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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LIV. — Campaign Against The Uriwera Tribe—continued. — Te Kooti Attacks Hiruharama. Gallant Conduct of Trooper Hill

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Chapter LIV.
Campaign Against The Uriwera Tribecontinued.
Te Kooti Attacks Hiruharama. Gallant Conduct of Trooper Hill.

Shortly before noon, a party of 100 Maories, under the old chief Ihaka Whanga, arrived on the ridge. Twenty-five of them were Mohaka men, who had been absent on an expedition against Te Waru's village (Te Kiwi), where they had killed nine men. They were burning to avenge the deaths of their women and children, and were consequently to be depended on; but the same could not be said of the remainder (half Hauhaus), who did not intend to fight if they could help it. The five Europeans were eagerly questioned about the pahs, and stated that, so far as they knew, neither had surrendered. The war party, satisfied at this, pushed forward rapidly, but found on reaching the ridge that the Huke had fallen, but that Hiruharama still held out.

The garrison, seeing our people on the ridge, called out to them to charge at once, or the pah would be taken, as there were only ten men inside, and they could not stop a rush if one were made. To charge for the pah would necessitate our men running the gauntlet of a long line of rifle-pits; but this did not daunt the Mohaka men, and the chief Kupa called for volunteers to assist him. Trooper Hill immediately volunteered, and taking off most of his clothing to go light, charged down the hill with his small party. At the first rifle-pit the Hauhaus stood up and delivered their fire, but the Mohaka men, intent only on getting into the pah, passed on; Hill returned the fire and shot one of the enemy. The pah was gained with the small loss of two wounded, to the great disgust of Te Kooti, page 292who had now lost all chance of taking it. The main body of our Maories under Ihaka Whanga remained on the ridge, and opened fire on the enemy's rifle-pits; but they did not stay there long, for Te Kooti detached a party of the Uriwera to take them in rear. This was too much for their philosophy, and they bolted, leaving their old chief, who disdained to fly. Only two men of his own tribe were with him, and they defended their position until it became desperate, when Ihaka ordered them to separate and hide in the scrub, as the only means of saving their lives. The two men were found and shot, but the old chief, although his pursuers were close upon him on several occasions, escaped and returned to Te Wairoa next day. En route he met a party coming to look for him, little expecting to find him alive. When the Mohaka men entered the pah, they found little boys and girls armed with any weapons they could get, standing on boxes, or mounds of earth, to enable them to fire over the parapet. Hill took post in one of the angles, where the enemy could be distinctly heard sapping towards the palisades, though the hard limestone soil made this a work of great toil. The palisades were old and rotten, and the garrison feared lest they should be pulled down in the Maori fashion, viz., by the enemy throwing a rope and cross-bar over them, and then dragging them down by their united strength. To remedy this weakness, Hill proposed to use some bullock chains, then in the pah. The Maories, glad of the suggestion, passed them along outside the stakes, and fastened each end to the large corner posts, thus rendering the pah secure against anything the enemy could do with a rope. Hill had secured a double-barrelled gun and a long spear to supplement his rifle, and with these weapons took post in the threatened angle, where he was supported by two able-bodied men, two little boys, and three girls; besides this, he had the moral support of the Maori parson, who came round every hour and prayed for his success.

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Provisions were very short, but as a great favour, Hill, who had eaten nothing since breakfast the previous day, received a panikin of tea, one apple and a biscuit.

A steady fire was kept up throughout the night, to prevent the enemy rushing the pah, or trying the effect of the rope. Shortly before daylight the Hauhau bugles sounded, and when it became light enough, four flags were seen in front of the pah, and almost immediately the enemy began to fire volleys from these different points with great regularity and precision. This was kept up for some time, while the defenders of the pah were standing ready without firing a shot, thinking it but a prelude to something worse.

The garrison to a man mustered on the threatened side, for the pah was so large that only one face and two angles could be defended at a time. Anxious glances were now directed by the defenders towards the Napier track, in the vain hope that reinforcements might appear advancing to their relief; they were indeed on the way, but at such a funereal pace as to be worse than useless, for they were ridiculous.

