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The War in New Zealand.

Chapter XV

page 221

Chapter XV.

Campaign on East Coast—Murder of Rev. C. S. Völkner—Murder of Mr. Fulloon and others—Colonial Force and Native Contingent sent to punish the Murderers—Great Successes—Evacuation of Pukemaire—Storming of Hungahungatoroa—Five hundred Prisoners taken—Gallant Action between the Arawas and Rebels near Matata.

The origin of the hostilities of 1865 on the East Coast was the murder of the Rev. C. S. Völkner, a missionary of the Church of England, by a party of Hau Hau fanatics. The sad tale has been so often related that I shall give it a very brief space in my narrative.

Mr. Völkner was a Prussian by birth and a Lutheran by profession. He came to New Zealand in connection with a Hamburg society, but subsequently joined the English Church, and was ordained by Bishop Williams of Waiapu. page 222He was a man of remarkable simplicity of character, of the most single-minded and devoted piety, and an extremely conciliatory and kindly disposition. He had been placed, five or six years ago, at Opotiki, in the lower part of the Bay of Plenty, among some of the rudest tribes in New Zealand, who had had little or no intercourse with Europeans, and no religious instruction. He gradually won his way among them till he had gathered a considerable body of converts around him, who gave outward evidence of the effect of his teaching by building him a comparatively handsome church and dwelling house. When the war broke out in Waikato, and the East Coast tribes were getting implicated in it by sending contingents to it, Mr. Völkner was put under temporary arrest by some of the more violent of his people, but was released after some weeks, when he availed himself of the opportunity of taking Mrs. Völkner to Auckland, where he, however, remained a very short time himself. Notwithstanding the rude treatment he had already received, nothing could persuade him that he was in any danger; and during the page 223height of the war in Waikato and Tauranga, he paid repeated visits to his missionary district at Opotiki. Unfortunately for him, during his absence at Auckland in the month of February, a party of Hau Hau fanatics from Taranaki, led by Patara, arrived at Opotiki, carrying along with them the cooked head of an European, and a soldier, who had been taken prisoner and dragged through the country with them in great misery and wretchedness.

On the 1st of March, Mr. Völkner, accompanied by the Rev. T. Grace, another missionary who was about to visit a neighbouring place, arrived at Opotiki in a small schooner called the Eclipse, owned and commanded by Captain Levy, who had a trading store there, conducted by his brother. The vessel was no sooner inside the bar than she was boarded by a strong party of Maories, and the two missionaries dragged ashore. It was soon announced to Mr. Völkner that he was to be killed. Almost to the last, however, he refused to believe it; and there was apparently, for a time, a wavering among the natives and a talk about ransom. A night of miserable page 224suspense ensued. The next morning, Mr. Völkner busied himself in kind offices among his people, and executed some little commissions which he had undertaken at Auckland. "I could not help noticing the calmness of his manner and the beautiful smile that was on his face," writes his companion, Mr. Grace. About 2 P.M., some twenty armed men came to the house where they were, and after performing some ceremonies outside, called Mr. Völkner out, and took him away, locking in his companion, whom they would not allow to accompany him. He was taken first to his own church, where his coat and waistcoat were taken from him, and then they led him away to a willow-tree at a little distance, where they had rigged up a block and tackle which they got from the schooner. He knew now what they meant, and asked for time to pray. After a few minutes he rose up, and said, "I am ready." While he was shaking hands with some of his people (consenting to his death), a rope was thrown over his neck, and he was run up to an arm of the tree. There he hung for an hour, when they cut him down. They then cut page 225off his head, and a savage, called Kereope, tore out his eyes and swallowed them. They drank his blood, and smeared their faces with it. Some of his old friends took part in this. The women were the worst, and scrambled for his blood as it dripped on the ground. His body was then thrown to the dogs and the pigs, but was taken away from them, and afterwards buried by Captain Levy and some of the natives. Mr. Grace remained in captivity, expecting every day to be his last, till the 16th of March, when H.M.S. Eclipse having arrived off the river, Captain Levy, at imminent risk of his own life and property, got him into his boat, and pulled him off to the man-of-war.*

