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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XVI. — East Coast Expedition—continued. — Te Maru Maru and Te Kopani

Chapter XVI.
East Coast Expeditioncontinued.
Te Maru Maru and Te Kopani.

After this crushing defeat the Hauhaus remained quiet, and it was evident that a large majority of them desired peace, there were still some roving bands who held the country inland, on the upper Waipaoa, and with one of these Sergeant Walsh of the Defence Force fought a most gallant action. Shortly after the fight at Waerenga-a-hika the sergeant, who had heard wondrous tales about the petroleum-spring at the Pakake a Whirikoka, some thirty miles inland, persuaded an old settler (Mr. Espie) and his son to guide him to the place. On arrival at the steep ascent leading to the springs they very foolishly left their horses, carbines, and coats in charge of the boy, and taking only their revolvers, proceeded on foot. During their absence a party of Hauhaus, who had been watching their proceedings, stole up to the horses and fired upon the boy. Luckily he saw them in time, and succeeded in making his escape, but left horses and carbines in the enemy's hands. The Hauhaus carried off the portable loot, tied up the horses, and then followed in pursuit of Walsh and Espie, who, having heard the shots, were returning post-haste. The first notice they received of the enemy's presence was a volley, which shattered Espie's arm, and wounded Walsh in the forehead and hand. After a little skirmishing, during which page 98the latter was again wounded, the Hauhaus rushed in to tomahawk and finish them. Walsh received two more severe wounds; and, as a climax, a fellow, armed with a short fowling-piece, ran close to him and fired, the muzzle almost touching his chest. To Walsh's astonishment the only effect was a nasty burn the bullet must have fallen out in the hurry of loading. Recovering himself quickly, the gallant sergeant sprang upon his assailant, and struck him down with the butt of his revolver. That a man who had five bullet-wounds, some of them severe, should be able to fight at all, was extraordinary; but that he should be able to strike down and capture the man who bad just fired a bullet through his chest, was too much for Maori philosophy. They bolted for their lives, anxious only to get out of the way of so great a warrior and magician, forgetting in their hurry even to carry off the horses. Walsh and his friend proceeded down the hill with their prisoner, and found the horses, but no saddles; so putting a tether rope round the captive's neck, they led him, wounded as they were, to Turanganui, where they arrived that evening. This is a wonderful instance of courage and endurance, eclipsing everything in the annals of the Maori war; for although badly wounded in five places, Sergeant Walsh still stuck to his prisoner, and notwithstanding his faintness from loss of blood, he rode into Turanganui, dragging his captive after him, a distance of nearly thirty miles, and, although he delayed him several hours on the road, he never thought of letting him go. Had he during the skirmish shown the least sign of faint-heartedness, all three must have been sacrificed; but as it was he had the credit of beating off nine men, and Sir George Grey, who arrived soon after, complimented him highly on the courage he had displayed.

The Poverty Bay campaign had scarcely ended before complications arose in Te Wairoa, a district lying between Poverty Bay and Ahuriri. The cause was the same, viz., page 99the Hauhau religion, which had been introduced in the previous April by one of Kereopa's disciples, who called himself Bonaparte. This individual left Poverty Bay with a train of about fifty men, and visited Te Mahia, where he made many converts among the Nukutaurua people; but his career was cut short by the staunch old chief Ihaka Whanga, who ordered the Hauhaus to leave his territory. From here they went to the Whakald, where they were even more successful, for the whole of the sub-tribe joined the fanatics, so that by the time the prophet arrived in Te Wairoa he had 200 well-armed men under his command, and every prospect of numerous converts among the Kurupalriaka tribe, who received him with open arms. The advent of these fanatics caused great excitement and alarm among the few European settlers and loyal Maories; but they were to a certain extent prepared to meet the danger, for the government agent (Mr. McLean) had taken care to send Major Lambert and a few volunteers to their assistance, with arms for the friendly natives. These arms were issued to Kopu Parapora and his followers directly information was received of the Hauhau march. Thus there were about one hundred and sixty Maories and fifty Europeans ready for action when the enemy were seen descending the hill to the Kurupakiaka pah. On the 18th of April the first meeting was held between the contending parties. Kopu led the loyal tribes, and Mr. S. Locke the Europeans. After the usual Hauhau ceremonies round the pole, the talking commenced. Kopu, who was the big gun on our side, spoke in a firm yet conciliatory manner, and gave the Hauhaus to understand that although he desired peace, yet he was prepared for the alternative, and not altogether unwilling to commence. These words, combined with his well-known desperate character as a fighting man, had some effect, for Bonaparte in reply said, "I will not destroy in Te Wairoa, but elsewhere." On the 20th reinforcements arrived from Te Mahia under Ihaka Whanga, and from page 100Mohaka under Paora Rerepu, and marched to interview the Hauhaus at Te Matiti. The meeting took place, and the loyal chiefs urged the Hauhaus to leave the district, telling them that they would have nothing to do with them. The firm tone and increasing strength of the friendlies had the desired effect, for by the 24th the party had broken up and left for their homes. Only the prophet and a handful of men remained, to work mischief. Thus the Wairoa had for a time been saved from anarchy, but only to break out again in December of the same year.

