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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LIX. — The Taupo Campaign—continued. — The Fight at Kaiteriria. Death of Captain St. George

Chapter LIX.
The Taupo Campaigncontinued.
The Fight at Kaiteriria. Death of Captain St. George.

Before turning in for the night, McDonnell collected the Arawa and made them a speech, recalling to their minds all that their ancestors had done, the many fights they themselves had fought, and how bravely he had seen them hold their own. "Think of Matata; recall to your minds Waihi, Maketu, and Rotorua, when we defeated Waikato; and shall we allow this tutua (common fellow), this upoko kohua (boiled head) and his band, who are only fit to kill women and war with children, to remain in his pah and insult us? Wanganui and Renata's people are in rear of the pah; their names have been more loudly proclaimed than yours; but I place my trust in you, and am here to lead you. I need no reply; let your actions speak to-morrow." Such was the strain in which McDonnell spoke, and with good effect, for bounceable and absurd as it may sound to our ears, it is mild compared with the inflated bunkum used by their own chiefs on similar occasions. Captain St. George also spoke a few words to his men, and then all retired for the night, each one choosing the softest spot of ground he could find. The gallant St. George slept his last sleep on page 315earth, but McDonnell was too anxious about the movement of Kepa's force, particularly after seeing the flash of a match struck on the other side of the lake, which act of folly, McDonnell viciously remarked, could only come from Hawkes Bay. Before sunrise, the force under McDonnell had breakfasted and commenced their march; they soon rounded the lake and reached the village of Papakai, where, to the colonel's annoyance, he found Kepa just arrived, instead of being, as he should have been, in rear of Pourere. Kepa and Captain McDonnell explained that the delay was caused by the Napier tribes, who had hindered the march as much as possible, because their prophet had foretold that some serious disaster would happen. Colonel McDonnell, naturally exasperated, walked up to Renata, and asked him the reason of his extraordinary behaviour. His reply amused everyone, for he evidently wished to show off before the other chiefs. He said that he had given orders to halt, and wished to have breakfast; that he was going to take the direction of affairs, and that after food was cooked he would send a herald with this (producing the rusty hopper of a steel flour-mill, to be used as a trumpet) to summon the enemy to surrender. He would give them one day to think over it, and if the enemy were obstinate, he would then consider the best way of making them surrender. While Renata was disclosing his intentions, McDonnell, seeing the futility of contesting the point with such an obstinate old savage, rapidly formed another plan, and proceeded at once to execute it. Renata and his 300 men knew that nothing could be clone satisfactorily without them, and thought that they had the game in their own hands; so McDonnell said nothing, but rather seemed to agree with them, and strolled off towards St. George and the Arawas. The village of Papakai consisted of a long row of huts built on the edge of the bush that fringed the table-land, from which Tongariro rose. To the front and left was perfectly level country up to the Iwituaroa range, distant page 316about two miles, at the bottom of which, on some tableland, was Te Kooti's pah Pourere. The men had begun to cook food in the usual native oven, Wanganui and the Europeans on the right, Ngatikahungunu in the centre, and the Arawa on the left. McDonnell found St. George at the latter camp, and taking him apart, informed him of Renata's behaviour and his altered plans. St. George entered cordially into the affair, and when the colonel left, he called out some of his young men, and got them to follow him on to the plain to have a look at the pah; here he kept them engaged, while McDonnell, who had explained his plans to Colonel Herrick, went to Wanganui, and called out, "The Arawa are off to the pah! quick, or you will be cut out! Away, mount the hill and get on the table-land; the Europeans will go with you." Wanganui rose like one man; never should an Arawa be before them. "Tatua, tatua!" (arm, arm) was the cry, and they dashed through the bush and mounted the table-land. St. George waited until he saw them moving straight for the pah, when he suddenly shouted out, "Titiro ki Wanganui" (look at Wanganui); "they are going to deprive us of the credit of the day, they are going to take the pah." The young Arawas looked, and without more ado, led by St George, they made straight for the pah, keeping parallel with Wanganui, who were on the plateau above them. McDonnell, seeing the success of his plan, then went to Renata, and with an appearance of childlike innocence, said, "I thought you had given orders not to attack the pah to-day! Have you changed your mind about the white flag and the mill hopper?" "No," replied the chief. "Very well," said McDonnell, "Wanganui and the Arawa are off to take it, and I am going to follow." Renata looked for a moment at the colonel, he felt that he had been outwitted, and accepted his defeat. Only one thought seemed to possess him—that he and his men must not allow Te Kooti to be beaten without their help. He seized his rifle, and calling out, "O tribe!