An attempt was made by sending a man-of-war to capture Mr. Völkner's murderers, but without success, and nothing further was done at the time. On the 22nd of July, Mr. Fulloon, a half-caste interpreter in the Government service, page 226very highly connected on the mother's side with the East Coast natives, went in a small schooner belonging to the natives, but commanded by an European, and with an English crew, to Wakatane, a few miles from Opotiki, where Mr. Völkner had been murdered. A party of natives, who avowed themselves to have been sent by the Hau Haus, boarded the vessel, and barbarously murdered Mr. Fulloon in his berth, and then killed the captain and crew; after which they burned the vessel. They spared Mr. A. H. White, a trader, and one half-caste boy, who escaped to tell the tale.

The instructions which the Governor had received from Mr. Cardwell prohibited his employing the Imperial troops on any new military operations, beyond those in which they were already engaged. The local forces were too busy at Wanganui and elsewhere to be spared till after the fall of Wereroa, and relief of Pipiriki. Immediately after those events, however, a strong force of Colonial troops under Major Brassey, and friendly native contingent under Major McDonell, and other officers who had distinguished page 227themselves during the war, amounting altogether to 580 men, was despatched to Opotiki. There Mokena, a loyal chief from East Cape, joined them with a considerable body, said to be 500, of friendly natives. They found the Hau Hau rebels in great force ready to meet them, with numerous fortified pahs, some of extraordinary strength. The landing was effected with great difficulty, and owing to a rising gale, Captain Brassey was left all night on the beach, with only 250 men, few provisions, and little ammunition. Next day, however, the native contingent landed, and our force was immediately attacked, but it drove back its assailants, and captured several of their pahs. For the next month a succession of engagements and skirmishes ensued, in which the rebels were invariably beaten with heavy loss, while our losses were light. The country was a very difficult one; many parts little, if any less so than that already described on the Upper Wanganui, and without the advantage of any river by which the interior might be got at. It is impossible to give a full account of the various engagements they had with the rebels, but to give an page 228idea of the way in which they did their work, I will extract from the papers most recently arrived from the colony, the account of the capture of Pukemaire and Hungahungatoroa pahs, places apparently of at least equal strength of any which had been captured by the Queen's troops in Waikato, and in a country beyond all comparison more difficult for military operations.

It had been ascertained that a large force of rebels were intrenched at Pukemaire pah near Waiapu, some distance south of Opotiki, and near the East Cape. A portion of the Opotiki force was sent down by sea. On landing an immediate assault on Pukemaire pah was determined on. It proved to be a place of immense strength, and defended by a strong force. The weather was most inclement, and the rain poured down in torrents. A small party under Lieutenant Biggs got up to the very fence of the pah, and a sort of hand-to-hand fight through it took place in which the natives appear to have lost at least twentyone killed, while our loss was only two. At last, however, ammunition failed, and Lieutenant Biggs drew off his party and returned to camp.

page 229

Three days of very heavy rain succeeded the return of the troops to camp, rendering another expedition impossible; but the interval was employed in constructing fascines, fuses, and all sorts of mining tools for the intended attack, which was fixed, weather permitting, for Monday, the 9th. On the night of Sunday, the 8th, Captain Westrupp and Ensign Ross, with the Forest Rangers, marched from camp at eleven o'clock, and spent the night at Tiki Tiki, an old pah about half a mile from Pukemaire. Before daylight on Monday they were up under the pah in skirmishing order. Surprised that no return was made to the polite salutations of the morning, and seeing no appearance of life, they entered the pah and found it evacuated, but showing signs of quite recent occupation. It was subsequently known that a woman who escaped from pah Te Hatepe on the previous night had apprised them of the intention of the troops to assault the pah on that morning. Although strong in number, and in a pah almost impregnable, the loss of Te Whini had so demoralized them that they were seized with a panic and fled. No loot was found page 230in the pah except by the Tuparoa natives, who, acting apparently upon information, dug up a box in an angle of the works, supposed to contain meris and other valuables. The work of destruction now commenced. Whares and fencing were ignited, and, very speedily, the stronghold of the enemy was levelled with the ground.

