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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XXXIII. — Reconnoitring The Hauhau Position at Taiporohenui. Resignation of Colonel McDonnell. — Colonel Whitmore Takes Command. Murder of Collins and McCulloch

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Chapter XXXIII.
Reconnoitring The Hauhau Position at Taiporohenui. Resignation of Colonel McDonnell.
Colonel Whitmore Takes Command. Murder of Collins and McCulloch.

No. 1 Division of the armed constabulary, under Major Fraser, having arrived from the east coast, it was decided to reconnoitre the Hauhau position at Taiporohenui, and on the morning of the 20th of September about three hundred men of all ranks advanced in skirmishing order towards the village. Numbers of Hauhaus could be seen on top of the whares watching our advance. When within about three hundred yards, the order was given to retire, with the hope of drawing the enemy out, but without success; and the force again advanced. Some of the officers got within eighty yards of the pah, but still no order was given to attack, and finally the column returned to Waihi, quite uncertain of what effect their strategical movements might have on the enemy. The general impression was, that McDonnell would have attacked, had not Colonel Whitmore been present, and vice versâ, each one being suspicious of the other. On the 23rd it was finally decided to abandon Waihi, and the Maories, as their share of the work, volunteered to carry Lieutenant Rowan and four badly wounded men to Patea; this they did safely and expeditiously, and Waihi was abandoned after an occupation of three years. Notwithstanding that our transport corps was limited, nearly all the stores were transported to Patea, and the force was concentrated at that station, with the exception of the native contingent, who returned to Wanganui, and handed their arms into store. By this time, Titokowaru had reached Hukatere on the Patea river, and had been joined by all the Pakakohi tribe. His numbers were now so page 196formidable, that the Government were alarmed for the safety of the settlers in the out districts of Wanganui; and to meet the danger, induced 400 kupapas of the Wanganui tribes to take possession of the Weraroa pah, from which position they could observe all the country, and effectually hold the Hauhaus in check. In the neighbourhood of Patea affairs were not flourishing, the outpost of Kakaramea had been withdrawn in consequence of a demonstration on the part of the Hauhaus, and a settler named McCulloch, who went out to look after his sheep, was missing. Months after, his bones were discovered in a water-hole at Kakaramea, from which the camp had been using the water in happy ignorance. The report was that he had been taken prisoner, and that the Hauhaus used him as a slave to carry potatoes, until he refused to work, when they shot him. The probabilities are against this being true, as the Hauhaus are too eager to kill, to be fond of taking prisoners. At this critical moment in the affairs of New Zealand, Colonel McDonnell, disgusted by his failure at Te Ngutu o te manu, resigned the command, and Colonel Whitmore was appointed in his place. This change was not at first regarded favorably by the force, as the colonel's manners were not conciliatory; but he gradually won the esteem of his officers and men by his energy, and perfect willingness to fight on the smallest opportunity. He had not McDonnell's knowledge of the native language and character, but he was undoubtedly his superior in military knowledge. Titokowaru had not been idle during this change in the command; he was too wise to attack the strong posts, but every house in the district had been burned, and ambushes laid on all the tracks, one of which waylaid and shot Corporal Collins of the Patea Cavalry, while carrying despatches to the Wairoa. Colonel Whitmore's first act on taking command was to order the 400 kupapas from the Weraroa to Patea, and disband the militia, who had been raised for three months' service; he declared that he would only use the Maories and constabulary in future operations.

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On the 1st of November, Kepa and Captain Gudgeon were ordered to march with 200 Maories, and ascertain the whereabouts of Titokowaru, no traces of whom had been seen for some days. At grey dawn on the 2nd the scouts entered the village of New Taranaki, and found that a large number of men had been there a few days previously. They then went on to Te Putahi, and found the same signs, but more fresh. This was sufficient proof that the enemy were at Moturoa, a pah situated only a short distance from the Weraroa; the intelligence was at once conveyed to Colonel Whitmore, but did not reach him so soon as an orderly from the Weraroa, with the tidings that Titokowaru had been at the village of Perekama, and carried off the Ngarauru tribe. Orders were at once issued for every available man to march for Te Wairoa, and by daylight the following morning the force was assembled at that post. Colonel Whitmore did not consider himself strong enough to attack the Hauhaus in a position chosen by themselves, as he had not more than 100 Pakehas available, and the kupapas, though numerically strong, could not be counted as more than two hundred fighting men; many of them being useless; which must always be the case with levies en masse. But on the 6th, Major Roberts arrived, with 100 men of No. 6 Division of the armed constabulary, just raised in Auckland and at the Thames, many of whom had seen service during the war. As they marched up to the Wairoa, the Hauhaus fired a volley at them at long range; the kupapas turned out, and drove the enemy back to Moturoa, where one of them was killed after a large expenditure of ammunition.