Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The War in New Zealand.

Chapter IX

page 124

Chapter IX.

Events at Taranaki during Period of Waikato Campaign—Origin of Pai Marire or Hau Hau Fanaticism—First Appearance at Sentry Hill Redoubt—Attack of Rebels on Sentry Hill—Hepaniah the Prophet killed—They attempt to attack Wanganui—Gallant Conduct of Wanganui Friendly Natives—Battle of Moutua between Haus Haus and Wanganui Friendlies.

The war in Waikato substantially terminated with the evacuation of Maungatautari and the events at Tauranga. The rebels, however, with the exception of the remnant of the Ngaiterangi at the latter place, made no submission, nor any overtures for peace. They simply retreated to the hills on the borders of Waikato, where it was not considered prudent to follow them with our troops, while our military posts before referred to held all the open country from Auckland to nearly the southern extremity of the great Waikato plains. We will for the present leave them there, and resume page 125the narrative of events at Taranaki and the adjacent coast to the south-west, including the Wanganui River.

During the continuance of the Waikato campaign, no attempt had been made to carry on active operations on an extended scale at Taranaki, or to retain possession of the Tataraimaka block, the occupation of which had been the signal for the commencement of hostilities in May 1863. Little more had been done than to maintain our own position within the entrenchments of New Plymouth and in a few neighbouring redoubts, and from time to time to scour the open country and drive the rebels into the hills or down the coast to the south, an office which was very efficiently performed chiefly by militia and volunteer corps of bush-rangers. For reasons before assigned, I cannot record all the skirmishes that occurred, though the conduct of our troops, whether regular or colonial, was I believe in every instance meritorious. But I shall take up the narrative at the point where it will enable me to describe the growth and progress of the horrible Pai Marire faith, if such it may be called, which page 126has since superseded the Christianity, nominal or real, of a large part of the Maori race, and developed itself into one of the most disgusting and terrible superstitions that ever found lodgment in diseased brain or perverted heart.

There is little doubt that this superstition was the work of some designing Maori, who perceived that the events in Waikato were fast weakening the attachment of the southern natives to the King movement, and that some more potent bond of combination was required than a political organization the fortunes of which were not then in the ascendant. The accounts given of its origin by the natives themselves are various and sufficiently absurd. The most connected version, and probably that which accompanied its first promulgation, is given by Mr. J. White, resident magistrate at Wanganui. It is to the following effect:

Kaitaki pah, a very strong position held by the rebels about 10 miles south of New Plymouth, was taken by Colonel Warre and a combined force of regulars and local forces on the 24th of March 1864. The native works were taken possession of, page 127and occupied by a detachment of the 57th Regiment, under Captain Lloyd. A few days afterwards (4th April), that officer, with a force of 100 men, was scouring the spurs of the adjacent hills to see if there were any cultivations in that direction, with the view of destroying them if found. Having traversed a considerable distance without seeing any traces of natives on the move, his men appear to have got into loose order, when they were suddenly set upon by a body of rebels, who came over a ridge, their front and rear separated, and completely defeated and routed, with a loss of seven killed and nine wounded. Captain Lloyd, who exhibited great gallantry, was among the killed. The rebels drank the blood of those who fell, and cut off their heads, burying for the time the heads and bodies in separate places. A few days afterwards, according to the native account, the angel Gabriel appeared to those who had partaken of the blood, and by the medium of Captain Lloyd's spirit, ordered his head to be exhumed, cured in their own way, and taken throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand; that from henceforth this head should page 128be the medium of man's communication with Jehovah. These injunctions were carefully obeyed, and immediately the head was taken up it appointed Te Ua to be high priest, and Hepaniah and Rangitauira to be assistants, and communicated to them in the most solemn manner the tenets of this new religion, namely:—The followers shall be called "Pai Marire." The angel Gabriel, with his legions, will protect them from their enemies. The Virgin Mary will constantly be present with them. The religion of England, as taught by the Scriptures, is false. The Scriptures must all be burnt. All days are alike sacred, and no notice must be taken of the Christian Sabbath. Men and women must live together promiscuously, so that their children may be as the sand of the sea-shore for multitude. The priests have superhuman power, and can obtain for their followers complete victories by uttering vigorously the word "Hau." The people who adopt this religion will shortly drive the whole European population out of New Zealand; this is only prevented now by the head not having completed its circuit of the whole page 129land. Legions of angels await the bidding of the priests to aid the Maories in exterminating the Europeans. Immediately the Europeans are destroyed and driven away, men will be sent from heaven to teach the Maories all the arts and sciences now known by Europeans. The priests have the power to teach the Maories the English language in one lesson, provided certain stipulations are carefully observed, namely, the people to assemble at a certain time, in a certain position, near a flagstaff of a certain height, bearing a flag of a certain colour.

