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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LIII. — Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribe—continued. — Te Kooti. Attack on the Huke Pah. Massacre of Men, Women, and Children

Chapter LIII.
Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribecontinued.
Te Kooti. Attack on the Huke Pah. Massacre of Men, Women, and Children.

The Huke pah was built close to the edge of a steep cliff, with moderately open ground on its front and flanks; but Te Kooti got his men into a hollow in the ground, about fifty yards from the pah, and summoned the garrison to surrender. The defenders, though few in number, were under the influence of a courageous man, named Heta; and they refused. The Hauhaus opened fire and commenced their rifle-pits.

All that day the place was resolutely defended, and on the following morning (Sunday, 11th of April) Te Kooti, finding he was losing time by fighting, and that the rocky nature of the ground prevented sapping, had recourse to page 287stratagem. He again summoned the pah to surrender, assuring the people that he would not harm them; but in the event of refusal, he threatened to storm the place and kill every man. Heta, game to the last, and distrusting Te Kooti, urged his comrades to hold out and fight on, but the chief Rutene went out to meet the enemy. Te Kooti had now introduced the thin end of the wedge, and forthwith proceeded to drive it home, by persuading Rutene to go to the next pah (Hiruhararna) and fetch Ropihana, the son of the head chief (Paora Rerepu). Te Kooti rightly concluded that if he had this chief in his power, he could place him in front, and march up to each pah with impunity, for none of the Mohaka tribe would dare to endanger the safety of their chief by firing.

Rutene started on his treacherous errand, and used all his eloquence to assure Ropihana that Te Kooti intended them no harm. He concluded by remarking that the enemy had plenty of rum, taken from the public-houses. This last argument was too much for the young chief, and he consented to go; his wife and people would have detained him by force, but he broke from them, jumped the parapet, climbed the palisades, and joined his enemies.

Te Kooti now felt safe, and putting Ropihana in front of his men, he marched up to the Huke pah and demanded admittance. Heta was called upon to open the gate, but refused, saying to his men, "Now you see what Rutene has done; if Ropihana were not there, I could shoot Te Kooti dead." Heta's refusal did not avail the garrison, for Rutene and one of the Hauhaus, a man of great strength, opened the gate by lifting it off its hinges, and the whole party entered. At first they began to tangi over one another, as if they had been friends long parted; but after this had gone on for some time, Te Kooti stopped it by saying to the women of the pah, "Cook food for us."

One old woman, bolder than the rest, replied, "We cannot, you have taken it all from us."

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"Yes," said Te Kooti, "my hand is strong." He then turned to his people, and said, "I prophesy that there will be a force sent from Te Wairoa to help these people, and it will arrive about noon; we must be prepared to meet them, therefore I order you to disarm these people."

The women and children, thinking rightly that they were about to be killed, began to cry, and some of them ran away; but Te Kooti commanded them to remain, declaring it was not his intention to hurt any one, but that he required the arms. Heta had been a silent spectator up to this time, but he now said to some of the women near him, "Get out of this pah, and escape towards Napier; I shall never leave it." The women took his advice, and they, with a few children, were the only persons saved.

Most of the men surrendered their arms quietly, but Heta and another refused, the former saying, "We know that we are being disarmed that we may be more easily killed; but if I have to die, so also must you." So saying, he raised his rifle and fired at Te Kooti, but, unfortunately, a Hauhau standing near struck up the muzzle, and Te Kooti again escaped. Heta was shot at once, and a general massacre ensued. Rutene, the cause of all the mischief, ran to Te Kooti for protection, but it did not save him. Another Hauhau seized Ropihana and tried to shoot him, but he wrenched himself free, and escaped to the big pah, although he fell wounded three times on the way, being hit by as many successive shots. All the women and children that could be found were soon despatched, and then Te Kooti turned his attention to the big pah, which he invested, after having taken the precaution to dig rifle-pits commanding the track by which relief must pass from the Wairoa. Four kegs of ammunition and several rifles were taken in the Huke pah, and this supply was of great service to the enemy in their attack on Hiruharama. On the same day that Te Kooti attacked Mohaka, a Maori from that place reached Te page 289Wairoa with intelligence of the raid. Captain Spiller, of the armed constabulary, who was in command, seems to have been under the impression that the attack was a mere ruse to draw him and his men from Te Wairoa, thus leaving the more important place open to attack. Te Kooti's friend and ally, Te Waru, was supposed to be in the neighbourhood of Waikare Moana, awaiting a chance of this sort to do mischief. Under this supposition, no steps were taken to succour the besieged, beyond sending Trooper George Hill of the armed constabulary force to reconnoitre the pah, and ascertain the truth of the Maori's statement. Both at Napier and Te Wairoa prudence was carried throughout this affair almost to the verge of timidity. There were at the latter place twenty-five men of the armed constabulary force, and as many settlers, ready and willing to fight; there were, also, nearly two hundred Maories quite ready to be led by the Europeans. A moiety of these men could have raised the siege, and saved the Huke pah; and there need have been no apprehension for the safety of Te Wairoa, for eight hours would have brought Ihaka Whanga's trusty tribe to take charge of the place in their absence. But nothing was done, and Trooper Hill proceeded on his journey of nineteen miles alone.

When about half-way, he met Messrs. Burton and Lamplough, two settlers, who offered to accompany him; on arrival at the top of the ridge above Mohaka, the party could see the flags flying in the Huke pah, and puffs of smoke from the enemy's rifle-pits. So far, all was well; the Hauhaus' presence was proved, and it was also seen that the pah held out. Hill rode back with the news at such a pace, that just before he reached the Waihua stream his horse knocked up. Luckily, he was soon after joined by three men, who had been sent in search of him; one of these he sent back with the news, while he returned with the others to the ridge to watch the Hauhau movements. The three troopers naturally concluded that a page 290force would be sent at once to assist the beleaguered friendlies; they therefore returned to the ridge, that they might be in a position to give information on the arrival of the force.

On their way they again met Burton and Lamplough, who returned with them; the horses were tied up at the bottom of the hill, and the small party ascended to the ridge, where they remained watching events for about two hours, until quite dark. They then returned to their horses, and found that one of them had broken loose; as it was necessary to find it, Hill and Trooper Tew started to search, each taking different tracks. The others, instead of awaiting their return, rode over the flat, and in their rambles came across Tew, whom they very foolishly challenged in Maori. His answer was short, for he immediately fired and shot Lamplough's horse dead. Burton, concluding from this that Tew was a veritable Hauhau, fired in return, and so startled his own horse, that he shied and threw his rider. The third man (Mitchell), hearing the firing and the galloping of the riderless horse, felt certain that the Hauhaus were on them, and shouting to Hill to run for his life, galloped off as hard as he could, until he came to grief over a flax-bush, and was also left horseless.

Each man being under the impression that he was surrounded by the enemy, took cover, hardly daring to breathe. Hill, hearing Mitchell move among the raupo, slid over a steep bank into a swamp, where he stood all night with his carbine ready, and up to his knees in mud and water. In the morning this ludicrous series of mistakes was discovered, and a cooey brought all the stragglers out of their hiding-places.