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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LXIV. — Te Kooti's Raid on Tologa Bay

page 349

Chapter LXIV.
Te Kooti's Raid on Tologa Bay.

After the defeat and dispersion of the Hauhaus at Maraetahi, Te Kooti retired with the remnant of his followers to Te Wera, a wild tract of bush country on the borders of the Uriwera, whose tracks, clearings, and fastnesses were known only to that tribe, though, at a later period, Ngatiporou and the native contingent, under Captains Mair and Preece, must have known every hill, so thoroughly did they search it.

In this terra incognita, Te Kooti remained hidden from his pursuers, revolving in his mind many a dark deed of murder and violence, which want of men alone prevented his putting into execution.

Among his followers were some of the Hauiti tribe of Tologa Bay, and these people persuaded Te Kooti that he had only to appear at that place to be joined by numerous recruits. This idea met with prompt approval from Te Kooti, being thoroughly in accordance with his somewhat Mahommedan system, the Koran or the sword, only that he was less merciful than those stern fanatics, inasmuch that he generally commenced by killing a few, pour encourager les autres. It was with these views that Te Kooti and about fifty followers suddenly appeared before one of the small inland villages of the Hauiti, and captured a Maori named Peka, who with his wife and two children were the only inhabitants.

Peka was brought before Te Kooti, and ordered under pain of death to give all the information in his power; this the captive did not do, though he took care to appear in as favourable a light as possible, until he could get a chance to escape.

He must have played his cards well, for he got the page 350chance, and with one bound he was out into the darkness and away to warn his friends, heedless alike of the random shots fired after him, or the probable fate of his wife and children. Like most Maories, he considered his duty to his tribe paramount. The Hauhaus followed closely on the steps of the fugitive, and shortly after daylight came across a few industrious individuals, who proved the truth of the "early bird" proverb in a manner undreamt of by its author, for one of them was shot and two wounded. This very rough-and-ready system of making friends spoilt Te Kooti's chance, for the Hauiti expressed their feelings by returning his fire, and sent off messengers to Poverty Bay, reporting the raid, and asking immediate assistance. Captain Porter responded to the call, and led about fifteen volunteers to Tologa, arriving there the following day. Next morning they were joined by 200 of the Hauiti tribe, and, despite the torrents of rain, followed Te Kooti's trail to Mangahau, a bush range, from which the smoke of the enemy's fires could be seen.

The Europeans wished to push on at once, but the Maories refused, giving as their reason that the ammunition would get wet in such frightful weather, and the rifles be useless. Under these circumstances the force camped. The next day the weather was equally bad, but on the third day the rain ceased, and the column started round the base of Mangahau, so as to take the Hauhaus in rear, and cut off their retreat. The Pakehas led the column until within a mile of their destination, when the Maories refused to go on, unless they were allowed to lead the way, as they feared that the Europeans, anxious to kill Te Kooti, would fire indiscriminately into the Hauhaus, and perhaps kill Peka's wife and children. To prevent difficulties, they were allowed to take the lead, until they arrived within 100 yards of Te Kooti's camp, when Captain Porter disposed his men in such a manner, that, had Hauiti obeyed his orders, the enemy would have been completely surrounded.

page 351

The Hauhaus were camped on a small open flat in the forest, named Te Hapua, and the fifteen Europeans were on a terrace above, not more than twenty yards from their huts, but divided from their foes by a deep creek. Te Kooti was seen and recognised by several of the Poverty Bay settlers, and could easily have been shot, as he was not more than thirty yards from our men; but they withheld their fire, trusting that Hauiti would perform their share of the work loyally. All appeared to be going well, and the destruction of the enemy seemed certain, when the usual accidental explosion of somebody's gun took place, and in a moment our valiant allies opened a terrific fire upon nothing in particular. It is scarcely necessary to remark that none of the Hauhaus were hit; but it served the purpose for which it was probably intended, and prevented all pursuit, for neither Europeans nor Maories cared to cross the line of fire, on the chance of not being hit. Captain Porter tried it, but was glad to retire, after taking Huhaua (Te Kooti's wife) prisoner. This woman informed her captors that forty of the Hauhaus had started on their return march to Te Wera about an hour before our fiasco, and that there were only eight men left with Te Kooti. The unfortunate shot that spoilt one of the best opportunities of ridding the island of its greatest ruffian was either the effect of treachery, or fear lest the woman and children before mentioned might get hurt in the mêlée, and was fired to warn them in time; for my own part, I incline to the former belief. The results of the skirmishes related in this chapter went far towards settling the native difficulty on the east coast. Te Kooti had for the last time succeeded in getting a number of men together under his command, only to have them beaten, and scattered like sheep, by Wanganui and Ngatiporou. The bush tribe of Ngatikowhatu, devoted followers of Te Kooti, had been broken up, and a portion of them captured; and last, but not least, the Uriwera tribes of Waikare Moana had been page 352forced to make peace whether they would or not. Our losses were small, being three killed and one wounded, while the enemy had twenty-three killed and lost eighty-nine prisoners.