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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XLII — Te Kooti's Progress—continued. — Attack at Te Karetu. Defeat of Te Kooti, and Loss of his Principal Fighting Chiefs, Namu, Kehu, Henare Parata, and Thirty-four Men

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Chapter XLII
Te Kooti's Progresscontinued.
Attack at Te Karetu. Defeat of Te Kooti, and Loss of his Principal Fighting Chiefs, Namu, Kehu, Henare Parata, and Thirty-four Men.

Even the most trustworthy among the friendly natives seem to have known that the massacre was about to take place; but their warnings, if any, were too vague to arouse the settlers to a sense of the nearness of the danger. Only a few hours before the attack commenced, Natana, one of Gascoigne's scouts, called at Major Westrupp's, and told him a long and incoherent tale, about Gascoigne and himself having gone up the Patutahi valley, and got so near the enemy, that they could hear Te Kooti talking. The man's manner was so peculiar that his tale was disbelieved and rightly, for they had neither heard nor seen signs of the Hauhaus, though they had been up the valley.

Natana's conduct was never explained, for he was one of the first victims of the massacre, in which the friendly natives suffered even more severely than the Pakehas; of the former there were thirty-seven, and of the latter thirty-three killed. Lieutenant Gascoigne, when warned by his scouts that the Hauhaus were in the bay, rode as fast as possible to the Muriwai, avoiding a party of the enemy en route. On his arrival, he found that Major Westrupp had left with several women and children for Matua. Gascoigne was therefore senior officer in the bay, and as such, determined to reach Turanganui at all risks, as there was no officer at that place to direct operations. To go by the beach was impossible, as it swarmed with the enemy, so he seized a boat and pulled across the bay. Three of his men refused to accompany him; they remained at the pah, and with the people of the place, joined Te Kooti on the page 237following day. On arrival at Turanganui, Gascoigne found the old redoubt crowded with men, women, and children, and was told that Captain Reid had started' in a whaleboat to overtake the schooner Tawera, which was at some distance in the offing. He fortunately succeeded in doing so, after a long pull, and bringing her back, shipped off the women and children to Napier. So disheartened were the men, that many of them would have left also had not Gascoigne, and the chief Henare Potae, persuaded them to remain until reinforcements arrived from Napier. On their agreeing to do so, Henare sent for all his men in the neighbourhood, and arming them in the best manner possible under the circumstances, awaited with the settlers the expected attack by Te Kooti. The attack was never made, as Te Kooti was satisfied with what had been done and contented himself with the burning and looting of settlers' houses, and coercing the friendly natives to join him. Within a week Major Westrupp and Captain Tuke arrived from Napier, and brought with them 300 men of the Ngati Kahungunu tribes, and the Hauhaus retired to Patutahi, where they collected their plunder.

The first duty performed was the burial of those murdered on the 9th; most of them were found in a dreadfully mutilated condition. The bodies of Major Biggs and his wife were never found, but it is supposed that they were burnt in the house, as a lady's hand was found among the ashes. Mr. Cadel's body was found in a better condition than the others, for it had been guarded for seven days by his faithful retriever dog. By this time the Muriwai and Mahia tribes had arrived in Turanga, making with the Napier Maories nearly six hundred men, but of a very indifferent class as regards fighting. They were placed under the command of Lieutenant Gascoigne, and on the 21st of November that officer overtook the rear-guard of the enemy at Patutahi, and shot two of them. Quantities of loot, which the Hauhaus had apparently been unable to carry away, were found at this place, and several dead page 238bodies of friendly natives were seen, who had been shot by Te Kooti's orders. At Pukepuke another encampment was found, with more dead bodies, and the carts and sledges of the murdered settlers, which had brought the loot thus far. About dusk on the 23rd, our men came up with the main body of the enemy, who were encamped on the Te Karetu creek, with their women and children. An immediate attack was made, and after the usual heavy fire, Ngaitakupo, under their prophet Hamuera Toiroa, attempted to charge the Hauhau position, but were beaten back with rather heavy loss; Hamuera and Karauria, a leading chief of Ngati Kahungunu, were killed, and our total loss was five killed and twelve wounded. Hamuera had prophesied that his own death would follow Te Kooti's, but unfortunately the latter event did not take place. The Hauhaus suffered severely in this skirmish, losing about twenty men; but the honours of the fight lay with them, as our men were obliged to retire to a ridge overlooking the Hauhau position, and distant about twelve hundred yards from it. About four hundred yards of the ridge was rifle-pitted, and our men had daily skirmishes with the enemy, who were strongly entrenched on the flat below. This sort of work continued for more than a week, with but little result, beyond increasing the list of killed and wounded. Nothing further could be got out of our native allies; each side was evidently afraid of the other, and therefore unwilling to try close quarters. A few of the best men certainly did try the effect of a kokiri (charge) down the hill towards the Hauhau position; but one of them happened to get shot at the crossing of the creek, and this so damped the ardour of his comrades, that they retired perfectly satisfied.

Up to this time the force had been supplied with rations and ammunition from the depot at Patutahi, by means of a string of pack-horses, under the charge of Sergeant-Major Butters. But this did not last long; the opportunity was too tempting, and Te Kooti, who was evidently well-page 239informed by his spies, sent sixty men under Baker, the half-caste, to take the depot, cut off the convoy, and capture all the ammunition he could.