Very few natives understanding three words of English, it was not difficult for the prophets to persuade them that the angel Gabriel had conferred that gift on themselves. A striking instance of impudent imposition in this particular is given by Mr. White. "An old Maori woman had purchased some articles of clothing in the town of Wanganui, which had been wrapped up in a newspaper; Rangitauira obtained this paper, and to display his miraculous gift, read it aloud in a jargon which the crowd was assured was the English language. When he had finished read-page 130ing, he obligingly interpreted to them that this was an English newspaper, giving an account of the Waitotara war, in which the number of soldiers killed was 3,800, and the number of friendly natives 400: of these last, 40 were William King's people; and that the Queen wished it to be perfectly understood that when the present war was over, all the surviving friendly natives should be used as beasts of burden, or to sweep the streets and cleanse the most filthy localities in European towns."

One of the earliest instances of an attempt to prove their invulnerability by English bullets (which these prophets promised), occurred shortly afterwards at Sentry Hill, a redoubt about six miles north of New Plymouth, occupied by seventy-five men under command of Captain Shortt, of the 57th. The redoubt stands on a rising ground in an open plain. It was a splendid moonlight night, about eight o'clock, when the men in the redoubt saw a Maori coming across the flat, throwing his arms about in a wild manner, and singing what appeared to be a native hymn. He walked boldly up to the parapet, and sat down on page 131the edge of the ditch. Some of the men wanted to shoot him, but the officers said, "No, no; go out and take him." A party of one serjeant and eight or ten men went out; and as the serjeant approached, the Maori jumped up, threw a stone at him, hitting him on the throat, and bolted. The men were taken by surprise, but before he had run very far they fired a volley at him; on which he sat down on a large stone and went on with his song. Another volley, however, being fired, he took to his heels and disappeared. A few days after this the detachment in the redoubt heard the Maories in the pah at Manutahi chanting their war-songs in the early morning. The noise gradually approached till the party making it crossed the Waiongana river, when it changed its character to the barking of dogs and fierce yells. Presently a force of at least 300 armed Maories was seen at a distance of 800 yards. They advanced along the road slowly, in the military order called "fours," making steadily for the redoubt. Captain Short kept his men down behind the parapet till the Maories arrived within 150 yards, when they halted as if doubtful. The page 132word was then given, the troops jumped up and poured in a heavy volley on the advancing column, backing it with grape from two cohorns. The Maories stood the fire with great imperturbability, as if they did not expect to be hit; but at last they broke and fled, leaving thirty-four dead and wounded behind them. Our men being under cover, only one was slightly wounded. When the Maories on this occasion advanced towards the redoubt, our troops saw to their surprise, a few yards in advance of the main body, apparently the very same native who had visited them a few nights before, again singing and throwing his arms about. This time, however, he was less fortunate, a rifle ball knocking him over. This was in all probability Hepaniah, one of the three principal prophets of the new superstition, who is known to have fallen on this occasion.*

It might have been expected that the result of the battle of Sentry Hill, so fatal to the pretensions of the new faith, would have given it at all

* Despatches C. P. P. 1864, E. No. 3, p. 72. Papers on Pai Marire, E. No. 8, and private sources.

