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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LXII. — The Patatere Campaign. — The Doings of Ropata's Column. Te Kooti's Attack on the Opape Settlement. Fight at Maraitahi. Death of Hakaraia

Chapter LXII.
The Patatere Campaign.
The Doings of Ropata's Column. Te Kooti's Attack on the Opape Settlement. Fight at Maraitahi. Death of Hakaraia.

The Patatere campaign was the last in which European forces were employed; from henceforth it was to he purely Maories led by their respective chiefs, and fortunately for the Government, they found two men to he depended upon in Kepa te Rangihiwinui and Ropata Wahawaha. The Arawas and Ngatikahungunu tribes could not be induced to take the field under the new system adopted by Sir Donald McLean, viz., of payment in a lump sum according to amount of service rendered in place of daily pay. This very wholesome change, if looked into closely, amounted to this: according to numbers killed, so will be your pay. The last two tribes declining this offer, Wanganui and Ngatiporou had the campaign to themselves. The former under Kepa were to start from the Bay of Plenty, scouring the Waimana and Waioeka gorge, while Ropata and his people marched from Poverty Bay upon Maunga Pohatu, and thence towards Kepa, with whom he would effect a junction and decide upon further movements; in reality, each column moved independently of the other, but with the same object, that of destroying the common enemy, page 335Te Kooti. Another but less important movement was to be made from the Wairoa upon Waikare Moana. The native tribes of the former place were put under Mr. B. Hamlyn, and the gallant but small Mohaka tribe, under Mr. Whitty. No one expected a successful issue to this expedition, as Mr. Hamlyn's natives were not fond of bullets. Ropata being the first to start, the doings of his column claim precedence. They left Poverty Bay on the 27th February, 370 strong, marching up the Ngatapa track. From thence he struck across country to the Upper Hungaroa, over one of the roughest districts in New Zealand; on the fifth day's march the column arrived at an old camp of Te Kooti's, where the bones of three persons were found. At first it was supposed they had been starved or wounded fugitives from Ngatapa, but from information afterwards received, it was found that they, with several others, had died from exhaustion while on the march to the Poverty Bay massacre; having been nearly starved for a month previously, they could not stand the march, so were left to die. On the 7th of March the footprints of two or three persons were seen, and ten of the most active of Ngatiporou stripped and went in pursuit, delighted with the prospect of a man-hunt. The men were absent all night, but returned the following morning, having captured a woman and four children. The husband escaped; he was away at the time of the capture, but Ngatiporou laid in wait for him at his whare, and he was soon seen returning with a pig on his shoulders. When close to the whare, his wife called out "Haere mai" (welcome); this roused his suspicions, for he at once threw down the pig and waited. One of his children, thinking he was about to be shot, called out, and in a moment the man darted into the bush and escaped, although the bullets flew all around him. The woman stated she belonged to the Ngatikohatu tribe, the majority of whom were living at Maunga Pohata, the remainder near Reinga. This and other information which she gave, decided Ropata to page 336march straight on the former place, and capture the inhabitants, from whom he could get reliable intelligence as to the whereabouts of Te Kooti. The column now advanced in the direction of Maunga Pohatu, the supposed impregnable position of the Uriwera tribe, of which, it had been reported that the track could only be travelled while the wind was in a certain direction; so precipitous were the paths, that men would lose their foothold in a high wind. It was also stated that a southerly wind would fill the deep ravines with snow for weeks, and prevent all possibility of travel. There was, as usual, a grain of truth in this bushel of falsehood, but the majority of our dusky allies and many of our own men firmly believed the report. On the following day, six more of the Ngatikowhatu tribe were surprised and captured, and the remains of three more of Te Kooti's victims were found dead on the track. On the 11th the column reached the pah Puni, where they found another skeleton, and one of the prisoners gave the following account of it. The remains, he said, were those of Te Mano, a chief of the Uriwera, who had come with his wife to join Te Kooti just before the massacre. Te Mano was not a man to stand any nonsense, and he soon quarrelled with Te Kooti; but, finding himself in danger, he tried to escape with his wife. Te Kooti sent fifty men to pursue them, saying that his god had warned him against Te Mano, who was a murderer, and would cause their deaths. The chief and his wife were caught and brought back to the pah Puni, where Te Kooti met them and killed both with his sword. On the morning of the 13th, Ropata selected two parties of sixty men each, placing one under the command of Captain Porter, with