So far, the old tale, but not so the sequel; for, having marched up the hill and down again, it was determined that the Pai Marire should not long have the laugh at the troops. Accordingly, next morning early, two bodies started in pursuit. Lieutenant Biggs, with thirty volunteers from his own corps and the military settlers, subsequently joined by ninety Tuparoa natives under the chiefs Ropata and Te Hotene, and ten from Te Hatepe, started by the inland route. "With reference to the volunteers," says a correspondent, "it was not so much volunteering as a fight for who should go. I guessed pretty well the result, seeing the spirits the men were in. As soon as Biggs had started, Major Fraser, with about sixty Europeans, and the same number of natives under Mokena, started bv the coast with page 231the intention of meeting the other party. They arrived, however, too late, as the sequel will show. Biggs, meanwhile, his force increased to 130 men, proceeded through the bush in the direction of Kawa Kawa, a native village on the coast on the Bay of Plenty side of the East Cape, situated at the mouth of the Awatere river. Tracks of the recent retreat of the enemy were seen at intervals the whole of the way. About half-way between Morgan's pah and the Awatere, they came upon a wounded Hau Hau, from whom information was elicited which induced Biggs and party to push on as rapidly as the state of the road would permit. Rather, we should say, the nature of the country, for road there was none. The course pursued was through dense bush, with steep hills to ascend and descend, and, in some places, up the beds of creeks. The men are said to have been never dry from the time they started, and it was just as much as they could do to make the village, distant about twenty-eight miles, but quite equal to an ordinary march of fifty. When within a mile of Kawa Kawa, smoke was seen from the village, and page 232some horsemen were seen to cross the river from Horoera. About this time, some of the men are said to have asked the, under the circumstances, not unreasonable question,—Where are we to sleep to-night? Upon which Lieutenant Biggs is reported to have pointed to the pah ahead, and said that they had to make quarters for themselves there. The troops got within 100 yards of the kainga before they were seen; but, instead of disputing the ground, the enemy, who seemed to be in considerable force, the instant they saw the assailing force, ran as hard as they could in the direction of a strong pah further on, Hungahungatoroa. They were followed about a mile, but their swiftness of foot far exceeded that of the troops who had just completed a severe march; so the men returned and made themselves as snug as possible for the night."

At 2 A.M. next (Wednesday) morning the men were again on the march, to follow up the enemy in the direction of Hungahungatoroa. On the way a spirited skirmish took place. Just after daylight, the Kawa Kawa being then about two miles behind, a large party came in sight, page 233and disputed every crossing of the river. (It had to be crossed no less than nine times.) It was of no use, however; they were speedily driven by the coolness and courage of the men, on to the large pah ahead, to which they were closely followed up by the troops. Meanwhile Major Fraser arrived at Kawa Kawa, without having seen an enemy. He then received a note from Lieutenant Biggs, stating that he had attacked the Haus Haus the previous day, and was now following them up the river. The major remained at Kawa Kawa, sending on a messenger to state that assistance would be sent if required.

Following up the retreating party to this pah, strongly situated on the top of a hill, two sides of which are precipitous—about eight miles distant from Kawa Kawa, Mr. Biggs and party halted when within 150 yards of the front of it, and opened fire, which was kept up for a considerable time. Finding that the process of reduction was likely to be somewhat tedious at this rate, Mr. Tuke and nine volunteers, accompanied by some friendlies, settled the matter by a very plucky thing By scaling one of the precipitous sides of page 234the hill, in doing which they risked their lives at every movement—a false step would have been destruction—they reached a position behind, and partially overlooking the interior of the pah. The garrison was only made aware of the fact when a plunging fire from the rear began to make havoc in their ranks, and were very much astonished at a feat which they had deemed impossible. The fire became very severe from this point. About twelve o'clock, Lieutenant Biggs, acting, it is supposed, under instructions from the officer commanding, opened a negotiation with the people in the pah—offering to spare all who would give up their arms, and acknowledge allegiance to the Queen. A curious scene is said to have followed. The East Coast natives (Ngatiporou) began to haul up the white flag while the Taranakis (Ngatitohea), of whom there were fifty or sixty, vigorously opposed the attempt—the dispute between the two parties appearing to run high. At last, after the lapse of an hour, some of the East Cape people breached the pah, and expressed the willingness of the whole of them to accept the terms offered. The Taranakis, seeing this, breached page 235the pah also, and bolted over one of the precipitous sides of the cliff. Three of these were shot in the act, and their old allies in the pah, disgusted at their conduct, also favoured them with a few parting shots. The Ngatiporou, to the number of 200 men, and about 300 women and children, then surrendered—giving up all their arms, about 120 guns. The loss of the enemy in this affair was twenty killed and several wounded. On the European side the casualties were only two in number—Lance-Sergeant Dearlove wounded, not dangerously, in the arm and shoulder, and Private Hazell slightly in the face Arapeta, one of the Tuparoa friendlies, received a dangerous gunshot wound in the thigh.