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Collect them, colonel; aue, aue!" (alas, alas). "O tribe! quick! quick!" and the old fellow hurried off with his people to the scene of action. "O, colonel," said he, "its all through that prophet, Henare's poropiti;" and then, in a fit of intense exasperation, shouted, "Humbug the poropiti," for the old fellow was not wanting in pluck.

The enemy, seeing the Arawa advancing, sent a party to take possession of the high ground, over which Kepa and his tribe were marching unseen by them, and had just opened a sharp fire on the left flank of the Arawa, when, to their great astonishment, they found themselves assailed by Wanganui in such rough fashion, that they had to beat a retreat across the river, followed by our men like a pack of hounds.

Winiata, as usual, killed the first man, and two others were left by the retreating Hauhaus.

Meanwhile, the Arawa and Taupo men were not idle. They waded the river under fire, and carried a small earthwork (used as a picket station) with a rush, and killed some of the enemy. McDonnell, with a few of Renata's people, now came up and joined in the attack, and Wanganui, pressing forward, separated into two parties; one under Wirikana attacked Te Heuheu's pah, while the main body, under Kepa, dashed up the hill for Te Kooti's pah, Winiata and Turei leading. St. George, seeing the state of things, and that Wanganui would take no denial, called on his men to follow, and away they went in hot pursuit.

In a few minutes, two sides of the redoubt were lined with our men, who began to fire through the loopholes; the enemy gaining no more benefit from their parapet (which was eight feet high and four feet thick) than our men did, for there were no angles to sweep the ditch. Winiata with his usual daring thrust his arm into a loophole, and seizing the muzzle of a rifle, dragged it through before the owner could fire; others stuffed lumps of pumice into the loopholes, to stop the enemy's fire, while the page 318parapet was being undermined. But this slow work did not suit the fiery spirits outside, and Winiata, ever ready to distinguish himself, climbed the parapet, and fired rifle after rifle, as they were handed up to him, among the masses of the enemy inside. But the poor little fellow's heroic career was soon ended. A bullet fired from below passed through his brain, and he rolled a corpse into the ditch.

Thus died Winiata Pakoro, the most renowned fighting man of fighting Ngatihau; and so long as that tribe exists, so long will they speak with pride of his deeds, and of the many tribal enemies he sent to their long account. While No. 2 Division were ascending the hill on the opposite side of the pah to support Kepa, they were joined by Captain St. George and some of his men. A number of the enemy, cut off from the pah by our rapid advance, had occupied a piece of bush, and now opened a smart fire upon the flank of No. 2 Armed Constabulary, with the view of assisting the escape of their beleaguered comrades. Hesitation would now have been fatal, as most of the enemy would have escaped; so McDonnell hastily detached a party against the Hauhaus in the bush, while he led the rest against the pah. They were received with a volley, but, strange to say, the only person hit was St. George, who throwing up his arms, took two or three paces forward, and fell dead, with a bullet through his brain. Meanwhile Wangamri, exasperated by the death of Winiata, and well seconded by the other tribes, scaled the parapet and stormed the pah. No quarter was given to those who remained, all were shot or bayoneted. Colonel McDonnell had a very narrow escape; one of the Hauhaus near the gate of the redoubt waited until he was within a few yards of him, and then levelled his rifle. The colonel, who thought the man had surrendered, no sooner saw the action than he sprang forward, and struck up the muzzle as the piece exploded.

Another moment, and the noble savage was lying brained by the butt of a rifle; making, as McDonnell remarked, a total of ten killed by him at various times. Thirty-seven page 319of the enemy were buried after the fight, and about thirty women and children taken prisoners; the mounted division also recaptured Henare's horses that had been taken at the Tauranga skirmish.