orders to attack Ngatikowhatu pah, while he with the other party attacked the Ngatihuri at Toriatai. This latter tribe were the people to whom Maungapohatu belonged, a dangerous and rough-dealing lot, famous in Maori warfare for their courage, and, like all isolated tribes who had little intercourse with us and no page 337grievance against us, were our deadly enemies. It certainly speaks well for the Europeans in New Zealand, that with the exception of Taranaki, all the tribes who hare been our enemies are those amongst whom no Europeans have lived and who scarcely ever mixed with us, so could not, consequently, have any grievance against us. Captain Porter, wishing to capture rather then to kill his enemies, quietly surrounded the pah, and, sending forward one of the prisoners with a flag of truce, charged after him and took all the people, forty in number, prisoners. Unfortunately the chief Rakiroa, the greatest of rascals, was absent with Te Kooti, and so escaped the fate of his tribe. Meanwhile, Ropata had not been idle, but Ngatihuri had been more alert, and Toriatai was found abandoned and watching the movements of Ngatiporou, for two of Ropata's men, straying away in search of potatoes, were fired upon, and one of them killed. His comrades started in pursuit, but the slippery Uriwera were soon out of reach—a mode of fighting strictly in accordance with their system. Forty years ago the celebrated warrior Kopu attacked and captured Maungapohatu, but he lost so many men by ambushes, that he was obliged to retire, the conqueror conquered. One of the prisoners taken by Captain Porter informed him that Wanganui had visited Tauwhare Manuka, and that Kepa had made peace with Tamaikowha and his section of the Uriwera. Although the news annoyed Ropata, there is little doubt that Kepa was right, for his orders were to catch, kill, or otherwise destroy Te Kooti and his gang; and the best way to do this was to detach the Uriweras from him, and although Tamaikowha was a great ruffian, he had never joined Te Kooti, like the rest of the tribes, consequently he deserved some consideration

Ropata, deeming it necessary to ascertain from Kepa personally to what extent his peace-making had gone, pushed through to Ohiwa, which place he reached on the 20th, and found Kepa and a few of his men at the village, page 338where this active chief had been wasting his time, in a manner very unusual with him. After a short conversation, he informed Ropata that Te Kooti was supposed to he at Waioeka, and that he intended to attack him at once; both left immediately for Opotiki, the bulk of Kepa's men being already there, having left on the 3rd instant by way of Tauwhare Manuka. Kepa took the track which led up the Waimana river, and, on arrival at Otara, the redoubtable Tamaikowha called out to the war party from the top of a cliff, asking who they were, and fired a few shots, more as a signal to his men than at the Wanganuis: but as our men gave him a volley in reply, he disappeared, and the force moved on to Motuohau, and camped next evening at Ngatuoha, where they were detained for three days by floods; as all the paths in the Uriwera country are the beds of creeks, a small freshet stops all travelling. On the fourth day the force reached Tauwhare Manuka, and the Rawhiti chiefs advised Kepa to send a messenger with a flag of truce to the Uriweras, asking them to make peace. The mission was successful, for Tamaikowha returned with the envoy. After the usual salutations, Kepa inquired where Te Kooti was to be found, and explained that he did not come to trouble the Uriweras. The Hauhau chief replied: "I have not seen him or his people, but I am told he has gone to Opotiki, to attack the Europeans and friendly tribes of Te Whauau, Apanui, and Ngaitai, therefore I advise you to return quickly, and prevent this mischief." After more talk, the chief promised he would remain peaceful for the future, if the Government would leave him alone, and he assured Kepa that neither he nor his tribe had ever joined Te Kooti. At early dawn the following morning, our men returned post-haste to Ohiwa, and on the way passed Te Kooti's trail leading in the direction of Opotiki. They had not seen it on the way up, as they passed the place at night, but Kepa was much annoyed at Topia and the Arawas, who must have seen it and failed to send him word. The Wanganui were too page 339late to prevent this raid of Te Kooti's, for on the 9th this enterprising scoundrel had suddenly swooped down on the Opape settlement, and carried off 170 of the Whakatohea tribe, thirty of whom were fighting men, and worse still, he captured forty guns and some ammunition, but the percussion-caps, which would have been the greatest prize, were saved and carried away by a native who escaped. No sooner had the news arrived in Opotiki, than Captain Walker sent a message to Topia to hurry up from Ohiwa, and himself started the next morning with a mixed force of forty Europeans and Arawas, to reconnoitre. When within sight of Opape, seven of the Arawas went forward as scouts, and, as the place seemed deserted, the scouts incautiously approached too near, for in a moment a volley had killed two of them, one, Hetaraka Maihi, being a young chief of the highest rank.

