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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XX. — General Chute's Campaign—continued. — Ketemarae. March to Taranaki. Fight at Waikoko

Chapter XX.
General Chute's Campaigncontinued.
Ketemarae. March to Taranaki. Fight at Waikoko.

Up to this period the imperial officers had carefully avoided marching any distance into the New Zealand bush; but General Chute, seeing no sufficient reason for such avoidance, conceived and carried out the idea of marching through the bush behind the mountain from. Ketemarae to Taranaki, a distance of nearly sixty miles. Many people have since characterised the march as useless; but if it did no actual good, it is certain that no harm page 115resulted. The destruction of Otapawa being completed, a reconnoitring party of 150 friendly Maories were pushed forward to Ketemarae; when, after a long wet night-march they came in sight of the pah, two scouts, who found the pah deserted, were sent forward, consequently the friendly Maories retired into the bush until the troops arrived and took possession, as they feared being mistaken for the enemy; but on emerging therefrom at daybreak they received a volley from some Hauhaus, who were watching proceedings at no great distance. The chief, Kepa, immediately divided his men into two parties—sent one of them to cut off the enemy, and at the head of the other charged them in front, killing three with his first volley; he then followed closely to an old deserted pah, where the Hauhaus made a stand and lost five more men, after which they broke and fled. Kepa followed in pursuit of the main body, and fell in with the other half of his force, who had killed two men. The united force now moved towards the large pah Mawhitiwhiti, on the opposite side of the Waingongoro river; but the enemy did not await their attack, for after firing a few volleys at long range they fell back on another and better position. Here our men tried to surround them and cut off their retreat, but the Hauhaus were in force; so a sergeant was sent for reinforcements in case they should be required, and the attack commenced. After ten minutes' heavy firing from three sides, the Hauhaus were seen escaping into a bush gully. A general charge ensued; the stronghold was carried, and seven more bodies found. After this affair our Maories thought they had done enough for one day, and returned towards the camp. Seeing this, the Parthian tribe of Ngaruahine turned and became the pursuers, but only for a short distance, as Kepa drew them into an ambush and killed two more, after which even Ngaruahine thought discretion the better part of valour, and allowed the force to return in peace. In this dashing skirmish seven pahs or villages were captured and destroyed, viz., Te Whenuku, Te Miro, Kanihi, Mawhitiwhiti. Tapuki, Otukeri, and page 116Werewere. All or most of the losses on this day fell upon Titokowaru's tribe, but this chief was not then so famous—or rather, infamous—as he afterwards became, Toi being the leading chief in these engagements. On the evening of the 16th General Chute issued orders for the force, consisting of three companies of the 14th Regiment and Native Contingent, to prepare to start on the following morning on the march through the forest in rear of Mount Egmont, not anticipating any objection from the native portion of the force. About midnight Major McDonnell and Dr. Featherston arrived in camp, and soon ascertained that the Maories had made up their minds not to go, objecting to march so far from their homes. This would have put a stop to the expedition. Threats and persuasions were alike useless with chiefs of the Mete Kingi stamp, but McDonnell wisely availed himself of Dr. Featherston's influence, and calling the head chief, old Hori Kingi Te Anaua, into his tent, asked if he intended to fail his friend the doctor after so many years of friendship and trust. This appeal was too much for the good old chief. He sat in thought for some minutes, then taking their hands in his, said, "Though all my tribe refuse to go, I shall be with you." After this speech he went to the door of the tent and addressed his people as follows: "Listen, you who have refused to march with the Pakeha. It is well; but I will go with them, even though I go alone. It shall not be said that I deserted them; but I warn you all that if you desert me I will never again live in Wanganui. Henceforward the Pakehas will be my only friends." There was a dead silence after this speech for some seconds; then arose a general chorus of "We will go! we will go!" And they did, eighty picked men following old Hori next morning on their bush march. Each soldier carried three days' provisions and left his knapsack behind. The Maories had also three days' rations issued to them, but as they had not intended to go until the last moment, they had eaten most of it, so they travelled light. The force was accompanied by a large number of pack-horses, and they proved a great page 117source of trouble and delay; for the country is intersected by creeks running in deep beds, and these had to be bridged before the horses could be got over. This will account for the astonishing time of seven days taken to march about sixty miles, the Rev. Father Pezant having walked the same road in two days on more than one occasion. The column was led by two Hauhau guides, who deserted after the first day's march, and meeting a small party of their friends coming down the track, warned them to return, as the Pakehas were coming. This was more than the Hauhaus could believe, so they sat down to breakfast, and were surprised by the advanced guard of the contingent, who killed three out of seven men, and captured a girl. Up to this time the road had been pretty distinct, but on the 18th the track was barely visible, and the pioneers had to clear it as the force advanced; the streams and rivers also became more numerous as they approached Taranaki, and rendered progress very slow. On the 21st the carefully hoarded rations were exhausted, and horseflesh was served out to the men. Ensign W. McDonnell volunteered to push on to Taranaki and bring up supplies. Permission was readily granted, and he started, accompanied by Dr. Walker, Captain Leach, D.A.Q.G., and Mr. Price, a commissariat officer. After a and long fatiguing march they reached Mataitawa, most of them completely knocked up; but McDonnell, after a short rest, guided a party of soldiers carrying provisions for the general's force. The Maories reached Mataitawa on the sixth day, but the imperial troops did not come in until the seventh day, the 24th of January, 1866. On reaching the Waiwakaio river the Taranaki settlers met the troops, gave them a splendid dinner, and otherwise behaved with the kindness and hospitality for which they are famous. The change was a pleasant one for men who had been marching for five days in pouring rain, and sleeping on wet ground each night. The general did not remain long in Taranaki. A few days were given to refresh his men, while he prepared for the return march by the coast, in which he page 118was to be accompanied by the Taranaki cavalry and a company of Bush Rangers under Captain Corbett, sharp work being expected with the Warea people. The column marched on the 1st of February, but nothing of importance happened until they reached Waikoko, a native village lying between Warea and Opunaki, where the Hauhaus made a most determined stand, killing one of our men and wounding several others, while they had only four men killed. The Native Contingent were first in the village, but behaved very badly; not that they feared to face the Hauhaus, but that they did not care to get in front of the soldiers, who were by no means quick to discriminate between friend and foe when both were Maories, so they stood aside while the soldiers carried the village. This was the last skirmish of the campaign; two days after the force arrived at Waingongoro, and were ordered to their several posts.

