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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XL. — Te Kootu's Progress—continued. — Threatens The Poverty Bay Settlers; Kills The Uriwera Chief Te Munu

Chapter XL.
Te Kootu's Progresscontinued.
Threatens The Poverty Bay Settlers; Kills The Uriwera Chief Te Munu.

Te Kooti was, as might be expected, very successful in obtaining recruits; Te Warn and Reihana, with the Upper Wairoa tribes joined him secretly, all the while pretending to be friendly to the Pakeha, while Kama, fighting chief of Temaionarangi tribe, joined him more openly with nearly forty men. Curious accounts are given by the Hauhaus of the very strict discipline which was at this period maintained in their camp. Te Kooti would not allow his men to eat, or smoke, except at stated times-his expression was, "there is a time for all things." So short of food were page 224they, that the men used frequently to steal out to the open country, and shoot their horses for food; luckily for them they were not found out; as the punishment of disobedience was death. Some idea may be gathered of Te Kooti's bloodthirsty and tyrannical system, by the fate he dealt out to Te Munu, an Uriwera chief of Maungapohatu. This man had visited Puketapu as an envoy from his warlike tribe, and being a bold stern savage would not allow Te Kooti's dictation, and assumption of superiority. The consequence was that they quarrelled, and Te Munu, feeling himself in danger, attempted to escape; but he was caught and brought back to Puketapu, by a party sent after him, and was killed by Te Kooti's orders, or as some say, by Te Kooti himself. The strangest part of the affair is, that the Uriwera never sought revenge for this murder.

The position held by Te Kooti at Puketapu was inland and equidistant from the two settlements of Te Wairoa and Poverty Bay. Consequently it was in that chief's power to attack either place, by a march of two or three days. Moreover, it was well known that he had declared his intention of taking revenge upon the settlers, for having attacked him at Paparatu, Te Konaki, and Ruakituri. In September, a message had been sent to the semi-friendly natives of the bay, telling them to remain apparently loyal, get what arms they could from the Pakehas, and prepare to join Te Kooti with a hundred men, when he appeared. Major Biggs had so strongly represented the situation and unprotected condition of the bay to the Government that at last he was authorized to place an officer and nine men on pay, as scouts to watch the country between the Waipaoa and upper Wairoa. Lieutenant Gascoigne was the officer chosen, and the orders given him by Major Biggs were precise: "to camp every night at Waerenga a Kuri," a small bush on the road from Te Reinga to Poverty Bay, "to keep a sentry on the track during the night, and two men with field-glasses on a hill above the bush all day, at a point from which several miles of the page 225track could be seen." Besides this work, Lieutenant Gascoigne was required to scout the country on his right and left front daily, and report constantly to Major Biggs. In addition to the scouts, the major depended upon Colonel Lambert at Te Wairoa, and spies of his own among the enemy, to give him early information of Te Kooti's movements; trusting to the two latter sources, he persistently refused to allow Gascoigne to place men on the Ngatapa track. There were two routes by which the Hauhaus might reach the bay; one, by way of Te Reinga and Waerenga-a-Kuri, was comparatively short, and over open country—the other would involve a long circuitous march, through dense scrub and fern, towards Ngatapa, and down the Makaretu valley. Not only was this second route twice the length of the other, but it was so much overgrown with fern and scrub, that it was justly considered a matter of seven or eight days' march; and therefore it was regarded as certain that the enemy would take the shorter way. If, however, they did take the Ngatapa track, then Colonel Lambert, who was about to lead 600 men to attack Puketapu, would have plenty of time to send information of Te Kooti's movements. These were the reasons which guided Major Biggs in selecting the Reinga track as the special point of observation for Gascoigne and his scouts. The latter did not share the belief of his commanding officer, that it was necessary to watch only that route, but on the 6th and 7th of November he scouted in the direction of Ngatapa as far as the Makaretu valley, without seeing the smallest sign of the enemy; on his return to camp, he told Major Biggs where he had been, and was met with the reply that it was unnecessary. The major then informed him that he must keep an extra sharp look-out on the Reinga track, as he expected the enemy to move in a few days; and that it was his intention to order all the outsettlers to muster for mutual protection. After this conversation Gascoigne returned to his post, and allowed two of his men to remain for a day or two with page 226their people at the big river. At sunrise on the 9th these men galloped into camp at Waerenga-a-Kuri, with news that Biggs and all the settlers had been murdered by the Hauhaus during the night.

Meanwhile affairs had been progressing at Te Wairoa, and coming events cast their shadows before. On the 3rd of October, the young chief Karaitiana was sent to Te Waru's village at Whataroa to obtain intelligence of Te Kooti's movements; he was accompanied by three men of his own tribe, and Nama's brother. While on their road to the village they met Nama, and stayed for some time talking with him; they then proceeded on their way, and after going a short distance, the brother said he was too ill to go on, and would return. Karaitiana and the others arrived at Whataroa, and were told that Te Waru was absent pig-hunting (he was really with Te Kooti at Puketapu); but Reihana, his brother, received them well, and put them in the best whare. Here the unsuspecting men were watched until they were fast asleep, when their guns were removed, and Reihana, assisted by another man, treacherously murdered them with tomahawks; Te Waru's sister helping to despatch the last two. When the news of this cowardly murder reached Te Wairoa, a great expedition of friendly natives under Colonel Lambert went to avenge the deeds, by attacking Te Waru and Te Kooti. The force was composed of 200 Ngatiporou under Kapata and Hotene, 300 Ngati Kahungunu under Henare Tomoana and Tareha, and 100 of the Wairoa tribes; there were also twenty-five armed constabulary, and four European officers. At Whataroa, or one of the adjacent villages, a prisoner was taken, and from him positive information was obtained, that Te Waru and all his people had left to assist Te Kooti in a raid on Poverty Bay. Strange to say, this information was disbelieved, for the extraordinary reason that for Te Kooti to march on Poverty Bay, and leave his rear open to attack, would be acting in a manner contrary to all military rule. Te Kooti doubtless had his page 227own ideas about military rule, and not only left his rear unguarded, but crushed Poverty Bay, with little danger to himself. By this time the force was within sixteen miles of Puketapu, and it might well have been thought advisable to march on that place, and ascertain the truth of the story. Had they done so, they would have found the pah empty, and would even then have been in time to prevent the massacre, and enlighten Te Kooti as to the danger of neglecting military rules; or better still, they might have accepted the prisoner's story as true, and marched straight on Poverty Bay. But the gallant 600 did neither of these things; they straightway returned to Te Wairoa, after killing one old man and capturing an empty pah. At Whataroa were found the bodies of Karaitiana and his three companions; they had been buried in one hole, and were fearfully mutilated, their breasts cut open, and hearts taken out. The expedition reached Te Wairoa on the 4th of November, and the mail left for Poverty Bay on the following morning, yet no notice was sent Major Biggs of the prisoner's statement; had that been done, there could have been no excuse for not warning the settlers to muster for protection.