page 133events a temporary check. It did not do so, however. The surviving prophets asserted that the cause of the disaster was the angel Gabriel having taken offence at something that Hepaniah had done; but that he would still support them in their future career. The prophet Matene (Martin), who had Capt. Lloyd's head in his possession, started with a large party of fanatics down the coast to Waitotara, from whence, at an acute angle, runs the track to the Upper Wanganui river, where a large party of very warlike natives just returned from Waikato, were stationed. He succeeded in persuading many of them to join, the new faith, and to attempt an attack on the European town and settlement of Wanganui, at the mouth of the river, about 100 miles lower down. The river, a broad and rapid torrent, rushes for many miles between perpendicular crags, through a country only accessible to Maories, or trained and practised bush-rangers. The canoes of a war-party launched on its waters, would reach the outskirts of the settlement in a few hours. The town was but feebly defended by a garrison of 300 men of the 57th page 134regiment and a few militia, who could have done little beyond protecting their own position, while the remoter hamlets and scattered homesteads over fifty miles in extent would have been exposed to the ravages of the enemy. The danger was most imminent, when it was announced that the portion of the Wanganui tribe which lived within the settlement were determined to prohibit the attack, and if necessary to defend the place with their lives. A party of about 300 of them proceeded about seventy miles up the river in their canoes, till they met the fanatics and war party, who endeavoured to persuade them to let them pass down the river to attack the town; but not only were all their overtures indignantly rejected, but they were told that their passage would be prevented, no matter at what sacrifice of life. Matene then said he would wait two months, if at the expiration of that time the loyal natives would give way. The latter, at length, sick and wearied of these negotiations, on Friday, the 13th May, sent a special messenger to Matene and his fanatics proposing that they should do battle on the following day at a certain hour, on the island page 135of Moutua. The challenge was at once accepted, it being stipulated that neither party should attempt to surprise the other, or in any way violate the conditions of the duel. The time fixed was the break of day. The island of Moutua, almost midway in the river, may be about 300 yards long and 20 wide, and about 12 or 15 feet above the level of the river; it is thinly covered with manukau scrub and fern, but presents certain irregularities of ground which afford considerable shelter, and except when there is a fresh in the river it is surrounded by a bed of shingle. Before daybreak a party of the loyals, headed by Hemi Napi, were on the island, and posted themselves at the extremity at which their foes were to land. They were shortly followed by the remainder of their force under Mete Kingi. The advance party was formed of three companies, one, consisting of Roman Catholics, and numbering ten men, were led by Kereti; another, consisting of nine men, were commanded by Hemi and Riwai; and the third, numbering fifteen men, was led by Aperaniko and Haimona. The reserve companies were some distance in the page 136rear. Matene and his fanatics landed out of seven canoes on the shingle spit without opposition about 7 A.M. Their forces were arranged in a similar way to that of the loyal natives. Immediately after they were formed they commenced their incantation, shouting "Hau, hau!"—Up, up! and using gestures not unlike the passes made by mesmerists. They laboured under the strange delusion that while they themselves were invulnerable, their opponents would be forced by their incantations to approach close to them without power to offer any resistance. For two hours were these incantations kept up, the advanced companies being not more than twenty yards from each other. As soon as the first shot was fired by one of the rebels (Hoani Winihere, of Pipiriki), the opposing forces slowly advanced till they were within thirty feet of each other, when a volley was exchanged. Several fell on both sides, and amongst them the chief Kereti, whose loss seems to have dispirited the loyal natives, for they immediately commenced to retreat, slowly at first, but when after another volley or two their two other leaders, Hemi and page 137Riwai, were killed, they fairly broke and fled. The reserve, instead of coming to their support, also fled, most of them recrossing the river. The battle seemed at this moment completely lost, and probably would not have been retrieved, had it not been for the chief Haimona Hiroti, who, when he reached the end of the island, shouted, "I will go no further," and immediately rallied some twenty men just in time to pour a deadly volley into the rebels, who were close upon them. After this it seems to have been a hand-to-hand fight; but the rebels having lost several of their leaders, and Mete Kingi with the reserve having rejoined Haimona Hiroti, the rebels soon broke and fled, being hotly pursued till they reached the head of the island, when all who survived (with the exception of a few who escaped in a canoe) took to the river, and were most of them shot down. Matene, though he was badly wounded while swimming, succeeded in gaining the bank, but was almost immediately tomahawked by a native policeman, Te Moro, who lost no time in swimming after him. It is scarcely possible to state what the rebel loss was, but page 138forty dead bodies were found on the island, and several more were seen to sink while attempting to cross the river. Nearly all the survivors were known to be wounded. The friendly natives had twelve killed, and from twenty-five to thirty wounded. Several spears and other weapons of war were taken, and also Pehi's King flag, which was found in a large canoe; and on searching Matene's whare, the conquerors obtained a prize of ninety sovereigns.*
Before these events occurred, information had reached the Colonial Government of the danger which impended over Wanganui. The Governor and General were both at Tauranga, but an express was sent for them, and in a few days I started for Taranaki, with orders from General Cameron to send on a reinforcement of 300 men to Wanganui. I accompanied them down to that place, but before we arrived the danger was over; and I had the satisfaction of meeting the Maori leaders on our side, who had returned down the river. The next day the dead bodies of Hemi

* See very interesting Report by Dr. Featherston, C. P. P. 1864, E. No. 3, p. 80.

page 139Napi and another chief were brought in for burial. The shops of the town were closed, and the Europeans stood uncovered in the street; while the officer commanding the garrison, Colonel Logan, and a strong party of volunteers from her Majesty's troops, all the Government officers, and many old residents, joined the funeral procession. The mark of sympathy was much felt by the friendly natives. A monument has since been raised at Wanganui to the memory of the natives who fell at Moutua, by the provincial government of Wellington, at a cost of 400l.

