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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter XLIX. — Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribe. — Reasons for the Campaign. March of Converging Columns

Chapter XLIX.
Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribe.
Reasons for the Campaign. March of Converging Columns.

Colonel Whitmore having driven Te Kooti from Poverty Bay, on the east coast, and Titokowaru from the Ngatiruanui country, on the west coast, now turned his attention to those troublesome people known as the Uriwera. Their offences had been great and numerous; and to crown all, they had taken an active if not a leading part in the. Poverty Bay massacre. No tribe in New Zealand deserved punishment more than these people. Living in the midst of almost impenetrable and forest-clad mountains, and seldom mixing with Europeans, against whom they could have no grievance, they were, nevertheless, one of the first page 270tribes to join the King party in the Waikato, and, with the Taupo and Upper Wanganui, they fought against General Cameron at Orakau and other places. Waikato, for some reason, did not fight at Orakau, but contented themselves by looking on at a safe distance. The Uriwera have not yet forgiven the desertion which cost them so dear, and, if properly handled, would make valuable allies in any future war with Waikato. Since that period, they had made themselves conspicuous, by the murders of Pitcairn, Bennett White, and other Opotiki settlers; but the day of reckoning was at hand, for the war was about to be carried into their own country. Colonel Whitmore's plan was comprehensive—perhaps too much so; but he, knowing the difficulty of one column co-operating with another in the New Zealand bush, would not allow the campaign to depend upon happy chances, but made each detachment in a measure independent of the other. No less than four columns were to march in this expedition, and each from a different point; three of them were, if possible, to rendezvous at Ruatahuna, or some other spot in the Uriwera country, and annihilate all opposition. Colonel Whitmore was to start from Te Matata, with a mixed force of Europeans and Arawa, and march by way of Kokohinau across the Kaingaroa plain. He would then attack Te Harema pah, in the Ahikerera valley, and push on to Ruatahuna to meet Colonel St. John, who, with another column, would march from Whakatane, and follow the riverbed to the same place, attacking all the pahs and kaingas en route. The two parties having met, would then join and march over the Huiarau range to Waikaremoana, where it was expected Colonel Herrick would be found. This officer would march from Te Wairoa, cross the lake (then almost unknown), and destroy all the pahs, after which there would be little to do, beyond hunting the stragglers. The fourth column, consisting of the mounted division of the armed constabulary force, some sixty strong, were to march from Wanganui to Napier, and thence by Te Haroto to page 271Taupo, where it was intended they should act as a patrol, and cut off all fugitives attempting to reach. Waikato. In pursuance of these plans, a portion of the west coast field force, consisting of Nos. 4 and 6 Armed Constabulary and No. 8 (Arawa Armed Constabulary), left the Waitara in the Sturt and St. Kilda steamers on the 10th April, and arrived in Onehunga on the evening of the 11th. After landing the baggage, No. 6 Armed Constabulary and the guides were marched across the isthmus to Auckland, with, the intention of embarking at once on board the Lord Ashley, then lying at the wharf; but the temptation to remain one day in Auckland was too much for men who had been months in the bush. It was dark when the column reached Queen Street, and its strength gradually dwindled and became beautifully less as it reached the wharf, when it was found that only about half the men were present. Nos. 4 and 8 Divisions behaved no better; they had landed early in the morning, and had been all day in town, but this did not satisfy them, and many were absent when the steamer started. Colonel Whitmore seriously affronted the whole force, by telling a member of the Government, "This is what I have to put up with—mutinous men and discontented officers." Now, excepting always No. 8, the Arawa division, who had been pampered until they were perfectly useless, the men were not mutinous, but simply thought they deserved a holiday, even though it did delay the force for a day. The proof that the officers were not discontented, is that they actually put the camp equipage and baggage on board the steamer themselves at midnight, it being impossible to get men in the hurry and confusion of embarkation. On the 13th the force (minus sixty men) reached Tauranga, and camped at Maunganui, to await the arrival of Colonel Whitmore, who had remained in Auckland to hunt up the stragglers. Meanwhile the Sturt and St. Kilda returned to the Waitara, to bring up Nos. 1 and 2 Divisions, and on the 14th Colonel Whitmore arrived with the absentees. A steamer page 272had been chartered to bring them down, and the amount was deducted from their pay; if I recollect aright, it amounted to £5 per head. The Arawa division, finding themselves once more in their own country, and that their services were urgently required in the forthcoming campaign, saw a chance of giving some of the trouble for causing which this insolent tribe is notorious; so they promptly mutinied, and were disbanded, or, more strictly speaking, they disbanded themselves, and ill-natured men still say that we lost nothing, and the enemy gained as much by their defection.