Our loss was small, if counted by numbers, being four killed and four wounded, but St. George and Winiata could not have been replaced by fifty men. No. 2 Armed Constabulary, after clearing the bush before mentioned, found two women lying severely wounded in the scrub; Dr. Gibbs was sent for, and he pronounced the elder to be mortally wounded, but said the girl, who had a shattered knee, might recover. The latter stated that she was related to Henare Tomoana, so McDonnell sent for the chief and told him to carry her to camp, as there was hope of her ultimate recovery. This he refused to do, and wanted to shoot her. Such barbarity could hardly be allowed; so No. 2 Division took charge of the girl, and carried her out to Poutu most carefully, and handed her over to the women of Henare's tribe. A few days after, the chief came to McDonnell, and told him that the girl was one of the women who had betrayed the Mohaka tribe to Te Kooti, and that he should therefore shoot her; he was warned not to commit so atrocious an act, unless he wished to be disgraced, but it was shortly after reported that the woman had died from her wounds. Renata Kawepo met with what would have been a most laughable accident, had it not been so serious. During the fight he had entered the bush by himself, and came across two Hauhaus, a man and a woman (the latter's husband had just been shot in the pah). They both attacked Renata, and a severe struggle commenced. Luckily for the chief, a constable of No. 2 and an Arawa came up during the affair, and made things even by shooting the man; they then stood by to see fair play, as the girl was evidently a match for her adversary. After a sharp tussle, the Amazon got Renata down, gouged out one of his eyes, tore his ear to pieces, taking the green-stone ornament, and otherwise so mauled him, that he page 320fainted with the pain, and had to he carried to Papakai on a litter. It was rather hard on the chief, but he was a most obstinate old fellow, and the woman received more sympathy than he from all but his own tribe, who were furious.

But for the Arawa, who took her prisoner when things were getting severe, Renata must have been killed. Henare Tomoana demanded that she should be surrendered to him; but McDonnell had a lively recollection of this chief's behaviour to the other girl, and refused, causing her to be brought to his tent, lest they should take her by force.

When there, she was asked to relate her battle with the old chief, and her eyes literally blazed as she recounted the fight, adding, "I only wish I had killed him; I should not then regret the loss of my husband so much." "He will lose an eye," said McDonnell. "Kaitoa" (serve him right) said the virago. During the whole night the Napier tribes were firing away their ammunition, to the great disgust of the other Maories. In the morning it was found that they had expended 2500 rounds. After the fight at Pourere, the force returned and camped at Papakai, and the next day McDonnell went to Poutu for ammunition. On his return he found that the men had moved to Otakou, where there were still a few potatoes.

During that night, Henare's prophet had another dream, about an attack from Waikato; consequently all the Ngatikahungunu returned to Poutu, where McDonnell allowed them to remain until he could persuade them to return to their homes, they being neither useful nor ornamental. Food was now very scarce, nearly all the potatoes being done; consequently Kepa and his men were sent to Kotukutuku, and the Europeans returned to Tokanu, there to await the arrival of rations. McDonnell, taking advantage of the unavoidable delay in following up Te Kooti, sent one of the women prisoners with a message to Te Heuheu, warning him to leave Te Kooti, and surrender, or he would be followed to the bitter end. Two page 321days after the chief arrived, and surrendered with several of his tribe.

Te Heuheu was submissive enough to the European and Wanganui Maories, but extremely bitter against Hohepa Tamamutu and the Taupo natives, blaming them for all that happened; firstly for having him to be made prisoner by Te Kooti, and secondly for fighting against him. He concluded his speech by expressing a wish that Hohepa had led the storming party, that he might have shot him dead. It is quite probable that Te Heuheu's statement (that he was a prisoner, and therefore obliged to fight) was true, for there is no doubt that Te Kooti hated him. The chief gave us considerable information, but none of vital importance; from him it was learnt that Te Kooti had been wounded in the assault on Pourere, a bullet having struck him on the hand while in the act of taking a percussioncap from his waistcoat pocket. The bullet wounded the thumb and fore finger, cut the third finger completely off, and passed through the fleshy part of his side.