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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

Return to New Zealand in 1846.—Bay of Islands, Auckland, and Wellington

page 77

Return to New Zealand in 1846.—Bay of Islands, Auckland, and Wellington.

Towards the end of the year 1846, H.M.S. "Driver" put into Sydney, from China, on her way to New Zealand, and Captain Courtenay Hayes having offered me a passage, I embarked in her on the following day. We had a fair run to the Bay of Islands; on arriving at which, we found that the war in the north, called "Heki's" war, had just terminated, and that the troops had already embarked for Auckland, leaving only a garrison at the bay.

The friendly natives swarmed on board; and as the "Driver" was the first man-of-war steamer, and I believe the first steamer of any kind, that had visited New Zealand, she naturally attracted very great attention. The Maoris examined her all over, measured her length and breadth, inspected the great guns, and curiously scrutinised the engines and paddle wheels, from which they concluded, as they informed us, that it was nonsense to suppose, as they had been told, that the steamer could paddle away inland. We did not page 78spend much time, however, in discussion, for in an hour or two we started for Auckland. Here we remained for about a week, and then left for Wellington, with all the ships of war and two regiments of infantry. Captain Charles Graham of H.M.S. "Castor" was the senior officer in command of Her Majesty's ships.

We had rather a stormy passage, particularly off the East Cape, but at length all reached Wellington Harbour in safety. The troops having been landed, Sir George Grey commenced a series of interviews with both friendly and disaffected natives, no doubt with a view of coming to an understanding and averting bloodshed. Having, as he thought, ascertained the position of affairs, he ordered the troops up the Hutt valley to take possession. Wishing to see the fun, and being unable to procure a horse, I set off early on foot, and had passed Pitone and got some distance up the valley when I met the naval forces returning. They informed me that there had been no opposition, and that the troops were encamped, and proceeding to the erection of a stockade. By this time I began to find that the walk was rather a long one, besides which I was very hungry; I was therefore glad to accept the invitation of Captain Graham to return with him in his gig. At Pitone we found the gig, and in it a magnificent cold pie, to which I did full justice, as we proceeded towards H.M.S. "Castor" and Wellington.

The tranquil condition of things did not last long. page 79The hostile natives established themselves on a very inaccessible spur on the western side of the valley: they attacked the troops, trying to take them by surprise, and sent foraging parties through the valley, which kept the settlers in a constant state of alarm. This state of matters continued for some months, when Sir George Grey, finding that old Te Rauparaha, although pretending to be friendly, was at the head of the movement, planned a scheme to arrest him, which proved successful.

A strong force was embarked in a man-of-war steamer, which left Wellington in the afternoon, and steamed up the Straits past Porirua, and apparently bound for Whanganui. After dark she turned back and steered for Porirua, without her motions being observed. The troops and a force of sailors being landed, they surrounded Te Rauparaha's pa, which Mr. M'Killop,* then a mate of H.M.S. "Calliope," entered, where he found the old chief asleep and secured him. As he offered resistance and tried to bite, he was with some difficulty taken on board the steamer and brought to Wellington. Here he was detained as a prisoner of war on board H.M.S. "Calliope" for a considerable period.

Upon his arrest more active operations commenced. The hostile Maoris retired from the Hutt to a pa at Pauatahanui on the Porirua harbour. Upon this pa a combined attack was made by the troops, the naval forces from Porirua, and the page 80militia, who marched across by a difficult path from the Hutt. The militia stormed the pa, but found, perhaps luckily, that it was abandoned. (I say "luckily" in no disparaging terms, for experience has since shown that all attempts to storm pas unbreached and without great precaution are almost sure to end in failure and great loss of life.) The Maoris, it was found, had retreated into the Pukerua bush. Thither they were followed by the forces, whence they were eventually driven out to the coast by pressure—either of arms or of hunger—and dispersed to the northwards. During the march to Pauatahanui, a Maori named "Martin Luther" was taken prisoner, and was some months afterwards tried by court-martial and hanged. I cannot help thinking that this was a blunder.

After some time the Government thought it advisable to release Te Rauparaha, upon which he retired up the west coast, but changed his tactics and became a friend to the Pakeha. Although he was the object of some practical jokes on board the "Calliope," he was well treated, and became a great friend with the officers. He was certainly a remarkable man in his day; and those who wish to learn his history will find it (as it was communicated by his son, Tamihana, to Mr. Travers) in vol. v. of the "Transactions of the New Zealand Institute."

Te Rauparaha was not a savage of commanding appearance, being short and square-built, but his keen, shrewd look gave unmistakable assurance of a man of ability. His fighting general, Rangihaeata page 81on the contrary, was very tall and powerful, but showed little of the craft of his great master. From this date the war was transferred to Whanganui, where the Maoris held out for a considerable, period under the leadership of Te Mamaku and others.

* Late M'Killop Pasha.