Suddenly the fire ceased, and a dead silence ensued, which lasted for nearly half an hour, until the besieged could stand it no longer, and one of them named Paki crawled out to the edge of the cliff, where he relieved his pent-up feelings by a war-whoop that startled both parties, for the great Te Kooti with 200 men was retreating from a pah defended by less than forty men. In a moment the whole garrison, men, women and children, were dancing a furious war-dance on the edge of the cliff, in full view of the retreating Hauhaus, who fired a parting volley at them, from a safe distance. So soon as Te Kooti was out of sight, Trooper Hill, who had acted with great courage and judgment throughout the affair, for which he afterwards received the New Zealand Cross, asked the Maories if one of them would volunteer to go with him to Napier, to hasten up reinforcements, for he page 294presumed that Te Kooti would be pursued. The Mohaka Maories refused to go, assigning as their reason that the Hauhau retreat was only a stratagem to draw some of them into an ambush, and that they had parties lying in ambush on the several tracks. Holding these opinions, they tried hard to stop Hill from going; but he, catching one of Te Kooti's knocked-up horses, managed to make it carry him twelve miles along the beach to Waikare. When in sight of Finlayson's house at that place, he saw several men and horses at a distance; but as they appeared to be Europeans, he went towards them, and caused considerable commotion, as they took him for Te Kooti's advanced guard, and were undecided whether to fire or retire. Hill seeing this, soon convinced them of his identity, and gave Captain Towgood, who was in command of this advanced guard of thirty men, the information that Te Kooti had retreated. Amongst this party was a Mohaka settler, whose wife and little ones were hiding somewhere in the hills; the husband asked for volunteers to help him search for them. Hill and two others offered to go, and after tracking them for some hours through the fern, found them; they had been wandering about since Saturday morning, it was now Monday evening, and had been joined by a Maori woman and child, who had escaped from the Huke pah. When Captain Towgood received intelligence of Te Kooti's retreat, he sent a letter on to Colonel Lambert (who was in command at Patane), to hurry up the various forces.

The news of the attack upon Mohaka had reached Napier on the evening of the 10th, about twelve hours after the attack commenced at Te Huke, and during the night a whale-boat with five settlers arrived from the same place and confirmed the news. On the following morning, Captain Towgood, whose energy was conspicuous throughout the affair, started with thirty volunteer horsemen, as an advanced guard, for Captain Tanner's troop of Mounted Rifles, about sixty strong. With these page 295two parties combined, Te Kooti should have been cut to pieces, for his men were nearly all drunk on the second and third day of the siege. Captain Tanner's troop left Napier about noon on the 11th, and considering the urgency of the occasion, and that Mohaka is not more than fifty miles from Napier, it was only reasonable to suppose that they would have overtaken Towgood's party, who camped that night at Waikare. Had they done so, the combined force would have been in time to cut up the enemy's rear-guard, and have made them disgorge their plunder. But it was not to be, for Captain Tanner did not reach Mohaka until the morning of the 14th, and did not even then follow the enemy, nor did Colonel Lambert, who arrived shortly after, with the mounted division of the armed constabulary, the pick of the force. When the Mohaka tribes saw that it was not intended to follow the enemy, they expressed their indignation quietly, but forcibly. "When," said they, "Nikora and Rangihiroa intended to attack Napier, we were with you in twelve hours, but you have taken three clays, and now do nothing,"

Such inded was the case with 160 men, and Te Kooti's flag flying only a few miles inland. No pursuit was commenced, but in place a reconnoitring party was sent out to bury the dead, and this done, the force returned; by no means contented, for the men were humbled, and felt that they cut a sorry figure before the brave Mohaka natives. Some native women who were taken prisoners by Te Kooti, and afterwards escaped, informed the force that the Hauhaus camped for two days only a short distance up the valley, and that they might easily have been destroyed, as most of them were very drunk. The statement that "they might easily have been destroyed" may be taken with a grain of salt, but there is still the fact that the Hauhaus awaited the attempt. So ended the Mohaka raid, and the disgraceful mismanagement attendant thereon; for this is the only charitable way by which page 296the affair can be explained. Our loss was seven Europeans and fifty-seven friendly Maories killed, whereas the Hauhaus lost only twelve men, and were allowed to retire unmolested.