The Wairoa tribe is a branch of the great Ngatikahungunu family, and had at this period four chiefs of note, viz., Te Tuatini, Te Warn, Te Apatu, and Kopu Parapara; the two former espoused the Hauhau side of the question, and the two latter the Government side. Te Apatu was a man of high birth, but a cowardly nonentity; whereas Kopu, luckily for us, was a man of unusual courage and energy, friendly to Europeans, and ready to fight at all times. In December, 1865, there was a grand opening for a man of his disposition, as the Hauhaus, untaught by the sharp lessons received at Opotiki and Waiapu, were threatening daily to attack the Government party. Such was the position of affairs when Major Fraser was ordered to Te Wairoa, in the early part of December, to cooperate with Kopu in the suppression of Hauhauism.

A portion of Te Waru's tribe, occupying the Marumaru village, on the Wairoa river, were the first attacked, and were disposed of in a running fight, during which they lost eight men; our loss being three killed and five wounded, among the former Captain Hussey, of the Taranaki Military Settlers. After this skirmish the enemy retired to Whataroa, Te Reinga, and Waikare Moana, and nothing further was done until reinforcements arrived. On the 3rd of January the St. Kilda arrived, with 150 Ngatiporou, under Rapata, and at a meeting held by Major Fraser and the chiefs it was decided to march upon that terra incognita Waikare Moana, and attack the mixed page 101tribes of Rongowhakaata, Ngatikahungunu, and Uriwera, who had assembled at the lake to the number of 500. On the 6 th, Rapata and his men joined Major Fraser at Te Tawa; Ngatikahungunu under Kopu, and Ihaka Whanga joined on the 8th, and on the following morning the expedition started. Major Biggs wished the column to move in two parties by different roads; but this was opposed by Rapata, who contended that such dispositions generally failed in rough country from the difficulty found in regulating the march so as to attack at the same time. Finally Rapata's advice was taken, and the force (with the exception of a few European officers) composed entirely of natives, marched in one column, and camped that night at the Koareare, where they remained until the 12th. On the morning of that day Rapata selected twelve of his best men, and went as advanced guard some distance in front of the main body. They proceeded cautiously for some miles until they reached the site of an old pah, where they found themselves nearly two miles in advance. This alarmed the men, and they suggested the advisability of waiting for the column; but Rapata replied, with characteristic coolness, "They will hurry up when they hear us fired upon." After this speech no further objections were made, and the small party proceeded on their way, until they espied a party of Hauhaus hiding on the edge of a small bush in their direct line of advance.

Thinking they had done their duty by discovering the ambush, the advanced guard halted until the main body came up, when all hands sat down, while the various chiefs addressed them in the old Maori style, reminding them of the deeds of their ancestors, and calling on the great fighting men to sustain their reputation. Near the spot at which the enemy had been observed, the track entered a gorge, formed by two ridges, that on the left covered with high fern, that on the right crowned with bush, and rather higher than the other. Both these ridges page 102were afterwards found to be rifle-pitted, and crowded with men. During the halt Rapata spoke as follows: "Ngatikahungunu, this is your country, and you know its dangerous places, therefore lead the way, and we will follow; but I advise you before entering the gorge to open fire on either side of the track, to uncover and draw the fire of any enemy that may be concealed there." Ngatikakungunu said nothing, but moved on; and when well within the gorge, the enemy opened a heavy plunging fire upon them from both flanks and the front, killing eleven and wounding many men. The brave old chief, Ihaka Whanga, stood his ground, though wounded in four places, and vainly tried to rally his men. Rapata, from his position in the rear, saw his advice disregarded, and perceived the result of the ambuscade. With the eye of a true soldier, he saw that the only way to prevent a defeat was to storm the right-hand line of rifle-pits. He called on Ngatiporou, and they went in grand style, taking the pits, and killing most of the occupants. The Hauhaus, astonished by such rough dealing, were in their turn broken, and fled towards Lake Waikare, about four miles off, where they took to their canoes in such a hurry that the rear of the fugitives were left behind, standing on the edge of the lake, and were captured by our scouts on the following day.

Among the prisoners was a brother of the fighting chief Nama, and the most celebrated chief of the Hauhaus, Tuatini Tamaionarangi. They were both taken in the potato-grounds on the north-west side of the lake. When the latter was brought into camp, Rapata asked him his name; the reply was, in the figurative language of the Maori, "Te Wairoa is the village, and the Taniwha who lives there Tamaionarangi." On hearing his prisoner's rank, Major Fraser remarked to Rapata, "The chief ought to be shot." Rapata took the remark seriously, and said, "Shoot him." Some hours after, finding him still alive, Rapata said, "You all appear afraid to shoot this man, but page 103I am not." So saying he took his captive by the wrist, led him to the edge of the lake, and shot him and three others with his revolver. Thus died Tuatini Tamaionarangi, one of the past generation of great chiefs, who, with Te Kani a Takirau, governed the whole east coast in days gone by. The loss of the Hanhans in this fight at Te Kopani was about fifty killed, wounded unknown; and on our side fourteen were killed and twenty wounded. Rapata wished to follow them up even to Ruatahuna, but was overruled by Kopu, who thought that sufficient had been done, and in the hour of triumph did not forget that he was fighting against his own relations. "But for this," said Rapata, "there would be no stragglers to bother us."

Rapata Wahawaha had for some time been looked upon as a sort of a god by his own tribe; but after the fight at Te Kopani his credit was equally great with other tribes, who were not slow to recognise that the result was due to his bravery and promptitude. Thus ended the Wairoa campaign.