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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XLV. — Te Kooti's Progress—continued. — His Escape from Ngatapa: The Chase. The Hauhau Chief, Nikora Te Whakaunua, and One Hundred and Twenty Men, Killed

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Chapter XLV.
Te Kooti's Progresscontinued.
His Escape from Ngatapa: The Chase. The Hauhau Chief, Nikora Te Whakaunua, and One Hundred and Twenty Men, Killed.

When it was found that the enemy had escaped, Rapata suggested following them up. The colonel gladly-acquiesced, and a sharp pursuit commenced. Rapata ordered his men to follow the trail for some distance, and then scatter in small parties. He foresaw that the enemy would be too weak from want of food to continue long on the march, and would therefore scatter out of the line of pursuit. His penetration was rewarded, for his men came up with, and captured, numerous small parties of the enemy. Those who attempted to escape were shot, and those who surrendered were brought before Rapata (a stern judge), who, after a few questions, ordered them for immediate execution. The system was simple; they were led to the edge of the cliff, stripped of the clothing taken by them from the murdered settlers, then shot, and their bodies hurled over the cliff, where their bones lie in a heap to this day. Some of the pursuers were two days absent, and even these brought in prisoners. In all, about a hundred and twenty Hauhaus were killed, including one chief of high rank, Nikora Te Whakaunua, of Taupo. Weakened by his wound, he was unable to escape. His near relation, Te Eangitahau, stood by him to the last.

Another chief of rank was captured; his name was Renata Tapara, and he was the husband of the woman who first reported the escape of the Hauhaus. This man had been sent to the Chatham Islands with the other prisoners: but as he was nearly related to Rapata, and other chiefs of Ngatiporou, they had procured his release; page 253and when To Kooti landed, Renata showed his gratitude by joining him at once.

When Rapata heard that Renata was taken and being brought to him, he was greatly puzzled to know what to do with him; for save him he would not: at the same time he feared the anger of Ngatiporou chiefs if he should kill him.

Finally, he sent word to his men, that he did not want to see the captive. This was Renata's death-warrant. On receipt of the message, the party ranged their prisoners in a row, preparatory to shooting them. But Renata, game to the last, rushed at his executioners, knocked one man down, broke through, and got into the bush; but did not escape, for he was followed by two men and shot. Rapata felt that unpleasant consequences might ensue, if his brother chiefs heard that he had ordered Renata's death; so he wisely took the initiative, and sent for them, to deliberate on the fate of the dead man. He made a most feeling speech, saying how wrong it would be to save such a man just because he was related to them; and expatiated still more strongly on the duties of relatives one to the other; in fact, he placed his friends in such a dilemma that they did not know how to decide. Finally, old Wikiriwhi said, "We leave it to you." "Then," said Rapata, "he is a dead man." By this time all the Europeans had left Ngatapa; but Rapata remained with sixty men, waiting for his stragglers to come in. When he had collected them, he struck through the bush over the Paerau range, and came out at the head of the Waikohu stream, near Makioi. On his march, he captured eighty more prisoners, men, women, and children, and, wonderful to relate, spared them all. When asked the reason of this unusual clemency, he replied, "I was afraid the Pakehas would call me the butcher." Our loss during the siege, was one officer and ten men killed, and an officer and ten men wounded. Native accounts say there were more than two hundred men in the pah having arms, under the command of the following ehiefs, viz., Te Kooti, Nepia Takutahi, Te Rangitahau, page 254Petera Rangihiroa, Herewini, Karanama, Paora Toki, and Nikora Te Whakaunua. During the latter part of the siege they were in want of both food and water, and would have been obliged to surrender but for the rain. By hanging out blankets and clothing, sufficient rain-water was caught for immediate use. The night that Te Kooti escaped from Ngatapa, the Whakatohea from Opotiki came to visit him, and request that he would join them at Maraetahi. Te Kooti met these people during his retreat, accepted their invitation, and remained with them for some time. While there, the Taupo chief Wirihaua came with a message from Te Heuheu inviting him to Taupo.

Te Kooti did not accept, for he had other views at this time; so he visited the Uriwera, and induced them to join him in a raid on the friendly settlement at Whakatane. One hundred men were told off for the kokiri, and placed under Wirihaua, who was anxious to distinguish himself. In the meantime, Colonel Whitinore had returned to Wanganui, having thirty-five constables for the protection of the bay.

For some time after the events related, Maories of desperate character, who had been more or less implicated in the massacre, left Te Kooti, and returned to the bay, where they were allowed to remain unmolested. The settlers, justly indignant that men who had so lately murdered women and children should be allowed to settle again among them, formed themselves into a vigilance committee, and some of the members who had lost relatives during the massacre bound themselves by oath to shoot the next lot of ruffians who made their appearance. An opportunity soon presented itself. Three men left Te Kooti, and presented themselves at one of the native villages in the bay as cool as though they had never been engaged in the massacre. The chief Panapa Waihopi apprised Mr. "Wylie of their arrival, and he in turn warned Messrs. Benson and Brown, both, of whom had lost relatives during the massacre. These three avengers proceeded page 255that night to the pah, and a Maori who accompanied them pointed out the man specially reserved for Mr. Wylie, he having assisted in murdering that gentleman's son.

Mr. Wylie fired, but without effect, for his nervous anxiety made him miss. Benson, a man of a different stamp, saw that the whole thing was likely to prove a failure, and bring them into ridicule; so, after firing a hasty shot at the escaping murderer, he rushed at the man told off for him, and shot him dead. The third Maori, alarmed at the fate of his comrades, made good his escape. On the following morning Benson was in the township, and, to his astonishment, was warned to attend as juryman at the inquest on his victim. In vain he assured the constable that he was the man who had done the deed, and that he ought not therefore to sit. The myrmidon of the law declined to entertain the excuse, and threatened him with divers pains and penalties for noncompliance.

So Benson not only sat on his own trial, but gave evidence against himself; and the intelligent jury, having heard his statement, brought in the following verdict, "Shot by some person unknown, and serve him light."

A piece of pure patriotism, that deserves commendation in these degenerate days.