The party started on the 27th, and after making a long detour, got in rear of our men on the line of supply; the first persons they met were two orderlies, riding with despatches to the camp. These men naturally supposed the Maories in the front to be friendlies, and would have ridden into their midst, had not one of them recognised a man named Maka, who was known to be with the Hauhaus; while there was yet time, they wheeled their horses round, and galloped back, followed by a volley. On their way down the hill, the orderlies met Sergeant Butters and his packmen, proceeding to Makeretu, and warned them of their danger; there was no time to make a stand, for the enemy outnumbered us three to one, and were well armed, so the men cut loose their packs, and galloped off, closely pursued. The one man who formed the garrison of the depot at Patutahi escaped as best he could; and the Hauhaus captured eight kegs of ammunition, and so large a stock of food, that they were unable to carry it all away, and had to burn a large quantity. This attack in rear alarmed the force for their communications, and the solitary big gun at Turanganui was brought up and mounted in the redoubt, which was henceforth guarded by Captain Tuke and twenty men. For some days communication had been cut off, and ten men at Makaretu suffered severely from want of provisions, until they sent a strong part to bring up biscuit and ammunition. Meanwhile, all anxiously awaited the arrival of Rapata, who with his Ngatiporou, was known to be marching from Te Wairoa. Sir Donald McLean, the then Government agent for the east coast, had intended to send an expedition of Ngatiporou and Wairoa Maories from Te Wairoa by way of Hangaroa, to act in rear of Te Kooti's force, while the Poverty Bay column attacked in front. This expedition had been delayed for some little time by Major Lambert, page 240who refused to acknowledge the authority of the Government agent, and stated that he did not consider it safe to send away the Wairoa natives. This difference, of opinion was finally adjusted, and on the 25th of November, Rapata and Hotene, with 370 men of various tribes, started from Te Wairoa. Letters had been received from Major Westrupp, stating that Te Waru was somewhere in the neighbourhood of Te Hangaroa; it was therefore decided to march in that direction.

On the 28th, the column was at Tarewa, where they expected to receive intelligence from Major Westrupp, but none came; so the chiefs decided to march on Turanganui, and arrived at that place on the 1st of December. Here they were informed that Ngati Kalrungunu were still engaged with the enemy at Makaretu, and were ordered to march to their assistance. On their arrival, Ngatiporou found the same sort of desultory firing going on as had been the custom since the 23rd, and that we had lost eight killed and twenty wounded since the first skirmish, without any adequate result. A short consultation was now held among the chiefs, and it was decided to at once dislodge the enemy from a hill of which they had possession, and make a general attack on the entrenchments. At grey dawn the following morning, forty men of the different Wairoa tribes, under Mr. Preece, and their fighting chief Hapimana, proceeded to carry out the first part of the programme. They made a most dashing attack, and had nearly taken the position, when a messenger from Rapata informed them that Ngatiporou, annoyed by the enemy's shots falling into their camp, had determined to assault the lines.

The Kurupakiaka and Kahu now joined Mr. Preece, and enabled him to carry the hill, with a loss to the enemy of three men. Mr. Preece then joined Ngatiporou with a few men, in time to join in a charge by that tribe, which carried two of the enemy's outworks with a rush, and drove the Hauhaus back to their last line of rifle-pits, near the page 241river. Here they were attacked by three columns; the Wairoa men on the left, Ngatiporou in the centre, and Ngatikahungunu of Napier on the right. The enemy held their ground until Ngatiporou were within a few yards of their lines; then they broke, and fled across the river, suffering heavy loss from the fire of the left column, who from their position swept the river-bed. Unfortunately, this fire, although destructive to the enemy, was to a certain extent in their favour, for it prevented the close pursuit which would probably have destroyed them. Thirty-four Hauhaus' bodies were found after the fight, among them several men of rank, including the celebrated fighting chiefs Nama, Kehu, and Henare Parata. Kama was wounded, but taken alive. This man's recent atrocities, and his complicity in the murder of the four scouts, had rendered him particularly objectionable to the Ngatiporou and Wairoa Maories; so they squared accounts a la Maori, by dragging him over a fire, and burning him to death. Te Kooti himself had a narrow escape. He was still suffering from the wound in the ankle received at Ruakiture, and was carried away up the bed of the creek upon a woman's back. His capture would have been easy had Ngatiporou followed; but the heavy fire of the left column had stopped pursuit while their blood was warm; and now the attraction of the valuable loot recaptured from the enemy was too much for Ngatiporou nature, and they turned to plunder, thus allowing Te Kooti and many of his men to escape. In one pool of the river there were fourteen bodies; one of them was floating with his face out of water, in a manner so unusual that it drew the attention of Hemi Tapeka (a well known fighting man of Ngatiporou), who gently prodded the Hauhau with his bayonet. This was too much for the pretended dead man, who started up, and would have escaped but that Hemi shot him dead. Many Maori prisoners taken by Te Kooti during his raid on the bay escaped during the fight, and fled to Opotiki, not daring to trust themselves with the Europeans, who were page 242justly suspicious of Te Kooti's prisoners. In this action two Europeans were wounded out of six engaged, and one Ngatiporou was tilled, and four wounded.

During the fight two prisoners were taken by Ngati-kahungunu. These men Ngatiporou wished to kill, Taut the former tribe objected, as the prisoners were related to them. This small occurrence created a bitter feud between the two tribes, and shortly after broke up the force.