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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LV. — Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribe—continued. — Doings of Colonel Herrick's Column. Death of Trooper Noonan. Waikare Moana

Chapter LV.
Campaign Against the Uriwera Tribecontinued.
Doings of Colonel Herrick's Column. Death of Trooper Noonan. Waikare Moana.

The third column to operate against the Uriwera was placed under command of Colonel Herrick, with orders to march either to Maungapohatu or Waikare Moana. To assist the colonel in raising his motley force, the Hon. J. C. Richmond (native minister) left the Bay of Plenty about the middle of April, taking with him Captain Gudgeon, to command the native levies who would form the majority of this column. On the way down the coast the St. Kilda called at Hicks Bay, and a letter was written to Rapata and his tribe of Ngatiporou, asking them to muster 150 men and await the return of the steamer to convey them to Te Wairoa. The armed constabulary at Poverty Bay (twenty-five men) were ordered to march for the same place, Henare Potae and his loyal tribe relieving them. Mr. Richmond then went on to Napier, and finding that the mounted division had been diverted from their original destination (Taupo) by the Mohaka raid, placed them also under Colonel Herrick, as infantry for the time being, their horses being left at Te Wairoa. Thus in a very short time 200 Europeans were collected; many of them were not of the best quality, as they had been drafted out of Colonel Whitmore's veteran divisions, and left behind as garrisons, still there were good men among them. These remarks do not, however, apply to the mounted men, who were some of the best in the force. Rapata, for some page 297reason of his own, did not enter into this expedition with his usual spirit, and would probably not have left his district, had not the Government availed themselves of the services of Mr. E. Hamlin, who, as an old acquaintance, had sufficient influence to induce Rapata to bring 170 men to Te Wairoa. Here Colonel Herrick's troubles began. The Europeans were ready to start, but the Maories hung back, and Rapata offered to garrison Te Wairoa, but would not commence a campaign so late in the season amidst the rain and snow likely to be experienced at the high altitudes of Maungapohatu and Waikare Moana. The Wairoa tribes, most useless men at their best, promptly endorsed Rapata's opinion, and it looked as if the expedition would be a failure. But Colonel Herrick's patience was exhausted, and ignoring the natives, he ordered the Europeans to march for Tukurangi, a high peak, about twenty miles distant, over which the track to the lake led. Prom this point they were to commence a sledge-track both ways, to enable stores to be brought up, as also boats to cross the lake.

The march of the Europeans had some effect on Ngatiporou, for about ten days after camp was pitched at Tukurangi, they appeared crawling up the hill, having taken three days to march twenty miles. Herrick, determining to strike while the iron was hot, ordered the whole force, now 400 strong, to march for the lake on the following morning, and about mid-day they reached the small bay of Onepoto, after a march of thirteen miles. Camp was pitched in a narrow gorge, between two hills; a most dangerous position had the enemy been enterprising or numerous, but it was the best available. No sign of Maories was found here, but far up the Hereheretau inlet, smoke could be seen rising from the two pahs Tiketike and Whakaari; the problem was, how to get at them. The shores of the lake were rocky and precipitous to a degree, and as the lake resembles nothing so much as a gigantic cuttle-fish, its long arms stretching far into the page 298hills in every direction, it would have been a work of weeks to march round. Two small boats were now being brought to the lake on sledges, but they would carry too few men to be of real service; there were also some remarkable pontoons built of sheet iron, shaped like a cigar, which were sent from Napier; but the force to a man declined to embark on board them, preferring death on the field to drowning.

The talented inventor of these pontoons evidently thought the lake a sort of mill-pond; while, on the contrary, it is a most dangerous sheet of water, subject to squalls that would have torn these tubular cigars to pieces in a moment. Under these circumstances, Colonel Herrick determined to build two large boats, each of which should carry seventy men; they were to be built by a nondescript body of men, of the Horse Marine type, who accompanied the force, and bore the imposing title of the Naval Brigade. The boats were to be completed in three weeks. Sawing commenced vigorously, and the planks were soon ready, but the numerous other articles required for construction were not there, and had to be forwarded from Napier; consequently the boats took six weeks to complete. When finished, they were, however, good specimens of naval architecture. Meanwhile reinforcements arrived at such a rate, that great difficulty was experienced in keeping them, even on half rations; and, but for the large quantity of potatoes found in various clearings, the force must have retreated. No. 2 Division Armed Constabulary had arrived from the Bay of Plenty after their march back from Ruatahuna, and the European force at Onepoto amounted to 260 men, besides those holding the various posts in rear; nearly three times too many, as 100 Pakehas and the same number of Maories would have been ample, had they secured boats, to have destroyed every Hauhau on the lake. Up to this time the enemy had kept carefully out of sight; but on the 10th of June, Trooper Noonan, carrying despatches, was waylaid and shot dead, within two miles page 299of Onepoto, and his letters and arms carried off by the enemy. After this, strong escorts were despatched with each convoy, making the work hard for the Europeans, as the Maories refused to do this or any other duty. By this time the boats were finished, but the men were not fated to reap laurels in this campaign; for a change of ministry had taken place, and they viewing with alarm the very large expenditure of nearly £400 per diem, and the probability of small results, even though the force crossed the lake, ordered Colonel Herrick to withdraw his men to Napier. The stores and material were packed back to Te Wairoa, but the boats were filled with stones and sunk in sixty feet of water, where it was supposed it would be easy to fish them up again if required.

Forty men were left as a garrison at Te Wairoa, the natives paid off and sent back to their respective districts, and the armed constabulary left en route for Taupo, where it was intended to employ them against Te Kooti, who had visited that place, and been joined by Te Heuheu and all the leading men of Ngatituwharetoa. The losses in this campaign will be shown by the following table. The friendly natives suffered severely, and most of the enemy were killed by them.

Killed. Wounded.
Europeans in actual warfare 6 8
Europeans not in actual warfare 7 0
Total 13 8
Friendly Maories 75 unknown.
The Hauhaus 49 unknown.