I think it will be admitted that these were very gallant actions. They certainly were extremely successful. And when it is remembered that Lieutenant Biggs, and the other officers commanding in this campaign, had had no military education, had never been at Sandhurst, nor ever read a page of Jomini, in short that they were merely colonists, it must be acknowledged that they showed a wonderful aptitude for their work, page 236and that with such men to show the way it could no longer be pronounced "useless to follow the rebels to the bush."

What the rebels themselves thought of it may be gathered from the following statement of one of the force:—

"From information received from Hau Hau prisoners I find that the moral effect of the active measures taken against them has been startling. They have lost all faith in their imagined invulnerability, and have a most wholesome dread of the 'long bullet.' They have a great amount of fear and respect for the men who can use the rifle with such effect, and who are ready to meet them in the bush or to assail them in their much-vaunted strongholds. They acknowledge to have been fairly beaten, man to man, without the aid of the 'pu repo' (cannon) shells, rockets, &c.—beaten in the bush, beaten in the open, and beaten at pah fighting. I venture to say it will be a very long time before any of the same men take up arms against us; in fact, such is their rage and disgust that they express themselves as anxiously wishing to join the Europeans in attacking the Hau Haus at Tauranga—to get 'utu' (payment) out of the false prophets who have so egregiously fooled them. A lesson has indeed been taught the rebels which will have a salutary effect all over the island. The prompt and decisive manner in which they have been followed up from place to place by a small body of determined page 237men, has done more to disorganise and demoralise them than the slow advance of a large army with all the pomp and circumstance of war."

Almost at the same time as these events were going on at the south end of the Bay of Plenty, our allies the Arawas led by Mr. W. Mair, a colonist and resident magistrate of the district, were defeating the Haus Haus, with heavy loss and the capture of upwards of eighty prisoners.

"On the 12th instant the Haus Haus evacuated their position at Matata, and proceeded towards Te Teko, where they took up their quarters. The Arawas, accompanied by the resident magistrate, Mr. Mair, followed on their track, and arrived at Te Teko on Tuesday, the 17th instant, where they found Te Ua strongly encamped. No other means presenting themselves to take the pah than by sapping, they commenced at once to drive. At 3 P.M. on Wednesday the rebels asked for a truce; and had twenty-four hours granted to them. On the 19th at noon fighting commenced, and ere nightfall Ngatikapakio had effected a lodgment within a short distance of the pah, which effectually cut off all communication with the river. A heavy fire was sustained on both sides the whole time. At four in the morning of Sunday, the 20th, the Pai Marines, seeing all their means of escape cut off, asked for a truce to treat for terms of peace. The only terms granted were unconditional surrender.

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"At seven the same morning, they marched out and gave up their arms. Te Ua, the prophet, and twenty-eight of the men implicated in the atrocities of Mr. Fulloon's murder, are in charge of the Arawa police; the rest, some fifty-four men, are in the custody of the Arawa tribe. This important victory will be a most decisive blow against the Pai Marire party. It is reported that Kereopa is to be given up, either to Major Stapp or the Arawas."

* Mr. Grace's journal, C. P. P. 1865, A. No. 5. See also very interesting articles on the Pai Marire superstition, by an Army Chaplain P.C.B., in Good Words and Frazer's Magazine, October, 1865.