These were the first developments of the Pai Marire, or Hau Hau fanaticism. As with many other fanatics, the severe reverses with which they met only seemed to add fuel to fire. Their emissaries were sent into every part of the islands, and their creed, which was framed on the convenient principle of embodying something from most other creeds, spread like wildfire; its votaries apparently adding new articles to it to meet the growing furor of their disciples. A large infusion of Judaism, some leading features page 140of Mormonism, a little mesmerism, a touch of spiritualism, occasional ventriloquism, and a large amount of cannibalism, are the characteristic features which it exhibits. Its rites are bloody, sensual, foul and devilish; the least reprehensible and most orderly consisting in running round a pole stuck in the ground, howling and uttering gibberish, till catalepsy prostrates the worshippers, who sometimes lie senseless on the ground for hours. Their bitterest hatred, and most refined cruelties, are reserved for the missionaries, who are accused of robbing them of their lands, by tribes which never sold, gave away, or were deprived of an acre. The foul superstition seems to have seized with more or less violence on all the rebel party: a Kingite and a Hau Hau appear to be synonymous.

It is fair, however, to hear both sides. Even this horrid superstition has its apologist. The Bishop of Wellington, in his opening address to the synod of that diocese, on the 26th September last, spoke as follows:—

"I cannot allow such a remarkable feature to pass unnoticed as the Hau Hau superstition, page 141which has swept over the land like a pestilence, and carried off in its train the great mass of the people from Waikato to the Wairarapa. But I am bound to say that I should consider it a grave mistake if we were to merge the whole people in one indiscriminate condemnation, as guilty of, or sympathizing with, the worst and most disgusting features of the fanaticism. To use their own language, 'two canoes' started, by the false prophet Te Ua's command, from some place between Taranaki and Wanganui. One canoe was full of wrath, the other one of peaceful propagandism. Some of the crew paddling in the latter were captured near Tauranga, when Hori Tupaea was made prisoner. But the wrathful one went towards Opotiki and Tauranga, and alas! we know too much of its deeds of darkness. Still it would be, I repeat it, a grave mistake to suppose that our neighbours in the Wairarapa, who, almost to a man, have joined the Pai Marire flag, are murderers in heart and will, any more than I can believe William Thompson (Tarapipipi) and the Waikatos as a body, guilty of the same crimes in will or thought. Doubtless he page 142and thousands of others have joined the fanatical movement merely as a political engine for upholding their nationality. They have established a Maori National Church, which is to embrace all sects. Their creed and form of worship includes articles taken from the Roman Catholic faith, from Wesleyanism, from our Prayer-book, and especially from Judaism and the Old Testament. This is the religion for those who sail in the peaceful canoe, and for those that belong to the wrathful canoe there are added some of the worst features of the old Maori usage and the days of cannibalism. I have been frequently on board the hulk where there are fifty-six Maori prisoners who had all joined the Hau Hau superstition, but they have nearly all attended divine service most gladly and regularly."*

The bishop appears to have forgotten what one of his predecessors in the Church has told us, that the same fountain cannot send forth sweet water and bitter. His apology amounts to this: that the Hau Hau religion has two mouths, with

* Report of proceedings of Synod, Wellington Independent newspaper.

page 143the one it preaches Catholic Christianity, with the other it eats missionaries. I cannot wish him joy of his friends in the peaceful canoe, "who have joined the fanatical movement merely as a political engine." I think they are by very much the worst of the two, in exact proportion as deliberate duplicity is worse than an involuntary delusion.

I shall not at present follow up the history of this superstition. We shall meet with it again at a later period, when it exhibited its most matured character.

The severe reverses which the rebels had lately met with at all points, did much to convince the southern natives of the hopelessness of the cause of the King party. In the province of Wellington there had been large bodies of armed sympathizers, who had been only kept back from open rebellion by the prudence and discretion of one man, Wi Tako, a chief of the Ngatiawas. Sir George Grey had had a very angry interview with this chief in 1862, and had almost driven him out of his presence. Tako kept his temper, and told the Governor that he should be guided by the page 144course of events in Waikato: "Go you and fight there; there is the fountain of this evil; if you can stop it, the small streams like myself will soon dry up." Fortunately Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent of Wellington, had great influence over Tako, and under his advice, and guided by his own good sense, he restrained the impetuosity of about as hostile and impetuous a mob of followers as any in the island. As I travelled down the coast at this date I had the satisfaction of reaping the fruits of the Superintendent's management. Wi Tako met me by appointment; and we had a long conference, which ended in his making a full submission and signing the declaration of allegiance to the Queen. He complained to me bitterly of the course pursued by the King party, who had perverted a movement, which was intended only to elevate the Maori, into one of mere hostility to the European. "If they would have listened to me," he said, "Kingism would have been a very different thing, and its fortunes very different. But they rejected my advice on every occasion when I offered it." Wi Tako's submission practically put an end to all chance of page 145hostilities on the south coast between Wanganui and Hawkes Bay. He has since thrown himself energetically into our cause, and has exercised great and most beneficial influence in checking the rebel Haus Haus on the east coast.*

* See full report in C. P. P. 1864, E. No. 2, p. 74.