer all cavillers about our action, if there are any still in the land.”