On the following day, Topia, who acted as a sort of fifth wheel to the Wanganui coach, arrived, but too late for Te Kooti, he having reached the Waioeka gorge, and, as nothing could be done without Kepa, he returned to Opotiki. In the meantime, Ropata had met Kepa at Ohiwa, and that same evening, 400 men under three leaders, Kepa, Topia, and Wi Kingi, started in pursuit. After following the bed of the river for some time, the column struck into the forest, and climbed the steep range which forms the watershed between the Opotiki and Waioeka rivers. Their reasons for this were twofold: first, by entering the forest, they would be able to conceal their march, and would also take Te Kooti's pah at Maraitahi in rear, from which point they would not be expected, and would consequently have better chance of success; and secondly, they would avoid the dangers and difficulties of the river track. On the 23rd, the column reached Maraitahi, and from the range above could see the Hauhaus pursuing their usual avocations, evidently unsuspicious that the enemy was watching them. Topia wished to attack at once, but Kepa, with greater judgment, determined to advance still page 340further up the range, and after dark follow down the river, capturing the inhabitants of the outlying villages before he dealt with Te Kooti himself; by so doing, they would be ready for Maraitahi at grey dawn. Topia agreed to this plan, and at dusk 120 picked men under two Ngarauru chiefs, Tapa and Uru, were told off for the attack on the first kainga. Kepa's instructions were precise, not to fire except under extreme circumstances, but to surround and rush in before the enemy had time to resist, but above all, to prevent escape. Tapa did his work well, having captured sixteen rebels—eight of whom were men. Two other kaingas were taken in the same manner, not one of the inhabitants escaping, and towards morning they neared the Waipuna pah, where the main body of the enemy, under the notorious Kereopa and old Hakaraia, resided. Kepa now took command, and with 300 men invested the place in the same noiseless manner that characterised all his proceedings. The Wanganuis now charged in, and found to their annoyance that the Whakatoheas taken by Te Kooti at Opape were amongst them; this caused considerable confusion, as Kepa was unwilling to fire indiscriminately amongst them, and the consequence was that Kereopa escaped, but old Hakaraia, a most troublesome chief, but a man of high rank amongst the Ngaterangis of Patatere, was recognised and shot by Hunia Mei of Wanganui; 218 prisoners of the Whakatahea tribe were taken, and of Te Kooti's people, eighteen men were killed, and thirty-five men and seventy-six women and children taken prisoners. So far everything had succeeded beyond expectation, and Kepa, anxious to take Te Kooti, was pushing forward to Maraetahi, when Ropata suddenly appeared upon the scene. After the meeting with Kepa, he had camped at Ohiwa for the night, and early on the following morning marched for Opotiki, where he expected to join him, but to his astonishment he found that this energetic chief, anxious to follow up Te Kooti, had started after him the night previous, consequently, Ropata gave page 341his men twenty-four hours' rest, and decided to march up the bed of the Waioeka, and confront the enemy, hoping to be in time for the attack, as Kepa and the Wanganuis had a long detour to make. His column met with no opposition until he arrived within a short distance of Maraetahi, where, at the narrowest part of the gorge, the track led along the perpendicular face of an immense cliff, narrow and dangerous at all times, but especially so if well defended; nor could it be turned, except by the path Kepa had taken. It was now defended by a picket of twenty men, who were posted on the other side of the pass, but, fortunately, the sentry was a mere boy, and he failed to notice their approach. Ngatiporou dashed through the pass before he could alarm the picket, who were driven back in confusion up the river-bed, only to fall into the hands of Kepa, who at that moment was descending the river after taking Kereopa's pah. Soon after, a large body of the enemy came down from Maraetahi to stop Ngatiporou, but the tribe advanced steadily, and was in the pah within an hour of the attack on the picket. Te Kooti had been left almost alone to defend his pah, and did not leave it until the Ngatiporous, who could not believe he was there, so weak was the resistance made to their advance, were upon him. The Hauhaus now scattered in every direction through the bush, and, although Wanganui and Ngatiporou followed various trails, only one man was killed and three were taken prisoners. As nothing further could be gained by remaining, they commenced their return march to Opotiki, triumphant over their successes, but, like Mordecai, felt it was all as nothing while Te Kooti lived.