I have before mentioned that only eighty kupapas marched through the forest with General Chute, the remainder were left in charge of Lieutenant Wirihana, N.C., and Hunia Te Hakeke (Chief of Ngatiapa), with orders to harass the enemy in every possible way, by destroying cultivations, burning villages, &c. On the 20th of January Lieutenant Wirihana, who had been engaged in one of these raids, found that a man of his party was missing. The next day several search parties were sent out. One of these detachments, eighteen strong, under the young Ngatiapa chief Aperahama, after searching the whole morning, sat down to rest in a bush clearing, five miles from camp, and were surprised by a volley from nearly fifty Hauhaus. All our men but two bolted for the bush and took cover, but Wi Pekapeka and Hanieta stood their ground until the former was mortally wounded, when Hanieta took the wounded man's belts and rifle and hid them in the scrub, after which he returned and continued the fight, until the others, ashamed of their conduct, joined him, and held the ground until Aperahama was severely wounded, when, finding that the enemy were attempting page 119to surround them, they retired in good order. Luckily Wirihana, who had heard the firing some miles away, came to their relief with twenty men, and after a sharp engagement beat the Hauhaus back with a loss of six men. It was subsequently ascertained from the Hauhaus that the missing man had lost his way, and while wandering in the bush had come across a party of the enemy, who shot him. On the following day Colonel Butler had a skirmish with the enemy near Katotauru, in which we had a few men wounded, but the enemy's loss, if any, was not ascertained. This affair, with a few trifling exceptions, ended the operations of the imperial troops in New Zealand. The Native Contingent, reduced to fifty men, were ordered to Pipiriki to relieve the detachment of the 57th Regiment, who were about to be withdrawn to head-quarters. The contingent reached their destination about the beginning of February, and held it until the following July, during which period they contrived to open up friendly communications with the hostile Wanganuis, to such an extent that Pehi Turoa invited the whole of the friendly tribes to meet him at Mangaio and discuss the situation. About 400 men accepted the invitation; the start was worth seeing, as they proceeded up the river in thirty canoes, some of them very large and ornamented with flags, feathers, &c. When about half a mile from the pah, Mete Kingi gave us a specimen of Maori caution most characteristic of his race. He called all the canoes round him, and spoke as follows: "We do not know the truth of these people. They may be good; they were so originally, for they are Wanganuis like ourselves. But, oh, my children, they have become Hauhaus, and no trust can be placed in them. Therefore I say fire off your guns, for it is Maori etiquette to show you trust your hosts, and you will also have them in good order to re-load, as they will be certain to go off properly if treachery is intended." After this excellent advice, each warrior fired off his long-loaded gun to show how much he trusted his long-lost brethren, and then carefully re-loaded in case of mistakes. Below the pah page 120there was a formidable rapid, which necessitated the visitors' landing and dragging their canoes after them over a boulder bank, and then re-embarking close to the pah under a cliff, in such a dangerous position that all Mete Kingi's precautions would have been useless had our friends meant mischief. But they did not, for the Wanganui landed safely amidst a pandemonium of Hauhau incantations and Maori war-dances. One man, a brother of Topia, stark mad with fanaticism, spoke Maori with an English accentuation so ludicrous that even the old chiefs of our party could not help laughing, and by so doing spoilt the gravity and impassiveness of demeanour absolutely necessary on such occasions. The talking lasted for two days, interrupted only by feasting, and concluded satisfactorily for us. The main points of the treaty were as follows: Firstly, that eternal peace should be maintained on the Wanganui river; secondly, that either of the contracting parties should be at perfect liberty to go and fight at any other part of New Zealand. This treaty was scrupulously kept, and it enabled the Government to dispense with the Pipiriki garrison, and use the contingent in the forthcoming campaign against the Ngatiruanui tribe.